LiveBlogging My Deconversion

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 4, 2010 in General Atheism,Reviews

Most of you know I was raised an evangelical Christian. A few of you know the blog I wrote right before Common Sense Atheism was What God Taught Me Today.

What God Taught Me Today began in December 2005, when I wrote:

God is transforming me in powerful and exciting ways this year. Every day I choose to be a little more like Jesus, and every day he teaches me how.

Later posts chronicled my attempts to conquer the sin of masturbation, to purify my heart from passionate music that distracts from God, and my struggle to interpret God’s conflicting messages to me.

But in the final months of the blog, you can tell I’m starting to doubt Christianity and even theism.

Since memory is fuzzy, it’s nice to have these blog posts as concrete evidence of the timeline for my deconversion. As late as December 2006, I still wrote about discipleship to Jesus and recapped my spiritual growth in 2006. The next month, I was so devoted to God that I deleted my entire music collection as a sacrifice to him. But it’s also clear I had begun to investigate the Historical Jesus, and that this had already affected me greatly:

…we need not throw out all Scripture because it contains errors… But all this… seems to indicate that the Bible is not the direct word of omniscient God, but of course the work of biased, fallible humans. There is much wisdom and truth in the Bible, but it is dangerous to assume the Bible is historically accurate, and it is dangerous to exegete doctrine from a single passage, especially if that passage does not agree with other accounts. And so, there is much about Jesus’ life and teaching that is in doubt.

Still, a coherant image of Jesus emerges from Scripture. He becons us to join in the current and coming Kingdom of God through sacrificial love for all, a divorce from materialism, faith in God, and continual servanthood. And he points us to communion with God, through which we will come to know God and experience him in obedience.

It’s also clear that I had been reading lots of philosophical apologetics already and been dissatisfied with much of it, as I made a call for an apologetics of authenticity.

Then, I revealed that I had become an atheist on January 11, 2007:

The more I looked at the Bible, the more flawed it seemed. And much of it was nonsense, including a man who lived in the belly of a whale, a prophet who pointlessly cursed a fig tree, and a man who squeezed every species on the planet into a big boat. Supposedly, 500,000 Israelites died in a single battle, more than those who died in any single battle of WWII or in the entireU.S. Civil War.

Worse, the Bible revealed an ugly, evil God not worthy of worship even if he did exist. This Godoverturned free willcaused disasterlied to his people and instructed them to liedismembered 42 children for calling Elisha bald, and murdered or ordered the murder of millions of innocent people (in the conquest of Canaan, the death of Egyptian firstborns, the Amalakite genocide, the 50,000 Beshemish people killed for looking into the ark of the covenant, and the great flood).

Philosophy was no kinder, for example in the omnipotence paradox, the Euthyphro dilemma, and other logical contradictions of the Christian God.

And of course the empirical evidence in the world points to a naturalistic worldview. If God loves and heals, why has he never regenerated an amputee’s limb? And why would God create squids with useless complex eyes underneath their working simple eyes, mole rats with useless eyes buried under a layer of skin, or humans with an appendix? These structures agree with evolution, not with an intelligent designer. And why is there no evidence of a worldwide flood?

I had been watching The Atheist Experience for some atheist perspective, and I emailed Matt Dillahunty in sadness and desperation:

I do not think I am strong enough to be an atheist. Or brave enough. I have a broken leg, and my life is much better with a crutch. I think I’m going to choose to hang on to my belief in a personal divine (though certainly not one asserted by any religion I’ve ever heard of) through my own anecdotal evidence of its existence. I’m going to seek genuine experience with God, to commune with God, and to reinforce my faith. I am going to avoid solid atheist arguments, because they are too compelling… I do not WANT to live in [an] empty, cold, ultimately purposeless universe in which I am worthless and inherently alone.

Then, surprisingly, I reveal that I have recovered my faith in “a personal God expressed in Jesus,” apparently almost by sheer act of will, out of desperation. But, I had no commitments “to the church, to theology, to religion, to doctrine, or to the Bible.”

I report that:

I went looking for a fresh faith and God took me further than I wanted. Now I have a completely new faith, with few doctrines or traditions or religious hangups. I’m now free to seek God’s truth without intereferance from “2000 years of theological engineering and religious propaganda”.

But now I’m walking towards God with a limp. I’m scared about my gullibility and God’s mystery. I have questions he won’t answer. I want him to show himself unequivocally, but he hasn’t. I’m more motivated than ever to pray regularly and commune with his Spirit, because now I know I can’t do it in my own strength. I can be led astray. I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I am more dependent on God than ever.

I’ve been humbled. I was “doing discipleship” in my own strength, because I thought I was smart enough and disciplined enough. I would depend on God in my incompetancies, but not in my competancies. In this way, strengths were actually weaknesses. And, having surrendered my prideful and independent ways to him, I can see how my weakness is God’s strength.

I’ve repented. I was deceived because I did not let the Spirit lead me into truth. Now I ask for God’s guidance in all quests for knowledge and wisdom.

I feel like I’ve been born again, again.

I even wrote and played a sad song about the whole thing.

I am a man, I walk alone
Along a path my very own
Why can’t I see God over there?
Does he speak? Does he care?

And I know
his spirit sees me through the dark
I know
He’ll speak to me one day
I know
His ways are so mysterious
I know
he’s there…

Carrying all this doubt and shame
I can never be the same
I need you more than ever
I need you now

Carrying all this doubt and shame
I can never be the same
I need you more than ever
I need you now

All this happened right as I was leaving to do a semester of study abroad in Venezuela, where my spiritual journey continued:

I’m surprised to report that most of my existential pain has already faded, replaced by a rapturous sense of freedom to experience God, fall in love with him, and let his Spirit guide me into truth…

And yet by April 2007 I think I had given up attempts at theistic belief for good, though my April 2007 review of The God Delusion contains the curious sentence: “There are many good arguments which justify atheism (but many that justify theism, too).” I also poked fun at Christianity and atheism that month.

My last post was on April 28, 2007, in which I hint that I’m about to launch something exciting, but now I can’t remember what it was! I didn’t launch Common Sense Atheism until November 2008.

I wonder who else has inadvertently ”liveblogged” their own deconversion?

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{ 171 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandros Marinos October 4, 2010 at 4:14 am

I really like the term ‘theological engineering’. I’ve always thought religion has had ‘viral’ down to an art way before this newfangled web 2.0 thingie.

Closer to the topic, thank you for opening yourself up and exploring your own struggle and failures for us the public to read and be inspired by.

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Mike AKA MonolithTMA October 4, 2010 at 4:38 am

I had a personal blog which touched on Christian matters from time to time, but I split most of my Christian posts off and put them on my Christian blog. I have gone back and read some of my faith struggles. I also created a separate blog questioning my Christian faith and that is the real chronicle of my deconversion.

Thanks for sharing this.

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mojo.rhythm October 4, 2010 at 4:56 am

Atheist Luke,

You wear Affliction gear? Noooooooooooooo!!!!!

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Jacopo October 4, 2010 at 5:07 am

Did Dillahunty respond to your e-mail?

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Stewart, aka Luigi October 4, 2010 at 5:09 am

Hey, wasn’t the guy who cursed the fig tree Mr S of G himself? How meek and mild was that?

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Leomar October 4, 2010 at 5:57 am

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Liam October 4, 2010 at 6:06 am

Awesome song, Luke

Having been an atheist my whole life I can’t imagine what it is like to believe in God and then have him slowly ripped away from me.

I sometimes look back at my own myspace (remember when people still used that?!) page to see if and how i’ve changed. It’s always depressing. I appreciate you opening up about your story so honestly

This reminds me of a Nietzschian idea though. The tragedy of self-reflection is that very moment we begin to reflect we are never the person we seek to reflect upon.

I don’t know. I hope I made sense.

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h3nry October 4, 2010 at 6:08 am

Luke, just curious, would you say that the deconversion can largely be explained as a symptom of a young adolescent rebelling? Also, what are the chances that you might be “de-deconverted” (i.e. going back to Christianity – or even another religion) in the future?

I used to blog on atheism 3 years ago for about a year. Now looking back, some of the posts are so immature and sometimes I have to ask myself “Did I write that post?”…

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Tony Hoffman October 4, 2010 at 6:30 am

Holy alternative universe. That other Luke guy was exactly like you, but all religiousy. It’s funny, I almost enjoyed reading some of your bizarro world thoughts as much as the stuff here.

I sometimes wonder, as our beliefs change, how much the self we (and others) recognize really changes. I’m guessing not that much.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 7:08 am

mojo.rhythm,

Don’t be hatin’. That’s my only Affliction shirt.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 7:08 am

Jacopo,

Yes, he was very kind and encouraging.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 7:11 am

h3nry,

I very much doubt my atheism was about adolescent rebelling, but it’s hard to know such things. The reason I doubt I’ll be going back to religion is because I now know so many things that I didn’t know when I was religious. A whole lot of scientific and historical facts are very unlikely to change in the future to be more compatible with ancient religions.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe October 4, 2010 at 7:55 am

I loved the reference to masturbation. Real funny. So stupid!

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Frank October 4, 2010 at 7:58 am

Luke,

I had similar struggles myself for years, and more recently about a year or two ago I had started having alot of doubts about Jesus, and Christianity. I started looking into the other faiths and found Buddhism to be quite attractive, yet I didn’t want to be reincarnated. At any rate, I got into other stuff, primarily UFOs as a pseudo-religion, which almost got me to a point of deconverting. At any rate, I asked God to show me the truth, and I believe He did. Alot of podcasts and Bible study have restored that faith. The books of the Prophets were especially inspiring to me, and definitely the episode with the prophet mentioning King Cyrus by name, before he’d even been born.

I don’t have answers, but i have some speculations. Why did God want the Israelites to wipe out the surrounding tribes? One theory, those folks often practiced child sacrifice, something God abhors. God seems to have used Israel as a tool of judegment against them. BUT, when Israel started doing child sacrifice, guess what, God had other countries come in and kill Israelites and lead them into captivity. There are other explanations, but they are heavily supernatural in explanation. This is merely a logical attempt to explain it.

Evidence for global flood? I won’t argue about physical evidence, I do believe that there is (evidence of ice age? that’s my theory anyway, or at least tied to the ice age.) but that’s not my point. There are reported to be something like 500 (I think) cultures world wide that have a story of the whole world being flooded, and one small group of people surviving. The reason for a global flood? that’s again getting into heavily supernatural territory.

The epic of Gilgamesh is but one of these, and I have heard (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2982891.stm) that the tomb of Gilgamesh had been found. Not saying Gilgamesh’s story is 100% factual, but it must have some historicity to it.

I guess, those are at least some answers to the questions you raised along with some of my own experience. I don’t have all the answers, but I am trying to find ways to be able to support my beliefs in a way other than “it’s just how it is.” I think that is in someways, wholly inadequate, and also sort of puts God into a box. Without considering supernatural (aka higher dimensional/quantum) angles, it definitely is hard to understand God. I don’t claim to fully understand God, yet I have some vague idea how things could be.

from the limited (and selfish) human perspective, some of what God does seems selfish or hateful. In other words, when we limit God’s motivations to be like our motivations, we see God as we see ourselves. We’re lowering God to our level. But when viewed from the angle of an infinite God dealing with a rebellious creation I see that God is not so cruel after all. Most rulers eradicate rebellion right away, and God could choose to wipe us out in a flash, yet He does not. He allows us(and Satan) to continue the rebellion and allows people to choose following Him, or Satan.

I suppose that’s all, sorry for the long post, but I hope it was enjoyable, and well thought out.

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bossmanham October 4, 2010 at 8:05 am

So, supposed errors in the Bible, therefore God doesn’t exist? Therefore Christ did not rise from the dead? That doesn’t follow. You think that Jonah’s story is silly, therefore the Bible is dumb?

Come on, Luke. You know this personal incredulity isn’t epistemic justification for being an atheist.

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Jason Sewell October 4, 2010 at 8:10 am

Luke, this provides excellent context to your current work. Thanks for sharing this. I had a similar faith journey and have ended up in about the same place. You mentioned that it seems unlikely that you’ll ever return to religion because of your newfound knowledge on the subject. I feel the same way, although sometimes the simulation argument gives me pause. Speaking of which, I’d love to hear you interview Nick Bostrom on that subject and its implications on theology.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 8:53 am

Sewell,

Yes, I’d love to interview Nick Bostrom.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

bossmanham,

No. The main reason to disbelieve in God is because, like Zeus, we have no good reason to think he does exist.

But yeah, the error-ridden Bible, the mythical stories of a dying and rising god, the guy living in a fish – that certainly doesn’t look good for your religion.

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bossmanham October 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

No. The main reason to disbelieve in God is because, like Zeus, we have no good reason to think he does exist.

Neither is that epistemic justification for A-theism. Perhaps agnosticism, but not atheism. However, it definitely isn’t in your case, because you had a reason to believe in God: “I felt the presence of God. Sometimes I would tingle and sweat with the Holy Spirit. Other times I felt led by Him to give money to a certain cause, or to pay someone a specific compliment, or to walk to the cross at the front of my church and bow before it during a worship service.”

And, “I had an epiphany. I realized that everything in nature was a gift from God to me. Grass, lakes, trees, sunsets – all these were gifts of beauty from my Savior to me. I thought of this every time I saw something beautiful, and God delivered me from my depression (and my porn addiction).”

Etc.

So you did have a reason. How are supposed errors in the Bible enough to counter that, especially since there are very smart guys who have good explanations for said supposed errors (not that Biblical inerrancy is a necessary condition for the truth of Christianity)?

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Alexandros Marinos October 4, 2010 at 9:11 am

bossmanham, you’re not using the definition of atheism that is accepted by most atheists (and most on this site too).

That is, a-theism is the lack of theism. Defining theism as the belief in a personal god, makes atheism the lack of belief in a personal god. You could probably expand it to lack of belief in any kind of god.

Lack of evidence is plenty justification for that position.

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Jacopo October 4, 2010 at 9:21 am

Luke often writes about the merits of a naturalistic worldview, which by implication is arguing in favour of atheism.

Luke generally does tend to catch a lot of flak for not mentioning every belief he holds and all the reasons he holds them in complete detail in every post he writes.

Seems a tad unfair.

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Zeb October 4, 2010 at 9:21 am

Luke your story sounds very much like my own, except I have been in the stage of your second faith for like 13 years now. I can understand from my own experience why you lost your first faith, but I don’t think you’ve shared much about what happened to your second, more mystical faith. I’d like to hear more about it some time.

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bossmanham October 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

Defining theism as the belief in a personal god, makes atheism the lack of belief in a personal god.

That pretty much strips the word of any sort of force at all. Simply filling people in on your current mental state isn’t very interesting at all. We could argue semantics I suppose, but that would be equally uninteresting. Heck, my 3 month old daughter would pretty much be an a-everything, since she lacks all sorts of beliefs. Historically, atheists have expressed a claim to knowledge, namely that God does not exist. But it’s really irrelevant to Luke’s case, since he DID (does IMO) have reasons to believe that God exists.

So, let me ask it this way; do you think the proposition, “God exists,” expresses a false claim? Or do you think the proposition, “God does not exists,” is a true proposition? I would venture to guess that most here would express agreement with both.

