Questionable Motives

March 6, 2013

What is atheism in action?

Filed under: Atheism — tildeb @ 11:07 am

It is daring to think for yourself.

Be proud. Be loud. And don’t shut up.

 

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44 Comments »

  1. Now, if that’s not just classically ironic I don’t know what is … “seekers of knowledge” … askers of questions, “not cute questions, but big questions” … “The one thing that’s true is ‘The Power of Logic.'”

    Never mind that atheism/materialism has NO WAY to explain … well … the origin of the laws of logic. Minor detail.

    I think you may have hit the space bar accidentally when you typed in the title, there tildeb. It should have been: WHAT IS ATHEISM INACTION? 🙂

    ATHEIST PROOF #27
    1) The biggest questions about this life have no hope of being answered by atheism/materialism
    2) The logically possible answers to those questions are theistic
    3) Theism challenges my autonomy and moral accountability
    4) I don’t want to consider those answers so I avoid them by claiming I am a “freethinker”
    5) This makes me feel powerful
    5) Therefore, God does not exist

    Comment by av8torbob — March 6, 2013 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  2. Bob, if you took a moment to try to understand something rather than offer yet another knee-jerk condemnation of others who, for very good reasons, do not respect your faith-based beliefs, you’d quickly realize that the first order of business is to establish what the important terms mean. You do not understand the term atheism nor understand what the term atheist means. I’ve pointed this out to you before. Others have pointed this out to you. Many have even helped you in your ignorance by offering up working definitions so that we’re talking about the same thing. You just ignore this (making this ignorance willful) and go with what you believe to be the case. And you’ve done it again.

    Atheism, for the last time, means non belief in gods or a god. Atheists by definition will not accept ‘explanations’ that rely on assuming that we can know such critters exist and know how and where and when they cause effect. I know you struggle with this point and can’t seem to wrap your head around it. But until there are ‘explanations’ that show compelling reasons to attribute specific effects to the specific causal agents you call god, you offer nothing but pure conjecture by suggesting Oogity Boogity is a sufficient ‘explanation’ for anything. No atheist can ever agree to that starting claim as some kind of reasonable and informed ‘explanation’ worthy of respect rather than outright rejection for anything anywhere at any time. Oogity Boogity is always an avoidance technique and never, ever, a way to produce knowledge about anything anywhere at any time… not because I say so but because ALL the evidence points to the truth of this observation: faith-based belief reliably and consistently produces nothing but continued ignorance masquerading as an explanation.

    If you want to attribute the origin of logic, and the axioms it follows, to your god, then show the compelling evidence atheists require to grant it any respect at all. I sincerely doubt you will find an atheist anywhere at any time attributing the origin of logic and its axioms to non belief in gods or a god. Again, you’re simply making shit up and then trying to criticize atheists as if this is what they are saying as some kind of cohesive group. It’s utter bullshit. This is all you seem capable of peddling, Bob. You – not atheists, not atheism – are the sole source of this bullshit and you spread it around solely to misrepresent others. If you wanted to understand, to gain knowledge about why others do not share your faith-based beliefs, you wouldn’t do this time again. It’s counterproductive. Your intention, therefore, isn’t to understand atheists or atheism but to malign them through misrepresentations, and this intention is made clear whenever you comment.

    Comment by tildeb — March 6, 2013 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  3. Well, there you go again hedging on definitions. Contrary to your claim that atheism is simply a passive stance based on disbelief, the view you claim to hold sounds like Huxley’s definition of Agnosticism: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/sn-huxley.html

    In contrast, an actual atheist is making a positive claim to know that God does not exist. So when you title your cliche-soaked little video “What Is Atheism Inaction?” I just assume you know the definition of your own description of yourself.

    My bad.

    So, on your agnostic view that would demand evidence for the origin of the laws of logic, what evidence do you have, or what evidence would you expect to find, in the purely material world you claim we inhabit?

    I’m really interested to find out.

    Comment by Av8torbob — March 7, 2013 @ 5:05 am | Reply

    • I’m not hedging on anything. The comparative definitions of these terms is quite straightforward: agnosticism is about a lack of knowledge, atheism a lack of (faith-based) belief. Neither is a positive claim. Many atheists are also agnostic. So what? I don’t know the origin of logic other than presume it has everything to do with critters interacting with their environments successfully by developing a means to link causal effects. We see deductive reasoning used this way in all kinds of critters. So what?

      Comment by tildeb — March 7, 2013 @ 7:54 am | Reply

      • So, oggity boogity (once again), you get non-material reality from a universe you think is purely material. In fact, under your materialist worldview, the reasoning and “free”thinking you seem so proud of is just an illusion you get from chemical reaction and neurons firing in your physical brain. If the thoughts you put to paper are nothing but the result of chemical reactions and neurons firing in your brain, they carry no meaning. Matter doesn’t have meaning … or reasoning … or belief … or consciousness … or free will … or moral value. So while you are perfectly able to spout off your ideas, there is no reason for anyone else to take them seriously … under your own worldview.

        Honest atheistic materialists admit that. You don’t.

        After awhile, even you tildeb ought to start seeing that there is a pattern of oogity boogity wishful thinking you follow to account for things that your worldview simply can’t account for. A serious “skeptic” might start to wonder about that at some point.

        Comment by av8torbob — March 7, 2013 @ 9:16 am

      • If the thoughts you put to paper are nothing but the result of chemical reactions and neurons firing in your brain, they carry no meaning.

