Agnostic Extremists

As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, I decided to contribute to the The Blasphemy Challenge because I believed in their objectives of promoting open discussion about atheism and religion, and encouraging atheists to “come out of the closet”. It was of course no surprise that many Christians found this objectionable; what was more surprising was that many people who called themselves “agnostics” did as well. In theory, all agnostics should also be atheists, as they don’t believe in God—the definition of the word atheism itself is simply a=lack of theism=belief in God(s). However, there is a particular breed of “agnostic”—who I will call agnostic extremists—who like to say that atheism is just as much a religion as any form of theism, and who feel they are logically superior to atheists.

Of course, when Thomas Huxley originally coined the term “agnostic”, he really didn’t think he was in any position to determine the existence or non-existence of God. He certainly knew the Book of Genesis was wrong—he was “Darwin’s bulldog” after all! But like Darwin, he was unable to imagine how the universe could have come into being without some kind of “higher creative force”. At the time, this was a perfectly reasonable way to think, as we didn’t have anywhere near the knowledge of physics and astronomy that we do now. I’m sure that if Huxley and Darwin were alive today, they would call themselves atheists; and even with the knowledge that they did have, they clearly didn’t believe in God in the conventional sense anyway. Also, I don’t believe they ever said that we can never know whether God exists or not; merely that they were unable to determine this themselves.

Hence, this is very different from the modern day agnostic extremist, who states confidently that we can never know whether God exists or not—and therefore, because atheists say they do not believe in God, they have “faith” that God does not exist, just as theists have faith that he does. For one thing, this is logically absurd—you could use the same argument to say somebody has faith in anything. For example, it can immediately be turned back against these “agnostics”: using the same line of reasoning, it follows that they have “faith” that we can never know whether God exists or not! Therefore, by their own definition, they are just as religious as everybody else.

For another thing, even if we do accept the ridiculous notion of an atheist having “faith” in the non-existence of God, there is no way that such a “belief” is even in the same ballpark as believing God does exist. First of all—by definition—faith is somebody wanting to believe in something, no matter what. It is very easy to see why somebody might want to believe in God—who doesn’t want to think there’s always somebody “up there” who loves us and takes care of us, and will provide us with eternal paradise when we die (while at the same time punishing evil)? I can’t see any reason why somebody would want to be an atheist, as it often means being socially (and even professionally) stigmatised, all without the comfort of believing there’s somebody “up there” to make things right when we die. There’s only one reason I can see for somebody being an atheist: that they can’t ignore reality. This is not faith; indeed, it is the very antithesis of faith.

It is also telling that nobody claims that anyone has “faith” in the non-existence of anything else. If somebody claimed that the tooth fairy actually exists, any reasonable person would respond with disbelief, and ask them to prove it. Nobody says that people who don’t believe in the tooth fairy have “faith” in its non-existence; indeed, we would be inclined to dismiss anyone who believes in the tooth fairy as crazy. This is perfectly natural and logical: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And no claim is more extraordinary than God: a being who exists outside of the laws of our universe—and indeed the universe itself—who created it and oversees everything within it at all times. To believe in such a thing in the absence of any testable evidence is an extraordinary act of faith; to not believe in such a thing is just common sense—it is not faith at all!

Following on from this, the central argument of the agnostic extremists—that we can never know whether God exists or not—doesn’t seem very logical to me. A universe created (and in particular overseen) by God should harbour lots of evidence of his existence. Therefore, it logically follows that we theoretically should be able to determine whether God exists or not; certainly, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason to think we can’t know this. Indeed, while the atheist’s position that we should assume God doesn’t exist until his existence is proven is logical, to insist we can never know whether God exists or not seems like a big leap of faith to me!

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However, there is a particular breed of “agnostic” – who I will call agnostic extremists – who like to say that atheism is just as much a religion as any form of theism, and who feel they are logically superior to atheists.

Argh! I agree with this so much. I wrote about it here on my own blog a while back. Every time I get stuck trying to explain this to people I usually use this graphic that I drew up a few years ago to demonstrate the relationship between atheism, theism, agnosticism, and gnosticism:

(Oops. No picture shows up. You may click here to view it if you wish.)

Very cool to find your blog! I have blogrolled you over at UTI and will be reading your stuff from now on.

  
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Thanks Brent! I have added you to my blogroll as well. I really want to use this site to promote the atheist cause, so if any other atheist blogs/sites want to network with me, please let me know!

