Religion

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Kaiyas
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Re: Religion

Postby Kaiyas » Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:24 pm UTC

theonlyjett wrote:there is still a sound principle to [Pascal's Wager]

Which is? I'm pretty sure the entire thing commits the fallacy of argumentum ad consequentiam?
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Re: Religion

Postby Gelsamel » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:30 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:It's fine for people to believe stuff, but it's not fine for them to believe that the stuff that they believe is something that it is provably NOT (ie. rational/logical/scientific).
I know that what you say is literally true. However, there is a certain tone here that implies to me that anyone who believes anything they can't prove is stupid. You are saying that a person who believes something they can't prove is irrational. Again, I agree. But that's a strict meaning of the word. Another meaning of the word "irrational" is stupid. I assure you, that while I may hold some beliefs that are technically "irrational," I am most certainly not a stupid person and neither is anyone else simply because they hold a belief that they cannot prove.[/quote]

Most everyone believes something that they can't prove, either because there is nothing around about it now, or because we don't have the technology to study it, or what ever. Even the most staunch positivists probably have one or two little tiny things that they aren't positivist on. I'd be ridiculous to then claim every is stupid. I'm fine with irrational beliefs, I'm sure I have my own somewhere. But as long as we don't push these things and represent them as things they're not then that is fine.

The other side of it is that stuff like Faith Healing/Acupuncture etc. even if it admits it's not scientific or rational still hurts people.

Otherwise I'm fine with beliefs, of course I still think their wrong, but as long as they're right about not being scientific or rational I don't care.
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Lightforge
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Re: Religion

Postby Lightforge » Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:05 pm UTC

That's a little nearsighted. We could develop interstellar travel before the sun explodes. What really is the end is the death of the universe. And my goal in life is to finding a way to prevent, reverse, or otherwise live through the end of the universe, thus firstly finding a way to extend human lifespans beyond the fraction of a blink of the cosmic eye.


You are still missing value. Not that I don't value (non-rationally) the mindset of constant improvement as a total human society. However, watch that you don't assume, within the context of objective analysis, that your own beliefs are necessarily true. If you believe that your beliefs are true without proof, you have a religion, hence the difference between atheists and agnostics; the latter have beliefs all the same, but they don't assume that they are the Truth.

Yes there is, because, if you come to that conclusion correctly, it uses logic and reason instead of hand waving magic.


Any halfhearted study of philosophy reveals that logic and reason cannot possibly lead to knowledge about the existence of God; it has enough trouble with ourselves. There are valid arguments against "I think, therefore I am." Nevertheless, I believe that I exist (as implied by my use of "I"). In a similar way, I believe that other people are persons.

Nath,

All I'm saying is that some ways of generating beliefs are more accurate than others. Some beliefs are true; some beliefs are false. I happen to be against false beliefs. But that's not the same as being against people who happen to hold false beliefs.


By definition, some beliefs are true and some are false. I consider some less true than others. Being against false beliefs, how do you discern them objectively? Pascal didn't think you could. Virtually the last grain of rationality he left valid, in his Pensees, is that of probability (which deals mathematically with what you do not know). [deleted for brevity] His Wager is his conclusion of his analysis of certainty, and it says that if one has to choose among a finite set of religions with positive sanctions or Atheism, he may as well choose any over Atheism, which has no positive sanctions.

"Pascal's Wager has endured much criticism, starting in its own day. Voltaire, writing a generation after Pascal, rejected the wager as "indecent and childish... the interest I have to believe a thing is no proof that such a thing exists." [11] But Voltaire, like many other critics, misunderstood the Wager. Pascal did not offer the wager as a proof. [12] It is merely a conclusion to his arguments against certainty that relies on the notion that reason is untrustworthy and that discerning God's actual existence appears to be "a coin toss." If reason can be trusted on the question of God's existence, then the wager simply does not apply." -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager#Context

The point that people don't get is that this is NOT A PROOF. Therefore, it is not an "argumentum ad consequentiam." It merely demonstrates the degree of faith that is necessary to believe in Atheism. I am about to flip a coin. Choose heads or tails. If you choose heads and you're right, you get something. If you choose tails and you're right, you get nothing. Since there is no data to show that choosing heads is either a greater risk or will cause you loss, why choose tails? I never actually use Pascal's Wager, because my readings of the Bible have led me to believe differently about the justice and grace of God. In any case, you can't force yourself to truly believe in something that you legitimately do not believe in. Be honest with yourself and recognize that you cannot be objectively certain of any religion (again, including Atheism).

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Nath
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Sat Oct 04, 2008 12:38 am UTC

Lightforge wrote:By definition, some beliefs are true and some are false. I consider some less true than others. Being against false beliefs, how do you discern them objectively?

With certainty? I cannot. I think in probabilities (which, under most interpretations, are subjective). Given my observations, I can logically conclude that certain beliefs have high probability of being true, while others have a high probability of being false. Of course, it is possible that my observations, memory, or logic are unreliable. I trust them for the most part because they appear to have been proved right repeatedly in the past. If there's any leap of faith in my way of thinking, this is it: I assume that my observations and memory are reasonably reliable, and that past events tend to be correlated with future events. I wouldn't even really consider that a leap of faith, because I admit a possibility that I am wrong; it's just that there isn't anything I can do about that uncertainty.

Lightforge wrote:I am about to flip a coin. Choose heads or tails. If you choose heads and you're right, you get something. If you choose tails and you're right, you get nothing. Since there is no data to show that choosing heads is either a greater risk or will cause you loss, why choose tails?

There are two different kinds of choosing going on here. I can call 'heads', because there's a chance I'll get the reward. However, I would not actually believe that the coin would be more likely to land heads-up. Regardless of what I choose, my beliefs would not be affected. How does your coin analogy extend to Pascal's Wager? What is the action that corresponds to calling 'heads'? Pretending to pray?

