Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

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qubital
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Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:45 am UTC

If an individual truly believes that something is imaginary then why discuss it? More importantly, why oppose it? I suppose it's because a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield power that affects you in a negative way. However, since the only way to neutralize a belief is to sway a mind, aside from eradication, then I hardly feel that atheism is an appropriate choice. The reason being that by singling out a particular intangible you inevitably lend creedence to it, essentially giving it weight when it had none. If so-called "atheists" had any sort of merit then their focus would be solely on advocating the scientific method, logic, and ethics. It's clear that it's a matter of education more than anything else. Also, If someone was truly an intellectual and still held such beliefs, then that individual should be left to his beliefs, since he hardly poses a threat.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Bharrata » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:55 am UTC

qubital wrote:If an individual truly believes that something is imaginary then
why discuss it?


Because imaginary numbers are useful, of course! :lol:

More importantly, why oppose it? I suppose it's
because a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield
power that affects you in a negative way.


You would have to first prove that the belief you believe (herein lies the problem already) to be wrong, is actually just a belief and not true. Opposition would come from the opinion that it is either harming yourself or others in some way.

The reason being that by singling out a particular
intangible you inevitably lend creedence to it, essentially giving
it weight when it had none.


It would appear that by making it an issue you are giving the debate life where, were it not for your resistance, there would be no issue nor debate. While I tend to agree, there is the problem of if you do not oppose it you might end up with everyone in your country being completely ok with going to war because God told someone with power that he wanted you all to go to war, in which case your point that God does not exist and cannot decree war to be waged would be met with either confusion over just what the hell you're talking about since it's so wacky or worse, outright hostility.

If so-called "atheists" had any sort
of merit then their focus would be solely on advocating the
scientific method, logic, and ethics. It's clear that it's a
matter of education more than anything else. Also, If someone
was truly an intellectual and still held such beliefs, than that
individual should be left to his beliefs, since he hardly poses a threat.


I tend to agree that it's a matter of education and that if an educated individual still chooses to have faith in something supernatural, as long as that faith does not infringe upon the rights of another, I have absolutely no problem with it.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:21 am UTC

Your spacing makes it rather difficult for me to read your post.

And I'm not sure if I understand your question ... who are these "so-called atheists", and how are they distinct from supposedly 'real' atheists?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:23 am UTC

You would have to first prove that the belief you believe (herein lies the problem already) to be wrong, is actually just a belief and not true. Opposition would come from the opinion that it is either harming yourself or others in some way.

Just to be clear, when I said "a group of individuals that do carry such a belief..." I was referring to religious individuals.

It would appear that by making it an issue you are giving the debate life where, were it not for your resistance, there would be no issue nor debate. While I tend to agree, there is the problem of if you do not oppose it you might end up with everyone in your country being completely ok with going to war because God told someone with power that he wanted you all to go to war, in which case your point that God does not exist and cannot decree war to be waged would be met with either confusion over just what the hell you're talking about since it's so wacky or worse, outright hostility.

I'm not saying that you should not oppose it but that an argument of "God does not exist" is irrational in these circumstances (all circumstances for that matter). A sane person would try to persuade the dictator through reasoning, perhaps showing why such actions may prove futile in the long run, and so forth. Otherwise force would need to be taken. Atheistic thought is always irrelevant.

yurell wrote:Your spacing makes it rather difficult for me to read your post.

And I'm not sure if I understand your question ... who are these "so-called atheists", and how are they distinct from supposedly 'real' atheists?

Sorry for that, I use Emacs for everything.

... and using Emacs prevents you from editing the final copy so that it's readable? That and your double post have been rectified.

- Az

Edit:
The editor is set to line lengths of 66 characters because, according to Bringhurst in The Elements of Typographic Style, that is widely regarded as ideal for reading. However, I do realize that not everything translates to the web, but seriously doubt it becomes so unreadable that you feel it necessary to reprimand after I apologized.
Edit

By "so-called" I meant the common name given to individuals that deny the existence of a supreme being.
Last edited by qubital on Sun Apr 01, 2012 2:58 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:54 am UTC

qubital wrote:I'm not saying that you should not oppose it but that an argument of "God does not exist" is irrational in these circumstances (all circumstances for that matter). A sane person would try to persuade the dictator through reasoning, perhaps showing why such actions may prove futile in the long run, and so forth. Otherwise force would need to be taken. Atheistic thought is always irrelevant.


Well first, as a semantic point, I would say that most, if not all atheists do not make the claim that "God does not exist". Most make the claim that "There is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods". There is nothing irrational about a stance; it is the default stance taken for any claim that requires skepticism. The only reason that atheism needs a particular label at this time is because most people are theists, and it is therefore occasionally useful to distinguish people who are theists from people who are not. From this position, it follows, of course, that not all atheists oppose theism (the term anti-theist is sometimes used to describe this stance). Many atheistic philosophies do not, in fact, have any problem with theism per se. Confucianism, for example, essentially treats questions of the divine as irrelevant, because there's too much to do here on Earth to worry about what may come after.

