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Offline median

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SPAG or SPAM?
« on: April 17, 2014, 06:05:25 PM »
So, I hear this argument a lot from Christians (and other superstitionists) and I'd like to discuss it. We non-believers argue that it is quite reasonable to expect this alleged God they believe in should show up, check-in, physically manifest itself indefinitely, update his alleged holy books, or otherwise stop hiding and become demonstrable so that all will see and there will be no question and no more significant discussion about it (just like no one argues whether water exists).

In response, the religious apologists argue that we are just presenting SPAG (Self Projection as God). In other words, they argue that what we would do if we were a God does not apply to the God they believe in because their God can do what it wants. And (allegedly) just because this God does not come out of hiding and manifest itself does not mean that it is not real or that we should expect it to.

But does this response hold water?

I will let the responders of this OP debate the question but let me present an alternative argument that I will herein call SPAM. On a schoolyard playground (at the school in which I teach), there sits a young boy speaking to what seems to be himself. However, upon questioning it turns out that this boy claims to be speaking to his invisible friend Mary. He has all sorts of interesting facts to tell us about Mary, which sound very realistic (such as hair color, eye color, age, interests, where she lives, etc), but when others ask the boy why Mary is invisible, or cannot be seen to others, he responds in similar fashion to the religionists. "You can't tell Mary what to do! Just because you can't see her doesn't mean she's not real! You are just using SPAM talk!" The boy continually maintains the reality of his friend Mary in spite of all evidence to the contrary (including the evidence that his arguments for her existence are irrational, have no sound evidence, nonsensical, and heavily biased).

So, the question remains. If it is reasonable to expect that "Mary" should stop hiding (if she exists) why then it is not also reasonable to expect that "God" do the same?
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 06:14:17 PM by median »
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2014, 06:22:17 PM »
Median i formally request permission to copy and use yr example re mary for my own purposes.
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Offline median

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2014, 06:31:44 PM »
Median i formally request permission to copy and use yr example re mary for my own purposes.

Granted.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2014, 06:44:42 PM »
Thanx yr life just increased by one karma point.
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Offline median

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2014, 04:11:34 PM »
Thanx yr life just increased by one karma point.

Fair enough. I'm just waiting for theists to respond on this OP.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2014, 04:57:57 PM »
So, I hear this argument a lot from Christians (and other superstitionists) and I'd like to discuss it. We non-believers argue that it is quite reasonable to expect this alleged God they believe in should show up, check-in, physically manifest itself indefinitely, update his alleged holy books, or otherwise stop hiding and become demonstrable so that all will see and there will be no question and no more significant discussion about it (just like no one argues whether water exists).

In response, the religious apologists argue that we are just presenting SPAG (Self Projection as God). In other words, they argue that what we would do if we were a God does not apply to the God they believe in because their God can do what it wants. And (allegedly) just because this God does not come out of hiding and manifest itself does not mean that it is not real or that we should expect it to.

But does this response hold water?

I will let the responders of this OP debate the question but let me present an alternative argument that I will herein call SPAM. On a schoolyard playground (at the school in which I teach), there sits a young boy speaking to what seems to be himself. However, upon questioning it turns out that this boy claims to be speaking to his invisible friend Mary. He has all sorts of interesting facts to tell us about Mary, which sound very realistic (such as hair color, eye color, age, interests, where she lives, etc), but when others ask the boy why Mary is invisible, or cannot be seen to others, he responds in similar fashion to the religionists. "You can't tell Mary what to do! Just because you can't see her doesn't mean she's not real! You are just using SPAM talk!" The boy continually maintains the reality of his friend Mary in spite of all evidence to the contrary (including the evidence that his arguments for her existence are irrational, have no sound evidence, nonsensical, and heavily biased).

So, the question remains. If it is reasonable to expect that "Mary" should stop hiding (if she exists) why then it is not also reasonable to expect that "God" do the same?

Does SPAM stand for "Self Projection As Mary"?

