Essay talk:Odinism is more rational than atheism/Archive1

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May I be the first to say, What The Fuck? Grounded in observation? There is thunder therefore obviously there is Thor? Is this some form of brilliant satire that I'm missing the referent of? Also, I do hope you're aren't including me in the neo-pagan camp, I may joke about it but I don't in any serious way consider these gods to actually exist. --JeevesMkII 04:16, 26 December 2008 (EST)

This essay is not satiric in the least. Thor is "grounded in observation" in the sense that the pagans of ancient time heard thunder and made a God based on it; this is not true of YHVH, born out of an hallucination.
And I am not trying to place anyone in any "camp." I was inspired to write this essay when I was informed that there are disproportionate numbers of Odinists editing this Wiki, though I do not know who all of the others are, and probably not one of them agrees with what I have written. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:27, 26 December 2008 (EST)
Wouldn't Odin be based on a hallucination too, since his name suggests he was originally a god of madness, among other things? --Kels 19:59, 26 December 2008 (EST)
(Edit conflict) - "the pagans of ancient time heard thunder and made a God based on it" - so that's only half-grounded in observation: it's imagining something (a god) to explain away what they couldn't observe (the direct cause of thunder). Saying that one religious mythology is based on "observation" while another is based on "hallucination" is a completely arbitrary distinction which you've supplied no evidence to back up.
The primary form of communication between YHVH and humanity was divine visions --- i.e., hallucinations. Other interventions basically constituted violations of natural law (e.g., stopping the sun in the sky). Pagan Gods generally interacted with the world in much more "testable" ways and in conformance with natural law, e.g., thunder, war, conception, sunshine, poetic inspiration... Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 23:04, 26 December 2008 (EST)
Furthermore, if you believe that "the pagans of ancient time heard thunder and made a God based on it", then you are an atheist. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it looks like you just said this Thor guy is a non-existent being who the ancients dreamed up to make sense of the world. Sounds like a classic atheist explanation of religions. Or are you saying that the power of human belief can bring real supernatural beings into existence? wassaiLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 20:06, 26 December 2008 (EST)
Be as harsh as you want, unless you plan to complain about my being harsh at some later date.
Perhaps I am an atheist; certainly I called myself one for quite a time. But in pagan times, it was, I understand, the belief that people were capable of creating Gods, at the least through the process of deification. I am not an atheist just because I believe that "man created God." Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 23:04, 26 December 2008 (EST)
IMHO no religion is "rational" in any way. Atheism is not a religion - discussed elsewhere, can't be arsed to find it, the whole concept is so ludicrous. Toast 20:09, 26 December 2008 (EST)
That is discussed on this Wiki in the article on secular religion. This is a matter of semantics: while some define religion as a belief in the supernatural, I would say it is more accurately a belief about the supernatural. Christianity's disbelief in the pagan Gods, for example, is part of that religion just as much as its belief in YHVH is. Explicit atheism is also a belief about the supernatural, and therefore a religion by this definition.
If, on the other hand, one is an atheist simply because they have not considered the question of the existence of the supernatural, that is not a religion by either definition.
We are, however, in agreement that all religions, including Odinism, have their irrational bits. (Though to say that every religion is completely irrational is overkill; surely Christianity is at least this rational to you?) Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 23:04, 26 December 2008 (EST)
You can't have a belief about something which is non-existent (the "supernatural). If there's no such thing, then you can't have a belief about it, only about its existence. All religions are definitively (is that a word?) irrational - belief in the supernatural is a major disqualification for rationality! (I think you're trolling for the lulz - you're doing a good job). Toast 13:11, 27 December 2008 (EST)
Qualification: what you believe is non-existent. That is a statement you cannot prove by rational means, since any necessary evidence lies beyond the scope of reason and observation. My argument was that it is just as rational to stick the Norse pantheon in that spot as it is to maintain that there is nothing there.
Also, I think you misread my use of the word about. What I meant was that to make a statement such as, "The supernatural doesn't exist," you have to define "the supernatural." Thus, I consider atheism a belief about the supernatural, in particular, about its existence. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:46, 27 December 2008 (EST)
"any necessary evidence lies beyond the scope of reason and observation" - exactly! i.e. is not rational. Atheism, having no such belief, is rational and therefore not a religion. Toast 14:10, 27 December 2008 (EST)
This argument does not stick at all with respect to strong atheism (to which I formerly adhered), which makes definite statements beyond the scope of reason and observation. And even explicit weak atheism (which falls into the same trap as agnosticism, as I mentioned in the essay) has to mention the supernatural, if only to reject belief in it.
Also, I did not say that "rational" and "religion" are mutually exclusive. That is your characterization. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 14:38, 27 December 2008 (EST)
Yup! That's my characterisation & belief. The only definite statement I make is that the supernatural is total crap & not worthy of consideration. Toast 14:47, 27 December 2008 (EST)
I think you may be confusing "rationality" with "rationalism". Common mistake, really. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:36, 27 December 2008 (EST)
I can't for the life of me figure out why you should think that deities which are obviously and by your own admission anthropomorphisms of natural phenomena are more real than deities concocted from the whole cloth of pure intellect. Surely, the fact that a religion has a multitude of claims which are demonstrably not true makes the fraud more evident not less? Can you pin this down for me, do you actually believe there is a Thor or not? And if so, do you believe he personally throws his hammer to strike the Earth, causing thunder? --JeevesMkII 21:46, 26 December 2008 (EST)
Yes, I believe there is a Thor. I also believe that we have found out exactly how he acts by finding out exactly what lightning is (electricity). This is the kind of "modification based on observation" I mentioned in the essay. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 23:04, 26 December 2008 (EST)
Might not be particularly rational, but you've gotta admit the Norse were good at making up entertaining stories. --Kels 20:20, 26 December 2008 (EST)

