Monday, October 01, 2007

I believe in one less god

Richard Carrier, in Sense and Goodness Without God, writes on page 255:

But if the idea of a god is inherently illogical (if the very idea is self-contradictory or meaningless), or if it is contradicted by the evidence, then there are strong positive reasons to take a harder stance as an atheist – with respect to that particular god. For in this sense, even believers are strong atheists – they deny the existence of hundreds of gods. Atheists like me merely deny one more god than everyone else already does – in fact, I deny the existence of the same god already denied by believers in other gods, so I am not doing anything that billions of people don’t do already.

In other words, if you are a Christian, you probably don't believe in the existence of Allah, Vishnu or any of the myriad of other gods that people have followed throughout history. I don't believe in those gods either, so in this sense I'm not all that different to you. The only small difference is that I believe in one less God.

34 comments:

JP said...

I forget who originally penned that phrase but it went something like this. "I contend that we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer Gods then you"

JP said...

By the way, brother. Your blog is a gem. As one who is going through the growing pains of coming to certain realizations, I am taking in a lot of what you have shared about your own experiences. Though I do believe in some sort of "higher power" (though not theistic. I am still going through the uncertainty, doubt, fear and anger that I have yet to share with my own Christian wife.

Jason Hughes said...

After I read the title of your post, a commercial that was airing on television over here popped into my head:

I want to be one less,
One Less!


Of course, that was an ad for the vaccine against the virus that causes 50% of cervical cancer cases in women, but since the fundies are against that too, thinking it will turn all their daughters into sluts, well... It sort of ties in, doesn't it?

:D

rodolfo said...

I heard this from Dawkins first and I have to say it's been very useful in conversations.

"We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." --Richard Dawkins

Wayne Fowles said...

That is true that you believe in one less God. But that one less can mean a whole lot. Just being one less can mean making it or not. Take a whole bunch of zeros e.g. 000000 - they are nothing but put a one "1" in front of them. There value changes to 1 million 1000000. Now that is something. That one less God can mean the difference between Eternal Life or Death or simply nothing.

The choice is yours in the end. One or no one. Difference or no difference.

I am a Christian, and that One has made the world of difference in my life, when I chose to truly walk with the One. Jesus.

rodolfo said...

Wayne Fowles said: That one less God can mean the difference between Eternal Life or Death or simply nothing.

How can you make that extraordinary claim? Where's the evidence? Because it's in the bible? Can you absolutely (and honestly) make those claims without using faith IN the bible? I think you should demand more evidence than what's written in the bible.

P3T3RK3Y5 said...

Allah is the arabic word for God - used by (Coptic) christians as well as muslims in the middle east - we three undoubtedly worship the same (Abrahams God). and I am discovering the hinduism is mono-theistic, at least as claimed by the some hindu's - which is good enough for me. muslims claim christians are polytheistic - but christians don't see it that way. we probably think the great four spirits of the american indians are polytheistic – not sure we need to look at it that way tough. While Buddhism is somewhat agnostic – I find it compelling. i guess my thought is a finite representation of infinity is kinda hard to get your head around - and creating a metaphor for what that looks like is imperfect at every level. thinking of the great infinity in terms of three, four, or a thousand manifestation can begin to make sense. i think there is a compelling case that a singular God, and his truth, continues to reveal himself to mankind in reality.

When Ghandi was asked whether he was a Hindu, he replied: "Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew".

I can agree with your point that I don’t subscribe to a polytheistic world– primarily because I see world of coherence and not confusion (e.g. the Greeks) – but I’m not sure how weak my case is, or how strong your argument is, if I am willing to drop the exclusivity of a particular monotheistic faith particularly when I see that same monotheistic faith and those truths echoed over and over again in culture & language & geography & time.

I do think you make a strong argument and a good point – that you can’t maintain a theistic position with an exclusivist hold on your God and feel like you have a firm ground to stand on – ground that is appreciably different from “total atheists” (so it’s a brilliant argument in this case – one we could all stand to grasp). But I would argue, for instance, that someone born in Saudi Arabia can not deny the Christ – because they have a zero percent chance of knowing the Christ I know growing up in America – so they are not denying “the American Christ” they are only denying a caricature … just like I would have difficulty authentically denying anything but the caricature I have in my mind of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

bint alshamsa said...

In other words, if you are a Christian, you probably don't believe in the existence of Allah, Vishnu or any of the myriad of other gods that people have followed throughout history.

Even the Bible acknowledges the existence of other gods. A god is any thing or person that one worships. So, I was always taught to believe in the existence of other gods even though I may not worship in the same way as others do. It costs me nothing to show respect for other religions. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me by being open to the idea that other religions are just as valid as mine. They are all expressions of belief.