Always liking to clarify before making a fool of myself,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline Nam

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2014, 05:22:12 PM »
That was hilarious.

-Nam
This thread is about lab-grown dicks, not some mincy, old, British poof of an actor. 

Let's get back on topic, please.


Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2014, 08:31:45 PM »
The argument will inevitably be that if god were to be demonstrable, there would be no reason to have faith.

Personally, I would prefer any god who ruled me to be, like water, impossible to argue against it's existence.

And if he actually kept his promises I would have trust in him, which I think is much better than faith.
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline Nam

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2014, 09:00:18 PM »
The argument will inevitably be that if god were to be demonstrable, there would be no reason to have faith.

Personally, I would prefer any god who ruled me to be, like water, impossible to argue against it's existence.

And if he actually kept his promises I would have trust in him, which I think is much better than faith.

You do realise that "truth" in the manner you're using it is a synonym of "faith"? You're basically saying, "I'd rather have a firm faith rather than just have any old faith".

-Nam
This thread is about lab-grown dicks, not some mincy, old, British poof of an actor. 

Let's get back on topic, please.


Offline Star Stuff

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2014, 09:45:24 PM »
I think the better question to ask theists is: "What exactly do you mean when you say 'god'".

The more life experience I have, and the more I think about this topic, the more I feel that Freud was absolutely correct in his statement:

"The idea of god was not a lie, but a device of the unconscious which needed to be decoded by psychology. A personal god was nothing more than an exalted father-figure.  Desire for such a deity sprang from infantile yearnings for a powerful, protective father; for justice and fairness and for life to go on forever. God is simply a projection of these desires, feared and worshiped by human beings out of an abiding sense of helplessness. Religion belonged to the infancy of the human race; it had been a necessary stage in the transition from childhood to maturity. It had promoted ethical values which were essential to society. Now that humanity had come of age, however, it should be left behind."

After listening to the arguments and/or assertions from even the most intelligent, educated theist, I still identify this as being the reason for their beliefs. It stands out like a sore thumb.
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Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2014, 10:36:05 PM »
The argument will inevitably be that if god were to be demonstrable, there would be no reason to have faith.

Personally, I would prefer any god who ruled me to be, like water, impossible to argue against it's existence.

And if he actually kept his promises I would have trust in him, which I think is much better than faith.

You do realise that "truth" in the manner you're using it is a synonym of "faith"? You're basically saying, "I'd rather have a firm faith rather than just have any old faith".

-Nam

I assume you mean trust. To me trust and faith are not synonyms.  Faith is believing in what you have not seen; trust is believing in what has been proven to be reliable.
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline median

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2014, 12:46:30 AM »
The argument will inevitably be that if god were to be demonstrable, there would be no reason to have faith.

Personally, I would prefer any god who ruled me to be, like water, impossible to argue against it's existence.

And if he actually kept his promises I would have trust in him, which I think is much better than faith.

When the theist pulls out the faith argument I'm quick to ask why on earth we would even want this kind of "faith". This kind of gullibility is just a filler for the unknown - based in the fear of death, and/or of being alone. Really, this response by theists is just a big fat excuse for why this deity thing doesn't show up. It's a convenient rationalization for what they know is the case - that their god is imaginary and nothing more.

More importantly, the boy in the OP could use this same argument about Mary. Would they believe it and henceforth accept the existence of Mary? If not, then they are practicing a double standard.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline kcrady

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2014, 01:45:10 AM »
So, I hear this argument a lot from Christians (and other superstitionists) and I'd like to discuss it. We non-believers argue that it is quite reasonable to expect this alleged God they believe in should show up, check-in, physically manifest itself indefinitely, update his alleged holy books, or otherwise stop hiding and become demonstrable so that all will see and there will be no question and no more significant discussion about it (just like no one argues whether water exists).