        Right; thoughts have no inherent meaning. Things have no inherent meaning. Nothing in the universe and all the processes carried out within it (as far as I can tell) have any inherent meaning. Meaning is not a mind-independent property inherent in objects, processes, and actions. Meaning is applied to these. It requires someone – what I call agency – to do this applying. If you carry out an action, you may think or feel it has meaning… for you. That’s fine. But to someone else, it may have no meaning whatsoever. The same is true for what you call ‘materialistic’ processes. Erosion, for example, possesses no inherent meaning, but if a river is undercutting your home, you may award it with great meaning. I think you make a mistake to assume that objective (mind-independent) meaning comes inherently with particular objects, processes, and events. I don’t think you can successfully show this to be true by removing an agency doing the application of meaning and still have the property intact.

        Staying loyal to this notion about objects, processes, and actions having no evidence for objective, inherent meaning independent of the minds that apply it, the same holds true for any value metric. We – meaning agencies- apply value to objects, processes, and events. Consider any measurements, for example. We first come up with a metric by which we can compare and contrast different units and their values equivalently. We do this all the time. Money, for example, has no inherent value – be it a dollar or a drachma or a yaun – but gains this comparative value only when someone else is willing to first agree to the metric. The same is true for numbering systems. What is being measured or counted is applicable to the comparative relationships we find in reality… what you call the ‘materialistic’ universe. Numbers – and their meaning – do not exist as independent material objects pregnant with inserted meaning, but this doesn’t negate the usefulness we find in using their comparative values. Ever wondered why a compass has 360 degrees or a clock 12 hours? These are difficult metrics to manipulate (compared to base ten) but prove their worth to us (and not geese or water buffaloes) using these awkward base metrics relating directly to describing the materialistic world we inhabit. Mental constructs can be useful even if they don’t exist as physical objects.

        I’ll leave you with these questions: If your thoughts, reasons, beliefs, consciousness (mind), and feelings are not the emergent properties of chemical reactions in your brain (free will is a particularly troublesome notion that seems to be equivalent in all ways to what we a deterministic physiological process or simply a useful illusion, but that’s a whole other subject), then what are they and how can they be (reliably and consistently and predictably) affected by specific physiological changes?

        Comment by tildeb — March 7, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

  4. tildeb,
    Thanks for a thoughtful reply (and I mean that)

    You said: “Meaning is applied to these. It requires someone – what I call agency – to do this applying. If you carry out an action, you may think or feel it has meaning… for you. That’s fine. But to someone else, it may have no meaning whatsoever.

    I agree with your point(s) in general, but a couple of things to consider:

    1) I hope you can recognize that when you inject “someone” and/or “agency” into the process of determining meaning, you are (rightly) invoking an arbitrator external to the physical process/system that is needed to discern what action to take; what options to weigh; what meaning will come with the resultant actions taken. And this is exactly my point. Materialists talk about “emergent properties” all the time but I have yet to hear a cogent explanation for what an “emergent” property is. It seems to me it’s just a hand-waving term used to explain away the fact that something outside the physical system is playing arbitrator. This is why I am very careful about making a distinction between the material brain and he immaterial “mind.” In fact, the rationale you’ve given here is exactly why I think it is reasonable and rational to recognize that there is a distinction to be made.

    If you carry out an action, you may think or feel it has meaning… for you. That’s fine. But to someone else, it may have no meaning whatsoever

    2) If you’re right here, meaning is completely subjective and, if that’s true, and my “meaning” and your “meaning” are independent and self-generated, our conversation is an irrelevant exercise in futility. Now, I’m sure you think my part of the conversation is irrelevant 🙂 but the fact is that communication (even between two atheists) demands that we recognize an objective meaning of the terms and ideas we’re talking about. I find it ironic that atheist materialists write books and blogs for the purpose of convincing others that their point of view about the meaning of things is objectively true while the worldview they defend demands that there is no such thing as an objective point of view.

    I’ll leave you with these questions: If your thoughts, reasons, beliefs, consciousness (mind), and feelings are not the emergent properties of chemical reactions in your brain (free will is a particularly troublesome notion that seems to be equivalent in all ways to what we a deterministic physiological process or simply a useful illusion, but that’s a whole other subject), then what are they and how can they be (reliably and consistently and predictably) affected by specific physiological changes?

    3) Yeah, it’s “troublesome” alright … for the materialist who has no means of explaining an immaterial consciousness in a purely material world and who has to defend the idea that free will is a “useful illusion.” My explanation (above) is that this points to the reality of a non-physical aspect to being – that we are an integrated mind/body system.

    So, now I have to ask you: Did you even watch the video I linked to in my last comment? It’s only 30 seconds long and I notice you seem to have completely ignored it. I offer it because I believe Provine is at least consistent in his atheistic materialism. He has the balls to take his view where it leads — to a meaningless world where free will is an illusion and there is no basis for ethics. I respect a guy like that. He knows the implications of his worldview and bites the bullet. You won’t get any hand-waving BS from him about “emergent properties” and moral landscapes.

    Comment by av8torbob — March 7, 2013 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

    • There seems to be some confusion about how emergent properties can arise from material in action. Emergent properties arise from local units following local rules. Think of a mumeration. What appear to the outsider to be a ‘thing’ (with discrete edges) with a single agency (what appears to be mind exercising intention and choice) is really many individual birds following the same set of simple rules. The result, however, is anything but simple. It’s highly complex and looks highly organized. This is an emergent property. Schools of fish do the same thing. Our cells do the same thing, producing what only appears to us to be ever more complex discrete organs, discrete systems, and discrete structures all working in tandem to give the appearance of agency. (Regarding what you call free will, by ‘troublesome’, I mean that this is where the notion you believe in falls apart in close examination of details… of how our neurobiology actually works, by local units following local rules. It is neither free nor will but a predictable biological response to chemical stimuli. *Caveat: our brains come equipped with the remarkable ability to build, rebuild, and refashion this neurobiology through what we call ‘learning’. In other words, our brains are not simply passive subjects but interactive ones.)