While we're on the coin analogy: let's say there are three possibilities. If the coin lands heads-up, you get no reward. If the coin lands tails-up, you get no reward. If the coin spontaneously turns into a parakeet, you get a reward. If I flip a coin, would you 'choose' the third outcome? I, for one, would assign it a very low probability. And yet, it takes a degree of faith to believe with certainty that the coin will not turn into a parakeet. I think this is comparable to the degree of faith required for strong atheism. Weak atheism requires even less.

I was trying not to get sucked into the Pascal's Wager or strong vs weak atheism stuff again, because I've already had those discussions. In this very thread, I think. Oh well.

Lightforge wrote:Be honest with yourself and recognize that you cannot be objectively certain of any religion (again, including Atheism).

It's a minor point, but for the record, I'd just like to point out that atheism does not meet the definition of 'religion':
Compact OED wrote:noun 1 the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. 2 a particular system of faith and worship. 3 a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.

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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:08 pm UTC

Nath wrote:There are two different kinds of choosing going on here. I can call 'heads', because there's a chance I'll get the reward. However, I would not actually believe that the coin would be more likely to land heads-up. Regardless of what I choose, my beliefs would not be affected. How does your coin analogy extend to Pascal's Wager? What is the action that corresponds to calling 'heads'? Pretending to pray?
Yes. If you choose heads without knowing the outcome, you will attempt to find out if it is possible for you to gather any evidence at all that the outcome is heads, even if only to be comforted that you have gained. If you choose tails, you will not need to try to find whether tails is true, as you would believe it to be without consequence anyways, but you will find evidence to defend your otherwise illogical choice. Since the wager explicitly states that the outcome is currently unknowable, all evidence will be biased anyways, based on what you want to be true. So in your search for evidence, you will only be more convinced that whatever choice you made was right. In essence, you will believe whatever you chose in time. Which brings me to one reason why I don't use the wager as is. Even Pascal said the only true course is not to choose at all.

Nath wrote:If I flip a coin, would you 'choose' the third outcome?
Like me, you are more than likely assigning probability to this after receiving evidence that is most likely either biased or incomplete. The truth value of said evidence is impossible to scientifically or logically determine. Hence the choice is unknowable.

I think a problem here is what we define to be god. Ultimately, we cannot define him at all. An excerpt from C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, written as from one demon, Screwtape, to his nephew and subordinate, Wormwood, says it nicely.
Spoiler:
The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient's mind when he is praying, you will not find that. If you examine the object to which he is attending, you will find that it is a composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer—perhaps quite savage and puerile—images associated with the other two Persons. There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his "God" was actually located—up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers "Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be", our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the incalculable may occur. In avoiding this situation—this real nakedness of the soul in prayer—you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose. There's such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!
So we say that God is like this and like that, but really, no one can know, so you can say that such a god, however that is, is unlikely to exist, and I would agree, but not because there is no god, but that he is not such a god. So, either way it's not in your best interest to believe silly things like that.

To attempt to take back a minor point anyways :P :
Dictionary.com wrote:6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
One could believe in atheism and follow their belief by rejecting any religious or spiritual teachings; atheism is also a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion out of fighting religion. Granted this applies pretty much only applies to strong/hard atheism, not agnostic atheism. Likewise, hard/strong atheists do insist irrationally that what they believe is true, just like any hard theist. Again, does not apply to agnostic atheists or agnostic theists.

It seems like there's more, but I forget and I have to go do some other things for a little bit.

Oh, and nice to see you Nath, long time, no argue. :D

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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:31 am UTC

I consider atheism to be the best bet in Pascal's wager.

The reason is the huge variety of religions. Many religions have harsher words to be said to people of other religions than atheists. For example, the ten commandments say "don't worship any other gods", but doesn't include atheism. There is a hindu story about the atheist who went to heaven because he was thinking about god and talking about god most of all. I'm sure there are other examples.

Therefore, the table becomes:

Atheist:
God exists, some punishment.
God doesn't exist, no change.

Theist(right one):
God exists, perfect reward.
God doesn't exist, no change.

Theist(wrong one):
God exists, worst punishment.
God doesn't exist, no change.

So you've got 3 possibilities. There are millions of religions, so your odds of winning the lottery and picking the correct god is very small, the odds of picking the wrong god very large. Thus, given the choice, it's only logical to choose to worship no god at all. You'll get leniency in most religions compared to if you worshipped a false god if there is a god, and there's no advantage to anything else if there isn't a god.

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Re: Religion

Postby Gelsamel » Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:49 am UTC

Well, it'd be better to label atheism with non-theism in this case. But yeah.

Also note that non-theism has more +ves in that you're not stupidly restricted in THIS life.
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Re: Religion

Postby Aikanaro » Sun Oct 05, 2008 5:20 pm UTC

On the other hand there are also some who believe that those who try and live life "properly," (for whatever the appropriate interpretation of that may be), if they do so in the name of a God, regardless of what God it may be, will be rewarded. If you try and devote your life to the service of the idea of "God," even if it's under the wrong name or whatever, God will take it as service done for Him. So whether you believe you're working for Allah, Christ, or whoever, the true God will still basically say you've got the right idea going, and will accept it. And furthermore, barring a few custom-based restrictions, I don't think it's THAT hard to really follow the tenets of more than one religion. I mean, if we go by a certain interpretation of the Bible, the rules basically boil down to "love God with all of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself." It's not exactly hard to mesh that together with Islam, Judaism, or hell, even Wicca, if they believe there's any sort of guiding consciousness (sp?) to the universe, or a life force tying everyone together, or whatever.
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Re: Religion

Postby Kaiyas » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:13 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:I consider atheism to be the best bet in Pascal's wager.
*snip*
Thus, given the choice, it's only logical to choose to worship no god at all.

