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Who Defines Atheist as What and Why?

March 7, 2010

What is an atheist?

Seems like a simple question. I think it has a simple answer: someone who does not believe in gods or someone who does not believe gods exist. I’d say there are a few things that can be quibbled over…should god be singular or plural, capitalized or not (if you capitalize it and make it singular, it sounds like you’re referring to the Judeo-Christian God only)? Should we say deities? Higher powers? OK, fine, fine. Those all are covered.

But what I do think should be particularly noted is the “not believe” part. This, I think, is all that is necessary for atheism.

I have heard many criticisms that I have it all wrong. Atheists aren’t merely people who do not believe, but they are people who believe there are no gods. Or, as someone posted on Holly’s blog, someone who has faith (this person exposed their feelings about faith in the process…) that there are no gods. So, that negation (the not/no) moves places in the sentence.

Does it matter?

Well, here I’ve found even more discussion. Some people think, “I do not believe gods exist” means exactly the same thing as “I believe gods do not exist.” (I, for one, do not. I believe the placement of the modifier is important — “I nearly failed all my classes says something obviously different” from “I failed nearly all my classes.” Other times, our sense of modifier placement fails, [most people don’t sense the difference between “I ate only meat” and “I only ate meat,” but it persists].)

But even when people recognize the difference in phrases, they have other criticisms.

Some people argue that atheists are people who believe there are no gods. People who do not believe in gods are “agnostic.” Some self-proclaimed “agnostics” say, “I neither believe nor disbelieve in gods…so I’m not an atheist.” (You can see analyses of this here or here.)

(This doesn’t make sense to me either, by the way. It seems to assume that disbelieve means “to believe there’s not” or “to believe the opposite.” I think disbelieve means “not to believe” or “to lack belief.” So, one cannot “neither believe nor disbelieve” because belief and nonbelief are the only two options.)

In response, I know that I (and many other people) have tried to argue for a solid, standard definition. There are arguments and counterarguments. Someone always tries to bring up the dictionary. The other person will point out selectivity. Then someone will argue how the definitions can be reconciled. (For example, with the two most common definitions for atheist, which are, with some variation, “The belief that there are no gods” and “the disbelief in the existence of gods”…I usually say that the latter definition is necessary and sufficient. If someone believes in the nonexistence of gods, they always will disbelieve in the existence. If someone disbelieves in both the existence and nonexistence, they have still met the criteria of disbelief in the existence, which is the minimal.)

At some point, etymology will be invoked. Then people will point out that language is not prescriptive. Instead, it flows with how people use it. And, so, someone will argue that atheism is most often used to mean someone who positively believes there are no gods. And that closes the discussion.

I have still been thinking, though…OK, so how do people use the term atheist? Well, here’s the next problem. It seems to me that different groups define and use the term differently.

I would like to see any surveys completed (here is one from About.com on atheism, but it doesn’t go as in detail as I’d like)…or maybe conduct one or two of my own…regarding the definitions people use for atheism and who uses that definition.

I would imagine that for self-proclaimed atheists, the overwhelming majority would report atheism is a lack of belief, a nonbelief, a disbelief. I’d suppose that self-proclaimed “agnostics” (who fashion themselves a “third option” from theism and atheism) would argue that atheism is a belief in nonexistence, while agnosticism is the mere lack of belief.) I’d suppose that many theists would take the same position with the agnostics.

I’d also want to see what phrases mean similar or different things to people. For example, do people think “I don’t believe in god” means the same thing as “I don’t believe gods exist”? (From the “don’t believe” aspect, I’d say yes. But does “in god/in gods” mean something comparable to “god/s exist/s”?) What kind of people are likelier to believe “I don’t believe in gods/I don’t believe gods exist?” (sorry, I do think these phrases are equivalent, so I do lump them together) means the same thing as “I believe gods do not exist”? What do people believe “disbelieve” means? Does it mean “believe there’s not,” or does it mean “lack belief”?

I think that each party also has some motives in determining their definitions, whether they are related to culture, dialect, or otherwise. For example, the common theist argument that atheists also have faith requires the “belief in nonexistence” definition. Agnostics who want to be seen as a reasonable “middle option” also benefit from making atheism into an extreme along with theism.

In both of these cases, attempts to shake the status quo are naturally met with opposition. I have had commenters on this blog say I’m pulling a rhetorical sleight of hand by “expanding” atheism into agnostic territory.

In the end, things might end up grim. Even if we concede language is descriptive, if it turns out that theists overwhelmingly believe that atheists believe gods do not exist, but atheists overwhelmingly believe that they simply do not believe that gods exist, then on aggregate, how can the minority atheists “win” in a predominantly theist nation or community? I guess the alternate question would be: how have minority groups “taken control of” terms in the past, and are atheists capable of doing it with atheism?

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36 Comments
  1. christianclarityreview permalink

    God is the only one who defines everything. He alone know the internal workings, the things you are trying to get at and has said the full truth.

    You are asking an atheist what is going on in their mind and it always seems a slippery eel to get a standard answer because they have no control over what they say: they do not have the free will they say they do. The lack of a standard answer points to the simple fact they are lying to themselves: they can’t stop believing in God ( God said that ) and the spirits in them simply say through them whatever philosophy of the moment they have encountered that seems to protect them from understanding what they know to be the truth and call that “what they believe.”

    They are deceived they have free will first and foremost. That means they see language as a tool that they supposedly control, you are being deceived by their supposed control to reflect what they honestly understand in their mind to you. These are the same people who have no free will and yet can’t stop ( proudly and vainly ) saying they do. Because they say one thing and reality is another, and they do it all the time, and they may do it in patterns and as their best honesty of the moment, forgetting they had lied to themselves, not knowing they need to be born again to know the truth, that by no means indicates what they said is their actual inward truth. They are deceived; the best honesty of the deceived is a lie in every way.

    God has plainly declared what all truth is: He proves the atheist a liar.

    If a guy or group says they want to kill another person or group and that they have dedicated their life to that specific task, that in no way means they can actually do it. They do not have free will. You are forbidden by God to fear them or their words for that reason: they are not God.

    But you want to play a spiritual/mental game with atheists as if they do and are in control of what they say?

    2 Thess 2:11,12 And for this reason God sends to them a working of error, that they should believe what is false, that all might be judged who have not believed the truth, but have found pleasure in unrighteousness.

    timothy

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  2. Oh boy, another comment from christianclarityreview!

    So, you say that atheists don’t have the free will they say they do…does that mean you’re a calvinist? If they do not have free will, then how can they lie to themselves? If that is the case, the GOD is lying through them. God is making them unable to see him. If they have no free will (as you continue to assert), then God is a tyrant. If you are a Calvinist though, then that’s really how things are.

    Sounds kinda bad. If you want to worship that, then go ahead. Of course, by your own reasoning, there is no free will.

  3. Ian Read permalink

    “These are the same people who have no free will and yet can’t stop ( proudly and vainly ) saying they do.”

    How or why does God allow those he has deined free will the free will to espouse they have free will?

