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Can an Atheist be a Fundamentalist?
Posted: 29 May 2006 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]Strong Atheism is no more tenable or less faith based than Christianity. It is certainly an appealing philosophy, but requires faith (not evidence) to support.

Weak atheism is so similar to agnosticism that it appears to me to be agnosticism dressed for battle. This can be very useful and certainly appealing, particularly in times when we are dealing with zealots of every stripe.

Hello cgallaga,

Hmm ... maybe you can give us a definition of “strong” and “weak” atheism here. I’m not sure what to make of these claims ...

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Some last tidying up. Dark Matter/Energy at present is not an observable testable part of nature. It is a bit of math made up to fill a big gap in our very well tested mathematical model of observable nature. That is why I said it SEEMS to have a supernatural quality. The difference (an important one) is that scientists ARE trying very hard to observe and test it. 

Well, dark matter and dark energy clearly are observable, testable parts of nature, since they seem to have been observed and theories about them are being tested. This may be what you’re getting at with your last sentence ... but then I don’t see the similarity with the supernatural. The supernatural hasn’t been observed, and has failed every test.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]And Jimmy, you’re right. Life’s too short in single person span’s to worry much about this stuff. But if we are thinking to lay the groundwork for future generations it is up to us to ensure that it is on as stable and flexible a foundation as we can imagine.

I hope you all find yourselves well and having the time of your lives!

Indeed!  8)

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Posted: 29 May 2006 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Why sure.

 
Weak atheism (also called negative atheism) is the lack of belief in the existence of deities, without a commitment to the necessary non-existence of deities. Weak atheism contrasts with strong atheism, which is the belief that no deities exist, and theism, which asserts that there is at least one deity.

 
Strong atheism, sometimes called positive atheism, hard atheism or gnostic atheism, is the philosophical position that no deity exists. It is a form of explicit atheism, meaning that it consciously rejects theism.

 
Agnosticism is the philosophical view that the truth values of certain claims—particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods, or deities—are unknown, inherently unknowable, or incoherent, and therefore, (some agnostics may go as far to say) irrelevant to life.

 
In cosmology, dark matter refers to matter particles, of unknown composition, that do not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter such as stars and galaxies.

 
In cosmology, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy which permeates all of space and has strong negative pressure.

Enjoy,

Chris

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Posted: 29 May 2006 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Chris I was pleased to see that you bounced Barry K again on the potential for a CFI in the East. I’m with you.

On to the topic - when we speak of “strong or weak atheism” we are necessarily referring to a potential deity of some sort but not the deity posited by the religions of the book.

That deity whatever it might be, may someday be named and once again prove a figment of human imagination. However, this time it will be a figment of the imaginations of a special subset of humans referred to for want of a better word as “philosophers”.
Chris is right

I do think it is important that if we are to work towards a world where these oppressive beliefs and practices no longer disable humanity from reaching towards what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature; we do so in a spirit of skeptical inquiry. Only in this way, can we supplant the dogmatic and oppressive with a freedom for the individual to seek meaning through life; in line with their experience and reasoning.

But we face once again a threat of terrible death. Unexpected death that has been a part of our society from the first time control of religion was placed unequivocally in the hands of a small group called priests. Whether it was elimination of heretics, or cleansing society to preserve its purity, or a war between muslims and infidels or a fight between protestants and papists, evil done by good persons to other good persons as is being done now by suicide bombers, belief in god has always been and still is at the root of the business.

Is it that god were debating about here? I don’t think so.

This is really a philosophical discussion and I started it!!

Should we move it there or should we try to parse the essay I posted at the start of this thread and discuss it? I think there is merit in either course of action and maybe we should do both.

Jim

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Posted: 29 May 2006 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”] 
Weak atheism (also called negative atheism) is the lack of belief in the existence of deities, without a commitment to the necessary non-existence of deities. Weak atheism contrasts with strong atheism, which is the belief that no deities exist, and theism, which asserts that there is at least one deity.

 
Strong atheism, sometimes called positive atheism, hard atheism or gnostic atheism, is the philosophical position that no deity exists. It is a form of explicit atheism, meaning that it consciously rejects theism.

These are not mutually exclusive. Hence whoever wrote these wikipedia entries appears to have been confused.

