Debate:"Anti-theism" or "Why is Atheism not enough?"

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Debate.png This is a Debate page.
Feel free to add your own spin on the story. Please keep it civil!
Information icon.svg This debate was created by Gameboy.


My request, should you choose to accept it, is that all posts are made as clear and as polite as possible.

Why the 'anti'?[edit]

The fact is that I simply do not understand the viewpoint of anti-theists. That is, I do not understand why they insist that religion is inherently bad. The main argument I have seen is that the religious have done (many) harmful things in the past and that some are still doing such harmful things today, and that religion inevitably leads to such things. While the numerous atrocities committed in the name of various deities are certainly worthy of note, I don't find any evidence that religion is harmful by its nature. Anyone who wishes to clarify the issue is welcome (and encouraged) to do so.

In addition, for the sake of clarity:

Stop hand.png
This user believes all religions are a form of psychosocial control and are therefore inherently bad for you.




What precisely is meant by "psychosocial control", and how are all religions a form of it? - Gameboy (talk) 23:22, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

See Debate:Religion as Psychosocial Control. Uke Blue 23:29, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
Admittedly, that was over a year ago. Uke Blue 23:30, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm. Regardless, I should not have missed it.
Well! That is one question out of the way. The first question/invitation still stands, though. - Gameboy (talk) 23:38, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I am still pondering it. Seme Blue 23:42, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
Funny story:
I saw this section, and I thought "Hey, they haven't got a link to that enormous debate I had on User Talk:Eira. I should do something helpful and put up a link to it".
And then I spent about an hour looking for it, eventually having to dig it out from the umpteenth page of my User Contribs.
And then I couldn't find where it was archived.
And then I found it was archived as the actual debate that you did link to and that this was a complete waste of time.
And then I raged. New3.pngPink(Debate Pancakes all round!) 23:47, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

What's wrong with religion[edit]

Off the top of my head:

  1. Religion is based on faith which the opposite of the scientific method.
  2. Religion tells you what to think and not how to think.
  3. Religions involve the existence of magical beings and magical solutions in which their members are required to believe.
  4. Religions claim to have the moral authority to decide what is right and wrong.

OK, now I know that somebody will say "Ah well not all religions are like that." or "I can imagine a religion which didn't involve magic." or "Well lots of clever people are religious." or whatever.

The fact is that the majority of religions have these characteristics so I don't like them.--BobSpring is sprung! 12:31, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

I agree with the above, but the main reason is numero uno. I'm anti-religion in the same way that I'm anti-homeopathy or anti-creationism. I don't identify as an antitheist, though, as I'm not really sure what it entails. For one, our own page on it says that antitheists believe that it would be undesirable even if there were a god (argument from final consequences anyone?) If it's true, then it's true, so that holds no water for me. There's also the Hitch style hypocrisy/bigotry which involves denouncing religion for being the source of war and conflict and then hyping Iraq 'cause we need to take out those damned fundies. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 16:12, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Same as Nebby. ТиранесAn artificial, yet burn dishrag? 16:34, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Yes, anti-religion seems as logical as being anti-homoeopathy or anti-crystal healing or anti the secret power of pyramids.--BobSpring is sprung! 17:49, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
For me number 4 is the most important. Organized religions tell you what is right and wrong, and their only claim to authority on that is some sort of ancient mystical connection to an/some undetectable magic being(s). It is psychosocial control. The difficulty with that userbox is that there are so many other illegitimate sources of psychosocial control in most of our lives that to single out religion is illogical.
There are some theologically weaker religions which don't broadcast a moral code, but those tend to be jokes (Pastafarianism) or extremely wishy-washy. Uke Blue 21:10, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Numbers 1 and 2 are the most important ones for me. --Leotardo (talk) 18:29, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
We can think rationally or irrationally. It's a choice that is made routine by practice. We can imagine, theorize, and accept any thought or emotion regardless of it's absurdity or rationality. We can choose magical thinking or critical thinking. It all comes down to choice and repetition. The mind does more readily what it does more often. Call it conditioning. Religion is the consequence of magical thinking, but it's practices and beliefs condition the mind to continue this magical thinking. Life demands reason, and religious followers are forced to "double-think." When critical analysis is required, the individual must choose magical or critical thinking, but practice has facilitated magical thinking, making critical thinking a burdensome effort. Thus, religion contributes to the irrationality and gullibility of the human race. If this irrationality and gullibility remained in the "religious sphere" we would not care if those followers wandered in the wilderness of ignorance. But, this irrationality and gullibility enters the sphere of politics, education, health, economics, and beyond, to pollute those areas of life and contributing to the poverty (economic, educational, cultural, etc) of everyone, religious or not. T_Rat (This is my first post, I hope I did this correctly. 19, Mar, 2015)
And I'm going to cut you off at your first sentence. "We can think rationally or irrationally". This broad assertion runs into several problems through oversimplification.
  1. We can't think perfectly rationally. We're always going to have irrational inputs to our thoughts. Rationalism is an attempt to use conscious processes to mitigate some of that natural irrationality(but it's still there).
  2. There's no reason to believe that you can't choose to vary how you think from occasion to occasion without conditioning being a factor.
  3. Religious beliefs in particular have a known biological component for their frequency. Genetic to an extent. There is a part of your brain that scientific observation shows is most active in religious experiences. The size of that part of the brain is tightly correlated with the sociological phenomenon of "religiosity". In this particular manner, religion is not necessarily indicative of a broader bias against rationality, but one specific to religious concepts and settings.
  4. Different kinds of intellectual biases do not correlate strongly with each other. That means every kind of irrational behavior can stand on its own in an individual.
In summary, your conclusions are reductionist, and fail to adequately the describe the problem you're attempting to solve with anti-theism. ikanreed You probably didn't deserve that 14:33, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

Somebody says "Ah, well, not all religions are like that"[edit]

This is going to be a long(ish) one, so please bear with me.
The exceptions are exactly my point. I fully understand why anti-theists think fundamentalism is harmful. I am not an anti-theist and I think that fundamentalism is harmful. However, since not all religion is like fundamentalism and its ilk, being against religion is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

While anecdotal evidence is not the strongest sort of evidence, here are my circumstances;
I was once a theist. A Christian, specifically, who believed that God Almighty created the universe and that he sent himself in the form of Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins, etc.

However... I did not believe that the only way to get into Heaven was to believe that Jesus was the son of God, etc. I interpreted the 'no one comes to the Father but through me' line to mean that being good (as Jesus was) would be rewarded. Yet I did not do good things because I expected to be rewarded after death, that was merely a side benefit. I did good things because I enjoyed it. Because Good Feels Good.

Nor did I feel that God should be used to explain various scientific things. I merely believed that he had set things in motion. The Big Bang (or whatever created the universe) occurred and over the next few billion years the laws of physics did their work and everything formed and so on. Then life on Earth developed and we came along, eventually God contacted us for some reason, and things were written down by people and the rest is history. I suppose that, in a way, I believed in the dreaded NOMA as it should be, not as the cheap shield it is often used as. It should be noted that I had never heard of NOMA before I ventured to this site.

All that said, my beliefs regarding God did not happen in spite of my surroundings and upbringing, but rather because of my upbringing. My friends and family all had similar beliefs to those I had, so I was raised in an atmosphere of logic and tolerance. When I did eventually become an atheist, I told the people whom I associated with (beginning with my parents). Their response was exactly as I had expected; "Okay." I was not shunned, disowned, insulted, told I would burn in Hell for my apostasy, or otherwise treated as if I had done something morally wrong.