      How long, Bob, would you survive flying in varied conditions night and day if you didn’t accept the common metrics for altitude and speed and position but inserted your own? Finding common ground is fundamental to survival.

      Through evolution, we have developed a preference for similar neuropathways to be activated and exploited quickly. Our brains metaphorically exploded in only the past 120,000 years and the areas of the brain that have done so are mostly related to language and visual acuity. Think of our propensity to learn any language as a child (figuring out semantics and grammar as we go), to quickly identify the exact smell, sound, feel, and look of a specific caregiver (or our baby’s cry), our willingness to assign human agency to our environments (and the malicious changes that occur). These early developing neurochemical pathways aid us tremendously in survival. We seek common ground with others in order to communicate effectively, common ground in understanding the world to be an extension of ourselves (and our motives) into it, common ground in worldviews and beliefs in order to be a member of the herd and better protected by it.

      Our brains are quite remarkable at organizing and directing this flock of trillions of cells into what appears to be a single thing, a single mind, a hidden agency somehow separate from the brain that produces it. But of course, it’s not separate at all. The mind is directly linked to the physiological functioning of the brain, to its neurochemistry and electrical transmissions (local units obeying local rules). We can alter the emergent property we call mind by interrupting and interfering and damaging its physiological functioning in very specific ways. This is important because it reveals causal effect, that mind is dependent on the physiology of the brain and not – as so many assume incorrectly – independent of it. You cannot have mind without brain (in a wider sense that includes the nerotransmitters that can be found throughout the body to aid in the interchange of signals).

      Now let’s talk evidence for this. I argue that consciousness (self-awareness) and mind are brain dependent properties; by altering the physiological brain (altering the local units and/or the local rules), I can directly alter your self awareness and the functioning of your mind. This makes sense only if consciousness and mind come from the brain and do not reside separate from it. To support some kind of dualism, some kind of mind/body divide, you must present compelling evidence for independence. I have yet to come across any.

      Yes, I watched the clip. I would have liked to have put it in context but the list is quite accurate as it stands. Reality doesn’t care about thee or me; that’s our job. And part of that job is coming up with common metrics that work to better our security, better our longevity, better our quality of life, better our opportunities (and our children’s). This is the ongoing challenge. I don’t think it is aided in any way but significantly hindered and hampered to introduce invisible supernatural agencies to play some role in our considerations of the here and now, of correctly identifying causal effects and figuring out by what mechanisms nature operates. Substituting faux-explanations that cannot be verified by compelling evidence but expected to be accepted and respected as a matter of faith I think produces unnecessary and counterproductive conflict with an honest inquiry.

      Comment by tildeb — March 7, 2013 @ 7:45 pm | Reply

      • Well, tildeb, I appreciate your candor and, to be honest, your comment above is the best explanation I have ever seen for what you call “emergent properties.” Seriously, I may quote you on that one … and I appreciate it.

        But here’s the deal for me … It sounds very good to say: “Emergent properties arise from local units following local rules,” it gives the impression of being very scientific but it’s not scientific at all. It’s a philosophical statement about how a materialist is forced to account for agency, the foundation of which is the assumption that the “rules” exist in the first place. Rules are not material. Where did the rules come from? When you invoke “a hidden agency somehow separate from the brain that produces it” or say that our job is “coming up with common metrics that work to better our security, better our longevity, better our quality of life, better our opportunities,” what do you mean by “better”? If better is defined as something that enhances survival to propagate the species, that is a tautology.

        Natural selection has no teleology. There is no “better” in a materialistic world. My ability to appreciate art or music has absolutely no survival benefit for me, yet I do it all the time. And when it comes to moral qualities, what is “better” for my species’ survival may actually be what any of us would consider a grossly immoral act (like rape). Nature and behavior are descriptive, not prescriptive. And just how could the human ability to imagine something that has never existed … and then go find a way to create it … come with any explanation from a materialistic set of “rules” that precede and direct my behavior? The pink elephant I’m imagining in my head right now is a real concept but it is not physical. Mathematical concepts were real – there were 9 planets (I’m counting Pluto) revolving around the Sun – before there were human brains to “construct” them. The physical makeup of my body is constantly changing, yet I have a continuity of personhood that I know better and more intimately than anything I could ever know from studying the natural world. My free will is not an “illusion.” I make choices all the time – choices that do nothing to benefit my survival and are sometimes detrimental to my own well-being or the well-being of those around me (in my world we call that “sin”). That is real and all the verbiage materialists use to explain it away have absolutely no credibility with anyone who lives their life in the real world.

        I’m not saying you have done this dishonestly (in fact, I don’t think you can help doing it), but to invoke “rules,” and pseudo-agency, and “better” into a materialist understanding of human nature is to trade on the very aspects of immaterial reality that I am defending while continuing to pretend they don’t exist. It happens all the time. I think the materialist explanation is nothing more than a high-sounding story that is made up to explain things that materialism simply cannot explain. You cannot use science and “evidence” to show where the “rules” originate. It’s just a story – a story that you have accepted on faith every bit as much as I hold the convictions I hold about metaphysical truth.