You're gonna need something stronger than that to make a "logical" argument. There's equal probability to every selection, so that none are favored.
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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:24 pm UTC

I think anybody posts on the flaws of Pascal's wager for the time being should read the wiki entry on it at least before posting about it. It's possible that you may have nothing new to add. Here's a handy link! -------> => LINK <=

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:19 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:Since the wager explicitly states that the outcome is currently unknowable, all evidence will be biased anyways, based on what you want to be true. So in your search for evidence, you will only be more convinced that whatever choice you made was right. In essence, you will believe whatever you chose in time.

True, it's human nature to do this, but this is neither desirable nor inevitable. The act of buying a lottery ticket doesn't make people certain that they will win (fortunately). The same should apply here: even if you choose how to behave based on Pascal's wager, your beliefs should not be affected by your choice.

theonlyjett wrote:Like me, you are more than likely assigning probability to this after receiving evidence that is most likely either biased or incomplete. The truth value of said evidence is impossible to scientifically or logically determine. Hence the choice is unknowable.

Learning is never unbiased, and evidence is never complete. Nothing is ever completely knowable. However, there are degrees of knowability. I cannot know for certain that the coin will not turn into a parakeet, but I can be pretty confident. Just because something cannot be known for certain, that does not mean all possibilities are equally valid things to believe.

theonlyjett wrote:I think a problem here is what we define to be god. Ultimately, we cannot define him at all.
...
So we say that God is like this and like that, but really, no one can know, so you can say that such a god, however that is, is unlikely to exist, and I would agree, but not because there is no god, but that he is not such a god. So, either way it's not in your best interest to believe silly things like that.

'God' is not a magic word. Words needn't have any meaning beyond what we assign them. If we define 'god' as 'X', and agree that 'X' is unlikely to exist, then we agree that god is unlikely to exist.

Any word can be defined -- and must be defined, for it to have any value in a conversation. Perhaps there is some unknowable, undefinable, incomprehensible being out there; perhaps not. In either case, the word 'god' is perfectly definable and understandable. For certain definitions of the word, it may refer to this being. For other definitions, it will not. To make an assertion about whether you believe in god or not, you have to define the word.

For a given definition of 'god', if you prove that he does not exist, then you have not proved that there are no unknowable beings out there. You have merely proved that none of these unknowable things ought to be called 'god'.

I don't know if this is making sense -- it's late -- but I can clarify this stuff if need be.

theonlyjett wrote:To attempt to take back a minor point anyways :P :
Dictionary.com wrote:6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
One could believe in atheism and follow their belief by rejecting any religious or spiritual teachings; atheism is also a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion out of fighting religion.

First, I'd consider that a metaphorical use of the word 'religion'. 'Fighting religion' may be a religion in the same sense as 'fighting prejudice' is a religion, but that's not really the same sort of thing as, say, Hinduism, or Christianity.

Second, atheism isn't about fighting religion. It isn't an ethical stance, either. It is merely a factual opinion. True, the opinion in question often drives people to try to fight religion, but this urge to fight is not part of what makes them atheist. The causal link is in the reverse direction.

theonlyjett wrote:Oh, and nice to see you Nath, long time, no argue. :D

Yeah, I've been away for a while. I think there was some post of yours I'd been meaning to respond to, but it kind of got lost in the... 39 pages of Pascal's wager stuff.

Kaiyas wrote:There's equal probability to every selection...

Why?

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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:56 pm UTC

Kaiyas wrote:
SJ Zero wrote:I consider atheism to be the best bet in Pascal's wager.
*snip*
Thus, given the choice, it's only logical to choose to worship no god at all.

You're gonna need something stronger than that to make a "logical" argument. There's equal probability to every selection, so that none are favored.


There isn't equal probability to every selection at all. There are millions of religions, if you take the different sects of the same religion who think that the rest of their sects are going to be punished. The chance of choosing correctly is infintesimal.

Therefore, your choices boil down to either play the lottery with minimal odds of winning big and you'll lose big, or choose not to play and face greatly reduced losses. If an arbitrarily chosen vengeful God does exist, then you'll face less vengeance than being with the wrong god(which you almost certainly will, given the variety of religions to choose from). If one doesn't exist, you'll face no change, positive or negative.

It's simple game theory. Win or lose, the best choice is not to play. It's very much like the real lottery. You end up with more money at the end if you don't play at all.

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Re: Religion

Postby Kaiyas » Tue Oct 07, 2008 2:10 am UTC

SJ Zero wrote:
Kaiyas wrote:
SJ Zero wrote:I consider atheism to be the best bet in Pascal's wager.
*snip*
Thus, given the choice, it's only logical to choose to worship no god at all.

You're gonna need something stronger than that to make a "logical" argument. There's equal probability to every selection, so that none are favored.


The chance of choosing correctly is infintesimal.
True, but equally infinitesimal.

SJ Zero wrote:It's simple game theory. Win or lose, the best choice is not to play.

What?

SJ Zero wrote:It's very much like the real lottery. You end up with more money at the end if you don't play at all.
"No god" is still a choice.
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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Oct 07, 2008 2:54 am UTC

Kaiyas wrote:
SJ Zero wrote:The chance of choosing correctly is infintesimal.
True, but equally infinitesimal.


Erm...Yes, every combination of lottery numbers are equally hopeless to win. My point is, if you don't bother playing the lottery, you don't win, but you won't lose. Since your chances of losing are astronomically high, it's therefore best not to play.