So while I am undoubtedly biased in this issue, I feel the question still bears repeating; why be against religion? Anti-credulous-bigoted-coercive-self-important-theism makes logical sense to me, but general anti-theism doesn't make any sense to me at all. - Gameboy (talk) 21:44, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

I think the problem here is that you are not taking your own bias seriously. You can't just say "I know I'm biased, but..." and then plow on as though nothing has happened. You need to either correct for that bias or drop the argument entirely. Bob and others have raised some valid and persuasive points above: religion poisons people both epistemology and morality (for further evidence I would recommend this piece), and religious groups exert social control in an unhealthy way. While you many not have had a problem professing your atheism to your friends and peers, that is by no means the norm, and I'm willing to bet that some of the members of this site could provide you with some shocking evidence that shows just how much religion can alienate people. For these reasons and a handful of others, a "live-and-let-live" viewpoint isn't as obvious as you think it is. See also: Dawkins' analogy of Gerin oil. Tetronian you're clueless 21:54, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
(EC) I am not against everything religious. Religion does great good. However, fundamentally, I believe that because all organized religion rests upon a false premise, there are better sources of charity, community and especially morality.
To address Gameboy: You were a deist. Deism, like Pastafarianism and Panentheism, is not an organized religion. It's important to note the distinction between unorganized and organized religion; the former is not usually psychosocial control, the latter is most definitely psychosocial control, by definition. Uke Blue 21:55, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
I have few problems with unorganized religions. Having been raised by, and still living with, a religious radical; I have little if any respect for organized religions, I veiw moderates as enablers for fundamentalists. ТyAn dubious, yet sanctify cinderblock? 22:04, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
In regards to Tetronian's post:
I have examined my bias, and discussed it with others prior to coming here. And yet, I think that the view I have put forth here is still valid.
For the purpose of my beloved clarity:
  • I do not think that all religion is good.
  • I do not think that good religion is somehow 'better' than atheism.
  • I do not think religion is immune to perversion by evil people.
  • I am aware that religion has led to some of the most horrible atrocities ever commited.
  • I am aware that there are numerous people in the world today who would be disowned or even murdered for stating their true beliefs or lack thereof. (When I announced my conversion to my parents I actually told them that I was grateful that I did not to worry over that very issue)
  • I am aware that less scrupulous religious groups command the influence of nations.
What I am saying is that I do not understand how anti-theists (logically) arrive at the conclusion that ALL religion is harmful.
Are any further clarifications needed? - Gameboy (talk) 23:09, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Yes, one; what you think of when you read "harmful" is not necessarily what an anti-theist intends when s/he writes it. Uke Blue 23:26, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Gameboy: From your comments above, it seems as if the religion you think of as "good" is the unorganized, deistic sort. I have few qualms with this kind of religion (certainly far fewer than with organized religions), but I would still prefer that religion not exist altogether. Why? Mostly because any sort of religion inhibits rationality for the reasons I mentioned & linked to above as well as the ones that Bob mentioned. There is absolutely no reason why we can't replicate the benefits of religion by, say, organizing (secular) weekly bingo nights. That is, since it's probably possible to have the social benefits of group interaction without the worldview-poisoning effects of dogma, we should aim to do so. If this still isn't clear or doesn't seem persuasive, perhaps I'm missing your point. Could you elaborate on what specific kinds of religion you find acceptable? Tetronian you're clueless 23:48, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
Also, I retract my accusations of bias. Tetronian you're clueless 23:50, 14 February 2011 (UTC)
I would have to disagree with Ms. van Meer (or would it simply be "Ms. Meer"? I have never been able to determine that...), and I think that I should clarify.
My beliefs at the time were that God created the universe, and was then, at least as far as humanity is concerned, inactive for a few billion years until... well, at that point it became somewhat 'fuzzy'. Did God ever appear to humanity before the incidents described in the Bible? Perhaps before recorded history? I supposed it was possible, but figured that there wasn't a point in stressing over that. Not to say that all or even most supposed 'supernatural' events were indeed cases of divine intervention, but that was also unimportant to me. In short, I was an agnostic theist, rather than an actual deist.
To Tetronian's retraction: I appreciate it, but your concern was valid. - Gameboy (talk) 00:03, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
If all humanity believed God created the universe, caused the Big Bang, or whatever, there would be no scientific or mathematical effort to determine the origins of our universe. Ultimately, as we acquire more knowledge, that God of the gaps will disappear. Your deism is preventing you from thinking rationally about the origins of the universe; in that way, it is harmful. But - and I emphasize this - only slightly harmful. Seme Blue 00:15, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Blue - while the theology you describe is pretty mild and relatively more rational than that of most theists, I stand by my argument that "religion poisons everything." But as Blue rightly pointed out, the kind of deism you describe is mostly harmless as far as social control goes. Tetronian you're clueless 00:28, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Now with extra clarity![edit]

So many things to respond to, so little time.

Part One: Harm is something that causes damage. Like gunshots and homophobia. Those things are harmful.

Part Two: I do not want everyone to believe in God.

Part Two Dash: I don't think that, in the astronomically unlikely event that every human on the planet were to begin believing one particular religion, that interest in math and science would die out. When I believed in God, I was very interested in... well, I've never liked math, but I've never seen it as useless (I just don't enjoy it personally). Science, though, I love science! Especially animals. But I digress. The point is that just because you believe you won't eventually find the answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything doesn't mean you have no motivation to try.

Part Three: I am not a deist/agnostic theist (take your pick). I am (at the time of this posting) a 'full' agnostic. And I never worshiped a 'god of the gaps'. I worshiped the 'God of EVERYTHING (And All the Other Stuff, Too)', He just wasn't personally manipulating every bit of the universe (and yet, He kind of was, all at the same time. Infinitely powerful beings who can create existence itself are funny that way...).

Part Five: The kind of religion that I tolerate is the kind that realizes how absurd the whole thing sounds (even if they believe it to be true). The kind that doesn't force itself on people (if you want to join, fantastic! If not, that is perfectly okay. Have a cookie.). The kind that doesn't care if you're a poor, foreign, sexually active, black lesbian atheist who wears white after Labor Day. I could go on, but I hope those few statements have clarified what kind of religion I'm talking about.

Any other questions? Thoughts? Opinions? - Gameboy (talk) 01:12, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

An Addendum to Part Five: A religion that leaves science to scientists. (that is, God may be "behind" the science, but He is not actually the science itself.) - Gameboy (talk) 01:23, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