  
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Zealots in any form take illogical positions, because they feel that they must play that role. Take for instance the recent case of the two lawyers who held onto the information of a man’s innocence, for 26 years (until their client passed away), because the information would indict their client to have been sentenced for that crime as well (he confessed to them that he was guilty).

In this case the legal system causes this illogical zealotry, (defend the client zealously, regardless of the truth), but it is the bastion of the champion system of Justice that the Western and previously Western-colonized areas of the world have embraced as rule of law.

People want to be stakeholders in something. The Roman Stoics & Epicurians, whose philosophies revolved around the central idea that what they had in life was worth living for, because it was all they were going to get, were the easiest to convert to Christianity, because it gave them more to look forward to, as most Romans weren’t living grand lives as plebians or slaves.

Basically, it is a hard, hard notion for people to resolve the fact that random chemical reactions and incidental momentary interactions are the cause of everything on this fantastic planet. It seems magical, special, and impossible without some outside intelligent influence…. This is of confounded by the anthromorphic traits given to these random strings of DNA, with theories like the “Selfish Gene” which suggests that these things have some imbued intent to self-replicate, when chemical analysis shows that only when things are fortunate (lucky) enough for replication to take place, that they actually do.

From our perspective it looks hard/irreconcilably complex, when in fact, strangely enough, it is simply what happens when the right pieces bump into each other at the proper energy level!

Too much again, but zealotry is based on stakeholding, not on purely logically reasoned conclusions. Zealotry can be manufactured by social institutions or come from within the person’s unwillingness to evaluate outside information. It doesn’t matter, the result is the same – Zealotry, and because of their social or personal persuasion, the concept of progressive argument to a conclusion other than their own is not a highly realistic outcome, especially if they have resources/investments and/or social networks that depend on the defense of those beliefs.

  
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Atheism is absolutely “faith” based. As much as you would like to deny it, there is no proof of the non-existence of God. Until you have conclusive, scientific evidence of His non-existence you are, essentially, basing your conjecture on “faith”. Faith that your belief is both accurate and logical.

This is the very reason why agnostics (and people who follow religions) cry foul with the hypocrisy of atheism. Your final paragraph echoes man’s lack of evidence for or against the possibility of a “Creator”. Phrases such as “theoretically should” and “doesn’t seem to be” belies your notion that atheism is not “faith” based. Perhaps one day we might have proof that will finally put the topic to rest – but, until then, you’re going to just have to faithfully believe your Word over their Word.

Of course, the word “faith” itself has been irrevocably linked to religion – something that is utterly anathema to the very core of atheism. In the end, we’re arguing semantics. “Faith”, by definition, is trusting and/or having confidence in something or someone when there are no objective facts to support said thing or person. Atheists will, of course, never admit their opinions could be defined as a form of “faith”.

I would also argue against the idea that proving God’s existence (or lack thereof) is unknowable requires a “big leap of faith”. I would argue that there are many cosmic mysteries that Man may never be able to solve or understand. The universe is vast and we barely know anything about the very planet we live on! I call it arrogant to assume that Man will be able to unlock all of life’s mysteries. I would be more inclined to say that Man’s fire will be extinguished in this universe long before we have all of the “answers”. In fact, I would argue that we may never know the right “questions”.

Until then (or until never), these types of metaphysical arguments are but mental masturbation. It’s an exercise in futility to try to argue or prove one view over the other – but it can really get the blood flowing, can’t it? ^_^

Lastly, I just want to say that I quite enjoyed reading your article, Sachiko. Very articulate and interesting. I think we’ll disagree on our views of atheism and agnosticism – but I really enjoy reading alternative viewpoints as it really puts into question the “faith” (sorry, couldn’t resist) I have for my own beliefs (I’m agnostic, if that wasn’t obvious). I just wish more people were willing to challenge their beliefs and listen to what others are saying – which is one of the main reasons I detest religions. But I digress…

Cheers!

  
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Hi sevendeuce,

Can’t you see that – taking your argument to its logical conclusion – thinking anything at all becomes a matter of faith? Can’t you see that, by your own line of reasoning, you also have “faith” that we can never know whether God exists or not? And can’t you also see that God is the only thing anybody says we have “faith” in the non-existence of? See how silly and illogical this is? We either have to accept that you can’t have faith in the non-existence of something, or we have to say that to think anything at all is a matter of faith. In which case, using the word “faith” becomes utterly pointless!

Still, thanks for your compliments anyway!