The reason why some atheists do choose to confront religion very much has to do with the fact that many societies are highly religious, and atheistic viewpoints would otherwise be marginalized or persecuted. Or those religious viewpoints could (and often are) used to inflict harm on people unjustly, based solely on religious creed. It is not necessarily the belief in God/gods itself that atheists feel the need to oppose, but rather the institutions that use those beliefs in order to enforce some moral or social agenda.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:01 am UTC

I always see one division of the universal set as 'people who do believe in gods' (theists) and 'everyone not in the previous set' (a-theists). 'Atheism' encompasses everything from 'I don't believe in a deity but I don't think we'll ever be able to tell for sure' ('agnostic' atheism) to 'gods definitely don't exist' (anti-theism).
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Bharrata » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:18 am UTC

qubital wrote:
You would have to first prove that the belief you believe (herein lies the problem already) to be wrong, is actually just a belief and not true. Opposition would come from the opinion that it is either harming yourself or others in some way.

Just to be clear, when I said "a group of individuals that do carry such a belief..." I was referring to religious individuals.


I was more referring to this:

qubital wrote:If an individual truly believes that something is imaginary then why discuss it?


than I was to the second quote, my second sentence was in reference to the opposition question.

Perhaps your wording was incorrect for what you were attempting to convey, but I read that first sentence as "if an atheist believes God is imaginary, why discuss it?"

Just pointing out, as Laserguy has, that belief is not necessarily correct in this case and the humorous circle of believing another's belief is incorrect.

qubital wrote:
It would appear that by making it an issue you are giving the debate life where, were it not for your resistance, there would be no issue nor debate. While I tend to agree, there is the problem of if you do not oppose it you might end up with everyone in your country being completely ok with going to war because God told someone with power that he wanted you all to go to war, in which case your point that God does not exist and cannot decree war to be waged would be met with either confusion over just what the hell you're talking about since it's so wacky or worse, outright hostility.

I'm not saying that you should not oppose it but that an argument of "God does not exist" is irrational in these circumstances (all circumstances for that matter). A sane person would try to persuade the dictator through reasoning, perhaps showing why such actions may prove futile in the long run, and so forth. Otherwise force would need to be taken. Atheistic thought is always irrelevant.


Prove to me that atheistic thought is irrelevant...Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Nietzsche and many others all seem relevant to me. Nor do they seem irrational for that matter.

If a dictator believes God has told him to wage war, I'd doubt your secular arguments would convince him otherwise.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:07 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Well first, as a semantic point, I would say that most, if not all atheists do not make the claim that "God does not exist". Most make the claim that "There is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods".

Note that I was addressing Bharrata's comment directly here:
Bharrata wrote:...go to war, in which case your point that God does not exist and cannot decree war...
. However, I'm not certain that most atheists do not make the claim that "God does not exist." If you were to attend the Reason Rally held recently, and ask an atheist whether God existed or not, I'm skeptical as to whether his response would be that "there is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods." It would likely be a direct denial.

LaserGuy wrote:There is nothing irrational about a stance; it is the default stance taken for any claim that requires skepticism.

Surely I'm allowed to argue that some stance is absurd? Unless you're referring to the actual notion of a stance, which is unreasonable. I don't see how atheism is the default stance for any claim that requires skepticism. Actually, I'm just unclear what you're trying to say here.

LaserGuy wrote:The only reason that atheism needs a particular label at this time is because most people are theists, and it is therefore occasionally useful to distinguish people who are theists from people who are not. From this position, it follows, of course, that not all atheists oppose theism (the term anti-theist is sometimes used to describe this stance). Many atheistic philosophies do not, in fact, have any problem with theism per se. Confucianism, for example, essentially treats questions of the divine as irrelevant, because there's too much to do here on Earth to worry about what may come after.
I agree that it is occassionally useful to make such a distinction. I suppose I should make it clear that I'm not really arguing against the indirect "label" of atheism, but rather the activism, which seems to be quite trendy nowadays.

LaserGuy wrote:The reason why some atheists do choose to confront religion very much has to do with the fact that many societies are highly religious, and atheistic viewpoints would otherwise be marginalized or persecuted. Or those religious viewpoints could (and often are) used to inflict harm on people unjustly, based solely on religious creed. It is not necessarily the belief in God/gods itself that atheists feel the need to oppose, but rather the institutions that use those beliefs in order to enforce some moral or social agenda.

I would consider this just an extension of my original assumption that "a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield
power that affects you in a negative way."

