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Wednesday, September 9. 2009
Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.
CS Lewis (h/t, Dr. Bob)
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This is one of my strongest personal beliefs. I acknowledge that it's mostly faith and philosophy rather than science.
Belief in God is separate from belief in the specific teachings of Judeo-Christian religion. My study convinces me that the amalgm of Greece, Rome and the Judeo-Christian teachings have led to more human progress and well-being than any other social development. I am also aware that this social system has also led to a grave amount of harm -- the Inquisition, forced conversions, second-class status for women sometimes, justification of slavery as well as slavery's strongest opposition.
I find much of wisdom, much of history, and some tom-foolery in the Bible. Some tell me that if I find any wisdom, I must accept all of the Bible. Others tell me that if I find any tom-foolery, I must reject it all. Neither group convinces me.
Similarly, GKC: "Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas . . . for it is the assertion of a universal negative."
Or you could argue that theism is a lack of curiosity.
Au contraire... It takes all the curiosity one can possibly muster to actively pursue the mysteries of God, which are always more gratifying, satisfying, edifying and notifying than the answers of man.
Is your being a man figured in in the formula? It seems like there's a problem in the escape.
Right, because science doesn't satisfy curiosity at all?
We may have a terminology problem here. "Atheism" is the definite belief that there is no Deity. "Agnosticism" is doubt about the existence of a Deity. "Theism" and "Deism" are both Deity-centered belief systems. RHHardin, am I right in thinking you mean "atheism" here? Most Theist and Deist writing I've seen are full of curiosity about the nature of God or Deity.
No, I meant theism.
There's no rhetorical curiosity, for example, on what terms man is willing to settle on as satisfying his curiosity. Call them god terms.
How does that work? That's a question you can't ask if you're a theist.
I'd recommend Emmanuel Levinas on the matter of what religious terms are, though he doesn't take on quite this question. And he's pro-religious, just more thoughtful in certain ways. Difficult Freedom or Nine Talmudic Studies are directly religious essays covering the matter.
Totality and Infinity for the philosophical underwork.
"If the whole universe has no meaning,..."
"If ?" The universe has no meaning without man's consciousness to contemplate it. Atheism is just one of hundreds of ways man chooses to ascribe meaning to something we cannot even grasp in our wildest imaginations.
I am completely lost as to why there is a Universe at all. It seems quite an extravagant production if humans are the only sentient life forms capable of feeling wonder at it. Our scientists' guesses are that a tiny minority of suns have planets and a tiny minority of those could have evolved life forms we would recognize. Of course it's a large universe and the roll of dice would say that somewhere out there is a life form enough like us to wonder at the universe -- or not.
Perhaps somewhere on Vulcan, Spock's great-grandfather is blogging on the same topic. We could run a looong thread on the implausibilities of Star Trek.
"Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning." C. S. Lewis was an atheist and then a Christian apologist. I wonder why he doesn't go on and state what meaning the universe does have. Maybe he was smart enough to know that he didn't know; but it's too bad he was incapable of keeping his mouth shut.
I think this guy is funny:
Atheist n A person to be pitied in that he is unable to believe things for which there is no evidence, and who has thus deprived himself of a convenient means of feeling superior to others.
But here's something that addresses the universe thing that is neither crabby or funny:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson
The Freedom From Religion Foundation defines freethinkers as people who form opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include nontheists (i.e., atheists and agnostics - see definitions), rationalists, deists, and pantheists.
The Freethought Zone is a collection of essays which address misconceptions that many theists have concerning the nature of science and religion, logic, and the beliefs of nontheists.
One of the most common questions that theists ask nontheists is "Why don't you believe in my god?". The answer is that we simply do not see any valid reason for holding such a belief. In order to rationally believe any claim, one must first have credible evidence. There is, however, no credible evidence for the existence of a god. So nontheists don't believe in gods for the same reason that theists don't believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or the gods of other religions. Stephen Roberts explained the difference between theists and atheists as follows:
"I contend that 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."
