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Atheism is Absurd
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2020 9:12 am    Post subject: Atheism is Absurd Reply with quote

As time progresses, the above is a position I find increasingly attractive. I'd go further; had it not been so damaging to the wellbeing of humanity as a whole, the kind of dogmatic inflexibility of the extreme atheist position would be laughable.

Now the method I'm intending to utilize in backing up this statement is to, over the next few weeks, read and dismantle the arguments put forward in the extreme atheist Bible, The God Delusion. Over the years, on a number of occasions I've refered to this title, not in complementary fashion, as one of the worst argued cases against a deity I've ever come across. Simplistic and naive, I've said, it entirely fails to stand up to scrutiny as a coherent argument against the existence of God, the claim it makes in it's opening pages, during which Dawkins claims that by the end of the book, you will no longer believe in God.

Well let's put it to the test. It's many years since I read the work, and memory can be deceptive. Have I built up the book's ridiculousness in my mind over the years? Have I reinforced in the telling, as it were, just how poorly put together the arguments were? To this end I've ordered a copy from eBay which I intend to read, and comment upon as I do so, here in this thread. In doing so I'm hoping that I'll be able to make good on my claim in the thread title, and that by the end of it (in a piece of arrogance worthy of the Don himself) you will be forced to agree with me.

And who knows, perhaps in the process I might find myself being forced to give ground in a sort of anti-Damascean conversion of my own.

Anyways, it's just an exercise in keeping my mind off the 'other stuff' that has it seems, taken over our lives in the last year or two. Hope one of two of you will join me now and again; pitch in and cut me down to size, tell me that I need a bigger pair of boots etc.

I've been thinking of doing this for a while now, and now seems as good a time as any.

Smile

(Ps. Haven't received the book yet, so this is just a preliminary post in preparation for the main event as it were.)
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2020 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't read it. It's not the reason I don't believe. I'll consider evidence that there is a deity, but I don't need evidence that there is not.

But I'll read along. Smile
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to have you Fist and I understand the argument that the onus of 'proof' must lie with the positer of the existence of something (invisible and intangible) rather than on the shoulders of those who are being 'told' of its existence - makes sense.

But before I embark on this (because I'm sure it will come in during the course of the reading) I'm going to return to the title of this post. Having made the assertion, I think it only fair to nail down what "atheism" is; how is it defined, what are we to understand by it.

A quick quote from Wikipedia on the subject runs as follows;
Quote:
Atheism is in the broadest sense an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.

In fairness to Dawkins it may be that the God he is setting out to convince us does not exist is specifically the God of the Old and New Testament (if that can even be nailed down as one God, so different are the presentations of the entity contained within those pages), but let that rest and lets say for arguments sake that the God we are referring to here (ie as might turn out to be in the Dawkins book when it arrives) is the Judeo/Christian/ Muslim God, the God of the 'People of the Book'. Now if his book is specifically about the dismantling of that particular God (and I believe it is), then it won't truly be able to be considered to be an argument for atheism, and the successful criticism of it (if I can achieve such) will not be truly pertinent to the proposal of the title of this thread.

But again, I'm going to ask for some license here. I'm not a scholar of the Wos level of attainment, and fair to say that to the general public down at the ordinary level of understanding of these ideas, Dawkins represents the Arch Mullah of Atheism (along with a bloke called Hitchins iirc, who is now dead, so will now presumably have some idea of the failings of his position if he was wrong). His book was hugely popular and quite possibly influential in formation of the beliefs (or absence of them) of millions of people outside of academic theological pursuit, and as such I think it bears scrutiny under a broad suggestion that to the bulk of people, it represents an argument in favour of atheism.

Undoubtedly the discussion, will spill out into realms not covered by the actual text of the book (as opposed to the Book Wink ) and hopefully these will throw up topics of pertinence and interest of themselves. But for the time being, and in waiting for the arrival of the Dawkins Polemic into the ring, now would be a good time to declare an interest. I'm a "pallid lily livered fence sitter (as Dawkins once described agnostics) with leaning towards belief - but I absolutely do not believe that the Bible is of divine origin or that any clues to the existence of (my) God will be found within its covers. For this I rely entirely on the Book of Creation spread before my eyes and arguments along the William Paley line of thinking.