  4. christianclarityreview permalink

    They are deceived by the speech they have that lives in them.

    When you are deceived you have free will, you are then already necessarily deceived about the rest of reality: everything has already been presented to you as if everything were will-neutral and unable to interfere with your idealized free will in order to make it at least logically possible that free will exists.

    The speech that was given to you by your parents was non-creating speech. Among its other qualities, it has the major quality that it can create nothing: it is the same speech as animals. You don’t see cows running from birds on the premise that when the bird sings, it will turn the cow into something else. You don’t see human beings fleeing each other because they are afraid of the power/mojo/magic of the other person’s speech to turn them into something else.

    What you do see is the effect of the total sound environment on any particular human being or animal. Crowd dynamics, music, products presented in stereotypical advertising format, etc, are all indicators of the effect of sound on what is already there. It isn’t creating something new,; but it is effecting what is there.

    Those deceived they have free will have been isolated in arguments that have stereotypically presented to give the impression that they actually have free will because all other “unrelated things” around them have been subtly defined to appear will-neutral and when those definitions are questioned, the speech in them responds with “that can’t be true. Or we wouldn’t have free will.” Atheist are just a tiny minority in that overall population of deceived persons. But they share the same attributes of that deception.

    One of the things falsely defined to be will-neutral is speech itself. A free willer is deceived only one speech exists in total reality: non-creating speech. They are deceived there are lots of languages in the world, but they all share the quality of being will-neutral and non-creating. I.E. They deny the existence of Creating Speech/ Jesus Christ / God because the mere existence of Creating Speech in the mix does away with free will. You can’t have free will in the presence of a speech that turns you into a different creature –that does away with the will of ‘you’ as you were, and re-creates in you a new will in the new you.

    The non-creating speech is a living creature that is anti-Christ. Of course, when you are deceived you have free will, you do not want to hear the idealized tools that you supposedly get to use in ‘free’ will have a will of their own and plans of their own.

    In order to ask: how could they deceive themselves and not have free will –as if the ‘themselves’ part of that question is its own proof of their free will, you have to first define their speech ( and everything their environment ) as will-neutral. Yet look at how smoothly that argument came to you as a supposed common sense. It probably didn’t take very long. I.E. The idealized will-neutral ‘argument’ / ‘tool’ in favor of free will is a living creature that is well used to defending itself with more of itself and as the supposed only common sense –in you and in a lot of other people.

    God is not lying through them because He is a different speech than non-creating speech. He is Jesus Christ / Logos / Creating Speech: the speech by which all that was created is and will be created. He created non-creating speech and gives it to whom He will.

    In the lie of free will you have one-speechism as a logical foundation to speak more non-creating speech about ..speech patterns and total reality. A lot of compounded deceit is necessary to sustain the whole ‘argument’.

    In Christ, we know that there are two speaks in total reality and the difference between them is absolute. In Christ, we understand:

    John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

    1. there is God as Word
    2. He is the Word by which all was made
    3. There is also a lack of understanding of God as Word in which God and the common sense of Creating Speech is not understand ( and the darkness comprehended it not..)

    The Fall of Man was the entrance of non-creating speech into Man through the woman through the serpent. It was so total, the very majority you would possibly point to as proof “more people believe they have free will than know they don’t ” is evidence of the completeness of the Fall and the ascendancy of non-creating speech as the mind of men.

    God Says as a creating act that all those who understand Him must be born again; they must hear Him as Word. Yet everything God Says, the free willer ( which includes the atheist ) has an alternative explanation and supposedly in the same speech. Those that deny the distinction between God and non-creating speech equate the speech of God with the speech of demons and Satan– as well as their own. And very many will do that and pretend they are pious Christians.

    God sent those who are deceived that deception of free will and the speech that is required to be deceived it is truth for His Own purposes. God also created Satan. God created all things.

    That God knows, created and controls things not in His Own character ( moral evil, death, the speech that lies, etc..) proves absolute power and unrestrained use of it. If God were constrained to create, know and control only what was of His Own character, then you would have a pantheon of gods or at the least dualism. But there is only one One God and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    God as He actually is has no logic problem or any problem. Man has a evil problem. Within man’s speech and the logic of a idealized total non-creating existence, all kinds of plain things can be mysteryized to allow allow a little wiggle room for the concept of free will. But the truth is that God controls all that actually is AND the deceptions about reality AND who has what: the deception, or Him as Truth, Way and Life.

    This is standard Christianity. You perhaps have run into liars who tell you that defending the existence of free will is orthodox Christianity, but it is not and never has been.

    2Thess 2:7-12 For the mystery of lawlessness already works; only there is he who restrains now until he be gone, – and then the lawless one shall be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and shall annul by the appearing of his coming; whose coming is according to the working of Satan in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and in all deceit of unrighteousness to them that perish, because they have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this reason God sends to them a working of error, that they should believe what is false, that all might be judged who have not believed the truth, but have found pleasure in unrighteousness.

    timothy

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  5. Sounds prett incoherent and unclear, CCR. It seems that your very talk of deception is mired in the lie of free will. If what you say is true, your argument defeats itself. There is no moral responsibility, no moral agency, no moral wrong or right, no deception or truthtelling, etc., and the puppetmaster who controls everything is wholly responsible, tyrannical (if such has any more meaning, and evil.)

    How do you respond to atheists who already say that determinism eliminates free will?

  6. Wow – this post makes me wish I’d been following your blog up to this point. I will have to go back and read what I have missed. I hope my comment isn’t redundant.

    As for definitions? I read the quote by Toni Morrison yesterday “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

    I don’t think that there will ever be a clear definition of atheist (any more than there is a clear definition of God or gods). Each person defines and interprets those words individually. Language is limited and inadequate when defining beliefs and even feeling (like love). Definitions are elusive. I have come to a point that I don’t care about a label.

    I don’t believe in God, gods, supreme omnipotent beings; I don’t worship anything/one, etc. That makes me an atheist by most definitions. But to me, it doesn’t matter.

    I have discovered that defining myself as atheist is problematic in the sense that the definition is relative and dependent on a definition of theism (God, gods, whatever). The title is bound to something that the person who claims it doesn’t believe exists. It defines by negative relation to another word.

    I used to identify with theological noncognitivism or ignosticism (that I cannot even say whether I am a theist or an atheist until a better definition of theism is put forth – Wikipedia).

    It’s an interesting discussion, but so much of it hinges on semantics, which I am not sure is productive to anyone.

  7. Ian Read permalink

    I’m sorry CCR but, as Andrew has so succinctly put it, that seems very unclear and muddled to me. It sounds more as if you are attempting to convince me through semi mystical language than logical argument. I remain unconvinced.

    Further to your post.

    How have I been deceived?
    I don’t feel deceived so how can I tell I have been deceived?
    How is it you are so sure you have not been deceived?
    Given I cannot determine that I have been deceived; by what measure do you determine you have a monopoly on the truth?

    Further to your argument that the majority believing something does not make it correct. I agree. You may indeed hold the only correct opinion on this subject on the face of the Earth, but just because it’s possible you’re right doesn’t make it probable.

