Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Intellectual Rubbish Dilemma

I think there is something I call the Intellectual Rubbish Dilemma, which is the problem we have if we choose to get into discussions with views that we think of as rubbish and unworthy of respect. The difficulty is that an effective critique of an opposing position requires careful and charitable reading of what an opponent has said. To do a good job in critique requires us to be charitable, but to use enough charity to do a good critique sometimes requires us to appear to have more respect for our opponents than we think they deserve. In such situations I err on the side of charity. 

129 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said! We cannot be reminded of this enough. I spotted a minor error: "Chooses" in your first sentence ought to be "choose."

A long-time reader, but first-time poster,

Sarah Geis

JS Allen said...

Definitely an area of potential improvement for me.

Gimli 4 the West said...

One more reason I remain a season ticket holder.

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I think we need to be very careful of dismissing ideas as intellectual rubbish as it makes it much harder to convince that person of anything. If you take a person seriously (even if you do not believe it should be taken seriously) you have a chance of convincing them. Dismissing people is frequently just a way of avoiding having to deal with their views. (Though I will admit I have trouble taking some things seriously, like appearances of Elvis.)

Steve Lovell said...

I agree, with this. It's difficult though, isn't it! I know I don't always manage to keep my feelings in check.

Also relevant is the following from Chesterton:

If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections.

Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason . . . Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic’s theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way. I mean that if you or I were dealing with a mind that was growing morbid, we should be chiefly concerned not so much to give it arguments as to give it air, to convince it that there was something cleaner and cooler outside the suffocation of a single argument.

student said...

Hi Mr. Reppert,

I have read a fair amount of philosophy books and quite skeptical about the possibility of us arriving at truth/reality (or whatever you termed it) through philosophy. The problem is that all philosophy rests on central axiom which we must take to be self-evidently true. This is the part that concerns me. I have recently encountered websites by ex(?)-philosopher who regarded most philosophy as BS and suggests that if we accept any axiom, we can believe in anything consistently including solipsism which he claims irrefutable. What is your take on this?

Hoot said...

John Loftus: First, I do not like being treated as a nincompoop by anyone. If someone does that then I will bring the full brunt of my critical thinking powers down upon them. I am not someone to be messed with.

This guy really cracks me up! I love it when he gets mad and says dumb stuff.

Leonhard said...

I agree completely with the OP. There's so many shallow criticisms around that deal with a few fringe statements in a book, or article, instead of the fundamental thesis. I know Richard Carrier prefaced Sense and Goodness Without God with an urging to critics to apply the same advice that Reppert gives here. That didn't stop this critic from selecting a few quotes from the end of the book, about what a secular future might look like, and some speculations about what a better of way of doing politics might be and using this as the main elements of his criticism. He basically missed the boat on naturalistic epistemology, morality and theory of mind which were the chief elements of the book.

I guess the reason for this is that we -I know from personal experience- have a very easy time demonizing people that belong in a different tribe. Its an instinct, and I catch myself doing it often. I've had to completely rewrite several posts after giving them a read through. And to treat a subject you disagree with requires reading a lot of material. It requires work you-might-not-like-doing. Fortunately this is something that becomes easier as time goes by, and I think you can acquire a taste for it. Mature philosophers seem to relish the idea of a book or article that contains strong objections to their own ideas. I'm not quite there yet, but its definitely gotten easier as time goes by to start treating people I disagree with with the respect they deserve.

Of course there's still morons out there who are hardly worthy of reply, or even then only of ridicule. You have learn to distinguish those from serious critics and avoid lumping them together in the same group.

To student, mind posting that fundamental axiom that all philosophers agree upon?

Dustin Crummett said...

Student:

Your argument also depends on 'central axioms which we must take to be self-evidently true'...

student said...

Hi.

No, I mean how can we be certain that our axiom is true...
Some says the Law of Logic is accepted by all philosophers, but this is hardly the case. The mystics for example do not accept the Law of Logic. Furthermore, how can we be certain that all our reasoning come to anything also.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

How does a religionist apply the principles of the 'Intellectual Rubbish Dilemma' when science begins to fill in the pieces about why humans believe as they do?
about why we develop belief systems as a function of our genetically derived predisposition to 'hyper-sociality'?

Below is another small piece of the puzzle that picks up the most recent research in neuro-physiology, adding to the corpus of evidence about why humans resort to building belief systems:

http://www.statesman.com/life/faith/author-offers-evolutionary-explanation-for-religion-1546961.html#.Tfzilu6ZtbM;email

My questions, are we, as a society, about to repeat the long drawn-out process as is characterized in the Galileo chain of events? Humanity is, at this very moment in time, replicating the Galileo Dilemma [as I call it] in its long-drawn out exercise around the acknowledgement and acceptance of Darwinian evolution by natural selection? We seem to be in the final moments of general acceptance of the science underpinning evolution. The consequence though, is that religion must always give ground on claims it cannot substantiate and which is in direct contradiction to the science. The Evolution debate has now been with us for some 150 years, though Kitzmiller v Dover School and some of the shenanigans in State education departments informs us there is some ground yet to be covered.

The Galileo Dilemma is the definitive model that describes the classic disjunction between human cognition and behaviour. This separation of cognition and recognition on one side with that of behaviour and acknowledgement on the other, are symptomatic of the general dysfunction between science and religion.

The next great discussion, with us today, is why religion is an expression of our sociality? Why do we believe as we do? Why it is we have this propensity to externalize the actualizing of beings within a supernatural setting through psychological projection? The science is formidable and the article mentioned above highlights the current level of investigation in this area of research.

Will we once again, replicate the experience of the long drawn-out Galileo Dilemma on this most important area of the human condition?

Dustin Crummett said...

Student:

Yes, and how can we be certain that the axioms involved in your argument are true? And how can we be certain that the reasoning in your argument against the possibility of finding philosophical knowledge comes to anything...

The point is that you are yourself giving a philosophical argument with philosophical premises. Any argument against philosophy as a whole will be self-defeating.

Gimli 4 the West said...

Pap,

Sounds like your on your way to developing a great myth there. You got your suffering hero, a story that explains the vast range of human experience (thanks for the link), and plenty of hope for the future. Keep the faith and keep me posted, I'd like to see how that science works itself out.

Papalinton said...

Gimli 4 the west

If the scientific myth is founded on evidence, and the proofs can be replicated with consistent and accurate results, and is open to falsification, I say, bring it on.

But then, history tells us about those unable to adapt to change to new conditions and challenges, re the Homo Neanderthalensis.

Rasmus Møller said...

Papalinton,

Didn't you just restate the AFR?

If our religious beliefs have non-rational (f.ex. evolutionary) causes, as you propose, it means that they are not rational beliefs.

However that sword is double-edged.

Your so-called explanation covers all human beliefs, your own beliefs as well. How are we to trust you, if your belief system have fallen by the same sword that fell religion?

I apologize for stating the obvious.

Papalinton said...

@ Rasmus Møller

No, Rasmus, I did not refer to religious beliefs having non-rational causes at all.

student said...

@Dustin

Hmmm there is something in your argument... but nevertheless there is still this ringing question... how can we be certain of something? The last time I check, philosophers cannot even agree on what is truth. Correspondence, Foundationalism, Coherentism? Many philosophers just assume one version or another and move on and build on top of it, but if we cannot be sure at our foundation, how can we be sure about the top? Philosophy thus becomes very subjectivist...

student said...

@Papalinton

Your case against religion appears to be very "psychoanalyzing" in its attitude. "We have studied how religions develop and how religious people appear to be thinking", with hidden tongue-in-cheek implication that it is thus unreliable.
The problem similar thing has been done to science starting from T.S. Kuhn to many sociologist of science and the result has not been pretty to science also.

Morrison said...

What might an atheistic society look like?

Why not the society portrayed in the book 1984?

Remember, Big Brother was an atheist, he did not think he would ever be stopped because there was no God to ever stop him.

Morrison said...

Papalintman tells us that science
will "fill in the pieces".

Papalintman ignores the fact that the more we learn the more we realize we don't know, and in principle can never know.

That is why even Stephen Hawking has given up on a "Theory of Everything".

What Science will continue to provide are greater and greater means of destruction while degrading ethics to a mere calculation, calculations made by atheists like Sam Harris who tell us that "It may even be ethical to kill people for their beliefs." (something atheits did all through the 20th century and are even continuing in the present era)...even Einstein realized that technological advance was outpacing ethical advance.

Tony Hoffman said...

I'm just visiting this thread and I see that Morrison is blithely promoting a canard regarding the relation of atheism to the last century's great crimes. This is debunked all over the web, but my favorite is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP_iNCGH9kY

(If you'd prefer to just read the script you can go here: http://www.nonstampcollector.com/HitlerTheAtheist/)

The shorthand for debunking this old saw is that dogmatism, in all its forms, is the culprit in fomenting the kind of hate that leads to mass murder. Hitler and Stalin were almost certainly sociopaths. The problem lies in the fact that those who opposed them (and atheist intellectuals were among the first contained and destroyed in both regimes) were effectively isolated and removed, and that their followers either blindly obeyed (just following orders) or were too frightened to oppose them.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are perhaps the two greatest philanthropists in history. They are both atheists. Look at what these two madmen are capable of when they believe there is no God...