I will assume (for the purposes of clarification) that “strong atheism” is the view that the existence of god is necessarily or logically impossible.

“Weak atheism” is the view that the existence of god is logically possible, but in fact god does not exist.

If these are the two positions, then I am a “weak atheist”. I believe quite firmly that the evidence of evil in the world, and the lack of other contravening evidence, demonstrates that an omnicompetent being who created the universe does not exist.

This is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of looking at the evidence.

I am not a “strong atheist” because I don’t know of any arguments that would demonstrate that the idea of an omnicompetent creator being is somehow logically contradictory, or necessarily impossible. It seems perfectly possible to me that god could exist. I can imagine a world in which he does. But that’s not this world.

[quote author=“cgallaga”] 
Agnosticism is the philosophical view that the truth values of certain claims—particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods, or deities—are unknown, inherently unknowable, or incoherent, and therefore, (some agnostics may go as far to say) irrelevant to life.

Well, this is not entirely right. An agnostic cannot hold that the existence of god is “incoherent”. If it were incoherent, then the supposed “agnostic” would in fact be a strong atheist, in that he would hold that the existence of this being was logically impossible ... as it is logically impossible that something literally incoherent (= logically contradictory) exists.

[quote author=“cgallaga”] 
In cosmology, dark matter refers to matter particles, of unknown composition, that do not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter such as stars and galaxies.

 
In cosmology, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy which permeates all of space and has strong negative pressure.

Yes, this is some of the info that I was referring to above ... as I say, it doesn’t show that dark energy or dark matter has anything “supernatural” about it.

All this goes to show that investigations into dark matter, dark energy, or biological “missing links” do not demonstrate that science posits anything god-like or supernatural to fill in the gaps. Of course, any of these things is logically possible, just as it’s logically possible that Santa Claus filled in the gaps in the fossil record. But assuming the existence of Santa Claus would not be consistent with science’s methodology of Occam’s Razor, whereby the simplest theory is assumed to be correct.

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Posted: 30 May 2006 12:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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If you make up your own definition when ones provided don’t suit, it doesn’t really make for reasonable debate.  LOL

Though this is a tangent in a tangent: Your proof of no god assumes that what you see as evil with your limited (in time and space) perspective, is what an all seeing all knowing all powerful deity would agree is evil. It also assumes that this evil has no greater purpose (like a purpose that such a deity would understand but that you could not). That is a very egocentric view of the question and just anthropomorphizing god into your ideal rather than into a Christian one. Therefore it is only evidence of absence of a deity that ascribes to your ideal.

The TRUTH VALUES are incoherent (or trying to ascertain them) is what this is saying. Not that God is incoherent, but trying to claim a truth-value on the subject is incoherent.

I never said Dark Matter WAS supernatural, but that it could seem so, in that it is unobservable in nature and really just a fabrication to explain the unexplained.

I know this miffs a lot of people but I read Occam’s razor to be in favor of an agnostic proposition because an agnostic proposition does not multiply entities beyond necessity, it makes NO assumptions or leaps of faith thus it makes no entities. It is the null result (Positive, Null, Negative).

As to moving or parsing this thread I am at the mercy of you moderators, but would have no problem in any event. The way I see it you guys have quite a tough job on any discussion. The free inquiry aspect of this forum makes it even more difficult than normal to try to police errant discussion.

Cheers from smoggy Hong Kong,

Chris

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Posted: 30 May 2006 01:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]If you make up your own definition when ones provided don’t suit, it doesn’t really make for reasonable debate.  LOL

Hello cgallaga,

Well, what I said was that the definitions were inadequate, in that they were not mutually exclusive: they left open the option that one was both a strong and weak atheist at the same time. But that makes them quite useless as a method of illuminating the dialogue, which is what I assumed you were trying to do by bringing them up.

At any rate what I did wasn’t an arbitrary redefinition, it was a sharpening of the definitions at issue. Further, it wasn’t question-begging in that it didn’t make my position any better, just clearer.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Though this is a tangent in a tangent: Your proof of no god assumes that what you see as evil with your limited (in time and space) perspective, is what an all seeing all knowing all powerful deity would agree is evil. It also assumes that this evil has no greater purpose (like a purpose that such a deity would understand but that you could not). That is a very egocentric view of the question and just anthropomorphizing god into your ideal rather than into a Christian one. Therefore it is only evidence of absence of a deity that ascribes to your ideal.

