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Reading this thread, I feel atheism is applied too broadly. It's a feeling I have often, really. The kind of atheism mostly discussed here, the kind which is concerned with proof or evidence, would be more accurately called "skeptical atheism", or perhaps "rational atheism" in my opinion. (Yes, the implication is that there are unskeptical and irrational atheists. That's why I feel the need to make the distinction.)

 

Atheism is just "disbelief in or denial of God or gods". It doesn't tell anything else of the belief set held by a particular atheist. Atheism isn't even necessarily areligious - some sects of buddhism, for example, count as atheistic. (Others count as miso- or apatheistic, taking the stance that whether or not there is God or gods, they are useless to the salvation and enlightment of human beings.)

 

As such, there could indeed be an atheist whose creed does require him to preach his own views, to the same extent a Christian might be "required" to preach his. For example, some "militant atheists" (as I've heard them called) consider religion detrimental to human reasoning, and thus systematic purification of such delusions is necessary. To such a person, advocating atheism is an important facet of their beliefs.

 

*cough* I think that's it for my tangential ranting for today.

 

On other things, I often get the same feeling as FnordCola about atheists "losing something". Generally, it's the dismissal of cultural and narrative wealth based on religion, because they're founded on "wrong" things. It's like religious nature of some things makes them "invalid" for their attention - which might cause them to miss aspects of history, culture, or just good stories.

 

Fortunately, not all atheists are like that. Especially within roleplaying communities, I've met people who are atheistic yet very interested in religious and mythological practices - in general, it makes them more understanding (if not mora accepting) of such things, and ironically enough many have been better versed in them than many actually religious people. (Maybe because they don't have a burden of "tainting" their faith? Who knows?)

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Originally Posted By: Assistant Deputy Ambassador to Å
That, really, is the issue. Religion, at base, requires you to believe in something. You may have personal evidence or revelation, but that by nature cannot convince anyone else. Atheism requires no belief in anything without evidence, and evidence is indeed often the requirement.
I dispute this.

On a pure, philosophical level, atheism requires no belief in anything without evidence. In practice, things don't often work out that way. Atheism, like all beliefs significant enough to civilization to be christened (hah) with an "ism", means different things to different people. Some people define it in opposition to theism, and essentially require a belief that all religious arguments are false, even the ones that you point out above there is no conclusive evidence for or against (e.g., Deism). Other times there may be a social component. In the same way that people who belong to a particular religious community, a sect or even an individual church, may feel the need to believe or say they believe certain things that, in theory, are not requisite to their religion, this can (and I argue, almost universally does) occur with social groups where atheism is predominant.

Edit: That was an embarassingly long range snipe.

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I can mostly see the logic here. My main point of departure is in the first point. This presupposes that all beings of finite intelligence don't appear equally (infinitesimally) intelligent to a being with infinite intelligence. Even assuming for sake of argument that we do look different, we have no solid basis for the belief that humans are the most intelligent beings in God's creation.

 

I find the modern Catholic doctrine on extraterrestrial life very interesting in this respect. If memory serves, it basically states that other sentient species may or may not be subject to their own variants of original sin, and therefore may or may not have had their own salvific, sacrificial visits from the son component of the trinity. The church still advocates evangelism in such (currently hypothetical) cases, but for the reason of encouraging love of their creator, rather than connecting them to the spiritual lineage of Jesus in a way necessary for their salvation.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
Originally Posted By: Assistant Deputy Ambassador to Å
That, really, is the issue. Religion, at base, requires you to believe in something. You may have personal evidence or revelation, but that by nature cannot convince anyone else. Atheism requires no belief in anything without evidence, and evidence is indeed often the requirement.
I dispute this.

On a pure, philosophical level, atheism requires no belief in anything without evidence. In practice, things don't often work out that way. Atheism, like all beliefs significant enough to civilization to be christened (hah) with an "ism", means different things to different people. Some people define it in opposition to theism, and essentially require a belief that all religious arguments are false, even the ones that you point out above there is no conclusive evidence for or against (e.g., Deism). Other times there may be a social component. In the same way that people who belong to a particular religious community, a sect or even an individual church, may feel the need to believe or say they believe certain things that, in theory, are not requisite to their religion, this can (and I argue, almost universally does) occur with social groups where atheism is predominant.