I used to know a historian who was also an Asatru follower some time ago, and she disputed the name "Odinism" based on the fact that Odin wasn't really the leader of the Gods anyway. He wouldn't have made much of a leader in any case, seeing as he was always nipping off to Midgard for adventures (also ale & whores). Accoding to her, the monks transcribing the old legends just knew from Greek and Roman pantheons, so when they saw "Allfather", they just assumed he was the boss, the way Zeus was. --Kels 20:19, 26 December 2008 (EST)

Mmm. Yummy stories. Lots of Sex & violence & stuff. (I always say "an historian - quaint ole Brit that I am) Toast 20:27, 26 December 2008 (EST)
Lovely old lady she was, retired by that point, but boy could she make the blood & thunder come alive. --Kels 20:32, 26 December 2008 (EST)

What is not a religion then?[edit]

ListenerX, based on your definition of religion, could you give me an example of a philosophy which is not a religion?--Bobbing up 02:35, 27 December 2008 (EST)

Belief in democracy. Indeed, any other philosophical view that does not touch on the supernatural. There are quite a lot of them. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 12:52, 27 December 2008 (EST)
So you're saying that (in your view) only ideologies that explicitly have some supernatural element are religions?--Bobbing up 13:49, 27 December 2008 (EST)
Touch on or reference some supernatural element. Atheism has no intrinsic supernatural element, but must explicitly reject the supernatural and thereby reference it, making atheism a religion. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:59, 27 December 2008 (EST)
If not believing in a god or gods is a religion, then so is not believing in ghosts, unicorns, vampires, werewolves, dragons, angels, demons, bogeymen, witches, etc. etc. By that logic, everyone must follow a potentially infinite number of "religions" as defined by what they don't believe in. Now does that really make any sense? wassaiLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 14:09, 27 December 2008 (EST)
Example: Not believing in witches is one religion. Not believing in bogeymen is one religion. Not believing in witches or bogeymen is also one religion — not two.
The belief that "there are no such things as witches" is generally not the totality of one's religion (with atheism it is included in the blanket statement "The supernatural does not exist"), although this belief considered by itself definitely meets my criterion of a religion. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 14:45, 27 December 2008 (EST)
As an atheist I don't automatically reject any explanation. I accept any firm evidence which may be tested and repeated. If such evidence for the existence of god were to be presented I would accept it. None has been forthcoming in respect of God, fairies, or goblins. How does accepting everything for which there is acceptable evidence make athiesm a religion?--Bobbing up 14:39, 27 December 2008 (EST)
I think you are talking about rationalism or naturalism here, rather than atheism. Rationalism is not a religion by my definition, since it makes no explicit mention of the supernatural. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 14:55, 27 December 2008 (EST)
But the lack of evidence for the existence of god is what makes most atheists atheists. I know of few (well, none actually) who assume the non-existence of god as a matter of faith. This is also the position of Richard Dawkins. Are you saying that Dawkins is not an atheist?--Bobbing up 17:15, 27 December 2008 (EST)
I was saying that your "accepting everything for which there is acceptable evidence" is rationalism, as opposed to atheism, which is the specific belief that there are no Gods ("strong atheism"), or that there is no evidence supporting the existence of Gods ("weak atheism"). If one's atheism is a consequence of one's rationalism, the former is their religion and the latter is a secular philosophy to which they adhere.