In kind:
Part one: No. This is what "harmful" means. It is a very broad term, and can mean a wide variety of injurious things; something that dissuades people from thinking independently can be described as harmful, as can homophobia or war.
Part two: That does not matter.
Dash: I did not say that. I merely stated that in order to try to ascertain a non-supernatural explanation for the origin of the universe, one must not believe that a supernatural entity is responsible for it. I really have no idea how you got "religion kills science" from "belief that God created the universe inhibits one from doing research into the origin of the universe."
Part three: Okay. In principle, that's still not an organized religion, that's panentheism or something personal to you.
Part five: Me too. I tolerate that kind of religion too! I even tolerate more involved religions. Hell, I love them! My position is that because all religion rests upon a false premise:
Both organizations being equal in every regard, I prefer the secular organization.
That's it. Uke Blue 01:36, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I was the one who said that "religion kills science," and I still think so. Again, see here. The moment you try to protect one belief from the lens of rationality, you've already lost. Even the idea that God can be "behind the science" is unhealthy, IMHO, for the same reason that NOMA is. Ultimately I agree with Blue's closing statement, though. Even a religious person who realizes how absurd their beliefs are would still be better off shedding such allegiances (even if they are barely harmful at all). Tetronian you're clueless 01:46, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Maybe it would be better if we put it more in terms of a continuum of "harm." For example, radioactive quackery would be a 10 on the "what's the harm" scale, while buying the occasional "Vitamin C enriched!!" throat lozenge when you get a cold ranks about a 1 or 2. Fundamentalism would be close to the radioactive quackery, while some vague belief in something supernatural would be the throat lozenge. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 02:01, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I like this idea; the deism Gameboy subscribes would rate pretty low (probably on par with Vitamin C pills), but it is still worse than no harm at all. Tetronian you're clueless 02:04, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
In Response to Ms. van Meer:
Part one: Well... okay. But at that point, isn't the term somewhat useless? It is so broad as to be applicable to nearly everything mankind has ever devised.
Part Two: Oh.
Part Two Dash: But you DID say that if everyone believed that God created the Universe, then there would be no effort to find the origin. I took the implication to be that no one would bother looking because 'Goddidit'.
Part Three:Well, as I said, I got those ideas from the people around me. And suppose enough like-minded, tolerant people got together and founded a Church of That Particular View?
Part Five:Well, that's hardly 'anti'. It's like me and math; I don't really like all the equations, but it's a personal preference I have, not a case of me being "Anti-mathematic"... Unless that wasn't what you were saying, anyways. Regardless, I appreciate your input.
Questions? Thoughts? Opinions? - Gameboy (talk) 02:06, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Hmm. It's not exactly like me and math (we have similar attitudes toward it); it's more like me and homeopathy; it hasn't really done a whole lot of harm, but it would be better if people didn't believe it. Seme Blue 02:13, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
*grumblegrumble*I'm an agnostic.*grumblegrumble*
To Tetronian and Ms. van Meer: I read Tetronian's links, and while they're interesting, I still don't quite follow how believing that a supernatural being is not confined by nature leads to baramins. Or harm...
The basic idea is that when you cordon off one belief, you are going to have to make adjustments to your belief system (e.g. how evidence is assessed) to keep things that way. Eventually this can lead to irrationality. I'm not too concerned about it, but it is the reason I'd rather religion quietly fade away. Tetronian you're clueless 02:28, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Alright, if we are where I think we are, things get philosophical soon. The question boils down to; why does it matter whether or not one believes that the logical, measurable, scientific universe was created by an infinitely powerful force/entity that predates existence and cannot, by definition, be measured no matter how badly anyone wants to claim that they have a method that proves/disproves the existence of said entity because it doesn't need our permission to do whatever it wants?
Did that make ANY sense? Or do I need to go to bed and try again tomorrow? - Gameboy (talk) 03:30, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it made sense(the question). Also, on an irrelevant side note, I love math. Ahem. The problem is that if one believes that the universe was created by an infitely powerful force/entity/whatever, is that people often try to force their belief upon others. I, for one have no issue with deists who simply state that X caused the big bang, and has not intervened since. I have issue with the idea that a supernatural force interacts with the natural world on any level, be it physical or "mental" as it creates a crutch, so to speak. And rather than doing it themselves, why not let X do it. ТyAn white, yet kill iPod? 03:38, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

So, to interject... If I have understood you correctly, you "have issue with the idea that a supernatural force interacts with the natural world on any level" simply because some religious people have used the existence of the supernatural as an excuse to avoid investigating the natural? Well, that's understandable, but it says nothing about the existence of the supernatural, nor does mean per se that it is harmful to accept the existence of the supernatural. I might have an issue with the idea of Microsoft interacting with the computing world on any level, because as a company I feel it has contributed to computer illiteracy; but Microsoft still exists, and people would be stupid to believe otherwise. (Hopefully that's a clear analogy; I do have a bit of a reputation for sounding completely random at times.) ;-) Thomas Larsen (talk) 03:55, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Ah, but we have evidence that Microsoft exists. ТyTalk. 04:00, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Ah, but what evidence do we have that Microsoft exists? We have keyboards with "Microsoft" written on them; but, similarly, we have Bibles with "God" written in them. We have people who talk about Microsoft all the time; we also have people who talk about God all the time. We have books written about Microsoft; we have books written about the supernatural. In fact, since Microsoft is just an airy-fairy concept—I mean, I can't see Microsoft, apart from some people who claim to work for Microsoft and some buildings with "Microsoft" painted on the side—I'm going to deny that Microsoft exists. Prove me wrong. Thomas Larsen (talk) 04:05, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
...Outdent... huh. I'll have to remember that one.
Anyways, I agree with the first part of Mr. Larsen's response. The part about Mr. Tyrannis observation of past misteps not proving anything. However, as Mr. Tyrannis pointed out, there is indeed no scientific evidence that the supernatural exists... - Gameboy (talk) 04:11, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Please stay on topic... please?
But getting off-topic is fun! ;-) Well, I disagree with you; I think there is scientific evidence for the supernatural. But, even if there was no scientific evidence, the possibility of the supernatural would not be excluded. Can you prove a mathematical theory using evolutionary biology? And, if not, why do you think it's reasonable to prove the supernatural using science, which by definition focuses on the natural?
Also, where's the scientific evidence for Microsoft? (Before you suggest that I install it on my own computer to test it, no! I refuse to do that. Microsoft doesn't exist. It's just a money-making religion invented by big corporations. And kids are getting taught it in schools!) Thomas Larsen (talk) 04:25, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
But, even if there was no scientific evidence, the possibility of the supernatural would not be excluded. - nobody excludes the possibility, "we" atheists are as sure of the non-existence of god as we are sure that this text is on you computer screen. We could also assert that there's a teapot flying in space, and it's possible - but we don't send space shuttle out there just to look for that thing.
The evidence that Microsoft exists comes through the definition of what Microsoft is: a company. What is a company? People working other people, in buildings that later own or have rented - to the goal of making money. It is in the case of god different, there we have the description of all-mighty, all-knowing, always-existed/existing being. If I one day see a bright shining light down to me and here a mighty voice that tells me it's god, I will know that it's either god or I'm going insane. But we have seen corporations and companies before Microsoft, nobody has ever told us "there is only one company in the entire universe and it is all-mighty, all-knowing and has and will always existed". If we have seen on billion stones in our lives, another stone won't suprise us - also if we have seen/felt/smelled 1,000 companies in our lives another one won't suprise us. The existence of a god is hard to imagine for so many people because they have never had the input that there is one, so that one suprizes us. But many people grow up being told that there is a god, so the same way we all believe the the earth to be round many people believe in a god because they have always been told that there is one. --Ullhateme (talk) 21:07, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
"why does it matter whether or not one believes that the logical, measurable, scientific universe was created by an infinitely powerful force/entity that predates existence and cannot, by definition, be measured no matter how badly anyone wants to claim that they have a method that proves/disproves the existence of said entity because it doesn't need our permission to do whatever it wants?" Such a belief is meaningless because it does not affect reality in any way (because it makes no predictions or descriptions of how reality will act). However, it is still a belief about reality and therefore may be incorrect or correct as a logical or probabilistic implication of other things we know to be true. This is sort of what I mean. And, as with all other beliefs, we should only believe it for a reason.
As for the stuff about the supernatural: science can test the supernatural unless you explicitly define supernatural to be unfalsifiable, which makes no sense because some of the things we intuitively think of as supernatural (e.g. ghosts, alternative medicine) do indeed have testable predictions. A better definition would be, IMHO, something like this. That kind of supernatural phenomenon can definitely be tested. Tetronian you're clueless 04:38, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Actually, the definition of "supernatural" is "unexplainable or undefinable by natural laws or principles," or something like that, so while certain elements of some supernatural "phenomena" may be falsifiable, it is by definition impossible to design a scientific test. This why I am bothered by the phrase "scientific evidence for the supernatural," because it's practically a non-sequitur. Seme Blue 05:05, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
The definition I gave is compatible with yours; even if a supernatural event/being cannot be explained by supernatural laws, it can still influence reality and we can still see its effects. So if we have an experiment in which the outcome can't be explained by a predictable, deterministic natural law even though we are being really really rigorous, that would be evidence for the supernatural. Case in point: experiments testing if psychics actually can read minds. If it looks like they can, then it can't be explained with naturalism but it is still observable. Tetronian you're clueless 05:08, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
If it is indeed meaningless... then why does it matter? - Gameboy (talk) 04:51, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
It's meaningless in the sense that it doesn't make observable predictions, but that doesn't mean that it's arbitrary. When you get to the point where you can't use empirical evidence, then you have to look at what are the logical implications of what you do know based on evidence. And because rational agents have to agree, there is only one correct way of making these distinctions. So it isn't just arbitrary even though there are no observable consequences - if it were, I could be rationally justified in saying that a giant purple banana created the universe because he lost a bet. Yet this doesn't logically seem a priori likely based on our understanding of the universe. Tetronian you're clueless 04:56, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Succinct answer[edit]