Edit: That was an embarassingly long range snipe.


I can see where you're coming from. We've more or less all grown up with a religious paradigm, meaning that we all have cultural and historical religious backgrounds, one way or another. I myself am convinced there is no supernatural (as opposed to what we have come to understand nature is) being that created the universe. According to our religious paradigm this makes me an atheist because we simply can't accept that people are without religion so even those who say they are are flocked together into a religious community of non-believers. It's silly and wrong but understandable seeing where we are all coming from. I am certain that we are currently experiencing a mind-shift where people will come to accept that having no religion does not make you a madman lacking empathy for all things beautiful in this world. In my appreciation of the beauty of what religious people call creation there is simply neither need nor room for a god.

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That's exactly what I'm talking about. The pure atheism Alorael was discussing would say there's no need for a god. But when you say there's no room for a god, that's going quite a bit further.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
That's exactly what I'm talking about. The pure atheism Alorael was discussing would say there's no need for a god. But when you say there's no room for a god, that's going quite a bit further.


Please note I said: In my appreciation of the beauty of what religious people call creation there is simply neither need nor room for a god.

If in your appreciation of the world's beauty there'd be something missing without a god, be my guest.

I am also adamant that lacking a different label I would have to call myself an atheist when in fact I am just not religious (I am not talking agnostic here either).

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Originally Posted By: Frozen Feet
Reading this thread, I feel atheism is applied too broadly. It's a feeling I have often, really. The kind of atheism mostly discussed here, the kind which is concerned with proof or evidence, would be more accurately called "skeptical atheism", or perhaps "rational atheism" in my opinion. (Yes, the implication is that there are unskeptical and irrational atheists. That's why I feel the need to make the distinction.)

Atheism is just "disbelief in or denial of God or gods". It doesn't tell anything else of the belief set held by a particular atheist. Atheism isn't even necessarily areligious - some sects of buddhism, for example, count as atheistic. (Others count as miso- or apatheistic, taking the stance that whether or not there is God or gods, they are useless to the salvation and enlightment of human beings.)

As such, there could indeed be an atheist whose creed does require him to preach his own views, to the same extent a Christian might be "required" to preach his. For example, some "militant atheists" (as I've heard them called) consider religion detrimental to human reasoning, and thus systematic purification of such delusions is necessary. To such a person, advocating atheism is an important facet of their beliefs.

*cough* I think that's it for my tangential ranting for today.

On other things, I often get the same feeling as FnordCola about atheists "losing something". Generally, it's the dismissal of cultural and narrative wealth based on religion, because they're founded on "wrong" things. It's like religious nature of some things makes them "invalid" for their attention - which might cause them to miss aspects of history, culture, or just good stories.

Fortunately, not all atheists are like that. Especially within roleplaying communities, I've met people who are atheistic yet very interested in religious and mythological practices - in general, it makes them more understanding (if not mora accepting) of such things, and ironically enough many have been better versed in them than many actually religious people. (Maybe because they don't have a burden of "tainting" their faith? Who knows?)


Just because there's no scientific proof of God (yet) does not mean that there isn't one! Over the past 1,000 years, science has seen many of its 'truths' turn out to be eventually proven false. Alternatively, many things thought to be 'false' have been proven true.

For years, people believed the world to be flat, that has been proven false. When scientists theorized the existence of atoms in the early 1800's, many refused to believe because they couldn't see them. When Einstein introduced his theory of relativity, many scientists thought that he was wrong, but he proved his theory to be correct.

There may not be any tangible proof to God's existence right now, but I believe that one day we (Christians) WILL
be proven right!

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Please note that there was and is a good deal of Christianity involved in refusing to believe what scientists found out about our macroscopic and microscopic world. You make it sound as though scientists halted progress due to disbelief. That's twisting what happened quite a bit.

 

Furthermore, believing in a god is not about proving its existence but believing in it. That's what belief is about. Having faith in absence of evidence.

 

This is far down this road as I am willing to go. No good tends to come out of discussions science vs. religion.

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Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg
For years, people believed the world to be flat, that has been proven false.
Actually, _this_ has been proven false. The world was understood to be round going back to classical times, and this knowledge became fairly widespread by the mid-first-millenium CE.

