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Atheist’s misconceptions about Christians?
Posted: 24 January 2007 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I’m sorry, moretap, I don’t understand what you are arguing. In particular, this:

[quote author=“moretap”]The definition of the atheist’s god is, “non-existent.”

... is false.

A “definition” gives the meaning of a term. Most atheists I know (including Harris, Dawkins and myself) define the term god as the omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good creator of the universe. I have said this many times on the forum.

What the atheist says is that nothing with this description or definition exists.

Now, we can deal with the other definitions if you like; some of them are incoherent (e.g., god is “incomprehensible”), others questionable. But the definition I gave, above, is the standard theological definition of god.

Now, as to your other claim:

[quote author=“moretap”] The problem with saying that the atrocious things are just clearly evil from looking at them is that just because something seems evil for humans to do it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are evil for god to do.

What does it mean to say that god is “perfectly good” if good for god is something completely different from what is good for humans? What does it mean to say that god is praiseworthy if good for god means murdering innocent children?

This is just a misuse of the term “good”. It is equivalent to denying that god is perfectly good.

We might just as well say that god is omniscient, but to “know” for god means to be able to eat cheese. So when we say god is omniscient, for him that means he eats cheese. And to say he’s all powerful, for god it means that he’s my uncle and lives in New Jersey.

So god is my uncle who eats cheese and lives in New Jersey.

One can’t just go about changing the meanings of words to suit oneself.

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Posted: 24 January 2007 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Most atheists I know (including Harris, Dawkins and myself) define the term god as the omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good creator of the universe. I have said this many times on the forum.

  What you’ve defined here is not the word “god”, which is the proper designation for such non-omnipotent beings as Thor and Amerteratsu, but the specific god referred to by the name God.  Your description can be applied to only a small handful of gods mankind has worshipped through all history - maybe a dozen, probably fewer.  As you say,  one can’t just go about changing the meanings of words to suit oneself.

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Posted: 24 January 2007 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]I’m sorry, moretap, I don’t understand what you are arguing. In particular, this:

[quote author=“moretap”]The definition of the atheist’s god is, “non-existent.”

... is false.

I agree with you on that. I was thinking more along the lines of Noncognitivism which would say that the idea of god is nonsense or the idea is non-existent. I didn’t clarify what type of Atheist I was thinking of.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
some of them are incoherent (e.g., god is “incomprehensible”)

Why can’t a Christian define God as having the attribute of being incomprehensible? It makes sense that men as lesser beings wouldn’t be able to comprehend God on their own.
After all, their scripture makes this claim:

Job 38-41 is a good read, also
Isiah 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Ecc 3:11
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

I think to correctly define the Christian God, there has to be a part that mentions that God’s ways and thoughts cannot be found out. 

Why do you think Theology and Philosophy are different fields of study?


[quote author=“dougsmith”]
What does it mean to say that god is “perfectly good” if good for god is something completely different from what is good for humans?

Would a perfectly good parent ever discipline their child?
Does a child think it is good to eat lots of candy for dinner?

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Posted: 25 January 2007 01:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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[quote author=“moretap”]Why can’t a Christian define God as having the attribute of being incomprehensible? It makes sense that men as lesser beings wouldn’t be able to comprehend God on their own.
After all, their scripture makes this claim:

Job 38-41 is a good read, also
Isiah 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Ecc 3:11
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

I think to correctly define the Christian God, there has to be a part that mentions that God’s ways and thoughts cannot be found out. 

Why do you think Theology and Philosophy are different fields of study?

If god is incomprehensible, it follows that he isn’t omniscient, omnipotent or perfectly good, to take three examples. Because those are comprehensible properties. If god is incomprehensible it follows that he does not answer prayer, because that would be comprehensible. And so on.

If god is incomprehensible, it follows that we can’t say anything comprehensible about him. We can’t say that he demands obedience. We can’t say that he did the things he did in the Bible.

The theologians who claim that god is incomprehensible do so out of an obscurantist wish to get out from losing arguments of one kind or another. It’s another way to say that they’ve lost the argument and can’t think of anything else to say.

[quote author=“moretap”]Would a perfectly good parent ever discipline their child?
Does a child think it is good to eat lots of candy for dinner?

