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Leonard James

Atheists converting to believers

Hi All,

I have been thinking about this subject quite a bit, because I find it odd, to say the least. The only explanation I can find is that the existence of God was so strongly implanted in them by their cultural or religious upbringing that it finally overcame their reasoned atheism. Probably another factor with older conversions is approaching death and the desire for another life.

I think it is true to say that some of us atheists could, if we voluntarily offered ourselves to it, be indoctrinated to believe. Providing the indoctrination process was strong enough and applied continuously, some would convert.

I don't think it would work with me, but who knows? And to what purpose?

What do others think?
Shaker

The first thing that strikes me when I hear about this subject is the paucity of good evidence of the phenomenon. With nearly 7,000,000,000 people in the world I accept that it's bound to be happening somewhere: it's just that - in the circles I move in, at least - detailed examples seem to be exceedingly thin on the ground.

I don't think it would work with me, incidentally. I'm not so much an atheist as a meta-atheist: not only do I not take the concept of gods seriously in any way, I find it exceptionally difficult to believe that anybody, anywhere, else does either. I know that they say they do, but still ...
Leonard James

Hi Steve,

I think that because I once believed, I find it easier to accept that some people really sincerely believe in God, because quite honestly, I once did.

I was brought up to the belief, both in family and culture, and it was inevitable that as an impressionable and romantic-minded youngster I would take it for granted.

It wasn't until I got to my teens that my reason kicked in and the doubts began, with the inevitable result.
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Leonard James wrote:

The only explanation I can find is that the existence of God was so strongly implanted in them by their cultural or religious upbringing that it finally overcame their reasoned atheism.


My atheism was entirely supported by a culture hostile to theism. School, pub, workplace, wherever you are people rip the piss out of theists.

My reasoned theism finally overcame this.
Shaker

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
My reasoned theism


Oh, very good  
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
My reasoned theism


Oh, very good  


Do you have a point, or are you just being a dick?
Shaker

Leonard James wrote:
Hi Steve,

I think that because I once believed, I find it easier to accept that some people really sincerely believe in God, because quite honestly, I once did.


Yes, maybe that makes all the difference - I don't believe and moreover never have, which could explain my meta-atheism (which is just a term of my own coinage to describe the phenomenon explain in my earlier post, although it's not unique to me: Penn Jilette once said something very similar).
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
wherever you are people rip the piss out of theists.


Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
My reasoned theism


Oh, very good  


Quod erat demonstrandum
Shaker

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
My reasoned theism


Oh, very good  


Do you have a point, or are you just being a dick?


Don't you have websites to go to where you don't behave like a arsehole (answer: no, if here and R & E are any indication), or do you just want to be banned?
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
My reasoned theism


Oh, very good  


Do you have a point, or are you just being a dick?


Don't you have websites to go to where you don't behave like a arsehole (answer: no, if here and R & E are any indication), or do you just want to be banned?


Well did you have a point or not?
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Leonard James wrote:
reasoned atheism.


So the atheist idea of reasoning on this thread seems to consist of laughing and calling me an arsehole when I suggest that theism can also be reasoned.

I didn't realise I was up against such intellectual heavyweights!

Laughter eh? Calling me an arsehole? hmmm yes, very well reasoned, gentlemen.
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Shaker wrote:
or do you just want to be banned?


Oh I've only just realised, this is a threat!

LMAO!!! Very menacing! grrr!
Shaker

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
Well did you have a point or not?

I do. You clearly don't. To anyone, I'd imagine.
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
Well did you have a point or not?

I do. You clearly don't. To anyone, I'd imagine.


This is empty nonsense, Shaker.

My point is that theism can result from reasoning.

What is yours? so far I've only seen laughter and insults.

Oh and threats! lol.

Do be grown up. It really isn't good enough to simply start acting like a disgruntled schoolboy in the face of debate.

This thread has gone to shit because you chose to put a laughy icon instead of anything sensible, and now have got yourself stuck in a rut of vacuous insults.

Read the thread again and try to contribute like a grown up and not like a troll.

Added later: to be fair, I shouldn't have responded to your original insult by asking you whether you were being a dick. You clearly were being one, but I should have let it go past, rather then letting you draw me into the childishness. I have to say that I am surprised by your behaviour on this thread. ALthough we often disgaree and sometimes exhange insults, you are not usually given to posts which are so devoid of reason. I can only assume you are having a bad day. Try to bring yourself back from the brink, Shaker.
Shaker

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
What is yours? so far I've only seen laughter and insults.

Yep. This is why:

Quote:
My point is that theism can result from reasoning.


Not only on its face - though that's bad enough -, but because it was presented with no supporting "reasoning" whatsoever.

Quote:
Do be grown up.


There goes the Spetsnaz-spec irony-meter.

Quote:
This thread has gone to shit because you chose to put a laughy icon instead of anything sensible, and now have got yourself stuck in a rut of vacuous insults.


If you think the thread is stuck, you've seen absolutely nothing of my arsenal of insults yet.

Quote:
Added later: to be fair, I shouldn't have responded to your original insult by asking you whether you were being a dick. You clearly were being one, but I should have let it go past, rather then letting you draw me into the childishness. I have to say that I am surprised by your behaviour on this thread. ALthough we often disgaree and sometimes exhange insults, you are not usually given to posts which are so devoid of reason. I can only assume you are having a bad day.

Not at all. It's my age - as I grow older I become less and less and less tolerant of the childish stupidity that passes for religious belief.
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Shaker wrote:
Not at all. It's my age - as I grow older I become less and less and less tolerant of the childish stupidity that passes for religious belief.


So you have indeed transformed entirely into a troll. Unlike Leonard, you simply wish to take the piss out of theists without engaging in debate of any kind.

Sorry to see you go Shaker. You used have some intelligent things to say.
Shaker

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
Shaker wrote:
Not at all. It's my age - as I grow older I become less and less and less tolerant of the childish stupidity that passes for religious belief.


So you have indeed transformed entirely into a troll. Unlike Leonard, you simply wish to take the piss out of theists without engaging in debate of any kind.

Sorry to see you go Shaker. You used have some intelligent things to say.


Go? I'm not going anywhere. You must have missed the fact that I'm the administrator of this site (despite the fact that that title is immediately beneath my screen name in every post, but eh) - and as Mr Alastair James Hay Murray says in his comedic persona of the pub landlord, "my gaff, my rules".

I'm going nowhere.
cyberman

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
Shaker wrote:
Not at all. It's my age - as I grow older I become less and less and less tolerant of the childish stupidity that passes for religious belief.


So you have indeed transformed entirely into a troll. Unlike Leonard, you simply wish to take the piss out of theists without engaging in debate of any kind.

Sorry to see you go Shaker. You used have some intelligent things to say.