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Originally Posted By: Locmaar
Please note that there was and is a good deal of Christianity involved in refusing to believe what scientists found out about our macroscopic and microscopic world. You make it sound as though scientists halted progress due to disbelief. That's twisting what happened quite a bit.


I wasn't saying that science was halting itself. I was just making a list of past events. Also it was not Christianity that attemted to halt science, but the hierarchy (sp?) of the Roman Catholic Church to be exact.

Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg
For years, people believed the world to be flat, that has been proven false.
Actually, _this_ has been proven false. The world was understood to be round going back to classical times, and this knowledge became fairly widespread by the mid-first-millenium CE.


So I should've said "that while 90% of the people 'knew' the world to be flat, the other 10% of people 'believed' that the world was round and those 10% were eventually proven right". That's what I thought I said, but without so many words.

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It's one thing to say that many Christians supported the advance of science. And it's easy to argue that the spirit of Christianity is very compatible with honest, objective science. Pope John Paul II made that argument at length, for example.

 

However, it's a little silly to suggest that the Catholic Church is the only organized Christian religion to ever stand in the way of science.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
It's one thing to say that many Christians supported the advance of science. And it's easy to argue that the spirit of Christianity is very compatible with honest, objective science. Pope John Paul II made that argument at length, for example.

However, it's a little silly to suggest that the Catholic Church is the only organized Christian religion to ever stand in the way of science.


I know that the Catholic church was not the only organized Christian religion to stand in the way of science, but it is the largest and has done the most damage...to science and other smaller Christian sects.

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That's a pretty subjective appraisal.

 

Also, it is pretty easy to read that as an attack on Catholicism. I don't think that's your intent, but regardless, it's not cool here.

 

Please move the topic AWAY from criticism of specific religions, so it doesn't need to be locked.

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Eratosthenes of Cyrene proved the Earth was round and calculated its circumference sometime in the third century BC. Among those with access to his proof or later writings about it, the Earth was known to be round. In fact, the consensus among the educated was that the Earth was round even before that. Peasants might have believed the Earth was flat, but important people did not. Columbus didn't have trouble getting support for his expedition because he thought the Earth was round, he had trouble because he thought the Earth was much smaller than everyone else did. (Incidentally, they were right; his understanding of geography and the Earth's circumference was terrible. There just happened to be an unknown continent in the way.)

 

There wasn't really widespread rejection of atomic theory because atoms were small. Instead, there was a series of theories that weren't right but closer and closer to the model we currently use. Models were held until experiments showed them to be wrong, and then new work developed newer models. There was some skepticism of each new model, but the disputes tended to be settled in short order among scientists.

 

Special and general relativity were both received with astonishment, as they require rather large modifications in understanding how the world works, but they were experimentally verified and widely accepted among physicists only a few years after Einstein proposed the theories. Their complexity means that they were widely misunderstood and rejected by the public for a longer period. Also, it is widely believed that general relativity is flawed due to its inconsistencies with quantum mechanics. As you say, science is always advancing and modifying or rejecting old theories. Well, one or both of GR or QM has to change; they're both more accurate models of the universe than what we had without them, but there's still something wrong with them.

 

God is hard to prove scientifically, though. God is not a principle or a model; he cannot be deduced from observations of matter or energy. On the other side, God would be very easy to prove empirically: in the Bible He has no trouble appearing quite obviously to many people. If God wanted to be proven, He'd show up. In His absence, science cannot even address the question.

 

—Alorael, who notes that scientists do not, by and large, investigate God. There is no scientific model for the absence of God, only conspicuous absence of God from any accepted scientific models. He may or may not exist, but he isn't doing anything physically observable.

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There is a very easy way of obtaining falsifiable evidence that a supernatural being exists and there is an afterlife... but it involves dying first. It's communication with the experimenters that's the real problem.

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There's no good way to provide controls. Each study has a sample size of one, and meta-analysis has proved impossible due to inaccessibility of data.

 

—Alorael, who would be more interested in finding quantum immortality, really.

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Also you can't be sure that the experimenter isn't faking the results because of the difficulty in reproducing them independently.

 

Harry Houdini tried to test that you could send messages from beyond by arranging a test message to his wife for after his death. It didn't work.