Yes, I know this is the Christian apologetic argument against the argument from evil.

So the other day an infant was killed in NYC. We are to assume from your argument that you think this might have been a good thing, because of something that might happen on Mars (distant in space) or in the year 2100 (distant in time). And this without any evidence whatsoever.

And you say it may not coincide with “what an all seeing all knowing all powerful deity would agree is evil” ... interesting you left out the “perfectly good” there, and that’s the crucial property. If god is perfectly good, he must agree that this is evil. If not, he is not perfectly good.

If, on the other hand, you claim that god has some special sort of ethics which is different from ours (he calls the murder of infants “good”), why should we call god “perfectly good”? Obviously, we shouldn’t. If such an entity existed, I would take it as consistent with atheism being true. This entity isn’t god, and certainly isn’t worthy of worship.

I assume you also think it’s possible that the Holocaust was a good thing? Each mudslide, tsunami, hurricane, earthquake? And that, based on absolutely no evidence at all.

These sorts of apologetics are sophistry.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]The TRUTH VALUES are incoherent (or trying to ascertain them) is what this is saying. Not that God is incoherent, but trying to claim a truth-value on the subject is incoherent.

That’s even worse. It doesn’t make any sense to say that the “truth-value is incoherent”. NB: there are only two truth values: true and false.

Neither does it make sense to say that “trying to ascertain the truth value is incoherent”, unless the thing in question is literally meaningless. And if “god” is meaningless, then clearly strong atheism is true.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]I know this miffs a lot of people but I read Occam’s razor to be in favor of an agnostic proposition because an agnostic proposition does not multiply entities beyond necessity, it makes NO assumptions or leaps of faith thus it makes no entities. It is the null result (Positive, Null, Negative).

Well, I imagine it miffs people because it isn’t Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor eliminates (that’s the “razor” part) any entities that aren’t necessary to the theory’s explanatory adequacy. Or, better put, it always opts for the simplest theory. So in this case, since god isn’t explanatorily necessary, it eliminates the theory that includes god. That isn’t consistent with agnosticism.

Occam’s Razor is just as fatal to god as to the easter bunny ... unless you can come up with some demonstrable advantage to including god or the easter bunny in your theory ... and then Occam’s Razor would say they should be included. (= you should be a theist).

[quote author=“cgallaga”]As to moving or parsing this thread I am at the mercy of you moderators, but would have no problem in any event. The way I see it you guys have quite a tough job on any discussion. The free inquiry aspect of this forum makes it even more difficult than normal to try to police errant discussion.

Well, we can see how it goes and if it strays too far we can always move it to another thread later.

Best,

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Posted: 05 June 2006 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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The definitions are widely accepted and the wikipedia version is the most democratic (and thus most common use) among them. In case you don’t know wikipedia is a collaboration of any and all interested parties.

They also agree with the definitions here.
 
and here
 
and here
 

If you follow the word roots you will find that Atheism is a strong term and means No God while agnosticism means No Knowledge.  The strong and weak appellations are relatively new and I imagine are the result of people understanding that Strong Atheism stands on as much faith as Theism, but wanting to avoid seeming milque-toast by claming agnosticism. 

I am going to have to contend that your definition was arbitrary (based on random choice or personal whim) as you present it alone without source after you found the definition not to your liking.

Does my dog care if an infant was killed? I doubt it. Good and Evil are subjective assessments that do vary through time. Look at how much we rewrite history as we discover new things branding some as good and others as evil as it suits our moral or ethical philosophy at the time of judgment.

But if you speak of a transcendent good or evil are you not then speaking by default about something supernatural? Something we cannot see or touch but that exists outside of nature?

Doug, you have a very bad habit in debate of realigning words and meanings and twisting what was said to make a point. Please stop putting words into my mouth. I NEVER claimed I know gods judgment of good or evil or that I even know god. what I said was WHEN YOU ASCRIBE YOUR DEFINITION OF GOOD AND EVIL TO A CONCEPT OF GOD YOU ARE ANTHROPOMORPHIZING THE CONCEPT OF GOD. I am certainly atheistic about a god that fits your subjective definition of good an evil.