Go? I'm not going anywhere. You must have missed the fact that I'm the administrator of this site - and as Mr Alastair James Hay Murray says in his comedic persona of the pub landlord, "my gaff, my rules".

I'm going nowhere.


I meant the old Shaker has gone, and been replaced with a less constructive persona. I am sorry to see it go.

Stop your silly threats, there's a good boy.
Shaker

No threats involved, just a simple matter of day-to-day housekeeping - removing the dead wood in the form of the perpetual sneering malcontents of the forum, that kind of thing, much as we do with any other kind of troll.
cyberman

Shaker wrote:
No threats involved, just a simple matter of day-to-day housekeeping - removing the dead wood in the form of the perpetual sneering malcontents of the forum, that kind of thing, much as we do with any other kind of troll.


Well on this thread, Shaker, I have contributed to the debate by discussing reason as a factor behind converting to theism.

If it's dead wood you're after, look closer to home.

Can you point to any post on this thread which you would see as an example of trollish behaviour on my part?

Try try try to answer without behaving like a "sneering malcontent".
Leonard James

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

Hi Cyber,
cyberman wrote:

My atheism was entirely supported by a culture hostile to theism. School, pub, workplace, wherever you are people rip the piss out of theists.

My reasoned theism finally overcame this.

Can you tell me briefly how you reasoned that God exists?
Grantus Maximus

Re: Atheists converting to believers,

cyberman wrote:
My atheism was entirely supported by a culture hostile to theism. School, pub, workplace, wherever you are people rip the piss out of theists.

My reasoned theism finally overcame this.


Not sure where you are, but where I am, most people don't discuss religion - not even to mercilessly take the piss. That's why I tend to frequent forums where I can find people who are interested in discussing what they believe and why.

I'd be interested in hearing how you've reasoned your way into religious belief. My experience so far from listening to the reasons for people's religion, the main drivers towards faith have been emotional or habitual in nature, with reason often being warped in an attempt to support religiously inspired preconceptions.

I'd love to hear how your faith is a conclusion from a journey of reason, because for the whole time I've been interested in the subject, journeys of reason tend to have taken people in the opposite direction.

Cheers - GM
Shaker

cyberman wrote:
Well on this thread, Shaker, I have contributed to the debate by discussing reason as a factor behind converting to theism.

Discussing? Where? You've mentioned it, but that's all - you simply threw it out, with nary a defence of such a position to be seen.
Quote:
Can you point to any post on this thread which you would see as an example of trollish behaviour on my part?

Yes.
cyberman wrote:
Do you have a point, or are you just being a dick?
Andy

I think that a conversion from active atheism is probably rather rare.

Most likely conversions are from apathism or a conditioned neutrality as Leonard suggests.

Of course we do see conversions between religions, but I suppose these examples are of people with a certain acceptance of the supernatural and the concept of God, it was just which description or code they prefered.
Ayub_O

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Leonard James wrote:
Hi All,

I have been thinking about this subject quite a bit, because I find it odd, to say the least. The only explanation I can find is that the existence of God was so strongly implanted in them by their cultural or religious upbringing that it finally overcame their reasoned atheism. Probably another factor with older conversions is approaching death and the desire for another life.

I think it is true to say that some of us atheists could, if we voluntarily offered ourselves to it, be indoctrinated to believe. Providing the indoctrination process was strong enough and applied continuously, some would convert.

I don't think it would work with me, but who knows? And to what purpose?

What do others think?


Well, generaly speaking, it is a combination of being wise enough to not wholly buy into materialism which underlies a lot of atheists, and also having some level of extistetialist angst over the nature/purpose of existance.

If you buy into materialism, and you don't really have any inqusitiveness with regard to anything beyond the material . . . then yeah that kind of an atheist will remain so unless God himself changes their mind.

But for the other kinds of atheists, the way I see it, they're just essentialy waiting untill they find a religion that "fits" so to speak.

I think a good example of that sort of atheist is Charles le Gai Eton (although I would say that wouldn't I, considering he converted to Islam ).

His is an interesting story, and I personaly think he offers up some good insights:

http://www.salaam.co.uk/themeofthemonth/june02_index.php?l=21


This is an interesting passage from that link:

Quote:
One of the principal causes of unbelief in the modern world is the plurality of religions which appear mutually contradictory. So long as the Europeans were convinced of their own racial superiority they had no reason to doubt that Christianity was the only true Faith. The notion that they were the crown of the `evolutionary process' made it easy to assume that all other religions were no more than naive attempts to answer perennial questions. It was when this racial self-confidence declined doubts crept in. How was it possible for a good God to allow the majority of human beings to live and die in the service of false religions? Was it any longer possible for the Christian to believe that he alone was saved? Others made the same claim - Muslims, for example - so how could anyone be sure who was right and who was wrong? For many people, including myself until I came to Perry's book, the obvious conclusion was that, since everyone could not be right, everyone must be wrong. Religion was an illusion, the product of wishful thinking. Others might have found it possible to substitute `scientific truth' for religious `myths'. I could not, since science was founded upon assumptions regarding the infallibility of reason and the reality of sense-experience which could never be proved.

When I read Perry's book I knew nothing of the Quran. That came much later, and what little I had heard of Islam was distorted by prejudices accumulated during a thousand years of confrontation. And yet, had I but known it, I had already taken a step in the direction of Christianity's great rival. The Quran assures us that no people on earth was ever left without divine guidance and a doctrine of truth, conveyed through a messenger of God who always spoke to the people in their own `language', therefore in terms of their particular circumstances and according to their needs. The fact that such messages become distorted in the course of time goes without saying, and no one should be surprised if truth is distorted as it passes from generation to generation, but it would be astonishing if no vestiges remained after the passage of the centuries. It now seems to me entirely in accordance with Islam to believe that these vestiges, clothed in myth and symbol (the `language' of the people of earlier times), are directly descended from revealed Truth and confirm the final Message.

From Charterhouse I went on to Cambridge, where I neglected my official studies, which seemed trivial and boring, in favour of the only study that mattered. The year was 1939. War had broken out just before I had went up to the University and, in two years time, I would be in the army. It seemed likely, after all, that the Germans would succeed in killing me as I had always thought they would. I had only a little time in which to find answers to the questions which still obsessed me, but this did not draw me to any organized religion. Like most of my friends, I was contemptuous of the Churches and of all who paid lip-service to a God they did not know; but I was soon obliged to moderate this hostility. I remember the scene clearly after more than half-a-century. A few of us lingered on, drinking coffee, after the evening meal in the Hall of King's College. The conversation turned to religion. At the head of the table sat an undergraduate who was universally admired for his brilliance, his wit and his sophistication. Hoping to impress him and taking advantage of a brief silence, I said: `No intelligent person nowadays believes in the God of religion!' He looked at me rather sadly before answering: `On the contrary, nowadays intelligent people are the only ones who do believe in God', I would willingly have sunk out of sight under the table.
Leonard James

Morning Ayub-o,

I have read the link you cite, and found it interesting.