    Overall I consider myself an atheist insofar as I don’t believe there is any credible evidence for the existence of God, gods or the supernatural. Others may define me as an agnostic as I concede there is the possibility that such things exist without evidence. Again possible, but is it likely. What others define me as concerns me not at all. I am happy to define myself. Sarah is right that this then becomes an argument in semantics. I think we all have better things to do than descend into that.

  8. Sarah,

    Thanks for the compliment. But I think I’m pretty hit or miss with blog content here, I suppose. :3.

    More and more, I am realizing the elusive nature of definitions. I used to be hardcore about semantics (and probably still am), but now, I’m trying to de-emphasize the labels and instead focus on the characteristics, however they are expressed.

    I have never quite gotten ignosticism. Not because I don’t see what would be alluring about it, but because I don’t particularly see that we need a particular version of theism or god/deity for it. We don’t need to know the *specifics* about god or deity to understand some common connotations about it (and recognize when people are trying to define the term in a nonstandard way. E.g., “God is love. If you believe in love, you believe in God.” Wait a minute…that’s not quite right. most people won’t believe you for a second if you say, “Hey, I’m a theist. I believe in love.”)

    I guess atheism is still bound to another term…it is therefore relative, as you say. But I don’t see this as a problem, because so many people use a recognizable “range” of ideas that they associate with the term, and I can say I don’t identify with that “range.”

    Ian Read:

    CCR is a curious commenter. I don’t know if he quite grasps the nature (and implications) of his arguments. For example, for people to be deceived, there would have to be a deceiver. With CCR creating only one kind of being who has “creating speech” (or whatever it is), there is only one being who can be the deceiver.

    It’s not all that flattering to the very concept of a god, in either case.

  9. Ian Read permalink

    Dear Andrew,

    My apologies if I have inadvertently tarred you with a brush I meant for myself. It was not my intent. I am happy to call myself an atheist; others may define themselves as they will.

    I agree that CCR is a “curious” commentator. We should, of course, have a definition as to what is ‘curious’ means but I feel quietly confident that CCR will fit neatly into any reasonable definition we care to agree on.

    His argument seems poorly thought through to my eyes. If God exists and we have no free will then whence comes the deception? It can only be God. Some may argue that Satan is the Great Deceiver but if God is all powerful, omniscient etc why would he allow this fallen angel to lead humanity astray? Even more germane to this thread why would God allow Satan the free will to do so? Surely it is a more parsimonious explanation to suggest that neither exist and that we have free will because we have no choice in the matter. The suggestion that we have free will because God decreed it so seems to defeat the premise it attempts to prove i.e. how can it be free will if it is imposed upon us?

    I will now go look up ignosticism as I have no idea what it is.

    Yours

    Ian Read

  10. christianclarityreview permalink

    “Moral responsibility” is simply code for pride and is in the lexicon of deceived persons exactly the same way “random” is the cover code of “we can’t control it.” The “moral responsibility” is simply a lie that is built on the lie of free will as way of controlling behavior via the creature that is that non-creating speech: the more it speaks itself in various formats and definitions, the more it controls the behavior of its victims. When they hear his voice over God’s Word, they are doomed.

    What we are required to perform only God can do through us because He alone knows His will for us in addition to the truth that He gave His own blood for our sins. The whole “moral responsibility” lie is also a denial of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf on the cross. The way that lie works is basically : “God gave us holy, will-neutral information and it is up to us to implement what He Said.” No distinction between non-creating speech ( Satan’s speech / human speech ) and God as Word/ Christ is ever made simply to keep saying “I’ve got free will! I’ve got free will!”

    ———-

    “How do you respond to atheists who already say that determinism eliminates free will?”

    Perhaps your question is intended to imply: “How do you respond to atheist who hold to your same view of total lack of free will”..?

    There are none that do. Determinism founded on the supposed universal character of non-creating speech is fatalism. The atheist worships non-creating speech and yet tries to borrow truth from Christianity. Marx tried that: he had a scenario in which everyone had free will BUT because of no new creation ( i.e. an idealized situation/environment in which no new creation ever goes on ..as a denial that God is Creating Speech/ Jesus Christ) — resources in the environment in which those free willed beings were forced to live were limited. Since no new resources were ever going to come to the rescue of those living within it, they had to fight each other to get their share. In that fight, certain rules arose / coalesced as repeated patterns of behavior ( because human beings need the same resources of warmth and shelter and water always has the qualities of water, food is always going to be food, the earth stays the earth, etc..) that became an unseen hand of determinism forced by environment coupled with limited resources and physical human needs. I.E. What the atheitst tried to say was that “Okay, we’ve got free will. BUT, there is also determinism.”

    They wanted it both ways –as a denial of Jesus Christ.

    The new atheistic denial of God is an affirmation of total lack of free will that is just as dog eat dog and just as fatalistic. In that scenario, you are born with whatever flesh you have and your genes determine your fate. No new creation. No new resources. So what they calling ‘determinism’ to seem to have common ground with Christ is simply the same lie of denying Christ. They seek a false affiliation with Christ to cover over their own fatalism and give their lies a shine of respectability. But in denying new creation by denying the Word of God is Creating Speech / Jesus Christ, they deny that anything can change: everything is fatalistically static. That manufactures racism as flesh-centrism ( when you deny the new birth in Jesus Christ you are stuck with what you are in the flesh. Skin color, deformity, handicapped, the sick, etc.. become immediate targets of such “determinist”.

    The caste system of the Hindus, that is exactly that of Islam ( despite its denial of it ) is exactly such a system. You are supposedly born into a spiritual caste that is made evident by your flesh and occupation of your parents and you cannot escape it except by the lie of being reincarnated many times until you are “perfected”. I.E. Political fatalism is set forth as religious dogma –all in the name of a false determinism.

    Don’t pretend there is only one ‘determinism’ going on here. Christian election and predestination is based on the reality of new creation: God is always His Word and will always create enough of what He knows we need and on time for us. New resources are coming in all the time. No fatalism: God creates us and literally grows total reality and thus changes things ..but in accordance to His predetermined path. A tree starts small and grows. Reality is getting bigger but is made to be what God wants it to grow into..

    Such systems of false determinism as the atheist’s are not Christian at all and in the end all deny God no matter their attempt to appear pious. Once you go the way of denying Jesus Christ as Word of God, you signed up for all that. And only God decided who he will grace by revealing Himself to them.

    One of the signs of disfavor from God is not being able to hear God as Word and know Him from non-creating speech. What the atheist is saying is his best honesty –but is not reality. It is a lie. He /she cannot hear God.

    Note what God Says to the religious conservatives of his days on earth that could not hear Him, that were, at least publicaly, the ‘most moral’ and the ultimate proponents of ‘moral responsibility’ from a fleshly standpoint. He doesn’t call them “good people with bad theology.” He calls them sons of Satan:

    John 8:43-47 Why do ye not know my speech? Because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of the devil, as your father, and ye desire to do the lusts of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks falsehood, he speaks of what is his own; for he is a liar and its father: and because I speak the truth, ye do not believe me. Which of you convinces me of sin? If I speak truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God hears the words of God: therefore ye hear them not, because ye are not of God.

    timothy

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  11. re Ian Read:

    The more I read from CCR, it seems that he ACTIVELY believes that God is the deceiver.

