Author Topic: A suggestion [#125]  (Read 3209 times)

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Offline PostalGirl

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A suggestion [#125]
« on: August 01, 2008, 02:32:01 PM »
Hi:

I'll start by saying I support your broad aims - those being, to reduce or eliminate the
kind of religion that says there's a God you can pray to who favors believers over
nonbelievers. I know, you're saying "We want to reduce or eliminate ALL religion". Fair
enough. But you talk about religion as if it's like smoking or women's suffrage, just
another societal preference we can quite easily change, given enough people and enough
time. But there's a key difference between those societal preferences and belief in God,
which makes the approach you are taking on this site less effective than I think it could
be. The difference with religion is this:

People want to believe.

People want to find meaning in life. For some of them "The universe is essentially
random, but it's better to seek positive outcomes for ourselves individually and
collectively than to just sit around doing nothing/be destructive" is inherently
unsatisfying, in a way quitting smoking or granting women the vote was not. Even if you
tell them that their beliefs don't make any sense, they are still going to want to
believe in something. So they'll just go searching again, and the next person who comes
up with something they could buy into will have their devotion. You could destroy the
credibility of every religion on earth, and new ones would spring up in their place.

So what do you do?

You stop saying "God doesn't exist", and say instead "God may exist. We don't think he
does, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something. But based on the evidence, we can say your image of God is wrong". And then
you give them something which fits the facts we know, but provides them a way to find
meaning in their lives, while getting behaviors similar to those of "there is no God"
type atheists.

If you're one of those, you're probably thinking "That's impossible, the belief in things
we can't prove is delusional, nothing meaningful or positive will come out of trying to
make up a better story, and the right approach is to get people to come to their
senses!".  My argument is they won't, they don't want to, and you would be much better
off pushing for something like this:

http://evolutionisgod.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-i-think.html

I'm not saying your position on the non-existence of God is necessarily wrong, I'm just
saying your goals will be accomplished much more quickly if you keep your approach as
practical as possible.

Cheers,

[Name]

Offline StPatrick

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2008, 02:40:32 PM »
We don't want to necessarily eliminate religion, so much as we want people to think about religion.

Around here, most people think that God is possible, but highly unlikely.

"God is imaginary" refers to BibleGod.

Anyway, you sound like an interesting person.  You should join the forum. We can discuss this further.
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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2008, 02:50:23 PM »
You stop saying "God doesn't exist", and say instead "God may exist. We don't think he
does, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something.

Do you stop saying, "Odin doesn't exist", and say instead "Odin may exist. We don't think he
does, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something"?

Jehovah is as likely to be real as Odin.  Substitute the name of any god you like, it still holds true.
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Offline Ashe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2008, 03:50:35 PM »
You stop saying "God doesn't exist", and say instead "God may exist. We don't think he
does, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something. But based on the evidence, we can say your image of God is wrong". And then
you give them something which fits the facts we know, but provides them a way to find
meaning in their lives, while getting behaviors similar to those of "there is no God"
type atheists

As far as I'm aware, that is the position that the atheists here take. When we say, "God is imaginary" we say it the same way you would say "unicorns are imaginary." For the purposes of living day to day life, you would say that unicorns don't exist. However, if we're going to be honest, we would have to say, "Unicorns may exist. We don't think they do, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that they exist."
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Offline Codswallop

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2008, 03:58:03 PM »
What a nice, polite email. Thanks.

...we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something.

Actually, this is in error. In fact, based on the evidence, we cannot say anything else. A lot of what passes for evidence in the credulous world is no such thing. Evidence needs to be unambiguous and available to everybody who will look at it. If you have any evidence that supports the idea of an existent god, do please trot it out for everyone to see. So far, all we have seen are Bronze Age myths and 2000-year-old miracle stories.
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Offline CosmicScherzo

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2008, 04:02:25 PM »
Popular opinion in most of Europe has spun wildly away from theism in the past century. There's no reason to credit your assertion that people "want to believe" any more than people in the past wanted to smoke or deny women the vote. Religion is no more immune to zeitgeist than anything else. Atheists are just a bit ahead of the curve.  ;)
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Offline Codswallop

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2008, 04:30:12 PM »
People want to believe.