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RA October 4, 2010 at 9:24 am

Oh, how I loved reading What God Taught Me Today. My favorites were when your soul “cracked” with agape love when you looked into the eye of a fellow Christian and you lusted in the presence of women and felt deep shame.

I did feel for that poor guy though.

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Frank October 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

Interesting points bossmanham.

I haven’t read all of luke’s christian experiences, but you seem to pick up on some things.

Ill keep reading the blog in the hopes that luke can have some answers.

Luke, Ill keep you in prayer. Not sure why, I just feel led to.

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ildi October 4, 2010 at 9:33 am

More importantly, what is in that huge bowl, and did you eat all of it? Maybe that’s what gave you the ‘burning in the bosom’…

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Charles October 4, 2010 at 9:34 am

Frank,

I can understand God ordering his people to kill all the men (and maybe the women) if they were really, really bad, but what about all those babies and toddlers? Why did God have to kill them?

I can see two options. Either (a) the Bible isn’t trustworthy, or (b) God is an asshat.

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bossmanham October 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

Charles, what moral standard would you place God’s decision, if He made it, to command the Israelites to kill the Canaanites?

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Charles October 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

bossmanham: So, let me ask it this way; do you think the proposition, “God exists,” expresses a false claim? Or do you think the proposition, “God does not exists,” is a true proposition? I would venture to guess that most here would express agreement with both.

Please define your terms. What do you mean by “God” and “exist”?

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bossmanham October 4, 2010 at 9:59 am

God – being which no greater can be conceived

Exists – being contains the properties described

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 10:33 am

Exists – being contains the properties described

You’ll have to flesh that one out.

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Brice October 4, 2010 at 10:43 am

@bossmanham

In Luke’s case “experiencing” Jesus or the spirit the way he did can be explained through a variety of naturalistic AKA reasonable means. Making things more complicated by saying Jesus did it (versus any other religious figure or supernatural force) just complicates things.

The easiest answer to your definition of atheism debate is with good old Bertrand Russell…

“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

Now couple that with what the fact that almost everyone on the planet agrees that Zeus does not exist, and I think you can see where we stand here. To me specific gods such as Jesus are so mired in inconsistencies and outright impossibilities that saying “The Christian God does not exist” isn’t a controversial decision. Now what about any sort of God(s)? That is where the agnosticism comes in. Most atheists you see here will certainly say Jesus was not divine, but they won’t outright say that no God at all exists in the universe. They have no reason to believe it, but they wouldn’t say it’s untrue.

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cl October 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm

You know, as much as I respect Russell, I chuckle every time I hear atheists break out his teapot. The implication is that “teapot-ism” and “theism” are in the same category – which is demonstrably false. I’ve never heard one single person claim to have had an experience with a teapot out in the solar system – and no, this does not imply the argument from popularity. For thousands of years, humans have reported other-worldly experiences with beings they describe as God or gods. In some of these modern cases, compelling – albeit not necessarily conclusive – scientific evidence exists. Of course, there are people that simply deny all supernatural claims out of hand. I suppose for them, there is no reasoning. Now, I’m not saying all this goes to “prove” theism. I am saying that comparing theism to a teapot in outer space is a major category error.

bossmanham,

In Luke’s defense, I’m sure he has more reasons than he’s stated, but yes, I agree with you – much of what he gives here is simply argument from incredulity. I also think you are correct to point out that quibbling over the definition of “atheist” doesn’t cut the mustard.

Luke,

Thanks for being so candid in sharing. That takes a certain level of bravery and humility. Here’s an interesting idea for a post series: why don’t you do a detailed analysis of your deconversion to check and see how rational you were in deconverting? As others have noted, deconversion is a largely emotional process. Indeed it would not be inaccurate to refer to the process of deconversion as a state of emotional duress. As we all know, states of emotional duress often influence us towards irrational decision-making.

I do have one point to make regarding our meta-discussion on desirism:

…I do not WANT to live in [an] empty, cold, ultimately purposeless universe in which I am worthless and inherently alone.

I hope you can take this with a grain of salt, but I think that this emotion – dare I say intuition – is possibly affecting your analysis of moral theories. You clearly want some form of moral realism to be true. I can empathize: error theory can lead to some pretty philosophically repulsive conclusions. All I’m saying is, that candid statement of yours constitutes a MAJOR reason to abandon error theory in favor of desirism. Who knows? Perhaps as your podcast continues, you will make your points and dissent will justifiably fade. However, if not – that is, if visitors both new and old are still raising the same objections about desirism as they are now – I think you owe it to them to be fair and distance yourself from the theory.

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stamati October 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Luke, thanks for this. It can be kind of embarrassing to look back at oneself in an earlier and more naive time, as I know from personal experience. I appreciate your candidness. And while I didn’t liveblog my deconversion, I could certainly show journal entries and facebook posts that give a really rough yet revealing sketch of my journey.

Also, I know I just assumed up there that you’re embarrassed by your ‘previous self,’ but are you? How do you look back at ‘Old Luke?’

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Jeff H October 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Luke, every time you talk about your own former faith and your process of deconversion, it always strikes me how similar it was to my own. The general experience of alternating guilt and elation from religion, the doubts, the research into various philosophical and scientific and historical arguments, the crisis of faith, the temporary resurgence of faith as the realization came that it would otherwise soon disappear, the eventual collapse, and then the slow process of rebuilding.

I sort of have my own record of deconversion in my blog, though a lot of it I kept to myself for a long time before spitting it out in a big long post. But hell, I’ve been blogging since 2004, so it does display my gradual increase in maturity level very well. I would recommend reading through it, but you’d never be able to. It’s like 600 posts of teenage drama and religious brainwashing. I can barely get through it myself…

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Silver Bullet October 4, 2010 at 12:58 pm

cl,

An analogy doesn’t have to be perfect to make a point.

Russell’s teapot makes a good point: the burden of proof is on the believer.

The believer has an extraordinary burden of proof, for theistic claims are extraordinary.

An atheist is just someone who remains unconvinced of the claims made by believers. Believers have never adequately met the burden of proof. Even believer’s know that, which is why believers employ faith.

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Justfinethanks October 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm

cl:

For thousands of years, humans have reported other-worldly experiences with beings they describe as God or gods.

For the same period of time, humans have reported deceased ancestors entering our worldly domain as spirits and doing magical things like moving physical objects. Do you honestly think that this means that the existence of ghosts is more probable than Russell’s teapot? Metaphysical reality isn’t a popularity contest. Simply pointing out that people tend to believe in nonsense doesn’t raise the possibility of nonsense being true.

why don’t you do a detailed analysis of your deconversion to check and see how rational you were in deconverting?

How exactly would that be interesting, besides perhaps as a biography of Luke’s intellectual development. Surely you know that just because someone enters into a belief system for non-rational reasons, it doesn’t follow that a belief is false, or that one cannot later become justified in his or her belief. It may be the case that an atheist abandons theism for bad reasons. But it also may be the case that they later discover better, more rational reasons for maintaining atheism belief that are ultimately superior than reasons for maintaining theism. So honestly, it doesn’t matter what Luke’s bottom-level reasons for becoming an atheist were at the moment of deconversion. It only matters what reasons he offers now.

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm

bossmanham is 100% correct. The endless bickering over the semantics of the word “atheism” is so ridiculous that I refuse to use the term anymore.

Henceforth, there are people who think theism is true, those who think it is false, and those (such as myself) who do not know whether it’s true or false. Those are your choices. The first two have a burden of justification. The third does not.

If your protest that “those who think theism is false” do not have a burden, look no further than Introduction to Logic by Harry Gensler:

To show a view to be false, we must do more than just refute an argument for it; we must invent an argument of our own that shows the view to be false

Teapot

The teapot can easily be dealt with by just imagining that you were born 30 seconds ago: you would have no way of knowing whether the teapot was true or not. Those who know the teapot is false are cheating by coming to the party with arguments already in place against it (knowledge of what a teapot is, how far the orbit of Mars is, knowledge of how many missions have been out that far, etc).

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consideratheism October 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Is that Fox News on the TV in the second picture?

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Patrick October 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I used to be a pretty apathetic atheist. The thing that made me become fascinated with this stuff is the fact that in the 21st century, peaceable, regular, every day people who believe in Christianity will actually defend the idea of murdering a bunch of people and raping their daughters as spoils of war. And they’ll do it because the alternative is having to reconsider some aspect of their religious beliefs.

Its the cognitive dissonance it creates in me that keeps bringing me back to the issue.

On one hand, if these people genuinely believe that the behavior of the Israelites (who were basically just Vikings in a desert) was acceptable, then they’re worthless vermin who should be exterminated for the protection of society at large, and innocent men, women, and children everywhere.

On the other hand, if they actually did believe this, I would expect them to behave much, much differently. For example, instead of being reflexively horrified at things like the use of rape as a terrorist tactic in Darfur, I’d expect them to pray about whether this was divinely sanctioned rape and terrorism and ethnic cleansing, or the bad kind. But I’ve literally never seen a Christian treat this sort of thing as even potentially acceptable. I’ve never even seen someone consider the possibility. So based on every day experience I reach the obvious conclusion that Christians are not the worthless monsters they make themselves out to be once they begin to engage in religious apologetics.

So I’m left half horrified and half fascinated. What bizarre forces of human psychology can convince people to articulate beliefs so clearly at odds with their every day, practical beliefs? What must it be like to decide that defending slavery, mass rape, soldiers going door to door slaughtering the inhabitants of every house they reach, and so on, is preferable to the alternative?

I have similar issues with Christians who profess the belief that every single person, young or old, justly deserves infinite, unending, indescribable agony… and yet who feel a sense of injustice at the physical abuse of a child. Shouldn’t the proper response be to feel that the child deserved the abuse, but that the person who committed it was infringing on a prerogative (the infliction of justly deserved agony) reserved by God? But no one thinks that way, even though they claim to.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Cl, excellent! Welcome.

While you were away, Exapologist and I had a brief but informative discussion that roughly covered the topic I brought up with you previously; the one that talked about morals based on Alan Sokal’s insights.

Exapologist noted a few things that I did not consider. You might want to take a look at it.

Additionally, he (?) actually has a series of blog posts that begins with a similar topic to the one we were discussing;

0.1 On caring about and pursuing truth:

What stood out to me in Exapologist’s blog post is not just that he began with it and places it in the preliminary items before his larger primary discussion, but that he wrote something that sounded quite similar to what Alan Sokal wrote and what we were talking about;

If it’s important to aim at having true beliefs, how can we increase our chances of having such beliefs? Well, choosing what to believe on the basis of flipping a coin doesn’t seem to be an effective method. What, then, is effective? Speaking in the most general terms: sensitivity to evidence; that is, listening to (and reading) the best evidence and arguments we can get our hands on, and forming our beliefs in the light of it.

I patiently await your informative input on these topics.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Martin: Henceforth, there are people who think theism is true, those who think it is false, and those (such as myself) who do not know whether it’s true or false. Those are your choices. The first two have a burden of justification. The third does not.

Martin, I don’t believe that theism is true, but I don’t claim to know that it is true or false. What am I?

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Justfinethanks October 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm

The teapot can easily be dealt with by just imagining that you were born 30 seconds ago: you would have no way of knowing whether the teapot was true or not.

Sure I would. If someone claimed it was real, I would ask if they could provide reasons to believe it is so. If they could, I would believe. If they could not, I would disbelieve.

Perhaps, then someone else told me that this planet called “Mars” existed. I would be reasonably skeptical of such a claim, until they could provide me with evidence I could revisit over and over again. If they could, (which would be a trivially easy task), I would believe. If they could not, I would disbelieve.

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The Crocoduck Hunter October 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Man, I wish I had that kind of record of my deconversion. All I have are a few scattered, angsty journal entries, culminating in “I am an atheist.” It would have been nice to have a window into my mental and emotional processes during that time.

cl,

“As others have noted, deconversion is a largely emotional process. Indeed it would not be inaccurate to refer to the process of deconversion as a state of emotional duress. As we all know, states of emotional duress often influence us towards irrational decision-making.”
Sure, but where does the duress come from? For me the most painful part was facing a life the church had told me was meaningless, and coming out to my parents, who have been fully convinced that atheists receive eternal damnation. If anything, it seems like any irrational inclination would point away from atheism. And while I will admit to strong emotional (irrational) components to my atheism (ever read the chapter “Rebellion” of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov?), those only came after an intellectual dissatisfaction with the claims of Christianity.
Sorry, I’m sure you’ve covered this same territory many times before, I just tire of the suggestion that since deconversion is an emotionally charged process, that should somehow influence the rationality of atheism. Based on what I know of your comments, I doubt that that was your intention, but it has been hinted at several times upthread as well.

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Hermes,

Martin, I don’t believe that theism is true, but I don’t claim to know that it is true or false. What am I?

I am NOT going to assign a word to you. The question is what is your position? A few choices:

1. True
2. False
3. Don’t know
4. Don’t care
5. It’s not possible to know

You’ve said that you are not a 1. So which of the remaining four choices best describes you?

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Reginald Selkirk October 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

cl: The implication is that “teapot-ism” and “theism” are in the same category – which is demonstrably false.

An analogy is meant to illustrate a common property. Analogies can easily be overstretched. The sky is blue like a blueberry. Therefore the sky is a small round fruit.

I’ve never heard one single person claim to have had an experience with a teapot out in the solar system – and no, this does not imply the argument from popularity. For thousands of years, humans have reported other-worldly experiences with beings they describe as God or gods.

Yes, insanity has been around for quite a while. Your point is? For thousands of years, humans have also been reporting the ability to read other people’s minds, the ability to fly, the influence of astronomical bodies on human affairs, etc.

In some of these modern cases, compelling – albeit not necessarily conclusive – scientific evidence exists.

Utter bullshit.

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Justfinethanks October 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I often find in conversations with “agnostics” that I believe %100 of what they believe, but they just can’t bring themselves to label themselves atheists.

Agnostic: Well, I don’t know if there I God or not.

JFT: I don’t either.

Agnostic: What I mean is, I’m not certain either way.

JFT: Totally.

Agnostic: You don’t understand. I’m not an atheist, though. I don’t believe there is no God.

JFT: That’s a double negative. So that means you do believe there is a God?

Agnostic: No!

JFT: Me too!

Agnostic: #@$%&!

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Reginald Selkirk October 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I do not WANT to live in [an] empty, cold, ultimately purposeless universe in which I am worthless and inherently alone.

Seeing that cl has already singled this out, I should think you have by now learned enough to see how shallow and poorly informed that statement was, for several reasons, these being just a few:

1) WANTing something does not make it true.

2) Accepting the facts vs. being required to adopt a certain emotional response to those facts are not the same thing.

3) I reject absolutist arguments, and I hope you have also come to do so. This comes up in a variety of contexts; theists insist that purpose/morals/life/etc. must be absolute/infinite/eternal/perfect or they have no value at all. This is easily dismissed with a five dollar argument.

I have $5 in my pocket. It is not enough to feed me for eternity. It is not even enough to feed me for a (normal) lifetime. But it is enough to buy me lunch today, and that is certainly not the same as, and better than, nothing. This choice of absoluteness vs. nothingness is a false dichotomy.

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nate October 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

God – being which no greater can be conceivedExists – being contains the properties described  

I don’t want to be annoying, but what does “greater” mean? Do you have some sort of objective criteria for establishing how great an entity is?