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Interesting fact: The white light tunnel people report of after being brought back from near death (or actual death, depending on your definition) is also experienced by pilots and astronauts when they pass out in the centrifuge drill (as in exercise not as the tool) (they also report a nice-calm feeling). The host of the show I saw this on, explained it as a method of the brain to cope with death/dying. Funny how such a thing could be developed through evolution as it seems this kind of trait has no evolutionary advantages (it coming too late in the game ).

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
There is a very easy way of obtaining falsifiable evidence that a supernatural being exists and there is an afterlife... but it involves dying first. It's communication with the experimenters that's the real problem.


Originally Posted By: some german dude
Suicide may also be regarded as an experiment - a question which man puts to Nature, trying to force her to an answer. The question is this: What change will death produce in a man's existence and in his insight into the nature of things? It is a clumsy experiment to make; for it involves the destruction of the very consciousness which puts the question and awaits the answer.


Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Interesting fact: The white light tunnel people report of after being brought back from near death (or actual death, depending on your definition) is also experienced by pilots and astronauts when they pass out in the centrifuge drill (as in exercise not as the tool) (they also report a nice-calm feeling). The host of the show I saw this on, explained it as a method of the brain to cope with death/dying. Funny how such a thing could be developed through evolution as it seems this kind of trait has no evolutionary advantages (it coming too late in the game ).


actually the current consensus is that the "tunnel" effect is a predictable consequence of certain patterns of noise in the visual cortex of the brain, which could plausibly be caused by oxygen deprivation

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
That's a pretty subjective appraisal.

Also, it is pretty easy to read that as an attack on Catholicism. I don't think that's your intent, but regardless, it's not cool here.

Please move the topic AWAY from criticism of specific religions, so it doesn't need to be locked.


I'm sorry if my post seemed to attack the Catholic church. My intent was never to attack. Whether subjective or not, my intention was merely a brief history lesson. I don't see how it could be subjective when you look back at the history and can read about what happened.
I will use better judgement in the things I write from now on on these matters and also make my intentions clear.

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Solberg, I think the part that is subjective and could be construed as an attack on Catholicism is where you stated it has done the most damage. Since you have no objective way of quantifying damage to science or other smaller Christian sects, this becomes merely a matter of opinion. I don't think you crossed any line, but you are starting to encroach into that gray zone where discussions could easily turn into offensive.

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Originally Posted By: *i
Solberg, I think the part that is subjective and could be construed as an attack on Catholicism is where you stated it has done the most damage. Since you have no objective way of quantifying damage to science or other smaller Christian sects, this becomes merely a matter of opinion. I don't think you crossed any line, but you are starting to encroach into that gray zone where discussions could easily turn into offensive.


I definately do not want to offend anyone. My previous remarks refer to the Catholic church as it was run many years ago. The Catholic church today is better run and devoted to good. Maybe when I said earlier that they 'the most damage' I should have said 'some damage'.

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Again, I suggest leaving this subject alone. The general message I get from the post above is "I didn't mean the Catholic Church sucks now, I mean that it used to suck." Which isn't really that much better.

 

Again, I know you're not trying to attack anyone's religion. But evaluations of the "devotion to good" or "damage-dealing" of any religion, past or present, simply don't belong here. That's like kerosene for a flame war.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
Again, I suggest leaving this subject alone.


Message received!

Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
Again, I know you're not trying to attack anyone's religion. But evaluations of the "devotion to good" or "damage-dealing" of any religion, past or present, simply don't belong here. That's like kerosene for a flame war.


I have absolutely no plans to start flame wars. I will try to watch what I say from now on. How about I get us back on topic from which I derailed us from?

Originally Posted By: Lier Beneath the Silent Skies
Well, then what's the big deal about believing?


I, personally, find my faith in God rather comforting and stable. I feel a scense of ease knowing that God hears my prayers. I feel secure knowing that one day when I shed my mortal coil and arrive in Heaven and meet Jesus, it was worth it. grin

Of course, this is just how believing in God is to me. Individual results may vary! wink

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But, you see, believing in God as an atheist is likely to mean believing in an eternity of torment after that. So for atheists, it's really much more comforting not to believe!

 

—Alorael, who personally feels all the security he needs by knowing he has his potato.