I'm surprised at this assertion. I mean, so what? People want to be tall and thin and blonde too. People want all kinds of things that can never be. Wanting something won't make it happen, and doesn't alter reality.

Of course, if you want to be blonde you can dye your hair, and if you want to be thin, you can drop some weight, but no amount of wanting is going to make gods exist just because you wish for it.
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Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2008, 05:38:34 PM »
Do you stop saying, "Odin doesn't exist", and say instead "Odin may exist. We don't think he
does, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something"?

Jehovah is as likely to be real as Odin.  Substitute the name of any god you like, it still holds true.

You'll notice I said in the same paragraph that we can demonstrate that the Gods most people believe in (which would include BibleGod, and conceivably Odin if anyone still believes in him) don't make sense. But we can't disprove the cosmological argument, which means we can't disprove the idea of a god as a first cause. Sure, it violates its own premise, but when I asked the forum what alternatives you have all come up with, nobody gave me so much as a book to read. (This is myron, by the way - when I didn't get a reply to the e-mail I sent, I decided to put my idea up on your forums. And then when I saw there are some crazy people on them, I decided to use an account that didn't involve my name from now on.) I'm not arguing for BibleGod or Odin, I'm arguing for the idea of a god-like first cause.

As far as I'm aware, that is the position that the atheists here take. When we say, "God is imaginary" we say it the same way you would say "unicorns are imaginary." For the purposes of living day to day life, you would say that unicorns don't exist. However, if we're going to be honest, we would have to say, "Unicorns may exist. We don't think they do, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that they exist."

Well good, then, we agree. Seems Codswallop doesn't though, to which I'd just have to say lack of evidence doesn't disprove something as a possibility, and the lack of an alternate explanation for observations (the fact that we do all exist) lends credulity to the idea of a cause of some sort, until we come up with a better theory.

Although I'll give you all credit, in your introduction to the forum for Christians (which I didn't read at first because I'm not a Christian) you did say "We atheists are fully aware that the concept of God cannot be disproven." So thumbs up.

The point I'm trying to make is that even many thoughtful religious people understand the idea of a first cause doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but "we don't have an explanation" isn't good enough for a lot of people, they'll go with one that doesn't make sense rather than none at all. So I say instead of having people listen to some random idiot who can get them to kill each other in the name of God, it might be better to come up with a theistic explanation that makes sense based on the evidence we have, and acknowledges that as we learn more about how everything works, the story/explanation will have to change. So that's what I did, and I put it on a blog. What I'd like is for anyone who can poke a hole in it to do so. I'm relatively thoughtful, but I'm no genius, and even if I was the collective knowledge of this forum would be greater than mine.

Popular opinion in most of Europe has spun wildly away from theism in the past century. There's no reason to credit your assertion that people "want to believe" any more than people in the past wanted to smoke or deny women the vote. Religion is no more immune to zeitgeist than anything else. Atheists are just a bit ahead of the curve.  ;)

Granted. My observation that people want to believe isn't based on a statistically valid random sample or anything like that, it's based on my personal observations of people. So if yours are different, there's really nothing I can say to counter that. And the swing away from theism in Europe is interesting, does anyone have a good book on that? I'd like to do some background research on how it happened. But, in my opinion, religion is more immune to social change than the examples of women's sufferage and smoking. Why? People have much more of a personal and mental investment in their religious beliefs. If I was a smoker, giving up smoking just means smoking was wrong, but giving up my religious beliefs (if I had traditional religious beliefs) makes me wrong, which I would like much less. I'm not saying that if society's opinions change it will have no effect on religion, of course it will, and there's no reason to think that within our lifetimes we couldn't have the 60-40 atheist-theist split worldwide that we now have in Europe. But (again, just my opinion) I think people will be more willing to give up their beliefs if you let them keep what they like about them (so long as it doesn't contradict any observed phenomena). So why not consider the possibility of something theistic, but with a God that ordered the universe but doesn't answer prayers or otherwise intervene in the universe's development?