Btw, special mention goes to citing a fictional character (Big Brother) as an example of where atheism leads.

BenYachov said...

I don't so much mind Atheists defending themselves from being linked with Stalin. But the inconsistency of New Atheist Fundies in absolving Atheism while simultaneously condemning religion for Salem & or the inquisition is equally irrational. Historically untenable and a blatant double standard.

BenYachov said...

Also the canard that Stalin & Co never killed in the name of Atheism doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Of course they killed in the name of Atheism. All their Theistic Victims who survived testify their torturers repeatedly told them "There is no God! We can do what we want to you! There is no Hell etc". They set up organizations who purposes was to promote Atheism & supress religion.

Now a mature rational Atheist can look at this and say "That is wrong and a perversion of what I believe Atheism to be".

But clowns like Dawkins & Co who try to have it both ways. They don't even pass the laugh test.

Finally there is no rational reason why Atheism must exclusively be defined negatively.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/05/against-terminological-mischief-negative-atheism-and-negative-nominalism.html

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/05/what-is-behind-the-terminological-mischief-of-the-negative-atheists.html

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/03/attaching-useful-senses-to-negative-atheism-and-positive-atheism.html#more

I'm going on vacation.

BenYachov said...

>Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are perhaps the two greatest philanthropists in history. They are both atheists. Look at what these two madmen are capable of when they believe there is no God...

OTOH for those of us who believe in Natural Law and that God wrote His Law on the hearts of all men this is unremarkable. Of course Atheist can be good. But we haven't settled the idea we truly live in a godless universe. So this question begging.

Seriously I'm gone!

Tony Hoffman said...

Wow, Ben, that first link you provided is a really terrible post. I'm not even sure where to start.

Atheism is a lack of belief in Gods. That's all there is to it. This shouldn't be so hard to understand, because we see the same terminological issues when it comes to colors and white. White is simply the absence of any color. But if one were to follow the logic of the post you provided, white isn't really the absence of colors because sometimes people refer to white as being a color. (What color is your car? White. See, white is indeed a color!)

Common usage, confusion of terms, etc., does not change the fact that there is such a thing as lack of belief in any gods (call it what you will), just as there is such a thing as a surface that reflects all of the wavelengths of the visual spectrum (call it what you will).

If atheism is too bundled a term for you, I suggest you think non-theist instead. But I find it incomprehensible that a theist such as yourself cannot imagine that there be such a person as one whose position on gods is that there aren't any.

Eric said...

"Wow, Ben, that first link you provided is a really terrible post. I'm not even sure where to start."

Hi Tony

I'm interested in hearing specifically what you think is wrong with Dr. Vallicella's post. As far as I can tell, after saying that his post was "really terrible," all you did was restate your position; you didn't actually engage with the post. Here's a good place to start: Do you accept Dr. Vallicella's claim that atheism understood as a lack of belief in god by rational beings capable of forming beliefs denotes a property, and is not propositional? If not, why not? If so, where did he go wrong in reasoning from this common premise?

BenYachov said...

>Atheism is a lack of belief in Gods.

Thus my car is an "Atheist" since it has no belief in "gods".

Additionally Nominalism is a "lack of belief in Universals" instead of a denial of the existence of Universals.

Sorry Tony all you did was merely dismiss Dr. Vallicella's argument.

I don't find that convincing.

BenYachov said...

>Common usage, confusion of terms, etc., does not change the fact that there is such a thing as lack of belief in any gods (call it what you will),

I was unaware there was an Atheist Linguistic Pope who could infallibly and dogmatically define Atheism in the narrow terms of negative Atheism?

Granted I believe only in Classic Theism (san Theistic Personalism) but I do think it would be stupid to broadly define Theism in general in only Classic Terms.

If you champion Negative Atheism that's your right but that not the exhaustive definition. OTOH Classic Theism is a positive definition. Negative Atheism is not.

What if I define Theism as "Lacking No God belief"?

Believe what you like but even if I deny "gods" tomorrow I see no reason to adopt this as the sole definition.

BenYachov said...

Here's one on killing in the name of Atheism.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/04/is-religion-the-problem-why-isnt-belief-as-such-the-problem-the-special-pleading-of-some-atheists.html#more

And another on the burden of proof.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/03/the-definition-of-atheist-and-the-burden-of-proof.html

Morrison said...

Hoffman also ignores the fact that the concept of "Communism" has been around for millenia...it does not have to be atheistic.

But the form it took in the 20th century was atheistic, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize winner, gave many examples of what Ben Yachov mentions about the atheist perpetrators of torture against the victims.

And YEP, the did it Because of their atheism. Hoffman is simply in denial.

Solzhenitsyn wrote an award winning Three VOLUME series about it titled The Gulag Archipelago and this has been known since the 70's

So Hoffman and other Atheist Apologists are either uninformed or something worse.

JS Allen said...

I'm going to have to side with Tony on this one:

"The shorthand for debunking this old saw is that dogmatism, in all its forms, is the culprit in fomenting the kind of hate that leads to mass murder."

I don't see any evidence of Tony applying a double standard on this point. From what he has said, it seems he would also agree that most of the murders perpetrated in the name of Christianity weren't actually caused by belief Christianity.

Eric said...

"The shorthand for debunking this old saw is that dogmatism, in all its forms, is the culprit in fomenting the kind of hate that leads to mass murder."

I can't see how this could be the case, at least as it's formulated.

Say I'm dogmatic about never harming, in any way, another living, sentient being: This is a form of dogmatism ("dogmatism, in all its forms, is the culprit"), but it couldn't foment "the kind of hate that leads to mass murder." So even if we agree that dogmatism is a necessary condition (I'm not saying that I do agree with this), it's clearly not, as Tony said, a sufficient condition.

Papalinton said...

Ben
I really like reading maverickphilosopher. Have done so for some time. But one must be mindful that he declares himself a maverick and not part of any mainstream. So while he is entertaining reading one must be judicious about how you use his commentary. He is also quite right of centre, conservative, and does not think highly of the lefties and liberals [that in itself is not a bad thing] but it does influence his softly, softly approach to religion, he does not want to run too wide in order not to raise the ire of his natural constituency, his conservative readers. Otherwise he won't be popular any more. Although he declares himself not a believer, he's not about to cut the cord permanently any time soon. Perhaps a little Pascal Wager nerves prevents him from doing so.

Although I agree with a lot that he writes, there is lots that I don't, and I think distinguishes him as a somewhat mid-strength 'contrarian', a character that befits the title of his blog.

Papalinton said...

@ Ben Yachov

"But we haven't settled the idea we truly live in a godless universe."

Don't worry Ben, it's happening as we speak.

Eric said...

"Although he declares himself not a believer, he's not about to cut the cord permanently any time soon."

Dr. Vallicella is a believer, if by this you minimally mean that he's a theist. He's not a Christian (as far as I can tell), but he does believe in god.

"So while he is entertaining reading one must be judicious about how you use his commentary."

Well, we should be judicious in our use of any commentary. But surely, if you have a problem with any of the things Dr. Vallicella has said in the links Ben refers to, you should deal specifically with it, and not simply post vague warnings about how to use his material.

Papalinton said...

Morrison
You repeatedly tend to gloss over fact that Solzhenitsyn was a devout Russian Orthodox christian.

Would you believe an atheist?

Papalinton said...

@ Eric
"Dr. Vallicella is a believer, if by this you minimally mean that he's a theist. He's not a Christian (as far as I can tell), but he *does* [my emphasis] believe in god."

Well. Enough said. His testimony must be consigned to the basket of Apologetics.

That's is unfortunate. I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. But if he is a god-botheree, there is little he can contribute by way of a 'natural' discussion.

Eric said...

"Well. Enough said. His testimony must be consigned to the basket of Apologetics."

Why doesn't this work both ways? If I learn that S, and man who is, like Dr. Vallicella, undeniably brilliant and well educated, and as far as we can tell is also honest and virtuous, is an atheist, am I thereby justified in consigning what he has to say on the issues "to the basket of [atheist] apologetics"?

Papalinton said...

@ Eric

You ask, "But surely, if you have a problem with any of the things Dr. Vallicella has said in the links Ben refers to, you should deal specifically with it, ..."

Ben doesn't run the agenda or this meeting. He has not responded to my points in any meaningful and cogent way. In terms of what Vallicella says, that is irrelevant; not because they are not well written, they are, but they are written through religious ideation, on an apologetic format. And Apologetics is not a discipline based on evidence or fact. It is solely interpretive. Apologetics is based on all the facts being already known to humankind, there are no more facts to be derived. And all these facts are in the bible; only to be interpreted.
So you can appreciate that any commentary centered around an Apologetical framework is from stock with a highly dubious pedigree.

Papalinton said...

@ Eric

Who is S?

Papalinton said...

@ Ben Yachov
You ask, "What if I define Theism as "Lacking No God belief"?
Believe what you like but even if I deny "gods" tomorrow I see no reason to adopt this as the sole definition."

You see Ben, you make the mistake of categorizing atheism as a 'belief system' which it patently isn't. That is because your christian worldview does not allow you to consider things without viewing them through the lens of theism.