However, I have to tell you that apart from when I was young and believed in God, I have never felt the need to find a 'spiritual path' to follow. My experience of life and people has taught me much, of course, but for me my spiritual side is simply my ability to appreciate the finer things in this life.

I believe that 'life' is a complex biological process which developed from abiogenesis ... and nothing more.  We have, of course, with our evolved intelligence and accumulated knowledge arrived at all sorts of conclusions, scientific and philosophical, but for me it is all much ado about nothing ... the simple thirst we have developed for knowledge, in many cases, causing us to find 'answers' where there are none.

Whatever the cause of the universe was, we know nothing about it, and for me, accepting that fact is no problem.
Outrider

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Ayub_O wrote:
Well, generaly speaking, it is a combination of being wise enough to not wholly buy into materialism  ...  If you buy into materialism, and you don't really have any inqusitiveness with regard to anything beyond the material ...


I think you've sort of missed a point, here - many of us, especially as children, were intensely curious about things beyond that which we could see. Children are, generally, curious about pretty much everything. I'm still curious about pretty much everything beyond what we can see and hear  - I don't, however, assume its veracity without some demonstrable reason.

That's not a lack of curiosity, that's a sensible degree of credulity. I don't forgo a deity because I can't conceive of anything more than what I can see or hear, but because if I can't see or hear any evidence in support of it then it's functionally the same as if it didn't exist.

It is not 'wisdom' to assume something more than what can be demonstrated, it's wishful thinking.

O.
Leonard James

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Outrider wrote:

It is not 'wisdom' to assume something more than what can be demonstrated, it's wishful thinking.

O.

True, oh wise one!  
Ayub_O

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Outrider wrote:
Ayub_O wrote:
Well, generaly speaking, it is a combination of being wise enough to not wholly buy into materialism  ...  If you buy into materialism, and you don't really have any inqusitiveness with regard to anything beyond the material ...


I think you've sort of missed a point, here - many of us, especially as children, were intensely curious about things beyond that which we could see. Children are, generally, curious about pretty much everything. I'm still curious about pretty much everything beyond what we can see and hear  - I don't, however, assume its veracity without some demonstrable reason.

That's not a lack of curiosity, that's a sensible degree of credulity. I don't forgo a deity because I can't conceive of anything more than what I can see or hear, but because if I can't see or hear any evidence in support of it then it's functionally the same as if it didn't exist.

It is not 'wisdom' to assume something more than what can be demonstrated, it's wishful thinking.

O.


I may indeed have missed the point if I'm wrong in my claim that most atheists base their atheism in materialism.


However, I didn't make a point about "curiosity", but about existential angst/questions, and I framed it within the above point about materialism. It is not possible for one to have such questions outside of that materialist framework, since the material has no "reason" for any why to offer, it just has "explanations" of the how. . . and usualy it doesn't even want to concern itself with the "why", so it's a bit odd to equate such a curiosity with the sort of existential questions that I had in mind.

And by the way, the position you are describing is sounding like materialisml; because materialism doesn't forgo from believing in that which it cannot immediatly "see or hear", but rather does what you are doing, and bases their existance upon the material, which in turn means that the thing in question ought to be empirically demonstrable; and it seeks to explain everything within empericism, so that things like emotions, consciousness, the will, etc etc are all talked about and explained within the material framework.

So, thus far, I'm struggling to see how I was wrong in my summation.

With regards to the functionality comment,

No one believes in God because they think it "functional" or a handy thing to believe in, they believe in God because they simply think it true.

So are you saying that only what is functional can be true? or that only what is functional (i.e. that which can be used or utilized in some way) is worth thinking of as true?

Either way though, this sort fo pragmatism is pretty much in line with the materialist standpoint that I attributed to the staunch atheist.

As for the wisdom comment,

The wisdom does not lie in the "assumption" that there exists more than what is demonstrable, but rather, the wisdom is knowing better than to believe that the material or empircal world is all that there is to existance, or all that is worth basing ones beliefs and ideas on. . . it is being able to knwo better than to try and use the empirical method (i.e. science)  as the ultimate yard stick for the truth of everything.

Finally, if I truly have missed the point in my claim about atheists and materialism, what sort of "demonstrable" reason/evidence are you holding out for exactly?

because my being right/wrong in your particular case would be depending on your answer.
Outrider

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Ayub_O wrote:
I may indeed have missed the point if I'm wrong in my claim that most atheists base their atheism in materialism.


You missed the point where materialism is a rational approach, and theism or spirituality - world-views which depend upon faith in the absence or face of evidence - require a suspension of disbelief. You 'buy into' the idea of a deity, not the the idea of the absence of one.

Quote:
It is not possible for one to have such questions outside of that materialist framework, since the material has no "reason" for any why to offer, it just has "explanations" of the how. . . and usualy it doesn't even want to concern itself with the "why", so it's a bit odd to equate such a curiosity with the sort of existential questions that I had in mind.


What is the point of having question for which there can, by definition, be no answers? You can posit spiritual or theistic causes and effects and entities and rules for as long as you like, but given that they are outside of any available evidence there will never be a resolution - you might end up with something that makes you feel better, but there still won't be an answer.

Quote:
And by the way, the position you are describing is sounding like materialism; because materialism doesn't forgo from believing in that which it cannot immediatly "see or hear", but rather does what you are doing, and bases their existance upon the material, which in turn means that the thing in question ought to be empirically demonstrable; and it seeks to explain everything within empericism, so that things like emotions, consciousness, the will, etc etc are all talked about and explained within the material framework.


I don't for a moment claim to be anything other than a materialist - in the absence of any evidence I see no reason to place any credence in a claim. There are atheists out there who are prepared to believe in alternative medicines, though, or the existence of aliens etc. Not all atheists are materialists, but I'll concede that there's probably a significant portion.

Quote:
So, thus far, I'm struggling to see how I was wrong in my summation.


The implication of your piece was that there was some element of self-deception to an atheist world view that required it to be 'bought into' when in fact it's the most rational approach.

Quote:
No one believes in God because they think it "functional" or a handy thing to believe in, they believe in God because they simply think it true.


Yet that belief is either based on nothing - because there is no evidence - or based on a 'personal revelation' which is indistinguishable from a delusion, dream or hallucination. That's something that requires being 'bought into'.

Quote:
So are you saying that only what is functional can be true? or that only what is functional (i.e. that which can be used or utilized in some way) is worth thinking of as true?


The latter - the only things that are worth spending time considering are the things for which we have evidence, things which have detectable effects. We can posit ideas of the nature of the universe, but unless we can test those ideas then they're a waste of time.