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:20 am UTC

qubital wrote:If you were to attend the Reason Rally held recently, and ask an atheist whether God existed or not, I'm skeptical as to whether his response would be that "there is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods." It would likely be a direct denial.


That's because capital-'G' God as described in the Bible is a testable hypothesis, and it fails miserably.
If we're not taking a literal Bible interpretation, then the answer will probably be 'no' just as surely as Santa Clause is 'no' — short for 'no, there is no reason to believe he exists but since the claim is unfalsifiable this is possible to change through submission of evidence'.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:56 am UTC

yurell wrote:
qubital wrote:If you were to attend the Reason Rally held recently, and ask an atheist whether God existed or not, I'm skeptical as to whether his response would be that "there is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods." It would likely be a direct denial.


That's because capital-'G' God as described in the Bible is a testable hypothesis, and it fails miserably.
If we're not taking a literal Bible interpretation, then the answer will probably be 'no' just as surely as Santa Clause is 'no' — short for 'no, there is no reason to believe he exists but since the claim is unfalsifiable this is possible to change through submission of evidence'.


First, if I were to actually ask someone that question, he would have no way of knowing whether I meant "God" or "god" unless I explicitly spelled it out for him. I also doubt he would ask for me to clarify. Second, I was addressing LaserGuys comment directly; note that his claim: "There is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods," includes the word "God." Personally, I was unaware that such an implicit relationship even existed.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:10 am UTC

qubital wrote:First, if I were to actually ask someone that question, he would have no way of knowing whether I meant "God" or "god" unless I explicitly spelled it out for him.


Yes, they would. English requires you to either say 'God' or 'a god', which is enough to distinguish between the two.

Edit: I should also add that the onus is on you to explain your question in a clear and concise way — if you phrase it in such a manner as to heavily imply one interpretation, you shouldn't be too surprised when people take it that way.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby curtis95112 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:23 am UTC

And if you were to ask anyone whether unicorns exist, they wouldn't reply "There is insufficient evidence to believe that they do". You would most likely get direct denial although nobody denies that new evidence could change their position.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:34 pm UTC

qubital wrote:I suppose it's because a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield power that affects you in a negative way.

The reason being that by singling out a particular intangible you inevitably lend credence to it, essentially giving it weight when it had none.

In which your own words demonstrate the flaw in your stance: Religion had lots of credence long prior to the emergence of modern atheists, although that credence has significantly waned. So your belief atheists talking about religion makes it stronger lacks even basic cohesiveness.

On the other hand, I don't think you mean to argue what you initially stated. For instance:
I'm not saying that you should not oppose [the negative effects of a religious structure] but that an argument of "God does not exist" is irrational in these circumstances (all circumstances for that matter). A sane person would try to persuade the dictator through reasoning, perhaps showing why such actions may prove futile in the long run, and so forth.

This suggests that your point is that discussing whether or not god exists is not the most effective way to combat the negatives of religion. So you conclude that such thought is irrelevant.

However, your conclusion is faulty because you've made a bad set of assumptions: Primarily that the intent of discussing whether or not god exists is always intended as a way to combat the negative aspects of religion. This ignores ... well, all of philosophy? The entirety of non-vocational education? Thought had merit all on it's own.

But even if you're only going to judge based on application, you've failed to demonstrate that a hard-logic approach will work in the face of an irrational actor. Even if you demonstrate that, you can't yet claim that it is the most effective approach. And you'll never be able to argue successfully that the most effective approach is the only approach worth taking.

Moreover, you've lumped together this idea of "atheistic thought" without rational basis, and decided that it doesn't also contain the use of logic to combat inequity without any supporting evidence. Atheism is not anti-theism. Not all atheists are actively arguing that god does not exist. Nor are all thoughts or efforts by atheists in opposition of the negative effects of religion directly combating that structure by questioning the existence of god -- rational humanism, anyone?

Lastly:
qubital wrote:If so-called "atheists" had any sort of merit then ...

A sane person...
By your own line of logic, you neither have merit, nor are sane, because insults of this sort are not the most rational nor effective means of persuading those who oppose your point.

See how pointless those little condescending editorial quips are?

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:33 pm UTC

qubital wrote:If an individual truly believes that something is imaginary then why discuss it? More importantly, why oppose it?

Because it's a false belief. Many people find it worthwhile to challenge such beliefs, even when there's nothing further to be gained by doing so.

Fermat triples are imaginary, and I doubt much will change because this has been proved. But was Andrew Wiles really just wasting his time?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby philsov » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:00 pm UTC

Also, If someone was truly an intellectual and still held such beliefs, then that individual should be left to his beliefs, since he hardly poses a threat.


