Sunday, July 31, 2005

Atheism is a Philosophy, A Theist Insists.

Note: Edited some grammatical errors and added some ideas that I feel need to be emphasized.
Date Edited: August 2, 2005

"D" Sweeper has written a response to one of my comments in his blog, Truth Matters, about my attempt to explain why atheism cannot be considered a philosophy. I have written a response on his persistence that atheism is a philosophy. My comments are in the normal text format, while quotation from "D" and other sources are italicized.

I agree the way atheist seeker define Philosophy. But his way is one of the 4 approaches of getting at the meaning and nature of Philosophy. What atheist seeker did is he gets the meaning of Philosophy by the word itself which is the first approach.

But we cannot nail ourselves to this single approach, like what I’ve said before In Philosophy it involves reason, criticism, examination and analysis.

To make this thing clear and to know what is Philosophy. Here is the four ways of getting at the meaning and nature of philosophy.

1. Philosophy – comes from the Greek word which means “love of wisdom” like what said.

2. We can approach the meaning of philosophy form different standpoint. Standpoint of different field of investigation but not all list of the field philosophy would agree but most of them would almost certainly including the six: metaphysics, epistemology, value-theory, ethics, aesthetic and logic.

3. The third approach something more illuminating that giving the root meaning of the word something less ponderous than spelling out its several fields. In short we will get the meaning and nature of philosophy in a rational and critical enterprise.

4. The last one - Philosophy is the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important questions.

In summary the best way to approach what philosophy is about it to philosophize. So philosophy is the attempt to think rational and critically about the most important questions. Like what Socrates said in his challenge, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

"D" sweeper is now having an equivocal confusion here. To understand better his equivocation let's look again at Abby Aaron's original argument which "D" is trying to defend. Let's see what Abby Aaron means by "Philosophy".

Abby Aaron's said

"This is not true. Atheists believe that there is no God. Therefore, they believe that all decisions made by the individual, the family and the government should be made without regard to religious dogma. That is a philosophy."

When Abby Aaron accused atheism as being a philosophy, she meant that atheism entails a particular worldview. In this case, by saying that atheism entails believing that "all decisions made by the individual, the family and the government should be made without regard to religious dogma", she is then conflating an epistemological stance (freethought in this case) with atheism as if atheism necessitates one to hold such a stance which happens not to be so. Atheism does not require one to have a specific epistemological stance to hold it.

Further more she writes:

This is true regardless of anecdotal incidents when atheists, for ulterior motives, say that it's okay for certain people to believe in God, e.g., "I'm in favor of the citizens of such-and-such country believing in God if it will keep them from slaughtering each other."

Now, the writer is accusing atheism of endorsing a particular ethical stance to hold. You will notice here that Abby Aaron seems to think of atheism as a philosophical system, in similar vein with objectivism, epicureanism etc., which espouses a particular set of metaphysical worldview, epistemology, morality and even politics. Again Atheism has nothing to say about morality and ethics and any of these things.

Then...

"Even when an atheist says, "I don't care if other people believe in God or not," he's merely expressing an isolationist viewpoint toward a philosophy that he still applies to himself.

Now she is accusing that there are atheists who hold on to a philosophical statement of "I don't care if other people believe in God or not" that "he still applies to himself". Unfortunately for her, atheism does not demand one to hold such a view point since atheism itself is a lack of belief (I shall address his insistence that atheism is not just a lack of belief but a belief that gods do not exist later), no more, no less. Theists love to throw in some sugar and spice add-ons to such a simple lack of belief in God and accuse it of endorsing them.

"Otherwise, he wouldn't be an atheist, for no atheist will follow any religious dogma."

Now atheism demands an epistemological and even a political stance. Atheism necessitates none of these things.

So what Abby Aaron meant by her statement "atheism is a philosophy" is that, atheism is a philosophical way of life, that is, it necessitates one to hold a particular view on morality, epistemology, metaphysics etc. And this also implies that one need to rigorously undergo a critical, disciplined, passionate study for one to become an atheist since it forces one to hold on to complicated issues such as epistemology, morality etc. But as I have shown, this is not so.

Now "D" sweeper is talking about a different "philosophy" than what Abby Aaron originally intended and meant.

One of his definition of philosophy is as follows:

"So philosophy is the attempt to think rational and critically about the most important questions."

Now by deviating our attention from what Abby Aaron originally meant by philosophy and then giving philosophy such a broad definition, he then thinks that atheism now falls under "philosophy" under the particular definition of philosophy of his choice. Again, his attempt fails because one need not to to think rationally and critically to arrive to atheism. If you don't believe in gods and thinks the god concept is bunk regardless of how you arrive into that direction, be it for irrational or uncritical reason, then you are an atheist. That's why babies are atheists because atheism is simply the absence of God belief. My apathetic gothic rocker neighbor is an atheist too for the simple reason that he doesn't believe in gods and that he simply does not give the issue that much thought. He just doesn't care.

"D" Sweeper again is confusing atheism with the atheist. Just because an atheist holds on to a particular viewpoint does not mean that the particular viewpoint he adheres to is necessitated by atheism.

Atheists only share one thing in common: they all have no theistic beliefs. Some of us arrive there via rational and critical study, some do not. And it doesn't matter anyway, since critical thinking has nothing to do with atheism.

Now let us move on to the definition of atheism. What is atheism?

Atheism – comes from the negative ‘a’ which means ‘no’ and theos which means ‘god’. In short atheism means “no god”.

Like what he said there are two main categories of atheists strong and weak. What are these?

Strong atheist – this is more aggressive, they believe that there is no God exists, and the like to use logic and anti-biblical evidences to denounces God’s existence.

I just would like to point out that an atheist does not only deal with the Christian God, but with the god concept in general.

Weak atheist – those who exercise lack of belief in God. It is a position who likes to avoid facing and defending the problem in their atheistic position. Their position is not open to attack and examination and they can quietly remain atheists.

This is just an ad hominem. It is not about "a position who likes to avoid facing and defending the problem in their atheistic position". Desire has nothing to do with lack of belief.

Learn from Dan Barker:

"Theists claim that there is a god; atheists do not. Religionists often challenge atheists to prove that there is no god; but this misses the point. Atheists claim god is unproved, not disproved. In any argument, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim.

If a person claims to have invented an antigravity device, it is not incumbent on others to prove that no such thing exists.

The believer must make a case. Everyone else is justified in refusing to believe until evidence is produced and substantiated."

In the second paragraph, you will see that it is not about them "liking to avoid facing and defending the problem in their lack-of-belief-in-antigravity-device position".

Again atheism does not make any claims. It is simply the absence of belief.

The atheist seeker said ...

Does the state of having a lack of belief entails passion? Does newly born babies who are in the state of not having any theistic beliefs have a "philosophy" called atheism? Do all people who lack belief on anything arrived to this state through a passionate and disciplined approach? Is your lack of belief in the tooth fairy due to a passionate disciplined inquiry? Are all people's lack of belief on anything? If a person is fortunate, their atheism, or any other lack of belief on other things, may be a product of reasonableness and rational passionate inquiry (being PRIOR to atheism further reveals that these qualities are NOT a part of atheism).

He used baby as an example. I’m going to use baby also as my example. Baby has no awareness about theistic belief of God. But baby will not remain baby they become mature and aware in the concept of God; they may reject, accept or hold off judgment about that concept. We all know that sooner or later they had something to do with the concept. They will not continue to in a lack of belief because whether we like or not some sort of intellectual actions occur in regard to it. By default they become affected by it, made aware and do something with it.

As I have addressed above, intellectual actions are not demanded, not endorsed, and not necessitated by atheism. The baby example serves only tp prove the point. "D" is conflating and not distinguishing between "how we arrive to knowledge and beliefs" with the "knowledge and beliefs itself." The former employs a philosophical epistemological standpoint, the latter in of itself does not necessarily entails a philosophical stance. I may have arrived to the conclusion that God beliefs are unnecessary and superflous to my belief system via freethought and critical thinking but that does not mean the absence of belief in deities in itself necessitates that I only arrive on it via reason and rationality.