So much of this thread may not (if the bulk of Dawkins book turns out to be a polemic against the Bible itself) turn out to be relevant to the title. Okay, I'll live with this if it transpires to be the case. Still hope to have a bit of fun at the pompous Dawkins expense on the way.

Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I've always said Dawkins should have stuck to genetics. Very Happy

I've come to feel that atheism, taken to its extremist position, is really no different from any other religion.

Atheists like that simply have the passionate belief that there are no gods. (And often more specifically that there is no "God" which really makes them no more different from Christians than Satanists are.)

And indeed, as an atheist, I generally find organised religion far more objectionable than I do the thought of any god.

(I'd actually sorta like it if there did turn out to be a god, because I have some serious questions...) Very Happy

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For myself, although I do not believe in a bearded guy sitting on a cloud, I find the universe and the world very hard to explain without positing that there is some sort of intelligence at work that can be called "God" for lack of a better name.

But I also believe that the human mind is incapable of truly understanding things like nothingness, the death of oneself, what was before time began, what lies beyond the edge of the universe. I may be intrinsically incapable of fathoming a godless universe.

So I am aware that I am biologically predisposed to believing in God. Nevertheless, it is still belief, yes?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think atheism does not of itself have to preclude the belief in something 'beyond the rational'; seems to me that there could quite possibly be stuff outside that which brute materialism would allow for, without it having to be hammered into the round hole of theistic belief - a domain of existence (call it spiritual if you like) that does not by necessity have to include a God or Gods in the conventional sense of theism. It might even be that science, reaching the limits of what its method can conventionally describe, might eventually pull us towards the fringes of this realm, or face a stone-wall beyond which it cannot go if it refuses to adjust to a new/different type of reality.

I wonder how much Dawkins arguments would, if you sat him down, turn out to be more with the organised religion you speak of Av, rather than against the idea of a God per se?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2020 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
So I am aware that I am biologically predisposed to believing in God. Nevertheless, it is still belief, yes?


Good question, and yes, it is. Another one of my...contentions, if you will, is that it doesn't matter. If somebody believes that there is a god, and acts as though there was a god, then there might as well be one as far as that person is concerned, regardless of whether there is some independent entity going by that appellation.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2020 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
For myself, although I do not believe in a bearded guy sitting on a cloud, I find the universe and the world very hard to explain without positing that there is some sort of intelligence at work that can be called "God" for lack of a better name.
For me, any explanation for the existence of said God would probably be an acceptable explanation for the Existence of reality.

wayfriend wrote:
But I also believe that the human mind is incapable of truly understanding things like nothingness, the death of oneself, what was before time began, what lies beyond the edge of the universe. I may be intrinsically incapable of fathoming a godless universe.

So I am aware that I am biologically predisposed to believing in God. Nevertheless, it is still belief, yes?
Here's another one I've quoted before. For those who don't know, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Changelings were worshiped by another race, the Vorta. The Changelings had genetically engineered the Vorta in various ways, including programming them to think the Changelings are their gods. Odo, one of the show's main characters, was a good Changeling. (He lived most of his life away from the others, not knowing anything about them, or his own nature.)
Quote:
Odo: "Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you believe the Founders are gods is because that's what they want you to believe? That they built it into your genetic code?"

Weyoun 6: "Of course they did. That's what gods do. After all, why be a god if there's no one to worship you?"

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2020 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If we develop sentient AI (could you even prove it to be so? - but that's a different question) will we require it to worship us? This might hang true from the created's point of view, but looks less likely from the creator end of the telescope.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I loved this book. I credit it with my evolution from agnosticism to outright atheism. The arguments I found most convincing were the practical ones. How you live your life is what you believe. I live as if there is no god, so this style of living really is atheism. Also, there is a scale of theism to atheism, and you don't have to be all the way to the dogmatic absolutist end of atheism to be an atheist. You can still be an atheist and have momentary doubts and/or curiosity on the subject. But I also liked his point that the way god is usually described--as an entity that interferes with our physical reality and our lives--this is a testable hypothesis. It's not just a matter of faith or disbelief; we can test it and show the hypothesis to be false.

It's been many years since I've read it, but that's what stuck out to me the most.