That said, I don't think we need to rely on this faulty "just one less god than you" argument in order to establish that atheists are not all that different from theists. Like theists, atheists base their actions on what they believe about the world. I believe they are doing what seems right in their eyes. It is the same with theists.

w.v.: shpro
Shapiro, maybe?

rodolfo said...

Sometimes I forget why I stopped "believing." What am I denying anyway? Well I deny or don't believe in the claim that there is a god that listens and answers to my prayers, cares about my sexual preference, cares what i do on Sunday or chooses who wins a football game. This is the truth that I'm after. Is it possible for this god to exist? Yes. Probable? Unlikely. I think the difference that I'm seeing between theists and atheists is that atheists do not see the bible as proof of this being's existence. The bible is nasty. Second if you believe in the idea that there is actually some invisible man up in the skies who answers your prayers then this is delusional. That's faith in action. One of the most difficult things for me to accept when I left Christianity was that faith is not a virtue. When I finally chose to accept this that's when everything started to unravel. I always had a problem calling myself Christian because of my doubts but now I fully embrace my non-bible-believing stance.

bint alshamsa said...

Rodolfo,

I think the difference that I'm seeing between theists and atheists is that atheists do not see the bible as proof of this being's existence.

Hmmm. Maybe this is true about some theists but there's no reason to believe it's true about most. I think the Bible has its good parts (love thy neighbor) and its not so good part (that dashing babies against the wall stuff). However, I don't think that a book can prove anything. It's the message within a book that can (possibly) establish something as true.

if you believe in the idea that there is actually some invisible man up in the skies who answers your prayers then this is delusional.

Are you saying that this idea is delusional? If so, how (in your view) would one go about proving this?

The Don said...

This is a really great blog, I will check back regularly. This one less god argument is often used by both Dawkins an Harris to try and foster a better understanding, by theists, of an atheists position. Nice work.

rodolfo said...

The message in the bible is this: Bible god created the universe and everything in it. Bible god wants you to acknowledge that. Bible god sent himself down in the form of a homosapien by virgin birth. This homosapien was tortured and executed but managed to rise from the dead. Bible god wants all homosapiens to love and worship him for this sacrifice. If homosapiens don't then he sends these evil homosapiens to hell...for eternity

Sure I used to think the golden rule was the message. But is this really revelation? Is it such a mystery that a smile offered by a stranger is much more appreciated than a growl? I'm oversimplifying it but it really is that simple to me. Bible god contradicts himself and this message numerous times in his book. That's not even debatable. I've learned that the fastest way to FACTS is by using the scientific method. With these facts maybe just maybe we can get to the truth. Maybe. But it's our best shot. There are truths out there in the cosmos and I'm saddened that I won't live long enough to understand even a fraction of it. Dawkins is right. Religion teaches its members to be satisfied with their understanding of the universe through the bible. I can't believe the amount of knowledge homosapiens have acquired. It's simply remarkable. And to think that some people still choose to rationalize the universe by reading an ancient book is crazy. Let's be honest about that. Don't do good because of fear of hell do good because it's right. Be honest about being good. The truth is there. the best way to it is through the scientific method.

A simple way to test this claim that invisible men up in the sky listens and answers prayers is by doing a coin flip test. Pray with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul that if you flip a coin it would be Tails. What'd you get? Tails? Okay try again. Do it a hundred times. The short answer is 50/50. Proves prayer to invisible men don't work and at best only works half the time. Okay try a different prayer. Pray for cancer to disappear from loved ones. Not a trivial request. Very meaningful prayer right? Percentage drops considerably. Success Very unlikely. Gave hope I'm sure. But prayer provided no facts. Or try praying to bible god to heal an amputee. Whywontgodhealamputees.com? Prayer doesn't work. It's delusional. It's comforting to some but my personal hope is that the generation of kids being raised now will rely on critical inquiry rather than false hope. Maybe I'm delusional. Prayer won't hurt until you actually believe it works.

You know as I write this I look for the holes in my argument and I manage to un-convince myself of some points. Honestly, there are times I swell up with a strange mix of euphoria, ecstacy, and fear that I go back to believing something supernatural is out there. But whatever it is out there it doesn't care about my prayers, doesn't care if I'm homo or hetero, doesn't care if i'm atheist, doesn't care what I do on sundays and definitely doesn't care if Tom Brady and New England Patriots with the NFL championship next year. And when I start believing that I tell myself STOP BEING DELUSIONAL.

Jonathan said...

hi kevin, in another aside, congrats on your blog making the list for the top 50 SA blogs in the Mail and Gaurdian discussion site, Thought Leader (http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/evedmochowska/2007/10/03/sas-top-51-blogs/)
doing a good job keeping everyone thinking...

bint alshamsa said...

Rodolfo,

The Bible was penned by dozens of different people. Is it even logical to think that there is but one message contained within it? What you've described as the message in the Bible is nothing more than a ridiculous caricature of a few different interpretations of the Bible.