Quote:
As for the wisdom comment,

The wisdom does not lie in the "assumption" that there exists more than what is demonstrable, but rather, the wisdom is knowing better than to believe that the material or empircal world is all that there is to existance, or all that is worth basing ones beliefs and ideas on...


Why is there any reason to believe that there is something more than what can be detected and tested? That's not wisdom, to assume that something beyond testing does exist. To concede that it might, perhaps, that we cannot yet test everything that there is, but not to accept without basis.

Quote:
it is being able to knwo better than to try and use the empirical method (i.e. science)  as the ultimate yard stick for the truth of everything.


It isn't an 'ultimate' yardstick, but it's the best we currently have.

Quote:
Finally, if I truly have missed the point in my claim about atheists and materialism, what sort of "demonstrable" reason/evidence are you holding out for exactly?


I'm not 'holding out' for any evidence, I have no pressing desire or need to believe, nor am I expecting any evidence for that particular concept to become clear - my actual basis for not believing a deity might be supported by the lack of evidence for one, but is based upon the logically untenable nature of the very concept of a spontaneously emerging complex intelligence.

Quote:
because my being right/wrong in your particular case would be depending on your answer.


Whether you are right or wrong in your belief doesn't change the fact that it's illogical to claim that there is something 'irrational' to atheism that requires being 'bought into'.

O.
Ayub_O

Re: Atheists converting to believers

Outrider wrote:
Ayub_O wrote:
I may indeed have missed the point if I'm wrong in my claim that most atheists base their atheism in materialism.


You missed the point where materialism is a rational approach, and theism or spirituality - world-views which depend upon faith in the absence or face of evidence - require a suspension of disbelief. You 'buy into' the idea of a deity, not the the idea of the absence of one.


No, firstly, theism can be a rational approach and is not reliant on a suspension of disbelief anymore than materialism is.

I agree that one has to "buy into" theism, but what you seem to not get is that materialism also has to be "bought into", because they are both philosophical propositions which cannot be validated through the methods you propose, but instead rely on cogent philosophical arguments.

And as far as that goes, materialism requres some seriously counter intuitive suspension of disbelief, i.e. a true materialist must think that all of existence consists of nothing more than the material, which in turn means that things like the "will", the "self", "consciousness", "emotions", even "rationality" realy lose all their commonly understood meaning, and have to be considered nothing more than illusions brought about by the interaction of particles, or synapsis firing off, or chemical reactions.

Materilism requires a suspension of disbelief everyday of your life.

and what's worse is that the materialist can never hope to prove his world view by the same standards and methods you are demanding that the theist prove his . . . there is no evidence at all that my consciousness, will, and all the intangible things which make me, ar e"nothing more" than the result of interaction between matter.

A materialist can never hope to show which comes first, my willing to type this, or the messages being sent from my brain to my fingers . . .  it simply supposes that there is no real "I" (in the common sense of the term) to do any willing, since willing implies choice, and choice in willing doesn't exist under the materialist model, because if we are nothing more than matter, then everythiing is nothing more than a result of various mechanical processes that happen to result in the invention of the internet, and this laptop, and my now typing on it to have a "seemingly" "rational" discussion with you . . . but that's an illusion, there is no "I" or "you" having this discussion, there is just the interaction of two groups of matter and the interaction thereof.

The whole materialist standpoint requires being "bought into", no one just comes to disbelief in their own self all of a suden, it takes a lot of philosophical questioning, and even then the theory isn't removed from rebuke, and still requires you to "believe" in it despite every experience of "self" which you have in your daily life . . . because you know, there can't be anything more to existance than matter and the matterial.    

Quote:
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It is not possible for one to have such questions outside of that materialist framework, since the material has no "reason" for any why to offer, it just has "explanations" of the how. . . and usualy it doesn't even want to concern itself with the "why", so it's a bit odd to equate such a curiosity with the sort of existential questions that I had in mind.


What is the point of having question for which there can, by definition, be no answers? You can posit spiritual or theistic causes and effects and entities and rules for as long as you like, but given that they are outside of any available evidence there will never be a resolution - you might end up with something that makes you feel better, but there still won't be an answer.


of course there will be an answer. This is one of the many problems with atheists who pin their atheism onto materialism, they suddenly think that the empirical/scientific method is the only tool with which one can arive at truth, but it isn't, and to suggest it is, is the biggest reduction and misunderstanding of rationality and logic imaginable.  

One can rationaly go through the proposed conceptions of God that one is presnted with, and discount the irrational from the more rational, the cogent from the nonsense, the possible from the improbable.

For example, if someon tells me they believe in God, and enquire about what they mean by that, and they say "he is the creator of all", then I can very rationaly rule out something like Zeus or Thor from being God, becuase they are portrayed as having been created, so could not have created all, i.e. Zeus was the son of Cronus and Rhea, so obviously didn't creat them, while Thor was the son of Odin, so obviously didn't create him.

And the logical process would go on like this, the better definition I am given the more we can start to rule things out using logic and reason.

But the materialist forgoes all this, because God is immaterial, and only the material exists, and so we can only judge and speak about things through the material, which like I said, not only rules out God, but also rules out a host of other things which require for us to suspend our usual reasoning.

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And by the way, the position you are describing is sounding like materialism; because materialism doesn't forgo from believing in that which it cannot immediatly "see or hear", but rather does what you are doing, and bases their existance upon the material, which in turn means that the thing in question ought to be empirically demonstrable; and it seeks to explain everything within empericism, so that things like emotions, consciousness, the will, etc etc are all talked about and explained within the material framework.


I don't for a moment claim to be anything other than a materialist - in the absence of any evidence I see no reason to place any credence in a claim. There are atheists out there who are prepared to believe in alternative medicines, though, or the existence of aliens etc. Not all atheists are materialists, but I'll concede that there's probably a significant portion.


Like I said, the evidence which you demand is nonexistant for the very position you espouse. Materliasim is based on a philosophical proposition which cannot be tested in the way you would like, and most be intelectually "bought into". So the question would be what evidence convinced you that there is no true "will" "I" or "self", despite your experience of these things.

How was this belief of yours demonstrable? how does one demonstrate my "will" is an illusion?

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So, thus far, I'm struggling to see how I was wrong in my summation.


The implication of your piece was that there was some element of self-deception to an atheist world view that required it to be 'bought into' when in fact it's the most rational approach.


If your atheism is based on materialism, it is by no means the most ratonal approach.

and I didn't actually say that atheism requires any element of "self-deception", however materialism does require some self denial, literally, so if ones atheism is rooted in that, then I guess that point stands true for them too.

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No one believes in God because they think it "functional" or a handy thing to believe in, they believe in God because they simply think it true.