In response, the religious apologists argue that we are just presenting SPAG (Self Projection as God). In other words, they argue that what we would do if we were a God does not apply to the God they believe in because their God can do what it wants. And (allegedly) just because this God does not come out of hiding and manifest itself does not mean that it is not real or that we should expect it to.

But does this response hold water?

"SPAM" is a good argument, but it's not the rebuttal I would use in this case.  I would just point out that proper epistemic hygiene[1] means that we should expect certain requirements to be met before we add some new thing to our inventory of (what we consider to be) the "known."  Whether it be Higgs bosons, Earth-like exoplanets, life forms too small to see, a proposed principle ("law") of physics, invisible frequencies of light (e.g. "radio waves"), an honest politician, or a deity, the alleged entity or principle should, at a minimum, manifest some observable consequences of its existence that are distinguishable from the consequences of its non-existence.  So long as your "god" "behaves" exactly like something that only exists as an idea in your head, that's the most plausible model for what it actually is.  Occam's Razor.

IOW, my skepticism about the existence of gods and goddesses has nothing to do with what I would do if I were a deity; rather, it has to do with the principles I apply toward accepting the existence of any proposed entity at all.  Hence, it is not SPAG.
 1. "Why, yes, I think it's quite likely that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than there are in my philosophy.  At least, I hope so--more things to discover!  I just use certain protocols of critical thought in order to try and insure that there are not more things in my philosophy than there are in Heaven and Earth."
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

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Offline Nam

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2014, 02:41:46 AM »
The argument will inevitably be that if god were to be demonstrable, there would be no reason to have faith.

Personally, I would prefer any god who ruled me to be, like water, impossible to argue against it's existence.

And if he actually kept his promises I would have trust in him, which I think is much better than faith.

You do realise that "truth" in the manner you're using it is a synonym of "faith"? You're basically saying, "I'd rather have a firm faith rather than just have any old faith".

-Nam

I assume you mean trust. To me trust and faith are not synonyms.  Faith is believing in what you have not seen; trust is believing in what has been proven to be reliable.

Yeah, sorry, I wrote the wrong word, here are the synonyms per synonymgoogle: trust: synonyms:   confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence; …in the manner you used it it has the same basic connotation. I know you didn't mean that, that's how it reads.

As "we" tell others here: you can't redefine words to your liking.

-Nam
« Last Edit: April 19, 2014, 02:43:30 AM by Nam »
This thread is about lab-grown dicks, not some mincy, old, British poof of an actor. 

Let's get back on topic, please.


Offline median

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2014, 09:32:17 AM »
So, I hear this argument a lot from Christians (and other superstitionists) and I'd like to discuss it. We non-believers argue that it is quite reasonable to expect this alleged God they believe in should show up, check-in, physically manifest itself indefinitely, update his alleged holy books, or otherwise stop hiding and become demonstrable so that all will see and there will be no question and no more significant discussion about it (just like no one argues whether water exists).

In response, the religious apologists argue that we are just presenting SPAG (Self Projection as God). In other words, they argue that what we would do if we were a God does not apply to the God they believe in because their God can do what it wants. And (allegedly) just because this God does not come out of hiding and manifest itself does not mean that it is not real or that we should expect it to.

But does this response hold water?

"SPAM" is a good argument, but it's not the rebuttal I would use in this case.  I would just point out that proper epistemic hygiene[1] means that we should expect certain requirements to be met before we add some new thing to our inventory of (what we consider to be) the "known."  Whether it be Higgs bosons, Earth-like exoplanets, life forms too small to see, a proposed principle ("law") of physics, invisible frequencies of light (e.g. "radio waves"), an honest politician, or a deity, the alleged entity or principle should, at a minimum, manifest some observable consequences of its existence that are distinguishable from the consequences of its non-existence.  So long as your "god" "behaves" exactly like something that only exists as an idea in your head, that's the most plausible model for what it actually is.  Occam's Razor.