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To put it another way, there is a distinction between believing in a deity and worshiping said deity. To me, a lot of Gods as defined by various religions (though certainly not all) don't really sound like very nice people, let alone entities worthy of reverence and religious awe. And then there's that whole pesky problem of evil, along with various related issues. I like how Ernst Bloch puts it: "It would ill become the distorted system that somehow guides the transformations of things as they exist in nature to tolerate every earthquake, shipwreck, war, and then be distressed only by the sinful perplexity of the human heart."

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Originally Posted By: Let me Alorael that for you.
But, you see, believing in God as an atheist is likely to mean believing in an eternity of torment after that. So for atheists, it's really much more comforting not to believe!

—Alorael, who personally feels all the security he needs by knowing he has his potato.


The thing I don't understand is why Santa makes it such a bad place. Shouldn't he reward people that are good?

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Originally Posted By: FnordCola
To put it another way, there is a distinction between believing in a deity and worshiping said deity. To me, a lot of Gods as defined by various religions (though certainly not all) don't really sound like very nice people, let alone entities worthy of reverence and religious awe. And then there's that whole pesky problem of evil, along with various related issues. I like how Ernst Bloch puts it: "It would ill become the distorted system that somehow guides the transformations of things as they exist in nature to tolerate every earthquake, shipwreck, war, and then be distressed only by the sinful perplexity of the human heart."


Considering the fact that we do live in a sort of "distorted system", we just have to live with the fact that we do live with a lot of calamity and still have to worry about morality. We live in a world of conundrums. Why do bad things happen to good people or good things happen to bad people.

All I know is that since the Fall of Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden, Satan has ruled this world. The world is being controlled by the evil one. Man was created by God to have dominion over the world, but in sinning he handed dominion over to Satan. That should explain the conundrum I mentioned earlier.

Originally Posted By: Let me Alorael that for you.
But, you see, believing in God as an atheist is likely to mean believing in an eternity of torment after that.


That's a really good point Alorael, the Bible is really clear on that part. If you don't believe that the Only Begotten Son of the Living God came to Earth, lived a perfect sinless life, sacrificed Himself on the Cross, and then rose from the dead three days later...you will go to Hell. Jesus preached on Hell several times always describing it as a place of torment.

Originally Posted By: Let me Alorael that for you.
So for atheists, it's really much more comforting not to believe!


Comforting! Living in fear of the tiniest chance that we might be right. So let me get this straight, you believe that the universe came into being by chance and that when you die, nothing happens (by nothing I mean spiritually). Is this correct?

I believe it would be a lot more comforting to be a believer. (I'm just stating my opinion)

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Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg


All I know...


Ah... (from my perspective) you see, you don't really "know", you were told so, and you chose to believe. To "know" (from the scientific aspect) means to have witnessed it or to be able to recreate the experience and then witness it.
The same way some believe that the universe was created in a big bang, they don't know it for certainty (however they do have (or witnessed) certain natural phenomena that if placed under the proper process of rational logic brings to that conclusion), that is partly what the LHC is about.

Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg

That's a really good point Alorael, the Bible is really clear on that part. If you don't believe that the Only Begotten Son of the Living God came to Earth, lived a perfect sinless life, sacrificed Himself on the Cross, and then rose from the dead three days later...you will go to Hell. Jesus preached on Hell several times always describing it as a place of torment.

Different traditions/religions have different "hell"s, I can't think of anything constructive to say. I can describe you of the "hell"s I "know":

Christianity you know,
Judaism started out with the simple tradition that When you die if you lived not according to the commandments you would be visited (at your grave) by angels of harm for a certain term according to your faults, went through the christian hell and now say that the feeling of guilt and shame is one's hell.
Islam has a terrible bridge upon death over a gaping chasm and only those who were righteous during their life will be able to pass it while those who weren't will become stuck somewhere along it faced by their crimes and unable to overcome them.
Pagan(Grecko-Roman) have the tradition of Tartaros similar to Hell.
Omnian (;)) you must walk across a large desert and receive judgment at it's end.


Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg

So let me get this straight, you believe that the universe came into being by chance and that when you die, nothing happens (by nothing I mean spiritually). Is this correct?