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Justfinethanks,

That is why I’m dropping all terminology from now on.

The problem is that many (not all) weak atheists want to both have and eat their cake. I mean, the person who says “imaginary sky daddy” over and over again obviously thinks theism is false. Yet, when asked to justify that position, he retreats to the safety of weak atheism/agnosticism/whatever you want to call it.

This came out beautifully in the Craig/Hitchens debate. Craig asked Hitchens what his position is. Hitchens responded that he simply lacks belief. Craig responded that this use of “atheism” as an umbrella term doesn’t really define anything, and for Hitchens to please be more specific. Hitchens responded that God is “imaginary.”

BAM!

Right there, he gave himself away. If theism is imaginary then clearly he thinks theism is false and thus has a burden of proof/justification.

Craig rightly concluded at the end that he never gave a single justification for that position, that he just “asserts it.”

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Reginald Selkirk October 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

For thousands of years, humans have reported other-worldly experiences with beings they describe as God or gods. In some of these modern cases, compelling – albeit not necessarily conclusive – scientific evidence exists.

Ooh, here’s one now

A lot of folks who believe in Bigfoot quote the famous 1924 tale told by Fred Beck who claimed he and four other miners were “attacked” one night in July by some “ape men” who threw rocks at their cabin in an area that later became known as Ape Canyon, Washington.

Well, get this. Beck later (some 43 years later in 1967) writes a book about the incident in which he said the ape men who attacked their cabin were alleged “mystical beings from another dimension.”

Ooooookay. Beck also claimed he had experienced psychic premonitions and visions his entire life and that the “ape men” were only one of many such weird experiences. Wow.

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Rob October 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

As much as I respect cl, I chuckle every time I encounter a theist completely miss the point of Russell’s Teapot.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I am NOT going to assign a word to you. The question is what is your position? A few choices:

1. True
2. False
3. Don’t know
4. Don’t care
5. It’s not possible to know

You’ve said that you are not a 1. So which of the remaining four choices best describes you?

Martin, I’ve already said what I believe and think;

* I don’t know for a fact that gods exist or not.

* I don’t believe that gods exist.

Do you think that I have any burden of proof? Why?

For what it’s worth, I’ve gone through this exercise over the course of quite a few years. Here’s my third poll addressing a few of the relevant categories;

What is your religious position?

With some improvements over the years, it seems to have stabilized and few have outright rejected this latest iteration. The main requests I get are for expanding it and adding other categories that aren’t about either belief or knowledge.

If you would like to offer your insight into that list so as to improve it, I encourage you do go there, comment, and vote. The poll is multiple choice, so you can choose one option for specific deity claims and other options for other deity claims and yet another as you see fit. Write ins are encouraged.

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Hermes,

Since a proposition can only be true or false, not somewhat true or somewhat false, then it stands to reason that your differing levels of knowledge only concern the strength of justification for either the true or false position.

So you think theism is false.

What is your justification for thinking that?

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Frank October 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Charles,

I guess the explanation I have is a spiritual one, so bear with me.

I hav heard it explained better by men far smarter than I, but this is a theory I found acceptable.

The background is this. In genesis 6, we are told the the Sons of God (the original Hebrew implies divine beings that were lesser than the creator came down from Heaven and mated with uman women. Strange? Yes indeed. Anyways, these children became either giants, or great heroes. Think hercules, gilgamesh (recall that Gilgameshi thought to have been real). But these human/angel hybrid (nephilim, rephaim, etc) were very evil, and so God flodded the world.

Btw, this is is not just in the bible, but in the book of enoch, and hinted at in many mythologies worldwide. The book of enoch is also alluded to in the book of jude and one of the peter books.

Long story short, these beings were killed in the flood, but resurfaced again after the flood. How, I do not know, but the conquests of the promised land does detail the presence of giants. Joshua’s report confirmed this, as did the King Og of bashan, and of course goliath and others.

So, the theory, which makes some degree of sense, is that these people living in canaan etc were of giant stock, therefore not fully human. Also recall that these giants were very violent.

Were all of them giants? I can’t say, but the theory is that these folks, giant or not had had their dna changed in some way fallen angels (discarnate entities, higher dimensional, yet finite beings)

This may seem absurd, but it is a possible supernatural explanation. The reason I suppose God would authorize it is that Jesus, the Messiah would have to be fully human to pay for the sins of humanity. If isarel had mixed with the diluted peoples in canaan, the supernatural deed of salvation would not have worked. That’s one reason given for the flood, and one reason for the peoples of canaan.

This may not make logical sense, but from a Biblical, and supernatural viewpoint it could be plausible.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Martin: Since a proposition can only be true or false, not somewhat true or somewhat false, then it stands to reason that your differing levels of knowledge only concern the strength of justification for either the true or false position.

So you think theism is false.

What is your justification for thinking that?

Martin, I address that same type of question in detail in the link I provided, but I’ll give a summary for now.

By analogy, consider the EM spectrum. Part of that spectrum includes what are called radio waves. Other parts include EM radiation that humans can see, so we call that part visible light. Other parts we label microwaves. Knowledge and belief can be seen on a spectrum, and as such we can handle parts of the EM spectrum separately. Wee don’t say that all photos are exclusively blue or reflect only in the IR spectrum, even though in the right conditions either statement may be more likely than not.

That’s the point. The right conditions. The details. Without the details, what you are advocating is a sea of gray where there are no distinctions. The same kind of place that a solipsist would advocate, though I’m going to guess (?) that you aren’t advocating solipsism and only need to sharpen your thoughts on this topic a little.

* * *

A few necessarily incomplete comments and examples on this vast and detailed landscape;

If you talk to a deist, and they ask you if you agree with their deism you can say if you believe it or not. You may even have knowledge of their deism and use that knowledge to formulate a claim.

If you talk to a Hindu, you may agree with their polytheistic beliefs or not. You may even have enough knowledge to make a claim about their specific form of polytheism.

The same goes for other religious or just theistic points of view.

Statements of belief aren’t claims to knowledge, even if they are in the same category. That’s why we talk about them differently in our normal day to day conversations.

So, for example;

A person who through experience and careful thought both believes and claims to know for a fact that they follow the real god Ahura Mazda, and that they should shun the ways of Angra Mainyu would be a type of theist in both belief and knowledge.

A person who follows Judaism as a religion, does not claim knowledge of Yahweh, but does believe that Yahweh exists would have no claim to know but would still have a belief.

Conversely, a person who follows Christianity as a religion, but does not have belief or knowledge that Yahweh exists would be in neither category.

Now, drop each of the people above into the two other examples I’ve provided, and see how things change. As a simple twist, one of the people could be a polytheist and have belief in Yahweh, Ahura Mazda, and Vishnu.

My question to you is what do you see in my larger thread, the one I linked to, that can be improved?

If you insist that I’m wrong, but are unable to look at what I actually wrote and the discussions many people have had over the years, then I don’t have much of a reply. OK, you think I’m wrong. That’s fine. Maybe I am. Where?

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cl October 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Silver Bullet,

An analogy doesn’t have to be perfect to make a point.

Of course not, but it ought to at least be in the ballpark when and where it’s used. The “teapot” analogy presumes that we have equal evidence for theism and the teapot [0]. Russell’s analogy only holds in those instances where inability to disprove a proposition is the believer’s only reason for accepting it.

Believers have never adequately met the burden of proof. Even believer’s know that, which is why believers employ faith.

When you argue in such generalities, you make it sound as if your claims are objectively true, when the fact is, they are not. There are people who believe that some subset of believers have met the burden of proof. There are such things as “former atheists,” you know. That you aren’t one, or that you or perhaps most/all atheists you know have never been persuaded by a believer is about the most you can say with confidence.

Justfinethanks,

For the same period of time, humans have reported deceased ancestors entering our worldly domain as spirits and doing magical things like moving physical objects. Do you honestly think that this means that the existence of ghosts is more probable than Russell’s teapot?

Absolutely, in the very same way that a crime can be more probable with a multitude of independent witnesses. There’s a reason prosecutors frown on cases with no evidence.

Metaphysical reality isn’t a popularity contest. Simply pointing out that people tend to believe in nonsense doesn’t raise the possibility of nonsense being true.

Yeah, I know, I already made clear such is not position, which leads me to question why you seemingly ignored that. You are conflating “belief in nonsense” with “accounts of actual experience.” I am not saying that theism is more likely because more people simply believe in it. I am saying that humans have had “supernatural” experiences for thousands of years, and to pretend that theism is on par with a space teapot is amateur as can be.

So honestly, it doesn’t matter what Luke’s bottom-level reasons for becoming an atheist were at the moment of deconversion. It only matters what reasons he offers now.

Luke might be under the impression that he deconverted for purely rational reasons, when in reality, I don’t think that’s probably the case. To whatever degree such is not the case, to that degree he ought to rethink his deconversion. I’m willing to bet he’d probably respond something along the lines of, “That’s exactly what this blog is for – thinking it out.” I remain skeptical in certain areas because he’s already admitted to strong resistance against ideas that challenge his beliefs, and I explained that I think some of these same issues are at play in the meta-discussion on desirism. It often takes a long time to unlearn the poisons of irrationality.

The Crocoduck Hunter,

…I just tire of the suggestion that since deconversion is an emotionally charged process, that should somehow influence the rationality of atheism.

That’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that since deconversion is an emotionally charged process, it’s likely to compromise the cold pursuit of logic and reason – and that because of this – additional vigilance may be required. I’m willing to bet you would agree.

Reginald Selkirk,

Yes, insanity has been around for quite a while. Your point is?

Are you implying that all who’ve had “supernatural” experiences are insane? If so, don’t you think that’s presumptuous at best, arrogant at worst?

Utter bullshit.

Bury your head in the sand all you wish. I feel as sorry for you as I’m sure you feel for me. As you’ve said, no use in pounding sand.

Rob,

As much as I respect cl, I chuckle every time I encounter a theist completely miss the point of Russell’s Teapot.

Thanks for the kudos if genuine, but why not enlighten me? In your own words, what is “the point” of Russell’s analogy, and why do you suspect that I’ve missed it?

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Hermes,

But you’re still advocating differing levels of justification for a position. You seem to be saying that belief is like a weaker form of knowledge, right?

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Patrick October 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

1. It stands to reason that, if God exists, he would have the power to place a teapot in orbit around Mars.
2. It is presumptuous and arrogant to think we know the motivations and/or purposes of God.
3. Therefore, if God exists, it is presumptuous and arrogant to believe that there is or is not a teapot around Mars.
4. If we believe we experience God, it is reasonable for us to believe that God exists.
5. Some people believe they experience God.
6. Therefore it is unreasonable of them to not be agnostic about the existence of a teapot orbiting Mars.

Reformed skeptical agnostic teapotism!

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Rob October 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm

The point of Russell’s Teapot is that the believer in the Teapot has the burden of defending her belief.

I do not believe in the Teapot, but it would be absurd for anyone to expect me to give an argument for why I don’t believe in the Teapot. For then I would be expected to give an argument for all the things I don’t believe, which is infinite.

Nobody is claiming that believing in God is intellectually on all fours with believing in the Teapot.

In summary, it is a burden of proof issue, that is all.

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orgostrich October 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

For the semantics argument, it seems to me that it would be simplest if people gave themselves two labels: gnostic/agnostic to describe your /knowledge/, and atheist/theist/deist to describe your /beliefs/. Many people (including myself) would end up as agnostic atheists- I don’t believe there is a God, but I’m not sure.

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Justfinethanks October 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm

cl

I am not saying that theism is more likely because more people simply believe in it.

Well, that’s a relief.

I am saying that humans have had “supernatural” experiences for thousands of years, and to pretend that theism is on par with a space teapot is amateur as can be.

Wait, what? So one isn’t more likely than another because because human experience, but they aren’t “on par” with one another because human experience. (Belief is, after all, an experience) Well, I guess that is trivially true. But since probability of being true is the only “par” truth seekers should be interested in, this is ultimately a not very interesting or relevant point.

To whatever degree such is not the case, to that degree he ought to rethink his deconversion.

Uh, no. Let’s pretend I became an atheist because I hate the taste of apples. But I have since learned that was a terrible reason to be an atheist, but there are actually excellent reasons one should be an atheist. Given my current, more sophisticated understanding of theism and atheism, I have no reason to rethink my earlier position (even if it was at the time unjustified).

The very fact that, at one point in the past, you held to your current beliefs for bad reasons should not cause you to rethink your beliefs. Only new, more powerful arguments that challenge your position should cause you to rethink your beliefs.

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mojo.rhythm October 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I’ve got no problem labeling myself as a strong atheist. There is no evidence whatsoever for any Gods. The reason I am a strong atheist is that I really think we would expect to see lots of good evidence if a God or Gods did exist. Since we do not find evidence where we would expect to find evidence, I have positive rational justification for the proposition “god does not exist”.

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ildi October 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I totally believe in the physicist hacker if the universe was fine-tuned to create humans, and the Calvinist God if Christianity is true.

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Kaelik October 4, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Martin,

This came out beautifully in the Craig/Hitchens debate. Craig asked Hitchens what his position is. Hitchens responded that he simply lacks belief. Craig responded that this use of “atheism” as an umbrella term doesn’t really define anything, and for Hitchens to please be more specific. Hitchens responded that God is “imaginary.”
BAM!
Right there, he gave himself away. If theism is imaginary then clearly he thinks theism is false and thus has a burden of proof/justification.

Not quite. We have no evidence whatsoever for the existence of any “God” whatever that is supposed to mean.

But we do have a great deal of evidence that when most people talk about “God” they are talking about something that other people made up, and has no basis in the real world.

Is it possible for me to conceive of an alien race that does happen to exist? Maybe. But if I conceive of an alien race, and then go around telling people they exist, that’s still an imaginary alien race as far as we can tell.

We have very strong evidence that people’s beliefs about “God” are wrong. Those that we don’t have such evidence for are still completely without evidenciary basis.

It is more likely that they follow the same pattern as other beliefs based on no evidence in being false, and merely our imaginations.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Martin: But you’re still advocating differing levels of justification for a position. You seem to be saying that belief is like a weaker form of knowledge, right?

Is red a type of x-ray? Are microwaves a shade of green? Are gamma waves just a form of radio wave?

The answer is not yes, it’s not no, it’s mu. As you pointed out in your choice of items in the list you provided;

1. True
2. False
3. Don’t know
4. Don’t care
5. It’s not possible to know

In it, you list personal interest (don’t care) and knowledge claims (true/false/…) and projections (not possible). So, even you see that it is not just about a single distinction.

When people talk about their own religious ideas, they say “I believe …” and “I know …” and variations on those. As such, beliefs are a category and knowledge is a different category; knowledge is claimed “I know…”, while belief is stated “I believe…”.

Now, before you continue, go look at the list I’ve provided. Do you notice any similarities to the list you provided?

* * *

Knowledge and belief are different enough that we use them as separate terms all the time. Some random examples;

“I believe that my child does not do drugs, but I do not know that they do not.”

“I don’t believe that mushrooms can be purple, but I do not know that they can not be purple.”

“I believe that the Hale Bop comet hides an alien space ship, and I know that this is true.”

“I believe that the Heaven’s Gate religious followers died and did not get transported to some spaceship hidden in the Hale Bop comet, but I do not know that they did not.”