When I came on this board, the arguments put forward against my ideas appeared aimed at removing my belief system, without suggesting anything to put in its place, even when I asked. I think if successful  that just opens the door for a new and equally damaging belief system. Especially if you're dealing with a group of people who, because they have suspended logical thought for a long time, may lack the skills to think things through. Of course, many people here are former Christians, so you probably know a lot more about the mindset of Christians than I do. So if I'm wrong based on your experience, please explain why.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2008, 05:58:08 PM by JustMe »

Offline Codswallop

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2008, 05:45:29 PM »

Well good, then, we agree. Seems Codswallop doesn't though, to which I'd just have to say lack of evidence doesn't disprove something as a possibility, and the lack of an alternate explanation for observations (the fact that we do all exist) lends credulity to the idea of a cause of some sort, until we come up with a better theory.


Not merely a lack of evidence, but the complete absence of evidence--a veritable evidence vacuum. No need to "disprove something as a possibility," which no one seriously suggests who understands the word "disprove." All the evidence is negative, just as al the evidence for Santa Claus is negative. Experimentally, a negative data point is a legitimate data point, and an negative result is a legitimate result.

If you say that since we all exist, we must have a cause, I'm with you. But then, you are at least allowing the possibility that a god exists, so what is the cause of this god?

"God" is not a theory.

And the word is "credibility." There is far too much credulity around here already.


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Offline StPatrick

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2008, 06:10:44 PM »
Is this the same JustMe from the Old Country?
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Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2008, 06:19:08 PM »
I'm surprised at this assertion. I mean, so what? People want to be tall and thin and blonde too. People want all kinds of things that can never be. Wanting something won't make it happen, and doesn't alter reality.

Preist: Why Codswallop, don't you understand? All you must do is have faith in the Lord, and he will alter your reality so that you can believe whatever you want. So long as you believe what I want, that is.

My point: Being tall and thin and blond isn't a mind-trick. People can believe whatever they decide they want to believe. If they want to believe in something and you've taken away what they used to believe, and some idiot comes along and tells them something they like, they're perfectly capable of believing it against the evidence.

And I recognize the contradiction in the idea of God as a first cause, but do you have a better idea?

And StPatrick: No, I'm new to this type of discussion, haven't done it anywhere else before.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2008, 06:58:11 PM by JustMe »

Offline CosmicScherzo

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2008, 09:44:31 PM »
But, in my opinion, religion is more immune to social change than the examples of women's sufferage and smoking. Why? People have much more of a personal and mental investment in their religious beliefs

Those who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and the Parthenon were presumably mentally and personally invested in their religious beliefs.  Does that make those beliefs any less dated?

If I was a smoker, giving up smoking just means smoking was wrong, but giving up my religious beliefs (if I had traditional religious beliefs) makes me wrong

Starting smoking requires a belief that it's okay, or at least worth the risk.  Quitting smoking begins with the realization that you were wrong.

which I would like much less.

So?  That's not an obstacle reality has to hurdle.

I think people will be more willing to give up their beliefs if you let them keep what they like about them (so long as it doesn't contradict any observed phenomena).

In my experience, people's beliefs, at least about the supernatural, are what they like about them.  It's called Spag.

So why not consider the possibility of something theistic, but with a God that ordered the universe but doesn't answer prayers or otherwise intervene in the universe's development?

That's called deism.  I dabbled with it on my way out of theism.  Then I realized that there just isn't any real reason to believe this way.

When I came on this board, the arguments put forward against my ideas appeared aimed at removing my belief system, without suggesting anything to put in its place, even when I asked. I think if successful  that just opens the door for a new and equally damaging belief system.

You only half get it.  The idea that there is that sphere that needs to be filled with a belief in some kind of god is what we're arguing against.  I was raised christian, and now I'm an atheist.  I've replaced God with nothing, and I feel great.