You seem to keep insisting of adding the word chance into your description, this is not true for all atheists, the universe(multiverse, hyper-verse etc...) just came to be, not by chance but by a method we do not know anything about (yet or even ever).
For the pure atheist, who does not believe in the existence of the super natural and the spiritual, the "soul" is the sum of his genetics and his life experiences stored in our muscle memory (reflex), organ damage and the brain, and when we die our body rots away eaten by bacteria, virus and carrion and continues the cycle of life (assuming one wasn't cremated or dies in space).

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Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg

So let me get this straight, you believe that the universe came into being by chance and that when you die, nothing happens (by nothing I mean spiritually). Is this correct?


You seem to keep insisting of adding the word chance into your description, this is not true for all atheists, the universe(multiverse, hyper-verse etc...) just came to be, not by chance but by a method we do not know anything about (yet or even ever).
For the pure atheist, who does not believe in the existence of the super natural and the spiritual, the "soul" is the sum of his genetics and his life experiences stored in our muscle memory (reflex), organ damage and the brain, and when we die our body rots away eaten by bacteria, virus and carrion and continues the cycle of life (assuming one wasn't cremated or dies in space).


It is all about chance or luck. If any of the varying characteristics of our universe was even a little off, human life could not exist.
If the Earth was either a little closer to or farther away from the Sun...
If the size of the Earth were either smaller or larger by as much as 2,000 miles...
If the moon's gravitational pull were too large or small...

The fact that humans are alive is due to either one of two solutions. 1. That some intelligent omnipotent, omniscient, living, loving holy being (who I believe is the God of the Bible) created the universe for the sole purpose of us inhabiting it. 2. The unthinking universe somehow came up with the perfect ingredients to produce life.

You say that I keep 'insisting' that chance had something to do with it. Maybe it's you who 'insists' that it's not!

HERE!

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However, I don't see it as chance but rather as eventuality, given enough unwitting attempts, our type of life happened, and might happen or might have happened already or might will happen elsewhere.

 

p.s. I don't believe those are the only two solutions, I believe the vector could be longer wink

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Ya know, I'm kind of iffy on that. I am a christian and believe the god of the bible. I think that the ingredients were right and then the big bang...Then the universe expanding forever, the earth being formed in the remains of the big bang with a thousand more planets and stars, but, I think it was god that created human life and all the life on earth.

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Any other configurations for the universe or our solar system are equally unlikely. . . Saying "Oh, that's not very likely." is not an argument for something's impossibility. It's very unlikely that you will win the lottery, but it's guaranteed that someone will.

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And the only visible tickets, in this lottery of a universe, are the winning ones.

 

Originally Posted By: Erasmus
Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg

 

All I know...

 

Ah... (from my perspective) you see, you don't really know, you were told so, and you chose to believe. To know means to have witnessed it or to be able to recreate the experience and then witness it.

I mostly agree with your point, but disagree with what "know" means, at least as it is used in English. If you "know" something, it just means that you believe it to be true and are fairly certain of that fact. You don't need to be correct, and you don't even need to have good reasons for your belief or your certainty.

 

For example, I might say "I know Organic Chemistry is difficult." I've never taken it, nor witnessed anything to do with the class, but I've heard that from enough other people that I'm fairly certain it's true.

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I second Erasmus's point on the false dichotomy here. For one thing, what about a watchmaker-type deist God? It seems to me entirely possible that some entity created life and the universe without having any particular regard for it. If anything it strikes me as more likely than a personal God, since it's hard for me to conceive of a being that is both capable of creating entire universes, and inclined to understand concepts like love and fealty on a human level (or at least a level readily accessible to humans).

 

Also, regarding the point that the world is in Satan's hands: this is one of those times where I conclude I would not worship such a God even if I believed it existed. A deity that leaves the cosmos in the hands of its most evil being does not meet my definition of 'good.' One can argue that humans did this, but who endowed humans with their natures? I don't see arguments regarding free will as much of a remedy here, either. Even if we assume that the ability to choose is fundamentally good and valuable, such a deity would have delimited our ability to choose, our perceptual and cognitive faculties, and so on in a thousand ways already. As such, I don't see why predisposing humanity to choose good over evil, as opposed to vice versa (as seems to be the case), is any more of a restriction of our will than, say, predisposing us to see life as more valuable than death, or restricting our vision to certain light spectra.