A misconception held by many theists is that nonbelievers reject religion because they do not understand it. Typically, nonbelievers understand the dominate religion of their culture quite well, often better than many of the believers. For example, here in the USA, where most religionists are Christians, many nontheists are former Christians who have examined the Christian religion carefully and rejected it as mythical. It is precisely because the former Christian was open-minded enough to question and honestly seek answers that he or she ended up rejecting Christianity.
Another common question for nontheists is "Why would anyone choose disbelief?". A rational person does not choose belief or disbelief; he or she chooses to apply reason to the question of the existence of gods, and if disbelief is the result, then so be it. There are, however, many benefits to the rational thinking that leads one to disbelief. For example, many nontheists are also secular humanists and have a much more highly developed moral system than theism usually provides, since secular humanists apply reason and empathy to decide what is moral, while theists usually attempt to apply the inconsistent and often irrational standards which come from their "holy" book. As another example of the benefits of reason over religion, consider the following quote from Robert Ingersoll:
"When I became convinced that the Universe is natural - that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, of the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust."
But I know what is behind The Force: Duct tape. It has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. :)
Yes of course. It's the theists who have a complete misunderstanding of what freethinkers believe, but the freethinkers see right through the believers. There couldn't possibly be any other explanation. Theists always ask stupid questions, nontheists always have clever, devastating answers.
Feeling contempt for others is just too delicious to pass up, aint it Meta?
"Feeling contempt for others is just too delicious to pass up, aint it Meta?"
That's your bailiwick, Hoss. You're the one who says Jews waste their time praying. I call that contempt writ large.
As far as your other maunderings.... where'd you get that? It is not written that theists have a complete misunderstanding of freethinkers. But I'll say it - theists have made up their minds based on faith. Freethinkers haven't. Now you tell me why you don't believe in all the other gods and why yours is the right one, and maybe we can talk.
Oh yeah.. and screw them frickin' stupid Jews, eh, AVI ??
I think that theists (among whom I number myself) are as diverse as deists and agnostics and other free-thinkers. Acknowledging a faith element is not a weakness of theism any more than reason is a weakness of nontheism. We are getting different meanings from some of the same data.
I was also raised in a Christian home and I attend a mainstream Christian church. Some of the Christian message is impossible for me and most of it resonates.
I believe in God, the Deity Almighty, but I may not be able to prove it to your satisfaction. That's been a long and strange trip for me (you and I have swapped posts like this before) and makes me respectful of any sincerely held opinion about God -- Muslim, atheist, polytheist. I do ask for mutual respect.
Thus my exchange with rhhardin. Most theist work I've read is full of curiosity and acknowledges the lack of a full answer.
Geoff, I've known Meta here at MF for quite some time. She has no disrespect for anyone. Though she doesn't like being judged by others based on their beliefs. I'm with her on that, as would many here be I suspect, if asked.
"Acknowledging a faith element is not a weakness of theism any more than reason is a weakness of non-theism." I don't think anyone has said this. In fact, just the opposite: faith and reason are the strengths of the differing beliefs.
Also, you are under no obligation to prove anything to anyone about your beliefs, so you will not get any disrespect unless you run up against someone who judges you because of your beliefs. That is not to say in discussion about religion, belief, non-belief there won't be judging - there always is. Certainly no one is looking at you with a critical eye.
But our data points really are very different as reason and faith are opposite foundations from which we think.
Agnotism qualifies as well.........I'm comfortable with that...
Sometimes I think all the answers to our questions about God lie in our mother's womb.
We can't go back and get the answers ,because we live in a different world.
Maybe in death the answers of our womb experience will be revealed to us.
Interesting concept...not one I've encountered before...one I don't dismiss...intriguing but not confusing!
That is more profound than you think, Jappy. There has to be a genetic basis for a person to be more curious than another, to be more rational than another, to think more deeply than another. Maybe there's a little rebel gene in there festering around the womb just waiting to take on what 'authority' says is true because he has a big dose of reason asking for reasons.
Sometimes I think all the answers to our questions about God lie in our mother's womb.
I think that may explain why some of us spend so much of our time and energy trying to get back in.