Yet that belief is either based on nothing - because there is no evidence - or based on a 'personal revelation' which is indistinguishable from a delusion, dream or hallucination. That's something that requires being 'bought into'.


One can rationaly postulate that there exists a creator, without "personal revelation", and then rationally proceed to flesh out that supposition through logic. . . and thereby essentially arive at a belief in God.

To make the belief in an immaterial supreme being contingent on material evidence is what's trully irrational. . . and it is only brought about by a pre-conceived notion that there exists nothing other than the material.

That's not to say that we you don't have non-materialist atheist, but they are usualy either more thorough in their rejection, i.e. they reject on what are at least valid terms . . . or they do a Jean-Paul Sartre and simply leave it at "I don't believe", no reason no arguments, just an honest and up front belief.

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So are you saying that only what is functional can be true? or that only what is functional (i.e. that which can be used or utilized in some way) is worth thinking of as true?


The latter - the only things that are worth spending time considering are the things for which we have evidence, things which have detectable effects. We can posit ideas of the nature of the universe, but unless we can test those ideas then they're a waste of time.


the test for those ideas lies in logic, philosophical process and you know general "reasoning", since there is more in the rational tool kit than just controlled experiments and empirical data. . . hence the existance of philosophy. . . which incidently is where your whole position comes from, and it cannot even prove itself by the means it tries to constrain everyone else in, but must itself get its validation from philosophy, p.s. there aren't many materialist philosophersm, simply because it isn't all that convincing.

It makes sense for Science to work underthe paremeters of materialism, it is the most useful tool for the field . . . but outside of science, it really isn't (a) all that useful, and (b) all that truthfull/convincing.

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As for the wisdom comment,

The wisdom does not lie in the "assumption" that there exists more than what is demonstrable, but rather, the wisdom is knowing better than to believe that the material or empircal world is all that there is to existance, or all that is worth basing ones beliefs and ideas on...


Why is there any reason to believe that there is something more than what can be detected and tested? That's not wisdom, to assume that something beyond testing does exist. To concede that it might, perhaps, that we cannot yet test everything that there is, but not to accept without basis.


Experience, logic, rationality . . . why is there any reason to suppose that all there is to existance is the matterial despite the myriad of logic and expirience which points to the contrary? i.e. the very phenomenon of consciousness and reflection from which rationality, identity and the will are formed, and without which this very conversation makes no sense, along with the language which we have developed for it.

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it is being able to know better than to try and use the empirical method (i.e. science)  as the ultimate yard stick for the truth of everything.


It isn't an 'ultimate' yardstick, but it's the best we currently have.


It's the best science has, to explain the workings of the natural world as we experience it . . . outside of that frame it is far from being the "best" we have, it is simply one tool among many, and it is often usless for many questions.

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Finally, if I truly have missed the point in my claim about atheists and materialism, what sort of "demonstrable" reason/evidence are you holding out for exactly?


I'm not 'holding out' for any evidence, I have no pressing desire or need to believe, nor am I expecting any evidence for that particular concept to become clear - my actual basis for not believing a deity might be supported by the lack of evidence for one, but is based upon the logically untenable nature of the very concept of a spontaneously emerging complex intelligence.


faint.gif good grief

What sort of a religion did you come from as a child that claimed to believe in a "spontaneously emerging" God?

because that's a first for me. . . I had no idea someone could be as illogical as to believe in a "spontaneously emerging" eternal creator . . . if it spotntaneously emerged it cannot be eternal, so yeah it would be logically untenable to buy into that concept right there.

however, considering science has now validated the theists claim that the material universe and existance did have a begining after all, it is not logically untenable to hold that the begining of that material universe was caused by an infinte immaterial creator, aka God. . . it is actually very reasonable to do.


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because my being right/wrong in your particular case would be depending on your answer.


Whether you are right or wrong in your belief doesn't change the fact that it's illogical to claim that there is something 'irrational' to atheism that requires being 'bought into'.

O.


now when did I say that? I believe the first person to even use the term "irrational" was you Outrider.

and I said materialism needed to be "bought into", and that is not illogical at all. . . what is illogical is to claim it to be a natural position which doesn't require being bought into, like we all just readily accept its implications of no free will, will in general, self etc etc
Leonard James

Free will is a reality, and it has been produced entirely by evolution. From a standing position I can decide to either start walking with my left leg or my right. I don't need any external force to make the decision for me.

The fact that making the decision is nothing more than the result of chemical reactions in my brain doesn't invalidate the fact that I am free to make the choice ... in fact it is that chemical activity which actually gives me the choice.
Ayub_O

Leonard James wrote:
Free will is a reality, and it has been produced entirely by evolution. From a standing position I can decide to either start walking with my left leg or my right. I don't need any external force to make the decision for me.


I will assume you do not subscribe to materialism, since if you do, then you need to explain how you arived at that conclusion, because as far as I can see there is no way that a materialist can claim belief in free will, and I haven't  even seen or heard anyone propose such a thing before, so I'd be intrested to see how it logicaly works.

If I'm right in my assumption though, and you aren't a materialist, then I believe you should be debating Outrider on the topic of free will, since he claims he is a materialist.

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The fact that making the decision is nothing more than the result of chemical reactions in my brain doesn't invalidate the fact that I am free to make the choice ... in fact it is that chemical activity which actually gives me the choice.


now how do you figure that?

within the materialist frame work, what you propose is the equivalent of saying that in the equation "1+1=2", the first number "1" has a choice as to whether the addition of the other number "1" leads to "2".

under materialism everything is simply matter, nothing more, and so everything that makes you is governed by the same exact laws which govern all other matter . . . other matter combinations and chemical reactions don't have a choice in what they produce or how they react, whn it boils down to it, it is all as mechanical and determined as 1+1=2. . .so on what basis could you argue that you somehow have a choice?

having a choice implies that you can stand outside this grand mechanism, even if only just slightly, so that you can have the luxury of picking an outcome . . . you would need to believe in something more than mere matter and the laws which govern it to justify a belief in free will or will in any real sense . . . otherwise all you are left with is a chain of causes and effects with no real room for "self" let alone "choice".
Leonard James

Hi Ayub,

I have no idea what exactly a materialist is, so I can neither confirm or deny.

However, all brain activity is electro-chemical, and that must include our choosing mechanism.

Even animals exercise choice, albeit unconsciously. If a dog is attacked by another, it can either defend itself or try to escape, and its choice will depend on its ability to assess the strength of its attacker, its courage, and its past experiences in similar situations.

Humans do exactly the same. We assess any given situation and choose the option which seems the best one. To suggest that we need some divine guidance to do so seems fatuous in the extreme.
Ayub_O

Leonard James wrote:
Hi Ayub,


I have no idea what exactly a materialist is, so I can neither confirm or deny.