Especially if you're dealing with a group of people who, because they have suspended logical thought for a long time, may lack the skills to think things through.

Those are the people you see in the mailbag.  Occasionally one comes through with enough gears working to consider things more carefully.  Those are who we're trying to reach.

Of course, many people here are former Christians, so you probably know a lot more about the mindset of Christians than I do.

Are you a deist?  I didn't catch what you believed in specifically.
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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2008, 11:03:51 PM »
Do you stop saying, "Odin doesn't exist", and say instead "Odin may exist. We don't think he
does, but we can't say on the evidence it's impossible that the universe was created by
something"?

Jehovah is as likely to be real as Odin.  Substitute the name of any god you like, it still holds true.

But we can't disprove the cosmological argument, which means we can't disprove the idea of a god as a first cause.

For just a moment, let us accept that is true.  So what?  There are lots of things that cannot be disproved, yet we do not hold open possibilities of their existence. And as you point out, it is a self defeating argument anyway (which is sort of like disproving it...)

Aside from that, it is same as my example, you are just using a different god.

but when I asked the forum what alternatives you have all come up with, nobody gave me so much as a book to read.

Is this a god of the gaps argument?  Are you asking what came before the big bang?  "I don't know" is a valid and honest answer.

I'm not arguing for BibleGod or Odin, I'm arguing for the idea of a god-like first cause.

Substitute the name of any god you like, it still holds true.

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Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2008, 10:02:18 AM »
But, in my opinion, religion is more immune to social change than the examples of women's sufferage and smoking. Why? People have much more of a personal and mental investment in their religious beliefs

Those who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and the Parthenon were presumably mentally and personally invested in their religious beliefs.  Does that make those beliefs any less dated?

No, it doesn't. As far as I can see, the movement away from the idea that "we are certain of the answer to everything and the answer is God did it" is inevitable, I just think if we take human psychology into account, rather than just saying "you must submit to reality eventually" maybe that will speed things up. And I think speeding things up would be good. All of your arguments seem to be based around the idea that we'll all eventually come to agree on what reality is, which makes perfect sense. But consider your own progress from Christianity to atheism.

So why not consider the possibility of something theistic, but with a God that ordered the universe but doesn't answer prayers or otherwise intervene in the universe's development?

That's called deism.  I dabbled with it on my way out of theism.  Then I realized that there just isn't any real reason to believe this way.

So why did you dabble? Not because reality dictated you must, because of psychological factors. Because you wanted to keep something of your old belief system, and dumping it all at once was psychologically hard, would be my guess. I think other people will feel the same way, so giving them a deistic explanation (I'm just learning all of these terms, as I've said I'm very new at this) and then asking them to continue to question it will lead a lot of people to move on to atheism. Which I'm fine with. But I think saying "Atheism is right" up front will cause some people to reject it out of hand for psychological self-defense reasons, whereas for some a deistic explanation would be easier to accept (still not easy, but easier).

When I came on this board, the arguments put forward against my ideas appeared aimed at removing my belief system, without suggesting anything to put in its place, even when I asked. I think if successful that just opens the door for a new and equally damaging belief system.

You only half get it.  The idea that there is that sphere that needs to be filled with a belief in some kind of god is what we're arguing against.  I was raised christian, and now I'm an atheist.  I've replaced God with nothing, and I feel great.

Especially if you're dealing with a group of people who, because they have suspended logical thought for a long time, may lack the skills to think things through.

Those are the people you see in the mailbag.  Occasionally one comes through with enough gears working to consider things more carefully.  Those are who we're trying to reach.

Of course, many people here are former Christians, so you probably know a lot more about the mindset of Christians than I do.

Are you a deist?  I didn't catch what you believed in specifically.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all of the terms, definitions and categories of belief, as I just started putting my thoughts out for discussion the week before last. I have pretty much come up with what I think on my own, and it doesn't fit any religion I've ever heard of, but it's not non-theist atheist. I think agnostic atheist would be right, in that I'm not sure we have an answer for whether a theistic or non-theistic explanation is ultimately correct.