Beliefs by themselves are free to be held. However, the actions they inspire have the potential to both lead to direct harm or stray others farther from the truth of the matter. Should young earth creationism be taught in science class, which defies established geology, archeology, and history as we know it? The problem isn't the defiance itself, but rather the basis therein. If new evidence enters the fold it should not be disregarded just because it defies the current paradigm, but this is not the case when the evidence is grounded on faith and a holy book.

William Dembski, for example, can be called an intellectual. Spare me this "truly" semantical nonsense. Do you think he poses no threat to the reason-based thought process and should be left to preach without refutation?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:09 pm UTC

While I do admit to using rhetoric to pry, I feel you've misunderstood most of what I said.

Azrael wrote:
qubital wrote:I suppose it's because a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield power that affects you in a negative way.

The reason being that by singling out a particular intangible you inevitably lend credence to it, essentially giving it weight when it had none.

In which your own words demonstrate the flaw in your stance: Religion had lots of credence long prior to the emergence of modern atheists, although that credence has significantly waned. So your belief atheists talking about religion makes it stronger lacks even basic cohesiveness.

When I say "a particular intangible" I do not mean religion, I was making a general statement about intangible notions, which is naturally somewhat absurd. However, I do personally feel that atheism makes religion stronger. The decline of religion is not due to atheism but rather improvements in reasoning.

Azrael wrote:On the other hand, I don't think you mean to argue what you initially stated. For instance:
I'm not saying that you should not oppose [the negative effects of a religious structure] but that an argument of "God does not exist" is irrational in these circumstances (all circumstances for that matter). A sane person would try to persuade the dictator through reasoning, perhaps showing why such actions may prove futile in the long run, and so forth.

This suggests that your point is that discussing whether or not god exists is not the most effective way to combat the negatives of religion. So you conclude that such thought is irrelevant.

However, your conclusion is faulty because you've made a bad set of assumptions: Primarily that the intent of discussing whether or not god exists is always intended as a way to combat the negative aspects of religion. This ignores ... well, all of philosophy? The entirety of non-vocational education? Thought had merit all on it's own.

I think it's misleading to say that I believe that atheism as an academic exericise is pointless. I clarified this in a reply to LaserGuy above.

Azrael wrote:But even if you're only going to judge based on application, you've failed to demonstrate that a hard-logic approach will work in the face of an irrational actor. Even if you demonstrate that, you can't yet claim that it is the most effective approach. And you'll never be able to argue successfully that the most effective approach is the only approach worth taking.

What is atheism if not a "hard-logic" approach? I suppose I'm arguing that not only is atheism not the most effective approach but that it's also uneffective and perhaps even a catalyst.

Azrael wrote:See how pointless those little condescending quips are?

It's laughable to think that you are somehow above these little condescensing quips. How condescending would I be if I were an atheist? Perhaps I truly wanted to understand if it was appropriate.

Azrael wrote:Lastly:
qubital wrote:If so-called "atheists" had any sort of merit then ...

A sane person...
By your own line of logic, you neither have merit, nor are sane, because insults of this sort are not the most rational nor effective means of persuading those who oppose your point.

See how pointless those little condescending editorial quips are?

I think you're being overly dramatic and sensitive here. Perhaps it's humor, I just don't know you yet.
Last edited by qubital on Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:53 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:18 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
qubital wrote:If an individual truly believes that something is imaginary then why discuss it? More importantly, why oppose it?

Because it's a false belief. Many people find it worthwhile to challenge such beliefs, even when there's nothing further to be gained by doing so.

Fermat triples are imaginary, and I doubt much will change because this has been proved. But was Andrew Wiles really just wasting his time?

I'll accept this answer. Thanks TGB.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:26 pm UTC

yurell wrote:That's because capital-'G' God as described in the Bible is a testable hypothesis, and it fails miserably.

Could you share that test with me?

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby mike-l » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:35 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
yurell wrote:That's because capital-'G' God as described in the Bible is a testable hypothesis, and it fails miserably.

Could you share that test with me?


Without doing any work at all, the bible makes contradictory statements and predictions, as early as chapter 2 of genesis, wherein man is created after the animals in chapter 1 but then before them in chapter 2.

But if you actually want to do some work, how about Genesis 6, where God proclaims that no human will live more than 120 years. Ignoring that many biblical characters after this point live longer, Jeanne Calment tested and disproved that prediction.

This is of course nowhere near exhaustive, there are at least dozens if not hundreds of contradictions and testable falsehoods in the bible, which you're free to google.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:30 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Well first, as a semantic point, I would say that most, if not all atheists do not make the claim that "God does not exist". Most make the claim that "There is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods".


However, I'm not certain that most atheists do not make the claim that "God does not exist." If you were to attend the Reason Rally held recently, and ask an atheist whether God existed or not, I'm skeptical as to whether his response would be that "there is insufficient evidence to believe in any God or gods." It would likely be a direct denial.