SJ Zero wrote:It's simple game theory. Win or lose, the best choice is not to play.

What?

Like how you'd analyse the prisoner's dilemma. What are the outcomes, and what are the odds of each outcome?

SJ Zero wrote:It's very much like the real lottery. You end up with more money at the end if you don't play at all.
"No god" is still a choice.

Erm...Yes, the choice not to play the god lottery is a choice. Again, my point is if you don't bother playing the lottery, you don't win, but you won't lose. Since your chances of losing are astronomically high, it's therefore best not to play.

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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:42 am UTC

Nath wrote:If we define 'god' as 'X', and agree that 'X' is unlikely to exist, then we agree that god is unlikely to exist.
Then let's define god, then, for the record.

God - the one Supreme Being; creator and ruler of the universe

Now, the more things you pretend is added to this definition, the more open to logical rebuttal he becomes. If a man, John, says that god is always good, and also, that you specifically have to accept (and I use this one because it's close to home) Jesus specifically by name in order to go to heaven, then, by saying that a good god wouldn't send a person to hell who did not ever hear the name of Jesus, you can refute John's idea of god. You can't, however, refute god. John's god doesn't exist != god doesn't exist. This is also the bad reasoning that leads to the false idea that there's millions of decisions, there is not. You either accept that there could be a god, or you don't.
Nath wrote:Second, atheism isn't about fighting religion. It isn't an ethical stance, either.
I will concede this minor point to you mostly cause it boils down to what religion means to you. I don't much care to argue for it as it's fairly inconsequential. But I hope you can see how, to me even, when an atheist says, factually, that there is no god that he is being as irrational as religious people, and that his belief (cause that's all it is) requires faith as well, as he has no proof (not even in a loose sense). While this doesn't necessarily equal religion, it can often be similar.
SJ Zero wrote:So you've got 3 possibilities. There are millions of religions, so your odds of winning the lottery...
You either take the god option or don't take the god option. It's not two doors, it's not one million one doors, it's one that you either go in or not. Choosing not to choose is still choosing not to go in the door. Try as you may, you cannot get out of this choice on a technicality.

What's important to note for me is that you don't have to say, "fine, then god exists," or any some such nonsense. You simply have to be open to the fact that a god may exist.
Gelsamel wrote:Also note that non-theism has more +ves in that you're not stupidly restricted in THIS life.
Sure, if you believe in John's god. I used to think that, too. I don't anymore.

Specifically to Aikanaro:
Aikanaro wrote:So whether you believe you're working for Allah, Christ, or whoever, the true God will still basically say you've got the right idea going, and will accept it.
As naive as this sounds, I believe this is fairly accurate. What is funny to me is that there is so much I learned as a child, that you are untaught as you grow into cynical "adulthood," yet I have come back around to. I also wanted to point out that Allah is simply Arabic for God. Arabic Christians also call Him Allah. Also, Christ is referred to as the Word, which in the original Greek was logos and is synonymous with Dao, or Tao, which is Divine Truth. Did you know that Taoists believe that there is a supreme One, who begat two, who begat three, who begat everything, yet the three are still the One, and one of the three is a manifestation of the Dao who is said to take have taken human form from time to time and walk the earth to teach us how to live?

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Re: Religion

Postby Falmarri » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:14 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:What's important to note for me is that you don't have to say, "fine, then god exists," or any some such nonsense. You simply have to be open to the fact that a god may exist.


Every atheist here will concede that god MAY exist. But the probability of a god existing is the same as the probability of pink unicorns existing or there being a teapot orbiting the sun. Sure, the 2nd law of thermodynamics doesn't forbid it, but it says that the probability is so low that we may never see it in the lifetime of the universe.

Edited to fix the quote.

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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:32 am UTC

Falmarri wrote:Every atheist here will concede that god MAY exist. But the probability of a god existing is the same as the probability of pink unicorns existing or there being a teapot orbiting the sun. Sure, the 2nd law of thermodynamics doesn't forbid it, but it says that the probability is so low that we may never see it in the lifetime of the universe.
Why is the probability considered low? I'm not sure you can even gues the probablility of such a thing. Explain, please. Or, alternatively, link the argument already laid out.

Edit: Oh, and by concede, I mean honestly to yourself, not grudgingly to someone in an argument on the internet.

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Re: Religion

Postby Falmarri » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:37 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:Why is the probability considered low?


Because it's such an extreme claim with a complete lack of evidence.

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Re: Religion

Postby clintonius » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:43 am UTC

Put another way, it's "proving the negative." Which doesn't work. The odds are incalculable because they're off-the-charts low due to lack of supporting evidence.
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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:55 am UTC

SJ Zero wrote:So you've got 3 possibilities. There are millions of religions, so your odds of winning the lottery...
You either take the god option or don't take the god option. It's not two doors, it's not one million one doors, it's one that you either go in or not. Choosing not to choose is still choosing not to go in the door. Try as you may, you cannot get out of this choice on a technicality.

What's important to note for me is that you don't have to say, "fine, then god exists," or any some such nonsense. You simply have to be open to the fact that a god may exist.


Why exactly do you get to set the terms of the discussion? I think God would be quite offended if I were to worship Zeus or Set or Chuthulu and it turned out none of those were the god that existed.

EXODUS 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me."

Congratulations, you're breaking a major and direct commandment if you worship the wrong god and it turns out to be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish!

So since you've got a one in a million shot of choosing the 'right' god, and since the punishment is less if there is a god for being an atheist who worships no god in most religions, it's only logical to choose no god at all.
Last edited by SJ Zero on Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:01 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion

Postby clintonius » Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:00 am UTC

Dawkins, detested though he may be, answers the charge trimly.
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Re: Religion

Postby Falmarri » Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:24 am UTC

clintonius wrote:Dawkins, detested though he may be, answers the charge trimly.