Hello Leonard,

If you are interested this link will tell you most of what you need to know:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

Don't be confused by the term "physicalism", the term is nowadays essentially interchangeable with "materiliasim" and for all intense and purposes in this discussion they are the same thing, the whole terms thing is explained on the page anyway.

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However, all brain activity is electro-chemical, and that must include our choosing mechanism.

Even animals exercise choice, albeit unconsciously. If a dog is attacked by another, it can either defend itself or try to escape, and its choice will depend on its ability to assess the strength of its attacker, its courage, and its past experiences in similar situations.

Humans do exactly the same. We assess any given situation and choose the option which seems the best one.

What you are describing is not "choice" in the sense which it is properly usualy understood.

Firstly the animal example is one of instinct not choice, so if you are saying what humans do is equivalent to that, then you are contradicting your initial claim that we have "choice".


Secondly, choice involves the possibility that I could have chosen differently, based on the same set reasons parameters and conditions, this requires more than the material, because like I pointed out, and you still haven't adressed, in the physical world there is no such thing as the possibility of a different outcome happening with the exact same conditions. . . except for maybe in quantum mechanics and chaos theory but they show randomness, so it doesn't really help your whole choice case.

You were right in your use of the word "mechanism" but that's about it, because if we confine ourselves to only affirming and believing in the existance of the physical, then we have to conclude that it is an automatic mechanism, which will not vary in its outcome if fed the exact same stimuli.

But this is not choice, this is instict. and what you describe is not evaluating in the true sense, but is more like the processig done by a computer, but we wouldn't say a computer "chooses" in the same way that we meant it for humans.

Choice: a range of possibilities from which one or more may be chosen.

Instinct: an innate, typically fixed pattern of behaviour in animals in response to certain stimuli.

To say that we have choice in the picture you painted, i.e.["b]all[/b] brain activity is electro-chemical", is inadequate if you want to believe in "choice" . . . because you would have to explain how it is that given the exact same stimuli and electro-chemical activity, one could have behaved differently.

To do that you have to posit something beyond the physical interaction of elctro-chemical activity or the physical stimuli, there has to be something else there to do the chosing. Something has to be there to reject what would otherwise be an inevatable certainty in your ultimate action.

But my point was that materialism, in rejecting anything beyond the material, cannot explain such a thing, and it therefore assumes that it is merely an "illusion" of choice, since the exact same stimuly and cirmustances in the rest of the material world could not ever lead to more than one outcome, the same must be true for us, since we are no more than piles of matter, and therefore under the same laws as the rest of matter.

Even if we factor in the random behaviour of particles in quantum mechanics and chaos theory, that still doesn't give us the capacity for "choice", since choice is not random, as you said, it must be based on a conscious evaluating.

So to believe in free-will, you must believe in more than the physical/material world.

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To suggest that we need some divine guidance to do so seems fatuous in the extreme.


You seem to be arguing against something which you have imagined I proposed. . . but I didn't. I brought the whole free-will thing as response to the claim that theism requires suspension of disbelief, while materilaism doesn't . . . which is simply not true, materialism requres the biggest suspension of our usual rational faculties imaginable, it requires me to think "me" in the sense it commonly understood, to be an illusion, and makes a complete joke of most of our language.
Leonard James

I'm sorry, Ayub, but I simply do not agree with your reasoning. Animals can be trained to do all sorts of complicated things, and they learn how to do them. It isn't instinct that makes them do it. My dog, for instance, knows that certain behaviour is not acceptable to me, and he will be punished for it ... but sometimes he chooses to disobey, even though he knows what will follow. That is not instinct, it is choice.

Humans, with their ability to think objectively, are able to assess the outcome of their actions and choose to behave one way or another. That is choice.

However, I realise that we are never going to agree on this, so I will let you have the last word and then leave it.

Thank you for the exchange.

Leonard.
Ayub_O

Leonard James wrote:
I'm sorry, Ayub, but I simply do not agree with your reasoning. Animals can be trained to do all sorts of complicated things, and they learn how to do them. It isn't instinct that makes them do it. My dog, for instance, knows that certain behaviour is not acceptable to me, and he will be punished for it ... but sometimes he chooses to disobey, even though he knows what will follow. That is not instinct, it is choice.


No, that's just inefective conditioning, your dog did not deliberate, look at the pros and cons and then choose to ignore you.

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Humans, with their ability to think objectively, are able to assess the outcome of their actions and choose to behave one way or another. That is choice.


My point is that if you believe only matter and physical laws exists, then humans are not "thinking objectively" they are simly automatically processing information and acting in accordance, no different to a computer . . . we wouldn't say a computer has free will. certain input will only give you certain output.

The logic goes like this: the material world is determined, if we are nothing more than matter, then we must also be determined.

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However, I realise that we are never going to agree on this, so I will let you have the last word and then leave it.

Thank you for the exchange.



Leonard.


lol that's a bit fatalistic but ok
Boss Cat

Actually I think people traditionally start questioning in their teens and  become atheists; then as they get older and have more life experiences  start to move on to a more developed belief, though most of us probably shift around a bit all the time. I do, I know.  I don't think I've ever really been an atheist for any length of time, I've never really gone in for it to be honest, but perhaps there was a brief and uncommitted time in my early twenties.  

But if atheists seldom convert to religion and if it is common for religious people to lose their faith (which I don't think, I thought the traffic tended to be the other way after around 40); but if that is the case what would that show?  Would it mean that people suddenly saw the truth and there is no way back from such a revelation, such maturity, such growing up into certainty?  Or could it suggest that atheists just stop questioning themselves, stop thinking and get pigheaded, complacent and flabby?

I certainly hope not.  But I do know for sure I would not be proud of myself if I honestly thought I would never shift my perspective in the light of new experiences and learning.  I've got more to learn than I've learnt already - do atheists just kind of know it all?

I tell you something else for nothing.  Last year Theos did some research on this kind of movement.  In terms of numbers atheists are winning, more people ARE identifying as atheist than are identifying as gaining a faith.  But in terms of who is doing the converting - well believers are getting the quality; the better educated, more articulate, higher social class.  

I don't personally think that means that atheists are thicker, not at all.  I think that is becoming more acceptable to call yourself an atheist and the many non believers who just ticked CofE now are more comfortable with saying they are atheists, so that atheism is becoming more mainstream, more the default position.  However, those who question the norm are more likely to be - let's say more thoughtful types.  I think there would be some surprising consequences of atheism becoming mainstream but there you are.
Leonard James

I don't think any atheist would be so pig-headed as to remain so even if presented with incontrovertible evidence for God ... but I may be wrong. I certainly wouldn't.