        You will no doubt mock me for saying that and we will never agree on these topics. That’s just the way it is. I appreciate the respectful dialogue (this time). You’ve given me some things to wrap my mind around (not my brain).

        Cheers …

        Comment by av8torbob — March 8, 2013 @ 10:28 am

      • It sounds very good to say:“Emergent properties arise from local units following local rules,” it gives the impression of being very scientific but it’s not scientific at all. It’s a philosophical statement about how a materialist is forced to account for agency, the foundation of which is the assumption that the “rules” exist in the first place.

        I didn’t explain this very well because I jumped ahead to show complex behaviour through murmuration (that I find particularly beautiful). What I should have done is explain that from chemical interactions and heat comes emergent properties (a sum demonstrated to be greater than the functioning of its parts). From these interactions comes a sort of hierarchy that builds what appears to be ever greater complexity. But the key here is to recognize simple patterns of material interactions that ,when conglomerated, produce complex results in excess of the sum of only its constituent parts. Undifferentiated stem cells, for example, can become many different ‘kinds’ of what appears to be highly specialized cells quite different in comparison at this stage. Yet the root cell is identical (a local unit adhering to local rules); it just differentiates based on interacting with other local units adhering to other local rules. These rules are not philosophical in reality but chemical – material, if you want … chemicals that react the same way all the time given the identical situation. But the environment in which these chemicals react, however, is not always the same; the environment and its various physiological makeup adds influence. So to understand how we end up with these specific units following those particular rules requires a very detailed understanding of complex interactions with environments. Probably the best known set of chemical rules regarding the production of biological matter is DNA. Minute changes here can (not necessarily, though) produce widely varied results. The difference between the starlings you’ve seen murmurating and you in genetic terms is probably less than 10%. That’s why the study of genetics is such a central pillar directly and demonstrably supporting our close kinship with every plant and critter on the planet (when it certainly didn’t have to turn out to be this way if creationism of some intervening kind were true). Local units – chemicals – interacting with physical environments produce widely different materials, from the inorganic to the organic, and continue to follow these local ‘rules’ in both cases. Some interactions end up producing diamonds (with the emergent property of hardness and pristine light refraction), some chipmunks (with the emergent property of burrowing behaviour) and cabbages (with some of the longest genomes many, many times the length of human DNA), some even end up producing critters that make sound patterns we call ‘music’.

        These rules for local chemical units interacting with their environments can be reliably and consistently found in operation wherever you look in detail at the formation of any material. These local rules for chemicals are not ‘made up’ by those who examine them, and this can be shown by our use of them to reliably and consistently use this understanding in our production of altered and combined and purified materials. Our mining and manufacturing sectors successfully do this all the time. There is no difference in using this understanding of local units following local rules with only inorganic materials but also organic. We have used exactly this in agriculture and medicine because we understand that cause and effect by a known mechanism is physical, is material, is understandable, is applicable, and is efficacious. In other words, this understanding works. And it works just as well in organic studies.

        Is there any compelling reason why this incremental approach shouldn’t work in gaining insight into how biology in all its marvelous complexity works? Well, the results are pretty convincing when our understanding is used in applications, technologies, and therapies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. And we’re only at the threshold when we look at figuring out how the brain actually works! We don’t have to insert explanations that have no equivalent applicable value; we have the capability to start to figure out how all this organic material produces what we call ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ and ‘behaviour’, emergent properties we call ‘art’ and ‘music’ and ‘love’ and ’empathy’ and ‘morality’ and so on. We don’t need – and can’t use – explanations that don’t produce equivalent understanding, don’t produce equivalent knowledge that is applicable and demonstrable in what works. Explanations that attribute complexity to supernatural intervention simply doesn’t help further our understanding about anything (which is why Intelligent Design and its mother ship Creationism has yet to produce a single bit of new knowledge that can be applied, that works for everyone everywhere all the time). Sure, it’s easier and more attractive to believe these explanations have insight and knowledge value but, where the rubber meets the road, they simply don’t produce traction in furthering our understanding. This matters a very great deal when belief competes with knowledge. But that’s different comment.

        Comment by tildeb — March 8, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

      • Natural selection is not intentional; it simply means organisms that successfully reproduce ‘select’ those genes that worked to get the critter to the reproductive stage. In this way, ‘natural’ selection becomes a mechanism that produces causal effects. The reason why your genes have survived is because your parents made it to reproductive age and were able to support your development into adulthood, as did their parents, and so on back into time. At no time do we have any evidence that your genes were intended to be active today. Through a series of fortune and luck, the genes you carry have survived because they have proven over time to be ‘fit’ to survive as demonstrated by your ancestry. Nature tried to kill them in many, many ways but they overcame these environmental challenges and allowed their genes to carry on in the next generation.

        Nowhere in this model is there any argument that the reproduction of your genes alone drives your behaviour (although I’ll bet it’s an important aspect that helped shape your social life!). But this is what you’re trying to suggest, that evolutionary theory showcases reproduction to be the purpose and intention of every aspect of our lives. But it’s hardly so cut and dried. We are a very social species. Sure, individual reproduction is an important aspect at particular times to an individual life, but so too is ensuring personal safety, and learning valuable skills. So, too, is following one’s interests, having fun and playing and having pleasure, getting along with others who can affect the quality of your life, the ability to provide food and shelter, the willingness to help others, and so on. All of these, and many more, are in a complex dance driven by our complex biology and its interactions with various environments throughout our lives. Evolutionary theory helps explain from a biological perspective how all these traits became species wide and how they and many others aided the advancement of humanity to thrive globally. But it doesn’t attempt to be so simple.