    In fact, it seems that there is nothing that can get through. Moral responsibility? It is part of the deception. (But if humans are not morally responsible, this makes CCR’s God, who is condemning people for things they did not choose to do, a much more malicious kind of being.)

    CCR:

    How can we be required to perform anything when there is no “we” to speak of. Are puppets required to do anything by their puppeteers? If the puppets are, then can they be blamed if the puppeteer makes them (because the puppeteers are in control) do something else?

    You keep repeating this line about creating vs. noncreating speech, and the lie of free will. Yeah, yeah, OK. But if what you say is true, then atheists shouldn’t worry about anything. Because they don’t have free will. “They” don’t exist, because “they” (their consciousness, their perception of being an entity with will) is a deception that was placed in them by creating speech (in other words, the only thing that could have done this to them was GOD. And so God did that). They shouldn’t worry or try to do anything else, because they can’t. They don’t have free will; God made them that way. God made them deceived because that is his will. God is the author of the confusion and their deception, because he is the only one who CAN write such deception (no one else has the creating speech…so they can’t possibly do it!)

    You didn’t address my question. You addressed compatibilism. But what I am saying is that there are many people who believe that there is no free will at all, because determinism squashes it out. They argue that people perceive free will because their atoms, molecules, chemistry has arisen to do so. These atoms, molecules, chemistry, etc., have moved in determined ways since the beginning of time (which I guess you would say is God?). You can’t break out of it, because it is determinism.

    The argument is. “OK, so we don’t have free will at all. We have the ILLUSION of free will. But everything is actually fixed and determined.”

    What do you say to these people? Have you never encountered someone like this?

    You say that such static quality creates racism. I disagree. Someone who is determinist would also say, “My beliefs about race/sex/whatever are meaningless and worthless. I was PREDETERMINED to have them. I did NOT choose them. Therefore, I cannot and should not care about them.”

    But they couldn’t choose to care about them at all! Because it is already *predetermined* and *fixed*.

    This is the same with your god. Except your god MAKES people into racists and sexists and homophobes with his creating speech. He is a great puppeteer who enjoys playing with his puppets and causing them anguish and pain. He is like the little kid who devises cruel and unusual situations for his actual figures.

    Basically, how do you address this.

    There are some people who are not elect. They are not saved. They will never be saved. They cannot choose to be saved. At the end, God knows they will not be saved.

    THEN WHY DID GOD CREATE THESE PEOPLE, JUST TO SEND THEM TO HELL?

    What kind of evil god does that?

    And why would God TEASE people with the idea that they could freely choose their fate? When really, there is no such thing? Why would God be the author of lies? Since if someone THINKS they have free will, they did NOT choose this (because they CAN’T). Only the person with creating speech (God) can, and so he has chosen to deceive everyone by making them think they have free will.

    How can anyone deny God or the Word or Christ? They do not choose this, because they have no free will. God makes people do this! And then he punishes them for it?!?!

    This is what you say:

    One of the signs of disfavor from God is not being able to hear God as Word and know Him from non-creating speech. What the atheist is saying is his best honesty –but is not reality. It is a lie. He /she cannot hear God.

    In other words, you AGREE that people who do not perceive God do not do so on their free will (because they do NOT have free will). People who do not perceive God do so because God is disfavored with them. So, it is not their fault. It’s God’s fault. God could easily reveal himself to everyone. But he doesn’t and he won’t! But he will punish those who don’t believe in him.

    It’s God’s fault! It’s the creating-speaker’s fault!

    You don’t CHOOSE to worship God or believe in him. It’s GOD’S fault. It’s the creating-speaker’s fault. Why do you try to preach and proselytize when you are powerless to do anything? When you are an insect, a puppet controlled? Oh, that actually answers the question — you act because you are a puppet controlled.

    John 8:43-47 Why do ye not know my speech? Because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of the devil, as your father, and ye desire to do the lusts of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks falsehood, he speaks of what is his own; for he is a liar and its father: and because I speak the truth, ye do not believe me. Which of you convinces me of sin? If I speak truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God hears the words of God: therefore ye hear them not, because ye are not of God.

    “Ye are of the devil.” How is this? It is because GOD MADE IT THIS WAY. “Ye desire to do the lusts of your father.” Why is this? It is because GOD MADE IT THIS WAY. “Ye do not believe me?” Why not? BECAUSE GOD MADE IT THIS WAY. “Ye hear them not, because ye are not of God?” Why is this? Because God made it like this.

    See, it’s all God’s fault, because he is the only one who has responsibility and creating speech.

    So, ultimately, I don’t get your point. Other than to paint God as the most disgusting and controlling tyrant who we can’t choose to do anything with (because he controls us), I don’t get it.

  12. christianclarityreview permalink

    “How have I been deceived?
    I don’t feel deceived so how can I tell I have been deceived?
    How is it you are so sure you have not been deceived?
    Given I cannot determine that I have been deceived; by what measure do you determine you have a monopoly on the truth?

    Further to your argument that the majority believing something does not make it correct. I agree. You may indeed hold the only correct opinion on this subject on the face of the Earth, but just because it’s possible you’re right doesn’t make it probable.”

    ——————–

    God does do odds. No gambling.

    You cannot know if you are deceived unless God tells you. No one can. God has told me I am not deceived. That God talks to me and has not, so far as you know, talked to you is not your fault –or mine.

    So the question becomes, how can we know God’s voice out of all the others?

    For one: non-God voices always speak in the logic of a total lack of new creation: you are assumed to always stay you ..no new creation of being –for you –in those voices. If all you have ever heard is a non-creating speech, then the logic of the idealized absence of non-creating speech is your outlook on reality and you will assume you will remain the same creature you are eternally. You will actually think non-creating speech is the only speech in total reality.

    God made sure you would think that: if you look at those who are even physical enemies and you know might kill you if they had they chance, they are going through the same experience of speech and being as you are. Their inadvertent honesty/behavior and reaction to environment that you observe exactly matches you own: someone whom you would never trust on other matters is proving to you that you are ‘right’.

    I.E. within that one non-creating speech an entire false system of right and wrong, good and evil , deceit and truth is going on. You need deliverance from the whole thing, not just one argument.

    You assume God exists to answer all your questions in the speech you were born into. In fact, what God does as part of what is called salvation is deliver you from an entire speech that is not Him. He doesn’t just get you out of one set of deceptions and let you slide into another in that same speech. That is the only real answer.

    In no way does your deliverance depend on me and under no circumstances am I the only one who knows God as truth. I am not here to get you to ‘agree’ with me. Just hear and live on. That is all. The popular conception of ‘conversion’ to Christ via act of will is a lie. So do not think you must say Yes to Jesus or something like that..

    God is not for sale in any speech, so He needs no flattering speech to sell Him. A defense of a false god to make him always look nice is a just more lies about God as He actually Is.