On the other hand, I do have a theistic/deistic explanation that makes sense to me. But I keep it around for two reasons:
1. I like it
2. Nobody else has come up with an explanation that makes more sense to me
Not because I "believe in it", or think I can ultimately prove it to be correct. In fact, I put it out on this board to see if anyone, anywhere, could prove it to be incorrect, or had a better explanation for things. And if someone comes along and says "Here's my explanation (and it makes more sense than yours)/here's what science has been able to prove and it conflicts with your explanation" then I'll go "Well that sucks. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted" and drop the whole thing.

When I put my ideas out on a Catholic blog, their reaction was "Your views aren't that far from Christianity - they remind me a lot of C. S. Lewis/St. Augustine". Meanwhile I was thinking "No praying, no heaven or hell, no Jesus-significance, no miracles or divine intervention, no going to church, and no free will, and you think that's close to Christianity? OK, then..." But it got me thinking that if Christians were thinking "That's not so bad, it's kind of like my beliefs", and people who were having trouble accepting a lot of the stupid nonsensical ideas in Christianity but didn't see atheism as an alternative went "This makes perfect sense to me" (which one of them did), then maybe putting my ideas out there and explaining why they might make sense would get people who reject the "Atheism is the only sensible thing to think" approach without really considering it. So there might be some people my ideas reach that yours don't. What I want is some atheists on my blog, and your willingness to push some of the Christians who you think might benefit over there as well. Feel free to argue the atheist viewpoint, but keep in mind that what I'm trying to do isn't to convince everyone of what I believe (because agnostic atheist is closest) but to get people thinking that maybe their current beliefs are a little silly/destructive in places. I'm just taking a different approach from the one people here seem to be taking.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 10:37:52 AM by JustMe »

Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2008, 10:46:05 AM »
Is this a god of the gaps argument?  Are you asking what came before the big bang?  "I don't know" is a valid and honest answer.

Please read my response to CosmicSchezro about what exactly I believe. I'm pretty much agnostic atheist. Could we move on from trying to prove my theistic/deistic idea wrong to considering whether it has value as a tool to move people towards a more sensible set of beliefs?

Offline Codswallop

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2008, 02:39:33 PM »
Could we move on from trying to prove my theistic/deistic idea wrong to considering whether it has value as a tool to move people towards a more sensible set of beliefs?

This is something I was just thinking about earlier today: Deism seems less like a valid belief than like a transitional form in the evolution from popular forms of monotheism to atheism.

Kind of like when you were a kid learning to ride a bike. Some kids found it useful to take off just one training wheel for a little while before going the whole route.
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Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2008, 03:50:23 PM »
Could we move on from trying to prove my theistic/deistic idea wrong to considering whether it has value as a tool to move people towards a more sensible set of beliefs?

This is something I was just thinking about earlier today: Deism seems less like a valid belief than like a transitional form in the evolution from popular forms of monotheism to atheism.

Kind of like when you were a kid learning to ride a bike. Some kids found it useful to take off just one training wheel for a little while before going the whole route.

I agree. I still like my deistic idea, but I'm not too attached to it. I see no harm in continuing to believe it's possible, provided I remain rational if something comes along that challenges what I think. And I also think it gives me an advantage when talking to religious people, because I can talk in a way that makes them see me as wise and thoughtful, rather than arrogant/alien/bitter/combative (which is how a lot of religious folk view atheists). I'm not trying to destroy their faith, just show them how it might be improved. So they listen. That's all I want, is for people to listen, because then I can convince them that my viewpoint makes more sense than theirs, and maybe get them to at least adopt part of it, which is progress. You're trying to change people all at once, and I don't think that will work as well as giving them my system of beliefs, and then slowly, one belief at a time convincing them that it's right.

And for anyone who comes over here from my blog (as I've linked to the WWGHA blog, and mentioned conversations on the forum) I don't necessarily agree that atheism is the most desirable end-state. I think it's OK, but a thoughtful religious-type belief system is too.