  
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The Bible is flawed from the beginning. According to Genesis, the whole of mankind was borne from the offspring of Adam and Eve. This is scientifically and medically impossible because of the severe genetic breakdown from inbreeding which is what Genesis implies.

It happens again with the story of the Great Flood with Noah and his family recreating not only all of mankind from their loins but also all the plant and animal life on Earth. Not only is this impossible due to the previous paragraph’s explanation but also logistically as well. For example, this means that Noah knew the location of Australia traveled there, picked up a pair of koalas and kangaroos and made it back to the ark in time to pack them in with the lions, tigers, and other very hungry meat-eating animals. Don’t get me started on the 30 days and 30 nights of rain to flood the Earth to cover Mount Everest because it took several hundred millions of years of rain to create the oceans alone! It’s also difficult to breath at that altitude, not to mention very cold. Under those cold and wet conditions, they were all very lucky not to catch pneumonia and die especially Noah since he was a few hundred years old.

Then we have the issues of people living to very extreme old age of several hundred years which again is impossible because if you think health care is bad now back then it was non-existant, you were lucky to see 30 much less 600-800 years of age. I’ve done the math of converting those huge numbers to months because a lot of groups/tribes recognized the lunar cycle instead of the solar cycle and with that done, those ages are a more respectable 50-66 years of age. As I said earlier, most people didn’t make it past 30 but those who did were usually the ones in power or wealthy who didn’t have to struggle every day to put together scraps of food to feed a family, defend the home/country from attack, .etc.

Every time I bring these comments up at work or where ever, the religious folk immediately find fault with everything I’ve said because it doesn’t apply because God works in mysterious ways and the normal laws of nature doesn’t apply to him. In other words everything in the Bible only makes sense if you believe in magic, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, .etc.

Unfortunately years ago I would’ve been burned at the stake, drowned, drawn and quartered, .etc for uttering these blasphemous remarks. I’ve always found it ironic that if someone speaks out against God, the Bible, .etc they have to be silenced. I believe that if God is all powerfull/all knowing that he will survive regardless because he’s seen this. But no, I’m wrong according to the Church God can’t have any competion either good or bad. I guess the Church doesn’t have much faith in God to survive public scrutiny.

Until modern times, scientists had to get their work approved (blessed) by the Church. Due to the Inquisition, Galileo spent the last years of his life in prison and later house arrest when he finally recanted his belief of heliocentrism (the Sun being the center of the solar system and not Earth). There are other scientists who suffered similar or worse fates for their views and others simply kept separate diaries of their work to avoid the conflict with the Church and to pass it on to future generations.

In closing, if we’re going to survive as a species we have to abandon religion which does nothing but to divide and confuse everyone. Instead we should all work together for the betterment of all mankind and life on Earth.

  
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Please follow the Message and read sincerely
PIECE OF CAKE?
Sometimes we ask ourselves: What did I do to deserve this ?
Why does God let these things happen to me?
HERE IS THE EXPLANATION
A daughter tells her mother how everything is going wrong for her! She probably failed her math exam; Her boyfriend just dumped her for her best friend. The time so bad, a good mother knows just the things to cheer up her daughter: I make a delicious Cake. In that moment the mother hugged her daughter and walked her to the Kitchen, while her daughter attempted to smile.
While the mother prepared the Utencils and ingredients her daughter sat across from her at the counter. Mother asks sweetheart would you like a piece of cake? Her daughter replies, Sure mom you know I love cake.Alright the mother said drink some of the cooking oil: shocked the daughter responded What?!? No Way!!!
How about a couple of raw eggs? to this the daughter responded Are you kidding? ok How about a little flour? No mom I’ll be sick! the mother responded All of these things are uncooked and taste bad but if you put them together the make a delicious cake.
God works the same way when we ask ourselves why does he make us go through these difficult times, we don’t realize the what/where these events may bring us only He knows and He will not let us fall. We don’t need to settle for the raw ingredients, trust in Him and see something fantastic come about!
God loves us so much, He send us flower every spring, He makes the sun rise every morning and anything you need to talk He is there to listen? He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chooses to live in our heart!
Message to those who truly appreciate. I did & I hope your day is a piece of cake.

Have a great cake OOPS! I mean a great Day.

  
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@sevendeuce

It really is ridiculous to say i have faith that God doesn’t exist. One does not have to have faith in something not existing. i know cats and dogs and cars exist, because i have 2 cats, i play with my neighbors dog and i drive my car. These things exist. God is an imaginary construct of people who need to believe in something more, who need to believe there is some great purpose to all things. This protects their psyches when tragedies happen.