Atheism is *not* a belief system. With atheism there is no doctrine, no 'good' book, no dogma, no catechism, no organised tradition, no institutional body or theological administrative organisation underpinning the ritual and ceremony; there is no procedural observance; no service, no sacrament, no liturgy, no organised and regular worship; no custom or atheistic tradition, and there is no formalised convention, procedure or established protocol. There are no 'church' officers, no hierarchy of promotion of clergy/ministers, no administrators or CEOs of centralized management arrangements, there is no career service in atheism as is called for in theistic belief systems. All these are emblematic characteristics of a belief 'system'. Atheism is not, in and of itself, a systematized process through which direct support of, and the administration of, such a belief system is appropriate or required. There is no requirement for infrastructure support to maintain, co-ordinate and administer the various elements of a belief system as is clearly evident in the Roman Catholic organisation, or the Southern Baptist Convention, or any of the myriad mega-church industries. Atheism is not an industry.

By contrast all religions are in the 'eternal insurance' industry through which customers buy insurance to cover travel costs and entry visas into the next world [putatively heaven], following their demise in this one. The clergy are ostensibly insurance salesman. [Benny Hinn is a religious insurance hawker/insurance loan shark of a particular stripe. The pope is another breed of eternal insurance officer]

I am reminded of Joseph Lewis, American author, writer, who noted: "Religion is all profit. They have no merchandise to buy, no commissions to pay, and no refunds to make for unsatisfactory service or results .... Their commodity is fear; their inventories are lies ..... their deferred tax assets are guilt and self-abasement."

I am atheist. But it is not my worldview. i am a naturalist guided by humanist principles.. You can't get better than that.

Eric said...

"You see Ben, you make the mistake of categorizing atheism as a 'belief system' which it patently isn't...I am atheist. But it is not my worldview. i am a naturalist guided by humanist principles"

Would you say that naturalism a belief system? Humanism? If the answer to both is "no," then what would you say naturalism and humanism are, and could you clarify what you mean when you use those terms?

Tony Hoffman said...

JS Allen: "I don't see any evidence of Tony applying a double standard on this point. From what he has said, it seems he would also agree that most of the murders perpetrated in the name of Christianity weren't actually caused by belief Christianity."

Thanks for that. And yes, I do agree with your statement above. I know I risk being called for a no true Scotsman on this one (how ironic), but I do think that the the perpetrators of the Inquisition, for instance, were certainly not driven by any reasonable interpretation of Christ's words. But they were driven by a dogmatic adherence to authoritarian powers, and for that I fault them.

Eric said...

Papalinton, I just noticed that you have listed on your profile, as your first interest, "reading and blogging on non-theist [atheist_agnostic_secular humanist] *worldviews*". You might want to reformulate that! ;)

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben: “Of course they killed in the name of Atheism. All their Theistic Victims who survived testify their torturers repeatedly told them "There is no God! We can do what we want to you! There is no Hell etc". “

Hmmm. You have an actual reference for this? As you describe the above it sounds a tad hyperbolic.

Also, killing in the name of atheism, and claiming that there will be no consequences post death, are two separate things. It appears that you are concluding they are the same. This appears to be a common mistake among theists who (I believe) should know better, and I think you should strive to rise above it. The notion is just silly.

Atheist: “I don’t believe in gods!”
Other Atheist: “I don’t believe in gods, either.”
Atheist: “Great. You know what that means we should do?”
Together: “Torture people!!”

Ben: “Now a mature rational Atheist can look at this and say "That is wrong and a perversion of what I believe Atheism to be".”

No. A mature and rational atheist can ask why people think that not believing in Gods would impel them to torture people. A mature and rational atheist can admit, “Atheism provides no good reasons to NOT kill people.” (This is true, I admit it.) But by the same token, it provides no reasons to go out and torture people either. That’s because atheism is a lack of belief in Gods, and as such it has nothing to say about what we ought and should not do. That is why atheists look elsewhere for their morality. I am not saying this necessarily leads to better choices one way or another, but that is the fact of the situation.

JS Allen said...

@Eric - The claim was not that dogmatism leads inevitably to murder, just that dogmatism, rather than belief, was the primary cause of many of the things that get blamed on belief.

@Ben - When a political group kills Christians in the name of atheism, it is almost never the case that atheism is the true cause (same for killing in the name of God). It's not as if Stalin became a fervent believer in atheism and then decided, "My beliefs compel me to kill Christians". He simply decided that Christians were a potential threat to him, and used dogmatic atheism as an excuse to kill them.

People who share belief systems tend to form cohesive political (and often, ethnic) blocs. When two blocs come into competition for resources or power, the natural instinct is for both sides to dig in their heels and become more dogmatic, and attempt to take out the other side. That's what's happening in the vast majority of the cases people point to as "Christian persecution" or "atheist persecution".

At least the Chinese are honest about this. Falun Gong members or Christian House Church members will tend to form cohesive political blocs, and the Party cannot allow that to happen. If the blocs got too big, they might become impossible to control. So they break them up, and put Party members in charge of the official Christian church in China. All religions are allowed, as long as they are controlled by the Chairman. I think this explains most cases throughout history -- it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with power.

BenYachov said...

> but I do think that the the perpetrators of the Inquisition, for instance, were certainly not driven by any reasonable interpretation of Christ's words. But they were driven by a dogmatic adherence to authoritarian powers, and for that I fault them.

No the Spanish Inquisition was largely political and a tool of the Spanish Monarchy.

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2007/0709tbt.asp

Not even close Tony.

JS Allen said...

@BenYahov - Seems pretty close to me. Are you saying that the Spanish Monarchy wasn't an authoritarian power?

BenYachov said...

>Hmmm. You have an actual reference for this? As you describe the above it sounds a tad hyperbolic.

I may have read about it either on Matt & Madeleine Flannagan's Blog or somewhere else. I recall it was linked to the testimony of a survivor the USSR Gulags.

OTOH if I did dig it up you might simply dismiss it by saying "Well we don't know that all of Stalin's torturers". Which is a wee heads I win tales you lose. Like this whole Dawkin/Hitchens nonsense.

Still THE LEAGUE OF THE MILITANT GODLESS was formed by Stalin & charged with the task of rooting religion out of the USSR and imposing Atheism. They were not nice about it. To put it mildly.

People have killed & persecuted in the name of Atheism. That seems obvious. It is a NO TRUE SCOTSMEN fallacy to say otherwise.

>Also, killing in the name of atheism, and claiming that there will be no consequences post death, are two separate things. It appears that you are concluding they are the same.

Yes and clearly it is the same.

BenYachov said...

JSAllen

I saw the word "Dogmatic" and concluded it was a swipe at religion.

Never the less if that is another way of saying political then I take it back.

Tony Hoffman said...

Eric: “I'm interested in hearing specifically what you think is wrong with Dr. Vallicella's post.:

Okay.

MV: “Note first that atheism cannot be identified with the lack of theistic belief, i.e., the mere absence of the belief that God exists, for that would imply that cabbages and tire irons are atheists.”

I’m sorry, but that’s just an asinine way to begin the second sentence in a post. Do we really need to say, when we say that so-and-so does not believe in global warming, that we’re not talking about Spencer the dog or Norman the rock? This non-believer in global warming is also a PERSON. Whew, glad we straightened that out. So that had me squinting at the page from the start, wondering if things maybe just began badly. But no.

Paragraph 2 is a much worse train wreck. I’ll break it up to point out where I disagree.

“But [atheism being merely a lack of belief in Gods] cannot be right either, and for a very simple reason. Atheism is something people discuss, debate, argue for, argue against, draw conclusions from, believe, disbelieve, entertain, and so on.”

No. Just, no. The proposition is the existence of a God. Both the proposition and the affirmative to the proposition are called theism, and the denial is atheism. To say otherwise is to throw out the concept of the burden of proof. To throw out the burden of proof seems like a bigger task than the 6 paragraphs in the post.

MV: “Atheism, in other words, is a PROPOSITION: it is something that can be either true or false, that can be the object of such propositional attitudes as belief and disbelief, and can stand in such logical relations to other propositions as entailment, consistency, and inconsistency.”

Again, no. Atheism is a description of the false position to the proposition that is Theism. Theism is the proposition, and theism is also a description of the true property. I have seldom seem someone try to make it so hard to understand.

MV: “But one cannot discuss, debate, argue for, . . . believe, etc. a lack of something.”

Yes. That is why atheism is a property.

MV: “Atheism redefined as the lack of theistic belief is a PROPERTY of certain persons.”

Redefined? No, that is how it is defined. No one has struggled with this yet but MV.

MV: “Now a proposition is not a property. Atheism is a proposition and for this reason cannot be redefined as a property.”

What? MV basically has declared higher up in the paragraph that: “Atheism is discussed, therefore it is a proposition.” But being discussed is not a reason why something is a proposition. A proposition is something that can be true or false, whereas atheism is merely a property of this proposition (as is theism, which is a property of those who affirm the proposition that a God exists).

To say that atheism is the proposition is to fundamentally reverse the concept of the burden of proof. I see no reason why this should be done.

BenYachov said...