I love Dawkins and I love that answer.

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Tue Oct 07, 2008 7:18 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:Then let's define god, then, for the record.

God - the one Supreme Being; creator and ruler of the universe

Now, the more things you pretend is added to this definition, the more open to logical rebuttal he becomes. If a man, John, says that god is always good, and also, that you specifically have to accept (and I use this one because it's close to home) Jesus specifically by name in order to go to heaven, then, by saying that a good god wouldn't send a person to hell who did not ever hear the name of Jesus, you can refute John's idea of god. You can't, however, refute god. John's god doesn't exist != god doesn't exist.

John's god doesn't exist => by John's definition, god does not exist. There may still be other powerful creatures in the universe, but they are merely powerful aliens, not gods.

Your definition seems like a good starting point. By 'one supreme being', I assume you mean that there's one entity that was single-handedly responsible for creating us, and that there are no other entities with equal or greater power. By 'being', I assume you mean 'sapient entity'. Are these assumptions correct?

My understanding of the word 'universe' is 'the set of all things that we can directly or indirectly observe'. This means the being in question would have had to create itself (since we can indirectly observe it -- specifically, some of its handiwork). Of course, we could amend the definition to say that it only created a subset of the universe -- say, human beings, all life, or even all observed matter and energy.

theonlyjett wrote:I will concede this minor point to you mostly cause it boils down to what religion means to you. I don't much care to argue for it as it's fairly inconsequential. But I hope you can see how, to me even, when an atheist says, factually, that there is no god that he is being as irrational as religious people, and that his belief (cause that's all it is) requires faith as well, as he has no proof (not even in a loose sense). While this doesn't necessarily equal religion, it can often be similar.

Someone who asserts that there is absolutely no possibility that we were created by a sapient entity is, of course, being irrational. Similarly, someone who assers that there is absolutely no possibility that we were not created by a sapient entity is also being irrational. I would not, however, call them equally irrational.

Statement A: the coin will definitely turn into a parakeet.
Statement B: the coin will definitely not turn into a parakeet.
Are these statements equally irrational?

Kaiyas wrote:True, but equally infinitesimal.

This seems to be a very common misconception about how probability works.
The set of possible probability distributions over religions is infinite. You are asserting that the choice of gods conforms to one specific probability distribution -- the uniform distribution. What is the basis for this claim? Saying that all options are equally probable is just as specific a claim as saying that the probability of the Christian god is 100%, and all the others are 0% probable.

theonlyjett wrote:Why is the probability considered low? I'm not sure you can even gues the probablility of such a thing.

Probability (at least Bayesian probability) is an inherently subjective thing. To decide how probable something is, you have to figure out what your biases are. (Biases are not necessarily bad things. We would be pretty useless without them.)

Here are some of my biases, and why they lead to to believe that a powerful creator being is improbable.

1. All things being equal, the less evidence for something, the less probable it is. Pretty self-explanatory.

2. For a given amount of evidence, more specific claims are less likely to be true. It's easy to formalize this one with a bit of set theory, but it's easy to see intuitively, as well. If you claim that there are incredibly powerful creatures out there -- well, I wouldn't assign such a claim a particularly low probability. If you make the additional claim that one such creature single-handedly created the known universe, the probability of your claim goes down. If, on top of that, you claim that this same creature still actively controls human affairs, the probability goes down further. Each additional claim that people make about this being decreases the odds further -- and most religions make very many claims indeed. Even the few that I've put here -- the bare minimum for your definition of god -- are already so specific as to make the claim quite implausible in my eyes.

Note that the existence of god doesn't really explain anything, and makes your beliefs of the universe more specific (and therefore less probable). If the known universe needs to be accounted for, then so does god. Unless, of course, god is an exception to the rules governing the known universe. Which brings me to the third point:

3. The universe's unobserved behaviour is correlated with the universe's observed behaviour. In other words, things we can't see are correlated with things we can see. The laws of science are not completely known, but phenomena that violate even the known laws of science -- i.e., the patterns we've distilled from all our formal observations of the universe -- are highly improbable. People often talk of gods as beings that transcend time, or logic, or the laws of science. While technically not impossible, such claims make me very skeptical indeed.

4. Claims with no predictive value are less likely to be true. (Caveat: it's true that certain things are harder to test than others.)

I can think of a few more, but they mostly seem to be restatements of the ones above. I could still go into them, if you like.

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Re: Religion

Postby Falmarri » Tue Oct 07, 2008 7:20 am UTC

How can you believe in something you can't even define?

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Re: Religion

Postby oxoiron » Tue Oct 07, 2008 2:38 pm UTC

theonlyjett wrote:Did you know that Taoists believe that there is a supreme One, who begat two, who begat three, who begat everything, yet the three are still the One, and one of the three is a manifestation of the Dao who is said to take have taken human form from time to time and walk the earth to teach us how to live?
No, I did not know that. In fact, I've never seen that idea in anything I've read on Taoism. Where did you hear it?
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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:59 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:I think God would be quite offended if I were to worship Zeus or Set or Chuthulu and it turned out none of those were the god that existed.
Zeus, Set, and Chuthulu are not creator beings. Zeus is the son of Cronus, son of Gaia, who sprang from Chaos, or the void. Set is the son of Nut and Geb, who are the children of Shu and Tefnut, who were spat into existence by Re-Atum, who emerged from the waters of chaos, which is the god Nun. Now, Gaia and Re-Atum may be the closest analog to a creator being, although these mythologies were formed mostly to tell moral parables and attribute these to and/or explain natural phenomenon. Also, serving neither of these gods is said to lead to reward. So, even if you say that these are separate and distinct choices, they are not good ones.