…or…

“I believe that the Heaven’s Gate religious followers died and did not get transported to some spaceship hidden in the Hale Bop comet, and I also know that they did not because we have the corner’s report.”

You are free to actually look at what I wrote and address it in full. Do you have comments on that? If not — if you feel what you decided today trumps what I’ve thought about for a few years and had a few hundred people scrutinize and comment on — then I don’t know what to provide. It’s all there. Go look; read. Comment. Vote if you want. I’ll change my mind and post an update or revision of the poll if you make a good case that is not just logical in some narrow sense but has some real-world utility to it as well.

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cl October 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Hermes,

I attempted a conversation on the moral issues involved with that topic with someone else here, and much to my disappointment they seem to have disappeared entirely. … Since I did not get a reply from the other person, do you have any comments on what I wrote?

I answered you, in this thread, among other places. Now, in your defense, you did copy-and-paste the same or near-the-same comment in multiple threads. If you mean to say that I didn’t answer every single instance of your comment, you are correct. However, I did address your question. You didn’t answer the question I tossed back at you [what any of your fondness for Sokal has to do with me]. I also returned to the thread and gave you my general sentiments regarding what you wrote.

Rob,

The point of Russell’s Teapot is that the believer in the Teapot has the burden of defending her belief.

Then your statement that I missed that point is incorrect.

Nobody is claiming that believing in God is intellectually on all fours with believing in the Teapot.

I don’t think you can make that claim. In fact, that very claim disrespects the burden of proof you just accused me of not understanding. The best you can say is that neither you nor anybody you’re aware of is claiming that. However, when you say “nobody,” you’ve left the realm of conservatively stated claims. I know atheists who do treat the teapot and theism on the same intellectual grounds. In fact, there are some among is in this thread [those who say there is "no evidence" for theism]. So clearly, there are atheists who put the two claims on equal grounds, don’t you think?

Justfinethanks,

Let’s lift the conversation out of (a)theism. In your opinion, in a court of law, what type of claim is more likely to be true:

1) A claim corroborated by a several independent witnesses and/or pieces of evidence;

2) A claim not corroborated by any witnesses and/or pieces of evidence?

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Orgostrich, that’s exactly the solution that bubbled to the top when I investigated the issue.

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Hermes,

It’s all there. Go look; read. Comment. Vote if you want.

Done and done. I note that I can’t vote because nothing there describes my position: I do not know whether there is a God or not.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Done and done. I note that I can’t vote because nothing there describes my position: I do not know whether there is a God or not.

Neither do I, and if you look at the results few people are claiming they do. As such, what’s your other objection to voting?

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Martin, there’s plenty of options. Common ones and more obscure ones. For example;

agnostic monotheist – I do not know for certain, but I think only one specific god exists.

ignostic deist – While the concepts of god(s) are meaningless, it is likely that there is a god that started the universe but does not actively meddle with it or us.

apnostic polytheist – I don’t care if there are any gods, but I guess there is more than one god.

Many variations on those and others as well. If you don’t count combinations, and ignore the henotheist bonus option as well as the ones that follow it, there are 20 choices. You can even choose multiple times if you have different ideas about different deities.

How would you change it? (He asks again, knowingly, wink wink, nudge nudge.)

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Martin October 4, 2010 at 5:05 pm

None describes my position. I would check the one that says: I do not know whether there are any god/gods, and I do not think the existence or absence of a god is more likely than the other.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I do not know whether there are any god/gods

OK. Same here.

Let’s concentrate on the second part then;

and I do not think the existence or absence of a god is more likely than the other.

Is this another claim about knowledge?

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Zeb October 4, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Martin and Hermes, didn’t you guys exhaust this topic 5 months ago? Or was that a different Martin?

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Zeb, I can’t remember having this discussion here. Usually it doesn’t come up. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a settled topic.

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Natalie October 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

bossmanham wrote: “Historically, atheists have expressed a claim to knowledge, namely that God does not exist.”

This is strong atheism and isn’t the sum total of atheism. Most atheists will in fact say they cannot know if there is or is not a god, but there is insufficient evidence to believe in one.

That is quite different from saying with knowledge, “There is no god” and “There is a god.”

I submit that there are far more nonbelievers who do not claim knowledge but rather insufficient evidence, than believers who do not claim knowledge but sufficient evidence. In other words, far more believers claim knowledge than atheists do. It is most likely because of the differences in defining “knowledge”, with believers allowing subjective experiences to stand as evidence and nonbelievers only giving objective experiences the right to be evidence.

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Hermes October 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I submit that there are far more nonbelievers who do not claim knowledge but rather insufficient evidence, than believers who do not claim knowledge but sufficient evidence.

While not statistically rigorous, that fits what I’ve found as well.

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Mo October 4, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Luke,

I love how comfortable and open you are with sharing this stuff! Especially the bit about ‘killing the lizard.’

I’m wondering if even after you officially became an atheist, was it hard to bring yourself to do things that you thought were sinful before? Like listening to ‘devil music’ and having sex? Did you still feel residual guilt even though you no longer believed in God?

p.s. As for the Affliction gear (mentioned by some above comments) you’ve made me think twice about stereotyping dudes that wear such clothing.

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BathTub October 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I can’t believe you blogged about ‘the lizard’ on a blog you knew your mother would read.

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Frank October 4, 2010 at 7:44 pm

I think that an atheist defining their belief as seeing insufficient evidence for a god of any sort to exist is probaby a fair assesment in some cases. Saying that you know there is no God/gods cannot be validated.

My question to those who view atheism as just having insufficient evidence: what would you consider sufficient evidence?

For example, do you have to witness a divine being or event? Or is this something you would accept or reject based onthe writings of thsoe who had eyewitnessed said events?

You probably know where I’m going with this, but for a second just do not think about any follow up questions about the Bible or religious texts. What I propose would be 2 scenarios.

1 you yourself have an unexplainable encounter in which a divine being (or higher dimensional being) revealed itself to you. Is this sufficient evidence for you to believe?

2 if your friend, or a policeman, or a scientist saw one, or mult people saw one, and told you about it, would you believe itwhy or why not? Also, what evidence would it take for you to believe that one or more other people had seen proof of a divine being?

I guess I am trying to understand what is considered “sufficient” evidence.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 7:59 pm

stamati,

Sure, with some embarrassment. But I don’t look back and try to judge my earlier self in some kind of global sense. Not very useful.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Jeff H,

Wow, yes, your blog does go back to 2004. Probably some gems in there; you should do us a favor and dig them up for a chronological link-post like the one I wrote above. :)

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm

consideratheism,

Haha, I have no idea. That was at… I can’t remember. Some place on the Third Street Promenade.

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Mo,

Luckily, I did not have a hard time listening to devil music and having sex.

Yes re: affliction. The next guy you meet in an Affliction shirt might be fan of Willard van Orman Quine!

But you are still safe stereotyping guys in Ed Hardy shirts. :)

jk

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lukeprog October 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm

That’s buttery egg noodles and salt, yo.

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 4:48 am

Frank: My question to those who view atheism as just having insufficient evidence: what would you consider sufficient evidence?

Good question. As it is also asked frequently, I’ll give some generic replies instead of some specific ones.

First off: With so many claimed deities — tens of thousands if not millions — it is up to the deities to provide sufficient evidence.

* If they know enough about what humans are like, then they can probably figure out what would be sufficient.

* If they also are capable enough to provide that sufficient evidence to a person, they can do so.

* If they also have a sufficient presence and scope (both widely defined) to provide evidence to multiple people, they can do so.

I could go on to negative support and contradictions proposed by various individual theists and sects of various religions, but that’s not really the issue. If a thousand people are mistaken about what they consider to be sufficient evidence, but the next person is not, the thousand that proceeded that one does not negate the one case.

As a group, though, how would we distinguish between the one and the thousand? What if it were reversed, and the thousand were given sufficient evidence and the one was mistaken? I see no way around that.

So as not to discard how those experiences are attributed, we can call them personal statements of belief. If we could determine a way to sift the mis-attributed beliefs from the properly attributed beliefs, then we could add to the belief claims of knowledge and then share that knowledge even if we were not able to share the specific evidence. If we can not share that knowledge, though, sharing the belief is insufficient since we don’t know (knowledge) that the belief is attributed properly. The best we can do is say that regardless of an individual’s belief, insufficient evidence to make a knowledge claim is available. Importantly, that applies to the one and the thousand examples, and those with no experiences in either category.

As a personal example, I noticed an alien space craft hovering outside my window when I was a child. Petrified, I hid. After a few minutes, I risked sneaking up to the base of my window and peering around to see what the aliens were up to. If they had noticed me. Using one eye, I looked out the window again, I looked at the moon.

In that case, I first had a sincere experience of aliens and thus had a reason for belief. On seeing the moon, I attributed the alien space craft experience as me being mistaken, and stopped having the belief. Knowledge of the moon informed my belief and changed it.

Yet, even that is premature. Is it possible that the alien space craft left while I was hiding and that I mis-attributed the moon as the source of my belief? Should I choose to hold on to the experience as that of an alien space craft regardless of seeing the moon? Why? Why not?

[ Note: My story is not uncommon. Even trained police officers have had similar experiences. ]

Note that I have not talked about individual religious or theistic traditions or sects of religions or quasi-religious individual group ideas. The variety is too much to cover. I do have specific comments about the claims given by individuals and groups, yet going down that road would be a distraction as it’s not clear how to judge contradictory claims or a long winded game of whack-a-mole as different claims are brought up and require being individually addressed. Meanwhile, if gods exist, they might know and might be able to provide sufficient evidence themselves.

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Natalie October 5, 2010 at 5:30 am

Sufficient evidence? Well, let’s just say I’ve had the experiences you described. I’ve had plenty of experiences that I thought for years were supernatural in origin. But once I turned my skeptical eye on my own experiences and sought alternative explanations beside the false dichotomy of 1) they’re true, and 2) I’m delusional, I found explanations that fit my experiences and the evidence far better:

*I am really, really good at finding patterns, and humans have evolved to give faces to patterns.
*That urge to look over my shoulder when alone is nothing more than a holdover from my prehistoric ancestors whose daily lives were full of looking over the shoulder to get through the day alive.
*Those experiences of “someone in the room with me” are connected to my documented temporal lobe seizures, likely caused by oxygen deprivation as a young child since that’s when everything started.

So if someone like me–someone known to her family and friends for years as having loads of sensible-sounding supernatural encounters–can abandon them as real, then what is sufficient evidence? I can tell you it won’t be in grandiose supernatural displays. I’m not impressed.

What would convince me? How about some better statistics on answers to prayer. Or Christianity becoming more united over time, not less. Or people of faith truly taking care of the poor instead of acting like the average human. (Wait: that would require the religious right to actually embrace evil socialism, and that *would* require a miracle! :eyeroll:)

I guess sufficient evidence for me in my daily life would have been help at becoming a better person, something I sought daily via religion. Did I see overall progress over time that couldn’t be attributed to my simple human, decent efforts? No. In fact, it has become EASIER to become the person I want to be without the encumbrance of believing that someone is going to help me if only I say/do the right things. I have accepted complete responsibility.

The idea of god has become superfluous. Give me something that isn’t explainable otherwise–and doesn’t seem like something science could explain eventually or that couldn’t be attributed to humans simply being good on their own–then I would believe again.

I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you.

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Frank October 5, 2010 at 6:06 am

Hermes,

Not sure if you’re gonna see this.

You have some very interesting statements, including a misinterpretation. But I guess what would be sufficient evidence to you personally? Your point about the burden of proof resting on the divine is valid to a point, and this is where we will have to respectfully disagree. Where you see insufficient evidence, I see evidence in a bundance.

What I mean is the Bible. Now, I am not privy to alleged contradictions, but I am going to examine those claims. For now though, I see the bible as God’s proof and that He and other, lesser supernatural (higher dimensional entities) exist. I also see prophecy documented in the bible, and see it fulfilled within its pages. I also see it being set up for fulfillment in the news headlines. (Matthew 24, and many current events, just to name one.) Though I occasionally have doubts, I see this as sufficient evidence. Another note, I know the bible is 66 books, by 40 different authors, yet there is a consistent message, and that is redemption for humankind.

I realize for some that isn’t sufficient, but for me it is. That’s why I’m trying to understand what would be sufficient for atheists, so that I can continue to have smart talks with atheist friends.

Natalie,

You have a great point about Christians serving the poor. Though there are some wonderful examples of this, I will agree its in short supply. I’m guilty of it myself, but I don’t have much extra to begin with. Excuses excuses…. conservatives chrisitans should drop the political motives, and work more on changing lives. Jesus didn’t form a political kingdom, he said to make disciples (that’s change individuals)

Answered prayer…I think this is indicative of the spiritual state of american/western christians. All prayers get answered, sometimes that answer is no. Still, I have had a number of prayers that were fulfilled. Nothing that would constitute sufficient evidence to you, but to me it was.

At any rate I’ll see you all later.

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Charles October 5, 2010 at 7:23 am

Frank,

The message in the Bible isn’t consistent at all. The solutions to the problem of evil vary across authors. Even the Gospel writers don’t agree on who Jesus was! What you see as “consistency” is just a meta-narrative created by the Church.

If you want to challenge yourself, read Bart Ehrman’s “God’s Problem” and “Jesus, Interrupted”. You won’t be disappointed.

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Charles October 5, 2010 at 7:41 am

1 you yourself have an unexplainable encounter in which a divine being (or higher dimensional being) revealed itself to you. Is this sufficient evidence for you to believe?
2 if your friend, or a policeman, or a scientist saw one, or mult people saw one, and told you about it, would you believe itwhy or why not? Also, what evidence would it take for you to believe that one or more other people had seen proof of a divine being?

I would need scientific evidence that souls exist. If they found that, I would certainly rethink a few things.

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Tony Hoffman October 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

I am always puzzled by this claim:

“Now, I am not privy to alleged contradictions, but I am going to examine those claims. For now though, I see the bible as God’s proof and that He and other, lesser supernatural (higher dimensional entities) exist. I also see prophecy documented in the bible, and see it fulfilled within its pages. I also see it being set up for fulfillment in the news headlines.”

Please see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB3g6mXLEKk&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBufxLab5ns&feature=player_embedded#

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Patrick October 5, 2010 at 7:59 am

Atheist Luke looks like a boss from Final Fantasy, like some biker dude that is about to pull out two machine guns.

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 8:16 am

What silly debates. I’ll just have to address the Teapot Claim though. It is valid, because when it comes right down to it, all of these “supernatural experiences” are little more than the result of vivid imagination, the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, and the want to experience something extraordinary. I can almost guarantee that if we granted the Teapot the ability to communicate to humans, and allowed it to be a central part of our culture for centuries, we would have various claims from people communicating with the Teapot.

But more importantly, what the Teapot argument hopes to establish is that ultimately, the natural evidence for Theism is no better than that for the Teapot.

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 8:22 am

@ Frank:

If God is willing to kill people in order to stop evil, then he is willing to to interfere in human affairs, and, free will theodicy falls apart. If God is willing to stop human sacrifices, why didn’t he stop Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Regime and various other atrocities and evil empires?

