Monday, February 25, 2013

Adventures at CARM - Questions for Atheists pt 2

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).

Today I'm addressing questions 11 through 21.

If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?
Pffft. I love the language. I didn't deny his existence. I realized that there was nothing there to deny.

Seriously, author. Do you know what "deny" means?

"Refuse to admit the truth or existence of (something)." Now, has a few more definitions, but the above definition is the standard one in my mind. It's possible that I'm getting hung up on that, but the closest definition to what I did might be "to refuse to agree or accede to." Meaning, I refuse to agree that his existence has been established as true.

Anyway, here's the reader's digest version:

  • I was always very analytical. Mother said God existed. I believed her by default (because I was a child)
  • We stopped going to church when I was 8 years old (we moved and never got back into it) (Yay because it was the most boring thing I had ever experienced - like how interesting the Wall Street Journal would be to a 7 year old)
  • From age of 12 to 22 my theism waned. Mother was very hands-off about our beliefs. During this time, nothing reinforced my belief. I was observing a natural world with nothing supernatural happening.
  • Around 22 (I can't remember exactly), I was introspectively thinking about it all, and I realized I didn't believe in God anymore. I had basically been an atheist for quite awhile before, but never realized it. I said to myself, "I don't believe in God. I guess that makes me an atheist"
Yes, that's how boring my deconversion was. I realized I was an atheist, and continued normally. It's like any other thing that you had been raised to believe was true, but slowly stopped believing over time. I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fanatic when I was a kid. That, too, wore off over time, and now I think it's juvenile.

Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?

Which aspect of religion?

I see religion and theism as a symptom of a problem - the lack of critical thinking, skepticism and epistemology. If everyone were educated in these areas, I do believe the world would be much improved, as long as it was coupled with humanity and empathy.

It'd also be world where religion/theism die off as a side-effect.

Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
Pretty much the same response as above... now we're just talking about a specific aggressor.

Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?
No, actually. I know I can get heated and start slinging insults. I try to keep that to a minimum - often unsuccessfully.

I've recently compared atheism to people who are physically "in shape", who regularly eat right/exercise. People who aren't "in shape" aren't physically disabled. They're just not maintaining themselves.

Like eating right/exercise keep you physically "in shape", the exercise of skepticism, critical thinking and logic keeps one "in shape" mentally. Theism is marked by a consistent lack of these activities.

If I've been fed lies, it may seem logical to me that a god exists. That's not a disorder. That's a question of the premises being false. The critical thinking/skepticism helps weed out false premises.

Must God be known through the scientific method?
It's the only way it can be "known", currently. Knowledge is demonstrably true belief. Science is currently our only consistently effective epistemological toolkit for knowing anything about reality.

So currently, yes, God could only be known in a scientific context. I say "scientific context" specifically, because he could come down and demonstrate himself to us anytime outside of the lab... but that means manifesting within a context where science can evaluate it.

If the author has an alternative epistemological framework he'd like us to use, he'll need to adequately define it, and demonstrate that it works consistently well.

If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?
Because that's not the categories we're using.

The question is about whether a thing is knowable, and how we do it. We have a process that works pretty well. If it cannot be demonstrated within that context, it cannot be demonstrated (see previous answer). If it's immaterial, then we cannot analyze it.

... and therefore, it's irrational to accept the claim as true.

This is just another misunderstanding apologists have about our position. When we say that something isn't established as true, we're not saying that it's proved or held to be false. At every point where humanity is investigating a new unknown phenomenon, there's an infinite number of possibilities that would explain it, limited only by our imaginations to think of them. We would just waste time if we arbitrarily chose possibilities to merely assert as true. The evidence is our guide to figuring it out.

You can make up whatever claims you want, no matter how bizarre. You can call them "immaterial" or "immavervulent" or "immpopiltastic" or whatever nonsensical existential statuses you want (is it even possible for something to exist immaterially?). If you can't "materially demonstrate it", you can't demonstrate that it's true - and I'm sorry that you've chosen to assert and believe something that is undemonstrable and indefensible.

It's possible there are natural things, or even "immaterial" things that we can never discover, and are also true.

That's life.

That, however, is not a permission slip to simply make shit up and call it true, void of any supporting evidence.

Do we have any purpose as human beings?
Yes and no.

Do we have any intrinsic purpose? There's no evidence of that. We're here. We're playing Fallout 3 for the 20th time. Do we need intrinsic purpose?

On the other hand, I create purpose for myself all the time - for instance, this blog. My purpose is to deconstruct apologetics, try to enlighten people around me as much as my limited understanding can, mash on the keyboard feverishly, etc.

I've created my own purpose from the sheer power of my own mind.

If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?
I don't believe we do, and I have no idea how. Maybe God can come tell us... have some kind of global town hall meeting or something.

Where does morality come from?
From us, as thinking people who are trying to get along. Morality is what we've learned about how to get along with one another, mostly by trial and error, over hundreds and thousands of years.

Since we evolved to have a survival instinct, and since our particular evolutionary path was to be a social species, we tend to value benefit, and devalue harm.

All of morality is the set of rules to maximize that benefit, and minimize the harm, while trying to all live together. Morality is something we're still working on, hence the abandonment of slavery, the enlightenment about interracial marriage, and now the enlightenment about how homosexuals aren't evil/bad.

This "evolution" of morality over time is to be expected if we're the ones figuring it out.

Are there moral absolutes?
I don't believe any exist. I tore into a similar question before, so I wont' rehash it too much here.

Based on my harm/benefit secular morality, I believe it's always wrong to rape an innocent person, however, I don't believe it's absolutely wrong. That doesn't mean I think it's ever right, though.

Contradictory? No. It all hinges on what "absolute morality" means. I don't believe there's any intrinsic rule of reality that has anything to say about morality. That's something that thinking minds, like humans, invent - humans who will always think it's always wrong to rape, but it's not an intrinsic rule of the universe.

If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
Got nothing.


I'll finish the remaining questions next time.

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