Chuthulu is actually one of the weaker of those in his pantheon, if that's what you could call it. Lovecraft always kept details vague. I do believe it's Azathoth, the blind idiot, who lives in the center of the universe. Yog-Sothoth is often said to be the most powerful and wisest of them all. Nyarlathotep is the only of these "gods" not bound to the stars or "asleep and dreaming." He walks the earth supporting the cults of the other gods and serves Azathoth above them all. In all seriousness, the "gods" here are never attributed to any explanation of creation, nor were the ideas for them to even explain anything about the visible universe. They are a literary device and nothing more. Even if they were true, to serve them would ultimately lead to destruction, whereas to oppose them, no matter how great the odds are against, is the only real hope you would have for humanity if those "gods" were real. Again, still a bad choice.

SJ Zero wrote:EXODUS 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me."
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." - Exodus 20:4 In context, god is saying that you shouldn't make a god from your own idea of what god should be. As what was habit among the Israelites, they would make an idol of gold and even say that that was the god that had rescued them from Egypt. Soon they would worship what they thought god was rather than what god was, which is, to them and us, quite unknowable completely. I suspect that these idols are the very "gods" that many look at and say, "pfft, that doesn't exist."

Additionally, "you shall have no other gods before me," doesn't even have to mean not to believe that other gods exist, but rather, to not serve them, or anything else, instead of, or more than, the one True God.

Nath wrote:Your definition seems like a good starting point. By 'one supreme being', I assume you mean that there's one entity that was single-handedly responsible for creating us, and that there are no other entities with equal or greater power. By 'being', I assume you mean 'sapient entity'. Are these assumptions correct?

My understanding of the word 'universe' is 'the set of all things that we can directly or indirectly observe'. This means the being in question would have had to create itself (since we can indirectly observe it -- specifically, some of its handiwork). Of course, we could amend the definition to say that it only created a subset of the universe -- say, human beings, all life, or even all observed matter and energy.
I suppose that is fairly accurate. We do not have to say that it only created a subset, as long as we can understand that it's possible to create something that is also part of the whole, as well. That is to say, that everything that has been created is also a part of god.

Nath wrote:Probability (at least Bayesian probability) is an inherently subjective thing. To decide how probable something is, you have to figure out what your biases are. (Biases are not necessarily bad things. We would be pretty useless without them.)
If probability is an inherently subjective thing, than saying "the probability of god existing is low," is just a more "intellectual" way of saying "I don't believe god exists," rather than an actual explanation.

Nath wrote:3. The universe's unobserved behaviour is correlated with the universe's observed behaviour. In other words, things we can't see are correlated with things we can see. The laws of science are not completely known, but phenomena that violate even the known laws of science -- i.e., the patterns we've distilled from all our formal observations of the universe -- are highly improbable.
I would tend to agree with this in principle. I'm not trying to use this as an extreme example, but it used to be believed that the sun went around the earth. They believed this because that is what they observed from their perspective. However, the universe that they could not/did not observe did not behave that way. Arguably, the currently visable universe is understood to be far bigger and more complicated than anybody in history has ever really believed it to be.

Trying to talk about probabilities in the unobservable universe is rather absurd. I would bet that coin would not turn into a parakeet if it was flipped on this world, and I would probably be right every time. But flip that coin outside of everything I can see and measure, and who can say?

oxoiron wrote:No, I did not know that. In fact, I've never seen that idea in anything I've read on Taoism. Where did you hear it?
While I have mostly read about it in some books and from late night googling, and I am certainly no expert, this wiki page is a good start.

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Re: Religion

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:47 am UTC

Sorry to butt in like this

clintonius wrote:Dawkins, detested though he may be, avoids the question trimly.

Fixed. As much as I agree that he is a good speaker and a good philosopher, he seems to be out to convince the religious masses that they are wrong, and playing semantic games like this isn't exactly a strong argument, it sounds great if you agree with him, it sounds like drivel if you don't. It doesn't convince anybody to change their mind.

To the Atheists I say Get over Dawkins, He's a good speaker, he's not a great speaker, he's not really that great of a debater.
To the Religious I say Get over Dawkins, He believes, as do millions of others, in things that you do not believe, and yet, he has not convinced one believer to unbelieve (okay, I can't really prove that, in fact, there probably are people who would say they were convinced to unbelieve by Dawkins, but probably no one who believed in the first place, House has probably done a better job)

Why, simply because God created the Universe, must God have created himself? We don't know what created the universe, we don't know what was going on here before the universe. Why can't god be a leftover of the previous universe? Or a visitor from some other Universe (or brane or whatever)? Would that make him any less awesome or supreme in our universe?

We live in an elegant universe, why can't we have an elegant god?
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Re: Religion

Postby Falmarri » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:16 am UTC

How is that avoiding the question? It's an unanswerable question.

EdgarJPublius wrote:Why, simply because God created the Universe, must God have created himself? We don't know what created the universe, we don't know what was going on here before the universe. Why can't god be a leftover of the previous universe? Or a visitor from some other Universe (or brane or whatever)? Would that make him any less awesome or supreme in our universe?


So god could be anything and everything. Well great, sure, that's possible. It's possible that god came to our dimension from some other brane and put things in motion that lead to life on earth. Sure. Now how many assumptions does that have, including all the ones that string and m-theory posit. That's not the god that religion posits though.

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:52 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:I suppose that is fairly accurate. We do not have to say that it only created a subset, as long as we can understand that it's possible to create something that is also part of the whole, as well. That is to say, that everything that has been created is also a part of god.

Could you clarify? I'm not sure what this means.

theonlyjett wrote:If probability is an inherently subjective thing, than saying "the probability of god existing is low," is just a more "intellectual" way of saying "I don't believe god exists," rather than an actual explanation.