Furthermore, killing someone directly violates their free will and individuality. If God is willing to do that, wouldn’t it be more reasonable of him to just present such morally convincing arguments to the people who are committing evil that by their own free will, they are persuaded to desist from such actions? Wouldn’t this option, that would convert the men, stop evil, and prevent God from becoming a mass murderer be favorable than having other humans go to war against each other and create great chains of conflict over lost land and slaughter of children?

Everything you say has many implications, and you must realize that saying that God is willing to violate free will or interfere in the lives of humans will have many implications later on, such as the nature of free will as defined by God and your response to the problem of Evil.

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Silver Bullet October 5, 2010 at 9:08 am

cl,

you wrote: “comparing theism to a teapot in outer space is a major category error … The “teapot” analogy presumes that we have equal evidence for theism and the teapot …”

As I wrote, an analogy doesn’t have to be perfect to make a point. Russell’s teapot and your god are both undetectable. It seems to me that that’s the relevant similarity which contributes to the force of the teapot analogy in reminding believers not to shift the burden of proof (which they frequently do).

you also wrote: ” There are people who believe that some subset of believers have met the burden of proof …”

Regarding the amount of evidence that is required to meet the burden of proof – I suppose that at some point, this is in the eye of the beholder.

“One man’s evidence is another man’s belly laugh.”

This by no means indicates that all claims are on equal footing.

The claims of Christian theism are extraordinary. The evidence that supports them is either of the lowest quality or it is virtually non-existent. It means nothing to argue that despite this predicament, some people are Christians. After all, some people believe that the Earth is flat, and that the sun revolves around it too.

Finally, you wrote: “Of course, there are people that simply deny all supernatural claims out of hand. I suppose for them, there is no reasoning … ”

I find this statement particularly ironic, since it is reason itself that requires extraordinary claims to be supported by extraordinary evidence. Those people who “deny all supernatural claims” are not doing so out of hand – they are doing so until extraordinary evidence is provided. This is PERFECTLY reasonable. For you to claim that these people are being unreasonable, you are going to have to show that you have extraordinary evidence for the supernatural, and that these people are willfully ignoring it. If you have extraordinary evidence of the supernatural, I expect you to be sharing it with North Americans on 60 Minutes …

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Tony Hoffman October 5, 2010 at 9:17 am

I like these as my handy definitions:

theist: One who bears burden of proof for a god who created the universe and is active in it.
atheist: One who asserts that none of the known theist claims are valid.
agnostic: One who believes that arguments and objections by atheists are inconclusive.
skeptic: A critical thinker who is an atheist but doesn’t want the hassle of fending off theist hand-waving about burdens of proof.

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Frank October 5, 2010 at 9:20 am

Charles,

I started looking at ehrmann’s stuff and I am thus far not impressed. I will be looking at Gods problem soon.

Steven,

Why didn’t God stop those horrors? I don’t think any answer I give will satisfy most. One theory is that since Christ came 2000 years ago, Satan’s tactics changed. My guess is, that those events were God allowing satan to continue his rebellion and allowing satan to cause maximum damage to show a) how futile satan’s rebellion is, and b) to show the world how evil satan ruled nations are. Nazi germany was the most demonic/occult/paganozed society in modern times, and look how much evil they caused. Stalin was the most godless/atheistic (state enforced) at its time. Don’t get me wrong, many atheists are decent folk, but when atheism is state enforced it is not right.

Stalin and hitler were evil, no one here will dispute that. I can’t speak for God, but these reasons make sense to me. After the cross, God gave us an out to stand against that evil. We can accept Christ, and what He did, or we can reject it, and stay in the world system being run by satan. If we chose satan, we can only expect more of the same kind of evil men coming to power. Except next time its going to be christians, and perhaps muslims being thrown into camps.

And whose to say that God didn’t interven to stop germany? God often used other nations to judge israel when they misbehaved, who’s to say that he didn’t have nations war against germany to stop the holocaust?

At any rate, this is the best explanation I can muster.

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Reginald Selkirk October 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

Nazi germany was the most demonic/occult/paganozed society in modern times, and look how much evil they caused.

“I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol 1 chapter 2

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

No. I don’t see how Satan’s tactics have changed. What’s the difference between sacrificing children in the name of a god and gassing children in the name of the Aryan Race? How is plaguing the earth with evil a different tactic?

Second off, I dislike what I call the Christian Soap Opera explanation of evil. What you’re telling me is that God is such an incompetent ruler, the only way he can prove his Only way of proving his abilities is by letting some being rule. Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing and very wise being be so helpless that the only way he can prove the futileness of his enemy’s rebellion and salvage his own reputation as a ruler is by allowing thousands of children to die (shouldn’t the murder of just one person be more than enough proof of evil? And if maximum damage was to be done, why did God stop it? Why not let it take over the whole of Earth? Or let it expand to even more evil?), having adults grow up in an evil civilization, and ultimately stop this evil through mass-warfare, genocide, and other unpleasant (or evil) activities? Besides, why does God even care about proving that Satan is evil? In The Book of Job, God tells Job not to question his actions, so if he’s so bent on having humans go without questioning his actions, why shouldn’t he just demand that humans believe him when he says that Satan is evil? And why is there a rebellion in the first place? I would think that a good ruler would be able to convince everyone about his powers and wisdom, and it seems as if God failed miserably in this respect.

Nazi Germany was hardly the most demonic/Paganized –Insert random nonsense here-, as it was really limited only to the echelons of superior Nazi Officials and this occurred after the Nazis had already determined they wanted to exterminate Jews. Furthermore, if the other civilizations that God had wiped out were already examples of the maximum evil of Satan, what’s the point in doing it yet again? Rather redundant.

As for Stalin’s Regime, what you witness is not the evil of Atheism, but the evil of State Imposed ideologies. The same atrocities that Stalin committed were committed by Protestants, Catholics, Imams, etc. when they were trying to force everyone into having the same religion. The only reason it seems that Stalin was worse is that he had modern technology to aid him in his bloody quest. I can assure you that if any of the Kings or Imams from the Middle Ages had had the technology Stalin did, their methods would have been the same. It should also be noted that Christian mistrust of Jews is what helped fuel the tradition of anti-semitism that aided Hitler’s hate campaign—not pagan beliefs.

No, according to your version of events, if God allowed for the Israelites to kill evil people, he was letting them stand up to evil, so Jesus dying in the cross didn’t change that. I also recall that many OT stories have people standing up against “evil”. You’ll need a better argument than that. And what nonsense, that if we reject Christ, Atheists or non-believers will be the ones perpetrating atrocities. How ironic. When the Israelites commit mass-murder, it is divine punishment. When anybody else does it, it must be because of Paganism. Lovely double-standards.

BTW, are you telling me that God’s interference against Nazi Germany took roughly 6 years to begin, and 3 years to become fully effective, and resulted in the deaths of millions of people? That’s the best God can do? Take his time to stand up against evil and create a slaughterhouse for those who are serving punishment? And this is the same God that claims to have created the Universe, flooded the Earth, and let small Israeli armies defeat some of the most numerous and powerful armies of the time with minimal losses? Did God lose his magic touch?

PS: Free will is no longer a viable explanation for the Problem of Evil under your world view.

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Reginald Selkirk October 5, 2010 at 10:09 am

I also see prophecy documented in the bible, and see it fulfilled within its pages.

The Age of Reason: Examination of the Prophecies
by Thomas Paine, a mere two centuries ago

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 10:13 am

Small edit:

Second Paragraph, second sentence:

*What you’re telling me is that God is such an incompetent ruler, the only way he can prove his of proving his abilities is by letting some evil being rule for millions (or thousands if you are a YEC) years–and somehow, centuries of evil still don’t prove that God isa competent ruler and that Satan is as evil as God claims.

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 10:20 am

Frank asked: if your friend, or a policeman, or a scientist saw one, or mult people saw one, and told you about it, would you believe itwhy or why not? Also, what evidence would it take for you to believe that one or more other people had seen proof of a divine being?

Response:
No. This is the same reason why I wouldn’t believe it these same people claimed to have seen a dragon at the beach, but brought no proof and the dragon didn’t leave anything to indicate its presence. Furthermore, I would like to point out that—and this is a real story—a radio broadcaster read his own version of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. People actually took the broadcast as a real news report, and panicked. And in their panic, some claimed they saw “flashes in the distance” and even smelled poison gas. The mind is easily tricked into seeing things that are not real, and “eyewitness” events are notorious for being the most unreliable evidence out there.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 11:54 am

Steven,

I agree that some of the debates that have unfolded here seem silly. However, I think you add to the silliness when you come out with,

…all of these “supernatural experiences” are little more than the result of vivid imagination, the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, and the want to experience something extraordinary.

That is a gross over-generalization that ignores available evidence.

As for the Teapot situation, first of all, it can’t be valid, at least not in the sense an argument can be valid. I don’t mean to imply that that’s what you implied, either.

But more importantly, what the Teapot argument hopes to establish is that ultimately, the natural evidence for Theism is no better than that for the Teapot.

Now that’s funny. I made the same claim earlier, and at least one person objected [Rob]. Yet, at least three other people on this thread have claimed some variant of “there’s no evidence for God.” So, quite clearly, many atheists do think theism is “intellectually on all fours with believing in the Teapot.”

Silver Bullet,

As I wrote, an analogy doesn’t have to be perfect to make a point.

And, as I wrote, it does at least have to be in the ballpark. We could play this game all day.

Russell’s teapot and your god are both undetectable.

Bare assertion.

Regarding the amount of evidence that is required to meet the burden of proof – I suppose that at some point, this is in the eye of the beholder.

I think that’s wise, and there we would have to agree.

The claims of Christian theism are extraordinary. The evidence that supports them is either of the lowest quality or it is virtually non-existent.

That’s your opinion. You’re giving me an opinion. You haven’t even defined “evidence” or “good quality evidence” or anything like that. I can’t do much with opinions other than nod.

Those people who “deny all supernatural claims” are not doing so out of hand – they are doing so until extraordinary evidence is provided. This is PERFECTLY reasonable.

Look, you may or may not be “perfectly reasonable,” but don’t sit there and try to tell me that I’ve not encountered BOATLOADS of perfectly unreasonable atheists. I’ve debated with atheists who pull handwave after handwave after handwave, only to pompously declare, “there’s no evidence for theism.” What these atheists really mean is that the theist hasn’t convinced them – and those are two different things entirely.

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Reginald Selkirk October 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm

That is a gross over-generalization that ignores available evidence.

You haven’t made any evidence available.

Look, you may or may not be “perfectly reasonable,” but don’t sit there and try to tell me that I’ve not encountered BOATLOADS of perfectly unreasonable atheists. I’ve debated with atheists who pull handwave after handwave after handwave, only to pompously declare, “there’s no evidence for theism.” What these atheists really mean is that the theist hasn’t convinced them – and those are two different things entirely.

Blah blah blah. All this great, convincing evidence – why are you withholding it? Instead you give us evasion after evasion after evasion.

No, none of the evidence for various deities has convinced me, and if you ever got around to presenting any evidence, we might discuss why it is not convincing.

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Tony Hoffman October 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

CL,

Reams and reams of bad evidence are less compelling than one demonstration with good evidence. I love the part about atheists hand waving, though. Yeah, it’s the atheists trying to cover up the fact that they don’t have any good evidence. Uh huh.

Here’s the pattern:
Theist: “I have lots of good evidence for God.”
Atheist: “Great. Let’s see it.”
Theist: “Well, this isn’t so great, but here’s one.”
Atheist: “Yeah, that’s not so great. In fact, it’s really, really flawed.”
Theist: “What? But you’re not looking at in context, which is that I have so many more.”
Atheist: “Great. Let’s see another.”
Theist: “Well, this isn’t a clear demonstration, but it really makes you think.”
Atheist: “Um, sure, but it doesn’t do what you claim it does. So, what else have you got, because I’m still not convinced.”
Theist: “Not convinced? But I have so many more!!”

Ad infinitum.

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lukeprog October 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Tony Hoffman,

That sounds quite familiar. :)

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theRealAdaam October 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Hey luke!
Yeah I’ve pretty much also been blogging through my whole deconversion process. It’s quite a process that has been very good for me. I’m actually going to go back through my old posts and make a timeline, like this great example of yours. It will be quite the experience because I’ve also kept a LOT of old hand written journals. So I’m going to just pool all of these resources together and make quite an interesting post on what I used to be and how I’ve slowly changed.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Unfortunately for the pursuit of reason, atheists often define “acceptable evidence” such that only an argument from ignorance can qualify. Consider Natalie earlier in this thread for example:

Give me something that isn’t explainable otherwise–and doesn’t seem like something science could explain eventually or that couldn’t be attributed to humans simply being good on their own–then I would believe again.

IOW, give me an argument from ignorance. Why? So you can then turn around and cry “God of the Gaps?” This is a big reason I’m pretty much over trying to convince any atheist of anything. If the criteria is, “give me something I don’t think our science can explain,” how can a rationally satisfying answer even be expected? By these criteria, a lost traveler with an iPod and an Android could be considered “supernatural” to an otherwise-isolated tribe.

Reginald,

You haven’t made any evidence available.

This is so false it’s silly, but that’s beyond the scope of this thread. Steven made a bogus claim that ignores the sum of available evidence out there in the world. It’s not my responsibility to do his work for him. Your comment is non-sequitur. And yes, I provide evidence. It’s laced throughout my blog. I’m not going to hold your hand but it’s there if you want to look, and there are plenty of things I haven’t even blogged about. Still, I suspect it will proceed much like Tony Hoffman says, only, here’s the more realistic version IMHO:

Atheist: There’s no evidence for God, ghosts or anything supernatural, nyah-nyah-nyah…
Theist: What about this?
Atheist: That’s not good enough.
Theist: Okay, then what about this?
Atheist: Oh, that’s not good enough either.
Theist: Okay then, what about this?
Atheist: That’s not good enough either. Randi already debunked that you fool!

Tony is correct about one thing: ad infinitum it goes. If that’s “perfectly reasonable” I’ll have no part.

Blah blah blah. All this great, convincing evidence – why are you withholding it? Instead you give us evasion after evasion after evasion.

Ah yes, jumping on the old “cl is an evader” bandwagon I see. Pretty pathetic if you ask me. Like I said, I’m not withholding anything. I’ve been through this on my own blog with plenty of people as intelligent as yourself. So, the ball’s in your court buddy.

No, none of the evidence for various deities has convinced me, and if you ever got around to presenting any evidence, we might discuss why it is not convincing.

Hey, I like that. You actually made a conservatively stated claim. If you’re going to now use the more honest “I’ve not seen any evidence that convinces me,” I have no problem with that.

However, lest you mislead anyone else with your false claims about me, I’m more than willing to discuss evidence with anyone. I’ve got a blog of my own any of you can scour. I present evidence there. Should any takers arise, be aware that before we begin, I’m going to ask you for concrete definitions of terms like “evidence.”

Tony Hoffman,

Yeah, it’s the atheists trying to cover up the fact that they don’t have any good evidence. Uh huh.

Uh huh? More like, huh? Who said anything about atheists “trying to cover up the fact that they don’t have any good evidence?”

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Frank: Hermes,

Not sure if you’re gonna see this.

As messenger of the gods and a watcher, I see quite a bit. Plus, I get to wear some great head and foot gear.

You have some very interesting statements, including a misinterpretation.