Also, the argument, "the world can't be explained without a god" begs the question of what explains god. Introducing an infinite mystery as the explanation of the universe only makes the universe infinitely more mysterious. That's the opposite of an explanation; it's absolute obscurity.

Just because the universe is an amazing puzzle doesn't mean we should throw our hands up and decide, "and then, a miracle happened." That's a magical story, not an explanation.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

100% Very Happy

Especially the bit about "Why? Because god. Then why god?"

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2020 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

People believe in dark matter. No one knows what the F it is. But they see it's effect, so they know there's something. Their belief doesn't depend on understanding it.

Maybe nothing has convinced you that there must be a god. But believing that there is something like god doesn't depend on being able to explain god.

Ignorance isn't something to avoid. It's just a question you haven't answered yet. The alternative is to deny there is even a question. That gets you nowhere.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forgive me Z and Wayfriend, but I'm going to dive straight into the meat of the thing, the book now arrived and having Chapter 1 under my belt.

The first observation I'd make is Dawkins himself in the opening chapter, recognises the difficulty of the title. "The God Delusion"...... Is delusion the right word he muses, with it's psychiatric connotations, but then selects the most anodyne definition he can find, quotes it and thereby justifies his decision to stick with the world. It's clearly a good 'catch' word to have sitting on the cover of the book and so hey, who can blame him; and let's face it - the foray into metaphysics probably brought him more money than genetics ever did (certainly more fame and the two tend to go hand in hand) and one must assume that the writing of the book was done at least with some eye on pecuniary return.

Second observation is that, much as I remember it, the content of Chapter 1 does not seem to be able to make up its mind whether it (the book) is to be a polemic against organised religion or the existence of God......or is it Gods in general...... again this is not clear. At this point in the book Dawkins it seems, does not even know himself, on which front he is going to fight his battle.

We get a brief foray into the quasi-mystical statements of Einstein and other scientific greats, with a plea to understand their comments as metaphorical, not indicative of any belief as such, and in fairness I buy this. But to me, this is indicative of the need of science to 'co-opt a bit of beauty' for itself - the beauty that its brute materialism taken at face value would stifle in it's cot. A little bit of having your cake and eating it, as it were. A tacit recognition that there is something out there that doesn't sit comfortably under its remit and a sort of desperate attempt to satisfy a deep human need within themselves (scientists are human before scientist) and simultaneously say "We can account for this too - we got this!"

Then Dawkins goes on to have a quick definition session in which he boxes up theism, deism, and pantheism into the packages that will suit his ends. The theism and deism definitions are okay (if I'd guess, a bit simplistic for those with an academic understanding of such things), but the Dawkins' pantheism is a curious thing indeed. This he reserves as a sort of spiritual but materialistic stamping ground for scientists and atheists to blow off their transcendental steam in. Even the most cursory of glances will tell you that this is balderdash; pantheism simply sees the material and the divine in an all encompassing and inseparable manner. The mystical and ineffable God may not be manifest as a distinct entity, but is Present in a way that the author seems singularly not to understand. Curious.

But there you have it. Chapter 1. Not quite the dismal affair I remembered in fairness, but a good first step in drawing me into the atheism camp.....mmmm..... not really. But hey, there's time yet and it's good to have your position challenged (what is my position? A true agnostic - not only do I not know if there is a God, but I don't even know what my position on not knowing is! Wink )

(One brief final word. Dawkins makes the point that whether you believe in God will be much dependant upon your definition of the same. In order for the"idea to have any use" he says, the definition must be nailed down to "a separate creative entity blah, blah, blah......". Wos will definitely disagree with me here, but I'm of exactly the opposite opinion. Define your God exactly how you choose, I say. If it works - then do it. If Dawkins definition of God is all encompassing, then yours'll be in there anyway!)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The biggest factor in whether you believe in any god or not is whether or not your parents do / did.

