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annoying things that atheists say
Posted: 30 June 2012 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]
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There are many of these, but the one I dislike the most is where atheists say that there are no reasons at all to believe in such-and-such a thing. So the idea is that Christians, for example, are just completely irrational in believing what they do. I think the problem here is that many atheists think that ‘good reason’ just means the same thing as ‘good scientific evidence’. But of course many of the reasons given by religious people come from introspection. They claim to have strong feelings or even certainty that there are such things as free will, moral responsibility and sin, objective values, consciousness (which can’t be reduced to mere matter), eternal truths of logic and mathematics, and so on. They will also sometimes claim that these reasons are stronger than scientific reasons, because while scientific theories come and go, these things don’t change. Now, personally, I think there are problems with many of these reasons, but the point is that THEY DO HAVE REASONS!

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Posted: 30 June 2012 08:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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So why are there so many Hindus in India?

Why are there Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland?

Is what people BELIEVE just what they were indoctrinated with by the environment they grew up in and everything else just rationalizations of their conditioning?

And aren’t many atheists just reactionaries to that conditioning?  It just doesn’t work on EVERYBODY.

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Posted: 30 June 2012 08:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Dom1978 - 30 June 2012 06:34 PM

There are many of these, but the one I dislike the most is where atheists say that there are no reasons at all to believe in such-and-such a thing. So the idea is that Christians, for example, are just completely irrational in believing what they do. I think the problem here is that many atheists think that ‘good reason’ just means the same thing as ‘good scientific evidence’. But of course many of the reasons given by religious people come from introspection. They claim to have strong feelings or even certainty that there are such things as free will, moral responsibility and sin, objective values, consciousness (which can’t be reduced to mere matter), eternal truths of logic and mathematics, and so on. They will also sometimes claim that these reasons are stronger than scientific reasons, because while scientific theories come and go, these things don’t change. Now, personally, I think there are problems with many of these reasons, but the point is that THEY DO HAVE REASONS!

yes, they do have their reasons; people have reasons to believe all sorts of things, like gods, ufos or the easter bunny.  all equally legit beliefs, to their respective believers.

and i’m perfectly willing to go along with the idea of faith as a powerful subjective factor that helps some people make meaning of their lives, whatever gets you through the day.  (i’m not so sure if claiming too many unchanging “eternal truths” is necessarily such a great thing tho - smacks of smugness or close-mindednes imho). 

and who said consciousness CAN’T be “reduced to mere matter”?

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Posted: 30 June 2012 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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But this is precisely my point. The reasons I’m talking about here are not the same as the reasons given for belief in UFOs or Big Foot or whatever. The atheist is making a mistake in lumping them all together. There’s no good evidence for UFOs or Big Foot, and that’s the end of the story. The religious person, however, is arguing that materialism is false, and that numbers, values, mind, free will and so on exist in another realm, and therefore that science and scientific evidence are completely irrelevant here. So when the atheist says that the Christian is just like someone who believes in the Loch Ness Monster, the Christian is completely baffled, and they just end up talking past each other.

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Posted: 30 June 2012 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dom1978 - 30 June 2012 09:02 PM

But this is precisely my point. The reasons I’m talking about here are not the same as the reasons given for belief in UFOs or Big Foot or whatever. The atheist is making a mistake in lumping them all together. There’s no good evidence for UFOs or Big Foot, and that’s the end of the story. The religious person, however, is arguing that materialism is false, and that numbers, values, mind, free will and so on exist in another realm, and therefore that science and scientific evidence are completely irrelevant here. So when the atheist says that the Christian is just like someone who believes in the Loch Ness Monster, the Christian is completely baffled, and they just end up talking past each other.

ok… why do you need to believe?

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Posted: 30 June 2012 10:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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How would you respond to the statement that theism is imaginary and atheism is nothing?

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Posted: 30 June 2012 10:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Fully agree, Dom1978. Big Foot, UFOs, CAM, telepathy etc. are of a different category as religion. But there is an overlap: it is in the empirical claims that religions might hold, as you notice. Creationism coming to mind as one of the biggest examples. But even here people have reasons to believe. They might feel that there is a meaning in the universe, and for them evolutionism cannot explain that.

On the other side people believing in Big Foot, UFOs, CAM, telepathy etc. might have their reasons too, but these of course principally should have empirical character. So one cannot say that science is irrelevant here at all. In the end, science examines if empirical claims are true, that is a big part of its job.