Corrections are always appreciated.

But I guess what would be sufficient evidence to you personally?

As others have noted, and as I attempted to convey, I could be mistaken. Am I the one or am I the thousand? Did the one person attribute their experience correctly, or the thousand?

To be explicit, that only covers normal human misunderstandings about what an experience is attributed to be. That is, it assumes that the experiences are real but through our own limited abilities we may not — or mostly do not — attribute them correctly in one, many, or all ways.

It does not cover the multitude of potential deities or other non-deities that could vie for the attentions of humans (including other humans), and where they may want to obscure themselves.

There are many other possibilites, and we’re stuck with the issue of How Do You Know What You Experienced Is Sourced To What You Believe It Is Attributed To? not Did You Experience Something?. I take it as a given that you and many people have genuine experiences. Even if I grant you that your specific experiences were attributed properly and match reality exactly as it is, it doesn’t help me realize that you have made a proper attribution. When I hear other people say similar but contradictory things to what you say, how do I know that they are not correct or that you both correct, or that you both are partially or entirely mistaken on your attributions?

Your point about the burden of proof resting on the divine is valid to a point, and this is where we will have to respectfully disagree.

Note that I broadly covered the range of potential deities, yet allowed for them to not have traits that may allow them to show themselves in a way that would be convincing. I did not say what would convince me, though, because I honestly do not know. Yet, deities of a certain type would know what would, so I leave it to that category if they exist to show me if they want to.

Yet, not all sets of deities are able and/or willing.

For example, if a set of deities had no insights or interest in humans or me specifically, they may not be capable or motivated to show up.

If the deities did have the ability and motivation, if such terms are even vaguely appropriate for deities, they would know and would present themselves in such a way that I would find convincing.

There are a variety of versions of deities in between the two, and graphing it would probably end up with many or even endless possible matrices.

Yet, the main point I was making with the second half of my note was that there is no way to determine who is mistaken and misattributes an experience as being from a set of deities and who is not mistaken and properly attributes the experience as being from a set of deities.

Where you see insufficient evidence, I see evidence in a bundance.

As do others. I don’t deny your experiences. I can reach deep spiritual states, and I am in awe over how wonderful the world I am is (more on this in a bit).

Yet, how do I know that yours are properly attributed and those of others are not? Are you the one? Are you in the thousand? Are the thousand properly attributing the experience they had, or is the one?

That’s the kicker.

That’s why I mentioned my alien space craft experience, and I linked to the police officers who also experienced one.

On the wonders of the world…

A girlfriend, nominally Christian, once remarked at my glee over nature, and was stunned that I didn’t see that as an indication of some god if not ‘the God’. I turned to her and asked ‘Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t it glorious?’, and she agreed. I added, that it is glorious all by itself. (It is regardless of if it sources to any set of deities that are pumping out the glory rays.)

I have yet to be shown why adding a layer of divinity to such things is required by anyone. Why detract from the moment?

When I meditate, or concentrate hard enough, I can bring my imagination seemingly to life. When I think about people, I can talk with them as if they are there and see what they would tell me — a handy thing to do before posing questions to flesh and blood people. When writing, I can talk to the characters and allow them free reign. I can watch them, and let them interact with each other while I take notes. Yet, in all those cases, I don’t have a troupe of actors or new people walking around, or friends and associates psychically connected to me like a 3D video phone, nor imaginative things distilling themselves out of the aether.

What I mean is the Bible. Now, I am not privy to alleged contradictions, but I am going to examine those claims.

As I mentioned, I did read the Bible twice plus countless commentaries as well as other mythic and religious sources. I’ve talked with theologians and priests and seminary students for decades.

At this stage, though, a specific religion doesn’t matter.

What I know is that there are different people making contradictory claims. Who has the proper attribution, and how would I determine it?

For now though, I see the bible as God’s proof and that He and other, lesser supernatural (higher dimensional entities) exist. I also see prophecy documented in the bible, and see it fulfilled within its pages. I also see it being set up for fulfillment in the news headlines. (Matthew 24, and many current events, just to name one.) Though I occasionally have doubts, I see this as sufficient evidence. Another note, I know the bible is 66 books, by 40 different authors, yet there is a consistent message, and that is redemption for humankind.

I could address each comment in the above paragraph and in quite a bit of detail. Yet, that’s a distraction. After all, if someone says that they know for a fact that their friends are now riding on a UFO that sits near the Hale Bop comet while they also say that 1+2=3 and that rocks are a type of fruit, I’m still left evaluating each comment to see if I can agree with it. On experiences attributed to a deity — unlike experiences with math, fruit, or rocks — there is no clear way to determine proper attribution. After all, even if your experiences of your set of deities is properly attributed, another person’s similar experiences of the same set of deities may not be.

I realize for some that isn’t sufficient, but for me it is. That’s why I’m trying to understand what would be sufficient for atheists, so that I can continue to have smart talks with atheist friends.

I sincerely think that you are not going to get too far with this unless your friends are generally uninformed. That doesn’t help reach the truth, though, through any mutual discussion. How about talking to them about some other subject?

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm

@ Cl

You say that I am avoiding overwhelming evidence that points to the existence of the supernatural, but as others have pointed out, you have not even bothered to cite one such example, and then complain when you are accused of being evasive! Please at least have the courtesy of showing some of this “overwhelming” evidence.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Steven,

…as others have pointed out, you have not even bothered to cite one such example,

You seem to be an intelligent, reasonable individual, so, my best advice is, don’t believe the hype. A few things:

1) I won’t bother to cite evidence in an environment that has proven itself repeatedly hostile to such attempts in the past [how productive of a conversation can one have with atheists fond for replies like "Go fuck yourself" and "creationist retard?"];

2) I have already stated that examples of evidence for various supernatural claims can be found on my blog;

3) The burden falls to the person who wishes to investigate those examples;

4) The person who accuses me of evading makes a false accusation. In fact, I openly challenge any and all atheists to evaluate the various evidences on my blog. I’m willing to bet it will go the same route as before: “Oh no, that’s not good enough for me.”

Please at least have the courtesy of showing some of this “overwhelming” evidence.

I already explained: I have a blog, and you’re more than welcomed to any post therein. Any of you. So, please stop with the whole “cl evades” accusation – all of you. It’s false and makes the atheists who use it look intellectually lazy. I have a blog where I am willing to discuss evidence with anybody willing to participate, so quit making false accusations, and actually discuss the evidence – that is, if that’s what all this hoopla is really about.

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Cl, I thank you for your public insights. Please continue.

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Tony Hoffman October 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Cl, do you have a blog?

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Charles October 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm

You could at least cut and paste some links.

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Cl:

I just joined the discussion here, so I have no link to your blog, and had no I idea there was even “proof” there. I wouldn’t have joined if the majority of the comments consisted of “go fuck yourself”, et. al, and I find it a tad rude that you addressed me specifically, and then refuse to give me relevant information because other people have insulted you. I’m not them, so I see no reason why you should just say you have overwhelming evidence then fail to provide it.

I also have to say that burden of proof is NOT on the person investigating a claim, but on the person making it. If I say that Uncle Charles raped my daughter, then proper procedure is to question the validity of MY claim, not the other way around. I would also say that for a miracle to work as evidence of God, it would directly have to PROVE that it is the work of God, not just say “This is incredible! It must be God!” for, indeed, for all we know, it could be the result of some as yet unknown natural phenomenon, an odd coincidence, or even the work of a fairy and not a deity. I want a direct connection to God, not an implied one.

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

cl,

I’m not really interested in getting involved in this, but it strikes me that given that you’ve now written several posts directing people to your blog, it might have been easier to just, you know, repost the relevant parts. Or at least a direct link would be nice for us busy souls.

Thanks in advance!

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Márcio October 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm

There is no definitive proof (doesn’t mean that there is nothing at all), but believing that some sort of a supreme being exists is so basic that the vast majority of the world believes in it. It’s true that there are lot of gods, but if we look carefully, we can see that the God of the Bible is the right one.

If a supreme being didn’t existed, believing in it would be much like believing in Santa, fairies or unicorns, and virtually no adults would believe that it existed. Now, why so many adults believe that a supreme being exist but doesn’t believe that Santa, fairies or unicorns exists? There is no proof for Santa, but there is no proof for a supreme being either. Doesn’t make sense, right?

I can only think that it is because a supreme being really exists and that it made his existance a basic knowledge. That is why as a person grows up and start to understand the world, he/she starts to believe in a supreme being (basic knowledge) and stops believing in Santa, faries or unicorns (not basic knowledge).

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm

There is no definitive proof (doesn’t mean that there is nothing at all), but believing that some sort of a supreme being exists is so basic that the vast majority of the world believes in it.

Yet, it’s not basic. Saying it is doesn’t make it so.

Yet, I’ll be fair. If I cite counter examples, would you be willing to go over them with me honestly and diligently regardless of where the counter examples lead us (both you and me)?

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to get involved, but…

Marcio,

???

How is this not just a blatant appeal to popularity? You do realise that that’s a fallacy for a good reason?

If a supreme being didn’t existed, believing in it would be much like believing in Santa, fairies or unicorns, and virtually no adults would believe that it existed.

Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. In the past, it was the case that most adults believed in fairies (or at least spirits of some kind). Would 14th-century Marcio have been any more justified in believing in fairies?

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PDH October 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm

If the teapot analogy breaks down I would suggest that it is because:

1) We have good reason to think that at least some teapots exist.

2) Teapots are perfectly consistent with the laws of physics as we understand them.

3) The teapot is not ‘conspicuous by its absence’ in any way that could be exploited by an equivalent of the Argument From Evil.

4) A coherent account of a teapot’s ontology can be given. There is widespread agreement on what that ontology involves that does not raise irresolvable metaphysical conundrums. We do not find people variously defining teapots as ‘love’ ‘the unpoured pourer’ or ‘the teaware than which no greater teaware can be conceived.’

5) The definition of ‘teapot’ does not include attributes like ‘unknowable,’ ‘ineffable,’ ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘transcendent,’ that make it difficult to see how anyone could have ever come by this information in the first place. The very existence of claims about teapots does not, in other words, raise serious epistemological problems that are unanswerable by definition and force believers to utter self-refuting nonsense whenever they express their beliefs.

6) The definition of ‘teapot’ is not blatant gibberish.

7) The teapot has not been proposed as an ‘explanation’ for various mysteries and subsequently failed to make things any less mysterious. It has certainly not increased the mysteriousness of those problems and added unnecessary confusion to already complex issues.

8) Teapots are not subject to any major logical problems that require them to be both teapots and not teapots simultaneously.

9) There is no ‘Holy Book’ of teapots from which much of our understanding of the nature of teapots is ultimately derived so that it could be said that casting doubt on this source would seriously undermine the credibility of the doctrines it supports. As there is no such book it cannot be said either that it is plainly not divinely inspired in any way. Nor, since it does not exist, does it force believers to reconcile the modified definition of ‘teapot’ that they have created through millennia of goalpost moving with scripture that appears to have been written by a procession of buffoons. Finally, because they have nothing to read, readers do not need to feel insulted by the array of absurdities and atrocities that might have been found in said texts, nor do they have to explain to people how passages that clearly state that the stars were made after the earth were actually a metaphor for ‘the earth was made after the stars.’

10) No teapot has ever created an underground torture pit and decreed that anyone who does not believe in it will be burned there forever and then tried to pass itself off as the wellspring of all goodness.

None of this can be said of the God of Christianity, so I agree that Russell’s teapot is somewhat dis-analogous. It is similar in the respect that there is absolutely no good reason to believe in it and that that this would be enough to convince most people to dismiss it.

It would take considerable effort to raise the status of God to that of Russell’s teapot.

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Tony Hoffman October 5, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I’ve already enjoyed the hell out of most of the comments on this post, and then PDH shows up and gives us that. My favorite?

“We do not find people variously defining teapots as ‘love’ ‘the unpoured pourer’ or ‘the teaware than which no greater teaware can be conceived.’

Thanks. A pure pleasure to read.

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Seconded.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Man, some of you are really stubborn. It takes you people longer to complain than it would to actually click the letters “cl” and find yourselves evidence to criticize.

Charles,

You could at least cut and paste some links.

Why? So Luke’s hypersensitive spam-filter can gobble them up, leading to further accusations of evading as I wonder where my post has disappeared to? Besides – as has now been explained more times than should be necessary – there is a fairly thorough list of links on the index page of my blog. It’s not my responsibility to bring them to you. All you have to do is click the link that accompanies each of my comments, and take a look. Is it really that hard?

Tony Hoffman,

Cl, do you have a blog?

LOL! If nothing else, I dig that you’ve got a sense of humor.

Steven,

I just joined the discussion here, so I have no link to your blog, and had no I idea there was even “proof” there.

If you were truly unaware that the highlighted “cl” accompanying each of my comments is a link to the index of arguments on my blog, that’s forgivable. However, now, you’ve been made aware. Also, please stick to my original words if you don’t mind. I didn’t say there was “proof” there. I said I offer evidence. There’s a huge difference.

…I find it a tad rude that you addressed me specifically, and then refuse to give me relevant information because other people have insulted you.

I’m not refusing to give you relevant information. I’m telling you where to begin in your quest for it.

I also have to say that burden of proof is NOT on the person investigating a claim, but on the person making it.

Yeah, and note that I didn’t say the “burden of proof” is on the person investigating the claim, either. I’m saying that, when a bunch of atheists accuse me of not offering evidence, and I reply that such is false and tell them where the evidence can be found, the burden is on them to go from there. Note that is NOT the same as shifting the burden of proof to the person doing the investigating.

MichaelPJ,

…it strikes me that given that you’ve now written several posts directing people to your blog, it might have been easier to just, you know, repost the relevant parts.

I disagree. IMO, it would have been easiest if people weren’t so lazy, and would simply click the link that accompanies all my comments here, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

If you folks want it, come get it, but don’t sit there and falsely accuse me of not offering evidence – because that’s a bunch of nonsense.

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Cl, excellent. More. Keep it coming.

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stamati October 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Luke, one more personal kind of question…

Do you view this site as flowing out of a desire to deal with the loss of your faith, your love for philosophy and the questions of life, a combination of both, or something else?

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Frank, related to what I was discussing in my last message;

Mishearing God

The speaker talks about her struggle to determine if what she thought was God talking with her (Pentecostal Christian) was possibly Satan or herself. The part I want to emphasize starts at around 5:30 and goes through 7:30.

Keeping that part in isolation, and taking it as an example of someone who earnestly thought that she had experienced God as a Pentecostal Christian, how would she know that she had an inauthentic experience without (as she did) consulting the world outside of that experience?

Note that I am not making an argument that her journey to atheism (the video series) was correct. She may have damned herself to Hell for all I know. What I am saying is that she seemed to know the difference between an authentic experience and an inauthentic one, and she found through her experience with the world outside that experience that she could not have had an authentic experience.

As a devout believer, she ran into an epistemology problem; How did she know?

As a non-believer myself, I pose the same question to you; How do you know?

More important to an open discussion; How does anyone know the difference between an authentic experience that is properly attributed to a set of deities, and one that is inappropriately attributed?

Her method was to deal with reality as a sounding board. She might have been wrong to do that, or right but mistaken about God talking and guiding her. Unknown to her, you, and I, God or some other set of deities may have spoken to her in some other way, but she missed it. Perhaps she would have heard the proper message had she focused her prayers towards Ganesh to remove obstacles from her path?