The amazing thing is that when I put my deistic idea out to the Catholic blog, the more thoughtful Catholics said things like "Well that idea is what Christianity is supposed to be, it's just many Christians have oversimplified it into something that makes less sense. Whenever I hear that, I tell them that's not what our doctrine is, it annoys me as much as it does you." I've even talked to people who agree with me that it doesn't make a lot of sense to pray with the expectation your prayers will be answered. So there's not as much gap between thoughtful Christianity and atheism as you might think from reading your mailbag.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 04:08:41 PM by JustMe »

Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2008, 04:12:52 PM »
Also, I notice that your first question of the 10 questions for Christians is about amputees. Are there any non-Christian amputees on the forum? Because I'm one, so I think I could be of some use in responding to the Christians for that first question.

Offline Codswallop

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2008, 04:23:06 PM »
Also, I notice that your first question of the 10 questions for Christians is about amputees. Are there any non-Christian amputees on the forum? Because I'm one, so I think I could be of some use in responding to the Christians for that first question.

Just because I like to think visually, what kind of amputee are you?
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Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2008, 06:44:13 PM »
Left leg below knee.

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2008, 09:42:28 PM »
I have a friend I play basketball with whose left arm ends above where is elbow would be. (birth defect)..... He kicks my butt on the court and most of the other players too.....in fact he played college basketball. I admire him greatly!
« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 09:53:16 PM by Generous George »

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #21 on: August 02, 2008, 09:51:08 PM »
My cousin has that same condition!

He plays Halotm as well as anyone with two arms. Gotta say, I admire the guy.
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Offline Codswallop

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #22 on: August 02, 2008, 09:57:44 PM »
Left leg below knee.

My stepfather is AK (right leg).  Laid his Harley down a few years ago and slid under a parked van. He's a very religious Catholic.No regrowth has been noticed so far, but then, he's not the kind to pray for a supernatural fix to the consequences of his own stupidity.

Now he does triathlons (no shit!), and is probably going to get elected Clerk of Courts in his county.
"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons."
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Offline CosmicScherzo

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2008, 02:49:18 AM »
All of your arguments seem to be based around the idea that we'll all eventually come to agree on what reality is

Not quite.  It's more to do with reality being reality whether we agree or not.

That's called deism.  I dabbled with it on my way out of theism.  Then I realized that there just isn't any real reason to believe this way.

So why did you dabble? Not because reality dictated you must, because of psychological factors. Because you wanted to keep something of your old belief system, and dumping it all at once was psychologically hard, would be my guess. I think other people will feel the same way, so giving them a deistic explanation (I'm just learning all of these terms, as I've said I'm very new at this) and then asking them to continue to question it will lead a lot of people to move on to atheism. Which I'm fine with. But I think saying "Atheism is right" up front will cause some people to reject it out of hand for psychological self-defense reasons, whereas for some a deistic explanation would be easier to accept (still not easy, but easier).

It was easier, and I realize now that's why I leaned in that direction.  However, it wasn't unlike the yearning for just one cigarette well after I'd quit smoking.

I have pretty much come up with what I think on my own, and it doesn't fit any religion I've ever heard of, but it's not non-theist atheist. I think agnostic atheist would be right, in that I'm not sure we have an answer for whether a theistic or non-theistic explanation is ultimately correct.

If you're waiting for an ultimate assurance that there is, beyond any doubt, no god before calling yourself an atheist, you'll never get to that point.  Even the most "devout" atheists would have to reevaluate their stance if confronted with irrefutable evidence of the divine.  The thing is, that evidence is sorely lacking.
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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #24 on: August 03, 2008, 10:45:15 AM »
Could we move on from trying to prove my theistic/deistic idea wrong to considering whether it has value as a tool to move people towards a more sensible set of beliefs?

yep.  I like it.   deism as the mehtadone treatment to break theists horrible addiction to god.
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Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #25 on: August 03, 2008, 01:37:53 PM »
yep.  I like it.   deism as the mehtadone treatment to break theists horrible addiction to god.