 

This also brings up the old Socratic puzzle of whether that which is holy (and by association good in a religious system of morals) is such because it is beloved of God(s), or it is beloved of God(s) because it's holy. If it's the latter, I can say that my human reason does not demonstrate to me that biblical morality is superior to the kind that reason alone can generate, and if a deity wants to convince me otherwise they're welcome to appeal to my reason via argument. If the former is true...that means the good is good entirely because one being says so. I find that arbitrary and unsatisfying. It may work perfectly if one already believes that this being is divine and the arbiter of all morality, but that's just begging the question.

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Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg
It is all about chance or luck. If any of the varying characteristics of our universe was even a little off, human life could not exist.
If the Earth was either a little closer to or farther away from the Sun...
If the size of the Earth were either smaller or larger by as much as 2,000 miles...
If the moon's gravitational pull were too large or small...


Let's assume for the moment that it is all about chance. Yes, the odds that this particular planet that we call "Earth" would have the proper conditions for the life we see around us is infinitesimally small. But look at the bigger picture! There are billions of planets out there, and the likelihood that not one planet would be conducive to life is actually pretty small.

It's like Slarty's lottery comment. From an individual's perspective, receiving a jackpot lotto ticket for millions of dollars is crazy-unlikely. And yet, from the lotto company's perspective, it's a normal occurrence. If there is a 0.001% chance of something happening, you can't say that it will never happen, just that you'd have to try a good many times before you see any positive result.

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The God I believe in would promote atheism, if there were no God. About good it's a little trickier to say what you mean, when you talk about God as the "ground of all being". But insofar as an independent standard of goodness exists, the God I believe in conforms to it.

 

I'm not sure I completely follow the theologians' discussions about necessity of being, though. I keep finding myself wanting to discuss the necessity of God as a contingent fact, which is probably just stupid.

 

The problem of evil is, of course, serious and real. But it has to be kept in mind that an omnipotent being has infinite powers of compensation. It's hard to think of a realistically possible degree of suffering that could not be made worthwhile in some afterlife, whether by direct compensation with pleasure, or by restoration of loss, or by demonstration that the suffering served an overwhelmingly worthwhile purpose. If all the lost can live again, then every loss can be made good.

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Even if evil and suffering are minuscule compared to the good and pleasure available in the afterlife, new post-apocalyptic earth, or the like, they still seem superfluous. I remain uncertain what the purpose of an imperfect world is, given a deity that has the power to create a perfect one. One can argue that pleasure only has meaning in contrast to suffering, but that also suggests that there is some necessary correlation between the amounts of the two, which would mean that extreme happiness and minuscule suffering would only be slightly more realistic than all happiness and no suffering. There's the argument that (imperfect, finite, temporary) earth is a proving ground, the place where the sheep and the goats diverge from one another. If anything, though, I find this just as large a problem for theodicy, since it means that there will be a large population subjected to hell, and thus infinite suffering. I have difficulty conceiving of any world that contains a hell as 'perfect,' especially since from my perspective it is a place of infinite punishment for finite crimes. Hell seems to me a case of God forgetting his own injunction limiting punishment to eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.

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Hello, just posting to see that everything's where it used to be on my profile. It's sort of weird to see the same discussion topics going on here as six years ago, and even weirder that some of the participants haven't changed either. Is this what you call nostalgia?

 

Also, hi, don't expect anyone would remember me, but *waves*

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If the universe were a little bit different, life could still exist. Perhaps it would be different life. Perhaps in a very different universe very different life, so different we cannot conceive of it, would exist. Or perhaps the anthropic principle holds and the universe necessarily contains conscious observers.

 

God is necessarily beyond human comprehension. Perhaps a deity that allows evil is evil. Perhaps evil is, in fact, a good we cannot comprehend (This view would come closer to Satan's role in the Old Testament). Perhaps we are incapable of understanding the necessity of suffering; just like children cry when getting vaccination or complain about going to school, we will be grateful later. Maybe we are projections of a greater entity or entities temporarily constrained to our current physical reality, and all our ills are essentially self-inflicted and desired. Who knows? There are many spiritual circumstances that could lead to a world with evil.