While the golden rule is simple to you, it's evident from the world we live in that it is not that simple for the many of our fellow homo sapiens (or any of the other species on this planet, as well). Personally, I am thankful for the fact that at least some folks believe in a god that commands them to turn the other cheek and forgive those who trespass against them. This world has more than enough revenge-seeking, bloodthirsty asshats.

I appreciate your love for the scientific method. It's one that I also share. Despite its simplicity, it is perfect for researching a wide range of topics. However, it does have its limitations. Using the scientific method won't make it possible for you to determine whether or not god exists.

As much as I am amused by Dawkins, some of his assertions are just too silly to even take seriously. Religion is often what's responsible for getting people to wonder about their world and all that they see in it. Furthermore, there are billions of people on this planet whose religious beliefs do not include the Bible at all. What about them? How could this Dawkins quote really describe what religion does when, at best, it only pertains to a minority of those who have a religious affiliation?

You wrote:

Don't do good because of fear of hell do good because it's right. Be honest about being good. The truth is there.

This is exactly what the Bible says. It's a bit ironic that in your attempt to get people to turn to something else, your words mimic the very claims contained within it.

A simple way to test this claim that invisible men up in the sky listens and answers prayers is by doing a coin flip test. Pray with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul that if you flip a coin it would be Tails. What'd you get? Tails? Okay try again. Do it a hundred times.

One of my favorite thinkers, Carl Sagan, once said "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". Your coin flip exercise assumes several things. For example, it assumes:

1.That God thinks manipulating coin flips is a good use of his time.
2.That one can use the scientific method to prove the existence of something that isn't testable.

Pray for cancer to disappear from loved ones. Not a trivial request. Very meaningful prayer right? Percentage drops considerably. Success Very unlikely. Gave hope I'm sure. But prayer provided no facts.

Arrrrgh!!! Bastante with the cancer crap, please! Why is it people who have never had cancer just LOVE using cancer in their examples? Why not pick something else? Here's a suggestion: Why not use your examples to give some "airplay" to another disease, like Ebola or Influenza or Scurvy? Can we give cancer a rest, sil vous plait? Because being a person with cancer, I can say for a certainty that prayer did help. It helped me to calm down and make decisions that most people in this society would find nearly impossible to live with. The fact that I am alive now, five years after being diagnosed with an incurable cancer and twelve years after being diagnosed with systemic lupus leads me to believe that God is, at least, as good a theory as any other when it comes to figuring out why that is. And ya' know what? I know plenty of others like me. One of my friends is now in her fortieth year of living with cancer and her body is still going strong.

For some reason people in this ableist society often equate healing with regeneration. "Wholeness" means a lot more than just having all your limbs or having a body without any detectable flaws.The whywontgodhealamputees site is a hodge podge of very unscientific assertions. It's laughable. Science provides descriptions of what happens. Religion provides descriptions of why things happen. It's two separate realms and I have seen nothing that shows why either one should be disbelieved in.

CyberKitten said...

bint alshamsa said: One of my favorite thinkers, Carl Sagan, once said "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

That's very true - but it *can* be a very strong indicator....

bint alshamsa said...

Cyberkitten,

It also means that we can't use the scientific method to prove that God does or doesn't exist. ;(

CyberKitten said...

bint alshamsa said: It also means that we can't use the scientific method to prove that God does or doesn't exist. ;(

I think that the God Question is much more of a philosophical one than a scientific one... Although science can have *some* input on the issue.

Not all things resolve to either/or science/religion. There are other ways of looking at the world.

Laughing Boy said...

I expect that "We're all atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do," will soon take it's place next to "Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?" as the most commonly used atheist maxims...by 12-15 year olds.

One is infinitely more than none. One to two is a matter of degree. None to one is a paradigm shift. What if Kevin said to Cori, "Our views on marriage are very similar. I believe I need to be faithful to just one less person than you do." Cori is a kind and understanding woman, but I think she'd have something to say about that.

Richard Carrier seems to be very nice, too. At least he doesn't say that I, as a Christian, should be jailed or shot on sight, and for that I am thankful. But from what I gather from the reviews Kevin has been doing I am worried that—if this book is any indication—the next generation of atheists will so incapable of mounting an intellectual assault on Christianity, that we will be forced to go back to fighting amongst ourselves.

Please, please, please...read some better stuff.

Rodolfo said...

Hello Blint,

You wrote:
The Bible was penned by dozens of different people.

Okay well sure it had to be written by PEOPLE. Inspired or commanded by god? I'm unsure about that.


You wrote:
Is it even logical to think that there is but one message contained within it? What you've described as the message in the Bible is nothing more than a ridiculous caricature of a few different interpretations of the Bible.