There is no greater purpose behind my cousin and his child being murdered, or the mass murders that happen in schools, or any other great tragedy. They happen because they happen.

It takes no faith to believe aliens do not exist, or that ghosts do not exist, or that psychics do not exist. These things are completely fanciful beliefs which take faith to believe are true. The lack of faith is not another form of faith.

Growing up when i was told to do something because the adult said so, they were asking for my faith that they were right. i rarely, if ever, gave it. i wanted explanation, i wanted evidence. Why was it better to do it their way instead of mine.

If i tell you that i can fly just by flapping my arms really hard, does it require faith on your part to know that i am mistaken or delusional or lying? Or do you simply understand that no matter how hard i flap my arms, i will not lift off of the ground and go soaring through the air like a bird?

When someone tells me everything was made by some all knowing, all powerful invisible being who talks to me through pedophiles and crusty old guys in Italy, i do not need faith to believe them mistaken or delusional or lying. That is simply the way it is.

  
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Hi Sachiko,
I don’t reckon you’ll remember me except to say I was a guy who posted to your myspace blog pretty much not agreeing with anything you said ( Atheism/ George Bush)but agreeing your views are well formed and well thought out. This latest blog is pure scholarship and one of the best pieces of philosophy I’ve ever read. I really love it.
I think that one of the aspects of evolution that possibly cannot be quantified is whether a belief in God/ “Superstition” is hereditary or environmental in origin at the level of each one of us and whether this believe system had an evolutionary advantage. Certainly most cultures appear to have had both a religious and afterlife type scenario and religion appears to have served a purpose to bind groups of people together and enforce a type of early rule and law = priest law. You mention that people only believe in a god because adults told them so as children. Again, its very hard to disprove you’re right. I have my own totally unprovable theory though: I believe our brains are designed so that most people believe in a god or some form of superstition, even something as simple as tarot cards or horoscopes; others, on the otherhand, have some difference in their brains that honestly does not allow them to believe in a god no matter what pressure is put on them to believe. Somewhere in there we have 3 players: the schizotypal prophet generating an image of reflecting god’s glory/ or some ideal state such as nationalism/communism, the faithful sheep/cult members/rank and file who ae religious/superstitious sensitive and then the skeptics who just couldn’t believe. In a way, this supports some of your arguement because I guess Agnostics are really people with supertitious minds who are brainwashed in the atheist direction (= really part of the sheep group) while atheists are a subtype of the 3rd generally skeptical grouping. Its not that the skeptics can’t believe in anything its that they can’t believe in completely intuitive concepts like god. This scenario is possibly an evolutionary device that makes our species successful because to some extent we often need a man/woman of vision(=schizotypal prophet) to supply a promised land and a new way of life(= cult) when our environment gets tough( eg famines) while we need a certain number of skeptics to pull the sheep away from the prophet/cult leader should his vision be seen to be distructive to the group. I believe my own brain architecture makes it very hard for me to disbelieve in God no matter how much hypocrisy/scandal is exposed about my religion: I simply regroup the basis for my belief in God and jettison the erring religion. I also believe that not in a million years could Sachiko believe in a god because that is your brain architecture: you simply teased out your childhood teachings and gained enough confidence to reject a god notion.