    Matthew 6:5,6 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets so that they should appear to men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But *thou*, when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who sees in secret will render it to thee.

    timothy

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  13. blukat permalink

    Define atheism? Search the google archives of alt.atheism, circa 1990’s 🙂 The FAQ on positiveatheism.org is a pretty good primer on the subject for readers new to the idea.

    I do think that “atheist” is more descriptive than prescriptive. The idea, and word, is in response to somebody inventing “theism”. Without them funny godbelievers, atheists would not need to define themselves as being without. 😉

  14. blukat, thanks for the links. I’ve seen some of those pages before. It seems to me that, like positiveatheism.org’s FAQ, many atheists take to the weak definition.

    i agree with you that the word and idea is really a reaction to living in a primarily theistic society.

  15. I consider myself an atheist. The distinction between positively believing God/gods don’t exist versus the ABSENCE of a belief that God(s) exist is important and clear enough. However, I would say my own position is the former – I positively affirm the statement “there is no God or gods.”

    When I say this is my belief, I’m saying, “This is the state of affairs I think is most likely: no God(s).” I’m not saying I KNOW this is the case, because obviously I can’t know, since I can’t search every corner of the universe for God. I am okay with merely believing there is no God, but not knowing for sure. I am okay with people saying that this belief is essentially a type of faith. It IS a type of faith for me – I have faith in my own judgment and my decision about how to respond to the evidence existence presents me with. My judgment is: no God; my response to the evidence is: doesn’t look like God to me.

    Should my position be the position of anyone who calls herself an atheist? I do think my position takes a bit more balls than the position “I do not have a positive belief that God(s) exist.” The latter sounds a bit more wishy-washy to me. Why call yourself an atheist if you’re not going to go whole hog?

  16. Thanks for the comment, Therese.

    You hit on another important point. Many people think that when people express their belief, they are expressing certain knowledge. I’ve heard many people say things like, “Atheists believe god could not possibly exist. They will never change their position no matter how much they see.”

    I don’t know where this comes from. As you pointed out, there would be no way to know for sure unless you did know everything in every corner of the universe (and then, you probably would be God, or very godlike. :D) It’s just that, for all the data so far, it doesn’t look very likely.

    It’s interesting that you are ok with people saying this belief is a type of faith though…faith in your own judgment and how to respond to the evidence existence presents you with. Although I still don’t think this is quite the same thing as what many believers mean when they talk about faith.

    I guess, to address your final question, I think the “whole hog” is not believing God exists. I don’t think the question ever was, “Do you believe God(s) do(es) not exist(s)?” (where a yes answer is atheist.) I think the question is, “Do you believe God(s) exist(s)?” And if you answer no…I do not believe…then that *is* atheism.

    I don’t think lacking a belief has faith to it. I don’t think being unconvinced, unpersuaded, uncompelled has faith to it. I think that taking the stronger position, “I believe that God does not exist” relies on certain arguments (basically, a kind of “absence of evidence = evidence of absence”) which I do not think are justified (absence of evidence doesn’t equal evidence of absence after all…but it sure doesn’t give me a compelling reason to believe), but “weak” atheists do not rely on these certain arguments. (To be clear, I don’t think all strong atheists rely on an absence of evidence = evidence of absence kind of reasoning, but that is just one kind of reasoning that doesn’t convince me.)

    How should I say it. My response to the evidence as well is: “doesn’t look like God to me.” But just because it doesn’t look like God doesn’t compel me to judge that there is no God. However, it certainly doesn’t compel me to judge that there is one (or many), and in a theistic society, my lack of that belief makes me stand out. That’s what I think atheism is essentially about. If belief in god is ‘important’ (which many theists seem to believe it is), then lacking that belief — even if one doesn’t positively believe that gods don’t exist — is the whole hog, the full-fare train ticket to whatever bad place theists believe comes at the end of the line.

  17. I agree that lacking a belief does not require any type of faith.

    Re: The absence of evidence for God as evidence for the absence of God. I see the absence of evidence for God as one indication that there’s probably no God, but I don’t see it as compelling proof. (Maybe our problem is the definition of “evidence” – I understand “evidence” as things presented to a judge that may or may not be conclusive proof but have a bearing on the judgment and can influence it one way or the other.)

    It just sounds to me as though you really think there is no God, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to think (at least in my view!) So why confuse people? Why not just come out and say that?

  18. Therese,

    I see the absence of evidence for God as an indication that we lack evidence for God and that evidence, even if it did exist, might not be accessible to us now or in the future. I guess we probably are using different definitions for evidence. I don’t really know how to explain, but when I look at your understanding, I don’t see much I disagree with.

    I guess I’m not getting what you mean by “really think[ing] there is no God” (and the basis by which you think that is a “perfectly reasonable thing to think.”) In my mind, jumping from saying, “I see the absence of evidence for God as one indication that we lack evidence for God (but such absence of evidence gives me no reason to believe God exists, so I do not)” to “I see the absence of evidence of God as one indication that there’s probably no God” takes a few assumptions (like the one I was getting at…that absence of evidence = evidence of absence, or even *probable* evidence of absence that I don’t think are appropriate when discussing deities.

    How can I say it? Let me use an analogy of black swans. It used to be a time (and place) that people did not have evidence of black swans. So, I imagine that back then, there were a few kinds of people. 1) People who believed black swans existed despite lacking evidence. 2) People who did not believe black swans existed because of lack of evidence. and 3) People who positively believed black swans did not exist because of the lack of evidence.

    1 is least rational, IMO. So, even with the discovery of black swans (halfway across the world…) that validates 1’s belief, I wouldn’t say he was rational for believing that way with a *lack of evidence*. (I would think instead that 1 probably believed he had some evidence…although probably not evidence that most people would have considered to have a bearing.)

    2, I think, is most rational. No evidence gives no reason to believe. When the person with position 2 finds evidence of black swans, I wouldn’t say she ever was in the wrong. She was unconvinced…and then she became convinced.

    3, I think, is a common leap, but it has slightly different consequences from 2. Person 3 can still, upon seeing evidence of black swans, change his position, but his former belief will have been wrong in the process. He may not have been *certain* in his position that there are no black swans, but regardless, his belief was incorrect. His logical argument, “Absence of evidence of black swans probably means evidence for the absence of black swans” was unsound.

    Of course, there are some distinctions. The “available area” for black swans was the entire world. If it were only Europe or Britain, people who believed that black swans don’t exist would be correct. The “available area” for gods is…the universe.

    And what kind of evidence would we expect? With swans, unfortunately, swans don’t get around. So we wouldn’t expect much evidence outside of the areas they inhabit. I can see arguments that suggest that we would expect FAR MORE evidence of God than we currently find (and so it is reasonable to say that absence of evidence probably is evidence of absence), but then again, if there is a hermit, deist, noninterventionist god, then that argument kinda goes out the window.