I never said that the bible contains one message. I agree it contains hundreds of different messages but how do you explain the contradictions?. But let's keep it simple. What is (in your view) the CORE message of the Bible? What message in the bible is so fundamentally out of this world that man or woman could not have come up with himself?


You wrote:
While the golden rule is simple to you, it's evident from the world we live in that it is not that simple for the many of our fellow homo sapiens (or any of the other species on this planet, as well).

It became evident to me only after reading BOTH the bible and then reading about anthropology, evolutionary psychology, human biology, etc. I would bet that if the billions of people who are religious actually read their favorite textbooks and contrasted it with science books then they would find it very simple as well. I don't claim to be an expert in any of these fields but the evidence to support the idea that morality is NOT confined to the bible is very strong. Many non-Christians are perfectly fine and decent without the bible. Many people (both Christians and non-Christians) believe that without the bible humans would not be have the capacity to be moral. Wrong. Of course I'm not saying YOU think that. I'm just saying in general some of the Christians that I've met say that to me all the time. In fact when I was a Christian I said it too.


You wrote:
Personally, I am thankful for the fact that at least some folks believe in a god that commands them to turn the other cheek and forgive those who trespass against them. This world has more than enough revenge-seeking, bloodthirsty asshats.

I agree with the world having many revenge-seeking, bloodthirsty asshats. We need less of those. But that doesn't make their claims about the supernatural or the universe true. I'm not advocating atheism here. I'm simply appealing to use reason, evidence, truth, and innate human compassion to come to those noble truths without believing that an imaginary being is commanding us to. I think we both can agree that we are all after the truth. These commandments coming from an imaginary being are very difficult to believe. I am simply questioning what is the basis for following this supposed command from a god? "because it's in the bible" just doesn't cut it anymore. Is it fear of hell? Like I said. Don't do good because of fear or guilt. Do good because it's the right thing to do. The bible preaches you to believe (without evidence) or you will go to hell. It was hard for me when I was going through my personal reflections to counter this argument because these assertions about going to hell can be found right there in the bible.


You wrote:
I appreciate your love for the scientific method. It's one that I also share. Despite its simplicity, it is perfect for researching a wide range of topics. However, it does have its limitations. Using the scientific method won't make it possible for you to determine whether or not god exists.

That's if your definition of truth is god itself or vice-versa. I don't think that. I think there is a more simple and elegant truth out there. More than one I'm sure. One truth that I'm really after is to answer the question Are We Alone? Billions and billions of stars out there and yet there are no credible signs of intelligence other than what can be found on Earth. I want the truth on that. I'm finished asking questions about the Christian god. I find no credible evidence that this god exists. I'm comfortable with that. I'm at peace with that position. I accept any consequence hell or no hell. I don't care if other people want to believe that or not. Just please please don't run for office or indoctrinate children into that worldview.


You wrote:
As much as I am amused by Dawkins, some of his assertions are just too silly to even take seriously.

Maybe some of his assertions are in fact silly but MOST of his assertions are very serious and are never really addressed because there is a bias against his militant atheism from the start. But remove the Atheist and Christian bias for a minute and think about and answer his arguments before dismissing them.


You wrote:
Religion is often what's responsible for getting people to wonder about their world and all that they see in it. Furthermore, there are billions of people on this planet whose religious beliefs do not include the Bible at all. What about them? How could this Dawkins quote really describe what religion does when, at best, it only pertains to a minority of those who have a religious affiliation?

Again just because billions of people believe in the existence of a supernatural being doesn't prove it's true. But just because I can't prove it doesn't mean I should kneel in awe over its invisibility. It's silly and I think we should move on from that. I am not dismissing spirituality. I am dismissing the imaginary god. Just like morality there is no credible evidence that spirituality and meditation are also exclusive commodities of organized religions.


You wrote:
This is exactly what the Bible says. It's a bit ironic that in your attempt to get people to turn to something else, your words mimic the very claims contained within it.

I want to go on record that if for any reason my comments sounded like I was trying to convert other people then I apologize. And if I was doing it without knowing it then I apologize for that too. But I am not advocating atheism. I am not advocating to look for other gods. The bible does say nice things. But how do you explain the bad things? The bad things in in the bible or any other holy textbook far outweigh the nice things that are constantly quoted in church. why is it so hard to find preachers preaching the bad things nowadays? I reached a point when I couldn't defend the bible anymore.


Your wrote:
One of my favorite thinkers, Carl Sagan, once said "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". Your coin flip exercise assumes several things. For example, it assumes:
1.That God thinks manipulating coin flips is a good use of his time.
2.That one can use the scientific method to prove the existence of something that isn't testable.