Maybe one could ask about both categories: what is left if you strip off all the empirical claims, especially those that are already proven to be false? In the case of Big Foot, UFOs, CAM, telepathy one can in general say: nothing. In different kinds of religions, maybe there is something left, and maybe there are good reasons for what is left.

For traditionalists this all has no value: the big religions have ‘externalised’ their belief system, i.e. they pretend that what they believe in is valid for everybody, because they are valid, objective descriptions of the world we live in. For us it is then obvious that ‘good reasons’ are indeed scientifically very bad reasons.

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Posted: 01 July 2012 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dom1978 - 30 June 2012 06:34 PM

There are many of these, but the one I dislike the most is where atheists say that there are no reasons at all to believe in such-and-such a thing. So the idea is that Christians, for example, are just completely irrational in believing what they do. I think the problem here is that many atheists think that ‘good reason’ just means the same thing as ‘good scientific evidence’. But of course many of the reasons given by religious people come from introspection. They claim to have strong feelings or even certainty that there are such things as free will, moral responsibility and sin, objective values, consciousness (which can’t be reduced to mere matter), eternal truths of logic and mathematics, and so on. They will also sometimes claim that these reasons are stronger than scientific reasons, because while scientific theories come and go, these things don’t change. Now, personally, I think there are problems with many of these reasons, but the point is that THEY DO HAVE REASONS!

I think usually we gloss “no good reasons” as “no reasons”. It’s true that theists do have ‘reasons’ for their beliefs—that is, they have things to say if challenged. The point is that those things aren’t reasonable. The evidence isn’t good. The experiences they cite aren’t credible, in the sense that if we validated them we would have to validate an unbounded number of other religious and quasi-religious experiences as well that the theists themselves wouldn’t accept. They also aren’t credible in the sense that we know from experiment the fallibility of such experiences.

And BTW I think it’s also a bad argument to lump together beliefs in abstracta like numbers, laws and moral principles with theism. Theism is the belief in a personal God, not the belief in abstracta. Many atheists, myself included, believe in abstracta.

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Posted: 01 July 2012 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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GdB, when it comes to claims about things like miracles and healing, then yes we can put this in the same category as UFOs, ghosts and telepathy. But notice that I’m not talking about these kinds of examples. I’m only talking about introspection/intuition/inner feelings. These are the things that drive many religious people to believe, and it’s no good going on about how there’s no scientific evidence for God, as this misses the point completely. These people know there’s no scientific evidence for God, and it’s not as if they’re seriously expecting that some scientific discovery in the future could confirm what they believe. Their feelings of love, justice, beauty, freedom and value are of a wholly different type. Their belief comes from subjective 1st person experience, something that science doesn’t deal with. 

So, the way to argue against them is to show that their views are problematic philosophically. We can talk about how dualism is incoherent, and we can show that Christians at different times and in different places have had very different intuitions about values and various moral issues.  Also, we can actually try to deal with things like the nature of maths, logic, consciousness and freedom. But the thing is, a lot of atheists don’t want to do this. It’s much easier just to mock religious people and tell them that they’re no different from people who believe in fairies and ghosts.

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Posted: 01 July 2012 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dom1978 - 01 July 2012 03:07 AM

I’m only talking about introspection/intuition/inner feelings. These are the things that drive many religious people to believe, and it’s no good going on about how there’s no scientific evidence for God, as this misses the point completely.

That depends, of course. I would prefer to say that it might miss the point partially. There might be intuitions or feelings that the world must be created by an intelligent designer, so these are the reasons to believe in a god. But they are not good reasons.

Dom1978 - 01 July 2012 03:07 AM

These people know there’s no scientific evidence for God, and it’s not as if they’re seriously expecting that some scientific discovery in the future could confirm what they believe. Their feelings of love, justice, beauty, freedom and value are of a wholly different type. Their belief comes from subjective 1st person experience, something that science doesn’t deal with.

Here it might be clarified that those feelings must nor explained by a god. I know all these feelings too, but I am an atheist, and I see no problem with that. But that is I assume what you are saying here:

Dom1978 - 01 July 2012 03:07 AM

So, the way to argue against them is to show that their views are problematic philosophically. We can talk about how dualism is incoherent, and we can show that Christians at different times and in different places have had very different intuitions about values and various moral issues.  Also, we can actually try to deal with things like the nature of maths, logic, consciousness and freedom. But the thing is, a lot of atheists don’t want to do this. It’s much easier just to mock religious people and tell them that they’re no different from people who believe in fairies and ghosts.