And, I would expect that if you pressed further, asking "Are you saying that it is impossible that God could not exist?", they would probably say no. Just like it is not impossible that Santa Claus does not exist. But the probability of such an individual existing with the particular properties ascribed to him is so vanishingly unlikely that it is not worth seriously entertaining at this point in time. If you read the works of noted atheists including Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc. you'll find that this is pretty much the position that they always adopt. That is, given the lack of evidence for God's existence, we should operate, functionally, under the assumption that God does not exist until proven otherwise.

qubital wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:There is nothing irrational about a stance; it is the default stance taken for any claim that requires skepticism.


Surely I'm allowed to argue that some stance is absurd? Unless you're referring to the actual notion of a stance, which is unreasonable. I don't see how atheism is the default stance for any claim that requires skepticism. Actually, I'm just unclear what you're trying to say here.


If a claim is made on anything, the default position is not to believe it unless evidence can be provided. I don't understand how it is absurd to take a stance of "I don't have enough evidence to believe in X" for any given value of X.

qubital wrote:I agree that it is occassionally useful to make such a distinction. I suppose I should make it clear that I'm not really arguing against the indirect "label" of atheism, but rather the activism, which seems to be quite trendy nowadays.

I would consider this just an extension of my original assumption that "a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield
power that affects you in a negative way."


Well, this is the reason for atheist "activism". (Some) atheists see religion causing a great deal of harm in the world, and feel compelled to do something about it. Although honestly, I would expect that if you actually looked at it by numbers, you'd probably find that the number of activist atheists is very small relative to the population as a whole, just as the number of activists of any identifiable group is generally small relative to the size of the group.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:55 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:If a claim is made on anything, the default position is not to believe it unless evidence can be provided. I don't understand how it is absurd to take a stance of "I don't have enough evidence to believe in X" for any given value of X.

I see, however if atheism is diluted to the point where it means a general disbelief in anything lacking evidence, then I think we're having an entirely different conversation.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby omgryebread » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:59 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:If a claim is made on anything, the default position is not to believe it unless evidence can be provided. I don't understand how it is absurd to take a stance of "I don't have enough evidence to believe in X" for any given value of X.

I see, however if atheism is diluted to the point where it means a general disbelief in anything lacking evidence, then I think we're having an entirely different conversation.
That would probably best be called skepticism, of which atheism is a type.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby TranquilFury » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:08 pm UTC

qubital wrote:If an individual truly believes that something is imaginary then why discuss it? More importantly, why oppose it? I suppose it's because a group of individuals that do carry such a belief wield power that affects you in a negative way. However, since the only way to neutralize a belief is to sway a mind, aside from eradication, then I hardly feel that atheism is an appropriate choice. The reason being that by singling out a particular intangible you inevitably lend creedence to it, essentially giving it weight when it had none. If so-called "atheists" had any sort of merit then their focus would be solely on advocating the scientific method, logic, and ethics. It's clear that it's a matter of education more than anything else. Also, If someone was truly an intellectual and still held such beliefs, then that individual should be left to his beliefs, since he hardly poses a threat.

Why discuss it? Entertainment.
Why oppose it? Because those who believe imaginary thing X interfere with other goals because of their belief. For example, if someone tried to ban bacon out of religious belief, theists and atheists that like bacon would speak out against those that were trying to ban it for everyone. It gets more heated when the subject is medicine, science, or sexuality, rather than breakfast.

Atheism is a lack of supernatural belief, no more, no less. Atheism does not imply any political motive nor a rational/irrational mindset.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:48 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:If a claim is made on anything, the default position is not to believe it unless evidence can be provided. I don't understand how it is absurd to take a stance of "I don't have enough evidence to believe in X" for any given value of X.


I see, however if atheism is diluted to the point where it means a general disbelief in anything lacking evidence, then I think we're having an entirely different conversation.


Atheism is a disbelief in a specific claim lacking evidence, namely the existence of God or gods. It does not, in and of itself, advance any positive claims.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby zmic » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:13 pm UTC

Research seems to indicate that religious people are happier and healthier. In this regard, theism is the rational stance.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:22 pm UTC

qubital wrote:However, I do personally feel that atheism makes religion stronger. The decline of religion is not due to atheism but rather improvements in reasoning.
How does not participating in religion make it stronger? Because that is all that atheism is. Understand that 'atheist' and 'one who publicly challenges the existence of god to those who believe' are not interchangeable. The latter is merely a subset of the former. You are erroneously attributing a single behavior as the primary attribute of atheists -- and even if there were a binary attribute, you're picked the wrong one. Atheism is nothing more than not believing in god.