Right. That's why I had to follow it up with an actual explanation.

theonlyjett wrote:
Nath wrote:3. The universe's unobserved behaviour is correlated with the universe's observed behaviour.
I would tend to agree with this in principle. I'm not trying to use this as an extreme example, but it used to be believed that the sun went around the earth. They believed this because that is what they observed from their perspective. However, the universe that they could not/did not observe did not behave that way. Arguably, the currently visable universe is understood to be far bigger and more complicated than anybody in history has ever really believed it to be.

Right; that's why this is a bias, and not a deterministic fact. But it is usually a pretty accurate bias.

theonlyjett wrote:Trying to talk about probabilities in the unobservable universe is rather absurd. I would bet that coin would not turn into a parakeet if it was flipped on this world, and I would probably be right every time. But flip that coin outside of everything I can see and measure, and who can say?

That's backwards. Talking about probabilities only makes sense in the unobservable universe. That's what probabilities are for. In the observable universe, we can simply observe answers to the questions we ask.

The future is outside of everything you can see and measure; i.e., it's in the unobservable part of the universe. That's why why need biases and probabilities to answer questions about it. God, if he exists, is also in the unobservable part of the universe: that's why we use the same tools to estimate the probability of his existence.

EdgarJPublius wrote:Why, simply because God created the Universe, must God have created himself? We don't know what created the universe, we don't know what was going on here before the universe. Why can't god be a leftover of the previous universe? Or a visitor from some other Universe (or brane or whatever)? Would that make him any less awesome or supreme in our universe?

If the universe is everything that's ever existed, then it makes no sense to talk about previous universes, or 'before the universe'. If god exists, then he is by definition part of the universe. If he created the entire universe, and he is part of the universe, then he created himself.

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Re: Religion

Postby oxoiron » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:20 pm UTC

theonlyjett wrote:
oxoiron wrote:No, I did not know that. In fact, I've never seen that idea in anything I've read on Taoism. Where did you hear it?
While I have mostly read about it in some books and from late night googling, and I am certainly no expert, this wiki page is a good start.
My understanding is that the Three Pure Ones are representations of three facets of the Tao (compassion, humility and moderation), not literal deities. Of course, as with all philosophy, interpretation is open to debate, but as Wikipedia says in this very abbreviated section on the Taoist pantheon:
Wikipedia wrote:Traditional conceptions of Tao are not to be confused with the Western concepts of theism and monotheism.
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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

You Chrisitans who think you've got the only god are going to be shocked when you die and come face to face with Shiva the destroyer.

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Re: Religion

Postby Aikanaro » Wed Oct 08, 2008 5:40 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:You Chrisitans who think you've got the only god are going to be shocked when you die and come face to face with Shiva the destroyer.


THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS! My God can kick your God's ass! Q( ' ' Q)
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On behalf of my religion, I'm sorry so many of us do dumb shit. Please forgive us.

Love, Aikanaro.

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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:43 pm UTC

That's not fair! Your god is Footerotomy, god of feet! Of course he's going to kick my god's ass!

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Re: Religion

Postby Hammer » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:45 pm UTC

OK, back on topic now, please.
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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:00 pm UTC

theonlyjett wrote:Zeus, Set, and Chuthulu are not creator beings. Zeus is the son of Cronus, son of Gaia, who sprang from Chaos, or the void. Set is the son of Nut and Geb, who are the children of Shu and Tefnut, who were spat into existence by Re-Atum, who emerged from the waters of chaos, which is the god Nun. Now, Gaia and Re-Atum may be the closest analog to a creator being, although these mythologies were formed mostly to tell moral parables and attribute these to and/or explain natural phenomenon. Also, serving neither of these gods is said to lead to reward. So, even if you say that these are separate and distinct choices, they are not good ones.

Chuthulu is actually one of the weaker of those in his pantheon, if that's what you could call it. Lovecraft always kept details vague. I do believe it's Azathoth, the blind idiot, who lives in the center of the universe. Yog-Sothoth is often said to be the most powerful and wisest of them all. Nyarlathotep is the only of these "gods" not bound to the stars or "asleep and dreaming." He walks the earth supporting the cults of the other gods and serves Azathoth above them all. In all seriousness, the "gods" here are never attributed to any explanation of creation, nor were the ideas for them to even explain anything about the visible universe. They are a literary device and nothing more. Even if they were true, to serve them would ultimately lead to destruction, whereas to oppose them, no matter how great the odds are against, is the only real hope you would have for humanity if those "gods" were real. Again, still a bad choice.


I don't see how having a big wikipedia article about the gods I chose really does anything to help further discussion. Since my point that if you worship Zeus, Set, or Chuthulu and it turns out that Krishna turns out to be the god that exists, you're going to be punished more than if you didn't worship any god.

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Re: Religion

Postby oxoiron » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:53 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:Since my point that if you worship Zeus, Set, or Chuthulu and it turns out that Krishna turns out to be the god that exists, you're going to be punished more than if you didn't worship any god.
Why is worshipping a non-existent god worse than not believing in any god at all? Your argument assumes that the real god will be more upset about wrong worship than non-worship, but we have no way of knowing that.
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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:25 pm UTC

I'm going by the writings themselves, which tend to be jealous of followers such that worshipping the wrong god is a high offense (one of God's big 10 given to moses), while worshipping nothing is a lesser offense (such as the hindu story of the atheist who went to heaven)

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Re: Religion

Postby HarleyQuinn » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:38 pm UTC

well, I was born and raised Catholic, which wasn't that bad; I learned my manners etc etc. In 3rd grade I switched from Catholic to regular old public school and most of my religious education stopped there. Yes, I was still dragged to church on occasional Sundays, but that was about it. As for church, after a while I started listening to the lectures. I found them quite interesting and rather than fidgeting and waiting for it to be over I began really paying attention to hat the priest said and how that moral applied to the world or my life. Now, I'm not huge on Jesus and God and religion in general. I believe religion is a system of beliefs to make better people. I do believe in a hell, some form of supreme being, and hope that there is a heaven (the idea of just being with no after scares me.)
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Re: Religion

Postby seladore » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:45 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Sorry to butt in like this

clintonius wrote:Dawkins, detested though he may be, avoids the question trimly.