Because theism makes people believe bollocks. Talking donkeys? Blokes living inside whales? Global floods? Winged horses? Bollocks. DeltaStarSenior SysopSpeciationspeed! 05:02, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Agreed, but that's not really what Gameboy was arguing about - he was defending an idyllic kind of deism, not flying horses or Onanism. Tetronian you're clueless 05:05, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Indeed, but the question was why be an anti-theist?, although GB has for some reason steered it to what's wrong with my namby-pamby deism? DeltaStarSenior SysopSpeciationspeed! 05:07, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
On that point I definitely agree with you. Tetronian you're clueless 05:10, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Talking donkeys? Ventriloquism—a puppeteer's technique, nothing supernatural about it. Blokes living inside whales? If you're talking about Jonah, the implication seems to be that he died (see Matthew 16:4), as you would expect. Global floods? No, a local flood. Winged horses? Not sure where you got them from, but anyway... Thomas Larsen (talk) 05:13, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
What are you trying to get at? I don't really see where you're going with this... Tetronian you're clueless 05:18, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I think he may be trying to explain how the entire Bible wasn't made up, people were just really stupid back then. Or something. Seme Blue 05:21, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I'm an agnostic.
It is late here. I am tired and my thoughts are jumbled. It's all gone to gibberish in my head. More clarity tomorrow. For now, goodnight everyone, and thank you for your input. - Gameboy (talk) 05:24, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Actually this is what almost always seems to happen in these cases. People who are pro-religion start to redefine the terms so that that can point to some rarely-practised hypothetical "good" religion. I accept that you could hypothetically invent your own religion which did not involve supernatural beings, did not try to tell people what do do, did not involve supernatural interventions or faith and allowed people to think and learn whatever they liked.
But I rather doubt that this would be a "religion" which many people would recognise as such. Arguing that you have a personal religion which fits these characteristics doesn't really work because religions are - by definition - formulated commonly-held belief systems. So I would argue that a "personal religion" is contradiction in terms anyway.--BobSpring is sprung! 07:02, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

In response to the original poster's question, I think most people who are opposed to religion in any shape or form feel that way because they see (a) religion inhibiting scientific progress and/or (b) heinous acts being committed in the name of religion; truth or lack of truth has very little to do with it. Thomas Larsen (talk) 07:21, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Imaginary friend argument[edit]

What's wrong with basing your life around the teachings of your imaginary friend?

Well, there are two ways of looking at it.

  1. There's nothing wrong with it, as long as you don't take it too far & don't try to force your strange beliefs & lifestyle on others.
  2. Actually everything is still wrong with it. It's unhealthy to base your life around something that makes so little sense.

This is essentially what the atheist/antitheist position boils down to. ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 07:37, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Yes, you could make a similar argument about believing in the secret power of pyramids. There is nothing actually "wrong" with believing it except for the fact that it's wrong.--BobSpring is sprung! 11:03, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Good morning world and all who inhabit it. After reading the above posts with a fresh mind, I see that the answer was dancing in front of me the entire time. I think.
Please correct me if I am misunderstanding; The ultimate objection to even the tiniest belief in something that cannot be explained logically, is comparable to a lens. I cannot remember which space telescope it was (this probably happened more than once, though) but the pictures were (badly) distorted due to an imperfection in the lens the width of a human hair. This is combined with snowball effect, that the tiny 'flaw' will eventually pickup more and more ideas, causing further distortion.
Would that about sum it up? - Gameboy (talk) 17:18, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Seems like it. ТyTalk. 17:19, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
That's pretty much what I was trying to get at. (That's a really really good analogy, by the way.) Tetronian you're clueless 17:23, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I see. I cannot say I entirely agree with that view, but I finally understand it, at least. Give me time to think more on it. I may come around.
Regardless, I thank everyone for their input, and for keeping it civil. (and for putting up with my increasingly incoherent and wandering train of thought as I got tired back there...)
And thank you, Mr. Tetronian. - Gameboy (talk) 17:29, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
While the space telescope analogy is interesting it massively understates what religion does. It is not that religion represents tiny flaws in the mirror - it damages the mirror almost beyond repair. Nothing short of re-grinding or replacement will correct the image.--BobSpring is sprung! 17:43, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
It was the Hubble Space Telescope, and it was not so much a matter of "tiny flaws" as a tiny but overall deviation from the proper shape. Fixing it involved flying a manned mission (fortunately, service missions were part of the plan) to install a corrective lens in front of it all, for a clearer view of various heavenly bodies. If religion discourages investigation of the details of nature, to preserve the ideological big picture which better serves the organization's interest, then the analogy works pretty well.
The difficulty I have with clubs formed around imaginary friends is that they tend to divide the world into the saved and the lost, the elect and the damned. I happen to think that dividing people against each other is not in our species' long term best interest. I have been wrong a time or two; perhaps healthy doses of intra-species conflict (e.g. warfare or class oppression) is what keeps us strong. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 19:39, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Thank you, Gameboy. This turned into a very interesting discussion. Tetronian you're clueless 19:46, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. ТyTalk. 19:47, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
So why is disorganized religion so much more agreeable? - Gameboy (talk) 04:07, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
As I mentioned about I'm not sure it exists. A "religion" has a codified structure and a set of followers. "Disorganised religion" is just "Well, at the moment, I personally think that ...."--BobSpring is sprung! 06:45, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
This debate has rather wandered hither and thither but here seems like a suitable place to stick my oar in. First of all I think that in some people's eyes I am regarded as an anti-theist but there has been little discussion here about the distinction between theism and religion. To me theism deals with the general principle of whether there is some omnipotent, omniscient entity that created the universe whereas religion is the man-made consequence of how that principle should affect our behaviour. For me, the possibility of a creator outside of our physical universe is unknowable and the concept stumbles against the "prime mover" or "first cause" problem. Our finite existence means that it is difficult to grasp the concept of infinity in time and space. Even stuff like the "big bang" is difficult to comprehend because the concept of ex nihilo is hard to visualise; adding God to the mix only raises more questions. Religions try to make sense of the world or ascribe purpose but ultimately they are nothing more than human constructs; the Bible did not magically appear to all mankind, the contents were filtered through individual beings and I think that we all know that everyone is fallible. Psychology has even shown us that we cannot always trust our senses so delusions and illusions are commonplace. The problem with organised religion is that it tries to impose a specific interpretation of what has happened in the past, perhaps only to one individual, and extend it to define how we should live our lives. Also the mere fact that something becomes organised turns it in to a self-perpetuating organisation. Certain 'special' people become intermediaries between the common folk and the deity or part of the supporting hierarchy; their whole raison d'être becomes subservient to the continuation of the religion. When someone challenges the received wisdom they undermine the structure and have to be eliminated in some way lest they contaminate the doctrine. Organised religion by its very nature demands power - political, psychological or economic - if it is to continue; it has to suppress dissent. Dogma becomes engrained and small changes to meet the challenge of a changing society need massive effort to overcome entrenched resistance. One only has to think of the debates over re-marriage of divorcees and the roles of women or homosexuals. Science on the other hand reforms itself to encompass new knowledge, anyone is free to challenge the old wisdom if they can demonstrate that it is wrong. Although scientists are human and subject to human failings any true scientist would welcome paradigms if the old ones were shown to be wrong. You can keep your theistic belief if it makes you happy but I will fight any attempt to impose your religious interpretation on others either through guilt or force. Redchuck.gif ГенгисYou have the right to be offended; and I have the right to offend you. 10:01, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
Actually, Mr. Khant, that was very on-topic and very interesting, as well. - Gameboy (talk) 16:29, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

On a related note[edit]

Where do you all consider the line between "Theism" and "Deism" to be? I always considered it to be the activity level (hence why I feel my previous beliefs were theistic rather than deistic). - Gameboy (talk) 17:38, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

In theism, the entity in question is active, i.e. does more than create. Examples: talking, miracles, blowing stuff up, requiring worship, etc.ТyTalk. 17:39, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
In deism god simply creates the universe then loses interest and takes no further part whatsoever in anything. Once you posit any kind of intervention after that you are talking theism.
As a matter of interest neither deism nor theism by themselves are "religions" per se.--BobSpring is sprung! 17:47, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

There are no other planets.[edit]

Since we don't have binoculars, telescopes, or other astronomical technology to look at the stars (especially pre-1 BCE), there can't possibly be other planets. Not even Vulcan, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Juipter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto are planets (although they're quite quick in changing positions in the sky.)