Once more, atheists only share one thing in common: they all have no theistic beliefs. Some of us arrive there via rational and critical study, some do not. And it doesn't matter anyway, since critical thinking has nothing to do with atheism.

Now, if someone is exposed to a concept he/she need to make a decision about the concept even it if is to withhold judgment. Therefore lack of belief will not continue to a lack of belief state of mind they only suspend judgment until more information acquired. This is not atheism but agnosticism.

He doesn't know what agnosticism is. Again I need to redirect him and my readers to Austin Cline's excellent article explaining the confusion regarding agnosticism. He may also want to read this explanation from the Infidel Guy website about atheism and agnosticism. I quote myself from my article A Theist's 13 Biggest Flawed Understanding of Atheism -- Part 1 written last July 09, 2005:

"Too many people misunderstand agnosticism. Agnosticism is not a middle ground between atheism and theism. Agnosticism has nothing to do with belief. It has something to do with the nature of knowledge. Because atheism and theism deal with belief and agnosticism deals with knowledge, they are actually independent concepts. Agnostics hold that God, and by implication, his existence, cannot be known. It is a claim and assertion regarding the nature, capability and limits of our knowledge to know something about God. Hence, an agnostic, does not have any theistic beliefs since he doesn't know anything about God in the first place. Except for agnostic theism, agnosticism then IS atheism."

And yes when you suspend judgement on God' existence, you in effect, possess no theistic beliefs hence you are an atheist.

The atheist seeker said ...

The fact is, atheism does not necessitate that you arrive in it via a passionate and disciplined approach. Atheism also does not dictate any metaphysical, epistemological, moral, and political stance. The absence of belief in gods implies no necessary conclusions about proofs of gods, about the nature of the universe, and so forth. As a matter of fact, there are atheists who hold completely different views than I do on a wide range of things, including fundamental metaphysical issues.

If they lack belief in gods, then they are atheists - even if they are Buddhists who believe in reincarnation, even if they believe in astrology, even if they are objectivists, even if they are racists, or any other array of things that they can be.

Atheism requires not a "passionate and disciplined method of inquiry". Atheism is the state of being without any theistic beliefs - that's simply what atheism is. This is the definition truest to the roots of the concept, and is the proper use of the term. It does not follow from this that atheism is a philosophical code, for it is not asserting a anything. My disbelief in the Tooth Fairy is not a philosophy of life - is it for anyone else?

Wrong, by the definition of atheism – atheism comes from the negative ‘a’ which means ‘no’ and ‘theos’ which means ‘god’. In short atheism means “no god”. No God is not the absence of belief. Absence of belief is agnosticism not atheism.

One of "D" Sweeper's problem stems from his misunderstanding of agnosticism. An agnostic, except from agnostic theism, is an atheist.

Michael Martin states in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification:

If you look up 'atheism' in the dictionary, you will probably find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly many people understand atheism in this way.

Yet many atheists do not, and this is not what the term means if one considers it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek 'a' means 'without' or 'not' and 'theos' means 'god.' From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative veiew, characterized by the absence of belief in God.

Moving on.

As I said
“Philosophy is the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important questions”. Like for example, if someone bought an unknown electronic gadget into the room, we know immediately know several things about that gadget even we didn’t know its full functionality. But we know that it exist, the color, the shape and etc. Another example is gravity, we all know if we have a ball and drop that ball it going to fall because of gravity. These examples show that we can develop a concept and we cannot say that we have a lack of belief and unaware of those things.

I do agree. Since we have empirically tested the examples above, we cannot have lack of belief in them and still be honest.

But in the case of the gods, none exists.

In short, lack of belief is position for sentient being only.

I agree. How can a non-sentient entity have a lack of belief? Who's arguing with this?

This kind of belief is agnosticism, not atheism. Therefore, atheism believes and/or knows that there is no God exist, either beyond the universe or in it is basic philosophy.

Once again, "D" sweeper misunderstands agnosticism. Second, he is unable to grasp that rational, critical thinking is not required to possess no theistic beliefs. It is our default position anyway. None of us possess any theistic beliefs until we are inculcated by it. I am skeptical of extra terrestrial beings but that does not mean that I believe or know that aliens do not exist. I simply make no claims nor do I make any assumptions. "D" sweeper needs to understand that to possess no theistic beliefs is not the same with possessing a belief that gods do not exist. How can a non-belief be a belief anyway? A is not equal to B and vice versa. Belief is not equal to non-belief and vice versa.

But there's more. Even in his broad definition of philosophy, atheism fails to qualify.

Using his definition and line of thinking, my belief that my father exists is a philosophy. I also have a "my computer exists" philosophy. And don't forget my "newly bought cellphone exists" philosophy. So do the gazzilions of things that I believe to exist. I didn't realize that I have so many philosophies. Hmmm, I wonder what metaphysical stance that my "dog exists" philosophy necessitates me? Also what epistemological position does my "girlfriend exists" demands me to have? What kind of moral and ethical stance does my "Red Alert CD exist" philosophy forces me to have?

So many philosophies to passionately, rationally and critically study, so little time...

The atheist seeker said...

If there is anything that I am passionate about, it is logic, reason, skepticism and critical thinking - not my lack of belief, not my atheism. Reason only dictates to me, by virtue of Occam's Razor, that I cut my belief in a deity thus I no longer posess any theistic beliefs hence I am an atheist.

But how come Atheist Seeker able to cut out his belief in deity without having an initial assessment about it and still claimed it was done as a function of Okham’s razor? It doesn’t sound an Okchams Razor. What Okham’s razor is to employ simple verify of epistemological, metaphysical inquiry of a phenomenonal reality that is not visually available to our senses. It is a presentation of such inquiry with the least possible utilization of entity (material or immaterial) to explain such phenomenon. The obvious point is that a pre- dissemination or inquiry was made and a pre-view or judgment is pronounced that led to unbelief of a deity. In simple terms, we all make pre judgment on all things; we may in some occasions suspend judgment. However, one is unable implement it without a set of initial condition assessed and observed about any concept of reality. In the final analysis, once has to employ a belief (positive or negative) in order to exercise unbelief.

Let's just say that I am one of the many atheists who happened to arrive to atheism via critical thinking as there are also many who arrived there via irrational, uncritical means. I possess no theistic beliefs just like a baby possess none. We may have a different reason from not having a god belief but we share one thing in common, we have no theistic beliefs hence we are atheists.

The atheist seeker said...

Atheism simply means the absence of belief in gods. This is the only thing that all atheists have in common. However, this doesn't render the concept meaningless, but it does force us to realize that being an atheist is not, in and of itself, very significant. A person can be a rude, immoral, superstitious, ignorant, gullible, irrational atheist. Is that person's atheism very significant? No, I don't think so - and there was never any reason to assume that it had to be, either.

I agree that one of the common beliefs of atheist about atheism is the absence of belief in gods. This is common for those atheists who don’t like to be criticized. Maybe, because it is more difficult to them (atheists) to defend their position.

Absence of belief is only good for a baby and for those who remain a baby. But not for the rational creatures who knows and never doubt for his/her own existence.

Refer to my Dan Barker quote above. A fallback position need not be defended. A fallback position is the belief that one would hold before one has any evidence. He seems to believe that Christian theism is a fallback position - that he can just assume that his version of a god exists. This is wrong however. He has things backwards. I don't have to defend NOT believing in something, unless one can show that the evidence simply demands belief.

Todangst of Infidel Guy Forum has this to say:

if I were to ask you your opinion on Julian Jaynes' book "The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral man" your belief in his argument would be .... nothing! You have no belief in it, either positive or negative. You simply don't know anything about it, nor do you have any evidence in favor of his thesis.

So, it is the natural state to simply NOT believe something. This is why atheism is a fallback position.

This is why an atheist does not have to "defend" his view, for his view is basically a lack of belief.

Moving on.

Atheist seeker said “However, this doesn't render the concept meaningless, but it does force us to realize that being an atheist is not, in and of itself, very significant.” this statement is dogmatic and wants to suspend judgment it is not atheism belief , hence it is agnosticism.