Yes, that is much easier. One should not use this as a strategy to gain support for the humanist/secular case, but it is all to human sometimes to let some steam off. But that should be done at most when we are between us…

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Posted: 01 July 2012 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Doug, I know you think that to be an atheist is merely to be against the dominant conception of God in the west. But it seems to me that many religious people, when pressed, are by no means certain about any of the particular doctrines of their church or group. What they feel very strongly about, though, is that their feelings about art, music, morality, freedom, conscuious experience and various other things point to something beyond. They believe in some kind of creator, and they believe that there’s a lot more than just the material world. Now, you sometimes seem to suggest that anyone but a strong believer in a perfectly good all-powerful being who runs the world belongs in the atheist/agnostic category. This just seems ridiculous to me.   

I take your point about the reasons/good reasons thing, though.

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Posted: 01 July 2012 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I would suggest that most all religious concepts are based on beliefs, not reason.  I once believed in Santa but I learned “gooder.”

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Posted: 01 July 2012 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dom1978 - 01 July 2012 03:32 AM

What they feel very strongly about, though, is that their feelings about art, music, morality, freedom, conscuious experience and various other things point to something beyond. They believe in some kind of creator, and they believe that there’s a lot more than just the material world. Now, you sometimes seem to suggest that anyone but a strong believer in a perfectly good all-powerful being who runs the world belongs in the atheist/agnostic category. This just seems ridiculous to me.

To be God this ‘creator’ must be a person. If cosmology demonstrated that the universe was created by some law of nature, none of us would or should want to say that that proves the existence of God much less the God of the Bible.

The issue you raise is what this ‘something beyond’ must mean. As I say, plenty of atheists say that there exist abstract things beyond what we can see and touch. It is ridiculous to claim that anyone who believes in abstracta is thereby a theist. Einstein and Spinoza believed in abstracta, but both are considered atheists by careful scholars. The difference between theist and atheists is typically put as one of agency: the theist believes the universe (the ‘something beyond’) is an agent that can do things. Another difference is that the theist has a certain attitude towards this ‘something beyond’: viz., one of prayer, reverence, etc., and one that has religious import. (One towards which religious rituals make a difference). While some theists may take that POV with respect to abstracta, there is no sense in doing so since abstracta have no beliefs or desires and therefore cannot respond to petitionary prayer. This is why I repeat that the only sensible theist position is one with a personal God. (I mean, sensible by its own lights, of course. Not sensible by my lights).

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Posted: 01 July 2012 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dom1978 - 01 July 2012 03:32 AM

Doug, I know you think that to be an atheist is merely to be against the dominant conception of God in the west. But it seems to me that many religious people, when pressed, are by no means certain about any of the particular doctrines of their church or group. What they feel very strongly about, though, is that their feelings about art, music, morality, freedom, conscuious experience and various other things point to something beyond. They believe in some kind of creator, and they believe that there’s a lot more than just the material world. Now, you sometimes seem to suggest that anyone but a strong believer in a perfectly good all-powerful being who runs the world belongs in the atheist/agnostic category. This just seems ridiculous to me.   

I take your point about the reasons/good reasons thing, though.

why do religious people feel they HAVE to believe in something apart from the material world?

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Posted: 01 July 2012 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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why do religious people feel they HAVE to believe in something apart from the material world?

One of the reasons is that they don’t understand the real World and religion gives them a point of reference. And Dom, I don’t mean this as a derisive statement. Many people either don’t take the time to study their surroundings or man’s place in nature so they opt for the short version, a simplistic religious view. God did it, end of story.


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Posted: 01 July 2012 05:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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As I’ve commented before, I smile when people make simplistic generalizations about complex situations. So often some people tend to ignore or not be aware of adjectives. Doug pointed one out in post #7:

I think usually we gloss “no good reasons” as “no reasons”.

  The title of this thread also seems to make the error of generalization.  How about inserting “some” before “atheists” or even “many” if you have sufficient data?

My response (to go along with TVA’s) to

why do religious people feel they HAVE to believe in something apart from the material world?

is that most of us appear uncomfortable with not knowing why things are or why they happen.  Many are used to having an authority either explain or do the thing.  As such, priests are considered the authority to explain, and a god is the super-authority of causation.  Just because the ideas are wrong and even silly, doesn’t matter to them as long as they make the person feel more comfortable.  Note that I’m not saying that the theists know their ideas may be wrong or silly.

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