>Atheist: “I don’t believe in gods!”
Other Atheist: “I don’t believe in gods, either.”
Atheist: “Great. You know what that means we should do?”
Together: “Torture people!!”

Tony I am not a Fundamentalist. I'm a Catholic.

Since I already believe God wrote His Law into the hearts of even Atheists I don't really believe if you deny God you automatically conclude you should commit evil.
You have at minimum natural grace to do otherwise.

Atheists can be good. The issue is why ought they be good given there appears to be no objective moral order in a godless reality?

Now even many Atheist philosophers will admit this is not an easy problem and other would say it cannot be solved.

OTOH just because you can't know why you ought to be good doesn't mean you will be evil.

I forget it was either Michael Shurmmer or Ruse who did a talk where he asked people would they harm him if they knew they could get away with it? The majority said no.

So I don't believe Atheists are more likely to be bad then most other folks.

Of course I don't apply that to New Atheists since in my experience they are like rabid fanatical bigoted religious fanatics I've know. Except without God belief.;-)

BenYachov said...

@Tony
>No. A mature and rational atheist can ask why people think that not believing in Gods would impel them to torture people.

I agree. Even if you can't think of a reason not to torture people that's not the same as having a reason to do it. Even if you can't come up with a rational philosophical argument on why you ought to be good in a godless universe doesn't mean you will have the Stomach to beat a child to death.

Of course I still believe God wrote His Law in the Hearts of Atheists so from my perspective the point it moot.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben,

I feel like you're not reading my comments carefully, making assumptions, and making assertions that are not well supported. I won't respond until you tighten things up and refine your criticism of my comments. As it stands now, things are too broadly stated for me to engage with you properly, and I don't have time to remedy all the misconceptions that I think are being brought up.

Take care.

BenYachov said...

Tony I find your criticism of Bill lacking.

>I’m sorry, but that’s just an asinine way to begin the second sentence in a post.

No it's rather clever since it shows how a pure negative definition renders the term meaningless and empty of content. Which is the point.

>Do we really need to say, when we say that so-and-so does not believe in global warming, that we’re not talking about Spencer the dog or Norman the rock?

You are equivocating here. There is a difference between saying "Something lacks a belief in Global warming" vs "I don't believe there really is Global warming". So you miss the point.

>No. Just, no. The proposition is the existence of a God. Both the proposition and the affirmative to the proposition are called theism, and the denial is atheism.

So do you define Atheism as "Lacking God belief" or "There is no God(s)? You can't have it both ways. Bill is critiquing the Negative definition here.

Don't you know this?

BenYachov said...

>I feel like you're not reading my comments carefully, making assumptions, and making assertions that are not well supported.

I feel that way as well.

>I won't respond until you tighten things up and refine your criticism of my comments.

I would like to do this but I am at a loss of what you want?

>As it stands now, things are too broadly stated for me to engage with you properly, and I don't have time to remedy all the misconceptions that I think are being brought up.

As you wish. I have nothing against you Tony. Indeed you are very civilized and it is a pleasure to respond to you.

BenYachov said...

>MV: “But one cannot discuss, debate, argue for, . . . believe, etc. a lack of something.”

>Yes. That is why atheism is a property.

What kind of property? Since you deny Cars can really be Atheists what do they lack that keeps them from having the property of Atheism?

If you say intellect then you have a problem. Lack of belief is not a property. Or do you now believe something black has the property of color? How is lacking something a property? Do I have the property of "no wings"?

No you are mistaking even defined negatively Atheism can't be a property. Clearly it's a proposition.

>But being discussed is not a reason why something is a proposition. A proposition is something that can be true or false, whereas atheism is merely a property of this proposition (as is theism, which is a property of those who affirm the proposition that a God exists).

No the proposition is "There is no God" or "We can't know there is or is not a God".

Saying you lack "God belief" is neither a proposition or a property. It is on the level of me saying "I lack a no-God belief".

BenYachov said...

Anyway read the rest of the essays.

Cheers!

BenYachov said...

JSAllen wrote:
>>From what he has said, it seems he would also agree that most of the murders perpetrated in the name of Christianity weren't actually caused by belief Christianity."

Tony replied
>Thanks for that. And yes, I do agree with your statement above.

Then we are not that far apart.

But I do believe people have killed both in the name of God and in the USSR in the name of Atheism.

That seems plain to me.

I don't believe it is productive or accurate to define Atheism solely in negative terms.

No do I believe Atheism leads to automatic evil per say. Natural grace and or Extra-ordinary grace are given to Atheists.

Even assuming the perspective of a godless universe one might still refrain from evil if only out of subjective sentiment or feelings of empathy. Even if one can't think of a rational reason.

Hey I don't care why somebody doesn't steal my wallet. As long as they don't.

BenYachov said...

I found it!

http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/06/contra-mundum-religion-and-violence.html

QUOTE:Richard Wurmbrand, a victim of communist persecution in Romania, stated that “communist torturers often said there is no God, no hereafter, no life after death, we can do what we wish.” The fact that atheism was not the motivation for these actions seems to be news to those who actually witnessed them.end quote

Anonymous said...

To the "atheists" in this thread, here is the actual definition of atheism:

-------------

"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004

"Atheism, from the Greek a-theos ("no-god"), is the philosophical position that God doesn't exist." - Academic American Encyclopedia

"Atheism (from the Greek a-, not, and theos, god) is the view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism. A stricter sense denotes a belief that there is no God, the use has become the standard one." - Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995

"Atheism is the doctrine that there is no God. Some atheists support this claim by arguments, but these arguments are usually directed against the Christian concept of God, and are largely irrelevant to other possible gods." - Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 1995

"Atheism (Greek, a- [private prefix] + theos, god) is the view that there is no divine being, no God." - Dictionary of Philosophy, Thomas Mautner, 1996

"Atheism is the belief that God doesn't exist." - The World Book Encyclopedia, 1991

"Atheism, Greek atheos - Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of God." - Oxford English Dictionary, 1989

"Atheism, commonly speaking, is the denial of God. Theism (from the Greek theos, God) is belief in or conceptualization of God, atheism is the rejection of such belief or conceptualization." - Encyclopedia Americana, 1990

"Atheism is the doctrine that God does not exist, that belief in the existence of God is a false belief. The word God here refers to a divine being regarded as the independent creator of the world, a being superlatively powerful, wise and good." - Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987

"According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no god..." - The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967

"Atheism (Greek and Roman): Atheism is a dogmatic creed, consisting in the denial of every kind of supernatural power." - Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol II

"Atheism denies the existence of deity." - Funk and Wagnall's New Encyclopedia, Vol I

Anonymous said...

Same anon here.

Notice that atheism is not merely a "lack of belief" in the existence of God. It is not just *disbelief* in the proposition "God exists," but is rather the outright *denial* or negation of that proposition.

Notice that I didn't peddle definitions from wikipedia, dictionary.com, or some popular-level, anti-religious screed a la The God Delusion.

Notice that I consulted scholarly reference works, especially works in academic philosophy. "Atheism" is a strictly philosophical term denoting a strictly philosophical position, and therefore reference works in academic philosophy are the ultimate reference point as to what the word actually means, in much the same way as medical dictionaries and encyclopedias supersede lay, ordinary dictionaries and encyclopedias on issues pertaining to medicine.

And notice that there is no mention of "strong atheism," "weak atheism," "agnostic atheist," "agnostic theist," or any other such contemptible, unscholarly, linguistically unsightly piffle.



Anyway, all that to say the following towards modern, so-called "atheists":

If the above definitions of "atheism" do not characterize anything within your mental network, you are simply not an atheist, and therefore should not style yourself as such. Do us all a favor and give up the label "atheist" so that the contemporary atheist/theist debates can have a much-needed, increased measure of clarity.

Papalinton said...

And a pious god-botherer is telling us atheists what atheism is. And a gratuitous god-botherer is telling atheists how atheists should describe themselves.
What a cracker.

There is no denying Anonymous suffers greatly from the Intellectual Rubbish Dilemma.

Here are some appropriate aphorisms as a reasonable countermeasure. They are all attributed to:

ANONYMOUS [536 BCE-2006CE], prolific author of T-shirt and bumper sticker slogans: ....

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned."

"Morality is doing what is right no matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told no matter what is right."

"Education and religion are two things not regulated by supply and demand. The less of either the people have, the less they want."

"the

The mind of a fundamentalist is like the pupil of the eye: the more light you pour on it, the more it will contract."

"Christian Fundamentalism: The doctrine that there is an absolutely powerful, infinitely knowledgeable, universe spanning eternity that is deeply and personally concerned about my sex life."

"If god doesn't like the way I live, let him tell me, not you."

"Out of convicted rapists, 57% admitted to reading pornography; 95% admitted to reading the bible."

"Blasphemy is a victimless crime."

"Give a man a fish and you will feed for a day. Give him a religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish."

"Only sheep need a shepherd'"

"Why be born again, when you can just grow up."

"Christian: 'I'll pray for you.' Atheist: 'Then I'll think for both of us.'"

"Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. God is all-powerful."

"If forgiveness is divine, why is there a hell?"

"If you see a blind man, run up and kick him. Why should you be kinder than god?"- [old Iranian proverb]

"Nothing that would invent a mosquito is worthy of anything but hate."