Fixed. As much as I agree that he is a good speaker and a good philosopher, he seems to be out to convince the religious masses that they are wrong, and playing semantic games like this isn't exactly a strong argument, it sounds great if you agree with him, it sounds like drivel if you don't. It doesn't convince anybody to change their mind.


True, though I think he is a good speaker, a better scientist, and a terrible philosopher.
EdgarJPublius wrote:[...] he has not convinced one believer to unbelieve (okay, I can't really prove that, in fact, there probably are people who would say they were convinced to unbelieve by Dawkins, but probably no one who believed in the first place,


Yeah, because they weren't true Scotsmen.

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Re: Religion

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:50 pm UTC

seladore wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:Sorry to butt in like this

clintonius wrote:Dawkins, detested though he may be, avoids the question trimly.

Fixed. As much as I agree that he is a good speaker and a good philosopher, he seems to be out to convince the religious masses that they are wrong, and playing semantic games like this isn't exactly a strong argument, it sounds great if you agree with him, it sounds like drivel if you don't. It doesn't convince anybody to change their mind.


True, though I think he is a good speaker, a better scientist, and a terrible philosopher.
EdgarJPublius wrote:[...] he has not convinced one believer to unbelieve (okay, I can't really prove that, in fact, there probably are people who would say they were convinced to unbelieve by Dawkins, but probably no one who believed in the first place,


Yeah, because they weren't true Scotsmen.

True enough about Dawkins, it was a little late.

Although 'true believer' isn't really an application of the 'no true scotsman' fallacy, as 'true believer' has a generally agreed upon set of qualities and characteristcs that differentiate one from a 'non-true believer'. Many 'believers' are simply following the path of least resistance, ascribing to the beliefs of their family, friends or society without conviction.

Falmarri wrote:How is that avoiding the question? It's an unanswerable question.

EdgarJPublius wrote:Why, simply because God created the Universe, must God have created himself? We don't know what created the universe, we don't know what was going on here before the universe. Why can't god be a leftover of the previous universe? Or a visitor from some other Universe (or brane or whatever)? Would that make him any less awesome or supreme in our universe?


So god could be anything and everything. Well great, sure, that's possible. It's possible that god came to our dimension from some other brane and put things in motion that lead to life on earth. Sure. Now how many assumptions does that have, including all the ones that string and m-theory posit. That's not the god that religion posits though.


Which religion? for starters.
Also, while I believe our current understanding doesn't necessarily point to ways that it's possible for God to have been around at the big bang, it certainly doesn't contradict that it's possible. It doesn't matter whether God came through from another brane, or encoded himself in the false vacuum or what have you, I'm just tossing out ideas, as our understanding increases, perhaps one will stick. As it stands, your idea that nothing could have been around makes just as many assumptions (I.E. wherever I've assumed something to be true, you've made just as much an assumption that it is not)

If the universe is everything that's ever existed, then it makes no sense to talk about previous universes, or 'before the universe'. If god exists, then he is by definition part of the universe. If he created the entire universe, and he is part of the universe, then he created himself.

Who say's the Universe is Everything that ever existed? For that matter, As far as I know, the only religions that unambiguously state their god existed at the beginning of everything that's ever existed also tend to accept that the creation of their god is an unsolvable paradox. In either case, you have just as little idea about how everythign that ever existed came to exist int he first place as I do.

I believe that Atheists should stop trying to discredit religion on the basis of the paradox of a god that always existed at least until they can solve the paradox of how existence started in the first place. Hell, we don't even understand how the big bang happened yet, let alone what caused it. I don't think even the LHC proposes to tell us that.

This whole religion/atheism thing seems to be pretty much an airplane-on-a-treadmill problem. the only problem is there's a sizable group #4 busy saying that one silly book or another trumps observationally verified fact. Now how does that make sense? To me that's looking at God's work and saying 'nope, he didn't do that' to which I'm like 'WTF, who did then?' and to atheists I must imagine it's like looking at what's true and laughing at you for believing it, and y'all mostly are like 'No, you don't understand, I'm not the idiot, you are' and that obviously is going to go over well.
That's why I'd like to cut those people out of the discussion, God should never trump observation, God should always complement observation. Maybe one silly book or the other was inspired by true events of God intervening in earthly affairs, just as certainly however, such things are a little the worse for wear after the centuries, good at best as parables and metaphors with a smattering of fact (a smattering of fact would still put it above many historical accounts of the time). Just because God talked to a couple of guys at a rock, some other guy at a burning bush, and maybe manifested himself or an aspect thereof physically for a while once or twice doesn't mean that the planet is only 3,000 years old, flat and the center of the universe (though, relativistically speaking, that last could be true :P).
Not to leave out other religions or anything, Being primarily a product of western culture I'm not as well versed in eastern religions, I'm sure plenty of their key events and characters could be equally rooted in fact and equally distorted by time
Roosevelt wrote:
I wrote:Does Space Teddy Roosevelt wrestle Space Bears and fight the Space Spanish-American War with his band of Space-volunteers the Space Rough Riders?

Yes.

-still unaware of the origin and meaning of his own user-title


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