The point being that you or I can honestly be atheistic about very specific descriptions of god, but that atheism does not prohibit other descriptions by default.

There are many schools of philosophy/theology that propose that god cannot be known or understood in any human terms. And many of those propose that the human explanation of god (the truth value) is as incoherent as a dog trying to understand an explanation of quantum theory. Those schools include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism some schools of Christianity Islamic Sufism, and Judaism as well as many forms of Deism Gnosticism and Pantheism. To reject all (and perhaps as yet discovered) ides of god because of a few current popular bad apples is hubris of the highest order.

And your earlier comment where you reject discussion or exploration of non abraham based god because you don’t feel that kind of god is very “illuminating” whatever that means, doesn’t seem a very open minded and inquiring position to take.

Please present an objective definition or perfect good (and I assume the antithesis is imperfect evil) that we are to measure this deity by. Otherwise it is just your subjective and anthropomorphic human understanding of god and fails by the same series of tests. You may not like the fact that theists can use this argument, but it is not sophistry (though interestingly the term and its adherents make a good argument for the nature of things good or evil being dependant on the subjective interpretation of the user).

And yes many things that you listed can be and often are named good or evil depending on the perception of the person making the judgment. After all the earthquakes formed our beautiful terrain and brought rich minerals to the surface enabling us to have the technology we have today. The rains are part of a weather system that gives us life, a small mudslide (we have plenty here) can help us notice slope weakness and thus prevent a major slip later. The holocaust is one of those hot button items (like comparing people to Hitler or Rosa Parks) that people like to misuse; but good things resulted from the holocaust I think anyone who wanted to look could find evidence for that.

I also find it boring to throw up Santa or the Easter Bunny whenever discussing god. Non Sequitur. The Easter Bunny and Santa were in some ways more real than the Roman Catholic God as was presented to me in youth. Those candies and gifts came from somewhere. And while my explanation of where changed over time (and through positive evidence like seeing my Mom place them out; if you ask my Mom they were a very real spirit of giving embodied in her and that she hoped through those traditions to pass on to me. Thus is an evolved and evolving definition they both are proven plausible. Adn while I may try and improve on her lessons of giving with my own children, all I will di is eveolve the tradition, not completely obliterate it.

A theory which proposes “there are no gods”  without providing positive support is duplicates entities beyond necessity. Saying I don’t know what’s going on there, does not.

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Posted: 06 June 2006 01:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]I am going to have to contend that your definition was arbitrary (based on random choice or personal whim) as you present it alone without source after you found the definition not to your liking.

As I said before, I found the definitions you quoted unilluminating, since one can be a strong and weak atheist at the same time.

Since you were the one who brought them up, not me, you should be the one to explain how they advance the debate. Why should we care whether one is a strong or weak atheist?

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Does my dog care if an infant was killed? I doubt it. Good and Evil are subjective assessments that do vary through time. Look at how much we rewrite history as we discover new things branding some as good and others as evil as it suits our moral or ethical philosophy at the time of judgment.

Well, opinions about what is good and evil change over time. That does not imply that what is actually good and evil change. Opinion over whether the world was flat changed over time too. And yet the world did not change from flat to spherical.

On your analysis slavery was good in the antebellum south but evil now. Torture was good during the Spanish Inquisition, but evil now. Is that OK with you?

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Doug, you have a very bad habit in debate of realigning words and meanings and twisting what was said to make a point. Please stop putting words into my mouth. I NEVER claimed I know gods judgment of good or evil or that I even know god. what I said was WHEN YOU ASCRIBE YOUR DEFINITION OF GOOD AND EVIL TO A CONCEPT OF GOD YOU ARE ANTHROPOMORPHIZING THE CONCEPT OF GOD. I am certainly atheistic about a god that fits your subjective definition of good an evil.

Cgallaga, before you throw around accusations of “twisting words”, you might read what I said a bit more carefully. I never said you knew what god’s judgment of good and evil was. What I said quite clearly was that if you posit a god who thinks that killing infants is moral, you are positing something that isn’t perfectly good, and hence isn’t god. That is a conditional.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]The point being that you or I can honestly be atheistic about very specific descriptions of god, but that atheism does not prohibit other descriptions by default.