Obviously there are people who go the opposite route, or whose parents religiosity actively contributes to their move to atheism, but for the most part, people follow the religions in which they were raised to a large extent.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone have a rough guess to how many on the Watch believe in God?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just flipped back and read the above posts and it's interesting. My recollection - no more correctly, because I've never really thought about it before - my belief is that, quite opposite from Z, it was this book that firmed up my view that the atheistic position was untenable. I will have read it (and it was a long time ago so forgive me if my recollection of the events is hazy) because it was 'causing a stir' more than as a result of any previous deep thinking (or as deep as the shallows of my mind allowed for Wink ) on the subject, but I definitely remember that I was not impressed. I've carried a memory of arguments loosely made, flip-flopping approaches from criticism of the Bible to tirades against organised religion, with very little attention given to the central question, "Is there a God?", and it is as much to put my memory of this to the test as anything else, that I'm doing this now. But I genuinely do believe that the kind of dogmatic 'certainty of knowledge' that hardcore atheism (what does that even mean?) would seem to lay claim to is absurd. How can you know? How can anyone know? Jesus, an hours reading into the questions at the far reaches of physics, of metaphysics, would be enough to tell anyone that certain knowledge on anything is neigh on impossible. Why pay claim to knowledge that you cannot have. It's ridiculous.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps if this book justifies a position you already have, you will view it more positively. Which maybe says something about you, peter.

I wonder how many devoutly religious people would even read it? Or would be convinced by it if they did?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have read the God Delusion.

Dawkins makes a well crafted argument that in his view God does not exist and those who believe there is a God are ignorant fools.
His sarcasm and lack of tact is best demonstrated by "the spaghetti monster" concept.

What I find interesting about Dawkins and other atheists is the level of superiority and confidence necessary to proclaim a certainty with only a small sample of data. The universe and whatever may lay beyond is filled to overflowing with information that we humans don't and perhaps can't possess.
Therefore I submit that atheism requires faith.
Only an agnostic can claim the middle ground of truth.
Everyone else is guessing.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
People believe in dark matter. No one knows what the F it is. But they see it's effect, so they know there's something. Their belief doesn't depend on understanding it.
What effect do you see that makes you know there's something, which you believe to be God? And why are specific effects attributed to the theorized dark matter, rather than to God?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

peter wrote:
[…]

In fairness to Dawkins it may be that the God he is setting out to convince us does not exist is specifically the God of the Old and New Testament (if that can even be nailed down as one God, so different are the presentations of the entity contained within those pages), but let that rest and lets say for arguments sake that the God we are referring to here (ie as might turn out to be in the Dawkins book when it arrives) is the Judeo/Christian/ Muslim God, the God of the 'People of the Book'. Now if his book is specifically about the dismantling of that particular God (and I believe it is), then it won't truly be able to be considered to be an argument for atheism, and the successful criticism of it (if I can achieve such) will not be truly pertinent to the proposal of the title of this thread.

[…]


Though I've not read Dawkins' book, from what I've gathered, he not only critiques and rejects the notion of the "Revealed God" but also that of the "God-of-the-Philosophers".

Seems to me that his main problem is his historical illiteracy vis-à-vis the philosophical and theological argumentation involved …

In the entry for Five Ways (Aquinas), Wiki wrote:
Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart says that Dawkins "devoted several pages of The God Delusion to a discussion of the 'Five Ways' of Thomas Aquinas but never thought to avail himself of the services of some scholar of ancient and mediaeval thought who might have explained them to him … As a result, he not only mistook the Five Ways for Thomas's comprehensive statement on why we should believe in God, which they most definitely are not, but ended up completely misrepresenting the logic of every single one of them, and at the most basic levels."[43] Hart said of Dawkins treatment of Aquinas' arguments that:

Quote:
Not knowing the scholastic distinction between primary and secondary causality, for instance, [Dawkins] imagined that Thomas's talk of a "first cause" referred to the initial temporal causal agency in a continuous temporal series of discrete causes. He thought that Thomas's logic requires the universe to have had a temporal beginning, which Thomas explicitly and repeatedly made clear is not the case. He anachronistically mistook Thomas's argument from universal natural teleology for an argument from apparent "Intelligent Design" in nature. He thought Thomas's proof from universal "motion" concerned only physical movement in space, "local motion," rather than the ontological movement from potency to act. He mistook Thomas's argument from degrees of transcendental perfection for an argument from degrees of quantitative magnitude, which by definition have no perfect sum. (Admittedly, those last two are a bit difficult for modern persons, but he might have asked all the same.)[43]


If Dawkins can't be bothered to do the heavy-lifting needed to academically engage such subjects with moral seriousness, he should stay in his own lane. A lane in which, apparently, he has accrued his due share of street cred.
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