        For example, if you scan an infant’s brain when it hears music, you’ll see it all light up with massive activity – a very materialistic response. Why? Why should such sounds instigate such a neurological response? Why do the infant’s oxytocin levels rise? How can sound produce a brain response to release this chemical known to produce pleasure and further attention? These kind of questions are not answered by suggesting it has to do with reproductive fitness. It has everything to do with our honed ability to locate and personify patterns we encounter in our environments. And this clearly has significance in other ways promoting survival in our danger-filled environments. Those best able to detect patterns and apply this knowledge successfully are usually valuable members of our tribes because they enhance our survival with the unintended benefit to our private genes a better chance to reproduce successfully.

        Comment by tildeb — March 8, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

  5. Never mind that atheism/materialism(…)being answered by atheism/materialism(..)you get non-material reality from a universe you think is purely material. In fact, under your materialist worldview(..)Matter doesn’t have(..)under your own worldview.(..)Honest atheistic materialists admit that(..)Materialists talk about(..)I find it ironic that atheist materialists(..)purely material world(..)consistent in his atheistic materialism.(..)It’s a philosophical statement about how a materialist is forced to(..)
    come with any explanation from a materialistic set of “rules” that(..)That is real and all the verbiage materialists use(..)made up to explain things that materialism simply…

    The best way to talk about atheism is to talk about…atheism.
    Atheism means one thing. Materialism means something else. It’s..um…different.
    Honest.
    Look it up.
    Use English.
    Atheism =//= Materialism

    Never mind that atheism/materialism has NO WAY to explain … well … the origin of the laws of logic. Minor detail.

    Argument from ignorance. Big detail.

    ATHEIST PROOF #27

    You just made this up?
    (..giggle..)
    Quite telling. That “Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence” website must have really burned you. I wonder if I’ll get a chance to refer to it again?
    I’m thinking…”Yeah, probably.”
    Let’s go for it.

    (..opens the big bag of dumb..)

    You cannot use science and “evidence” to show where the “rules” originate.

    No. 74: MR. GOODSALT’S ARGUMENT (ARGUMENT FROM GENERAL INQUIRY)
    (1) Question for atheist population: [apparently random question]
    (2) Your answer is wrong.
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    It’s just a story – a story that you have accepted on faith every bit as much as I hold the convictions I hold about metaphysical truth.

    No.276: ARGUMENT FROM FAITH EQUIVALENCY
    (1) You have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, don’t you?
    (2) See! Atheists have faith too!
    (3) Therefore, belief in science is just another faith.
    (4) Just like I have faith in God and Jesus.
    (5) Therefore, God exists.

    You will no doubt mock me for saying that and we will never agree on these topics. That’s just the way it is.

    No.122: ARGUMENT FROM PERSECUTION (III)
    (1) You atheists are mean!
    (2) Therefore, God exists.

    Well, there you go again hedging on definitions. Contrary to your claim that atheism is simply a passive stance…

    Look, this isn’t hard to understand. On the internet, defining words is child’s play.
    The word “Atheism” is a good example. Plenty of good, easy-to-understand definitions of what is the meaning of atheism. Why, you can even google it and the Wikipedia definition will pop right up. Plus there are all these atheist communities on the web taking the time to explain why they call themselves atheists. Plus there’s all those youtube videos made by atheists. You can choose to muddy the waters all you want and deliberately misrepresent atheism. (Ninth Commandment? Hello??) Maybe you will even fool some people. Yet the only people you will fool will be those who are wierdly incapable of finding out for themselves what atheism means by ….Googling it.
    Behold…

    Response to: “Atheists have faith, just like theists.”

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — March 10, 2013 @ 7:53 am | Reply

    • I think Matt does a very good job here explaining why the argument that it takes faith to be an atheist is such a clunker.

      Comment by tildeb — March 10, 2013 @ 10:44 am | Reply

      • The bit at the very end is priceless. 🙂

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — March 10, 2013 @ 11:13 am

      • Yes the bit at the end is brilliant – threats of violence is the ultimate demonstration of irrationality.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 22, 2013 @ 6:26 am

  6. Nice commercial, it says “Be proud of who you are.”

    Yet in my sermons there’s always the “so what?” question that must be answered. So, so what?

    Belief or unbelief isn’t going to solve diddly. It’s what you do with your belief that really counts. So if you’re for humanity, then serve humanity. Soup kitchens, care for the environment, justice and rights for all, love and care for the most vulnerable. These can be done both with and without a belief in God or woo or the supernatural or even a materialist understanding. You can do that knowing the standard model or not.

    So once again, so what?

    Comment by zero1ghost — April 1, 2013 @ 10:09 am | Reply

    • Oh that’s rich, that belief or unbelief isn’t going to solve “diddly.”

      Solutions – real solutions – first require understanding real problems. You cannot understand anything if you first reject knowledge and substitute faith-based belief in supernatural causality for it. By making this substitution, you’ve brought understanding – real understanding – to a dead halt with that little epistemological “diddly” that you presume to pronounce as irrelevant. But it’s not irrelevant. It’s a fundamental principled requirement to understanding based on knowledge. And acting on knowledge – on how reality really is – powers real solutions and is not equivalent to the band-aids of belief plastered on reality.

      So what?