Very good—here it sounds like you agree that you are an atheist about the standard definition of god ...

As I have said before many times, the definition of god that I am concerned to refute (and am atheist about) is that he is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good person who created the universe. That is the standard theological concept of god. Obviously there are many other concepts of god.

I don’t think any atheist should be concerned to refute—or disagree with—every possible definition of god. Some people (Pantheists) say that god is just the universe. On that definition of god I am a theist. So I explicitly do not reject every possible theistic definition.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]There are many schools of philosophy/theology that propose that god cannot be known or understood in any human terms. And many of those propose that the human explanation of god (the truth value) is as incoherent as a dog trying to understand an explanation of quantum theory. Those schools include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism some schools of Christianity Islamic Sufism, and Judaism as well as many forms of Deism Gnosticism and Pantheism. To reject all (and perhaps as yet discovered) ides of god because of a few current popular bad apples is hubris of the highest order.

(1) If god “cannot be known or understood in any human terms” then why are we discussing him at all? Certainly we cannot pray to such an entity, since we can’t know who to pray to, or how to pray. If we cannot understand him, then how do we know he created the universe? Since we cannot understand him, we cannot know he is perfectly good, all knowing, or all powerful, since those are human concepts. So we can’t know he is god.

I have just given you a quick argument as to why I reject this sort of theology. It is incoherent. Nobody should be concerned to refute incoherent theologies. They refute themselves.

(2) Contrary to your assumptions I am very familiar with this sort of negative theology. However it is far from universal in Buddhism and Hinduism, I can assure you.

(3) A dog can’t understand quantum theory, that is certainly correct. But that doesn’t show that the truth value of quantum theory is incoherent. It just shows that the dog can’t know the truth value of quantum theory.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Please present an objective definition or perfect good (and I assume the antithesis is imperfect evil) that we are to measure this deity by. Otherwise it is just your subjective and anthropomorphic human understanding of god and fails by the same series of tests.

Sorry, it’s not up to me to make that definition coherent, but up to the theologians who claim that god exists, or the agnostic who says that god might exist.

All I need to show is that on any sensible understanding of good, there is no reason to believe a perfectly good being created the universe. For a “sensible understanding of good” I refer to our everyday concept of good: being charitable towards others; treating others as we would have them treat us; being empathetic of others’ problems and pains; unwillingness to cause unnecessary pain; not murdering, not stealing, not lying unless absolutely necessary; and so on.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]And yes many things that you listed can be and often are named good or evil depending on the perception of the person making the judgment. After all the earthquakes formed our beautiful terrain and brought rich minerals to the surface enabling us to have the technology we have today. The rains are part of a weather system that gives us life, a small mudslide (we have plenty here) can help us notice slope weakness and thus prevent a major slip later. The holocaust is one of those hot button items (like comparing people to Hitler or Rosa Parks) that people like to misuse; but good things resulted from the holocaust I think anyone who wanted to look could find evidence for that.

Look, you are very concerned to demonstrate an agnostic position. I understand that. I certainly think there is room for a reasonable agnosticism; it is clearly no worse than a reasonable theism.

What I am interested in doing is getting clarity in the arguments.

So: is it possible that a perfectly good god was responsible for mudslides that kill thousands of people, the holocaust, babies and children dying of cancer and AIDS? Yes. There’s no logical contradiction involved in such a story. But that’s not what I was arguing. What I was arguing is that we have no reason to believe that there was any point to these senseless deaths and this terrible pain. We have to believe that every last death, every last twinge of pain, is absolutely necessary or else god is a torturer and murderer for no purpose. And are we really supposed to believe that god tortures small children with cancer in order to make adults learn things?

What would we think of a doctor who gave a baby cancer in order to teach adults things?

Is it possible that god did this? Well, I suppose it is, in the same way it’s possible that the moon is made of green cheese. But it certainly isn’t reasonable to believe.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]I also find it boring to throw up Santa or the Easter Bunny whenever discussing god. Non Sequitur. The Easter Bunny and Santa were in some ways more real than the Roman Catholic God as was presented to me in youth. Those candies and gifts came from somewhere. And while my explanation of where changed over time (and through positive evidence like seeing my Mom place them out; if you ask my Mom they were a very real spirit of giving embodied in her and that she hoped through those traditions to pass on to me. Thus is an evolved and evolving definition they both are proven plausible.