However, since losing my faith in my late teens, I have never been shown any valid evidence for God, and until I am I see no reason for converting to belief.
Boss Cat

I haven't been given any incontrovertable evidence that there is no God, but I know many thoughtful people believe that there is no God.  That fact alone is enough to encourage me to think about it and to question my beliefs.  No one has proved me wrong but everyday I come across things - ideas, facts, experiences - that make me question my beliefs, even if these things aren't signed and stamped with 100% proof.

Don't you ever wonder if you haven't missed something, not quite understood, not known enough, got more to learn, been misled?
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:

Don't you ever wonder if you haven't missed something, not quite understood, not known enough, got more to learn, been misled?

Yes, of course ... we are all in that position, which is why we should always be open to new information.

However, at the end of the day we have to accept that what little knowledge we have is all we have to guide us. Weighing up that knowledge in respect to the existence of God is where we differ, and the reason for the difference is in our nature/nurture.
Boss Cat

You don't think experience or capacity or interest or a host of other things might not have something to do with how open minded we might be?

So what is it about atheists that they require cast iron  evidence before they reconsider their ideas or try to understand others'?  Can you  imagine the history of the world if everyone had required this level of evidence before they tried exploring ideas.  I suppose it wouldn't have been personally challenging - maybe it would have been better in some ways.  But I don't think many people could have stopped themselves, could they?
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:
You don't think experience or capacity or interest or a host of other things might not have something to do with how open minded we might be?

They are all included in nature/nurture.
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So what is it about atheists that they require cast iron  evidence before they reconsider their ideas or try to understand others'?

We are no different from believers in that respect. If somebody tried to convince you that you are believing in the wrong god, you would require cast iron evidence before accepting it, wouldn't you? 
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Can you  imagine the history of the world if everyone had required this level of evidence before they tried exploring ideas.

Ideas about the natural world can be tested for their validity, and if found correct can be used to improve things. Supernatural ideas remain untestable.  
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I suppose it wouldn't have been personally challenging - maybe it would have been better in some ways.  But I don't think many people could have stopped themselves, could they?

No, humans are by nature inquisitive and inventive, and I'm sure it is those qualities which have brought us to where we are today.
Grantus Maximus

Boss Cat wrote:
You don't think experience or capacity or interest or a host of other things might not have something to do with how open minded we might be?

So what is it about atheists that they require cast iron  evidence before they reconsider their ideas or try to understand others'?  Can you  imagine the history of the world if everyone had required this level of evidence before they tried exploring ideas.  I suppose it wouldn't have been personally challenging - maybe it would have been better in some ways.  But I don't think many people could have stopped themselves, could they?


Hi Boss Cat

It really depends what we're being asked to believe. If it's questions of ethics and philosophy, then evidence isn't really an issue unless we're examining how particular movements have affected society in out history.

For claims of the existence of a higher being, miraculous events, faith healing etc. then it's reasonable to ask for evidence, surely. Especially if such claims contradict what we think we know about our universe from the evidence we have to date.

Cheers - GM
Boss Cat

Yes I kind of agree about experience and capacity being part of nature and nurture; I disagree that that's it though, too deterministic a view of human nature and one which does not allow for personal responsibility in my view - but that's a different discussion, anyone want to start it.

I disagree though that only cast iron evidence is enough to provoke thought and discussion, though I think it is human nature to leap on those things that back up what you think anyway.  For example I did this myself the other day.  I am completely agnostic on the afterlife and even if there is one I think it nothing like anything we can imagine.  NDE's freak me out and do not accord with my own ideas so when there was some research suggesting some material explanations I was interested.  Now it was not - by the researchers conclusive and it did not really take into account some features of NDE's but I thought it good evidence that there is a materialistic explanation.  Shifted me a bit, but firmly in the direction I wanted to go.

And that's the thing.  There is no conclusive evidence that science will give us all the answers or do much other than give us more interesting questions (in fact as far as I can see if you go back far enough you kind of have to accept things just happened, it's more mysterious and fantastic than you can imagine which seems a bit of double think to me, but I'm ignorant about this).  But, here's the thing, there's enough evidence there that makes me at the very least take the view seriously, and to be interested.  As I say I am not an atheist but the fact that some thoughtful people are is enough for me not to think only conclusive proof will do.

The argument from numbers is not nearly as naff as people make out.  It's generally dismissed with a sneer, but to me the fact that so many cultures have and continue to have space for spirituality, the fact that so many people - thoughtful, intelligent people, continue to look elsewhere, to have needs that are not fulfilled by the material world is enough for me to take them seriously too, and to want to know more.  

OK, if you like if anyone wants me to believe in God I could demand conclusive proof and then feel superior because of these backward types that rely on faith and the unproven and aren't as - well, let's be honest - grown up - as I am.  But that's sterile to me and I am amazed that so many atheists think it something somehow impressive that they don't change their minds.  I think the only thing you can honestly be is an agnostic.  After admitting that it's a choice.
SusanDoris

One of the distinct advantages atheists have today is the ability to communicate world-wide and just about instantly if we want to. I have great sympathy for the atheists of the past who, I ampretty sure it is logical to assume, were around right from the voicing of the first superstitions. Then in the Enlightenment atheists had contact with quite a large group so were able to communicate their ideas, but it must have been frustrating to them that they could not reach a large number of people.
Grantus Maximus

Boss Cat wrote:


OK, if you like if anyone wants me to believe in God I could demand conclusive proof and then feel superior because of these backward types that rely on faith and the unproven and aren't as - well, let's be honest - grown up - as I am.  But that's sterile to me and I am amazed that so many atheists think it something somehow impressive that they don't change their minds.  I think the only thing you can honestly be is an agnostic.  After admitting that it's a choice.


Who told you that you can't be an atheist *and* agnostic? It's not often I come across atheists who state outright that there are no gods - simply that they are highly unlikely. Unlikely enough that it's reasonable to assume the atheist position of not believing in the premise.

Cheers - GM
Leonard James

Grantus Maximus wrote:
Boss Cat wrote:


OK, if you like if anyone wants me to believe in God I could demand conclusive proof and then feel superior because of these backward types that rely on faith and the unproven and aren't as - well, let's be honest - grown up - as I am.  But that's sterile to me and I am amazed that so many atheists think it something somehow impressive that they don't change their minds.  I think the only thing you can honestly be is an agnostic.  After admitting that it's a choice.


Who told you that you can't be an atheist *and* agnostic? It's not often I come across atheists who state outright that there are no gods - simply that they are highly unlikely. Unlikely enough that it's reasonable to assume the atheist position of not believing in the premise.

Cheers - GM

Absolutely! No intelligent person is going to claim that he knows there are no gods ... but with all the gods that mankind has dreamed up in his long history, it seems pretty obvious that they are merely human inventions. So disbelief in any of them is the most logical approach.
cyberman

Grantus Maximus wrote:
Boss Cat wrote:


OK, if you like if anyone wants me to believe in God I could demand conclusive proof and then feel superior because of these backward types that rely on faith and the unproven and aren't as - well, let's be honest - grown up - as I am.  But that's sterile to me and I am amazed that so many atheists think it something somehow impressive that they don't change their minds.  I think the only thing you can honestly be is an agnostic.  After admitting that it's a choice.