      Well, it matters if you care about what’s true, about what’s honest. Serving for the right reasons – doing good because it’s the right thing to do – is honest and empowered by right reasons because it is in service to that principle of whatever is being served. Be just because it serves the attainment of the principle of justice in action. Be loving because it serves the attainment of the principle of love in action.

      Serving for the wrong reasons – doing good because we’re serving some other authority, some other principle – is dishonest and empowers by wrong reasons because it is in service to some other principle than the one advertised It misplaces who and what is being served. That’s why faith-based belief presented as knowledge empowers not what’s true but is in service to something else… usually to extend the authority of belief and the privilege that accompanies it as if this is equivalent. That’s why faith produces no knowledge ever. That’s not now and never has been the intent to serve what’s true through the exercise of acting on religious faith. The intention being acted on through faith-based belief is not based on any authority of knowledge but as a means to grant a facsimile of knowledge to that which deserves none because it has none… in the same way that the intention of a church soup kitchen isn’t meant to serve the hungry but to grant a facsimile of authority (and a sense of debt to those so served) to that which motivates the soup kitchen staff to serve: the authority of honoring the wishes of their imaginary god.

      Is this true?

      Well, full payment rather than exemptions of public tax for religious charities would fund social, rather than religious, soup kitchens to much greater and efficient extent (by estimates, the percentage of a church’s tax exemption used for soup kitchens in the US runs around 3-4%). But this charity itself – whatever they may be – has never been the ‘solution’ of ‘caring for humanity’ that motivates those who use religious charitable work as an example of service for its intended results, is it? That would be too honest an admission for the faitheists; instead, we are supposed to go along with the lie that faith motivates social action of caring to be done because it’s the right thing to do for the right reasons rather than see it for what it truly is: a promo for respecting religious authority and privilege because it does some good!

      By all means serve humanity, care for the environment, support justice and equality rights, care for the most vulnerable, but do it honestly for the sake not to promote religious privilege and authority but, of promoting the attainment of each of these. on their own merits.

      Comment by tildeb — April 1, 2013 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

      • Do the ends justify the means? Or must the means be as just as the ends. This is not something measurable tildeb, it’s the realm of ethics. People are a messy bunch and can have the best ideals and leave the worst results. Our country is floundering, people are depressed, starving, so we will mobilize them and remind them of their greatness. We shall give them a cause and will lift us up. Sounds noble until we realize this is facist thinking used by all sorts of people and is still with us to day. Then we have the batshit crazy Mormons running around and happen to be one of the last people down helping recover from Katrina. Along with the old order Mennonites, my crazy types of the United Church of Christ, and then Brad and Angelina. Good people, Angelina knows how to do drywall really well, and Brad with a toolbelt on is… wow.

        World is messy. I wish it was more pure and straightforward, but it’s not. People serve for the wrong reasons and still manage to do good in this world despite themselves.

        A question to you now: would I be safe if your orthodoxy were in control? Doesn’t sound like it. I’m doing good things for the wrong reason.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 2, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    • Action your beliefs: You mean like Mother Theresa did? Ran filthy hospitals, offing cancer patients nothing but over the counter painkillers, making them suffer in pain, filth and secondary infection – because she believed this was right and she was doing the right thing… that’s ok then?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 2, 2013 @ 5:04 am | Reply

      • Cause other peeps were doing such a bang up job. Who was there before her? Who is there now?

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 2, 2013 @ 10:22 am

      • “Cause other peeps were doing such a bang up job. Who was there before her? Who is there now?”

        The same people who reported her (Teresa’s )crimes – which are legion.

        Like many Christians you think that religion is the altruistic martyr, the organisation that has the moral high ground on charity – it’s not. Religious charity is a selfish charity, it is provided to self-serve, as some form of macabre marketing programme, its primary purpose is to promote the bloke in the funny hat, and not to solve the problem – if it was there to make a difference it would start with education on birth control, and safe sex that have been proven to prevent both disease and poverty. Instead the Catholic church peddles ignorance to keep the fires of illusion burning, to keep the poor in their place so that the church can be ‘seen’ to be helping… sick! sick! sick!

        You like many other Christian’s need to look at the broad field, the AIDS charities that are proving care (real care) with real drugs, and preventative measures, that are unbiased by their dogma and their filthy indoctrination have done more in in one day’s work than that evil witch Teresa did in a life time of ‘charity’.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 2, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

      • Side-stepped the question, maybe I should be more specific: Who is in Kolkata/Calcutta before Theresa? Who is there now?

        I’m not catholic, so I really don’t have a dog in this fight. It just seems like this is a favorite bone you like to throw into conversations that really doesn’t serve any purpose save for “look! Religion is crap!” Well, congrats, you’ve backed up your own POV.

        “You like many other Christian’s need to look at the broad field…”
        -Where’d this come from? Assumptions, assumptions.

        You haven’t understood what I was saying. Nor have you tested your own assumption, namely: “Z1G doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

        My ministry is located smack dab in the center of the #4 human trafficking city, so I assuredly could teach you about AIDS Charities, domestic abuse, and child welfare as it’s what I do day in, and day out. And being protestant, I can teach about safe-sex and prevention all day long. You know, all that “providing care (real care) with real drugs” stuff you’re talking about.

        And what is it that you do? I would love to know more about you. Day job, etc. How do you know the things about Kolkata/Calcutta? Why bring them up? Why do you assume that religious ministries can’t do the work of secular one? I partner with ‘secular’ ministries every day. Why can’t we work together to serve the whole world?

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 2, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

      • Why can’t we work together to serve the whole world?