Organized religion is like organized crime; it preys on peoples' weaknesses, generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate."

[Ancient Spartan whose confession a christian priest wanted to take]: 'Is it to you or to god I am to confess?' "To god." 'In that case, man, begone!'

"The only worse liar than a 'faith-healer' is his patient."

"The 'religious right' aren't and 'scientific creationism' isn't."

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

You will notice that all but three of the dictionary definitions of atheism refer to 'a disbelief or a denial of a god existence.

The other three, you guessed it, are 'religious dictionaries'. They simply can't help themselves. Faithheads were peeing in their pants in excitement playing with these definitions to surreptitiously and ever so slyly slip in that atheism is dogma, or a doctrine or a creed in competition with their precious jesus. They simply couldn't resist the temptation of taking the definition that one step too far to press home their little sniveling point with this cr#p:

"Atheism (Greek and Roman): Atheism is a dogmatic creed, consisting in the denial ......[etc etc etc]." - Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol II

"Atheism is the doctrine that God does not exist, that belief in the existence of God is a false belief. The word God here refers to a divine being regarded as the independent creator of the world, a being superlatively powerful, wise and good." - Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987
[I had to leave this whole definition in because it rants on about a 'god as the *independent creator* of the world, a being *superlatively powerful*, *wise* and *good*."] I wonder which fathead faithhead on the editing committee wrote this definition?

Dictionaries are supposed to be devoid of bias of any sort.

All the other dictionaries played it straight up and down, no bias. This is characteristic of the insidious, treacherous and underhanded way religions and their sycophants treat society. They are not immoral. They are amoral. The faithheads on these dictionary committees have no sense of any form of morality. They will push their little barrow wherever.

Papalinton said...

Hey Ben Yachov

"I found it!

http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/06/contra-mundum-religion-and-violence.html"

Is 'mandm.org.nz' a fundie site?

Nuff said.

student said...

There is no need to fall into stupid debate about what definition of atheism or anything. It is easy for them to say:" Nah,that is not how we define it." despite quotations from various encyclopedias. When minds are closed, it is closed, even encyclopedic definition is disputed.

They can call themselves:"Atheists" ,"Apatheists", "Bright", "Rationalist", "Secular Humanist", when opportunity suits them and change when driven to a corner anyway. Some of course see no corner and like the person above prefer to close eyes from encyclopedic quotation ("Bright" indeed) and shout:"Nyeh Nyeh Nyeh. I sure win that debate."

Papalinton said...

@ student

The debate over the definition of 'atheist' was not raised by atheists on this thread. We simply claim there is no evidence for a god. Just as the only evidence for one, can only be found in the pages of a book. God lives totally within the pages of a book. Don't read the book, no god, as billions of people around the planet can testify. So much so, they have invented their own supernatural being, just as the christians and the jews have done.

Anonymous said...

By Papalinton'e logic, since I can only know about Julius Caesar through reading a book about him, then if I don't read the book, he never existed.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben, I'll speak bluntly here: you evidence a cognitive bias in search of confirmation. You do not appear to be evaluating the evidence fairly, but digging about looking for confirmation of those things you already just "know" to be true.

I don't have the time to clear up all your misconceptions, nor to show you where you should think more critically and write more clearly. I think the evidence of what I would criticize is plain and obvious from your writing above. If you are sincere in your desire to learn from discussions like this, I advise you to re-read your comments above and see how one could observe what appears to be confirmation bias and hyperbolic writing. If you would strive to think more critically and write more carefully I believe that discussions like this would be more fruitful.

BenYachov said...

@Tony
>Ben, I'll speak bluntly here: you evidence a cognitive bias in search of confirmation. You do not appear to be evaluating the evidence fairly, but digging about looking for confirmation of those things you already just "know" to be true.

Then I will reply with equal bluntness.

You are engaging what we call projection here. It's tedious and unconvincing.

>I don't have the time to clear up all your misconceptions, nor to show you where you should think more critically and write more clearly.

Tony your not a professional philosopher(neither am I) but reading your critique of Dr. V's post is like reading a YEC with a 7th grade understanding of biology criticize Richard Dawkins on evolution.

It is weak. I'm sorry & don't mean that in anyway as a personal attack but that is what I truly think.

>I think the evidence of what I would criticize is plain and obvious from your writing above.

I think it is plain your criticisms are not logical. For example if Atheism is understood solely as "Lack of God belief" how can it be a property? Do I have the property of "Lack of Wings"?

Atheism is a proposition. I would believe that even if I deny God tomorrow.

>If you are sincere in your desire to learn from discussions like this, I advise you to re-read your comments above and see how one could observe what appears to be confirmation bias and hyperbolic writing.

More projection...why is it the one who argues with an Atheist is the bias one? Are you claiming to be purely objective?

Seriously? Sorry but I don't buy that either.

>If you would strive to think more critically and write more carefully I believe that discussions like this would be more fruitful.

I would admit I could tighten up my posts. There are too many and for that I apologize.

>If you would strive to think more critically and write more carefully I believe that discussions like this would be more fruitful.

I will try to write better but as far as I am concerned my critical thinking is fine.

Tony I bare you no ill will. You have always been polite & civil as far as I can tell. Which is why I reply to your posts because they are worth responding too(unlike other Kangaroos here who can't seem to get a clue).

But I am convinced you are wrong on certain particulars and I don't believe my critical thinking skills are any more bias than yours. If you want to engage my arguments then do so. It they are too many and you don't want to put in the effort because you feel it is too laborious hey I won't hold that against you. Nor will I say "Ha! You can't answer them" because that is a dick move & I won't go there.

I will try to take your advice to heart but only if you promise me you will follow it yourself.

Peace be with you.

Tony Hoffman said...

Sigh.

Ben: " I think it is plain your criticisms are not logical. For example if Atheism is understood solely as "Lack of God belief" how can it be a property? Do I have the property of "Lack of Wings"?"

Yes. Just as bald people have the property of not having hair. I believe that this is (very) basic stuff.

I define a property as being an attribute of an object. As such, I can have the attribute of having a belief in Gods, and I can have the attribute of not having a belief in Gods. This seems as clear as day to me. I wonder why you would call it illogical, because you have not demonstrated to me that it is so.

Btw, if you understand psychological projection, please show me where I have projected. In other words, where have I not shown evidence of writing carefully or thinking clearly? Please, be specific. (I can think of one instance above, but I'm not sure that's what you have in mind.)

Anonymous said...

Papalinton,

"disbelief in the existence of God" =/= "denial of the existence of God"

To deny proposition P is, by definition, to believe the negation of proposition P (e.g., "I deny that God exists" --> "I believe that it is not the case that God exists" --> "I believe that God does not exist").

If you have any doubt of this, here is the definition of "denial."

http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/negation?cx=partner-pub-0939450753529744%3Av0qd01-tdlq&cof=FORID%3A9&ie=UTF-8&q=negation&sa=Search#906

Disbelief on the other hand does no such thing. It is neither an affirmation nor a denial.

Anonymous said...

^^the link is actually a definition of "negation." My mistake.

BenYachov said...

@Tony

>Just as bald people have the property of not having hair.

Baldness can also be the positive property of having a smooth surface. Even that does not have to be defined exclusively in the negative terms.

>I believe that this is (very) basic stuff.

So do I.

>I define a property as being an attribute of an object.

The Redness of a Red ball is a property but it's "not being green" not so much. Since Properties need to be instantiated in objects. How can you instantiate a pure negative? since there is nothing to instantiate.

>As such, I can have the attribute of having a belief in Gods, and I can have the attribute of not having a belief in Gods.

I can have the attribute of having no belief in no-gods. Also my car then can have that attribute of not having a belief in gods. It's meaningless. Which is Bill's point. But religious belief vs non-belief is a proposition since it involves the intellect. Car have no intellect that produce propositions which is why a car can't be an Atheist.

>This seems as clear as day to me. I wonder why you would call it illogical, because you have not demonstrated to me that it is so.

You have not really demonstrated to me why Bill's arguments are not logical. You have shown that you do not like them but you have not given any reason why they are wrong and why Atheism must dogmatically be defined solely in the negative. Which is the point.

>if you understand psychological projection, please show me where I have projected. In other words, where have I not shown evidence of writing carefully or thinking clearly?

Excuse me you said I display "cognitive bias in search of confirmation." You accused me of "not appearing to be evaluating the evidence fairly, but digging about looking for confirmation of those things you already just "know" to be true."

What does that have to do with poor writing or even bad thinking? It seems to me a person could evaluate evidence fairly without bias and come to either false conclusions due to an honest mistake or a correct conclusion. Or they can come to a correct conclusion and express it poorly.

>Please, be specific. (I can think of one instance above, but I'm not sure that's what you have in mind.)

I'm sorry but you made the charge first unless you can give me one specific instance of "cognitive bias"(how you can evaluate my psychological state threw a commbox is a mystery) and "not appearing to be evaluating the evidence fairly," then I'm not interested in playing your game.

Might I suggest you are repeating the error of making this personal(I will take some of the blame). Which you said on the other thread about the Second Coming is a mistake & I agreed with you.