IOW, my skepticism about the existence of gods and goddesses has nothing to do with what I would do if I were a deity; rather, it has to do with the principles I apply toward accepting the existence of any proposed entity at all.  Hence, it is not SPAG.
 1. "Why, yes, I think it's quite likely that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than there are in my philosophy.  At least, I hope so--more things to discover!  I just use certain protocols of critical thought in order to try and insure that there are not more things in my philosophy than there are in Heaven and Earth."

Hey KC,
Thanks for this response. I actually feel the same way about claims to knowledge. This OP was meant to be a response to some apologists who I have heard attempt to give the above response - as if it's consistent to just accept claims to the supernatural in their holy book and at the same time not accept such claim types elsewhere (as if their lack of evidence for such claims is any better than that of their competitors). Somehow they have this whack idea that we should just compare all of the supernatural claims and pick one account - as if somehow that gets us closer to reality or truth, never thinking that the better option is to withhold judgement on ALL of these claims until demonstrated to be actual. Perhaps this approach to knowledge for them (as hypocritical as it is) stands as a response to the grandly fear based Pascal's Wager. "Well, we know we have to pick one because the alternative (no god/non supernatural) is just unthinkable."

Such thinking really just testifies to their incredulity and willingness to not only believe on bad evidence but also cognitively participate in a kind of segregated irrational reasoning. We are to believe that there exists (basically) an invisible 'person' - out-there-some-where (near/far or whatever) and yet when other extraordinary claims come around, of similar color, they have no problem rejecting such claims out of hand. Is it your view that this practice is a kind of cognitive dissonance? If not, what is it?
« Last Edit: April 19, 2014, 09:44:50 AM by median »
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2014, 09:32:23 AM »
As "we" tell others here: you can't redefine words to your liking.

-Nam


Awww, ok then.   :-*  I guess I don't know the right word.   :-\  I need a word to describe believing because of demonstrated reliability.
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2014, 01:05:15 PM »
I need a word to describe believing because of demonstrated reliability.

How about "confidence"?  It demonstrates a positive relationship between expectation and results, but doesn't purport to be 100% reliable; hence, it can be true in your experience but not necessarily "the truth" for one and all.
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Offline median

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2014, 04:22:30 PM »

Does SPAM stand for "Self Projection As Mary"?

Always liking to clarify before making a fool of myself,

OldChurchGuy

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Offline kcrady

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Re: SPAG or SPAM?
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2014, 06:54:34 PM »
Hey KC,
Thanks for this response. I actually feel the same way about claims to knowledge. This OP was meant to be a response to some apologists who I have heard attempt to give the above response - as if it's consistent to just accept claims to the supernatural in their holy book and at the same time not accept such claim types elsewhere (as if their lack of evidence for such claims is any better than that of their competitors).

I would go a bit further and say that the project of the Abrahamic religions is in large part centered on the idea of doing their level best to make the very idea of "competitors" for their belief system literally unthinkable.  A "competitor" is a legitimate alternative.  Ford, or Toyota?  Or maybe you'd rather live somewhere you can get around on a bike and mass transit and never have to bother with a car?  Pick a brand you like, or be an a-automobilist, it's up to you.  For all their chanting about "free will," the whole structure of the Abrahamic belief systems is set up to remove the possibility, or even the very thought, of actual choice.

The core claim of the Abrahamic religions is that there is "One True God."  There are no "competitors."  All those "other gods" out there are demons--i.e., the bad guys from their religious mythology.  Different versions of their own religions--you guessed it, "heresies" inspired by those selfsame demons.  Atheism?  "The Devil's cleverest trick was to convince people that he doesn't exist."  So, for someone raised as a monotheist, it's not a matter of choosing Jesus or Yahweh or Allah over the competition; it's a question of choosing the Good Guy in their world view, or the bad guys in their world view.  There Is No Other World View.  Even that's not quite on target.  To acknowledge the concept of a world view is to open the door to considering that other world views might exist.  "You can serve God, or you can serve Satan.  So, what'll it be?"