 

Quote:
That's a really good point Alorael, the Bible is really clear on that part. If you don't believe that the Only Begotten Son of the Living God came to Earth, lived a perfect sinless life, sacrificed Himself on the Cross, and then rose from the dead three days later...you will go to Hell. Jesus preached on Hell several times always describing it as a place of torment.

 

Originally Posted By: Let me Alorael that for you.
So for atheists, it's really much more comforting not to believe!

 

Comforting! Living in fear of the tiniest chance that we might be right. So let me get this straight, you believe that the universe came into being by chance and that when you die, nothing happens (by nothing I mean spiritually). Is this correct?

 

I believe it would be a lot more comforting to be a believer. (I'm just stating my opinion)

I am Jewish by upbringing, and by that faith's rather nebulous conceptions of the afterlife I am given a place in the hereafter proportional to the good I do in this life. And if that is wrong, well, perhaps I am going to hell. But note that not all denominations of Christianity hold that view. There are many that reserve Hell for the irredeemably evil and give good but mistaken nonbelievers a place in Heaven.

 

And there are more options besides that! There are so many religions, each incompatible with the rest, that Pascal's Wager, trying to assume the correct faith because the consequences of damnation are so dire, is an impossible task. What if the ancient Egyptians were correct? What if God is a kind of atheist demon, to borrow from the terms of consequentialism, who in fact punishes anyone who is not an atheist? There's no safe response, so I go with what I believe. Like you, I take comfort in it.

 

—Alorael, who finds the notion of a God willing to inflict eternal torment on people making rational but wrong decisions repulsive. A loving God would not mete out such heavy punishment with such willingness. To believe in such a vindictive, merciless, and omnipotent being, waiting for the slightest breach of faith, strikes him as a terribly fearful way to live.

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Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg
Originally Posted By: Alorael
So for atheists, it's really much more comforting not to believe!


Comforting! Living in fear of the tiniest chance that we might be right. So let me get this straight, you believe that the universe came into being by chance and that when you die, nothing happens (by nothing I mean spiritually). Is this correct?

I believe it would be a lot more comforting to be a believer. (I'm just stating my opinion)

As a Christian, do you live in fear of the tiniest chance that the Muslims might be right, and you are going to Hell?

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Originally Posted By: Redstart
Also, hi, don't expect anyone would remember me, but *waves*
Hi Redstart! I remember you. --slarty

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Originally Posted By: Redstart
Hello, just posting to see that everything's where it used to be on my profile. It's sort of weird to see the same discussion topics going on here as six years ago, and even weirder that some of the participants haven't changed either. Is this what you call nostalgia?

Also, hi, don't expect anyone would remember me, but *waves*
Hey Redstart! I don't know if 'nostalgia' would be the word I'd pick for it; the religion/sex/politics discussions today are a lot more civilized than they were six years ago.

My favourite hypothetical afterlife is what I call Kantian Hell. Each time you die you get to live your life over again, except that the personalities of those around you are based on what your personality was in the previous life.

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Originally Posted By: Fist and Fangs
—Alorael, who finds the notion of a God willing to inflict eternal torment on people making rational but wrong decisions repulsive. A loving God would not mete out such heavy punishment with such willingness. To believe in such a vindictive, merciless, and omnipotent being, waiting for the slightest breach of faith, strikes him as a terribly fearful way to live.


This is how I know that the god of the bible does not exist. How could someone like that be responsible for the magnificence of the universe? The beauty of our world? Impossible.

And if he did exist, he wouldn't deserve to be worshipped.

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In all fairness, when comparing what are, IMO, the two strongest arguments for theism and atheism (Pascal's Wager and the Problem of Evil, respectively), atheism really has a much better case, especially when you take a second to realize all the little holes PW has in it, especially compared to how totally ironclad the PoE is.

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Uh, Pascal's Wager might be one argument for pretending to be a theist when you are agnostic. It sure isn't the strongest argument for legitimate theism.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
Uh, Pascal's Wager might be one argument for pretending to be a theist when you are agnostic. It sure isn't the strongest argument for legitimate theism.

Originally Posted By: Dantius
[in My Opinion]


It's certainly the strongest to me, though the whole "just believe" spot is probably its chief weak point.

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Right. What I was trying to say was that theism implies belief, and Pascal's wager does not actually involve belief, so whatever it argues for, I would argue it's not theism.

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