Also, Pluto doesn't have an orbiting satellite since I'm not reading from a modern-enough textbook. The student that states otherwise after reading the recent religious scripture, "The solar system, 1990 edition" is obviously wrong. --15.195.201.89 (talk) 18:09, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Some people aren't too clear on analogies. Guess I'll have to explain that stating that God doesn't exist because we can't observe him, isn't much different than saying planets don't exist because we couldn't observe them either. Besides, making a statement about supernatural things not existing takes as much faith as saying they do exist - there is no current means to test whether or not they exist, and thus Atheism can't be falsified. It's much better to place focus on disproving Agnosticism before doing anything else. --15.195.201.89 (talk) 19:14, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
You can see several of the planets with the naked eye. That may be what caused your edit reversion. ТyTalk. 19:16, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Or it could just be that it's way off the subject of this debate. WėąṣėḷőįďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 19:56, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
But at a hypothetical point in time when we couldn't detect the planets we would have been quite justified in not believing they exist. Is it possible that a giant planet exists beyond the Oort cloud? I suppose so. Is there presently any evidence that it exists? Not that I am aware of. So I am justified in believing that it does not exist. If evidence of its existence is forthcoming I will change my position. Is there any (good) evidence God exists? No. I am justified in not believing he exists. If evidence turns up I will change my position. Where is the problem?--BobSpring is sprung! 20:05, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
A question which I find fascinating—which is why I brought up the hyperbolic Microsoft analogy above—is what qualifies as evidence? For example, in the case of Microsoft, the evidence we have of its existence boils down to (a) people wearing business suits who claim to work for the company, (b) buildings with the word "Microsoft Windows" printed in friendly letters across the side, and (c) bits of paper, computers, and books marked "Microsoft Windows". Now, no-one here is seriously going to dispute that Microsoft exists: but the interesting thing about it all is that we have people who claim to work for God, buildings with "God" printed on the side, and books written about God. Maybe there's something really obvious that I've overlooked.
Of course, you could prove to me that Microsoft Windows exists by persuading me to install it on my computer. But there is a Catch-22: if I'm firmly entrenched in the idea that it doesn't exist, why would I bother trying to install it? Just to make sure the analogy is clear here, it's a bit like you, Bob, saying that Christianity (for example) isn't true because you have no evidence for it; but then possibly the reason you have no evidence for it is because the evidence is mostly empirical and experiential, and you aren't willing to "install it" to find out. The same goes, of course, for me and—say—Hinduism: I'm entrenched in my own position of Christianity. I'm not saying there's necessarily anything wrong with that per se—perhaps there is—but it certainly poses a problem.
Hopefully most of that makes sense. I just got up. Thomas Larsen (talk) 21:35, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Being averse to evidence is irrational regardless of what you believe. You cannot, for mathematical reasons that can be formalized, look for evidence that confirms or refutes a theory, only evidence to test a theory. The best way I can explain this is (unfortunately) by linking to yet another article, as it can explain the concept much better than I can. So if you aren't willing to install the software, you aren't being very rational in your thinking because you are neglecting information that could help you find the truth. That is, if you don't use all of the information availible to you, you aren't putting forth your best effort. Indeed, that's what being entrenched in one's position means. Tetronian you're clueless 21:43, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
(Edit conflict) Well, it's really down to the person making claim to present the evidence - it's not up to the person hearing it to go and look for evidence. Furthermore, for such an extraordinary claim, the evidence needs to be extraordinarily good. None of the evidence for the existence of god which has been presented to me has been convincing. If you'd like to present some extraordinarily good evidence lets see it. You will also note that I said there is "no (good) evidence" and not "no evidence".--BobSpring is sprung! 21:49, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
(Edit conflict.) So does the same principle also apply to religion? Thomas Larsen (talk) 21:56, 15 February 2011 (UTC) (@Tetronian: Good article, by the way.) Thomas Larsen (talk) 21:58, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
(EC, let's put it here)So what if humanity, which had up to this point believed in the existence of Microsoft, were suddenly confronted with the revelation that the supposed evidence for its existence isn't really there? What if we suddenly found out that Windows wasn't created by them, but came about as a result of random events and the laws of nature? What if we learned that there's actually no evidence of someone called "Bill Gates" existing and founding the company? What if we gradually discovered that Microsoft's account of its own history could not be independently verified and was at odds with established history? After all these revelations, wouldn't you view people who claim to work for Microsoft as crazy? Röstigraben (talk) 22:06, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────To 15.195.201.89: I reverted because it seemed to me that the edit was completely unrelated to the discussion. I have since been told that reversions are not to used so freely, so I apologize for the misunderstanding. That said, analogies require context, otherwise they may appear to be apropos of nothing regardless of how skilled one is at determining analogies. Nonetheless, thank you for your input. - Gameboy (talk) 22:00, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