As an outsider, I see no clear way to differentiate between a mishearing what was thought to be a set of deities (for whatever reason) and ones that are there to be heard and actually attempting communication.

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Frank October 5, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Regiree s

Hitler was in contact with discarnate entities who he described as angels. These angels (so I’m told) inspired him to his foul deeds. They may well have deceived him into thinking God told them.

Thomas paine was hostile to the bible, and any spiritual anything.

Also. The swastika is an occult symbol and nazism was born out of theospohy and the thule society. There are likely countless other examples, but I am not overly familiar with them. Oh, and there was also the vril society who allegedly channeled what they thought were aliens.

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Frank October 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Hermes,

Good points as always. If this lady had put her bible into practice, 1 john 4 she could have tested the spirits. If it was just her, well, then nothing.

How can I know? How can anyone know?

For me, the best I can say is that I’ve had sleep paralysis that stopped instantly when I asked Jesus for help. The paralysis was caused by what felt like pure hatred. All I have is my experience. I suppose that is the best way to come about it. That is, have your own experience.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Frank,

Your comments about testing the spirits and knowing one’s Bible are spot-on.

For me, the best I can say is that I’ve had sleep paralysis that stopped instantly when I asked Jesus for help.

So have I, and – perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not – this experience came at the tail end of some earnest occult experimentation. More specifically, the very same night I asked for a sign indicating the true nature of the experiences I was seeking to induce. Being the skeptic I am, I explored other options. As far as I can reason, the experience was either genuine, or an incredibly well-timed case of sleep apnea that somehow ceased via the placebo effect.

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lukeprog October 5, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Thanks for sharing, theRealAdaam.

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lukeprog October 5, 2010 at 9:13 pm

stamati,

The motivation might break down like this:

- motivation to find the truth, with the help of others
- motivation to influence the world for the better
- exhibitionism?

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Frank: Good points as always.

[tips hat]

If this lady had put her bible into practice, 1 john 4 she could have tested the spirits. If it was just her, well, then nothing.

Spell it out for me. What in John 1:4 was she missing? From what she said, she was not neglecting that passage, but maybe — since it’s your religious belief and not mine — you can point out what she (in the video) was missing?

That said, note that I’m not focusing on things from a specific Christian point of view. As far as I’m concerned, all religions are in the same category as I haven’t even got to the point where I have a method to distinguish one claim from another let alone determining what is properly attributed.

I’m asking an episimology question, and I’m not asking for a scriptural reference. Those details don’t matter much for someone who isn’t already a believer in the specific distillation of a specific idea (backed by dogma or religious texts).

That said, in her case (as a Pentecostal Christian), she was unable to determine what experience was properly attributed to what source, so John 1:4 seems to be superfluous since looking at the experience and judging it based on other sources such as general reality while not ignoring other scriptural passages seemed to yield greater utility.

How can I know? How can anyone know?

That’s why I mentioned epistemology; the same issue raised by people in this thread with wildly differing ideas about reality.

For me, the best I can say is that I’ve had sleep paralysis that stopped instantly when I asked Jesus for help. The paralysis was caused by what felt like pure hatred. All I have is my experience. I suppose that is the best way to come about it. That is, have your own experience.

[ I will refrain from commenting deeply on sleep paralysis, though through psychology I know about it specifically and could comment deeply on it. ]

I understand what you’re saying. For me, I have found that both meditation and rapid writing seem to help with any knots I tie myself into. If you want any practical off-topic notes on these, let me know.

To continue …

When — as in the case of Hindus — someone has an experience that points towards Vishnu or Ganesh, what should the person who experiences those pointers do? I can see no clear indication to accept, modify, or reject any of these experiences if the choices are limited to theistic ones.

As such, when these experiences occur the Mormon should accept it as supporting their faith, the Sunni theirs, and the Hindu theirs. Following that, a non-theist, as with the theists, should accept it as not being support for a theistic belief regardless of what they attribute it to.

As I noted in my earlier message;

More important to an open discussion; How does anyone know the difference between an authentic experience that is properly attributed to a set of deities, and one that is inappropriately attributed?

Her method was to deal with reality as a sounding board. She might have been wrong to do that, or right but mistaken about God talking and guiding her. Unknown to her, you, and I, God or some other set of deities may have spoken to her in some other way, but she missed it. Perhaps she would have heard the proper message had she focused her prayers towards Ganesh to remove obstacles from her path?

Keep in mind that this is not a challenge. You are not expected to know the real answer or to give a coherent reply to my comments. If you have honest comments, feel free to post them, otherwise silence is fine.

Try and keep to sharable facts regardless of your personal beliefs.

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Hermes October 5, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Correction: John 1:4 ==> 1 John 4.

Content above unchanged.

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cl October 6, 2010 at 1:35 am

Hermes,

FWIW, I can overlook your constant harassment just long enough to genuinely empathize with your epistemology concerns. There was a time when I would ask atheists how one might reliably distinguish between cancer cured from prayer vs. cancer cured from spontaneous remission. Answers weren’t that forthcoming, but, somehow, with apparently wanton disregard for Bertrand Russell’s First Commandment, these atheists were certain it was spontaneous remission and not prayer that cured the cancer.

And they wondered why I remarked that indeed, the entire world is pink through rose-colored glasses!

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MichaelPJ October 6, 2010 at 3:34 am

cl,

Obviously one can’t distinguish in an individual case. That’s why anecdotal evidence is frowned upon in science. To try and distinguish, we’d want to compare the (known) rates of spontaneous remission in a large population with the rates of spontaneous/prayer-induced remission in a comparable population, and see if there was any difference.

And, well, it looks like the jury’s out on the one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer
I would point out that the biggest and most recent studies found null or negative effects, but you get the picture.

However, the thing that really worries me about prayer is the same thing that worries me about homoeopathy: lack of a plausible mechanism. Naturally, of course, this stems from my atheism, and so is no argument.

There is also the fact that plenty of illness has a psychological component. The placebo effect shows that much: just believing that you’ve been treated can help. I see no reason why believing that God will help you following prayer might not have a similar or stronger effect, even if God doesn’t exist.

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Hermes October 6, 2010 at 4:15 am

Cl, I offered you encouragement. Don’t you want support?

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Reginald Selkirk October 6, 2010 at 6:59 am

cl left out some details of that dialogue, so I’ll fill them in.

Atheist: There’s no evidence for God, ghosts or anything supernatural, nyah-nyah-nyah…
Theist: What about this?
Atheist: That’s not good enough, because of X, Y and Z.
Theist: Okay, then what about this?
Atheist: Oh, that’s not good enough either. Clearly fallacious, which you ought to understand, since you yourself reject similar claims made by B.
Theist: Okay then, what about this?
Atheist: That’s not good enough either. Randi already debunked that you fool!

Tony Hoffman: Reams and reams of bad evidence are less compelling than one demonstration with good evidence.

Agreed. I refer to such attempts as “BS arguments,” because if one cow patty smells bad, a whole stack of them does not smell better.

You could at least cut and paste some links.

I’m gessing he’d prefer to direct the discussion to his own blog, where he can control who says what, and which comments can be deleted on the grounds that they are offensive.

Frank: Thomas Paine was hostile to the bible, and any spiritual anything.

So what? An ad hominem fallacy doesn’t do it for me.

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ildi October 6, 2010 at 8:12 am

In the Star Trek vein of “to boldly go” I checked out cl’s evidence. I already know more than I care to about the incident of the flying video games; he (sorry, Hermes, I’m pretty sure from reading his blog cl is a dude, and not a young one, at that) and some buddies were drinking and playing Playstation in the basement, and cl’s buddy starts talking about his haunted house when some video games just flew off the TV, with a trajectory that can only be explained by ghostly action! eleventy!!!!

Cl gives two examples outside of his and friends’ personal experiences. The first one is Ingo Swann and remote viewing (link goes to skeptic’s dictionary – I’m not linking to cl’s blog, either)

Then there’s Marianne (Mimi)George, PhD in cultural anthropology, who published Dreams, Reality, and the Desire and Intent of Dreamers, as Experienced by a Field Worker (The Anthropology of Consciousness Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1995) which seems to provide evidence for simultaneous and veridical dreaming (cl has links to parts of the article under anomalous mental phenomenon IV,veridical dreaming, if you wish to read them). She is the principal investigator for the Vaka Taumako Project in the Pacific, and it appears still experiences veridical dreaming on a regular basis.

That’s it.

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Charles October 6, 2010 at 8:27 am

cl: these atheists were certain it was spontaneous remission and not prayer that cured the cancer.

What you fail to understand is “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer for a skeptic. Why leap to unproven supernatural explanations (like prayer) when every time we look into such things they turn out to be false? Like Charlie Brown, we had the football yanked away too many times.

Studies show that when people are unaware they are being prayed for prayer makes no difference. So to a skeptic, your claim that “prayer works” is about as convincing as the guy down the street who says he was abducted by aliens or the psychic who claims to be able see the future.

Alien abduction is false. Psychics don’t exist. The Hindu milk miracle wasn’t one. We don’t believe because there is no evidence.

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Tony Hoffman October 6, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Ildi: “That’s it. ”

In a (misguided) spirit of fairness I once fell for the “I don’t have time provide this now, but if you go the “Evidences” section of my blog you’ll see that I have more than amply answered all your foolish, ignorant concerns.”

I wish I had time time back that I spent wasting as I looked around, trying to figure out what it was that I was missing that qualified as “evidence.”

After that experience, and many others like it, I have come to classify some responses as predictably leading to a great time wasting. These are, at least for me, among the most common:

1. “Look on my blog (unspecified location).”
2. “It’s covered in So and So’s book (unspecified location).”
3. “My reasons are complex and couldn’t possibly be fully expressed in this format.”
4. “.www.discovery.org/anything….”
5. “That’s because your premise prevents you from even considering my argument.”
6. “…scientism….”
7. “Atheism is a religion.”

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Hermes October 6, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Ildi, thanks for the observation. You’re probably right, though I’m not interested enough to dig through all the old comments to see where I picked up the misidentification.

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stamati October 6, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Luke,

Sounds good, and I especially like #3. ;) (This winky face is creepier in person)

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Silver Bullet October 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm

cl,

Since you’ve brought it up:

How was your sleep apnea originally diagnosed? What were the quanititative results of the diagnostic test that permitted a confident diagnosis? What was your weight and BMI at that time? Obstructive, central, or mixed?

How was your sleep apnea diagnosis subsequently refuted? What were the quantitative results of the second diagnostic test that permitted you to conclude that the sleep apnea had gone way? What was your weight and BMI at the time of the second test?

What does your sleep specialist have to say about the divergent results?

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cl October 6, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Just as I suspected: more smack talk from the oh-so-smarty-pants-rational-atheist crowd. Hilarious! You pretend to be all about evidence and when it comes down to it, you’d rather devote your energy to belittling me. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

Hermes,

Cl, I offered you encouragement. Don’t you want support?

You offered me encouragement? Where did I miss that? Was it, you know, genuine encouragment? Or, just more veiled insults along the lines of your last 368 comments?

As for support, I don’t want support, per se. I would like commenters to support rational inquiry and investigation of evidence presented to them, and to proceed with some semblance of civility and/or mutual respect – but I’ve long abandoned such hopes on atheist blogs.

Reginald Selkirk,

I’m gessing he’d prefer to direct the discussion to his own blog, where he can control who says what, and which comments can be deleted on the grounds that they are offensive.

Right, I’m pointing you to the evidence on my blog so I can delete your comment. Uh-huh.

ildi,

That’s it.

Suit yourself. You’ve already convinced me of your motives anyways: hate, mock, hate, mock, rinse, repeat.

Charles,

What you fail to understand is “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer for a skeptic.

Nonsense. What you fail to understand is that the skeptics in question didn’t use “I don’t know” as their answer. I happen to agree with you that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer, and that’s why I use it when, you know… I don’t know.

Tony Hoffman,

Look on my blog (unspecified location).” “It’s covered in So and So’s book (unspecified location).”

Why mislead people? Clicking my link takes you to a specific location: the index of arguments. There I’m sure you’ll find all the specificity you need to keep denying theism.

Silver Bullet,

How was your sleep apnea originally diagnosed? What were the quanititative results of the diagnostic test that permitted a confident diagnosis? What was your weight and BMI at that time? Obstructive, central, or mixed?

How was your sleep apnea diagnosis subsequently refuted? What were the quantitative results of the second diagnostic test that permitted you to conclude that the sleep apnea had gone way? What was your weight and BMI at the time of the second test?

What does your sleep specialist have to say about the divergent results?

Unless that’s your round-a-bout way of implying there’s something I’m missing, it appears you’ve misunderstood what I’ve said. Maybe you could re-read my comment and clarify?

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Silver Bullet October 6, 2010 at 7:55 pm

cl,

I guess I misunderstood your post. I thought you were suggesting that an apparently miraculous cure of sleep apnea was some of the evidence supporting your Christian beliefs.

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Camus Dude October 6, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Luke, In the linked post kicking off your old blog, you mention reading Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”

I have no idea if you or any other readers are familiar with Angie the Anti-Theist on YouTube; she has recently completed a hilarious (and instructive! – those two ought to go together more often than they do) deconstructing PDL. Everyone should check it out if they’re looking for something entertaining yet also with substance.

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lukeprog October 6, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Camus Dude,

Care to provide a link?

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Hermes October 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Cl: You offered me encouragement? Where did I miss that? Was it, you know, genuine encouragment? Or, just more veiled insults along the lines of your last 368 comments?

Absolutely. Twice directly in this thread alone, as well as the patient discussions that we’ve had over the past month.

I just know that the accusations people are making about you just can not be true. Don’t you agree?

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Hermes October 6, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Cl, Oh, I forgot to mention!

I’m waiting for your input on the discussion we were having. How long has it been? I think it’s been a couple days now, maybe a few more, not much more than that. I realize the questions are so simple, but still I value your insights so you can understand why I think you can skip the preliminaries and personal inquiries and just address them. That should be a quick thing for someone such as yourself.

No need to beat about the bush, after all!

It’s good to know that you’re not that kind of person!

As I noted along the way, I do appreciate your input and I am a very very patient person.

As the topic we were discussing was morality/ethics, and you seem keenly interested in all aspects of morality/ethics, I know you will indeed rise to the minor challenge these conversations give a person such as yourself and directly address them and with an important detail or two that I must have missed.

For me, morals, ethics, accountability, … as well as the issues raised in our discussions. These are important things to know about a person. They show the person’s character; how they are when the lights of scrutiny aren’t shining as well as when they are.

They are practical and observable, and a contrite and self-effacing attitude when necessary allows the honest individuals to float above the sea of ones that are just paying these words lip service. For example, your note about evidence — the very core of the topics I like to discuss with you the most!

I know that you will keep to the topic and not make this personal, because that is what I have consistently seen in you and others have observed in abundance.

Thank you for your sharp and direct comments. The are always appreciated.

That said, no matter how you respond, it is one more indication of your character and the value of your other insights.

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Tony Hoffman October 7, 2010 at 8:16 am

CL: “Why mislead people? Clicking my link takes you to a specific location: the index of arguments. There I’m sure you’ll find all the specificity you need to keep denying theism.”