Azrael wrote:But even if you're only going to judge based on application, you've failed to demonstrate that a hard-logic approach will work in the face of an irrational actor. Even if you demonstrate that, you can't yet claim that it is the most effective approach. And you'll never be able to argue successfully that the most effective approach is the only approach worth taking.
What is atheism if not a "hard-logic" approach? I suppose I'm arguing that not only is atheism not the most effective approach but that it's also uneffective and perhaps even a catalyst.
No one questioned that atheism was a logical approach. What I questioned is why you think that a non-rational actor (the authority making harmful religion-based decisions) is going to listen to logic? Non-rational actor. The most effective approach could very well be to argue some alternate interpretation of scripture.

Regardless, you're working with a faulty definition of atheism. Non-religious rational thought is as much "atheistic thought" as anything else. As much as is pains me to keep using such a made-up, bullshit term as "atheistic thought", there is no effective difference between it and secular rationale. Like those "improvements in reasoning" you mention up there as the reason for the decline in religious influence. Once again, atheism is not anti-theism.

You could argue that trying to dissuade someone of their religion isn't effective, but the comparison is immaterial. Primarily, because no one is under any obligation (moral, ethical, otherwise) to only use the (most) effective means of persuasion. Second, most demonstrations of the rational failures of religion aren't aimed at specific believers, but instead are intended for the undecided, those who have doubts. In which case, the per-existing curiosity in the consumer is used, confirmed and built upon. That's actually a very effective means of persuasion.

Now to argue that trying to logically disprove parts of religion teachings is a catalyst is going to need a whole lot more than what you've provided. Especially since you've already contradicted yourself: "The decline of religion is not due to atheism but rather improvements in reasoning." There you go. Done. Clearly, you understand that the catalyst effect isn't the dominant one. But what you've been erroneously stating is that atheism and "improvements in reasoning" are mutually exclusive.

What's important here is that no approach will be universally effective amongst all people. So attempts to disproving some religious tenets may cause a backlash for some while it helps others. And we know the harm it may cause is being out-paced by the good being done on the whole.

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Quantification time! So there's a (by no means complete) system of equations:

Reduction in Religious Influence = X*(a-b)+Y*(c-d)
Since influence is historically waning: (X*-b)+(Y*-d)< (X*a)+(Y*c)

Where:
a: portion of population positively affected by arguments that god does not exist
b: portion of the population negatively effected by arguments that god does not exist
c: portion of the population positively effected by rational arguments that contradict religious teachings, but do not questioning god's existence
d: portion of the population negatively effected by rational arguments that contradicting religious teachings, but do not questioning god's existence
X: portion of rational arguments involving god's existence
Y: portion of rational arguments not involving god's existence

... good luck solving that.

In the US, we can surmise (long term) that (Y*c) has been the dominant term, since most people still believe in God, but yet progress is religious freedom has been made.

All you're doing is suggesting that a<b. But while doing so, you're also mistakenly claiming that all atheist do X, and only X.

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qubital wrote:It's laughable to think that you are somehow above these little condescending quips. How condescending would I be if I were an atheist? Perhaps I truly wanted to understand if it was appropriate ... I think you're being overly dramatic and sensitive here. Perhaps it's humor, I just don't know you yet.
You're the one saying that atheists aren't sane because they don't use (what you contend is) the most effective tool to achieve an end. Being insulting isn't the most effective tool to achieve an end. Thus, you are insane.

Or, you could stop sprinkling your argument with things that are obviously wrong and incendiary.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
zmic wrote:Research seems to indicate that religious people are happier and healthier. In this regard, theism is the rational stance.

You've mistaken "utilitarian*" for "rational".

*Alternatively: Any single word for a quantified system of benefit.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:42 pm UTC

Not even utilitarian; just a combination rational egoism and a reduction of theoretical reason to practical reason.

Edit: Strictly speaking, "in this regard" could mean that theism is rational if you're only considering pratical, egoist reasons. But then your conclusion is an inconsequential triviality, like if I were to say "Crossing the street incurs some risk of dying; in this regard, it's a terrible idea." The response there would just be to say that there are many other, often overriding regards that make up rationality.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:01 pm UTC

When I used the term "stance" in the title, I was hoping to invoke the sense of aggression, such as in fencing. I'm not quarrelling with the term itself.
Azrael wrote:Understand that 'atheist' and 'one who publicly challenges the existence of god to those who believe' are not interchangeable.

I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and adverstisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.

You've gone off on a tangent I did not intend. I apologize for making such a vague (insult filled) argument that allowed you to do so.

This thread has helped organize my thoughts however. I am entirely comfortable with a unified skeptical community, but I still am not sold on the legitimacy of skeptical "branches," as it were.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:02 pm UTC

mike-l wrote:
morriswalters wrote:
yurell wrote:That's because capital-'G' God as described in the Bible is a testable hypothesis, and it fails miserably.