I am not testing god. Honestly I would feel rather silly because I don't think the Christian god exists. What I was testing was the idea that prayers work. Now I don't know who every single person that prays actually pray to but whether it's yahweh, allah, jesus, zeus, spaghetti monster, flying teapot, etc. I see no difference. This simple coin test proves prayer doesn't work. Prayer provides comfort yes i agree. But again just because it's comforting to some doesn't make the claims true. Now if you're praying for comfort on the other hand then see my response below. BTW I miss Carl too.


You wrote:
Arrrrgh!!! Bastante with the cancer crap, please! Why is it people who have never had cancer just LOVE using cancer in their examples? Why not pick something else? Here's a suggestion: Why not use your examples to give some "airplay" to another disease, like Ebola or Influenza or Scurvy? Can we give cancer a rest, sil vous plait? Because being a person with cancer, I can say for a certainty that prayer did help. It helped me to calm down and make decisions that most people in this society would find nearly impossible to live with. The fact that I am alive now, five years after being diagnosed with an incurable cancer and twelve years after being diagnosed with systemic lupus leads me to believe that God is, at least, as good a theory as any other when it comes to figuring out why that is. And ya' know what? I know plenty of others like me. One of my friends is now in her fortieth year of living with cancer and her body is still going strong.

This is tough for me. I am deeply sorry if I offended you. I meant no disrespect by using cancer as an example. I am deeply deeply sorry. I am very happy that you found comfort in praying. I don't for a second ever want you or anyone else suffering to lose hope. Let me be completely honest: I HATE cancer!!!!! My mom died of cancer in Febuary 2004. She was only 61. That's a long time to be alive for some people but for me and my family she died very young. I loved her deeply. We all did. She was kind, loving, generous, compassionate, devout, faithful, beautiful, elegant, caring, forgiving, and everything else. I came from a huge Catholic family and my mom was the glue. She stayed in a horrible relationship with my unfaithful dad because she believed in marriage and family. But even if she wanted to she was forbidden by the Philippine Catholic chuch to have a divorce.......It still stings so much that having to talk or write about her causes me to be speechless and catatonic....... Friends and family members from all over the world prayed for my mom to get cured of this cancer. She was not a smoker. Why would she get cancer near her lungs? Why? And why did she have to die? Was she not good enough of a person? Didn't god hear the chorus of tears flowing from our faces begging and pleading for her to live. She was the world's best mom. She was MY mom. Was god punishing me for questioning his authority? What about my grandma? She prays EVERYDAY TWICE A DAY. Did god not hear her prayers asking for my mom to get better? Blint, what I've come to ask myself and others is this: Who speaks for my mom? Who speaks for the millions of people in the world past, present and future whose prayers won't and don't get answered? Who speaks for those who don't get cured? They can't speak for themselves because they're dead. God didn't save them. And it breaks my heart for me to read some religious pamphlet that proclaims GOD CURED ME!! Why couldn't he cure my mom? It's not fair blint. I'm sorry. I'm sure if you had met my mom you would have fallen in love with her too. And I'm willing to bet that she would have love you as well. I know that to be true. I just know. Ironic...is that faith? But even had my mom lived I would still today be asking the same question. Who speaks for the dead?


You wrote:
For some reason people in this ableist society often equate healing with regeneration. "Wholeness" means a lot more than just having all your limbs or having a body without any detectable flaws.The whywontgodhealamputees site is a hodge podge of very unscientific assertions. It's laughable.

My best friend has a disorder with his right arm. He's not missing any limbs but his story is why the content of this website resonated within me so much. We used to hide out on his roof when his mom would abuse him. I remember feeling so bad for him. His mom hated me because when he would run away I was the one he turned to. Thankfully his mom and I reconciled after I became an adult. But I remember one time on the roof he was so sad and angry. He told me all his problems. He told me how much he hated the fact that with all the family bullsh*t he had to deal with he had to live life with a junk arm. A week earlier he was disqualifed from joining the army. It was his childhood dream because his dad was in the army. Then he told me if only his arm was normal maybe things would be different. We looked up at the night sky and I cannot make this up but we saw a shooting star. At that moment we both wished and prayed the same thing. For his arm to be fixed.
It's been almost 15 years. His arm is still broke. I don't want to say anything about what that proves. My friend has overcome a lot and he's a very successful man and maintains a very active lifestyle. I'm very happy for him. But that event made an impression on me. If there was any hope for his arm to ever be fixed it would be through science and technology. Not prayer or wishful thinking. I'm glad he's not bitter anymore about his arm. At least from what I've observed. He did find enlightment through this ordeal. But the fact remains his arm is still broke. Why won't god fix my best friend's right arm? Because even if he exists he can't.


You wrote:
Religion provides descriptions of why things happen.

If you profess your religion to be true then please blint and I'm not being mean when i ask this:
Why did my mom die and you didn't?

Anonymous said...