What does this have to do with the issue? A perfectly good parent might have to discipline their child, but not by physical abuse or murder, as is claimed god did to many.

A child might think it’s good to eat candy for dinner, but the child is wrong. Are you claiming that we are wrong to believe that wanton murder is evil? For god engaged in wanton murder in the Old Testament.

... but then god also said “Thou shalt not kill.” Hummm ... so god is just .... inconsistent , or a hypocrite.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 02:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]If god is incomprehensible, it follows that he isn’t omniscient, omnipotent or perfectly good, to take three examples. Because those are comprehensible properties. If god is incomprehensible it follows that he does not answer prayer, because that would be comprehensible. And so on.

But what if God is not only incomprehensble but also a giver of revelation as well? If this is true it follows that man can know something about God’s attributes. Most theologians would claim the Bible is revelation that God provided.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
The theologians who claim that god is incomprehensible do so out of an obscurantist wish to get out from losing arguments of one kind or another. It’s another way to say that they’ve lost the argument and can’t think of anything else to say.

Or they could just make that claim because they read it in those verses I mentioned above and others.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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[quote author=“moretap”]But what if God is not only incomprehensble but also a giver of revelation as well? If this is true it follows that man can know something about God’s attributes. Most theologians would claim the Bible is revelation that God provided.

This is a plain contradiction. To claim that god is a “giver of revelation” is to claim that god intended to present the world with a book that revealed his beliefs and intentions for the world. If god is incomprehensible, how can we know he is a “giver of revelation”? How can we know what his intentions were? We cannot. We certainly could not know what his intentions were for Christ, to take one prime example. Perhaps he had no particular intentions for Christ. That’s one possibility, if god is incomprehensible.

To say that god is incomprehensible just is to say that we cannot understand anything about god. And that’s one step away from atheism, in my book.

Of course, the further question is how one could possibly know that the Bible is god’s revelation. It is clearly shot through with human imperfections, boring, poorly written in long stretches. There are much better books.

And it is contradicted by other holy men of other religions with their own “revelations”. Why not believe the Koran is god’s revelation? Or the Book of Mormon, just to take two? Or the Hindu Mahabharata? On what evidence?

[quote author=“moretap”]Or they could just make that claim because they read it in those verses I mentioned above and others.

But why pick those verses out in particular? There are lots of other verses in the Bible that show god’s intentions quite clearly. Take the ones I quoted above about killing children who curse their parents. What isn’t clear about that?

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Posted: 25 January 2007 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Is light a wave or a particle?

From my dogs perspective, I am incomprehensible, as a human. He can only understand me in dog terms, so my dog makes a lot of guesses, most of them wrong a few correctly, about what I am all about. He understands (but does not always obey) sit. The other day as I was playing catch with him he almost ran behind a bus that was backing up. I of course shouted in my strongest command that he should sit, he did but he will never understand that he was in danger or why I was so harsh in my command.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]From my dogs perspective, I am incomprehensible, as a human.

But that’s falsified by the example you gave. Your dog did understand you: he understood that you were telling him that he should sit.

It’s one thing to say that your dog didn’t understand everything you said and quite another to say that he didn’t understand anything you said. To say that you are “incomprehensible” is to say the latter.

Now, as to the question whether we might not understand everything that god tells us, certainly that is the strategy that many theologians take. But again, that is just to say that we see no reason for god’s supposed actions or commands.

And then the question becomes, why think there’s a god there at all? Why think that the Bible (as opposed to the Koran, Mahabharata, or nothing at all) was inspired by his revelation?

Your dog has eminent reason to believe you exist. He sees you, hears you, feels you; you play ball with him and feed him. You can even communicate. The same is not true of god.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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First, the title of this thread implies an error within that title.  I seriously doubt that all atheists have the same conceptions, mis- or otherwise, about all Christians. 

Second, since the discussion seems to have centered on the definition of God, I don’t see how an atheist and a Christian can have a meaningful conversation about that.  For example, as an atheist I don’t care what or which god is referenced, I see the concept as meaningless for real-world operations.  Working on definitions for a meaningless concept seems fruitless to me.  And I would have to judge any definitions of a god a theist would offer as equally meaningless babble.

Occam

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