Somehow they have this whack idea that we should just compare all of the supernatural claims and pick one account - as if somehow that gets us closer to reality or truth, never thinking that the better option is to withhold judgement on ALL of these claims until demonstrated to be actual.

I'm not sure who this "they" you're talking about are, but if they're actually saying anything along the lines of, "Hey, it's cool as long as you look through all the religions and pick a guild--just don't be one of those spoilsports that likes to harsh our groove by refusing to play!"[1] then they're a pretty recent modern phenomenon, the attempt to adapt to a globally-interconnected world where the existence of multiple religions and "spiritual" world views is pretty hard to ignore.

Perhaps this approach to knowledge for them (as hypocritical as it is) stands as a response to the grandly fear based Pascal's Wager. "Well, we know we have to pick one because the alternative (no god/non supernatural) is just unthinkable."

I don't think this attitude has anything to do with Pascal's Wager.  PW could only have been invented and considered a game-winning argument in a monopoly religious environment.  For Pascal, you could bet on the doctrines of the "one, holy, catholic (meaning: "universal") and apostolic Church,"[2] or nothing.  If it's possible for the prospective mark to say, "Well, OK, but which threat of a nasty afterlife should I be most scared of?  If I bet Catholic and God is a Lutheran, I'm still toast, right?  And what if He's a Muslim?  I don't know anything about Norse theology, but meeting Odin after a lifetime of not believing in Him just sounds like a Bad Idea.  And have you seen a statue of Kali?!  Talk about a stupendous badass!  I don't think I wanna be on Her bad side either..." the PW immediately turns to rubbish.

I think what you're talking about here is something else: the Nihilism Bogeymantm.[3]  The Nihilism Bogeyman is the stark, Lovecraftian terror many believers feel when confronted with the idea that Universe is not made of people--that it cannot be related to by social means, cannot be begged, cajoled, appeased, flattered, or threatened into doing what you'd like it to; and perhaps worst of all, the prospect that there is no Sparkly Piletm.

What is the Sparkly Pile, you ask?  Thanks to the dualistic trend in Western philosophy from Plato through Descartes (and perhaps comparable ideas in Eastern philosophies--I'm not well-versed enough in them to point to specifics), it's common for "spiritual" people to divide Existence into two piles: the Mundane Pile, and the Sparkly Pile.  "Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter" (Yoda).  The "crude matter," "this world," all the crappy details of ordinary workaday reality go in the Mundane Pile.  All the cool stuff--the "luminous beings," magical powers, Meaning and Purpose to life, gods, goddesses, angels, "spirit," "holiness," consciousness, love, etc., etc.--goes in the Sparkly Pile.  Mundane Pile = bad/boring/ordinary/lousy/otherwise negative.  Sparkly Pile = sugar and spice and everything nice.  It's an emotional evaluation.  Consciousness is pretty much the same thing whether it's resident in a "spirit" or a "brain"--but "spirit" just somehow sounds cooler, doesn't it?  Sparkly!

Whenever you hear or read a believer saying something like "I can't believe that consciousness is just brain chemistry!" what they're really saying is "No!  I won't let you put that in the Mundane Pile!"  The "just" is the key word.  For this sort of believer, we with our "critical thinking" and "rational skepticism" are a bunch of dour, heartless party poopers who always have a wet blanket on hand to snuff out anything that might be cooler than their cubicle at work.  It's so deeply entrenched in our culture that we kinda buy into it too.

"That UFO you thought you saw was just swamp gas, or maybe Venus."  "That 'picture of the Loch Ness Monster' is just a bumpy log."  "That 'haunted house' is just an old building with a few drafty areas that make 'cold spots' and the usual creaks and noises of aging wood reacting to temperature changes through the day."  "That 'apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary' is just a refraction of light coming through that cracked window over there." "That spirit medium/miracle-working preacher/person with psi abilities/etc. is just a charlatan, or at best someone who's deluded into thinking they have powers they don't really have."