Boring?

Er, so now you’re saying that you are becoming agnostic about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? If not, then why do you say “they are both proven plausible”?

Indeed, this is the crux of my difficulties with your philosophical position. Throughout our argument you have basically said that we can’t know anything; that it’s hubris to claim knowledge; and that therefore it’s hubris to claim knowledge that god does or doesn’t exist. OK, then, what about facts about the physical world? What about mathematical theorems? We know about those, don’t we? What about the Tooth Fairy, Superman, Odin, Thor? Surely we know that those don’t exist.

Now, if you want to say that those are equally unknowable (due to issues with “hubris”), then it seems you are just misusing terms like “know”. You have a sort of private, totally idiosyncratic, way of talking about knowledge when you are discussing philosophical issues on internet forums. But I guarantee when you are back at home talking about normal things with friends you will say “I know where I left my keys.” You will say “I know that the store is out of sausages.” But these are claims of knowledge that things do and don’t exist.

If this is not what you want to claim then I am genuinely confused about what your position is.

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Posted: 10 June 2006 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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[quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]Chris I was pleased to see that you bounced Barry K again on the potential for a CFI in the East. I’m with you. Jim

Seems to no effect. I guess I can infer wrong time, wrong place or wrong person.

:wink:

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Posted: 10 June 2006 11:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]As I said before, I found the definitions you quoted unilluminating, since one can be a strong and weak atheist at the same time.

I don’t care but Atheists I have discussed with do. These terms have advanced the discussion in a myriad of ways just take a look and have a think.

By the way if you read any of the definitions provided you will see that no one (but you) claims strong and weak must be mutually exclusive and nowhere is it apparent that that should be a requirement of the terms. Neither is either term exclusive with regards to agnosticism or even theism, (as long as that theism is of a different god to the atheism). A Christian IS an atheist about Allah. I am a Strong Atheist about the supernatural god I learned of in CCD, a weak atheist about the many other descriptions of god I don’t have much information on and agnostic about the overarching principal of a divine aspect to nature.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] Well, opinions about what is good and evil change over time. That does not imply that what is actually good and evil change. Opinion over whether the world was flat changed over time too. And yet the world did not change from flat to spherical. On your analysis slavery was good in the antebellum south but evil now. Torture was good during the Spanish Inquisition, but evil now. Is that OK with you?

Don’t you understand that good and evil are subjective terms while flat or spherical are objective terms?

[quote author=“dougsmith”] before you throw around accusations of “twisting words”, you might read what I said a bit more carefully. I never said you knew what god’s judgment of good and evil was. What I said quite clearly was that if you posit a god who thinks that killing infants is moral, you are positing something that isn’t perfectly good, and hence isn’t god. That is a conditional.

Well first I didn’t throw any accusations around I made exactly one specifically to you about your words to me. And while I believe but cannot prove that your intent was to paint me with the brush of the religious, in order to appear to take sound ground.  And I believe that it is clear in the way you phrased your response, but since you now claim otherwise I’ll concede the point.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] Very good—here it sounds like you agree that you are an atheist about the standard definition of god

I am (and have noted frequently) an atheist about certain definitions of god, but I dispute what you claim is standard. How are we to determine the standard"democratically by what the most people in the world believe?

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
As I have said before many times, the definition of god that I am concerned to refute (and am atheist about) is that he is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good person who created the universe. That is the standard theological concept of god. Obviously there are many other concepts of god.

And as I said (or implied before) I think that is a very poor tact to take because it limits the community to a stifling degree. CFI is an international body intent on its message reaching a world, not just Osama Bin Laden and Pat Robertson.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] I don’t think any atheist should be concerned to refute—or disagree with—every possible definition of god. Some people (Pantheists) say that god is just the universe. On that definition of god I am a theist. So I explicitly do not reject every possible theistic definition.