Can we get beyond this petty shit and either have a logical discussion on the issues or just not talk about it at all(which like I said I would not hold against you).

Can we? It's up to you. I wish you well regardless.

BenYachov said...

Here is a suggestion Tony to help you out.

Tony given your insistence on the negative definition of Atheism. It seems to me it is more accurate to say you lack the property of belief in gods rather then say you have the property of no belief in gods.

Not that I am professing either agreement or disagreement with the validity of associating Atheism with a property and not a proposition. Which is another kettle of fish.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben: "I'm sorry but you made the charge first unless you can give me one specific instance of "cognitive bias"(how you can evaluate my psychological state threw a commbox is a mystery) and "not appearing to be evaluating the evidence fairly," then I'm not interested in playing your game."

To be clear, I accused of you evidencing a cognitive bias in search of confirmation. Here's an example:

Ben: "All their Theistic Victims who survived testify their torturers repeatedly told them "There is no God! We can do what we want to you! There is no Hell etc" "

When I asked for a reference for this rather sweeping assertion, you came up with this, from a Christian blog, that states "Richard Wurmbrand, a victim of communist persecution in Romania, stated that “communist torturers often said there is no God, no hereafter, no life after death, we can do what we wish.” The fact that atheism was not the motivation for these actions seems to be news to those who actually witnessed them."

Soooo, you make a large claim, and to back it up you come up with one instance of a (biased) source that makes one reference to one person's testimony (which, btw, does not even support your contention that atheism is what caused the torturers to torture). That is classic confirmation bias behavior -- accepting as definitive a single (and questionable) instance that confirms what you want to believe.

It's not personal, Ben. We all sometimes think and write sloppily. I have done it before, and I'll do it again. I just don't find it enlightening to correct what appear to be basic critical thinking errors that prevent good arguments from being assembled. And it's honestly no fun putting up arguments where the counters don't force some sort of adjustment and back and forth.

BenYachov said...

>Soooo, you make a large claim, and to back it up you come up with one instance of a (biased) source...

You are grasping at straws Tony.
Also why is it biased? Can't you research Richard Wurmbrand? Why doubt his claims? That's like an anti-Semite doubting the testimony of holocaust victims by claiming "Oh they are Jews they hate the Nazis so they are bias".

Really give me a break! You should know better!

I admitted up front I cited it from my sketchy memory then I brought up THE GODLESS LEAGUE as another example. I also predicted if I ever found the citation you would say something like "Oh this is just one person" but I garbled it when I tried to write it.

You are assuming here without any evidence I only believe people killed in the name of Atheism based on this one citation from the Fitzgerald blog.

Why do you make that assumption? Where is your evidence?

Actually I formulated my view long before when I did some reading on the Godless League.

If you are looking for cognitive bias you should maybe look in the mirror. Stop projecting your own faults on others. Also stop with the personal attack. I can give as good as I get. I would rather not go there. I would prefer peace with you.

It appears you no longer wish to defend the idea Atheism must be defined solely in the negative.

Too bad.

See you then.

BenYachov said...

@Tony

BTW it is the New Atheists who claim nobody kills in the name of Atheism.

That is what I was responding too.

They say it can't be done.

Google it if you doubt me. (I just did some some of them claim "nobody has ever killed in the name of Atheism" etc).

One citation is all I need to refute that rather sweeping assertion.

Which I did. But if your cognitive bias dictates that can never happen(i.e. people never kill in the name if Atheism) then I don't know what to tell you.

Now can we drop this "cognitive bias" bullshit?

Seriously? It's not getting anywhere and it will turn ugly.

BenYachov said...

I call bullshit on you Tony.

>(which, btw, does not even support your contention that atheism is what caused the torturers to torture).

Where did I ever make that claim!!!

I defy you to cite one instance!

Just one. It's not hard since you only have to search one thread.

Talk about cognative bias!

I'll cite myself"So I don't believe Atheists are more likely to be bad then most other folks."end quote.

Good grief!

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben: " You are grasping at straws Tony.
Also why is [the website referenced] biased?"

Really? I thought you were trying to make a historical argument. It is odd, then, to reference material from an apologetics website, which makes explicit its bias in these ways:

" The MandM blog addresses philosophy of religion, ethics, theology, jurisprudence and social commentary from a Christian perspective…"

"[The contributors] are Evangelicals, with Reformed leanings…"

" Currently they work with Thinking Matters Auckland, an Apologetics organisation promoting the rational defence of the Christian faith."

This is like referencing accounts from the Albanian genocide from those put forth by the Turkish national historical society.

Ben: " Can't you research Richard Wurmbrand?" Why? I don't doubt that he's real, or said what he said. I don't need to research him to understand that Wurmbrand does not support your assertion -- he is just one point of testimony (your statement was absolute and far-reaching), and his testimony does not confirm your statement (he does not speak about the motive for torturing theists, only that his torturers taunted him by saying that there is no God.) This is paltry support for your earlier statement.

" Why doubt his claims?? I don't. I just don't think he supports your claim.

"You are assuming here without any evidence I only believe people killed in the name of Atheism based on this one citation from the Fitzgerald blog."

I don't think so. I asked you to back up your assertion, and I have explained since how I interpret your responses. I do not pretend to know you, but I can remark on how your argument appears to me. I am sorry that you do not like my assessment, but I told you I was going to begin to speak bluntly. (I really shouldn't be spending the time I've already invested here.)

Ben: "It appears you no longer wish to defend the idea Atheism must be defined solely in the negative."

I have found no reason to dissuade me from believing that atheism is best defined as a lack of belief in Gods. For reasons explained above, I think that insisting that the denial of positive claims are to be considered propositions is ridiculous -- starting with Valicella's silly notion that because a proposition has adherents those who are not persuaded have the burden of proof.

Really, though, I'm done here. I'll probably get dragged back in a few more times, but I'm going to have to begin the withdrawal process.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben: Where did I ever make that claim!!! [that atheism is what caused the torturers to torture)]

I defy you to cite one instance!

Just one. It's not hard since you only have to search one thread.

Talk about cognative bias!"

Ben (earlier): " People have killed & persecuted in the name of Atheism. That seems obvious."

Ben (earlier): " Ben: "Also the canard that Stalin & Co never killed in the name of Atheism doesn't even pass the laugh test. Of course they killed in the name of Atheism."

Ben (earlier): "I don't so much mind Atheists defending themselves from being linked with Stalin. But the inconsistency of New Atheist Fundies in absolving Atheism while simultaneously condemning religion for Salem & or the inquisition is equally irrational."

Talk indeed.

BenYachov said...

Your arguments are getting worst.

>It is odd, then, to reference material from an apologetics website,

Ok Tony you are an Atheist. You are bias against anything Theist thus you are not objective. Thus any and all arguments or factual claims you make can be summarily dismissed.

Seriously?

>This is like referencing accounts from the Albanian genocide from those put forth by the Turkish national historical society.

The Turks deny the Albanian and Armenian Holocausts just as New Atheist deny any Atheist ever killed in the name of Atheism. Citing this website is more like referencing the Shoah via the Simon Wiesenthal center.

>(he does not speak about the motive for torturing theists, only that his torturers taunted him by saying that there is no God.) This is paltry support for your earlier statement.

Thus I can dismiss any reports of people being tortured at the hands of Theists on the ground I don't really know their motive.
"They just said it was God's will" we don't really know if they meant it.

Seriously?

BenYachov said...

Tony your citations don't even remotely show me saying Atheism is the cause of persecution?


I never said that once. I merely said People have killed in the name of Atheism & I stand by that. It doesn't logically mean therefore Atheism caused the killing. Anymore than killing in the name of Theism means Theism caused the killing.

So my charge of bullshit stands.

BenYachov said...

>I don't think so.

I do think so.

>I asked you to back up your assertion,

I answered you honestly and I clearly did reference the GODLESS LEAGUE so pretending Wurmbrand was my only reason for believing people have killed in the name of Atheism is still fallacious.


>I do not pretend to know you, but I can remark on how your argument appears to me.

But you haven't given me any logical reasons why those arguments are false. Bitching that you don't like my style isn't going to cut it.

>I am sorry that you do not like my assessment, but I told you I was going to begin to speak bluntly. (I really shouldn't be spending the time I've already invested here.)

Then because you gave me the last word last time I will grant you the same. I don't think I abused it.

I hope you will do the same for me. Last word.

Go.

PS. If I tack on a "Thank you" after you last word it doesn't count you still get the last word.

BenYachov said...

>Really, though, I'm done here. I'll probably get dragged back in a few more times, but I'm going to have to begin the withdrawal process.

In case you missed it. You may have the last word with my complements & good will.

BenYachov said...

>because a proposition has adherents those who are not persuaded have the burden of proof.

If only we had focused on the above and not went off on this "Cognative" bullshit. It would have been a better conversation.

B. Prokop said...
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B. Prokop said...

I am loathe to step into such a playground debate, but I would like to inform Tony Hoffman that I have first-hand, unbiased sources on the atheistic nature of Stalinist terror too numerous to mention. But I will name a few:

Gospozha Krylova, three years in a slave labor camp (I cleaned her apartment in exchange for the opportunity to converse with her in Russian while doing so). She told me many, many stories of her tormenters explicitly and specifically citing atheism as the motivation for their actions.