Can you feel the emotional let-down?  "Mysterious/Profound Paranormal Phenomenon!" ---> "just" ---> [insert prosaic "rational explanation"]

In short: For the believer, all that mid-20th Century existential despair philosophy is true: "God is dead, there is no morality or meaning of life or purpose, life's a bitch and then you die, we're all just like B.F. Skinner's pigeons, punching at little buttons to get our consumerist treats and that's all there is, waaaaaah, waaaaaaah, waaaaaah!"  But, if they pull the security blanket of their religious Sparkly Pile beliefs over their eyes and hold on really tight, the Nihilist Bogeyman can't get them. 

The irony: if Plato had known about cognitive neuroscience, he would have had to put "consciousness" and all of its cognates in the Mundane Pile.  But if he had known about quantum mechanics--that if we could actually see "matter" at its most fundamental level, it would look exactly like magic as we usually imagine it--he would have had to turn around and scrape everything over into the Sparkly Pile.  We can write out chains of arcane symbols which--for someone initiated into the Mystery--can be used to predict the future with startling accuracy that no astrologer or diviner could ever hope to match.  We call the sorcerers who can do this, and wield this power to do things like cure diseases and launch people into outer space "scientists," and their spells "equations." 

That "magic spell" sounds so much cooler than "physics equation," and "wizard" so much more awesome than "scientist" is a marketing problem that we ought to think about.  IMO it probably has a lot to do with the fact that modern science is institutional and collaborative, hence "faceless."  Quick: how many of the scientists who work at the Large Hadron Collider can you name?  Science lost a lot of its "cool" about the time it stopped being about unusual individuals like Nikola Tesla and Einstein, and started looking more like just another pool of corporate jobs.  Also: lab coats and plastic safety goggles leave a lot to be desired as uniforms go, from a marketing perspective.  ;)  I wonder, if scientists dressed more like Merlin, or maybe their counterparts in Steampunk, would we have an easier time promoting science and rationalism?

Such thinking really just testifies to their incredulity and willingness to not only believe on bad evidence but also cognitively participate in a kind of segregated irrational reasoning. We are to believe that there exists (basically) an invisible 'person' - out-there-some-where (near/far or whatever) and yet when other extraordinary claims come around, of similar color, they have no problem rejecting such claims out of hand. Is it your view that this practice is a kind of cognitive dissonance? If not, what is it?

I think this has to do with what I was saying earlier, about how Abrahamic monotheists are conditioned.  The "religions of the Book" were crafted to mash hard on the buttons of every human cognitive bias their authors could find.  Everything about them is designed to make it impossible for the believer to conceive of anything outside their reality-tunnel.[4]  The acceptable, orthodox beliefs they hold are "the Truth."  Everything else is Satan.  The walls of their reality-tunnels don't permit them to see or acknowledge the existence of anything that is actually outside of their belief system.

Morality Over Accuracy:

For example, one of the major memetic tricks of the Abrahamic monotheisms is to substitute morality in the place of accuracy.  The atheist or the believer in some other religion or sect is not merely mistaken, believing in something that isn't true; they're evil, holding beliefs that are morally wrong.  God, or Satan: what'll it be?  So, you don't really believe in God (notice how the use of the capital-G subliminally eliminates all other gods and goddesses from consideration) in order to be accurate, but because it is the right and good thing to do.  Anyone who does not believe as you do rightfully and legitimately deserves to be punished for eternity, in the most brutal and sadistic imaginable way, such is the enormity of their moral crime.  You don't want to be that wicked, do you?