Yes, and so 1. atheism does not appear to be a superior philosophical position to agnosticism. 2. Your atheism and theism aren’t mutually exclusive.  3. It seems the atheism you describe wants to avoid certain spheres of god. Does that also seem more than a bit like:

So people just instinctively distort their use of language and logic so as to escape from having to label themselves “atheist”. ... eems a much more comfortable position to be in, since it doesn’t entail a positive belief about anything theistic.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] If god “cannot be known or understood in any human terms” then why are we discussing him at all?

So discussing dark matter/energy, using a balloon and dots to try and describe a closed universe, the big bang (all can’t be known in human terms) is also a waste of time?

[quote author=“dougsmith”] I am very familiar with this sort of negative theology. However it is far from universal in Buddhism and Hinduism, I can assure you.

So it has to be universal to be considered for discussion?

[quote author=“dougsmith”]A dog can’t understand quantum theory, that is certainly correct. But that doesn’t show that the truth value of quantum theory is incoherent. It just shows that the dog can’t know the truth value of quantum theory.

Exactly.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] Look, you are very concerned to demonstrate an agnostic position. I understand that. I certainly think there is room for a reasonable agnosticism; it is clearly no worse than a reasonable theism.  What I am interested in doing is getting clarity in the arguments.

So you didn’t mean it when you said:

So people just instinctively distort their use of language and logic so as to escape from having to label themselves “atheist”. “Agnostic” just seems a much more comfortable position to be in, since it doesn’t entail a positive belief about anything theistic.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] Er, so now you’re saying that you are becoming agnostic about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?

Oh there it is again…twist twist twist…hey wait! I thought you said you were interested in getting clarity. So why keep muddying the waters?

[quote author=“dougsmith”] Indeed, this is the crux of my difficulties with your philosophical position. Throughout our argument you have basically said that we can’t know anything; that it’s hubris to claim knowledge; and that therefore it’s hubris to claim knowledge that god does or doesn’t exist.

Never said it never inferred it. I have said all along that A. all knowledge is fluid (like all everything in nature) and must be adaptable. B. As an overarching principal of the creation of everything what when where why how, I am agnostic, and I am often set upon by dogmatic authoritarian atheists who say that I am agnostic not because I don’t know but because I am somehow dishonestly trying to hide from confrontation.

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Posted: 11 June 2006 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]By the way if you read any of the definitions provided you will see that no one (but you) claims strong and weak must be mutually exclusive and nowhere is it apparent that that should be a requirement of the terms. Neither is either term exclusive with regards to agnosticism or even theism, (as long as that theism is of a different god to the atheism). A Christian IS an atheist about Allah. I am a Strong Atheist about the supernatural god I learned of in CCD, a weak atheist about the many other descriptions of god I don’t have much information on and agnostic about the overarching principal of a divine aspect to nature.

Sorry, the point I was making is that on these definitions one can be a strong and weak atheist about the same sort of god. Obviously one can be an atheist with respect to one sort of god and a believer with respect to another. That is just banal, and you are muddying the waters in implying that I don’t believe it.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Don’t you understand that good and evil are subjective terms while flat or spherical are objective terms?

Says who? You? On what evidence?

I have given a number of strong arguments as to why this is not the case, yet you persist in ignoring them.

[quote author=“cgallaga”][quote author=“dougsmith”]
As I have said before many times, the definition of god that I am concerned to refute (and am atheist about) is that he is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good person who created the universe. That is the standard theological concept of god. Obviously there are many other concepts of god.

And as I said (or implied before) I think that is a very poor tact to take because it limits the community to a stifling degree. CFI is an international body intent on its message reaching a world, not just Osama Bin Laden and Pat Robertson.

I disagree. As investigators into, and critics of, religion, we cannot be expected to take issue with literally every possible definition of god. We take issue with the standard definitions. In particular, we need to take issue with the definitions that are used to promote religious behaviors: prayer, supposed “miracles”, holy wars, etc.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Yes, and so 1. atheism does not appear to be a superior philosophical position to agnosticism. 2. Your atheism and theism aren’t mutually exclusive.  3. It seems the atheism you describe wants to avoid certain spheres of god. Does that also seem more than a bit like:

So people just instinctively distort their use of language and logic so as to escape from having to label themselves “atheist”. ... eems a much more comfortable position to be in, since it doesn’t entail a positive belief about anything theistic.