From what i gather from your posts it seems that you still believe that there is a Higher Power and due to the fact that man has been granted the gift of choice he has created various names for this High Power. Ultimately there is only ONE and whether you choose to call our Creator God or not (or any other name in any other culture or religion), he exists.

Will said...

I too gave up Xtianity. Actually an absence of evidence is good enough to disprove most religions as most religions have a creation story where a god/s were quite active in the development of the universe/life. There are only a few gaps remaining where a god might be involved these stories (eg first 10xe-43s or first lifeforms - were created). Mostly everything else has a natural explanation. People say well god used evolution to make fish. Maybe a god did but the simpler explanation is (occums razor) there is no god needed to do so.

Steve Hayes said...

"In other words, if you are a Christian, you probably don't believe in the existence of Allah, Vishnu or any of the myriad of other gods that people have followed throughout history."

Not to mention Gott, Bog, Dieu, Modimo, uNkulunkulu and all those other deities believed in by the barbarous heathen who don't speak God's own language, English!

Or should that be non-God's own non-language?

Kevin Parry said...

Laughing Boy wrote:
One is infinitely more than none. One to two is a matter of degree. None to one is a paradigm shift

Excellent point! I’m no philosopher of numbers, so what I’m about to say is probably rubbish, but here goes. I would argue that when we speak of people, cars, and even gods, we are referring to discrete entities (i.e., entities that only really exist as whole units - they loose their properties if they are broken down into smaller pieces). Nobody has two and a half brothers, for instance. I think your argument can only apply, not to discrete entities, but to continuous entities (such as height for example, or other phenomena or measurement that can be expressed as fractions). If we consider discrete entities, then the distance between 0 and 1 is the same as that between 1 and 2. This is just a thought - as I said, I’m probably talking nonsense here.

But your argument is a good one.

Godgyfu said...

Rodolfo I am deeply sorry for the loss of your mother. As I was reading through your post, I couldn't help but wonder "what happened to this guy that he stopped believing in God?"

I realize that I cannot really say anything to you right now that would make a difference for you on this issue--but I will say a couple things. I get the sense that at the root of your denial/rejection of God's existence is a sea of anger directed at this very same God you claim does not exist. If God had answered your family's prayers and and healed your mother, would you still speak so confidently against HIM?

May I also say as a scientist that yes, the scientific method is a great tool to help us understand the natural world, but the key here is natural/physical world. Science can say nothing whatsoever about whether God does or does not exist. This is at heart an untestable hypothesis. However the fact that it is untestable or that we are currently lacking the tools to address this question, is not proof that God does not exist.

Furthermore, it would seem to me that if one were really interested in knowing whether God exist or not, one should remain impartial and objective. To embrace the claims and positions of atheism is not remaining objective. It is already choosing a side.

May I also ask? Why is denying the existence of God less of a delusion than believing in a God who loves humanity and takes personal interest in how we live our lives, the condition of our hearts? A God who entered humanity, and shared in our suffering, and died at humanity's hands?

Lastly may I leave in you with a quote by G.K. Chesterton to ponder "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything."

Thank you for your post. Whether I agree with you or not (and you can probably tell I do not:), at least you are honest, or make an attempt at honesty and that is to be commended. cheers

Kristin Nicole said...

Being a Christian I don't agree with most of this, however I would like to say that I am impressed that the people posting have used such "tact" as you discuss your disagreements. Blogs like this usually turn nasty but I have read this whole thing and it has been extremely interesting to me. I wish everyone would believe what I believe you all seem to be smart people so you have probably heard anything I could say. Oh, but one thing I must mention....those of you who need proof to have faith in God and won't until you have it....that will never happen. If God provides proof it is impossible to have faith which would prove the bible to be wrong. Thanks for the good reading:)

CyberKitten said...

Kristin Nicole said: Oh, but one thing I must mention....those of you who need proof to have faith in God and won't until you have it....that will never happen. If God provides proof it is impossible to have faith which would prove the bible to be wrong.

Yes, we've heard that one before.

The problem is how do you move from disbelief (or non-belief) to faith without a *very* good reason to do so? How do you move beyond scepticism?

Rodolfo said...

Hello Godgyfu,

You wrote:
I get the sense that at the root of your denial/rejection of God's existence is a sea of anger directed at this very same God you claim does not exist.

At the root of my rejection is my quest for the truth. I am not satisfied with a metaphorical proclamation that "Jesus is Truth." That's too vague. What does that really mean anyway?

You wrote:
If God had answered your family's prayers and and healed your mother, would you still speak so confidently against HIM?

Yes. I mentioned in my previous post I would still ask the same question. I've always been skeptic of the bible for as long as i can remember. My mom dying forced me to sit down and ask myself honestly: Why do I believe what I believe? I've concluded the Christian god was an imaginary one. But I don't deny people's experiences. Those individual experiences are the mystery that we all share. I think the problem is that our understanding of ourselves and the cosmos is still far from complete. We should continue learning and building on our knowledge and be stay vigilant and question boldly without fear those (religious and non-religious) who think they have absolute monopoly on the truth.