    I don’t think I’m really confusing people though. When I say, “I don’t believe,” people know what I mean. If they don’t, there are deeper problems in communication than what I’m saying

  19. christianclarityreview permalink

    “You didn’t address my question. You addressed compatibilism. But what I am saying is that there are many people who believe that there is no free will at all, because determinism squashes it out. They argue that people perceive free will because their atoms, molecules, chemistry has arisen to do so. These atoms, molecules, chemistry, etc., have moved in determined ways since the beginning of time (which I guess you would say is God?). You can’t break out of it, because it is determinism.”

    In fact I did address your question: agreed– some atheist deny free will completely –after having failed trying to mix determinism and free will. But they deny free will exactly as you have stated AND as I have stated. I think you are trying to equate what they are deceived is truth with what you may call ‘my version of God’. They deny new creation. They deny God as Word. So they are locked into fatalism of “atoms, chemistry, molecules, etc” ( and political fatalism, and genetic fatalism ..which produces a caste system..) They are in no way even similar to Christians becuase of their denial of Jesus Christ. Granted, on a certain level, to maintain your present logic, you have to keep pretending they are the same as Christians because you deny God as well and that means you may think I am throwing a false argument into the mix simply to differentiate what is the same. But that is not what is actually taking place.

    As for the puppeteer argument; we are not robots. Calvinist get hit with that same argument a LOT. But consider: it is the free willers who always are the fatalists expressly because they fail to be robots and cannot follow their own ideal models of behavior perfectly. Their whole religions are founded and cannot survive without a guilt scheme that depends on their failure to perform the legalism. If they were ever successful at it, they wouldn’t need the false religion. And you can say “I’m not in a religion” –but you still try to perform an ideal model of behavior and fail. You attempt to be in your own heart and mind “a good person” given the environmental factors in which you are forced to live that includes two speaks in total reality, Satan and God.

    The fact is, no one can be a robot. That is just how reality is: the way God made it. In Christ, God lives in us and does through us what He pleases. The point is to please Him, not ourselves. There is no ideal model of behavior. God performs His Own Word through us as grace.

    Philp 2:13 for it is God who works in you both the willing and the working according to his good pleasure.

    He does the same for the wicked, though sending Satan to do that wrath ( God makes Himself angry with part of what he created to demonstrate His power and wrath to those He loves. He does that to make Himself and His power known and understood:

    Proverbs 16:4 Jehovah hath wrought everything on his own account, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

    So: exactly as you have said in other words:

    Romans 9:18,19 So then, to whom he will he shews mercy, and whom he will he hardens. Thou wilt say to me then, Why does he yet find fault? for who resists his purpose?

    But you cannot place God into a box as if:

    1. he were a fallen human being
    2. he had the attributes of a fallen human being –as if he were the same thing you are and had those limitations of mind and mortality, etc..
    3. you could place Him inside a ethical box and accuse Him whenever he did something you didn’t like or understand for the entertainment of yourself
    4. You are going to take Him before a higher authority and “get justice”

    ——-

    There is no moral responsibility in the manner that free willers claim. They only claim it to make their own lies look like truth.

    We are called by God as Word ( not as human speech ), we are born again by hearing Him Speak, have a new will and a new heart in our new being, He stays in us forever while not making us God and performs through us what He wants.

    He sends Satan to do His bidding ( while Satan is deceived he has free will ) ..and reveals the whole thing to you.

    A Christian is classically someone who sees all that for what it is and fears God. We have a command to fear God and are specifically told that the fear of God is the beginning, the foundation ( not the apex, love is the apex) of wisdom. God doesn’t say “love me first then fear me.” He says “fear me first and then love me.”

    Psalm 111:9,10 He sent deliverance unto his people; he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and terrible is his name. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his precepts : his praise abideth for ever.

    Then He says ( order of revelation is just as important as part of the revelation ( old testament first, then new testament )

    1Corithians 13:8-13 Love never fails; but whether prophecies, they shall be done away; or tongues, they shall cease; or knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part: but when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became a man, I had done with what belonged to the child. For we see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face; now I know partially, but then I shall know according as I also have been known. And now abide faith, hope, love; these three things; and the greater of these is love.

    Love never fails: it is the only thing, other than the fear of God that would meet the requirements of the robot ploy of the free willers. God in us is that love and that fear.

    The whole free will lie is an attempt to diminish the fear of God, to run from it. But if God causes you to stand your ground in the face of it, to acknowledge it, and all your ideology burns, whatever is left is really you.

    It is that, or you will remain a ethical fatalist, political fatalist or scientific fatalists seeing only the worst of everything while failing to be a robot and failing to do what someone has told you is the good. And feeling guilty for it. Even atheist try ..and fail to be the good robot.

    I think perhaps you are trying to tie together a false Christianity as if it were real and a model of ethics ad emotion in order to make that model of ethics and emotion superior to what is in fact a false Christianity founded on free will ( TBN, “Praise-a-thons”, Rapture Ready God Squads, Word of Faith, Vineyard, Roman Catholic, Mormon, ..some kind of cult, etc..) . That has nothing to do with God as He really is.

    Free willers always have a hard time explaining ( even with their ploy of single speechism):

    Isaiah 63:17 Why, O Jehovah, hast thou made us to err from thy ways, hast hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.

    timothy

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  20. Your example of the black swans is really helpful. So I think the difference between is, I’m willing to risk having been wrong. You’re person 2, and I’m person 3. If God shows up, I will revise my opinions and say I was wrong. But in the meantime, I’m working from the premise that there is no God. Just as, if I’d never seen a black swan or any evidence that black swans existed anywhere, I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say I don’t think black swans exist. In the same way, I don’t think unicorns exist precisely because there’s no persuasive evidence for them or reason to think they do exist.

    Number 2 is more of a CYA position. You may not be willing to go out on a limb, but at least if God turns up, you won’t have any wrong beliefs on your track record. And by saying it’s CYA, I don’t mean it as an insult. It just means you’re more risk-averse (which can be a good thing intellectually, as well as in other areas of life).

  21. Therese,

    I think that as a functional position, my actions and your actions would be similar though. If our hypothetical God cares about people believing he exists, then I still think I’d be in just as much trouble as you. or if God cared about people living as if he existed, praising him, thanking him, etc., then I’d still be in as much trouble as you.

    I keep on hearing you write something, and I don’t know what you mean. Let me point it out:

    I’m working from the premise that there is no God. Just as, if I’d never seen a black swan or any evidence that black swans existed anywhere, I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say I don’t think black swans exist.

    (emphasis added).

    I think that positively asserting something like “there is no God” or “I think there are no black swans” is different than saying, “I don’t think there is a God” or “I don’t think black swans exist.” The former are “going out on the limb,” I think…but the latter ones aren’t. I have no problem with saying I don’t think, I don’t believe, etc., I think saying ‘I don’t believe x exists’ is different than saying ‘I believe x doesn’t exist’ though, for reasons I mentioned before.

    To reiterate, I don’t think that number 2 is much of a CYA position. After all, in a hypothetical judgment day situation, God would ask, “Did you believe in me?” and I’d say, “No,” and that would be that. It wouldn’t matter that I didn’t believe he didn’t exist. All that would matter is that I didn’t believe he did exist. Does that make sense?

