Friday, February 22, 2013

Adventures at CARM - Questions for Atheists pt 1

Chipmunk eye reflection
I've been digging through for curiosity's sake. So far, these are the episodes of my adventures:

I found a list of questions for atheists that the author is doing for "research", and I thought it'd be fun to go through them (I like itemized things).
Before I begin, I'd like to address something I said on my "What about dinosaurs and evolution?" response. I said I'd get one of the books and evaluate it. After a few days of ordering the first book, I realized the seller cancelled the transaction. I also noticed that the damn book was published in 1979. I went down through the list and looked up the others. They're mostly about 30 years out of date.

"What Darwin Didn't Know: A Doctor Dissects the Theory of Evolution" was published in 2004, so I decided to go with that one, and ordered it. The title is already interesting, as Darwin is 99% irrelevant to the modern theory of evolution, so I don't know what they could possibly say about Darwin that would matter.

Anyway, on with the questions.

How would you define atheism?
How do I define it, or how do I use it? There's a lot of variations, but not believing in a god is the common denominator. I go with the most logical construction "a-theist", meaning literally "not a theist."

Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don't believe in (lack belief in God)?
Of course. I believe that if I want money, I have to work, so I work. We all act on our beliefs.

In respect to atheism/theism, the way I'd characterize it, is that I'm not acting based on a belief in a god. I'm living my life as a (reasonably) normal human, who lives in a natural world that is discernible and discoverable.  It's the theists who augment that reality with a tooth fairy, and start making extra decisions based on that.

It would be bizarre to say that not believing in a god makes me do anything.. or even suggests that I do anything.

Let's say that we have a person, who joins a religion that demands he/she cannot use pronouns, and the person is pressured by the adherents to do just that. Not having joined that religion, and following its rules, doesn't make, or even suggest to people to use pronouns. That'd be silly. We use pronouns for other reasons... not because we aren't followers of this particular religion.

I make decisions on things I do believe, not things I don't believe.

Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who "lacks belief" in God to work against God's existence by attempting to show that God doesn't exist?
Nope. If we can decouple your twisted understanding of the context from the actual context, it can be made much more clear. I don't know why this is hard to understand, but we frequently get this objection.

We're not "working against God's existence". We're not even addressing God. We're addressing his followers.

It's the followers, not God, who are attempting to supplant pseudoscience in place of science education.
It's the followers, not God, who are trying to co-opt the U.S. government.
It's the followers, not God, who are persecuting homosexuals.

We're addressing them, and their beliefs. That frequently requires debating their doctrines and core beliefs. Deconverting people benefits everyone who is not of their religion.

It'd be like having 80% of the populating believing the Lord of the Rings is real, and across America, they're taking actions based on what they think Gandalf wants them to do... which (and I suppose this is where the analogy breaks down) happens to be very anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-freethought, etc. In order to address this group of "Lord-o-ring-ites", we have to address their beliefs and assertions. Part of that process is showing them that their beliefs are absurd.

Doing so is not a concession that Galdalf is real, nor is it "inconsistent" to not believe that Galdalf exists, while fighting the believers.

There's a whole lot of spin and manipulation in this question.

Why do I do this blog? I've only been a lowly atheist activist for a few years. I was inspired by the Atheist Experience to care about the status of my social-political environment in the U.S., and elsewhere in the world. I believe that through education, particularly in epistemology, the standards of evidence, and the logical fallacies, that any theist can be broken of their delusion... and that's one less person destroying the planet with their insane lunatic beliefs.

I write this blog to try to spread information, to try out new ways of addressing arguments, and hopefully bring someone else onboard to join the fight on this war of ideas.

Has the author noticed how little time American atheists (not the organization) spend battling the Jewish, Buddhists or even Muslims in this country? Why? They aren't the privileged majority who are causing trouble. If Islam becomes the majority, and wreaks legislative havoc, we'll be gnawing on their ankles too (more than we are - most of it is currently international efforts).

I learned a lot of what I know, and how to address arguments, by observing fellow activists. I can only hope that I can throw my two cents in, bring someone else up to speed, and even improve upon an argument here or there.

I do it because I'd like to live in a sane, rational world that isn't dominated by delusional zombies.

How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?
The question barely makes sense.

How sure am I that my not believing that theists have made their case for a god properly, represents reality? Reasonably sure. I suppose there's some evidence the apologists are sitting on that would demonstrate that a god exists, and, for whatever reason, haven't gone public with it yet.

Typically, we only get the same dozen or so basic arguments over and over.

The whole idea is that I'm an atheist because I doubt the theistic claims. We have scientifically established understandings about how reality work, that appear to work pretty well, and any new/additional assertions need to be sufficiently demonstrated before I'll accept them as true.

... claiming that a god is responsible for that reality is an additional claim that needs to be sufficiently demonstrated.  They haven't, so I don't believe them.