Could you share that test with me?


Without doing any work at all, the bible makes contradictory statements and predictions, as early as chapter 2 of genesis, wherein man is created after the animals in chapter 1 but then before them in chapter 2.

But if you actually want to do some work, how about Genesis 6, where God proclaims that no human will live more than 120 years. Ignoring that many biblical characters after this point live longer, Jeanne Calment tested and disproved that prediction.

This is of course nowhere near exhaustive, there are at least dozens if not hundreds of contradictions and testable falsehoods in the bible, which you're free to google.

That certainly says something about the Bible. But his statement referred to God. State a way of testing for the existence of God as described in the Bible. That's a simple request.

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It's a giant assumption that reason itself is the reason for the waning of Religion. You could also hypothesize that it is the safety provided by the advances created by reasoning that have caused Religion to wane. Remove that comfort and certainty and you could well have Religion become resurgent.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby mike-l » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:06 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
zmic wrote:Research seems to indicate that religious people are happier and healthier. In this regard, theism is the rational stance.

You've mistaken "utilitarian*" for "rational".
And other studies have suggested that atheists are also much happier than those uncertain about their belief or unbelief, suggesting the correlation isn't between religion and happy, but between conviction and happy. And there is no telling if there's causality, it's certainly reasonable to suggest that being unhappy causes the lack of conviction and not the other way around, or they may both come from some other factor.

morriswalters wrote:That certainly says something about the Bible. But his statement referred to God. State a way of testing for the existence of God as described in the Bible. That's a simple request.
The Bible describes an omnipotent God who said no human will live beyond 120 years. That's been tested and falsified.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:15 pm UTC

qubital wrote:When I used the term "stance" in the title, I was hoping to invoke the sense of aggression, such as in fencing. I'm not quarrelling with the term itself.

I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and adverstisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.


Of course the people who are the most vocal are the ones who get the most publicity. That doesn't necessarily imply that these people are a majority, or even a remotely representative minority. This is like saying that all Christians must be rabid anti-gay fanatics who picket the funerals of soldiers, just because this is something that the Westboro Baptist Church does and has gotten a lot of publicity for.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qubital » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:18 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
qubital wrote:When I used the term "stance" in the title, I was hoping to invoke the sense of aggression, such as in fencing. I'm not quarrelling with the term itself.

I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and adverstisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.


Of course the people who are the most vocal are the ones who get the most publicity. That doesn't necessarily imply that these people are a majority, or even a remotely representative minority. This is like saying that all Christians must be rabid anti-gay fanatics who picket the funerals of soldiers, just because this is something that the Westboro Baptist Church does and has gotten a lot of publicity for.

That's true however in this case I believe that Richard Dawkins, who most would consider a central figure in the atheist community, plays a pivotal role in such advocacy.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Angua » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:19 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
Azrael wrote:Understand that 'atheist' and 'one who publicly challenges the existence of god to those who believe' are not interchangeable.

I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and adverstisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.

Hmmmmmm, I wonder why you would only ever hear about atheists who are publically doing that sort of thing, rather than the rest of us who generally just sit back and be quiet and don't really care so long as we don't get people coming up to us and trying to convert us.

Not to mention that in a society where the default is believing in a god, it's not easy to be an atheist. I'm not surprised that some people react to that by challenging others's beliefs, because the religious try and challenge atheists beliefs (or rather, their lack thereof) all the time.



I accept that not all religious people try to convert people, but if you're saying that's what all atheists do, then the comparison is apt.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby philsov » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:33 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
qubital wrote:When I used the term "stance" in the title, I was hoping to invoke the sense of aggression, such as in fencing. I'm not quarrelling with the term itself.

I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and adverstisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.


Of course the people who are the most vocal are the ones who get the most publicity. That doesn't necessarily imply that these people are a majority, or even a remotely representative minority. This is like saying that all Christians must be rabid anti-gay fanatics who picket the funerals of soldiers, just because this is something that the Westboro Baptist Church does and has gotten a lot of publicity for.

That's true however in this case I believe that Richard Dawkins, who most would consider a central figure in the atheist community, plays a pivotal role in such advocacy.


Image
Above: Dawkins makes a very hefty challenge.

Everything I'm finding about Dawkins and billboards/ads leads to some... less than staunch messages. Can you direct me towards something more aggressive?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby zmic » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:35 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
qubital wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:If a claim is made on anything, the default position is not to believe it unless evidence can be provided. I don't understand how it is absurd to take a stance of "I don't have enough evidence to believe in X" for any given value of X.


I see, however if atheism is diluted to the point where it means a general disbelief in anything lacking evidence, then I think we're having an entirely different conversation.