(EC) @Thomas: Thanks! And yes, it absolutely applies to religion.
I also had a reply to Bob but apparently his edit was reverted. Nevermind. Rewriting reply now... Tetronian you're clueless 22:01, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
@Bob: I've always been skeptical of the idea of burden of proof. While it's good for debate and social situations, I don't think it works well as far as skeptical/philosophical inquiry in general. Why should your level of belief in something depend upon the thoroughness of the person presenting it? I think that you, the listener, should still put forth your best effort to uncover the truth regardless of what burdens of proof other people did or did not fulfill. Tetronian you're clueless 22:04, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
It still comes down to the quality of the evidence. If somebody says "There are fairies at the bottom of the garden". Am I then obliged to spend a lot of time investigating that or is my course of action to ask - "And what is the evidence for that?" --BobSpring is sprung! 06:43, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
It shouldn't matter whether someone told your or not - if you've observed no evidence, your level of belief in the fairies should just be your prior probability assignment. If you are confident that this is accurate then you are in the clear, but if not then you should look for evidence to update your prior. Either way, it shouldn't depend on the fact that someone is suggesting the idea to you, you should have already thought of it. I know that's not very clear, I'll try to think of another way to explain it. Tetronian you're clueless 19:40, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
I agree 100%. But in your argument above you said:
  • I think that you, the listener, ...
This seems to suggest that you are giving importance to "the fact that someone is suggesting the idea to you." Again - if someone is suggesting it to me (that is to say I am listening to them) then it is down to them to present the evidence if they are trying to persuade me. It is not down to me to investigate every idea that I as "the listener" am presented with.--BobSpring is sprung! 19:51, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I see what you mean. Of course it is impossible to investigate every claim ever. But maybe a better way to frame the idea of "burden of proof" would be like this: "If I am to increase my level of belief in X, then I must see some piece of evidence that lends credence to X." The phrase "burden" seems to suggest that burden of proof is some kind of social rule or rule of organized debate that we should follow, but that's really not what's going on. What's really happening is that the listener will fail to be more convinced (and rightfully so) until they see additional evidence; if the speaker wants to convince the listener then he must provide this evidence. I know that this version sounds basically the same, but the key difference is that it isn't phrased in terms of an argument or a debate, where the speaker is burdened with providing substance for his claims and loses if he can't. Is that a little clearer? Tetronian you're clueless 20:02, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
In practical terms I see little difference in saying: "If I am to increase my level of belief in X, then I must see some piece of evidence that lends credence to X." And "You have the burden of proof." One may win as a logical presentation and the other wins on brevity. In any event it is not my responsibility to look for evidence in favour of every weird idea that someone may present to me - upon which I think we are agreed. Indeed, I doubt there is much real difference in our positions.--BobSpring is sprung! 20:17, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
I agree, there isn't much difference between our viewpoint. But I love to nitpick, so I couldn't resist. Tetronian you're clueless 21:33, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
If you hear a still small voice, and its guidance is useful to you, Then that is fine. It makes little sense to sell that voice (or its prompting) to others. The still small voice cannot be summoned; it may be heard when you need it. I am reminded of the teachings of Mau Piailug, an ordained Micronesian traditional navigator. I believe ordination is the proper word for the ceremony that confirms such a person as a practitioner and guardian of the tradition. There were certain sea marks around the islands he knew, such as a school of certain type of fish, that only appeared when the boat was lost. Other marks were more mundane, such as the normal daily range of island-based birds, or the rising and setting of named stars.
It is not sensible to put oneself in danger just so one may experience the drama of rescue. That does not necessarily mean that the safety net is nonexistent. Does that make any sense at all? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 22:05, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I confess I don't entirely understand your point, Sprocket. But your metaphor intrigues me. Could you elaborate a bit? Tetronian you're clueless 22:14, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I guess it has to do with science not knowing all the answers, and admitting as much, I hasten to add. For example, neurogenesis and the mechanism by which SSRI's relieve depression is one scientific understanding that has been recently overturned. I guess at the end of the day it behooves us to "study the appearance of the water under all conditions of wind and current," to get as good as we can with the testable (and falsifiable) particulars of what matters to us in our daily go-round, but to keep eyes and ears open for things that the science does not explain, at least not yet. Marvels may come to those who do not seek them, but they come seldom, and in a flash, so alertness and accurate memory are valuable things to practise. Any clearer? (Perhaps not-- still coming to grips with this myself.) Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 22:24, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
Much clearer, thanks. I certainly agree about keeping ears open especially because we are limited by what our current level of technology allows us to test. So even if something isn't falsifiable but it might be in the future, that's something we need to wait for. And yes, some things do come in a flash and don't come back again. But things that are unfalsifiable in principle are different, I think. Tetronian you're clueless 22:31, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
For the record, I never claimed that there was any scientific evidence that God existed. At least, no evidence that could not be explained as science alone. - Gameboy (talk) 22:08, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
In response to Röstigraben: If Microsoft was proven not to exist, those professed employees being "crazy"? Yes.
But the more important issue would be "Are they dangerous?". - Gameboy (talk) 22:16, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
No, that's where the analogy breaks down, of course. Microsoft doesn't care how you live, won't tell you to hate strangers because they shop at another company or have a non-mainstream product preferences, doesn't protect its sales reps in case they systematically molested children, doesn't make idiotic predictions about the future that impede our way of handling problems and so on. Lots of people can't stand them, but even at their worst, hardball business tactics don't begin to compare with the evil perpetuated by organized religions and their clergy. Röstigraben (talk) 22:25, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
[SARCASM MODE] Are we talking about the same Microsoft? [SARCASM MODE]
[SINCERITY MODE] But such things are not integral for organized religion. [SINCERITY MODE] (They aren't, are they?) - Gameboy (talk) 22:33, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I just had a strange epiphany: Organized religion has much in common with organized crime. They force you to pay money or you'll end up in a very bad place, they demand absolute loyalty, they tell you what to do all the time, they manipulize politics the way they want it and both in big business fuck up societies very much. On the other hand they can stabilize an allready fucked-up society by giving it order and give people that have nothing else to do something to do. --Ullhateme (talk) 23:35, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
The first part, as stated above, is not necessarily true. The second part is true, but there are secular systems that have the same benefits. - Gameboy (talk) 03:30, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
Am I seriously the one who brought that up?

Getting back to Microsoft existing and God (s) existing[edit]

Reading the introduction to this I'm not sure if it is being suggested that the it equally difficult to demonstrate the existence of both Microsoft and God. Is this suggestion being made? 'Cause if so it's clearly wrong.--BobSpring is sprung! 16:04, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Why get back to it? It's a mutton-headed analogy & has nothing to do with the antitheism question. This debate started in some fairly interesting territory but seems to have wandered into the usual "proof that atheism is accurate and correct" crap. ЩєазєюіδWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:26, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
Basically because I'm trying to understand if anybody was seriously arguing that.--BobSpring is sprung! 18:33, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

If the atheist cannot make any rational arguments...[edit]

...supporting his position, for whatever reason, naturally he becomes rather hot under the collar and starts getting a little impatient to see the Nasty Theists shut up, in which case atheism is insufficient and the big gun of anti-theism must be brought out. I cite two examples of this general phenomenon relating to religion:

  • When it became apparent that the Christians' lovely apologias were working on very few people besides bums and moral wretches looking for an easy out, they wormed their way into the favor of opportunistic rulers and eventually secured carte blanche for their mobs to rove around smashing pagan temples.
  • When that noted group of anti-theists, the Soviets, caught on that their millennial wet dreams were not baiting enough suckers out of the Church to fulfil the prophecies of St. Marx, they decided to enforce their decree that only backwards idiots believed in God by clapping all the Christian intellectuals in the gulag. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:32, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
If you tried to make a point here (except of linking anti-theism to communism) can you tell me which one? Because I can't find one in there. --Ullhateme (talk) 14:43, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
I understand where Listener is coming from. More often than not, the most hardcore anti-theists I've run into in my life are a rabble that make a case against all religion about as well as Andrew Schlafly makes the case for YEC. My single greatest issue with all anti-theists is that, to me, they are, essentially, the evangelists of atheism; not happy that others' views differ from their own, they feel they must press their beliefs (or non-beliefs) on others. And, again, these are the people who usually make the poorest case possible for naturalism (often barely able to explain the Theory of Evolution, for example). The Goonie Punk Can't sleep, clowns will eat me! 15:02, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
If Mr. Listener's point is that anti-theism is the of atheist equivalent of fundamentalism... well, it might be, but I'm still working it out in my mind, and will give them the benefit of the doubt.
As for the Soviets; they were indeed anti-theists. Rabidly so. However, their anti-theism was more of a political stance than a rational philosophy. (that's what I think, anyways.) - Gameboy (talk) 16:23, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I can see where Listener is coming from now, thanks for explaning it (It just looked to me like one of those weird babbles from Jpatt: "bla bla communism bla bla").
The communist view on religion is, that it's a painkiller against the effects of exploitation of the proletariat. It is pretty much the same view as the telescope analogy above. What was different was the practical treatment of organized religion (because you can't do very much against a personal believe that is not getting expressed nor presented). Religion is seen as a tool of exploitation controlled by the bourgeoisie, which are at war with the proletariat - if you're on the side of the proletariat you are against religion as much as you are against a state controlled by the bourgeoisie. Please, all anti-communists do me a big favor: get to fucking know what you critisize before you take your shit of words on it! --Ullhateme (talk) 17:07, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
  • First example: I can't tell what the hell this is referring to. The linked article isn't helpful & Googling "lovely apologias" brings up nothing. If I'm reading this right, Christian mobs were allowed to smash up pagan temples, but this is being listed as an example of atheists wanting to silence the Nasty Theists. WTF please?
  • Second example: antitheism was present in Marxism from the start, as part of larger ideology of opposing exploitative mechanisms, not just something the Reds resorted to when they "couldn't make any rational arguments". & Silencing or imprisoning voices of opposition, or potential sources of opposition, is what repressive regimes do, religious or otherwise. I don't think the Soviet treatment of Christian intellectuals (among others) is much different from, say, the medieval Inquisition's treatment of heretics, or the McCarthyist treatment of (suspected) communists. WēāŝēīōīďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:57, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
The first point is a general example of people who hold a certain religious view getting frustrated that other people do not share their view.
The Soviets' attitude to religion was much different from Marx's. Marx was merely anti-clerical and believed that religion would wither away once it ceased to be useful as an opiate of the masses due to the rise of socialism; the Soviets were die-hard anti-theists who could not wait for the withering.
...or the McCarthyist treatment... Pardon me, but McCarthy and crew barely managed to arrest anyone, let alone put them in concentration camps or kill them, and the arrests that were made were usually on other grounds, such as contempt of Congress or actual acts of espionage. A more appropriate comparison is with the Nazis' treatment of the Reds. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:16, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