Dr. Rolf Ekmanis Arizona State University), exile from his native Latvia. He described in detail his witnessing the disruption of religious services and oppression of all who refused to embrace atheism.

Dr. Roberts (University of Arizona), TWENTY YEARS in the Gulag. Related to me how prisoners who would renounce their faith were given cushier positions in the camp, and that believers were singled out for the harshest treatment.

I could go on and on and on, but the story is always the same. The Stalinist butchers acted in the name of atheism, and did so openly.

I don't need to go to websites. As a Russian scholar and intelligence analyst for 39 years, I met personally with more living, breathing, first hand sources than I can count.

Walter said...

Zealotry can be dangerous. Whether the zealot wraps himself in an atheistic ideology or a theistic one does not matter all that much in the long run.

Papalinton said...

Anonymous
"By Papalinton'e logic, since I can only know about Julius Caesar through reading a book about him, then if I don't read the book, he never existed."

That's what I've been trying to tell all along. Except Caesar did exist, and Jesus probably existed. Nobody is denying that. But the god Caesar believed in and believed he himself may have been a god, such as Jupiter or Apollo or some such is dead and can only be read in books. And of course you don't believe in Apollo. Jesus believed himself a god, but he's dead now, and there is no god; just like the god Jupiter, the god yahweh only lives on and can only be read in books. End of story.

If you want to continue to have an idolatrous relationship with jesus, I say, knock yourself out.

Tony Hoffman said...

B. Prokop: "The Stalinist butchers acted in the name of atheism, and did so openly."

Be aware, B. Prokop, that (according to Ben Yachov) that acting "in the name of atheism" excludes atheism from being the cause of the butchery. So you and Ben need to figure out whether or not to "act in the name of" means there is no causal relation or not, because right now you two do not appear to agree on that point.

Papalinton said...

One does not have to prove a negative.
One must *assume* a negative.

Once done, we are then in good philosophical territory.
Not to do so reverts all discourse to Apologetics.

BenYachov said...

Paps

So far I've ignored you because well you have nothing intelligent to say.

But I have to comment on this:

>That's what I've been trying to tell all along. Except Caesar did exist, and Jesus probably existed.

That is quite an improvement over the kneejerk Jesus Mytherism you once touted over at Biologos about a year ago.

Well done! Of course you still have a long way to go.

Cheers.

B. Prokop said...

Toni,

Ben Yachov and I rarely agree on anything on this website.

But I do emphatically believe (on the evidence!) that Stalinism is what atheism looks like when it's in charge.

BenYachov said...

@Tony

It's the New Atheists who are vague as to what it means to "Kill in the name of either/religion or Theism."

Plus merely claiming a causal relation without specifying what type of causal relation (material? efficient? Formal? Final?) doesn't help either.

Comedian Jimmy Walker once quipped "Northern Ireland! Protestants vs Catholics and Catholic vs Protestants! Isn't it funny how a country with no Blacks, Jews, Hispanics and Asians can find a way to improvise!"

Claiming Atheism is causal or Theism is causal in these cases is like saying being black causes racism.

It makes no sense to me.

Cheers!

Do you have a last word for me?


PS
>because right now you two do not appear to agree on that point.

I don't get that at all. Taken at face value Bob appears to merely state Stalin's goons killed in the name of Atheism. Which they clearly did.

BenYachov said...

>But I do emphatically believe (on the evidence!) that Stalinism is what atheism looks like when it's in charge.

Then I stand corrected. On this point I don't agree.

But we both agree Stalin's goons killed in the name of Atheism and Bob gave some convincing proof here.

The rest we can qualify.

Tony Hoffman said...

B. Prokop: "I do emphatically believe (on the evidence!) that Stalinism is what atheism looks like when it's in charge."

I don't see how atheism can be "in charge" of anything. I might accept that people will behave murderously when they think there will be no consequences (immediate or ultimate), and I think that those who would promote the destruction of religion without offering a moral system to replace it are reckless at best.

Why is atheism not "in charge" of Scandanavian countries, I ask? Despite being preponderantly atheistic, they seem to have succeeded in avoiding all the terrors of the Soviet system. Why is that not what atheism looks like when it's "in charge?"

BenYachov said...

@Bob

When you tell Tony "Stalinism is what atheism looks like when it's in charge"

he hears "This is what it would look like if Tony(or other sane Atheists he knows) was in charge because he is an Atheist and would act just like Stalin given half the chance".

That is one of the reasons I don't agree. OTOH I doubt that is what you meant.

B. Prokop said...

There is a huge difference between a secular state and an atheistic one. The United States (despite what some say) is a secular state. So are most Western European states, as are Australia and New Zealand. The Soviet Union was an atheist state. North Korea is an atheist state. I'm not sure (not being an expert in this region), but I think China is an atheist state.

BenYachov said...

@Bob

Also Tony Ad Hoc defines Atheism purely in negative terms. Now he believes Theism is a positive definition. That is Theism is making an assertion(there is a God). Atheism is for him a negative assertion (i.e. I lack belief in God. vs I say there is no such thing as God).

Of course the problem here is claiming Atheism should be exclusively defined in negative terms(i.e. in light ofmultiple dictionary, Philosophy Encylopedia definitions & History defining it as more than that) is itself a positive claim( in regards to what is the correct definition must be) Thus it requires proof on the part of Tony that we must ignore all those sources on the meaning of Atheism and Ad Hoc define Atheism purely and solely in negative terms.

Finally as Dr Vallicella points out all of this is largely a political trick. It's a way for the philosophically lazy Atheist to shift the burden of proof totally on his opponents shoulders.

Dr. Vallicella if you read his website seems to believe shifting the burden of proof is not legitimate for either side.

Good hunting.

Papalinton said...

"B. Prokop: "I do emphatically believe (on the evidence!) that Stalinism is what atheism looks like when it's in charge."

Indeed to take Tony Hoffman's point further, perhaps a visit to Denmark, Sweden and Norway, will very much demonstrate what a world consistent with atheism, not 'would look like', but are living testimony of what 'it looks like', right now, today. Slowly but surely Britain and France, as are many of the other European countries, are inexorably trending towards the Scandinavian experience. I might add, the USA and Australia, are now past the 'tipping point' of this same move.

It also puts the lie to USSR being a failed state as a result of, and killing in the name of, atheism. It was a failed state as a result of Communism, a perverse ideology modeled on Catholic totalitarianism, and which saw the Russian Orthodox church as a direct competitor for hearts and minds of the people.

BenYachov said...

>There is a huge difference between a secular state and an atheistic one.

That is a good point. Just as there is a difference between a Christian State vs a Christian Nation.

American can be called a Christian nation since it is the majority religion and our national values are based in part on Christianity.

That should prove no scandal to the Atheist. Even Richard Dawkins says he is "Christian" in that he believes in doing unto others etc.

But Christianity is not the State religion. A state that has Atheism as the State anti-religion is harmful.

That I agree and an American Atheist might as well.

Good points.

BenYachov said...

As much of a pseudo-Trad Catholic that I am I would NOT want to live in a Pre-Vatican II Catholic State.

They are more trouble to the Faith IMHO than a help.

Eric said...

"Redefined? No, that is how it is defined. No one has struggled with this yet but MV."

That's simply false. Look at some of the standard scholarly references anon provided: there's a reason none of them define atheism as you do. I think the reason is, as Dr. Vallicella makes clear, that there are serious *conceptual* problems with the definition you're using, given *how* atheism is actually discussed by atheists.

"To say that atheism is the proposition is to fundamentally reverse the concept of the burden of proof. I see no reason why this should be done."

This gets to the heart of the matter: the reason internet atheists are so insistent on redefining atheism as a mere lack of belief in god(s) is to avoid any onus in a discussion of god's existence. (I don't think this can be done *even if* we grant the atheist his problematic definition, and here's why: if you're an atheist, you're either an atheist for a reason or set of reasons, or for no reasons. If you're an atheist for no reason, your position is not worth discussing. If you're an atheist for at least one reason, then you're minimally making the claim that your reason supports your atheism, and as such you're obligated to defend that claim.)

That said, here's the basic reason I think the "lack of belief" definition is problematic: If atheism denotes merely a lack of belief in god, then, as Vallicella says, it's a property. As such, it cannot be true or false, more or less probable, more rational than X, and so on, for these qualifiers are themselves attributed to propositions. But what sense can be made of saying that your mere lack of belief is true? For example, right now I lack the belief that my neighbor is a criminal. Suppose my neighbor isn't a criminal. Does it make sense to say that my lack of belief is true? I think it's clear that it doesn't. Does it make sense to say that my lack of belief that he's a criminal is more rational than, say, another person's belief that he is a criminal? Is my lack of belief more probable than his positive belief? I can't see how any sense could be made of this. (Note, I'm not saying that we can never ascribe any epistemic merit to a lack of belief.) But from this it follows that no atheist can claim that atheism is true, or more rational than theism, or more probable than theism, etc. *But the same atheists who say that atheism just is a lack of belief want at the same time to tell me that atheism is more probable, rational, better evidenced etc. than theism! See the problem?