I was speaking generally, and hadn’t even clicked on your blog.

But then, to be diligent, and fair, I clicked on your link. And… surprise, you treat me to the “specifics” (after wading through several paragraphs about your blogging philosophy) like:

CL’s BlogMost atheists I encounter consider theism unjustified in all forms, and it’s common to hear them allege “lack of evidence” for theistic claims. Generally, I object to all variants of the “lack of evidence” argument, primarily because the “lack” reflected in such arguments is an attribute of the atheist making the claim. That an atheist lacks evidence for theism says nothing other than that the atheist lacks evidence for theism. The following posts examine my epistemic foundations in varying degrees of detail:

What a load of crock. It’s classic to your commenting style, though, so I guess you’re consistent – a tu quoque that absurdly tries to shift the burden of proof. That’s your extended argument, in a nut shell, and it’s not (sadly) even unique to you.

But I hadn’t totally given up on you still. I clicked on the first link (“MiracleQuest”), but that takes me back to the same page. Oh, joy.

Clicking on “How would you define a miracle?” (the next link) is a discourse on, it appears, the problems with definitions and methodologies. Blah, blah, blah. It ends with this:

On the other hand, an isolated yet unambiguous and extraordinary instance of the miraculous might be much easier to stringently, objectively verify. Are any skeptics or atheists willing to accept one or more isolated events as sufficient? There are at least two positions, those who would accept even one
sufficiently corroborated miracle, and those who would only accept
repeatable miracles. Do you fall into either one of these positions? Something else? How would you specifically define a miracle, and would an isolated instance persuade you to recant or at least honestly doubt your atheism, or would you need something more?

A little Derrida-like language. And then questions. No evidence, just the vague insinuation that the skeptical methodology is flawed and prevents one from accepting some undisclosed evidence. So that experience is what you summed up as “all the specificity I need to keep denying theism.” Actually, it is you have mislead, as there is contained in the link to your blog no specificity that I could reasonably find, although you are quite right about the second part.

What a waste of time.

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Hermes October 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Tony, surely you are mistaken. What you write simply can not be possible. There must be some place on Cl’s blog where sufficient evidence and a non-Derrida-like explanation is available that directly addresses whatever questions Cl said are addressed there. If that was not the case, why would Cl suggest you go there for answers? Such an act simply does not make sense!

Cl, please, put this to rest so we can continue with your clear and unambiguous insightful illuminations of reality as it really is. Show Tony that he has misjudged your excellent resources as well as misunderstood your intent as your character is unimpeachable!

Cl, a single direct and honest response will show us where your heart is in these discussions! What is that response?

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ildi October 7, 2010 at 5:15 pm

cl, wouldn’t it have been better to provide your own links or summary of your evidence for the supernatural, rather than let Tony and me do it for you? (I guess it’s harder to play the victim that way…)

Regarding your buddy A who hears footsteps upstairs in the unoccupied floor of his house and commenter Steve Kang from L.A.:

(from AssociatedContent, Home Improvement)

Why Your House Probably Isn’t Haunted

Are those spooky sounds and noises heard in your house at night the work of ghosts and other spectral visitors? While you and your family might think your house is haunted, it’s much more likely that those spooky ooky sounds and noises have a very earthly explanation behind him.

All houses make noises of some kind or another. Duct work expands and contract loudly, pipes may sing, and even the wood inside the framework of the building may groan as it shrinks. Older houses seem to make more noise than newer homes, which is probably a result of minimal insulation. Without insulation, noises in an old house are amplified to where it sounds much worse than it really is.

If your house has strange sounds and noises that have got you a little spooked, this little guide should set your mind at ease.

Mystery footsteps heard upstairs. Running footsteps is one of the more common of the spooky house sounds and noises many people hear. But, instead of a ghost running around upstairs, it’s more likely that a squirrel, rat, possum, or raccoon is running on the roof or the attic floor. The thud of their footsteps is amplified in the pitched cavity of the roof, and makes the soft padding of their feet sound almost human like. To prevent animals from entering the attic, check the second story soffits and eaves for access points and seal them shut with wire mesh.

Squeaky hinges and slamming doors. Old, poorly insulated houses are naturally drafty and the slightest change of air pressure can open a door or slam it shut. Adding insulation to the house and sealing the drafts can prevent doors from opening and shutting on their own. A little WD-40 can take care of those squeaking hinges as well. [Also, old houses are often out of square, especially in earthquake territory.]

Knocking noises. Ductwork is also the chief culprit for the knocking noises you may hear in your house. As warm air hits the cold ductwork, the expanding sheet metal makes a series of noises that sound like rapid knocking such as what you might hear on a door. The knocking stops after 10 seconds, and may resume once the furnace kicks off and the ductwork starts to cool.

Loud thuds are usually caused by something falling to the floor, having been pushed over not by a ghost, but by a strong draft instead. Thuds also happen when branches drop on the roof of a house or a large animal (such as a cat or coon) leaps from a tree to the roof of your home.

You mention in one of your blog posts that atheists are snarky about these experiences because they never have them. Well, I’ve got one:

When I was about 12 I was in my bedroom reading. My room was set up so that the foot of the bed was next to the door, so if you were lying on the bed you basically had your back to the door. I heard someone come into the room and stop next to the bed. I was really into my book, so I took my time looking up (I hated being interrupted when I was reading, and I was a rude child). I could hear their breathing and other almost subliminal sounds people make. When I finally got around to looking up, imagine my shock to realize NOBODY WAS THERE! Scared the crap out of me; I shot off the bed and ran downstairs to join the rest of the family. I never did like that bedroom; bad vibes. Even years later I would have bad dreams about it.

True story. Evidence for the supernatural?

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Hermes October 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Ildi, good stuff as always. Some additions for folks with ‘ghosts’;

* To get rid of animals, drop a wire trap up there and bait it with the crack of the animal kingdom; peanut butter. Meanwhile, secure wire mesh over any potential entrance, and seal hard to reach places with foam. If the house has old or minimal insulation, consider pumping the walls with spray insulation; your heating/cooling bills will go down, and the critters won’t be able to move as easily if at all. Try to avoid poison because the animals will probably eat it and then die in your walls. Eventually the smell will probably subside, but why put up with it?

* Squeaky wood slat floors can be lessened in some cases by the addition of a few finishing nails or screws (partially hidden by wood plugs). It’s even easier and more seamless if working on the first floor from the unfinished basement; just shove a few shims (with or without construction adhesive; ‘liquid nails’) in the rights spots, or use a bracket to secure the floor to the joists. There are also some propitiatory kits that are supposedly useful and they aren’t too expensive. As I’ve never used them I have no recommendations.

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 5:47 am

Ildi, have you looked at the restored NASA Apollo 11 footage? Here’s a sampler. While that’s really interesting as history, the comment thread makes it relevant to some of the comments you’ve had here on ghosts, and I’ve made on UFOs. For example, some of the comments made on the tread are as follows;

polskich nasa does not have the technology to put men on the moon

[polskich makes several comments, but does not respond to replies to previous comments except to make yet more unsupported comments]

nodws We did land BUT 2 years earlier!!!

Armstrong was the 13th man on the mon

[ a request for details was not responded to ]

Striker1973666: Yes we did land on the moon but when the live brodcast went dead due to a “camera malfunction” ammeture radio opps who was tuned in to the conversation heard a conversation between Armsrong and control stating that he is being watched by huge UFO’s and they looked menacing…check it out, NASA has and always has had to lie, also why is the flag waving like there is wind?…space is a vacume is it not?

[ no additional details provided, though a couple months later someone pointed out factual errors with parts of the comments that can be checked ]

Now, let’s assume that these people are honest but that we are entirely ignorant of any human efforts for space exploration. With that artificial set of conditions, the question is;

How do we determine if any of the above comments should be considered a generally accurate record of reality?

It really does boil down to the details. As has been mentioned before;

“Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”[x]

Even if polskich’s and nodws’ contradictory claims are seen as regular claims that don’t require any extraordinary support, they have not provided a modest amount of evidence needed to cover why one of their claims is correct.

I put the ghost, UFO, and miracle claims in the same category; mistakes, misattributions, or just unsupported claims with no referents beyond yet more unsupported or irrelevant claims. If that were not the case, we’d be awash in evidence not just claims of being in the deluge at the moment.

Yet, they are the seeds of fantastic stories. Given the proper treatment, they would make good sci-fi, inspiration, conspiracy, or horror stories. They don’t bring us to a better understanding of reality, though.

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 6:08 am

For what it’s worth, I think that very few Christians who haven’t gone through seminary understand their own religion. They are like the conspiracy theorists who have stories about the stories that they layer on to them, but they are not at all interested in a clean approach to actual facts, allowing for the potential that they (and possibly nobody) will know if some parts are historically accurate or not, or relating them to other fields that could expand their understanding. For example, studying the patterns in myths or having any knowledge of or interest in the precursors to their religious texts.

In the same way, the majority of Christians on religious matters inadvertently hold points of view that are no better supported than the points of view of polskich, nodws, and Striker when they comment on the Apollo missions.

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ildi October 8, 2010 at 8:59 am

Funny you bring up moon landing denialism as an example, Hermes. My daddy was a rocket scientist at NASA/Huntsville, Alabama for about ten years (1963-73). Recently I had a friend’s mother go on about how the moon landing was a hoax, and I got to pull the ultimate: “So, you’re calling my father and all his coworkers liars?” That sort of killed the conversation… She had no evidence other than what she heard from her fellow church members (pictures have shadows in wrong places, flag is waving in breeze, why was the original footage destroyed, yadayadayada).

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chroma October 8, 2010 at 9:14 am

I’m gessing he’d prefer to direct the discussion to his own blog, where he can control who says what, and which comments can be deleted on the grounds that they are offensive.

Someone hasn’t known cl for very long.

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chroma October 8, 2010 at 9:31 am

cl, wouldn’t it have been better to provide your own links or summary of your evidence for the supernatural, rather than let Tony and me do it for you? (I guess it’s harder to play the victim that way…)

Why does cl need links to his own blog? Pretty sure he knows where his is and can find it easily enough without others’ help. But I jest, you feel entitled to spoon-feeding from cl, to the point of lamenting lack of links with greater expenditure of energy than would be used actually going to the blog yourself.

For whatever cl’s supposed obliviousness to the epistemology of evidence and the inadequacies of his offered evidence, nobody will enlighten anybody by sarcastically jumping on every single detail but the meaningful ones at hand.

The level of hypocrisy here is annoying.

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 9:39 am

Sad, but not surprising. In the case of religion/theism, I understand the reasons/motivations for either not being aware of the best available evidence, or just not going with it. Yet, even though I’ve looked into why people flog conspiracy theories, it still doesn’t make sense in the case of the moon landing. That said, a few ideas do come to mind….

Just as flight or traveling fast were both unattainable and even forbidden, they are common place now and thus nobody can challenge them. Computers, the same. Looking up we can see artificial satellites and we can purchase products and services that directly use them (international phone calls, Internet, TV, and ‘satellite radio’) so they are stunningly tangible even if most people don’t know how they work.

Yet, the personally unattainable moon landing is fodder for conspiracy theories. You can’t buy a ticket there, and most people don’t have access to telescopes that can view the the landing sites. The frame of mind is similar in the case of conspiracy theorists and fervent and unlearned religion promoters; a hyper skepticism that cries out for some other explanation as if the intuited explanation should be given preference regardless of other available facts. The ‘You don’t know because you weren’t there, so it may as well have [never happened] / [happened many times before] / [happened but covered up alien encounters] attitude.

Maybe it is the act of claiming the absurd is what gets attention? The person feels personal satisfaction even if it is only a fraction of the satisfaction felt by the actual participants in the moon landing.

This might be the reason for your friend’s mother making her comments. For the more ardent nutters, stalking Armstrong and Aldrin while shouting some nutty nonsense in the hope that some of their glory rubs off on you might give you the satisfaction. That said, if I were Aldrin I would have not have punched that nut job, I would have tazed him and then stood over his flopping body while calmly stating the obvious.

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 9:43 am

Chroma, how do you justify using the word hypocrisy in that context? Perhaps you were thinking of a different word?

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Tony Hoffman October 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

Chroma: “For whatever cl’s supposed obliviousness to the epistemology of evidence and the inadequacies of his offered evidence, nobody will enlighten anybody by sarcastically jumping on every single detail but the meaningful ones at hand.”

And the meaningful ones at hand are…?

Round and round we go.

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Reginald Selkirk October 8, 2010 at 10:29 am

Someone hasn’t known cl for very long.

Unless he changes his mode of behaviour and starts to deliver on his claims of “compelling – albeit not necessarily conclusive – scientific evidence,” I’d say it’s too long.

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chroma October 8, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Hermes: you’re right, that word doesn’t fit. I consistently confuse that term for a general lack of self-awareness, for some reason.

Tony: cl responded to claims of zero evidence by saying where some was on the internet – and instead of talking about the specific evidence or the idea of little evidence being insufficient, many have discussed the location of this evidence. Shades of relevance.

Selkirk: Are you new to the internet or something?

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Ildi, bumped into this on xkcd;

The Flake Equation (after the Drake Equation)

Under 2/10ths of 1%? BAH! It’s way too optimistic since it covers only the UFO-alien group, and sleep paralysis is common enough to be a factor in those reports. I’d bump Cr and Mi from 1/10,000 to 1/1,000 within any specific time period. Dt seems about right. Add in extra equations for other groups, and a total calculation for overlap between all groups and it would be interesting. The religion aspect must be huge. Even if the other values are the same (unlikely) the social stigma is often very low or removed so F0 and F1 should be 100 or above.

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ildi October 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm

chroma: Funny that you talk about shades of relevance and general lack of self-awareness (whatever you mean by that) and quote me as evidence for this claim when I’m one of the commenters who actually went to cl’s blog, summarized what I thought his evidence was, and critiqued it. Funny that you don’t notice that Tony and I both went to cl’s blog and came away with two very different interpretations of what cl was referring to as evidence, so requesting links to specific posts was not irrelevant, or asking to be spoon-fed.

So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I would love for you to share with us your critique of cl’s evidence. (I assume you have read his blog and have something of substance to say, or are you just here for a spot of concern-trolling?)

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Chroma, stick around. I don’t think things are as you currently think they are.

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ildi October 8, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Hermes: Especially with pseudoscientific shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Lab on the SciFi and Discovery channels.

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Hermes October 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Indeed. The array may be a fractal.

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Reginald Selkirk October 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Things are seldom what they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream.

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Tony Hoffman October 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm

chroma: “cl responded to claims of zero evidence by saying where some was on the internet – and instead of talking about the specific evidence or the idea of little evidence being insufficient, many have discussed the location of this evidence. Shades of relevance.

This is vapid.

Do you have an answer to my question?

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Hermes October 9, 2010 at 12:19 am

Consistency. Accountability. Morals. Ethics. Honesty.

That, and more, is demonstrated by the clear and conscientious actions of the loyal opposition.

We could not hope — let alone beg — for a better set of interlocutors. As a bonus, they even have a library of available details at their disposal as well as a variety of personas ready to step up and keep every person here sharp and dealing with informed and relevant questions of protocol. Here here! Let’s cheer on such eminently rational fact-backed and detail oriented paragons of logic and reason!

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