He doesn't understand agnosticism.

The atheist seeker said ...

If significance is to be achieved, a person's atheism must be combined with things like skepticism, a love of learning, a bit of humility (i.e., recognizing that one can err), critical thinking, and so forth - what George Smith calls a "habit of reasonableness". None of those qualities are shared by all atheists because none of them are necessitated by atheism.

Once again, you are confusing "atheism" with "atheists". Just because an atheist has something to say on religion or philosophy doesn't mean that those views are a part of atheism. Atheism does not dictate any NECESSARY epistemological(rationalism and empiricism), worldview (materialism, dualism), moral (objectivist ethics, moral
relativism) stance. Atheism is not a philosophy in itself, but an opinion on a single issue. An atheist is a non-theist.

That's all we can deduce from the label. We can deduce nothing more about his or her personal philosophy or character.

Atheism is not a philosophy anymore than non-gardenerism is. A non-gardener could be a creep, a benefactor, a capitalist, a communist, almost anything except a gardener.

Well let me get it clear, on the one hand he define atheism as “absence of belief “, and now atheist seeker are saying it’s an opinion. Terribly, How can he had an opinion if are not using reasonable and critical thinking?, OPINION according to Webster is a view and a judgment.

Again, Socrates said in his challenge, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Also, atheism is the absence of belief of a God after having an opinion about God/gods. This is a self contradictory assessment. In effect you are saying “you know in my opinion about god/gods, I decided to have an absence of belief about it.”

Look at the context of what I'm saying there. Before the above statement, "D" sweeper was confusing "atheism" with "atheists", that is, he is marrying many independent and mutually exclusive issues with atheism where in fact, atheism has nothing to do with them. I then went in to say that atheism is just an "opinion" (only focuses on a single issue) to a single issue and does not say anything about morality, epistemology etc. I was using "opinion" in a loose sense and I thought he would have understood what I meant.

Apparently I'm wrong. With this I would like to thank "D" Sweeper for making me further realize that I should be clear with the words I'm using and that I should not place too much trust that the person I am discussing with will always get what I am trying to get across.

How we arrive at atheism doesn't matter if one is to be called an atheist. Whether one has exercised her rational mind to arrive at this conclusion, or whether one is merely suspending judgement, or whether one is just apathetic to the issue, or whatever reason one may have for not having any theistic beliefs, he/she is an atheist.

Again, if one possesses no theistic beliefs, whatever her reason for being one doesn't matter. As long as one possesses no God belief, he is an atheist.

Back to Atheism, It is a belief that no God exist. Atheist is the one who advocates, subscribes and practice atheism.

Practice atheism? What are the practices that an atheist must do? What kind of philosophical worldview does atheism advocates? Now he is accusing atheism as some sort of a way of life. Just like Bushido philosophy, the way of the Samurai.

If the view of theist doesn’t mean a part or component of atheism, why in this world they call themselves as an atheist?

Atheist Seeker statement is not atheist view but advocating skepticism

Atheism in itself cannot stand alone. It must be coupled with other philosophies to be significant. I have explained this already in my previous comment on your blog:

Austin Cline writes:

"If significance is to be achieved, a person's atheism must be combined with things like skepticism, a love of learning, a bit of humility (i.e., recognizing that one can err), critical thinking, and so forth - what George Smith calls a "habit of reasonableness". None of those qualities are shared by all atheists because none of them are necessitated by atheism."

Moving On...

the atheist seeker said...

Disregarding everything I have said, by implication of your statements, do you
then have an a-santaclausian philosophy? What are the philosophical tenets of
your a-santaclausian philosophy?

It is obvious that Atheist Seeker are the one that has an absence of belief or an –a, I guess he are supposed to tell me, I am a theist, I’m not an –a- theist

Now he avoids the question for he knows that simple lack of belief in something does not necessitates and demands one to hold a set of philosophies as a baggage deal. I am being true to Abby Aaron's understanding of what atheism is. He simply hides under the broad brush of "philosophy is the attempt to think rational and critically about the most important questions" definition.

While I agree with him that philosophy is indeed an attempt to think rational and critically about the most important (actually even non-important ones) questions, this does not give us a full understanding of what philosophy is and does not do it justice. It is too ambigous, broad, vague, and general that so many things can fall under this definition. Refer to my "dog exist" philosophy musings above.

The atheist seeker said ...

0 = Nothing, absent, zero, zip, nada, none. (Belief in God is absent.)
1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God.

Atheism is neutral.

It only becomes a negative when it is asserted that "there is no God".

1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God. Positive claim.

-1 = There is no something called God. Strong Atheism. Negating the above positive claim.

See the difference?

Universal negative can be proven by examing the object's coherence. As simple as that.


Well I’m not a mathematician , but you have made a basic algebraic fallacy here, -1 is not the absent of something and/or

quantity , it is an expression of magnitude .in mathematics, the absolute value of -1 is 1, the magnitude value is -1 below zero .

A negative (-x for example) term of a number or a mathematical expression is not equal to zero (-1 = 0), hence it is a value below zero. You need some algebraic philosophy.


I agree that zero is the absent of something. Let's take a look at what I said:

0 = Nothing, absent, zero, zip, nada, none. (Belief in God is absent.)
1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God.

Atheism is neutral.

See here, I agree with what you said.

Now let's look at where your confusion lies.

It only becomes a negative when it is asserted that "there is no God".

1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God. Positive claim.

-1 = There is no something called God. Strong Atheism. Negating the above positive claim.

Notice the underlined word. It is a negating claim NOT JUST a mere lack of belief. One claim vis another claim.

Applying it in our topic, the negative position is not the absent of position, but a definitive position exactly opposite the positive counterpart.

Not necessarily as one may be just witholding judgement, or merely not making any assumption about the issue, or merely not having any knowledge on the claim, either positive or negative, or you simply don't know anything about it.

I hear you shouting, "that's agnosticism!". If you have read everything I have written by now, you must have now understood what agnosticism is... I hope.

By the way Atheist Seeker the difference I see your math problem. Proving universal negative is highly debatable, in fact it is not as simple the way you claimed it to be.

So you are doubting that no married bachelors exist? I can live with that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Atheist Seeker Blog is Now On Austin Cline's Guide to Atheism

I have always been a fan of Austin Cline. I have often found myself time and again referring to his work when explaining atheism to others. He writes in a very lucid, concise, non-jargoned, non-aggressive manner which makes his writings the perfect introductory material for questions about atheism. If a theist would only care to read and understand everything written on that site, much of their misconceptions and strawman arguments against atheism will be cleared and corrected. Mr. Cline not not only tackles atheism on his site, but also relevant issues such as skepticism, philosophy, logic, critical thinking etc.

This is why I feel so elated to find myself listed as one of the guide picks on the Atheism Blogs - Blogs for Atheists section of about.com's Austin Cline's Guide to Agnosticism/Atheism. The list, it seems to me, is supposed to be arranged alphabetically but for some reason, my blog was listed on the top of the list! Perhaps it was a slight oversight on the site's part. In the meantime though, I will just enjoy sitting on the top spot. LOLZ

The Atheist Seeker blog's citation can be found here: http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismblogs/index.htm

I would like to thank Austin Cline and the rest of the crew responsible for the atheism.about.com website not only for citing my blog, but also for providing us all a definitive resource of information about atheism and other relevant issues affecting atheism.

Keep up the remarkable work sir Austin Cline. Hats off to you.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Redefining Good and a Not-So Omniscient God

If you have read my previous post, you will know of my Christian lady acquaintance who I met on a certain chat room. Just a while ago, she introduced me to a friend of hers. She then created a conference for the three of us to hangout. The conversation started with casual fun and lighthearted conversation. Then soon after, her friend’s curiosity led him to inquire about my atheism. To make things simpler, his question can be boiled down to, “What made me leave Christianity?”

Since the question requires a book to sufficiently answer, I just pulled out one of the simplest problem that I have seen in the Bible - the atrocities and violence committed by God and his followers.