THANK YOU. That's what I was trying to get across, and I even considered using the example of methadone. I know, it's not an ideal solution, because it lets people hold on to some irrational beliefs a lot longer than they would do if you shocked them into re-building their belief system from scratch. But lots of people are a lot closer to full rationality than you might think from responding to your mailbag every day. Getting those people on-side to talk to their less rational peers (who will listen to them but not you directly) can have a much more beneficial effect than just handling mailbag respondents one by one, and converting them into someone with ideas their peers will not listen to.

You're fighting a war of ideas here, trying to get people to adopt less socially damaging belief systems. You recognize that religion is a meme, and that some smart cynical religious leaders are just basically looking for an infectious idea which will get people to follow them. Use your understanding of the situation to change your strategy. Come up with better memes (I think my deistic idea qualifies), or aim to modify the ideas of the people who come here so that they're closer to yours, even if they're not perfect, knowing that those people will carry those closer-to-rational ideas back where they came from, and share them with the people around them. This involves being less direct in your approach sometimes. If someone seems semi-rational, admit that they might be right on some things, but suggest improvements.

THAT'S how you make social change more quickly. In my opinion, anyway.

Of course, for some people, their belief systems are so warped and nonsensical that they just need the belief-system equivalent of electroshock therapy. And maybe a lot of the people who come through the mailbag fall into that category. But in some cases, I think a change in strategy might be advisable.

Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #26 on: August 03, 2008, 02:29:14 PM »
Also, I don't share the anti-theist (or deist, whatever) ideology of this site. Anti "standard model of religion", yes absolutely. It's used and abused by people who want power and control, and it does a lot of damage. But as a basis from which to derive a framework for saying that life matters, a belief in God isn't something I would oppose. It's just the irrationality and resulting susceptibility to influence that's a problem. A deistic view where we continue to question things, admit that the gaps science can't fill will continue to close and that's a good thing (as my idea does, you'll notice) and remain suspicious of demagogues, seems fine by me.

Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #27 on: August 03, 2008, 03:20:54 PM »
If you're waiting for an ultimate assurance that there is, beyond any doubt, no god before calling yourself an atheist, you'll never get to that point.  Even the most "devout" atheists would have to reevaluate their stance if confronted with irrefutable evidence of the divine.  The thing is, that evidence is sorely lacking.

Why would I want to change my beliefs? They have allowed me to understand both this group of people and religious people, and get the respect of both. I'm not sure how much of a difference I've made here, but it seems to me I've been able to contribute a viewpoint that a few people didn't quite see coming, and my belief system is what made the difference.

The basis of my belief system is an effort to satisfy two requirements:
1. Give me a system of ideas which makes logical sense and satisfies an intrinsic need to understand some sort of "big picture" view of the purpose of life, even though since our knowledge is far from perfect, the belief system I construct may not be representative of reality.
2. Continually be willing to reevaluate my belief system as new facts emerge. My belief system cannot be static, I must be willing to admit I don't really know that it's true, otherwise I'm susceptible to all kinds of problems. Look at the conversation I had on the forum ("Challenge: Find the holes in what I think, or add to it") - I was perfectly willing to admit when something I had said didn't make sense. That attitude is important.

Essentially, I have a "continually re-evaluated best fit" system of beliefs. So just because we can't confirm deisim is correct, if it's the best answer we have so far, it's an OK answer in my book. It makes sense to religious people, almost makes sense to you, except that your ideology says that if we cannot confirm something to be true you cannot believe it, and allows me to have a more open mind than I could do otherwise. People on this site seem to have gotten the idea that we have to keep questioning things, but aren't always doing so.

This line here summarizes your view nicely:

For just a moment, let us accept that is true.  So what?  There are lots of things that cannot be disproved, yet we do not hold open possibilities of their existence.