        Nobody is saying you can’t or shouldn’t. What people are saying is that you shouldn’t receive special treatment for it.

        Look how easily you write the object of the serving: the whole world. But that’s not true, is it? You serve your god, and the proxy for that service is people. All atheists are suggesting is that you cut out the middleman and serve people as the object rather than the proxy because it is this service that underlies the reason for tax exemptions amounting to more money than the sum total of all secular social services combined. Drop the special exemptions that privilege religions in the name of charitable work and let government put the money toward the very goal you’ve outlined: serving real people in need because we can. That’s what secularists do when they support charity work: they do it because it’s something they can do (as well as the right thing to do) and not to earn moral brownie points for themselves or to promote their favorite beliefs as the motivation.

        Comment by tildeb — April 2, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

      • “What people are saying is that you shouldn’t receive special treatment for it.”
        -I disagree in part.

        One shouldn’t receive special treatment for what they believe, we agree there.

        But when helping the oppressed or outcasts, that type of service should receive all sorts of support and special treatment. Tax breaks, free water and sewer service. If we can give these things to sociopathic corporations like WalMart who destroy communities, then why shouldn’t we give them to services, both secular and religious, who build community?

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 3, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    • Reality is not just a pretty word.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 2, 2013 @ 9:19 am | Reply

      • Ahh… so you know reality? You know nothing Cedric Katesby. The best we have is interpretation, theories and abstract models. Even these are representations of reality. We can’t even view the present that we’re in. That light that’s entering into your eyes is 8 minutes old (if it’s sunlight). Then your feeble computer has to interpret that light, so all in all you’re not even in the present moment, and rather far removed from reality. (for more on that, listen here). Enjoy your scientism.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 2, 2013 @ 10:21 am

      • “ That light that’s entering into your eyes is 8 minutes old (if it’s sunlight).”

        And how do you know it is 8 minutes old, Z1G?

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 2, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

      • Physics.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 2, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

      • “Physics”

        So not meta-physics, or the bible – but science Z1G – you know those theories and abstract models that you are in the habit of devaluing when it suits your belief in the magic man in the sky.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 3, 2013 @ 4:30 am

      • And physics was largely founded by a dude who believed he was after the mind of God and wrote more about interpreting the bible than on physics. You know nothing. Continue to rewrite history.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 3, 2013 @ 10:17 am

  7. Ahh… so you know reality? You know nothing Cedric Katesby.

    “And how do you know it is 8 minutes old, Z1G?”

    Physics.

    Krazy-fuk-Zombie-Jesus-on-a-stick, you are a prize tool. Do you ever think before you type?
    Science is the study of reality. Duh!

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 3, 2013 @ 4:26 am | Reply

    • No, science is a prize tool. It helps us understand reality as well as lets us know how extremely complex and far from reality that we’ll never fully be able to comprehend it. Unless you’re in the turn-of-the-last century deterministic science which treats reality as mechanistic then you really don’t understand what science is… namely a tool.

      That doesn’t devalue it, it treats it for what it is. Yet you’ll disagree with this assessment and go back to arrogantly thinking you know it all. Enjoy that.

      Comment by zero1ghost — April 3, 2013 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

      • Z1G: If you haven’t figured it out yet, when it comes to ‘ole Cedric, you are just throwing pearls before swine.

        Not worth your time.

        Comment by Stanley — April 3, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

      • No, science is a prize tool.

        Speak English.
        You are a prize tool as in “You are a moron”. Stop being so deliberately thick. It impresses nobody.

        It helps us understand reality as well as lets us know how extremely complex and far from reality that we’ll never fully be able to comprehend it.

        Yes, science is hard. We knew that already.
        (…slow hand clap…)

        No.6: ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN, a.k.a. GOD OF THE GAPS, a.k.a. TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
        (1) Check out the world/universe/giraffe. Isn’t it complex?
        (2) Only God could have made them so complex.
        (3) Therefore, God exists.

        Yet you’ll disagree with this assessment and go back to arrogantly thinking you know it all.

        Non sequitur and a strawman. Think before you type.

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 3, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

      • Stanley you are indeed right. Look how they go right back to arguing on ground they are familiar with. Bringing in “argument from design” when no one brought it up nor did I even allude to it. See how they point to vestments and try to say shocking things about supposedly beloved saints without actually saying what they’re doing.

        Indeed Stanley, not worth our time. Go have a beer and raise a glass and we’ll toast.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 4, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

      • Bringing in “argument from design” when no one brought it up nor did I even allude to it.

        Yes you did. You are here to preach.

        It helps us understand reality as well as lets us know how extremely complex…

        “1) Check out the world/universe/giraffe. Isn’t it complex?”

        There’s your argument from complexity. Why else bring it up?

        …and far from reality that we’ll never fully be able to comprehend it.

        There’s your god-of-the-gaps thingy. It’s the same ol’ ritual dance.

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 5, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

    • “Yet you’ll disagree with this assessment and go back to arrogantly thinking you know it all.”

      You astonish me Z1G – the arrogance is with the religions you muppet, it is them that claim that God exists (without having to prove it) – they claim all knowledge, there is a god full stop – don’t question don’t argue just accept it.

      On the other hand:

      Science is the business of seeking of knowledge; and in order to seek knowledge, one must first be aware that they do not have all the knowledge in the first place.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 4, 2013 @ 5:00 am | Reply

      • And I love science. We agree there. However the tone on this site and employed by yourself is not a place of humility in what we don’t know it’s one of “i know it all and you religious people are ignorant” only in cruder, less grammatically correct phrasings. As I have demonstrated on this very thread, you don’t know me, you only assume and it’s getting in the way of true dialog.