Why is atheism not enough?[edit]

" ... an example of crossing the line from harmless religious beliefs ... and harmful religious beliefs ..." (Greg Laden on Scienceblogs) Number Six (talk) 20:13, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

I read that post. And while it is interesting, his statements at the ending were... Worrisome.
"I don't think it is possible to reliably predict when this line will be crossed. The consequences can be devastating. This is why religion needs to always be viewed with suspicion, religious leaders should never be given power, appeasement of religious groups should be sparing at best but generally avoided, and secular institutions should be privileged over religious ones."
I hope that he was employing deadpan sarcasm that passed over my head, because otherwise it sounds disturbingly similar to the opinions of fundamentalists.
To clarify; If one wants to be suspicious of religion, that is fine. To bar someone from a position simply because of their beliefs, to practice appeasement, and to privilege one group over another all violate the principles of equality.
I'm certain I've ruffled someone's feathers here, and said people are welcome to explain support Mr. Laden's positions. - Gameboy (talk) 00:34, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

Dalek tries to justify his anti-theism.[edit]

I separate my atheism and anti-theism as being two completely separate things. Atheism is my belief about the nature of the universe, god, life. I could quite happily believe this while loving, being apathetic to, or hating religion. My anti-theism is not a direct consequence of my atheism, and I think to say, "Religion does bad stuff," is too easy an answer. My anti-theism arises from the nature of morality and integrity, and a friend once commented that it was odd that I think religious belief is more dangerous than a belief in, say, ghosts.

I believe that there are two fundamental problems with religion. Firstly, deference of morality. I wish for a world where belief in something being right or wrong, good or bad, is something which one would justify to somebody. If you ask me why I believe in something strongly, or am against something, then I should have at least a semblance of an answer or justification. But, when one accepts a set of uncompromising, eternally true statements or principles as god-given fact, then you defer your sense of morality. You no longer come to the conclusion that something is right or wrong, you are told so. And this, to me, is both wrong and dangerous. As a consequence of my atheism, I believe the Bible, Koran, and all other religious texts to be simply the work of humans in the past, not divinely-inspired. Some of them, indeed, contain brilliant thinking which was far ahead of its time. But when one is convinced that a text is the word of your god, then your sense of morality, your ideas of right and wrong, are deferred. And, as a consequence of being an atheist, I believe that means you are deferring it to intelligent or powerful men who have long since died and perhaps been forgotten, not a god. The second issue, is less the deference of morality, but the openness to interpretation and manipulation of this problem. In America, we see the development of 'movement conservatism' - the idea that fiscal conservatism should go hand-in-hand with a strict, fundamentalist Christian belief set. This has been used, so brazenly, to manipulate good people with a firm belief in Christianity to believe that right-wing economics is something which they must strictly adhere to. People, I would argue, would never be so easily controlled and manipulated without a belief in a god. There is the major second issue, which is sectarianism. Humanity can never, ever, ever be one, happy race, who do not fight, generation-after-generation, over the same issues, while religion is so strong. Would people be able to find peace in the middle east if they did not believe in a god? If they did not believe that they had some divine right? If they didn't believe that there god was somehow better than the false god of another people? Not easily, but yes. I believe so. We see, indeed, the deference I have spoken about all over the world. That people in Iran could so coldly watch another human being stoned to death because they believe it is what god wants, that people in Africa can be so twistedly turning against gays, that they could believe that condoms INCREASE the chance of HIV being transmitted? These are things which happen when people believe sources without questioning them, the very requirement of organised religion.

It is a strawman to discuss the good that religion does and the bad which it inflicts. For, these are arguments like Conservapedia's Atheism and Obesity articles. If Atheists were all suicidal, obese paedophiles who never gave a penny to charity, then that would have no reflection on the validity of their believe system, just as the divinity of Christ is neither confirmed nor disproven by Christians being the kindest or most horrible of people. It's no more relevant than the fact a drunk man is happier than a sober man, to borrow a phrase. And so, anti-theism, I think we must accept, is not about if religion is correct or not. It is not about, "Religions do bad, so they are wrong," this is a cheap fallacy. Instead, anti-theism is a consequence of atheism. If the religion is true, then it does not matter if it has good or negative affects, as it is true. But if the religion is false (which an atheist believes), then he must look at the consequences of the existance of religion - which leads me to be an ant-theist. DalekEXTERMINATE 20:13, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Wouldn't the same be true for, say, any extreme political ideology as well? Maybe we need another distinction like you made between ghosts and religion. On my "what's the harm" scale, religion ranks closer to radioactive quackery while ghosts rank closer to vitamin c enriched throat lozenges. But there's a qualitative distinction there too. Religion affects a much larger set of decisions in many more areas of life than a belief in ghosts (presumably). So it could be a difference of "worldview woo" versus "isolated woo." Worldview woo would be more dangerous, then. Personally, I see little difference in strict adherence to Christianity or Islam as I do to Communism or Objectivism. So I guess I would be an anti-theist by that measure, but I don't see religion as the big problem. But I would put it at the top tied with some other "worldview woo" at least. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 03:44, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

Lost and found: scientific view of cosmology: Einstein against "Gang of three"[edit]

I didn't read the whole debate, just enough to convince myself that I am not repeating something that was allready debated (however I still might be wrong so please ignore what's below if it was already debated) besides, being a new kid on the block I don't know if hijacking a debate is allowed in RW. But I think we all might get something valuable out of this since the issue is rather important (at least in my opinion).

The issue I'm trying to debate here is "how we are sure (or some aren't) that there is no God/gods?" In my opinion it is only since we (or at least critical minds among us, ca. 5% of population) don't believe in improbable things like Santa or ghosts (even holy).

The science, between other things, since for epistemological reasons can't prove anything directly, works this way that it eliminates from our beliefs, prejudises that can't be supported by evidence and slowly our minds got convinced that the universe is rational. God/gods become so improbable that we with all the knowledge that we have about the universe there is no way we can believe in "supernatural". That's why it took so much time to establish a fact that the Earth is rather like an orange than like a shell of a turtle who stands on elephants, and they on other elephants, and that there are elephants all the way down ...

But science gets into a dead end street sometimes when people start imagining that theere is no other possibility but certain particular way, as it happened with the idea of creation of universe (a.k.a. "Big Bang"). A few physics professors (theists in my opinion) got convinced that since the universe looks as if it were expanding, and not being able, for unknown reasons, to use Einstein's theory to explain the observations, and get this way out of the tight spot, and being also mathematicians for whom Einstein being a physicist might feel kind of respect, convinced Einstein that he was wrong supporting the idea of eternal, stationary, universe, which comes out of Einstein's physics, as I prove in my essay.

I just finished the rough desription of Einstein's troubles with those three theists so I invite you too my page Essay:"Gravitation demystified" to discuss the issue of creationism in science, which got there through a back door of cosmology. JimJast (talk) 00:02, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

"That's why it took so much time to establish a fact that the Earth is rather like an orange than like a shell of a turtle who stands on elephants". Rilly? How long did it take? & Why an orange? WèàšèìòìďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 06:45, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
It depends from when you count. If from the Big Bang than it is 13.7 billion years but if you count in real time than it is forever (as far as w know now). JimJast (talk) 10:27, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
Huh? People believed the world was a turtle for 13.7 billion years? ЩєазєюіδWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:37, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
This option is called "since the Big Bang". But it was established in 1985 that there was no "Big Bang" so it really means "any time you please" so one may call it "1,000 years ago" since only the "creationist science" recognizes the Big Bang as happening 13.7 billions years ago. The Big Bang disappeared from real science over 26 years ago. If you believe that the whole universe can be created in an instant from nothing then for you it is 13.7 billion years, and for you it is real. For me who doesn't belive in miracles it never happened. Except that people some time ago believed in many strange things, between others that the universe was created. And some still do. E.g. like our friend Bob (if I'm not mistaken) who might not know that there are two options: the universe was created or it wasn't. Just the contemporary science, the one that respects math, even only Newtonian, it wasn't (it was always here). It might have to do something with Einstein's discovery of relativity of time, which Bob might not believe in. It might still need more investigation before a reliable theory is worked out. So far we know for sure that the Big Bang is a hoax. But as you noticed too, people believed in stranger things. JimJast (talk) 18:57, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
So how come badgers can't get a parking permit? €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 19:17, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
Not in Wisconsin though, I hope ... JimJast (talk) 20:05, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
An orange looks like the small model of Earth, that's why. But to understand it better you might take an astronomy course as I did before I understood that there is no such thing as "all the way down" (infinite regress) in physics, though it is in math. Main diff. JimJast (talk) 10:38, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
Nice try Jim, but I don't see it getting you more traction on your essay.--BobSpring is sprung! 07:31, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
Bob, if you don't read it, but I hope that some folks will and it might turn well for Einstein. As for me I don't care that much, however I'm pissed off by the treatment Einstein gets after discovering the most important theory of our time that couples time and space. JimJast (talk) 10:27, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