Prof. Dawkins says that not only does he believe there to be no Gods, but that anyone who does believe that there are any is off his rocker. This makes him an atheist, no matter why he believes it (faith, reasoning, etc.). Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:00, 27 December 2008 (EST)
Actually, I challenge you to find an absolute statement by Dawkins to the effect that "God absolutely does not exist." I also challenge you to provide a comment where he says this is a matter of faith and that he would not change his mind in the unlikely event that evidence of god's existence could be presented. I furthermore challenge you to find any well-known modern atheist who holds the absolutist position you describe as strong athiesm. The most common position is the one I have suggested - there is no necessity to believe in things for which there is no evidence.
Take the famous atheist bus campaign in the UK. This group of committed atheists put the slogan "There is almost certainly is no God" on the side of London buses. Presumably you would argue they they were also not atheists?
Frankly, I think you are using the uncommon "strong atheist" position as a straw man.--Bobbing up 07:46, 28 December 2008 (EST)
I am starting a new section of the talk-page to continue this thread. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:41, 28 December 2008 (EST)
Religions are something that people identify with personally, not something that other people attribute to them, and I think you'll find very very few people who assert that atheism is their "religion". wassaiLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 07:54, 28 December 2008 (EST)
Some Christians claim that Christianity is not a religion, to the tune of 100,000+ hits on Google. [1] Is Christianity therefore not a religion? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:41, 28 December 2008 (EST)

Yahwe vs. Odin[edit]

I should probably mention that rather than being "born out of an hallucination", it is quite likely that Yahwe owes his origins to an ancient polytheistic Canaanite religion that was not terribly different from the Norse one. In other words, you could argue that "Yahwe = local equivalent of Odin + outside influence + a couple of centuries". I don't know which significance this has for your hypothesis. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 09:05, 27 December 2008 (EST)

Even allowing these initial origins, the one religion is not the other. Also, prophets with hallucinations had so much influence that their interpretation probably swamped out any other. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:25, 27 December 2008 (EST)
I was going to ask something similar, but more along the lines of why should Norse gods be regarded as more significant than any other polytheistic mythology? wassaiLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 09:43, 27 December 2008 (EST)
I do not touch on other polytheistic mythologies here, as the Norse is the only one I am very familiar with. From what I have read of the Greek and Roman mythologies, many of the same arguments seem to apply there as well, but I would not like to be quoted on that. There is, however, no reason why the Norse pantheon should have any special significance. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:25, 27 December 2008 (EST)

Oh, and one more thing[edit]

Good work on that "ravings of desert rats with heatstroke" thing; that's actually even more tasteless than the usual "illiterate Bronze Age shepherds" shtick that usually gets trotted out. Nice to see some creative development around here. I guess you could make a similar quip about "mead-addled barbarians with frost-bite to the brain" if you wanted to. But I guess I'm supposed to be the historically sensitive guy around here. So I won't. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:20, 27 December 2008 (EST) (BTW: "desert rats"? Don't let the JDL catch you on that one.)