My intent for using that is to make him see for himself if the God of the Bible is really as “good” as we initially thought him to be. I then quoted some verses from the Old Testament. And these were their answers:

  1. Those acts are not evil. We are simply looking things at our human point of view. But on God’s point of view, they aren’t evil.

This is actually a subset of the “God is beyond human understanding” argument. This argument assumes that there are two “versions” of good. The first good is what we humans commonly understand as good. The second is a version of "good" that only “God knows”.

Actually, to say that God has a different kind of morality than we, humans, is to concede that we should not call God good. If God doesn’t fit our definition of what is good, then God is not good. Case Closed.

Let me illustrate further. If I go outside, look above, and see a plane, I will describe the plane as a flying vehicle that has two wings, a metal body, a small set of wheels, a motor and so on. My description fits the definition of what a plane is. Did I see a plane? Yes I did because that is how a plane is described and my description fits the definition of what a plane is.

But what if someone then says that “on some other definition”, what I saw could be considered as a television. Is it no longer an airplane then?

No. To say so is absurd. The “plane” that I saw fits the definition of a plane. That is what we mean by saying that it is a plane. It does not fit the definition of a television, so we should not call it that.

If something fits the definition, then that is what it is. If God fits the definition of good, then he is good. If he does not, then he is not. If one will admit that he does not fit our definition of good, then he is not good. It is nonsensical to say that he could be “good” in some other definition. By the very definition of good, the God of the Bible fails utterly.

But then, one can argue that despite what we think, God could still have his own version of morality that dictates that he is good. Even if we could not call him good, that does not mean that he is not good on some definition. He could have his own “unknown” definition anyway.

But this argument poses many problems. If God has definitions of things that are radically different from our own, he might have a different definition about lots of other things. He might have his own definitions of such things as eternal reward, or eternal life. The Christian’s supposed eternal life in heaven might just be a year, or it could be a thousand years of torture on another definition. God could also say he has a definition of reward that includes excruciating torture as part of the definition.

If God can redefine any word, then anything goes. God could send all believers to what we call hell and say that it is heaven. He could give us ten days in heaven and say that that is his definition of eternity. God could promise us eternal life and then not give it to us and say that is his definition of keeping a promise!

So on and so forth.

Now you see the absurdity of claiming that God ordering people to dash infants against rocks and floors (Psalms 137:8-9), or God ordering pregnant women to be ripped open (Hosea 13:16), or God causing parents to eat the flesh of their children (Leviticus 26:13,29), or God discriminating against the handicapped (Leviticus 21:16-21), are all “good” by some other “unknown” definition (By the way how could we know that there is even a “different” version if it is “unknown” in the first place?). If a human dictator will do any of these, we would call him a psychopath. When God does the same we call him "loving" and build churches in his honor.

Emery Lee once wrote, “It is a sad day when we condone the abuse of one human being by another. It is also a sad day when we condone such abuse by God.”

  1. He gave us freewill!

At this point, I asked him if he believes that God is omniscient. I defined omniscience to him as having complete and perfect knowledge of the past, present, and future. After much side stepping on his part, he finally acknowledged that God is indeed omniscient. I then laid out this simple question, “If God knew ahead of time that I will be heading to hell even before I was created, why did God still created me anyway?” The point of this question is two fold. One is to demonstrate that “freewill” cannot exist in a world created by an omniscient God who has foreknowledge of the future. Let me illustrate:

  1. God is omniscient.
  2. God's omniscience is infallible.
  3. Freewill is the ability to choose freely among the options presented.
  4. On Saturday, God knows that I will do "X".
  5. It’s Saturday and I have a "choice" between "X" and "Y".
  6. By necessity, I choose "X".
  7. By choosing "Y", I would contradict #2.
Conclusion: Therefore freewill does not exist.

He said on one point that he believes that “God gave us free will in order to change our destiny.” And on another point he said, “He knows the future, but he doesn’t know what we will do next.” What a blatant self-contradiction! How can you know the “future” and not know what humans will do next, which is an event that occurs in the “future”!

The second reason, is to make him realize that a being who punishes a person whom he had already foreseen to be heading to hell even before creating him but he still created anyway is not worthy of being called “good”. This also shows that being omniscient, God is perfectly responsible for everything that will happen in the reality that he created since he knows already the final outcome of everything - past, present, and future. To better understand this, let me repost an example that I posted on the Debating Christianity and Religion Forum:

Suppose you have been granted a one time ability to see what will happen to your unconceived future son and daughter. You saw in the future that at the age of 10, your daughter would be gang raped by 4 pedophiles. And you saw how exactly this animosity was done. You saw various sex torturing devices being used against her and you saw her being subjected to different sexual activities. Fortunately, she survived. But she became severely traumatized and refuses to be comforted. Consequently, at the age of 11, committed suicide and in her suicide letter, she wrote "I hate GOD". In short, she chose to go to hell.

As a result, her 18 year old elder brother (your son) accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. A week later this son of yours died.

Then back to the present. You just recently married. Now the question is, will you still pursue conceiving this daughter of yours so that your first born son will be saved through her? Or will you rather not let the two of them be born at all?

I am asking you this as a parent who loves his children.
The answer that he gave me, after much side-tracking, is “I believe that God knows where we are going based on our free will. If we continue to do the things we are doing then he will continue to know where we are going”.

As obvious from the above, his answer necessitates the denial of God’s omniscience!

An example of the ramifications of a reality created by an omniscient God:

  1. Omniscience is a complete and perfect knowledge of the past, present, and future.
  2. God is omniscient
  3. If God is omniscient, he knows perfectly and completely all details of the past, present, and future.
  4. By virtue of his omniscience, God knows with complete and perfect knowledge what my future is even before I was created.
  5. God had seen, by virtue of his omniscience, that in the future, I am going be tortured to hell.
  6. Since God’s omniscience is perfect, then God cannot make a mistake on his foreknowledge of what my future is.

Conclusion: Since God’s omniscience is perfect and complete, I shall inevitably go to hell in the future if he so decides to bring me into existence.

But his answer denies omniscience altogether:

  1. Omniscience is a complete and perfect knowledge of the past, present, and future.
  2. God knows where we are going BASED on our free will.
  3. From # 2, God’s knowledge of the future of each person depends and contingent only on each person’s actions.
  4. To make future knowledge contingent on a cause entails a period of uncertainty until the cause actualize itself. God cannot know (uncertainty) our eternal destiny (future outcome) until we make a choice (cause).
  5. If God can experiences uncertainty, then God cannot and does not possess complete knowledge of the future.
  6. To be unable to have complete knowledge of the future is to be not omniscient.

Conclusion: Therefore, God is not omniscient.

He adheres to the Open View Theism’s concept of a God without him knowing it. This is understandable as most Christians put faith on their belief without first thinking what their belief really means and entails.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Trip Down to Memory Lane....

A while back, I decided to take a break from my philosophical discussions and musings and decided to unwind by chatting in MIRC. First, I went to #Pampanga Channel to find nice people to chat with. Unfortunately for me, no one was replying. I then just decided to play an MIRC trivia game out of boredom. After getting bored (again) from answering trivia questions, I then went on jumping from one chat room to another, trying to find people I can casually chat with. Out of all of them, I have met one interesting lady. Our conversation went from MIRC to Yahoo Messenger.

As we chatted, she asked if she could see another picture of mine since she was not satisfied just seeing my tiny picture in my avatar because the photo, she complained, was “cropped” which until now, I have no idea what she meant. LOLZ. Then I decided to just give her my Friendster account so that she could glance through on some of my other photos. I never wanted to enter a debate that night since I really just want to relax and float in the ethers of cyberspace. But, even when I tried to avoid religious debates, they find me. I then, remembered that my atheistic stance was all over my Friendster profile, cluttered in almost every lines of my profile message. Uh oh, big mistake. LOLZ.