(1) In what sense do you mean “philosophically superior”?
(2) No, depending on the definition of god at issue. For any particular definition, they are—logically—mutually exclusive.
(3) I am not avoiding any definition of god. I have been perfectly clear about what I thought of each one as it came up, as you are well aware.

[quote author=“cgallaga”][quote author=“dougsmith”] If god “cannot be known or understood in any human terms” then why are we discussing him at all?

So discussing dark matter/energy, using a balloon and dots to try and describe a closed universe, the big bang (all can’t be known in human terms) is also a waste of time?

Huh? Using these techniques is understanding them in human terms. Your comment is a non sequitur.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]So you didn’t mean it when you said:

So people just instinctively distort their use of language and logic so as to escape from having to label themselves “atheist”. “Agnostic” just seems a much more comfortable position to be in, since it doesn’t entail a positive belief about anything theistic.

I did mean it. I think that’s generally true. I did not say that every agnostic does this.

[quote author=“cgallaga”][quote author=“dougsmith”] Er, so now you’re saying that you are becoming agnostic about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?

Oh there it is again…twist twist twist…hey wait! I thought you said you were interested in getting clarity. So why keep muddying the waters?

My question was an attempt to get you to clarify your position. It’s interesting that you haven’t provided any clarification except abuse.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]I have said all along that A. all knowledge is fluid (like all everything in nature) and must be adaptable. B. As an overarching principal of the creation of everything what when where why how, I am agnostic, and I am often set upon by dogmatic authoritarian atheists who say that I am agnostic not because I don’t know but because I am somehow dishonestly trying to hide from confrontation.

Well, it seems to me you’ve recently been quite clear that you are a “strong atheist” with respect to the dominant theological definition of god.

All the rest is semantics.

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Posted: 11 June 2006 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Well, it seems to me you’ve recently been quite clear that you are a “strong atheist” with respect to the dominant theological definition of god.

All the rest is semantics.

Well, no. I reject that you have portrayed any dominant theological definition of god and I doubt one can be made. I hardly think that the beliefs of a significant portion of the world can be herded into one definition or so easily dismissed.

Serendipity however has brought us full circle. Jimmy yes this type of atheism is as fundamental, as a fundamentalist Christianity or Islam in that it will adhere strictly to its own interpretation of a specific book, without allowing any broadening of meaning or adaptation through time or allow any other interpretation into the discussion.

From OED strict maintenance of ancient or fundamental doctrines of any religion or ideology.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 01:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I see we are back to the origin of this thread, which I suppose is a good thing.

There are any number of definitions of “fundamentalism” around:

  Here : A belief in the infallibility, and literal interpretation, of a particular religion’s doctrine or holy books. When applied in Abrahamic sects, it can lead to extreme prejudice and violence due to the nature of the Bible. The Crusades, the Inquisition, and witch-burning were due to fundamentalist ideals.

  Here : Movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.

  Here : a movement that sees itself opposed to Modernism, stressing the infallibility of the Bible in both religious matters and historical accuracy.

  Here : the interpretation of every word in the sacred texts as literal truth.

  Here : In comparative religion, fundamentalism has come to refer to several different understandings of religious thought and practice, including literal interpretation of sacred texts such as the Bible or the Qur’an and sometimes also anti-modernist movements in various religions.

What do these have in common? Back in the first page of this thread I proposed three elements to being a Fundamentalist:

(1) Very socially and culturally conservative,
(2) Believed in some sort of “fundamental” doctrine or creed,
(3) Was unwilling to consider any anti-atheist, anti-doctrinal evidence or arguments.

I also explained these a little, but won’t go through that again here.

So, I would submit that the atheism we’re after here, which I and others have put forward, is not fundamentalist.

(1) it is not socially or culturally conservative.
(2) it does not put forward literalist interpretations of any sacred text.
(3) it does not put forward any “fundamental” creed or doctrine. Even science is fallible.
(4) it is willing to consider theist evidence or arguments.

That is not to say that the atheist isn’t also entitled to strong beliefs. But there must be a distinction to be made between fundamentalism on the one hand and having strong beliefs on the other, otherwise being a fundamentalist loses all its force.

After all, we all strongly believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. It would be silly to say therefore we are “fundamentalists” about the sun’s rise. That’s just not what fundamentalism means.

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