The real reason I’m posting on your website is I’m wondering a little about the significance of quantum mechanics on the whole God argument. Science is essentially postulated on the premise that every phenomenon has a definable cause and that nowhere should a supernatural being be required. But I understand that in quantum mechanics, the mathematical solutions to Schroedinger’s wave equation seem to suggest that by observing, atleast, a microsystem we, the observer, force that system into a given reality, an eigenvector solution in maths I guess(???). This kind of suggests that observers are part of the scenario that brings quantum states into reality. As a child in the 70′s I was fascinated by this old Open University physics course where a scientist in flaired trousers did an experiment called Youngs Interference experiment. Two laser beams were allowed to interfer while passing through a diffraction slit. An interference pattern arises on a detector screen rapidly. The intensity of the beams is reduce down to a level of one photon emitted from each and the 2 photons are seen to interfere also. Finally one laser is shut down and the expectation is that the pattern of interference will stop as there is no longer a seconf photon to interact with…It doesn’t! The explanation in the programme from the 1960′s was that possibly the single photon interfered with a photon from another universe existing in our own time-space! That absolutely fascinated me. I believe a more modern quantum mechanical explanation is that the single photon exists in 2 possible states which interfere with each other. A camera is placed beside the slit towards one side and I think the observation of the photon destroys the duality of states and the interference pattern disappears. Both explanations are fascinating- one suggests that another universe(s) exist where our laws of physics need not apply ( the existence of a God who could bend our laws of physics was one of your arguments against god) = Multiverse theory of quantum mechanics, while the second explanation appears to suggest the observer is the creator of our reality. I understand string theory, a newer mathematical theory that appears to try and linearise all know phenomena in equations of 11 dimensions ( ????I’m no expert) suggests that the quantum principles don’t apply to large systems where the string equations then approximate Newton’s classical laws in physics. But, there still is a strong suspiction in my mind that other possibilities do really exist beyond a black and white atheist explanation. For example who observed reality before us or is any observer needed except in the case of very small isolated systems ( Quantum states). Could a God simply observe the Big bang( which surely was a quantum sized state) to bring about its reality, but before the bang is observed a wide spectrum of probabilities is all that existed. Is it possible there are other universes where our laws of physics do not apply such that evolution is impossible…just empty and void ? Are we just a universe in a sampling landscape of all possible outcomes of the big bang where the odds are against a reality being created with our laws that allow random evolution to progress.
I don’t understand a lot about physics and my science degree is in genetics which is completely evolutionary based. Indeed, the opposite happened to me- my belief in God as expressed in a so called free debate on philosophy in a class given by the genetics professor made me a marked man and ended my career in science because to believe in a god is as good as saying to them you reject their data accumulation methods of explaining phenomena. I have a minor level of maths that went with the degree so to some extent I can understand the concepts of wavefunctions and solutions to wavefunctions. However, I was wondering if you’d get interested in this type of thing: quantum mechanics/ schroedingers cat/ heisenberg uncertainty principle/ the concept of Entropy being the arrow of time and see what you think..whether it could shift you towards a sort of agnostic view of the universe that we can never know enough to prove either way ?? Is our existence not so random but the reason why our universe is as it is ?

Thanks for reading my silly thoughts but you kinda have a mind that thinks for itself and I like everything you say even though I believe in a God and I think Bush is probably the type of ignoramous we need at this time of crisis !!!!!:D

  
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Hi John,

I have to be honest with you – quantum mechanics goes way over my head! I think one of the originators of quantum mechanics said something like: “if you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t really understand quantum mechanics”. I absolutely agree. ;-)

I can say this though: it was a long hard road for me to become an atheist. It certainly wasn’t something I was predisposed to. Although I was always suspicious of the claims of religion, I still had a lot of difficulty accepting that there wasn’t anything else “out there”, and that nothing would happen when I die. But the more I learned, the more I just couldn’t ignore that God doesn’t exist.

Funny thing is though, once I did let go of any belief in God, I found it very freeing and empowering – I suddenly felt in complete control of my own destiny, and able to enjoy life for what it really is.

Oh, and thanks for the compliments on the article, but as English is my second language, I’m afraid it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as scholarly without my webmaster Lee’s help in writing it. :-)

  
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As one who is inclined to belief, but who also recognizes the gross limitations in religious doctrine and the inherent quandaries in commonly expressed viewpoints about a supreme being, I enjoy reading – and being challenged by – the opinions that I find on blogs such as this one.

Sachiko, I find the freedom and empowerment that you felt upon letting go of any belief in God interesting. In the discussions I’ve had on the subject, I find that reactions to religion – as opposed to the concept of a spiritual realm or of a higher being stripped of surrounding doctrine – are at the core of the issue. It’s certainly understandable, considering the unfortunate tendency to personalize God and to cite a list of rules and regulations that must be followed if one wants to avoid dire consequences in the assumed afterlife (not to mention punishment in the earthly life). I wonder if the sense of freedom comes from letting go of the anxiety produced by guilt and fear projected on us by the religious legalists?

I think that, at least for me, any meaningful discussion regarding the existence of a supreme being – and what the nature of that being might be – requires getting past a lot of narrow doctrine and mindless superstition. Just dealing with the self-indulgent concept of “miracles” (one of my pet peeves), let alone the false arguments of God vs. science or the unsatisfactory efforts to come to terms with evil in the world in spite of a purportedly loving and all-powerful entity, are more than enough for openers!