  22. Sorry, I was just trying to vary my wording. I’m working from the premise that “there is no God,” just as in your hypothetical situation with the black swans, I would be working from the premise that “there are no black swans.”

    Yes, you are right, we are positing two different things. I’m not saying we aren’t … I’m just saying that it sounds like we COULD be. I think that NOT ONLY do you (a) not believe in God, I thought it also sounded likely that you IN ADDITION believe (b) there is no God. I think (a) and (b) are not mutually exclusive positions. One can both lack a belief in God and possess a believe that there is no God.

    Anyway, I’m glad to think we’ll both be in equal amounts of trouble at Judgment Day … *grin* … As they say, eternal torment in the bowels of hell loves company.

  23. christianclarityreview:

    In fact I did address your question: agreed– some atheist deny free will completely –after having failed trying to mix determinism and free will. But they deny free will exactly as you have stated AND as I have stated. I think you are trying to equate what they are deceived is truth with what you may call ‘my version of God’. They deny new creation.

    OK, I got that when I read further down, but didn’t cut out the part above.

    As for the puppeteer argument; we are not robots. Calvinist get hit with that same argument a LOT.

    Ah, I didn’t say ROBOTS. I said PUPPETS. I think I am understanding the difference between noncreating speech and creating speech, and the difference is robot vs. puppet.

    A robot is fatally tied, cannot change, because there is no creating speech to change his directives. He is stuck in his state and will not move.

    On the other hand, the puppet cannot choose to change, BUT the puppeteer can easily make the puppet do whatever he wants. The puppeteer is the person with creating speech (God).

    Their whole religions are founded and cannot survive without a guilt scheme that depends on their failure to perform the legalism.

    I disagree, because an Arminian/non-calvinist doesn’t have to accept the legalism. In fact, the entire purpose of Christianity was to get rid of the legalism by having an atoning sacrifice in Jesus Christ so that, whosoever believes on his blood is saved.

    Arminians believe that people can choose to bow to Christ. They believe that people can choose to confess that they are sinners. So, in this way, Arminians are not robots. By confessing, they open up and accept God’s creating speech, recognizing that they cannot be a good person, but they can accept Jesus’s atoning sacrifice. They are therefore guiltless, because they are saved and born again.

    Wow, I’m beginning to understand and appreciate Arminianism a lot more because of this conversation.

    Let me contrast with Calvinism.

    Under Calvinism, you believe that people cannot choose to accept grace. Rather, only certain people are elect, favored by God. These people will be the ones who come to grace (irresistibly, correct?). So, the problem is this: all the other people…the reprobate. God knew and has always known that these people are not the elect, and yet he still has these people around. As the puppeteer, the only entity with creating speech, he gives them the idea that they have free will (even though they don’t). Why would he do this? How can you justify this?

    You say that the reason he does this is:

    God makes Himself angry with part of what he created to demonstrate His power and wrath to those He loves. He does that to make Himself and His power known and understood:

    This seems kind of roundabout. Couldn’t a perfect, all-powerful God do things a little bit differently. Why would he have to make himself angry with part of what he has created to demonstrate his power and wrath to those He loves. The people he loves, he made them loveable. He already knew they would be loveable. Why does he need to show them any wrath or power when they already know it?

    Why would he show wrath or power to those who don’t know it? He made it so that they wouldn’t know. And because they are not elect, they will never know. It’s pointless.

    In fact, why are you posting this. This is a very enlightening concept, but shouldn’t you realize it is vain. You don’t have creating speech either. You know that all of the people here are reprobate, despised by god, hardened towards God (and because God said so, not because we chose it.)

    So, what can you do? Are you just a puppet doing what God made you do?

    I’m just really baffled by this position. I’d really like to see if you could talk with some of my non-Calvinist Christian friends here. That would be a pretty enjoyable thing to watch.

  24. Therese,

    OK, I get you now. I agree that (a) and (b) are not mutually exclusive (and in fact, I think that to hold (b), you would have to hold (a).)

    From reading christianclarityreview’s comments (they really are pretty fascinating, if you haven’t gotten through), I’m not sure if I’d want to live with God (when christianclarityreview seriously raises that God wants us to “fear him first, then love him,” I keep on looking for some kind of divine domestic abuse hotline number…), so I suppose the eternal torment in the bowels of hell is where the party’s at! The only anticlimactic part is that if CCR is right, then we can’t even say we chose to be like this. We’re just going for a (fiery and brimstony) ride.

  25. Ian Read permalink

    CCR

    Damm that actually makes partial sense to me. Still a little like listening to a particularly boring politician with his head buried in a bucket of wet cement but beggars can’t be choosers.

    So essentially you believe in a deterministic God who makes no apology for creating people who have no choice but to go to Hell. And, given he omniscient and omnipotent, has actually determined this to be their fate from the beginning of time.

    Even if I did believe in God I would not wish to worship a god such as this. To create persons with the sole purpose of tormenting them for all eternity is the act of a totalitarian tyrant beyond the imaginings of any sane person and I can only give thanks that such an entity doesn’t actually exist. I feel from a moral point of view you should also cease to worship him. That you believe I do not contest but you can chose whether to worship or not. Such a god is unworthy of your attention.

    I will simply comfort myself with a friendlier adage that there is probably no god so I should stop worrying.

    Andrew,

    I like the black swan analogy. As an Australian I remember my first view of a white swan in a book as a primary student and remember telling the teacher that it was the wrong colour. It was quite a shock to find out that white swans had been considered the norm.
    I would suggest that I am a slightly weaker atheist than Therese. If new evidence were to come forth proving the existence of gods then I would change my position, but given the current state of play I assume that the existence of any supernatural entities is highly unlikely hence I don’t believe they exist but I concede there remains the 0.0001% chance that they do.
    Which, coincidently, is exactly the same chance of my football team has of winning the premiership this year.

  26. Ian,

    I think I’ve read enough from CCR to know how he would respond. Basically, you’re still speaking in terms of deception. You “would not wish to worship” such a god because God himself has hardened your heart. You, not being elect/saved, are just an example, along with the rest of us unbelievers, to show God’s wrath and anger to the saved/elect/believers. Everything you say about ‘totalitarian’ or ‘tyrant’ are deceptions, assuming that God is a human and bound by human ethics.

    But, from everything else I’ve read, it seems you’re spot on. CCR’s god is pretty sick.

    I find it SO interesting to hear the swan analogy from the other side! I just wouldn’t be able to imagine growing up thinking swans are black by default…

    I think Therese would change her position too if new evidence came along. I think MOST people would. The problem is that the evidence has to be personally persuasive…and this could be a different measurement bar by person. I mean, some theists are convinced that there is a god by watching something as natural as childbirth. And what passes off as miracles these days (faces of Jesus in food items?!) really suggests that some people have a low threshold.

    I think that the difference is that atheists probably do not have such a low threshold for evidences of the divine. Or, perhaps, we simply have not found a high enough amount of ‘evidence’ to reach our high expectations.