By closing yourself off to the idea that God might exist even though you cannot disprove the idea, you are closing yourself off from being able to really understand people who do think God exists, and this stops you from being able to persuade them to your point of view as effectively as you could do. You are effectively choosing a position that is contrary to your opponent when, on the evidence (or lack thereof), you should not do so. So you continually end up defending an indefensible position which is of secondary importance to achieving your goals (a more rational set of beliefs for society).

People have made analogies between God and unicorns, leprechauns, Santa Claus, etc. But accepting the possibility of the existence of God has a practical utility that unicorns etc. lack. It allows you to attempt to construct a rational framework (Dawkins would call it a meme) with which to effectively combat the irrational framework of religion. Without accepting the possibility of God, you are cutting yourself off from a key method of reaching your intended audience, and a key weapon in the stuggle for a rational society. Because your belief system is opposed to admitting the idea that God might exist, you fought with me for two days before realizing my idea had merit.

Bottom line, my belief system lets me keep a more open mind than most people on this site, and that's a good thing.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2008, 03:36:45 PM by JustMe »

Offline JustMe

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Re: A suggestion [#125]
« Reply #28 on: August 03, 2008, 05:21:54 PM »
It looks like maybe this is a new thought process for those of you who have decided to basically be certain God doesn't exist. Let me explain how I would fight the destructive aspects of religion:

Instead of fighting one-on-one battles with religious people (or, in addition to doing so - you do good work here :)), we fight religion as a cultural phenomenon - a group of related memes. Those memes have certain values in common. And they're infectious. As a meme, Atheism isn't that great. It hurts, psychologically, to adopt it. You basically have to give someone a lobotomy and then insert atheism into their head. We need to do better. Giving people a religious type meme has the advantage that it's less likely to result in someone going back to a more destructive form of religion, and it's more infectious than the Atheism meme. So when people leave here they go on and tell people about the much better conception of God they now have. And their ideas spread, displacing more destructive ideas.

For the record, I'm not trying to destroy religion, I'm just trying to oppose the parts of it that don't make sense in the modern world as effectively as I can. How do I do that?  I ask people what they like about their religion, and if I can incorporate that into my logically consistent idea, I do. I ask people what they don't like about my idea, and if I can take it out without compromising its logical integrity, I would do so, and if not I explain to the person why it has to stay (usually this indicates a logical inconsistency on their part). I ask people if they see any logical flaws in it, and if they can point out any, I find a way to resolve them. These conversations also give me the opportunity to explain things that might not be clear to people at first, and oppose ideas they may have that don't make sense. As a side effect, this all makes my personal conception of God and what religion should be more infectious, and harder to argue against.

Step 1 in this process (if you'd like to do this yourself) is to recognize that you've got a mental block about admitting God might exist. And step 2, once you've got over that, is to think about how things would make sense if God did exist, while still remaining logical and rational. You need a coherent set of ideas that answer the major questions that religions answer, but are also consistent with the observed universe. So I guess that basically rules out theism in favor of deism. Have a look at my idea, and adapt it if you like. But here's the catch: you have to actually believe that if God exists, your description of how the universe works will end up being as close to accurate as you can make it, and you have to be committed to updating it as you learn new things. This can't just be something you made up to fool stupid people, because there will always be one or two smart ones who will poke a hole in it, and you actually want those people around because they are an excellent means of spreading your ideas. You can't do this cynically, and if you get caught out on something you didn't think of, you have to admit it and say you'll think about what this means for your idea (and do think about it - adapt your idea so the hole is closed) rather than trying to make something up on the spot and hope people are too logic-impaired to notice. You have to truly put yourself in a mindframe where you assume God exists and go from there. And when you're talking to religious people and asking them to poke a hole in your idea, you have to get back into that same mindframe. You can start off with "I'm not sure God exists, there's a good chance He doesn't, but..." but after that you pretty much have to genuinely assume God exists.

My ultimate goal is to get a bunch of people doing this, spreading my conception of God (or a similar one they have come up with) all over the place. These ideas mutate as they get passed along, and they displace religion as we know it with something better.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2008, 08:02:17 AM by JustMe »