Then after discovering the atheistic side of me, she went on to say that although she respects my atheistic “beliefs”, she still thinks that I am wrong. Then it was revealed that she is a Born Again Christian. Now, I smell the aroma of debate. Indeed, life is what happens when you are busy planning something else. I sensed her kindness so I decided to politely point out that atheism is not a belief but rather the lack of belief. I then told her that one of the reasons I do not subscribe to a God belief is because of the incoherence of the concept and the absurdities that the concept itself entails. She then challenged me to enlighten her on what I mean by her God being “incoherent”. As a result, I then had to ask her to give me a definition of her God so that I may know what sort of God concept I am dealing with. There are numerous definitions of God out there that I really do not wish to assume what God she believes in. Even among Christians, definitions of God vary.

She went on to say that God is not a “concept” but rather that he is “real”, which is not really a definition but just a naked assertion. To clarify, concepts can have existence in reality. We have a concept of what humans are. Simultaneously, we also have humans as existing entities in reality. So, there is nothing wrong in calling God a concept. Furthermore, if we do not have a God concept how can we recognize what a God is? If we have no concepts, how can we recognize anything at all?

She then told me a few things about how God affected her life, that God can only be known through a relationship with him, and among the usual stuff that one would often hear from a Born Again Christian (which, I must admit, I was also guilty of). None of these are definitions of her God so I was unable to pinpoint to her the incoherence I was talking about. She then resorted to a gentler version of Pascal‘s wager, asking me if I were to die tonight, would I know where I’m heading? Having heard already this appeal to threats of punishment and rewards countless times in the past, I just smiled as I type on my keyboard something along the lines, “What happens when I die? Everything stays the same, minus me.

She then went on to discuss something about Voltaire, a well known atheist, a figure I am also acquainted with. She claimed that Voltaire was said to have been mumbling about “being burned” and uttering “fire, fire” sometime in his deathbed. I really do not know where she obtained this information but this misinformation is nothing but falsehoods. I have also pointed out that there are also other versions of the story, including one where Voltaire supposedly recanted his atheism. I am actually saddened that Christians, who are supposed to be lovers and defenders of “truth”, should resort to this sort of intellectually dishonest propaganda to bolster their case. Joseph Lewis writes in his essay, Ingersoll the Magnificent:

“For many years religious journals and ministers have been circulating certain pretended accounts of the frightful agonies endured by Paine and Voltaire when dying; that these great men at the moment of death were terrified because they had given their honest opinions upon the subject of religion to their fellow-men. The imagination of the religious world has been taxed to the utmost in inventing absurd and infamous accounts of the last moments of these intellectual giants. Every Sunday school paper, thousands of idiotic tracts, and countless stupidities called sermons, have been filled with these calumnies.

While theologians most cheerfully admit that most murderers die without fear, they deny the possibility of any man who has expressed his disbelief in the inspiration of the Bible dying except in the agony of terror. These stories are used in revivals and in Sunday schools, and have long been considered of great value.

I am anxious that these slanders shall cease. I am desirous of seeing justice done, even at this late day, to the dead.”

Afterwards she narrated a very touching story of the workings of God in her life. I need not go into details but only note that it was indeed a very touching story of how she managed to go through various difficulties on her life which, she believes, were all due to her God.

After hearing the story, I felt a deep loving care for her, a mere stranger. I have long since realized my deep sense of empathy which is my fundamental driving force for my altruism. Her testimony only reinforced my long passionate desire to do every means in my power to make this world a better place to live. Unnecessary pain and suffering may not be completely eliminated, but I would try my best to lessen them and put them at minimal in my own little way. Religionists may believe that divine justice and eternal bliss await them in the afterlife, but I am strong in my conviction that they are mistaken and are placing their faith on false hopes. We only have one life to live, believer or not, I will try my best to contribute in making your one-time existence here as meaningful and joyous as possible.

Another case in point, Christians and adherents of other religious faiths as well, should realize why appealing to testimony is a poor way in proving that their God/s is/are real.

Evangelical Christians (myself used to be included), believe that the best evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity are the wonderful and inspiring testimonies of changed lives and of people whose hearts were touched by God. They are proud to say that Jesus changes lives and transforms them for the better to produce “good fruits”. These, they claim is the “real” evidence.

That is all good and well. I am not denying the many cases of the Christian faith changing people’s lives for the better. I am also not disputing that Christian faith has been able to give fulfillment and meaning to many people, made them happier, and turned them into a more morally responsible people. In fact, I would consider myself as an evidence of that, for when I was a Born Again Christian, my life became more meaningful and the Christian Faith gave me peace of mind, personal satisfaction and a sense of purpose.

However, those who use this argument almost NEVER consider, acknowledge, or take into account the following facts which are just as true as the premise of the argument. 1

1) First, just because a religion or belief system has changed people’s lives for the better doesn’t mean that the teachings or doctrines of the system must be true and infallible. Nor do they erase all other similar testimonials of all other religions and belief systems. Richard Carrier in his article, Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story, put it well when he stated:

“Any belief system that involves a radical break with past belief toward a positive acceptance of new hope or wisdom will have a powerful transformative effect on a person, whether their new belief is true or not. I myself "converted" from an all-but-areligious childhood to Taoism, and its effect on me was certainly profound. Am I so ignorant of the world that I would actually claim that "only the true Tao could have such a transforming power in a person's life"? No. I am more honest than that, and more aware of the ways of the world. I was overcome by the genius and beauty of a belief, and the hope and wisdom it granted in a shining moment of revelation. But after long examination I found it was not the correct world view, that there were flaws only visible to careful study.”

2) Second, what these Christians also NEVER acknowledge or even realize is that there are also MANY people whose lives were changed for the better through other religions or systems of belief. I could EASILY bring up the SAME kind evidence of changed lives and testimonials from other belief systems, religions, pop psychology fads, self-help groups, Alcoholics Anonymous groups, New Age sects, Wiccans, even from Atheists/Agnostics, etc. I have known practitioners of Buddhism, Islam, New Age, alternative non-organized spirituality, etc. who can testify that their lives had been changed for the better in many ways as a result of their beliefs/practices. Anyone who wants to find such testimonies can easily do so by walking into the worship buildings of other religions, seeking testimonies over the internet, reading about them from books in the library/bookstore, etc. However, just because those testimonials are true and sincere does not mean each of those belief systems and practices are right for everyone. The same goes for the Christian faith too.

However, Christians prefer not to factor this in. And if confronted with these testimonials of other religions, belief systems, and spiritual practices, their response is to claim that they mean nothing if not based on the Bible, and that Satan could be behind them because he can appear “as an angel of light” and is the “father of lies” according to the Bible (implying that even religions that do good are still inherently evil since they do not acknowledge Jesus as the only way to God).

The problem for them is that claiming that Satan is behind the testimonials of other religions/spiritual practices DOES NOT erase or invalidate them. They seem to think that claiming that Satan is behind it is some kind of a “magic eraser” that can delete all contrary evidence! Not only is it a total cop out, but it’s insulting to others as well. I would ask them how they would feel and how they would like it if I used the “Satan is behind it” explanation to explain away their evidence of Christian testimonials too?

3) Third, many people throughout history have sincerely tried the Christian faith, found it lacking or unfulfilling, and then left it too. Many of these deconverts were sincere, believed in and loved Jesus with all their heart, etc. Yet, for one reason or another, the faith failed them. It either didn’t live up to its promise, was too closed-minded for their evolving minds which sought to broaden itself, didn’t make sense, had too many contradictions/discrepancies to continue rationalizing away, etc. Although there are no exact statistics for the number of people who convert and deconvert from Christianity each year, I would say that the number of deconverts is nearly as many as the converts. They are so common in fact that I have met them everywhere. This is to be expected though, because in reality, no single belief system or religion is right for everyone. People are different in many ways and on different levels of intellectual/spiritual evolution. Therefore, there are going to be some people are just not compatible with the Christian religion, for any number of reasons. In other words, it’s not for everyone, contrary to what Christians think. This is not only true for religion, but for career paths, organizations and social groups as well. No one is compatible with everything, and no group/organization/belief is suited for everyone. That’s the reality.

Now, to be fair, this should count as evidence against the validity of Christianity as well. Yet, the Evangelical Christians NEVER seem to count it as points against them, nor do they acknowledge this fact at all! Instead, if someone has fallen away, they are considered “backsliders” and presumed to be lovers of sin and pleasure, or else were deceived by false religion, secular passions, or Satan. It’s never the fault of the Christian religion of course. It’s another classic case of blaming the victims (much like Amway and multi-level marketing companies blame those who fail the “business system” rather than the inherent flaws of the system).