        “Science is the business…”
        -Ahhh… yes, science is indeed a business. And when I raise up the problems of marrying science with business or science with the military industrial complex this site goes eerily quiet, or you bring in off topic things like “prove god exists” and then silly bits about hats, vestments, and Ma Teresa. It’s all “speck in your eye, what log in mine?” You’re an atheist. Great! So what? How is that making the world a better place?

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 4, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

      • You’re an atheist. Great! So what? How is that making the world a better place?

        You’re bald. Great! So what? How is that making the world a better place?
        You don’t collect stamps. Great! So what? How is that making the world a better place?
        You’re not worshipping Odin. Great! So what? How is that making the world a better place?
        Baal? Not so much. Great! So what? How is that making the world a better place?

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 5, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

  8. “Why can’t we work together to serve the whole world?”

    Indeed why can’t we work together? Why can’t women be treated equal, and gay people be treated as human beings? Why do we (society) allow their (the religious ‘leaders’) beliefs to faction society. Why do we allow them to propose that they (the religious leaders) are special and above the law because of their ‘belief’ in the magical man that no one has seen heard or can demonstrate exists.

    Or more importantly, why do YOU let the men in funny hats control YOUR beliefs, label YOUR morals with THEIR interpretation of morals – why do you allow THEM to falsely educate YOU on what YOU think is right and wrong, by filling your head with vacuous crap – why do YOU let them cloud YOUR human judgements of other human beings by the benchmark of a fictitious supreme being that THEY invented.

    The big difference between you and me is that when I look behind the curtain of religious ‘charity’ I smell the scum of deceit, when you look behind the curtain you still only notice the sweet smell of ‘spiritual’ incense.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 3, 2013 @ 4:57 am | Reply

  9. Wow – look at those hats…! Wait a min I might just have to believe in god now I have seen those hats, they are so inspired by Jesus’ words, humble and inexpensive and all that… oh wait a minute, they make these people look like Kings, perhaps they are Kings? – Perhaps if they are Kings they must be in charge… and I must therefore believe everything they say is true, without question…. Opps…

    Nahh – it’s just blokes in funny hats… phew they nearly got me there though…

    Good this hat game isn’t it.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 4, 2013 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  10. Z1G: “And I love science. We agree there.

    MUR: Religious people are ignorant – they put faith before evidence, and devalue evidence to support their faith.

    Z1G: However the tone on this site and employed by yourself is not a place of humility in what we don’t know it’s one of “i know it all and you religious people are ignorant” only in cruder,

    MUR: It’s crude and has a harsh tone, because religion is obtusely offensive and utterly inappropriate for the modern age of reason that we find ourselves in. Religion is nothing more than a really bad idea that was dreamt up by some very primitive people who had no explanation for anything… we (society) now know better – you need to get grip on this concept, because your reluctance to grasp it makes you look like an idiot.

    Religion has a seat and an opinion on most current affairs, and the opinion the men in funny hats bring is often out of date, and unqualified, it therefore polarises of minority groups and generally being found not fit for purpose with the way in which modern society is moving. About the only thing religion attempts to do that is positive is ‘help the poor’ – but it does this badly, by treating symptoms (soup kitchens) and not the cause: lack of education, over population and lack of women’s rights even when it is in a position to do so at a government level – it still does not and instead chooses to scare people away from condoms, and demonstrates that women are not fit for purpose in their own organisational hierarchy – these are the lessons religion teaches on a massive scale, and therefore contradicts any good work that is done by the foot shoulders of the religion on the ground – i.e. YOU. However, treating the symptoms has questionable motives too. Mother Teresa’s idea of helping the poor was not to spend the millions she accumulated on helping the sick with top notch leading edge science treatments, it was instead to let the them rot in their own filth; yet when she got sick, she had the very best of modern medical treatment. So we can only conclude that her motive and the motive of the catholic church was not to in fact to help the poor, but was at best to help themselves to have some sort of misguided passage to heaven, or to provide some faux care for the purpose of spiritual marketing.

    Atheists and secular groups, do have charitable causes, see here for a list: http://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/humanists-doing/good-causes-and-charities/

    Even organisations that were established by religious people do not identify themselves with the religion anymore, they have moved on: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/what-happens-when-you-contact-us/samaritans-religious-organisation

    So your rants about ‘what do atheists do’ are completely unfounded and are in fact more closely bound to your main criticism of us – which is to assume.

    Z1G: less grammatically correct phrasings. As I have demonstrated on this very thread, you don’t know me, you only assume and it’s getting in the way of true dialog.”

    You have demonstrated nothing but the ease in which you will word play, for example the use alternative means of words out of context to make a vapid point. An example is the word ‘business’ which does not have to be related to the sole enterprise of making money, the word business can mean ‘activity’. But as it happens the church is in business of making money too – but I digress.

    When you apply word play like this, you think that you are being clever, but actually it just erodes your intellectual integrity further, to the point where people can’t trust what you say or your motive for saying it.

    You keep stating that ‘you don’t know me’ and ‘you only assume’ – I can only think that you are referring to us being prejudice against you and your beliefs because of your religious label. If this is your point, then again you seek to divide people by imposing your own understanding of prejudice rather than to think for yourself.

    We are all atheists Z1G of one type or another, the trouble is you do not identify yourself with being one, that is the only difference between us.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 6, 2013 @ 5:15 am | Reply


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