You wrote:
Science can say nothing whatsoever about whether God does or does not exist. This is at heart an untestable hypothesis. However the fact that it is untestable or that we are currently lacking the tools to address this question, is not proof that God does not exist.

I believe in Spinoza's God. But there's no proof that Spinoza's God ever actually spoke. Abraham and the rest of his fellow believers claim that their God spoke or speaks to them directly. Prove it. I know people who hear voices in their head and this illness is called schizophrenia. In my opinion we should all remain skeptical of these extraordinary claims.

You wrote:
Furthermore, it would seem to me that if one were really interested in knowing whether God exist or not, one should remain impartial and objective. To embrace the claims and positions of atheism is not remaining objective. It is already choosing a side.

Yea declaring oneself atheist is really a problem as Sam Harris pointed out in his most recent speech. But I think I do my best to stay open-minded to what everyone's saying. On the other hand I don't want to be too open-minded that my brains start falling off.

You wrote:
May I also ask? Why is denying the existence of God less of a delusion than believing in a God who loves humanity and takes personal interest in how we live our lives, the condition of our hearts? A God who entered humanity, and shared in our suffering, and died at humanity's hands?

Jesus's story is a great one. I would feel incomplete had I lived and died and never heard the stories of Jesus. But it's a beautiful poetic story and nothing else. If you study the myths and symbols of our ancestors you would find these stories of experience in every corner of world. I recommend Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Some of Joseph Campbell's teachings rank right up there with the spiritual giants of our past.




Kristin Nicole wrote:

Oh, but one thing I must mention....those of you who need proof to have faith in God and won't until you have it....that will never happen. If God provides proof it is impossible to have faith which would prove the bible to be wrong.

Hebrews 11:1
"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen."
This tells me we don't need proof to have faith. I don't want to have faith in things unseen. I tried my best but the evidence gets in the way of that. There simply is not enough love in this world to give it all up to an imaginary being.

DaveC said...

I always liked this quote from Stephen F. Roberts: "When you understand why you reject all other gods, you will understand why I reject yours."

Jason Hughes said...

Just a thought on Laughing Boy's comment: None to one is a paradigm shift.

I think it truly is only a paradigm shift if you really and truly placed a lot of power and interpersonal status on your god...

I mean, if the one god you did believe in was simply a far-off, distant, and uncaring being, and one day you woke up and decided you no longer would put your faith in such a belief system, I can't see how your world view would change that drastically...

So, I guess I'm just saying, that for a Christian, who believes in the daily interaction of a god who cares deeply and influences daily life, it WOULD be a HUGE shift in perspective, but for other faith systems and beliefs, I don't think unbelief carries with it such a huge shift...

Not that there ARE many faith systems in which a god is distant and uncaring...

Demian said...

I have always been an athiest. Raised in a home without church I found the myths of ancient Rome, Greece, the Middle East and our forebears to be interesting stories of exciting adventures. Samson and Deliah was one of my favorite bible stories that I heard about as a young boy.

I still remember being 12 years old and being told that I was going to hell for not going to church. I asked in response, "Why would I go to your hell?" It didn't make sense to me at 12 yrs of age that if religion was a personal belief, that I would be held hostage. If so, I knew that religion was no longer a personal decision. This, of course, must mean that only one religion is true. We see that this is believed by all religious people or else why would they choose to believe in the wrong religion. They state respect for all religions, but, in truth they ‘know’ that the others are going to hell as non-believers. Even in contradiction to the statement, “Judge not, lest thee be judged.”

I was raised in a Christian community in America of Christian morality and therefore I also share those same concepts of right and wrong and to respect others and attempt to do good. My parents also wished me to behave that way and didn't tout strange beliefs or vocalize anarchy. However, it is not through fear of an afterlife in eternal hell or the intimate knowledge of the ten commandments, or a quest to enter nirvana that drives my behavior to be good. My christian friends think I am blessed. However, I am not blessed and nor have I ever prayed. I enjoy good health, a healthy marriage, I do not have cancer, I have perfect 20/20 vision, strong bone structure, good countenance, a full college education, physical fitness and I come from a happy, non-divorced family. My wife loves me and is also an athiest. Our life is quite complete, full of life, wisdom and experiences. We love each other, we love our neighbors and we love the town within which we live.

I do not need to pray to feel closer to an entity. An entity that I have been instructed will listen to my prayers and answer my callings, selfish or not. I go about my business, driving my 2006 BMW, working on my classic old house, reveling in my health, my income, my beautiful family and never once have I offered a prayer or a thought to the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Jesus, Allah, or any of the myriad, pseudo, father and mother figures that people worship the world over. If I were a good Christian I am sure I would posit that these wonderful benefits that I enjoy and the Christians the world over would covet, are the work of a 'god' and fervent prayer.