I find fascinating the accounts I’ve read of scientists who, after years of examining the material world from a purely rational standpoint, find themselves drawn to the idea of God. I’m not suggesting that such experiences should be persuasive (they are hardly universal), but they do open the possibility that perhaps God really is revealed in the details. Ultimately the people of faith may come to recognize a supreme entity that is far more impersonal than they envision (ala the Buddhists, or the 18th century philosophes) while the rationalists may be reminded that not everything can be comprehended intellectually.

I guess it really does come down to how we define the terms and then reaching our own conclusions based on our life experiences and ways of thinking. Some people can never get past the certainties they were raised with, while others can’t get past the failure of those certainties to provide satisfactory answers to the most profound questions. I choose to keep an open mind and follow the questions wherever they may lead.

Oh and as a P.S., thanks for posting the Carlin video – an old favorite! ;)

  
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Thanks for your intelligent comments Keith. It is gratifying to see so many intelligent comments actually, both pro and con (and in between!), and enjoyable to read them.

One thing I would like to point out though: it seems to me that the Buddha was an atheist, as he did not believe in any Gods. Of course, a modern atheist rarely accepts the concepts of Karma, reincarnation and Nirvana, but these concepts certainly are not incompatible with atheism as such, and do not require any Gods (even though almost all modern Buddhists are actually thiests, sadly).

As to the sense of freedom I felt when becoming an atheist, I never was a Christian of any sort – or a follower of any mainstream religion actually – so I don’t think I felt any sense of guilt being lifted. It’s actually more subtle than that. If there’s a God “up there” who made everything and controls everything, then what power do I have to really do anything? I would just be a pawn on his chess board. But I was never consciously aware of this (I didn’t even really think about it actually), until I let go of it. It was only then that I realised how restricted this made me feel, and I suspect a lot of other people might feel the same way, if they are able to make the same breakthrough I did.

  
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I am gonna make this short and not really give my input on this matter. I hope that you do not think I am spamming you. I just had to let you in on few sites that I really enjoy and I think most Christians and any religious folks should have a look at.

Main site: http://godisimaginary.com/
Blog http://blog.myspace.com/godlessuniverse
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GIIVideo

I hope you enjoy these my friend.

=]

  
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Of course you aren’t spamming me! Lee’s just set things up so that when people post links, the comment goes to the moderation queue – this is to protect our site against actual spam. Of course, if the message is legitimate, we will approve it!

  
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Please Follow This Step-By-Step Folks:

1. God was at the very beginning of everything.

2. God created everything.

3. God holds everything together.

4. God determines what will happen in the future.

5. God begins with the Letter “G.”

Therefore, God’s Real Name Is: Gravity

  
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It’s been my experience that there is very little ‘open discussion’ in many community sites, usually it’s one ideologue against another. Glad to see it’s different here.

  
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Thanks John! I certainly want to hear from all different points of view on these very complex topics.

  
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Hi Sachiko,

Many atheists argue that they believe in rationality over belief. However, one thing has striked over my head and my mom and teacher always said: If world would have been better without any religion, so how on Earth did we develop ourselves from leading an ascetic life like tribes to civilised modern beings right now. All aspects oin the development of humanity came about from religious values, if not, then we would have been ignorant as the tribes. Morality developed out of religions, without it we would have found nothing wrong to kill somebody. Furthermore, most atheists like Angelina Jolie chant “thank God” or ” oh Lord” quite often. Is there rebuttal for all this?

  
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“Thank God” and “oh Lord” are just common expressions which mean nothing at all, like “holy s**t!” – does that mean we worship excrement? ;-)

As for the idea that morality comes from religion, nothing could be further from the truth! After all, if we did what God does in the Bible, we’d all be mass murderers, amongst many, many other horrible things (the God of the Old Testament must be the most vile, evil and despicable being ever created by mankind!). I will be writing a post in the future to explain where our morality really comes from.

  
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Hi Sachiko,

All the best. May the forces be with you! :-)

  
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I like your article, and you raised good points. But honestly, to call “extremist” the agnostics who think atheism is a form of belief, is going too far. I respect atheism as a choice, but to an agnostic like me, it IS a form of belief. Though not for the reasons you stated. It’s far more simple:

I haven’t had a look outside the universe or into other planes of existence. I don’t know what is out there. The possibilities are infinite until we can have a peek out there. As a result, I think that choosing an answer for a question we can’t know the answer to (yet), is a form of belief. Among trillions and trillions of possible stuff that can be there out of the universe, the believer choses one, and the atheist chooses one. OK, perfect, I don’t mind, since I’ve known good people among the atheists, the believers and the agnostics, and as long as people are good, productive and reasonable, I don’t care what their approach to that topic is. However, from the point of view of an agnostic, it isn’t evident that there is no God, or gods, or whatever… You are sure there is no god. I’m not. Of course, some day we may know if there is or not, but as I wrote before, it requires taking a good look out of the universe. Which we may be able to do some day, but we can’t do now. So, from my point of view, there’s a question which, so far, has unlimited answers. The believer chooses an answer that works for him (life after death, justice, a loving god). The atheists also chooses an answer (among possible trillions) that works for him (there’s no evidence of God, so there is no god or gods, I work in the here and now). From my point of view, both atheists and believers choose one answer among the possible trillions answers. And it IS a chosen answer, since so far we can’t really know which one is true. So, despite the difference you see, from an agnostic point of view, the atheist approach seems pretty similar to the believer’s approach. No offense meant, but you have CHOSEN an answer that you don’t really have.

Now, about your “that argument can be applied to everyone who doesn’t believe”, I think it’s flawed. You could tell me I have faith in pink invisible unicorns NOT existing. But there’s a difference. I can have a look, and investigate, and try to find proof in this universe, and in this universe, pink invisible unicorns do not exist (out of it, I wouldn’t say). So, atheists haven’t seen god in this universe and plane of existence. Problem is… we don’t know what’s out there. And we can’t know… yet. Maybe some day we’ll solve the question. But until it’s solved, you have chosen an answer for that question, and it’s logical for those of us who remain unknowing, to perceive your choice as somewhat similar to the choice of believers.

Of course, you can tell me that if there is some huge being out of the universe, that doesn’t mean that any religion in Earth is true, that those were created by humans and that the infinite possibilities out of our universe don’t have to mean we get an afterlife and a loving god after death. Now that’s a good point. But among your other points, there are flaws. For example, try not to use what you think other people might have thought. You don’t know what Darwin would have said, so try to use the opinions of atheists if you want to back your points, don’t use agnostics and then try to make them atheists. I know it sucks that someone so intelligent that Newton was a believer, and that it possibly was because he had no other answer for the huge questions. But though I understand your point about Darwin and Huxley, it’s just as far-fetched as the “Jesus would have done X” of the believers. Newton was Christian, Darwin and Huxley were agnostics, and if you want atheist scientists to support your claims, you have lots. Use them. Don’t invent what agnostics would have been nowadays. It doesn’t add credibility to your points.

And… try not to call agnostics “extremists”, only because we perceive your choice of answers somewhat similar to that of believers’. I don’t consider myself superior to either believers or atheists, but I can’t help to perceive atheism as a form of belief. As I told, I don’t think it’s evident that there is no… being out of this universe. I’d rather say I don’t have the answers than choose one among trillions. I wouldn’t call that extremism.

  
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Thanks for your comments Dama!

Originally Posted By Dama
I haven’t had a look outside the universe or into other planes of existence. I don’t know what is out there. The possibilities are infinite until we can have a peek out there. As a result, I think that choosing an answer for a question we can’t know the answer to (yet), is a form of belief. Among trillions and trillions of possible stuff that can be there out of the universe, the believer choses one, and the atheist chooses one. OK, perfect, I don’t mind, since I’ve known good people among the atheists, the believers and the agnostics, and as long as people are good, productive and reasonable, I don’t care what their approach to that topic is. However, from the point of view of an agnostic, it isn’t evident that there is no God, or gods, or whatever… You are sure there is no god. I’m not. Of course, some day we may know if there is or not, but as I wrote before, it requires taking a good look out of the universe. Which we may be able to do some day, but we can’t do now. So, from my point of view, there’s a question which, so far, has unlimited answers. The believer chooses an answer that works for him (life after death, justice, a loving god). The atheists also chooses an answer (among possible trillions) that works for him (there’s no evidence of God, so there is no god or gods, I work in the here and now). From my point of view, both atheists and believers choose one answer among the possible trillions answers. And it IS a chosen answer, since so far we can’t really know which one is true. So, despite the difference you see, from an agnostic point of view, the atheist approach seems pretty similar to the believer’s approach. No offense meant, but you have CHOSEN an answer that you don’t really have.