* * *

Of course, I wasn't able to say all these points to her. Some ideas cannot be easily explained in just a few words.

Nevertheless, our disagreements are not that important compared to the wonderful friendship that has sprouted between the two of us. I have made a good friend from a stranger I only met once. And that is not even in the context of a personal encounter. Indeed, friendships are cultivated better by the quality of time spent together than the quantitity of time spent together.



1Credit goes to Winston Wu for articulating my exact points and contentions on the so-called “Arguments from Testimony” in such lucid detail and manner that I think it will be better to just refer to his work than to repeat superfluously what is already an excellently done job.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Theist's 13 Biggest Flawed Understanding of Atheism -- Part 2

This is a continuation from the previous post. Similarly, quotes from the author are enclosed on blockquotes. My response are in the normal format. I will address the remaining alleged flaws in the next post.

7. "Theists should believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn."
This is in reference to something called the Invisible Pink Unicorn Argument, an amusing little ditty that atheists enjoy bringing up from time to time. The argument says that, since theists have no evidence that God exists, then they can't discount the existence of other "fictitious" Gods, such as—you guessed it—the Invisible Pink Unicorn. On closer examination, this argument actually goes against atheists.
We'll see.

As I mentioned above, theists accept the testimony of others as valid evidence for the existence of God. Literally millions of people believe in God, pray to Him, worship Him, and claim that He has cured their illnesses and changed their lives.
The testimonies of the Moslems are valid evidence of the existence of Allah. The testimonies of the Hindus are valid evidence of the existence of Krishna. The testimonies of the Zoroasters are valid evidence of the existence of Ahura Mazda. The testimonies of the [insert religious adherents here] are valid evidence of the existence of [insert adherentsGod/s here]. Therefore multiple Gods exist. Feel stupid yet?

This can't be said of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, so theists don't believe in it. On the other hand, since atheists reject testimonial evidence, it is they—and not theists—who can't distinguish between the Unicorn and God.
Oh yes it can. Both of these divine beings have no objective evidence.

8. "Religion is the major cause of war."
This is historically incorrect. When it comes to the causes of war, religion comes after politics, economics, territory, natural resources and greed. World leaders who want war have often tried to rally support from their people by tying the effort to their religious beliefs, but that has nothing to do with the real reasons for their wanting to go to war.
I agree to an extent. A religion which does not teach war and violence at its core should not be blame for the sins of its abusive and manipulative followers. But numerous wars, violence, and atrocities, all done under God's decree, are rampant in the Bible. Something someone can use to biblically justify wars. So one cannot claim absolutely that the Bible does not endorse war so long as they have "God's approval".

9. "The crusades and the inquisition show that Christianity is evil."
In any organization, there is the potential for corruption. Those events took place at a time when the Bible was kept under lock and key within the walls of the church. The public was not allowed to read it and had to depend on their priests to do all Biblical interpretations. This was a system that bred corruption. Dishonest priests would pander to dishonest rulers, and the result was sometimes anything but religious. I agree with historians who say that, had the Bible been available to the public, those events would've never been allowed to happen.
Who are these "historians"? The history speaks of a differemt scenario than the author hoped for. Even after the Bible was released to the public, violence abounded. A look at history will reveal that there are several cases of Catholics killing Protestants and Protestants killing Catholics. Protestants, who are known to be "true Bible-believers" have started several attacks against the Catholics. See more historical evidence of Protestants killing Roman Catholics.

Wars subsided not because of the Bible. It quenched because we have finally learned from history and experience that killing each other due to religion is petty, senseless, and does not yield a more civilized, safe, and peaceful world community.

10. "The majority of prisoners/criminals are theists."
This is a bogus argument for two reasons:

(1) Since 90% of the population is theistic, it's not statistically surprising that the majority of people in any given institution would be theists.
So? This does not negate the truth of the above statement. It only affirms it. Secondly, what statistics did the author based her claim that "90% of the population is theistic"?

(2) The relevant surveys, taken within prison walls, are unreliable since prisoners are known to give answers that they feel will put them in the best light in the eyes of prison officials in particular and the public in general. They know it's not going to help their chances for parole if they claim to reject God, so they say they are theists.
Interesting point. The author does not realize that this actually shakens her assertion that 90% of the population are theists. This phenomenon of "pretending to believe in God" can exists outside of the prison system as well. Of the alleged 90% of the world's so-called theists, how many really believe in God? It could be the case that many of these "theist" may just be professing belief in a deity because they feel that a belief in God will put them in the best light in the eyes of those people that they have immediate contact and relationships with, and the public in general. They know it's not going to help their chances of gaining social benefits and advantage and avoiding discrimination and ostracization, if they claim to reject God, so they say they are theists.

11. "Christians have a higher divorce rate than do atheists."
Atheists who use this argument think that it illustrates how hypocritical Christians are.

But in reality, it shows just the opposite.
You will notice here and below that she did not actually make any attempt to refute the issue of Christians having a higher divorce rate than atheists. Well, for one, because statistics actually affirms this statement.

Atheists believe that morality is relative, that is, there is no absolute "good" or "bad" behavior. Atheists therefore get to make up their own morals to fit whatever lifestyle they desire.
What the author did is to paint all atheist with a broad brush by accusing them of being moral relativists. Furthermore, many atheists hold that there are indeed objective basis for morality. I, on the other hand, believe that morality has both objective basis and subjective elements. The author failed to realize that atheists are diverse. Lastly, she also failed to understand that morality and ethics has nothing to do with atheism.

Another thing. The author acts as if Christianity is consistent on their claim of moral absolutes. Just look at Old Testament laws supposedly no longer relevant in the New Testament. Also, slavery was not regarded as immoral several decades ago but now, it's a different story.

I quote Dan Barker:

"Devout, bible-believing Christians cannot agree on what the scriptures say about many crucial moral issues. Believers regularly take opposing positions on such matters as capital punishment, abortion, pacifism, birth control, physician-assisted suicide, animal rights, the environment, the separation of church and state, gay rights, and women's rights. It might be concluded from this that there is either a multiplicity of gods handing out conflicting moral advice, or a single god who is hopelessly confused."

For example, if an atheistic husband finds out his wife has been cheating on him, he has the option of deciding that cheating is okay. The two of them might even decide to have an "open marriage," in which both parties can freely enjoy extramarital affairs. With a morality that can be changed to suit any set of circumstances, atheists have fewer reasons to seek a divorce.
Now she resorts to demonizing the atheists.

Does she have any evidence that the reason why atheist couples rarely get a divorce is due to the reason claimed above? Her blanket assertions are baseless.

If she thinks atheists are a bunch of promiscous sex practioners, then she needs to get a ticket to reality.

Christians, on the other hand, receive their morality from God via the Bible. Those morals can't be augmented to suit the whims of the moment. Infidelity and other such offenses are taken very seriously. After doing what he can to save a marriage, sometimes a Christian literally has to choose between following God or sticking with a spouse who wants to pursue an ungodly lifestyle. Sometimes divorce is the only answer.
Outlandish. Can the author substantiate that the primary reason why Christian couples divorce is due to the reason claimed above? She will be in for a disappointment.

So, it is because of high Christian values—and not hypocrisy—that the divorce rate is higher among Christians, while atheists have fewer divorces because of their changeable standards of morality.
Mere naked assertions. No evidence to back it up.

12. "Atheists do good deeds because it's the right thing to do,while Christians do them because they want to get to heaven."

Both sides of this statement are wrong. Atheists believe in the evolutionary theory that everything a person does can be linked to either the drive to survive or the drive to reproduce. And they do mean everything. They believe that a child loves his mother because the mother is needed for survival; a man loves a woman because she can help him reproduce; people do good deeds because it keeps them from being killed by those who might otherwise dislike them; etc. Christians, on the other hand, do good deeds through the compassion that is taught in the Bible. Going to heaven is simply the icing on the cake.
Another blanket assertion and another attempt to marry atheism with morality. Here's a thought: Say, God removes the heavenly reward and punishment, will you go around murdering people, raping women, robbing banks etc.? If not then your morality is no different than that of the atheist.