Who told you that you can't be an atheist *and* agnostic? It's not often I come across atheists who state outright that there are no gods - simply that they are highly unlikely. Unlikely enough that it's reasonable to assume the atheist position of not believing in the premise.

Cheers - GM


Yes - from a strict epistemological point of view we are all agnostics (well most of us anyway) on the grounds that you can't claim certain knowledge about these matters. So a theistic agnostic would say "Of course I don't know for certain, but I'm inclined to believe there is a God", and an atheistic agnostic would say "Of course I don't know for certain, but I'm inclined to believe there is no god"

When I was an atheist, I used to say "I'm an agnostic because I don't know and an atheist because I don't care".

.....


........

No, it never got a laugh then, either.
Grantus Maximus

[quote="cyberman:59691"]
Grantus Maximus wrote:

No, it never got a laugh then, either.


You do need to work on your delivery, I'll give you that...  
Boss Cat

No-one told me that you couldn't be an atheist and an agnostic - when I said the only thing you can honestly be is an agnostic I kind of meant everybody. I can't see where I posted 'unless you're and atheist of course' and that's because I didn't post that.  It's not what I think.

I was commenting on how some atheists seem to be proud of holding what seen to me to be rather rigid attitudes and questioning whether it is a strength to require hard proof before you consider any new or different ideas.  As for the burden of proof resting with theists because they have something positive to prove, I have said before on the old boards and I will say again on here; the burden of proof lies with the person trying to change the other person's views.   There are some quite positive views underpinning or stemming from some people's atheism you know.   I can be intrigued by these, be interested in them, even accept some without incontrovertable evidence.  Read my posts; just quibbling over the last line is a bit insulting.

I personally don't want to believe the same things in ten years time as I do now and I would think it a weakness if that is what happens, unless I'd been ill or something.
Leonard James

The only sensible thing that any of us can do is try to keep an open mind, and listen to the arguments presented for and against God existing: our ability to reason will then come up with an answer.

It is a curious thing that we can't control that ability to reason. If somebody tells us something and our reason decides it is believable/not believable, then there is nothing we can do to change that.

I am an agnostic atheist because my reason leads me to believe that it is more likely that gods don't exist than that they do, and there is nothing I can do to make myself believe the opposite. Believers, of course, are led to the opposite conclusion.

We humans are a curious bunch!
Boss Cat

Well, I'm not sure whether or not you think keeping an open mind is something we can do - if our ability to reason is so determined then surely our ability to keep an open mind is also limited?

But you are right, it is the best thing we can hope to do, try to be as flexible and questioning as we can.  Of course, we are always more open minded than others; that's why we are so much better at reasoning than everyone else!
Shaker

Boss Cat wrote:
I personally don't want to believe the same things in ten years time as I do now and I would think it a weakness if that is what happens, unless I'd been ill or something.


This seems to suggest that changing belief merely for its own sake, rather than because of new information or more considered reasoning, is a good thing and an end in itself.
Boss Cat

No.  I just observe that most of us will have new experiences, meet new people, learn more, understand more, maybe travel more, gain insights, gain wisdom over the years.   But some people. it's true, become rigid and inflexible and harden into their position as they get older, or they can't believe that there are any coherent ways of thinking other than their own.  Some people even call that strength.

Improvement is change, widening one's sympathies is change, learning is change.   Muhammed Ali said something along the lines that a man who thinks the same at 50 as he did at 30 is a man who has wasted 20 years of his life and I think he's right.

However, it might be that a lucky few kind of sussed absolutely everything very young and have nothing more to learn and everyone else is misguided.  But I don't believe that myself.
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:

However, it might be that a lucky few kind of sussed absolutely everything very young and have nothing more to learn and everyone else is misguided.  But I don't believe that myself.

Nor would anybody with an iota of intelligence. There will always be things to learn, no matter how erudite we are.

I see from the latest news that even Einstein was possibly wrong about the speed of light being non-exceedable.
Boss Cat

Well I'm not sure that Einstein is being proved wrong quite yet or that that's the kind of language to be used anyway.  Though of course old certainties are being questioned, always a good thing.

Can I ask, why, when you write about open minds and the possibility of being wrong do you think it odd that some atheists might be interested in questioning their existing attitudes and coming to different conclusions in your words - odd?
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:
Well I'm not sure that Einstein is being proved wrong quite yet or that that's the kind of language to be used anyway.  Though of course old certainties are being questioned, always a good thing.

Can I ask, why, when you write about open minds and the possibility of being wrong do you think it odd that some atheists might be interested in questioning their existing attitudes and coming to different conclusions in your words - odd?

Because as I have previously said, when we are presented with the evidence for God, our reason assesses it and comes to a conclusion ... we are convinced one way or the other. It is not a voluntary choice, because we can't then choose to believe the opposite, even though we might like to. So unless new evidence is presented to us, a change of mind seems odd to me.
Boss Cat

But you weren't talking about yourself, you were talking about others.  OK, you might think that on the evidence there is you, rational, objective have come to the super duper all singing and all dancing only correct conclusion.  But what is so odd that other atheists might see other things or have an entirely different approach or whatever?
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:
But you weren't talking about yourself, you were talking about others.

I am no different from anybody else when it comes to reasoning. Once your reason convinces you that something is true/false, you can't then change that  unless something new comes up to cause it.
Quote:
 OK, you might think that on the evidence there is you, rational, objective have come to the super duper all singing and all dancing only correct conclusion.

Just the same as everybody else. If you believe something it is because you think it is the correct conclusion, isn't it? I'm sure nobody believes something they don't think is true.
Quote:
 But what is so odd that other atheists might see other things or have an entirely different approach or whatever?

If they see other things then the 'things' must cause their reason to re-assess the situation ... and that can happen to any of us to change what we believe.
Boss Cat

Well we seem to agree on that one, there's nothing odd about anyone changing their mind really.  Can be a sign of strength.

I don't necessarily agree that we all think we are right - I know that even if I were more right than anyone else (ie, had understood more than anyone else ever, but I'm not incidentally) I'd still be more wrong than right.  There'd still be more to learn, I could still make moral advances.  But that's another debate.
SceptiKarl

Since when has changing your mind based upon empirical evidence been a part of religious thought? I would suggest never!.

Science, on the other hand, can only progress if wrong ideas are discarded and better ones put in place. (e.g. Newton by Einstein).  The willingness to change in the face of observable evidence is the great strength of science.

In the meantime I just don't believe that Jesus walked on water. I suspect most Christians don't either.

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