This is a misunderstanding of my position, and that of most other reasonable atheists I would imagine. We aren’t sure God doesn’t exist; we merely start with the logical assumption that he doesn’t until there is evidence to suggest otherwise, which is the true scientific and skeptical approach to determining the existence or otherwise of anything. We feel our opinion is actually less of a belief than your’s, as you are starting with the belief that the existence or otherwise of God is inherently unknowable, which is illogical, given that evidence of his existence should be everywhere. We do not accept that there is any reason that the question of the existence of God should be given any sort of special treatment relative to any other question of the existence or non-existence of anything. Once again, we do not believe in the non-existence of God – we simply don’t believe in the existence of anything for which there is no evidence. You on the other hand believe in the idea that the existence of God is inherently unknowable, which once again is illogical. So in summary, by the same logic agnostics use, you have at least as much faith as atheists do (indeed, in my opinion more so).

Now, about your “that argument can be applied to everyone who doesn’t believe”, I think it’s flawed. You could tell me I have faith in pink invisible unicorns NOT existing. But there’s a difference. I can have a look, and investigate, and try to find proof in this universe, and in this universe, pink invisible unicorns do not exist (out of it, I wouldn’t say). So, atheists haven’t seen god in this universe and plane of existence. Problem is… we don’t know what’s out there. And we can’t know… yet. Maybe some day we’ll solve the question. But until it’s solved, you have chosen an answer for that question, and it’s logical for those of us who remain unknowing, to perceive your choice as somewhat similar to the choice of believers.

Once again, there is no logical reason to think that the question of the existence of God is any different to the question of existence of pink unicorns, or anything else for that matter – you could apply exactly the same special pleading to pink unicorns that you do to God. See how silly this is?

Of course, you can tell me that if there is some huge being out of the universe, that doesn’t mean that any religion in Earth is true, that those were created by humans and that the infinite possibilities out of our universe don’t have to mean we get an afterlife and a loving god after death. Now that’s a good point. But among your other points, there are flaws. For example, try not to use what you think other people might have thought. You don’t know what Darwin would have said, so try to use the opinions of atheists if you want to back your points, don’t use agnostics and then try to make them atheists. I know it sucks that someone so intelligent that Newton was a believer, and that it possibly was because he had no other answer for the huge questions. But though I understand your point about Darwin and Huxley, it’s just as far-fetched as the “Jesus would have done X” of the believers. Newton was Christian, Darwin and Huxley were agnostics, and if you want atheist scientists to support your claims, you have lots. Use them. Don’t invent what agnostics would have been nowadays. It doesn’t add credibility to your points.

Actually, I put this point in there mainly to pre-empt one of the most common arguments used by agnostic extremists (Darwin and Huxley were agnostics, so who are you to argue with them?).

And… try not to call agnostics “extremists”, only because we perceive your choice of answers somewhat similar to that of believers’. I don’t consider myself superior to either believers or atheists, but I can’t help to perceive atheism as a form of belief. As I told, I don’t think it’s evident that there is no… being out of this universe. I’d rather say I don’t have the answers than choose one among trillions. I wouldn’t call that extremism.

The people I call extremists are those who consider their opinion to be logically superior to that of atheists (and think athesits and theists have equal levels of faith), so in that sense, you aren’t one.

  
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OK, misunderstanding solved. However, your definition of atheism has struck me, I would say that’s really close to my definition of agnosticism. I’d change “assumption there is no god unless proven” by “assumption you can’t know what there is unless able to seek for proof”.

I don’t consider my opinion to be logically superior to that of atheists, but:

We feel our opinion is actually less of a belief than your’s, as you are starting with the belief that the existence or otherwise of God is inherently unknowable

I didn’t say the existence or otherwise of God/demiurg/source/creator/creators was inherently unknowable, I said it’s inherently unknowable NOW. Yet. Nowadays. Some day we’ll know. I choose to make no assumptions whatsoever until I can know the answer. I’m pretty sure we’ll find an answer some day. I’m postponing the act of answering to a question I don’t have the means of answering yet. I believe that the question to that answer will probably be found by mankind some day. But I think I have little chances of being alive when that happens. I find my reasons for not choosing an answer just as logical as anyone else’s.

  
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Hi Dama,

It seems there isn’t very much difference in how we feel: as I said, you are not one of the extremists I was referring to. However, because of the inherent nature of God, I’m not sure we could ever have enough knowledge to absolutely disprove his existence – there will likely always be things we don’t know, and God could forever reside in that realm. Once again, it is extremely difficult to absolutely disprove anything, so I treat the question of God the same way as I treat everything else: there is no evidence to support his existence, so I start with the logical assumption that he doesn’t exist.

  
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