Love and Compassion are potentials for every human being. We have the ability to emphathize hence we tend to be compassionate. Second, we see pragmatic effects when we do good. Doing good enhances the quality of our life and doing bad diminishes it. Third, we feel good by doing good acts, especially towards other people. Virtue is ITS own reward. Atheists and theists alike, these are the primary reasons why we do good. But I'll say a Christian's morality is still inferior since the concept of eternal reward and punishment actually cheapens human virtues. Whether Christians admit it or not, eternal reward in heaven and avoidance of eternal torture is a huge motivation why they do good and avoid doing bad thus muddying the intrinsic value of human virtues. Whenever a Christian will remember the eternal reward and punishment while performing a good deed, the genuineness of the act is no longer that genuine.

13. "Can your all-powerful God create a rock that is too heavy for Him to move?"
If you answer, "No," then the atheist will reply, "Then your God can't create such a rock and therefore isn't all-powerful." If you answer, "Yes," then the atheist will reply, "Then your God won't be able to move the rock and therefore isn't all-powerful."

I've read a few long and complicated "answers" to this apparent dilemma, but the fact is, the question itself is problematic, much like the question, "Can God run and walk at the same time?" or even the often-quoted statement, "Everything I say is a lie." (If everything I say is a lie, then that statement itself is a lie, so I must therefore be telling the truth. But if I'm telling the truth, then everything I say must be a lie, and we're back to square one.)
Funny, she gave examples that reinforces the point of the atheist. Her examples are logical contradictions that DOES NOT and CANNOT exist in reality. Is the author then admitting that her omnipotent God DOES NOT and CANNOT exist?

All three examples illustrate the limitations of the human mind and its logic. The "rock" question doesn't say anything about the nature of God nor His power, but our own inability to comprehend something that is beyond our understanding.
They have nothing to do with the limitation of human mind, but rather, all three demonstrate that logical contradiction CANNOT and DOES NOT and CANNOT exist in reality. The "rock" question does say something about God's nature, namely an omnipotent God cannot and does not exist.

When all else fail, Chrsitian theists resort to "God is beyond human understanding". Statements like these are subtle admission that religious claims cannot not stand on their own merits. This "mystery maneuver" is a fundamental concession to the atheist. In effect, it admits that religious belief inevitably has irrational consequences.

I will probably periodically add to this list, so stay tuned.
Better yet, remove all 13 and find other flaws. You haven't mentioned a single one.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Theist's 13 Biggest Flawed Understanding of Atheism -- Part 1

I have encountered a copy-pasted article on the Pinoy Atheism Forum asserting that purportedly, Atheism possesses 13 big flaws. After skimming the article, I have found nothing but mere assertions, strawman arguments, and a serious misunderstanding of what atheism is. Most of the "flaws" presented are not flaws of Atheism itself. The author, Baby Aaron, had simply attached mutually exclusive ideas to atheism and accuse it of being flawed due to what she attached. Here's the first six "flaws" of Atheism and my response to them. Quotes from the author are enclosed on blockquotes. My response are in the normal format. I will address the remaining alleged flaws in the next post.

1. “Atheism isn’t a belief, but the lack of a belief.”

This is what I call the “single definition” of atheism. It is the cornerstone of most atheistic defenses. Atheists like to use this definition because they feel that it protects them from certain criticisms from Christians and other theists.
Atheists use this definition not because "they feel that it protects them from certain criticisms from Christians and other theists" but rather atheism is simply just the absence or lack of theistic beliefs. That is simply what atheism is, plain and simple.
For example, if atheism is a lack of a belief, then atheists can’t be criticized for believing anything. This simple idea is a powerful weapon for atheists on message boards. It is, however, wrong. Since there is (currently) no scientifically verifiable evidence to support either side of the God question,
Exactly. Since there is no verifiable evidence for a God's existence, it is only rational not to assume that there is one. An atheist is simply someone who does not assume that there exist a deity hence he consequently possesses no theistic beliefs.

This does not necessarily mean that an atheist automatically believes that God does not exist. He is not making any claims. He simply doesn't know and/or he simply doesn't assume that there is one.

both theism and atheism have to be called beliefs. Just as theism is a belief that there is a God, atheism is the belief that there isn’t. Atheism, therefore, is not immune to the criticisms that other belief systems might draw.
Wrong. Atheism is not a belief but rather as stated above, the absence of belief. The author is confusing strong atheism (a subset of atheism which asserts that God does not and cannot exist) with the core meaning of atheism itself. Disbelief that a deity exist does not tantamount to believing a deity does not exist. (See previous reply)

Another thing, It is up to the theist to make the case and present evidence for the existence of God. The atheist simply need to weigh the evidence presented and is free to dismiss the claim if the evidence does not warrant rational belief. An atheist does not need to defend his lack of belief in something, unless the theist can show that the evidence is so compelling that it simply demands belief.

Also, atheism is a fallback position. A fallback position is the belief that one would hold before one has any evidence. In this case, if a theist cannot back up their claim with good reason and evidence that God exists, the natural state is to simply not believe in the existence of the deity the theist is attempting to prove.

Not believing in the existence of the God is not the same with believing that God/s does not or/and cannot exist. The former is simply lack of belief in God's existence while the latter is an assertion - a claim, which along with the belief in God, shares the burden of proof. The difference is subtle but they are different nonetheless.

2. "Atheism is not a—or has no—philosophy."

This is not true.
Oh yes, it is true.

Atheists believe that there is no God.
Not necessarily. The author again is conflating strong atheism with the core meaning of atheism.

Therefore, they believe that all decisions made by the individual, the family and the government should be made without regard to religious dogma. That is a philosophy.
Non sequitur. Atheism is not a worldview, nor a philosophy although you can build one around it. Theraveda Buddhism for instance is atheistic but still relies on Buddgist religious tenets. Atheists only share one thing in common - they all do not have any theistic beliefs, no more, no less. Any other belief they may have are philosophies that they have built around it and these philosophies have nothing to do with atheism. Diversity exists among the atheists.

This is true regardless of anecdotal incidents when atheists, for ulterior motives, say that it's okay for certain people to believe in God, e.g., "I'm in favor of the citizens of such-and-such country believing in God if it will keep them from slaughtering each other."
Not all atheists share this belief. And this belief has nothing to do with atheism.

These are actually exceptions that prove the rule, since they are always under unusual circumstances. The basic atheistic philosophy remains intact.
Atheism has no philosophy.

Even when an atheist says, "I don't care if other people believe in God or not," he's merely expressing an isolationist viewpoint toward a philosophy that he still applies to himself.
Atheism is not a philosophy, period.

Otherwise, he wouldn't be an atheist, for no atheist will follow any religious dogma.
Two words. Theraveda Buddhism.

3. "Atheism is supported by science."

Again, this is not true. Because no scientifically verifiable evidence exists on either side of the God question, science can't even address the issue, let alone reach any conclusion.
I agree. Science has nothing to do with either atheism nor theism. But scientific discoveries have, numerous times, went against religious dogma (Creationism, Flat-Earth, Young Earth, etc.)

4. "Atheism is supported by logic."
Not only is this wrong, just the opposite is true.
Unfortunately for this author, atheism is indeed supported by logic.

In logic, it's impossible to prove a negative, that is, prove that a God Who Can Do Anything doesn't exist.
Yes, you can prove a negative. There are no married bachelors. Proof: contradiction cannot exist in reality. If you ever find a contradiction in reality, share me the Nobel prize.

Second, one need not to prove a negative. Atheism is a fallback position. The default stance if the evidence for God's existence does not demand belief.

When someone claims he is an atheist, he is in effect claiming to have proven a negative (at least to himself)—which is a logical impossibility.
Again, marrying strong atheism with the core meaning of atheism. And no, it is not a logical impossibility to prove a negative.