I kinda like it, reminds me of Disney's Aladdin. So that makes Yahweh Robin Williams, which is so much cooler. --Kels 11:07, 27 December 2008 (EST)


I have not read such a load of crap since this and worth as much attention. Toast 14:20, 27 December 2008 (EST)

Straw men and Prof. Dawkins[edit]

(Responding to "challenge" above)

The argument in the essay rests on a definition of atheism that I made in the first section, which defines strong atheism. I have in my hands a copy of Webster's dictionary defining "atheism" as "the belief that there is no God." There are, therefore, several possible meanings of this word, which was why I took the precaution of defining the one I used. Although most of the arguments in the essay likely apply to weak atheism as well, I never intended to claim that they do; if I ever did, I hereby retract any such claims.

Prof. Dawkins says that he is not a "strong atheist," true, but his atheism is strong enough that he believes that anyone who does believe in any God — not just the fundamentalists who "know" there is a God, but anyone who even believes it — is deluded. A belief, by definition, is not a delusion unless it is false. If Prof. Dawkins is not a strong atheist in word, he certainly is one in deed.

Besides, if I am making a straw-man argument in my essay, Prof. Dawkins is certainly making one as well. His arguments for atheism seem to rest on false premises, viz., the false dilemma of atheism vs. a certain sort of God. This is illustrated in this quote from The God Delusion:

[I]f the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is 'appropriate for us to worship'.

I would have to see some statistics or other evidence before I would accept that strong atheism is an "uncommon" position. I was once a strong atheist myself, and I know several others (though they are not famous). Also, people who are personally strong atheists may only make arguments for weak atheism, given that the "strong" part cannot be proven. I only went as far as the "weak" part in arguments when I was an atheist. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 14:44, 28 December 2008 (EST)

Do you agree then, that there are no well-known living, atheist philosophers who take the idea of the non-existence of God as a mater of faith? Do you further agree they would change their minds if they were presented with clear demonstrable, repeatable evidence for His supposed existence? As I asked before - if the atheists you refer to exist, please identify them.
(Incidentally, Prof Dawkins has clarified his use of the word "delusion" to mean "wrong" or "misguided" as opposed to "Insane" as you implied earlier.)--Bobbing up 15:21, 28 December 2008 (EST)
I am, unfortunately, not well-read in the atheist philosophers, but reiterate that I do not believe that it can be determined with any precision what exactly these philosophers do or do not take as a matter of faith. I agree that most of them do not take the idea of weak atheism directly as a matter of faith (as opposed to indirectly, through a belief in rationalism).
I agree that most atheist philosophers are of open minds and would change their position immediately if presented with irrefutable evidence of the existence of the supernatural.
My arguments are only about atheism as I defined it (strong atheism) and do not rely for their validity upon the ratio of weak to strong atheists in the atheist population; your statement that I am using a "straw man," on the other hand, does rely on the weak atheists being the vast majority. Therefore, I think the "burden of proof" is on you there, not me.
As to Prof. Dawkins's "clarification," here is a quote from the preface of The God Delusion:
The dictionary supplied with Microsoft Word defines a delusion as `a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder'. The first part captures religious faith perfectly. As to whether it is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, when he said, `When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.'
This indicates that Prof. Dawkins might have actually changed his mind about what constitutes a delusion. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:07, 28 December 2008 (EST)
As an aside, I just love the sources Dawkins uses there: "Microsoft Word's dictionary" (couldn't be bothered to get up and find an Oxford's or something?) and Pirsig's Zen and the Art, which I doubt he understands very well at all and whose agenda is completely different from his own in any case. Anyway, back to you guys. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 06:52, 29 December 2008 (EST)
In this podcast Prof Dawkins clarifies what he means. He explicitly states "I don't think they are insane, I don't think they are deluded in the sense they think they are Napoleon or anything like that." But this is incidental to the pint.
A far as who has the burden of proof - it's your essay. If you don't care to provide supporting evidence about your opinions in respect of atheists it's fine by me.--Bobbing up 08:44, 29 December 2008 (EST)
My essay, but your claim that weak atheists are in the majority. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 13:15, 29 December 2008 (EST)
And you are free to defend your essay and it's assumptions, or not, as you see fit.--Bobbing up 13:59, 29 December 2008 (EST)