Faith:

Notice how the Abrahamic monotheisms have conflated "believing things in the absence of evidence" with "trust," "loyalty," "reliability" and the like by using the same word for both.  We speak of a "faithful" spouse, an agreement made "in good faith," "the faith and credit of the United States Government," i.e., "faith" as the quality of honesty and trustworthiness in relationships, the glue of community.  Notice that "faith" in this sense has nothing to do with believing things in the absence of evidence.  The "faithful" spouse is someone who has demonstrated their fidelity (Latin: faithfulness) through their actions.  The person who is married to them can thus have "faith" in them, and be "faithful" in return, based on rational confidence and reciprocation. 

The Abrahamic religions take this quality and then redefine it as "believing what our clerics tell you to, no matter what."  Thus, a person who does not believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist or that Earth was created 6,000 years ago or whatever is not to be trusted as a member of the community.  They are "faithless," an "infidel."  Believing ridiculous things (the more ridiculous the better) becomes a way to signal that you are a loyal, honest, trustworthy member of the community who can be counted on not to betray.  All those people with different beliefs are Scary, Untrustworthy Others, servants of Satan, hardly even human!  It's not really a surprise then, that until fairly recently, atheists could not testify in court.  Or for that matter, that we poll in the neighborhood of Al Qaeda in "who do you hate most/trust least/least likely to vote for for President" surveys.

Clever trick, no?

The "Free Will" Shell Game

Notice how "belief in 'God'" is automatically assumed to be equivalent to "worshiping 'God.'"  The common question 'Do you believe in God?' not only automatically erases all non-Abrahamic religions, it assumes that acknowledging the deity's existence is indistinguishable from being a member of the "right" religion.  "Belief," like "faith," is another double-edged sword: "Do you believe in gun control?" means "do you agree with gun control?" not "do you think gun control exists?"  Likewise, for the Abrahamic religion du jour.

Whenever we atheists point to all of the evidence against/lack of evidence for a theist's claims, we're told that their god pretends not to exist[5] so that we can have "free will" to choose to "believe in" him or not.  Should we allow ourselves to be talked into agreeing that he exists or even acknowledging the possibility [insert Pascal's Wager in the latter case], worshiping him and joining the religious community is supposed to follow automatically, thanks to the doctrine of Hell.  Since 'God' is said to be perfectly good, holy, just, etc. by definition, by His unchangeable nature, all evaluation of him, his moral worth, the virtue of joining his religion etc. is immediately short-circuited.  Thus, we are presented with a "choice" regarding what we don't actually have a choice about (either 'God' exists, or he doesn't, whether we like it or not), and stripped of choice where we would otherwise have it (to join, or not to join).  And of course, per the "morality vs. accuracy" and "faith" tricks, we should "obviously" make the moral choice--to believe, with our obedience as an automatic corollary.

The short version: reality is optional (but there's really only one good choice you can make); the optional (what community values we should align with, who--if anyone--we should choose to obey, etc.), isn't.

Right--this post is long enough. :)
 1. World of Worship: sure, you have to spend a lot of time "grinding" in religious services, but if you keep at it you get to be a Paladin (if you like Christianity), a Monk (Buddhist), or maybe a Magic User (Wiccan)!  Oh crap, there's one of those fucking mundanes, bet she's gonna tell us WoW is a stupid game and we oughta go outside and do something 'real' like a nature hike or a game of tennis.  Asshole!
 2. Exercise for the reader: notice how each of those adjectives is chosen to exclude the possibility of examining other alternatives in one way or another.
 3. *Ritual gesture* I hereby coin this term!  You saw it here first...
 4. Imagine if you had to look at the world through a paper-towel roll, that you had always seen the world this way.  The paper-towel roll is not something you see--rather, it defines what you see.  We all view Universe through a reality-tunnel whose walls are shaped by our beliefs, expectations, biases, cultural norms, and other random memetic detritus that ends up becoming part of our mental furniture.  Our strength as rationalists is to understand this, and set out to question and extend the boundaries of our reality tunnels, while also subjecting our mental models of Universe to critical scrutiny and reality-testing.
 5. Well, not in so many words...they're usually sneakier than that.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2014, 08:12:51 PM by kcrady »
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

--Greta Christina