In terms of pure logic, the only viable alternative to theism is actually agnosticism, which is the belief that the existence of God cannot be known. But atheism runs counter to logic.
Too many people misunderstand agnosticism. Agnosticism is not a middle ground between atheism and theism. Agnosticism has nothing to do with belief. It has something to do with the nature of knowledge. Because atheism and theism deal with belief and agnosticism deals with knowledge, they are actually independent concepts. Agnostics hold that God, and by implication, his existence, cannot be known. It is a claim and assertion regarding the nature, capability and limits of our knowledge to know something about God. Hence, an agnostic, does not have any theistic beliefs since he doesn't know anything about God in the first place. Except for agnostic theism, agnosticism then IS atheism. See this for more information regarding the difference between atheism and agnosticism

5. "The burden of proof is on theists."
No, it isn't. While the burden of proof might vary depending on whether you're talking about science or law, in almost all instances, the burden of proof lies with the deviation from the norm. A man who claims he can run a mile in one minute—while the world's best atheletes can't break the three-minute mark—has the burden of proving that he can do it. Right now, about 90% of the world's population believes there is a Supreme Being. Plus, throughout known history—even back to the days of the caveman—humans have believed in some sort of God. These points are enough to clearly establish theism as the normal state. It is therefore up to
atheists to make their case for the deviation.
Preposterous. The burden of proof is always on the one who is making the claim not on someone who is "deviating from the norm". Theists claim there is a God, atheists don't. All the atheist need to do is weigh the argument presented and point out what's wrong in the argument if ever then accept and dismiss it depending on how compelling he finds the argument to be. An exception is when an atheist make a positive claim that a God cannot or does not exist. Then, and only then, will an atheist share the burden of proof.

And even if we are to accept that the burden of proof is on the atheist (which it is not), then the author has just committed a self-contradiction. In number 4, she claims that we can never prove a universal negative. And yet here at number 5 she is demanding that the atheist prove a universal negative!

6. "There is no evidence to support a belief in God."
Yes, there is. Testimonial evidence abounds. Millions claim that God has touched their hearts, cured their illnesses and improved their lives. Atheists refuse to acknowledge this evidence, because they accept only scientifically verifiable evidence.
Since when did subjective experience ever counted as objective evidence?

Simply believing that God has touched your life does not mean that it is actually a God who has. Allah has touched the lives of millions of Muslim. Likewise, Krishna has changed the lives of millions of Hindus. Why not count them as evidence as well? Applying this train of thought, does the theist now concede that there are many Gods? If not, why not?

If something cannot be objectively tested, measured, verified and falsified, then it does not qualify as evidence. A person's subjective claim cannot be counted as evidence if one has nothing to back it up other than the individual's words. Millions of Mormons have testified that their God have given them peace of mind. Should we then just take the Mormons' word for it and count them as evidence that the Mormon God exist?

The author is confused on what we should qualify as evidence.

This is a restriction that they have chosen to place upon themselves, yet they demand that others do the same thing, which is ridiculous.
What is so ridiculous in not trusting and accepting subjective, untestable, unmeasurable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable evidence?

Atheists say that human testimony can't be trusted because human senses can't be trusted. The fact that this twisted logic effectively discounts all life experiences doesn't seem to phase atheists in the least.
Nonsense. Atheism is simply the absence of belief in God. A - without. Theism - Belief in God. An atheist is simply someone who has no theistic beliefs. Atheism does not say that we cannot trust our senses.

Secondly, I have not yet encountered an atheist, who believes in reason, who declares that we cannot trust information we obtain from our senses and experiences. Empiricists, materialists, and scientists rely on them. The reason we cannot trust testimonies is because it is subjective.

It's yet another example of how atheism shuts down the mind.
This is yet another example of how the author is utterly confused on what should count as evidence.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Secret of the Bible Scholars

The Bible scholars have a secret. A secret that they cannot afford to reveal.

What many "scholars" are telling the public is not exactly what they believe. They know that the "Jesus", as we know and understand him today, was nothing special but rather, a mere product of the Greco-Roman culture - a hellenization. They also know that the core doctrines and theology of the Christian religion was simply a fusion of hellenistic ideas and ancient mediterrenean culture, was a product of its time, and was no different from other competing religions of that time. These "scholars" also know that modern-day Christians are following a set of books believed to be the "Word of God" where 80% of which we have no idea who wrote. They know for a fact that Moses has nothing to do with the Pentateuch. It is also known to these "scholars" that none of the Gospels were written by the apostles nor by an eyewitness of the account written on them. And yet we have been fed up with the "fact" that the authors of the Bible had been ascertained. These are just few of what they truly know.

This secret must not come out. And you will understand why. A former Christian theologian turned Deist in the Raving Atheist Forum has this to say:

"VERY few, if any, of these scholars would or could admit error. It would simply destroy them, their careers and possibly their families.

Mike, when I was an intern youth minister, our head minister confessed to me this: "Jon, if I taught what I really know to be the truth, they'd fire me, and I have a family to support." No kidding. Now, Johnny was NOT an unethical man...merely one who skirted the critical issues in favor of sending his kids to college. This is not cynicism, this is reality. Even the unmarried students have built their 'very existence' off of the truths of the Bible. Think about how difficult it would be to sign that all away...to ADMIT you were wrong for 10, 20, 50 years.

I submit that very few men or women could do this, and THAT prevents the most brilliant of the lot from seeing what's right in front of them. I was able to do it, but even for a rouge, it was incredibly difficult. Just think about it."

Click for More...

Just look at what happen to former New Testament Bible scholar professor Gerd Lüdemann after publicly declaring his unbelief. He remarked, "People know Christianity is not true, but they won’t address it publicly". Even after attempts for appeal to reconsider, he was expelled from the theological faculty of Gottingen University. Aside from being a noted author in Europe, he used to teach the New Testament in a school in Germany that trains ministers. 1

There are others who bravely revealed this "secret". Some, after publicly declaring their unbelief, decided to walk away from Christianity (Bible Scholars Robert M. Price and G.A Wells first comes to mind). Others remained but with a more liberal outlook on Christianity (Bishop John Shelby Spong, Burton Mack, Raymond Brown etc.). Others are still in the closet but, nonetheless, are brave enough to acknowledge the fact that Christianity is a lie. Personally, I cannot blame them for remaining in the shadows. Is truth always more important than happiness?

Although there are other people who already came out, it is unfortunate that their information is not widely accessible to the public knowledge. Aside from the fact that this "liberal" scholarship is covered and buried deep within the sands of dishonest Christian scholarship, it is a sad fact that the complex nature of modern biblical scholarship does not penetrate popular culture. It takes much effort to understand even just the basic discipline of archeology, historical criticism, and modern biblical scholarship. Not really something an average person would care give attention to study and understand. "He has better things to do than waste his time."

As the POCM website says, "Are there real scholars who see Pagan syncretism in Christianity? Yes there are. But you don't hear about their studies in day to day popular culture. NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN doesn't care."

1See the section "Christianity Untrue, Says Teacher" in http://www.infidels.org/infidels/newsletter/1998/october.html

and

Open Letter on Behalf of Gerd Luedemann

and

Second Letter on Behalf of Prof. Dr. Gerd Luedemann

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Journey Called Life

"The only thing I know is I know nothing"

As I marvel about the complexity and richness of life, I cannot help but feel very ignorant amidst its vastness and intricateness. So many questions, so little time. But this should not deter us from finding answers. The search for answer is what keeps me going. There is joy that accompanies whenever we would discover an answer to our question and a sense of challenge as we seek to unravel the remaining pervading mysteries. I know I will not find all the answers to my questions. But I will treasure each precious answer and share it to everyone willing to listen.

We are all on a journey. Some persist in walking, some are resting, while others had already stopped. For those who continue to walk, allow me to go along with you. For those who are tired, I wish, in my own little way, to extend you my helping hand. And for those who had stopped, I am not condemning you but I am encouraging you to stand and keep on walking with us. It may not be the easiest thing in the universe, but I assure you, the journey, nevertheless, is going to be enriching and meaningful.

Let us die walking with no regrets.