Criticizing religious violence is not only fair game, but necessary.[edit]

Many people seem to believe it would be a mistake to criticize religion based on the evil that it's capable of producing, noting that not every religious person sees themselves as the harbinger of religious zealotry, but I hold that this is entirely fair. I understand that this avenue of criticism can lead to very linear thinking, in which it becomes tempting to say that complicated, multi-faceted issues like 9/11 or the conflict in Gaza are purely woes inflicted by religion, and I'd agree that's inaccurate. However, I feel it's disingenuous to say that religion doesn't inflate these problems and make them that much worse than they would have been. I'm willing to concede that things like oppression, violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, genital mutilation,and so and so forth are not intrinsic to religion, yet at the same time harsh critics of religion's more pernicious aspects should not have to. I made an edit to Rational Wiki's sometime ago on their page for New Atheism, where one of the criticisms outlined for us is that we have trouble distinguishing religion's use as a tool for oppression and violence from religion itself.

If I may reiterate, would we say that dictatorships aren't so bad, because lust for power is the real problem? Would we say that the sexual slave trade is not so bad, because misogyny and exploitation are the real problems? This is ludicrous. We can't prove that rape squads, being sentenced to death without a trial, secret police, and the widespread use of fear and force are any more inherent to dictatorship than we can oppression and violence with religion. It's entirely possible to conceive of a benevolent one. With or without religion, greed, selfishness, and bigotry would still exist, but the point that many seem to obtusely miss is that we combat how human avarice manifests itself in the real, everyday world.I don't understand why we have to provide more rigorous reasons to oppose religion than we do anything else that we commonly understand to be detrimental to society. It seems as though that atheists have bought into a sneaky and pernicious deflection of criticism of religion. What others seem to be asking of us is to offer a reason for why religion is inherently bad, or intrinsically bad. Which is an impossible task, because philosophically we can't show anything is intrinsically bad. The closest you can get to that, is that religions seem to have a common authoritarian element to them, that being that it's adherents derive their sense of purpose and morality through the agency of another being(s), but even then I would have to show why authoritarianism is "bad".

Truly, the only sort of engagements that I see when the widespread death and destruction that religious dogma throughout history has caused is brought up are shallow and myopic responses, though for the sake of not being needlessly long winded I won't address all of them. The first being "Ah, but look at all the good religion does too." as if this whitewashes everything and makes religious violence a non point. Condemn my bombastic language if you wish, but would we except a rapist in society if he donated to charity in his spare time and made really inspirational popsicle stick art? All the combined religious charity in the modern era vastly pales in comparison to the body count organized religion boasts. Did the religious faith based contributions to Sudan during their bloody civil war negate the fact that the war was fueled by religious faith in the first place? Were the black churches that functioned as a bulwark against racist violence in pre-civil rights America, in any way, measure up to the use of the bible to justify racism and slavery in the first place? Does the hope and perseverance that belief in an afterlife gives to a gay Christian in Uganda in any way compare to the oppression enacted upon them by the influence of Christian missionaries? For anyone being honest with themselves, the answer seems to be a very clear and resounding "No." In addition, the frequent use of charity to justify the existence of religion as an institution is insulting, considering that the poor and underclass give far more to religious institutions than they give back to the poor. The Catholic church alone in the U.S. is a 170 billion dollar business, and organized religion within the U.S. makes in upwards of 80 billion dollars a year. In the U.S. at least, the relationship between religion and the poverty stricken is a parasitic one. The second attempt at engagement is that anti-theists characterize all religions with a broad brushstroke, but I largely see this as another cheap and erroneous point. The argument being, that anti-theists go after the Abrahamic religions as a sort of low hanging fruit and attempt to use them as a platform to demonize all religions. This is nonsense because the reason why anti-theists aren't commonly found crusading against an obscure tribal religion in Papua New Guinea is simply a matter of priority. The Abrahamic religions are the most widespread and causing the most problems, so it only seems to make sense that they get the most focus. I concede that religion isn't unique, (Though, if you ask me I'm hard pressed to explain how events like Jonestown and Waco Texas aren't distinctly religious phenomena) and that many ideologies when widely held can yield toxic social consequences, but that doesn't suddenly make religion less worthy of opposition.

To be clear, I have been using religion interchangeably with theism, so to avoid confusion I'll make my terms clear. I define religion as an unwavering belief in God(s) in which adherents derive their sense of purpose, morality, and in general base their world view around such beings. I use God(s) as a euphemism for any supernatural being that is held to have divine or cosmic authority over mortal subjects by virtue of their status as supernatural beings. Without the supernatural element, in my view, it becomes difficult to distinguish religion from philosophy. Without superstition, without the supernatural, religion is simply reduced to a set of moral codes in which to guide your life. With this, I hold that all religion is by definition harmful because it discourages skeptical thinking by virtue of being completely authoritarian in nature. It is naive to expect inherently authoritarian concepts to manifest themselves in peaceful ways, and even if this assertion were not true or a ignorant mischaracterization of religion as I'm sure many will tout, if you see yourself as having access to a truth that nobody else has, as having access to arguably one of the most important truths there is, if you see yourself as having a connection or relationship with a higher being that's "above" man, do you not then have an incredible incentive to then impose those truths on others for their own sake? In what world is lies and disinformation propagated to the masses "a good thing?"

If we have two competing worldviews, a religious worldview pitted against a secular worldview, and the latter is capable of offering everything the former claims to offer (A sense of purpose, morality, meaning, etc.) without any of the former's patently obvious downsides, doesn't it stand to reason that the former should be rejected as morally inferior or obsolete? Baba Yaga (talk) 16:47, 13 October 2014 (UTC) Baba Yaga

My first instinct is to say that the religious violence occurs because people are spending a good portion of their day dedicated to it; if they replaced that dedication to their religion to dedication to their local basketball team, the violence would be as frequent, just directed at other basketball teams. They'd only stop fighting with each other every once in a while to gang up on the "heathen sports" like rugby. So I pondered it for a bit, and I've come to the conclusion that it's the culture surrounding and integrated with the religion that makes it violent. If soccer hooligans are violent because hooliganism is encouraged by their local club, you could blame the individual club. If the game itself encourages the fans to become hooligans, you'd blame the game itself. One hooligan is a bad apple; a crop of hooligans is a bad orchard. CorruptUser (talk) 14:37, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
That's not just a instinct. We have tons of evidence of sports fans wrecking stuff and hurting each other. ikanreed You probably didn't deserve that 14:43, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
If hooligans organized into an army, they could conquer Europe. That is a fact. |₹Λ¥$€₦₦ Red rose 02.svg Kyubey stares into your soul. /人◕‿‿◕人\ 15:14, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
Isn't part of what makes them hooligans the fact that they are not willing to organize on a principle with any sort of depth, though? Trick (talk) 15:24, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
It's a bit like fusion. Capturing and controlling it for the good of man is all but impossible, but you can just have their team lose a home game to set off a bomb. ikanreed You probably didn't deserve that 15:30, 19 March 2015 (UTC)