Atheism is a disbelief in a specific claim lacking evidence, namely the existence of God or gods. It does not, in and of itself, advance any positive claims.


if atheism is nothing more than "lack of belief in god" then why are books like "The God Delusion" making such a big deal out of it? Are you saying there isn't a single positive claim in that book?

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Soralin » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:47 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
Azrael wrote:Understand that 'atheist' and 'one who publicly challenges the existence of god to those who believe' are not interchangeable.

I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and adverstisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.

How does your conclusion follow from those statements? Pointing out the existence of people who publicly challenge the existence of god to those who believe, doesn't mean that every single person who is an atheist does so.

What about people who you know personally, that are atheists, but which haven't publicly challenged the existence of god, or had any discussions about religion with you? Of course, if they haven't done such things, how would you know that they were atheists? Or did you just assume that everyone you know believes in a god, unless they state otherwise?

zmic wrote:if atheism is nothing more than "lack of belief in god" then why are books like "The God Delusion" making such a big deal out of it?

If the majority of the world believed in fairies despite a lack of evidence for them, wouldn't you want to know why? To know how that could happen? Especially when people's decisions, laws, wars even, were being based around people's belief in how fairies act, that there could be demand for a "The Fairy Delusion" book?

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:48 pm UTC

qubital wrote:
Azrael wrote:Understand that 'atheist' and 'one who publicly challenges the existence of god to those who believe' are not interchangeable.
I think that this statement is a bit disingenuous and does not hold in reality. Anyone who has ever browsed Reddit, or attended an atheist rally, or even watched the news, should understand this comparison is entirely reasonable. In today's society there are literally billboards and advertisements on buses making such a challenge, by individuals who consider themselves atheists.

You've gone off on a tangent I did not intend. I apologize for making such a vague (insult filled) argument that allowed you to do so.

Do you really not understand subsets? Yes, there are atheists who do that. But not all atheists do that. Doing that is not a qualifying trait of atheists. The qualifying trait of atheists is not believing in god. Nothing more.

Also: I am real. I am an atheist. I am not trying to convince you that god does not exist. I am not being disingenuous. Your failure is (still) in your faulty assumptions.

zmic wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Atheism is a disbelief in a specific claim lacking evidence, namely the existence of God or gods. It does not, in and of itself, advance any positive claims.
If atheism is nothing more than "lack of belief in god" then why are books like "The God Delusion" making such a big deal out of it? Are you saying there isn't a single positive claim in that book?

Shit, you too? Yes, that book advances positive claims. That book is an example of atheism. That book is not a definition of atheism.

Proselytizing Evangelicals are Christians. Not all Christians are proselytizing evangelicals.

morriswalters wrote:@Azreal

It's a giant assumption that reason itself is the reason for the waning of Religion. You could also hypothesize that it is the safety provided by the advances created by reasoning that have caused Religion to wane. Remove that comfort and certainty and you could well have Religion become resurgent.

Not my assumption. Take it up with the person who made it.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:55 pm UTC

qubital wrote:That's true however in this case I believe that Richard Dawkins, who most would consider a central figure in the atheist community, plays a pivotal role in such advocacy.


I think part of what you're missing is that there isn't, to a significant extent, an "atheist community". Atheists do not necessarily have anything in common except for a disbelief in God or gods. Most of them are quite tolerant of religion; in fact, some of them go to church. Some are liberals; some are conservatives. Most don't attend atheist rallies or go to skeptics clubs. I would venture, in fact, that most have probably never read Dawkins or Hitchens or any other atheist literature (for example, Dawkin's most popular book, The God Delusion, has only sold 2 million copies worldwide), and a significant number of them have probably never heard of Dawkins.

zmic wrote:if atheism is nothing more than "lack of belief in god" then why are books like "The God Delusion" making such a big deal out of it? Are you saying there isn't a single positive claim in that book?


I haven't read it, so I couldn't tell you for certain. I would suspect that Dawkins does indeed make a number of positive, testable claims in his book. From what I have heard, my understanding is that he is not so much advocating for atheism, as he is advocating against religion, religious belief, and magical thinking. But, having not read his books, I don't really feel qualified to comment beyond that.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby zmic » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:07 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
zmic wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Atheism is a disbelief in a specific claim lacking evidence, namely the existence of God or gods. It does not, in and of itself, advance any positive claims.
If atheism is nothing more than "lack of belief in god" then why are books like "The God Delusion" making such a big deal out of it? Are you saying there isn't a single positive claim in that book?

Shit, you too? Yes, that book advances positive claims. That book is an example of atheism. That book is not a definition of atheism.


And a book on home gardening, do you also consider that as an example of atheism? After all, most books on gardening don't presuppose the existence of god.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:14 pm UTC

Do you understand that Pat Robertson is religious, but that not all religious people believe what Pat Robertson believes?

If not: Substitute the Pope for Pat.

If so: Apply concept to atheists.


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