How sure are you that your atheism is correct?
Are you sure that you aren't repeating the same question?

How would you define what truth is?
Truth is that which is true. That may sound like a tautology, but it's not.

What is "true", though?  That's a tough one... something that manifests in reality, though not necessarily physically? For instance, it's true that working hard gets stuff done... but that's manifesting as associated events occurring (lawn gets mowed, etc). Although, that example might not be great, since one can work hard at things that are fruitless.

The physical things are easier. It is true that my cup of coffee here, is hot. It's manifesting on my desk, and the temperature is measurable.

I can give allowance that "true" things can exist for "other realities or universes", but it'd be true only within those contexts. It's possible that, in a parallel universe, my cat is a dragon. It'd be true for that reality-universe, but not for the reality-universe I'm occupying.

Something like that.

Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
... because the theists have yet to demonstrate their god claims. We're kind of beating a dead horse with this line of questioning.

It's perfectly justifiable and rational to not believe someone who hasn't demonstrated his/her claim.

Do I really need to explain this?

I think part of the apologists' misunderstanding of the atheist position is because many of them assume that this "god" thing is the only other possibility. It could be a god, but there could also be a swarm of intergalactic, trans-dimensional monkey-centipedes (SITDM). There could be things that exist that we have no comprehension, or is beyond our imagination.

We have X-amount of demonstrably true knowledge in our current knowledge-base about reality. Various people assert additional things about reality. They need to support those claims. There's a little more going on, and a tad bit more possibilities, than some dichotomy between those who believe in a "god", and those who don't.

We aren't just skeptical about your god claim. We're skeptical about an infinite number of claims that are unsupported by evidence. Your "god" thing isn't particularly special in that regard. We don't accept things that are undemonstrated, and your "god" thing currently happens to fall into that category.

Unfortunately, the theism/atheism debate is apparently important in our society, where non-Christians are frequently discriminated against and persecuted - hence why many of us are "in the closet" (please show me a single instance of a Christian in America having to be "in the closet" for fear of retribution). As an atheist, I'm actually working to make the "atheism" distinction irrelevant.

Are you a materialist, or a physicalist, or what?
I believe that we are in some kind of "reality", and as someone who buys into methodological naturalism, that we can learn about that "reality" through empirical investigation.

I don't know whether anything else "exists" beyond this "reality", but at least we can investigate this one we're apparently residing.

The idea is that we start with zero knowledge, and upon observing and investigating reality around us, we can grow that knowledge. It's an outward spread of understanding. There's very little (and intentionally minimized) presupposition about what's true beyond the boundaries of our current understanding.

That seems like the most reasonable/rational approach.

As an atheist, I'll be the first to tell you that there's a lot I don't know... which is, incidentally, why I'm an atheist. I don't know that there is a god, so I also don't accept the claim as true.

Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?  Why or why not?
I wouldn't go with "deny", so much as "reject", though I'm splitting hairs.

Atheism is a result of my worldview. It's not my worldview in itself. All that stuff I was talking about in the previous question is my worldview.

My worldview is constructed from skepticism, epistemology, empiricism, methodological naturalism, logic, reason, critical thinking, etc. There's a knowledge base (gravity is real, water is H20, etc) - that which is demonstrably true - that is my world view.

My atheism is a consequence of that world view... the realization that a claim that a set of people are making is currently unsupported by evidence. Atheism is not a world view any more than my rejection of the efficacy of homeopathy is a world view. My rejection that the Lock Ness monster is demonstrably true, is not a world view. My rejection of chakras and reincarnation is not a world view. My disbelief in a wide variety of wacky claims is due to my world view, but not the world view itself.

Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity, but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?
Because you're constantly pulling shit. You won't leave the rest of us alone. You keep trying to turn a secular America into a theocracy. Your stupid theology is used as a basis for denying demonstrably true things like anthropogenic climate change, interfering with our society's capacity to deal with the problem before it's too late, potentially dooming us all.

The real question is why isn't everyone antagonistic towards Christianity?

Are you everyday Christians really totally and completely unaware of all the crap "your side" is pulling, every day, across the globe?

Hell, I started a database to catalog all the challenges to U.S. secularism. I got burnt out trying to keep up, although I do occasionally add new ones and maintain old entries. It may seem like a lot on that map, but it's truly the tip of the iceberg. I'm a dues-paying member of the FFRF, and they sent a recap newsletter that stated they had 150 legal victories.... in 2012 alone. That's literally more entries than I have on my site total, going back to 2006.

Guess who are overwhelmingly the culprits?

The atheists who are not antagonistic towards Christianity fall into one of two camps:

  • They're not aware of what's happening around them
  • They don't care about what's happening around them

About ten years ago, I was solidly in the first camp. I've since paid attention.


I'm stopping here - 10 out of the 31 is a decent intermission point (and a round number that matches how many fingers we have)

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