I contend that both good and bad occur in this world without any divine intervention. 35 million lives were lost in WWII and I am sure that they were not all athiests. Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Sudan... the trials of life, the murder, the rape, the pillage... it all continues unabated and in rising and falling crescendos of death and misery the world over.

It is human nature to make sense of the in-explanable, i.e. to draw characters in the stars like Orion to impose order and make sense of the random, to look for an all-powerful, father-figure with which to make sense of the world, and a caring, matronly individual to help us with emotional and physical pain. Our family, our extended family, our tribe, our town, our city, our nation... hell, even our football teams bring out our fervor for whatever dogma sets its fang into us... It is common sense that the new England Patriots are better than the Chicago Bears or that the United States is the greatest country that ever existed.

People latch onto any belief that sounds good, whether it is told by David Koresh, Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, Jesus Christ or Muhommed... They will follow anyone with power like Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein. It never matters much to the people who "Choose" to believe. Belief for me? I'd rather do without and live the "truth" as I see it - unencumbered by any 'praying and devotion' to an ever-present, all-powerful creator who doesn't seem all that powerful, nor creative, nor present.

If you do choose to believe, it seems like there are only two types of deity that could exist. The active all-powerful god and the creator type god. This is based on the proof of the newspapers, of the 9 yr old girl in the hospital with leukemia, of the family gunned down while Christmas shopping or the little old lady run down at an intersection on Easter Sunday by a 19 yr old driver who couldn't see because of the extreme light of the low sun... If there be an all-powerful "God" and he hears your prayers but doesn't answer them, then what is the point of praying or believing? If he does hear your prayers but is only the 'creator' and takes no active involvement in the world then what is the point of prayer?

People, I would implore you. Please accept that your world is physical, that you, yourself are physical and that the life you lead on this world is the only one you get. Quit smoking, focus on your families and love them as much as possible, because once they are gone, they are gone forever. When you put your love and emotions out there for an imaginative influence, it has to come from somewhere and in this case, it comes from the love you should be sharing with those closest to you.

TWalker said...

Very well said, Demian. That's my view also.

Anonymous said...

"I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
-- Stephen F Roberts"

amd said...

Religion is a comfort blanket for the weak and needy. When religious people hear voices in their heads they believe it is god, the rest of us know they need medication.

You will never convince a person who is so absolutely terrified of the unknown and desperate to have some sort of control over a large and fundamentally uncontrollable universe to let go of their comfort blankets and there is absolutely no point in trying. Just as I would not waste my time with a flat earther, I would never waste my time debating a person with the god flu. This comment is simply to reiterate to the other rational thinkers out there that it is best to ignore these poor souls, not encourage them by talking to them.

Of course we know the bible is a lot of hokum, made up of old myths cobbled together from previous mythologies and the delusions of various people on drugs or who were mentally unbalanced at the time. Some of it was also an attempt to enforce the status quo by whatever group were in power at the time.

Anyone with the slightest inclination to do so can find the historical evidence that the bible is by no means an original document and has been changed so many times it barely matches any of the orginal versions by the next lot to come along who wanted it to match their version of belief.

Of course the bible is also an ugly, dangerous, mysogynistic, hate-filled document. This is also simple to verify, by simply reading it.

It can be quite poetic at times (we but see through a glass darkly) and also laughingly absurd, such as when we are told that those who eat shellfish and touch pigskin are an abomination in the eyes of the lord.

Simply put, only someone who was quite, quite determined to ignore all evidence, logic, common sense and decency would ever consider using the bible, or any other "holy" book as their guide to anything except a rich history of the absurdity, cruelty and stupidity of human beings.

And it is not, as stated earlier, our job to prove the invisible sky fairy does not exist. It is the job of the believers in the invisible sky fairy to prove it does.

Those who have the god flu are usually incurable. I wouldn't waste my time even trying. Fortunately, rational thinking is growing throughout the world. As the magical thinkers fight amongst themselves and each other over which invisible sky fairy is the biggest and best, as they scream every louder that they are being oppressed because we are not allowing them to force their beliefs on others so readily, the rational thinkers are quietly, sensibly, pushing them out of government, out of power and into the oblivion they will, obviously, one day fall into.

And thank the gods for that. When religion ruled the world it was called The Dark Ages.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian, I believe that God is defined as our Creator. In Islam, the Creator is named Allah. In Hinduism, He is named Brahma. So I don't disbelieve in Allah or Brahma. I believe that we are all trying to point to one God, our Creator. We all accept the idea that we are created and ought to seek our Creator. I'm not an atheist to Allah or Brahma.

Atheists reject all authority that would tell them how to live their lives.