  27. Ian Read permalink

    I understand Andrew but I feel that that merely strengthens my argument. If God is declaring by fiat my hardness of heart and my lack of belief merely to act as an example to the elect/saved/chosen then I feel that adds to my contention that this god is immoral.
    If that is the case, then even if presented with incontrovertible proof that such a god exists I would take a moral stance against him. Given incontrovertible evidence I would have to believe in Him but I would resist worshipping him as my only form of protest/resistance. Obviously if free will doesn’t exist then this is a moot point but if even one cell of my body resists, omniscient God will know and my protest will be noted. I would go to Hell for my resistance but I would bask in the warm fires content in the knowledge I fought the good fight, and that God had to acknowledge my resistance if only by the fact of my eternal damnation. Besides what do I have to lose, by CCR’s criteria I’m going there anyway.

    CCR’s god makes a mockery of morals being derived from religion.

    I am happy you like the idea of black swans. With your permission I hope to use your analogy elsewhere (edited for a southern hemisphere bias of course). It is one of the best and simplest ways of describing the point regarding absence of evidence not being the same as evidence of absence I have read.
    .
    I would also suggest that your comment of not being able to conceive of growing up assuming all swans are black is in itself a good analogy of a major difference between those of dogmatic faith and those who are more sceptical.

    What was it my Jesuit teacher used to say? “Give me a boy until seven and I will give you the man”.

    They used to say it with pride, now I see it as shameful.

  28. Ian,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I think CCR would point out that it would still be silly to speak in terms of “immoral” or “moral”. I like how you put it, but how horrifying would it be if even your protest was not freely your own? In your protest, you’d actually be…playing the part you were designed for.

    Crazy stuff.

    Feel free to use the black swan analogy, flip it around, etc. I’m glad you see it as understandable and simple.

  29. blukat permalink

    “a deterministic God who makes no apology for creating people who have no choice but to go to Hell.”

    Sounds like Original Sin/Age of Accountability to me. By default, the god puts all humans in line for hell, and the only way out of the queue (that leads to the bad place) is through him or his son. 😉

  30. blukat,

    the noticeable difference I see is this. In Arminianism or related theologies, people can *choose* to get out of the queue to Hell.

    What CCR and Calvinism are saying is that only God chooses who is saved. If you are in the queue for Hell, you literally have *no choice* about getting out.

    The Calvinist god, in this way, is more vile than the LDS Satan. Satan planned to eliminate free will, but he also said that not a single soul would be lost. OTOH, CCR is saying that there is no free will, but some souls are purposefully hardened and blinded to God. Therefore, some souls are destined to be lost!

  31. I think a lot of people misunderstand agnosticism, and therefore atheism.

    Agnosticism is the position that something cannot be certainly known, although generally when people speak of being agnostic, they do only mean they are agnostic regarding the existence of God.

    In my experience, most “agnostics” are agnostic atheists: they don’t believe in any gods, but they admit that they can’t know that there is no god. You could also be an agnostic theist, and I think many reasonable people who believe in a god accept that they could be wrong about it, but they choose to go with their faith anyway.

    I would say that the several types involved in most discussions of the existence of god are as follows:

    1) “strong” atheism: I know there is no god
    2) “weak” atheism: I believe there is no god
    3) “agnostic”: I’m not sure if there’s a god
    4) “weak” theist: I believe there is a god
    5) “strong” theist: I know there is a god

    You can grade these in terms of tolerance, often. 3 would be tolerant of most positions (barring extremism), 2 and 4 allow for some uncertainty and probably tolerate each other best. Using the term loosely, 1 and 5 are “gnostic” positions, and generally not very tolerant of disagreement or waffling.

    Of course, plenty of people who agree with 1 and 5 think of it as merely a personal issue, and are perfectly willing to tolerate dissent–much of it is a matter of temperament and social attitudes about tolerance, freedom, etc. On the other hand, the more “aggressive” atheists and religious fundamentalists fall under these categories.

    You could class 1-3 as atheist (or at least secular) positions because they don’t promote a god, but because society (in the US at least) is mostly theistic, 3-5 are essentially the status quo–3 only because it doesn’t rock the boat of 4 and 5 too much. Arguably, this is the reason for the term “agnostic” being used as it is–it’s used by people who don’t feel particularly invested in belief/argument for or against god. 3 often sets itself in opposition to 1 and 5: it’s like the ‘opposite’ of extremism.

    I would say in attempting to define “atheist”, it’s done either by agreement or opposition, based on one’s agenda.

    1-2 will tend to set it up in terms of logic, burden of proof etc, because evidence and reason are typically what matter to people who believe 1-2, and this is extended to the realm of the supernatural.

    5 (and at times, 4) will try to frame it as an issue of faith, because they see faith as overriding evidence and logic in importance, at least with regards to a deity.

    Atheists are generally trying to get a foothold in a world full of faith and religion using evidence and reason, while theists are generally framing the atheist position in terms of faith and belief, because to do otherwise would be to concede that maybe the atheists are right about the lack of evidence. Essentially, each side is playing a different game, and consequently uses a different definition.

    I see it like this: a theist has faith in two sets of knowledge: 1) small f ‘faith’ (confidence) in their interpretation of perceptions and evidence they have encountered and 2) big F ‘Faith’ that the evidence points to god–which is generally where a ‘leap of faith’ is made.

    Loosely speaking, (1) relates to how gnostic vs. agnostic your position is, while (2) relates to whether you’re theist or atheist. It’s like confidence in your data vs. confidence in the results you obtained using that data.

    To be atheist, you only have to disagree about the meaning or interpretation of the extant data, which means you don’t need big-F-Faith to be an atheist, while you do need it to be a theist.

    It’s annoying when religious folk argue that atheism takes faith, because they (at least smarter religious folks) seem to acknowledge that there’s a ‘leap of faith’ that happens when you decide to believe in something that’s not seen. It follows, then, that someone who doesn’t believe in the unseen has made no such leap. Therefore, in attaining their (un)belief, even the most vehemently avowed atheist hasn’t undergone a similar process of ‘faith’ to even a very level-headed believer in god.

  32. hexalm, thanks for the comment.

    I have some quibbles with many of your definitions (and the implications of them), but I will say that I generally agree with your statement regarding agnosticism: it is a position on *knowledge* (or perception of knowledge), not belief. (My quibble would be that I don’t think theism and atheism are, “I believe there is” and “I believe there is not.” I think they are “I believe there is” and “I don’t believe there is.” The latter is a true dichotomy. The former, on the other hand, is a false dichotomy that allows people to try to hide in the “middle”. While I certainly believe atheism includes people who say ‘I believe there is not” as well as those who say, “I don’t believe there is…”, I think that it is the FORMER group whom many people accuse of having “faith.” As you said, a leap of faith happens when you decide to believe in something that’s not seen. Someone who doesn’t believe has made no such leap.)

  33. Ian Read permalink

    Completely right Andrew.
    Hence our insistence on those who have made the “leap of faith” shouldering the burden of proof in regard to that “leap of faith”.

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