(Now while I think it's clear that a lack of belief can't be true or false, or probable or improbable, I think it's not so clear that it can't be rational or irrational, so this could be one way out of the problem as I've formulated it.)

Eric said...

MV: “Note first that atheism cannot be identified with the lack of theistic belief, i.e., the mere absence of the belief that God exists, for that would imply that cabbages and tire irons are atheists.”

Tony: "I’m sorry, but that’s just an asinine way to begin the second sentence in a post."

I think any fair minded reader would concede that Dr. Vallicella was moving from what he took to be an inadequate definition to one that was a bit clearer so he could proceed with his analysis on firmer ground. He is a philosopher, after all, and that's what philosophers do.

Tony: "Paragraph 2 is a much worse train wreck. I’ll break it up to point out where I disagree.
“But [atheism being merely a lack of belief in Gods] cannot be right either, and for a very simple reason. Atheism is something people discuss, debate, argue for, argue against, draw conclusions from, believe, disbelieve, entertain, and so on.”
No. Just, no. The proposition is the existence of a God."

You seem to be confused about what Vallicella means by the term 'proposition,' for "the existence of a god" is not only not 'the' proposition, it's not even 'a' proposition! The phrase, "the existence of a god" can't be true or false. It's not a declarative sentence because, well, it's not even a complete sentence. I think you've misunderstood Vallicella's argument because you're confused about the meaning of basic terminology.

(sorry, this comment should've been posted before my previous comment)

Tony Hoffman said...

Eric: "[I]f you're an atheist, you're either an atheist for a reason or set of reasons, or for no reasons."

It sounds like you are creating a false dilemma. Atheists can also lack belief in God because there is insufficient evidence for the proposition that God exists. Why would you deny this?

If you deny the above to atheists, then to be consistent you must provide me with evidence to, say, back up every claim for which you suspend belief. Do you think I have a sister? If not, according to you, you, you must have a set of reasons for this opinion, or (according to you) you believe that I have no sister for no reasons. Why deprive yourself of the sensible position that you have no good evidence to support a position on whether or not I have a sister?

Eric: " You seem to be confused about what Vallicella means by the term 'proposition,' for "the existence of a god" is not only not 'the' proposition, it's not even 'a' proposition!"

"God exists" is a proposition. I thought a fair minded reader would understand that was the proposition we were discussing.

Tony Hoffman said...

Here's another thought.

I am telling you that there is an attack bear in my garage (as I define attack bear, and garage).

According to Valicella, you should be able to defend a claim that I do not have an attack bear in my garage. What are your reasons, or do you believe I have no attack bear in my garage for no reasons? Take your pick, and I will show you why you must be wrong. Everytime.

In other words, if there is no way for a proposition to be false, then how is it a proposition? That seems like an obvious problem, and if I can find it, trust me, it's got to be gaping.

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

The retreat to negative atheism is a cop out. I don't simply lack the belief that unicorns exist: I believe that they do not exist.

Technically, there are two ways to lack the belief that X:
1) To lack beliefs about the topic of X's altogether (as a child lacks beliefs about quarks).
2) To believe that ~X is the case (I have studied the evidence, and believe that quarks do not exist).

If you fall into the first class, I don't think you should be called an atheist. that is to mutilate the most reasonable semantic evaluation of the situation. It comes off as a naive or pedantic focus on the literal roots of the term 'atheist' rather than what people actual mean in real life.

I am an atheist, in the normal sense of the word. I fall into the second class. I have thought about theism a lot, and I believe that no gods exist. I do not lack beliefs about the existence of gods. Quite the contrary.

Real negative atheists, people who truly fall into the first class, don't post on blogs about their atheism. I have yet to meet a true negative atheist.

Tony Hoffman said...

BDK: " I do not lack beliefs about the existence of gods."

Couldn't I still say that technically you do lack belief that gods exist? You may have stronger beliefs, but it doesn't seem to me that the stronger position obviates the weaker one.

And to be clear, are you suggesting that the burden of proof is placed on anyone who has come to a determination that gods do not exist? Because I think that that's a logically impossible order to fill -- and for the debate on semantics here is all about the burden of proof.

Walter said...

Real negative atheists, people who truly fall into the first class, don't post on blogs about their atheism. I have yet to meet a true negative atheist.

Ditto.

I have friends who would probably be classified as negative atheists (or maybe they are apathetic agnostics?). They are completely irreligious; they give almost no thought to religion at all. I would consider them to be *implicit* atheists vs. the explicit atheists who frequent message boards and blogs. If you are arguing with someone else that no deities exist, then you have a positive belief.

Tony Hoffman said...

Hmm. I am to being a strong atheist regarding Yawheh, and religions that are derivative of Yawheh stories, as well as the Greek gods, etc. But I don't really know anything about Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Scientology, etc. I know enough about human tendencies to feel confident that they probably follow a similar pattern, but I don't know about their specifics to really argue against them. As well, I imagine that there are other forms of god descriptions that I know even less about, and I sincerely wonder if these descriptions are something I would not disagree with.

It still seems appropriate to me to adopt a position of soft atheism whenever the topic of belief in gods, the supernatural in general, etc. occurs, at least in part because I can't say with total confidence what the positive description will be.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tony burden of proof is a different subject I was not addressing.

BenYachov said...

A Universal Negative is an assertion that is impossible to prove. If I said no other wallet is exactly like the one in my pocket that would be impossible to prove. I would have to travel to every corner of the Earth, the Universe & Reality in general and fail to find another wallet. Some Atheists apply this to finding a god, a Unicorn, and the FSM.
(I will leave my bitching about Theistic Personalist gods Vs Classic Theist aside for simplicity sake).

OTOH If I claimed no 4-sided Triangles existed that would be a negative claim. But I would not have to travel to every planet in the Universe & fail to find one. Rather I could simple show that the concept itself is a contradiction therefore impossible. A host of Atheist Philosophers have attempted to show how various concepts of God are just incoherent and contradictory. That would be the way to go. But thanks to the phenomena of hyper-stupidity known as Gnu'Atheism with it's psycho-anti-intellectual hatred of philosophy and ignorance to match. Most lazy Gnu's or some regular Atheists dudes infected with Gnu's errors don't know this and fall back on saying "proving Atheism" amounts to proving a negative. It's simply not the case.

BenYachov said...

Tony writes:
>"God exists" is a proposition. I thought a fair minded reader would understand that was the proposition we were discussing.

Only if we defined Atheism as "God does not exist" instead of negatively "I lack God belief".

Vallicella's point is it renders the concept of Atheism meaningless to dogmatically and exclusively define it negatively. Which was clearly his point if you read all my links instead of skimming one or two.

What if I started defining Theism negatively as "Lack of No-God belief"? (Which I have BTW. I do have a lack of No-God belief.) Of course an Agnostic can make the same claim. So can a so called negative Atheist who is nothing more than an Atheist who pretends to be Agnostic because he doesn't want to do the heavy lifting philosophy for his unstated positive beliefs.

Still if I defined Theism that way and insist it's the only true definition for Theism well that is an extra-ordinary claim. It's one thing to say "I believe this concept to be true." It's another to claim it is the only true definition. As a Catholic I don't believe Islam is true but it would be foolish to say Islam is not Theism. I believe Classic Theism is true and Theistic Personalism is false but it would be foolish to claim only Classic Theism is the definition of Theism.

If you want to define Atheism strickly in negative terms that is lovely. But you need some extra-ordinary evidence it must be defined that way and all the other historic and philosophical definitions have to be thrown out.
So even here you can't escape making a positive case. You can't sit back and expect your opponent to risk all.

My vacation is delayed so I will be out of all your hair soon! Lake George here I come! Mom's High Def TV here I come!

Tony Hoffman said...

BDK: "Tony burden of proof is a different subject I was not addressing."

Okay. But in my experience advocates of strong atheism are usually making that argument in order to require that atheists make a positive case for the non-existence of all and any gods. In those cases I have found that the best response is to explain that soft atheism is the reasonable position to gods whose attributes remain unspecified and/or susceptible to redefinition.

Walter said...

I might be wrong, but this is my take on the subject:

I am utterly ignorant of Buddhism. I have not consciously rejected Buddhism; I just haven't been presented with any compelling reason to accept the tenets of Buddhism, therefore I would consider myself to be a negative a-Buddhist.

I have studied the tenets of orthodox Christianity, and I consciously reject them as being silly. I have a positive belief that orthodox Christianity is false, so I would say that I am a positive a-Christian. Or simply that I am a positive atheist in reference to the Judeo-Christian deity.

Tony Hoffman said...

Walter,

I think we agree for similar reasons.

One reason I normally resist being labeled a strong atheist is for the reasons you describe. I think it's fairer to say that I am soft atheist for all religions, and a hard atheist on some -- I just prefer the general, more conservative description for my position.

But there are at least two other reasons why I advocate for the soft atheist definition as being the most correct. One is that even when it comes to explaining why I don't think the Christian God exists, I am often surprised by the response, "Well, that's not the kind of God I believe in!" reply. So then I have to tease out the kind of God that a particular Christian believes in, which is really all about examining claims. Since I've found that I have more reasons for why I don't believe in the Christian God than many Christians do for believing, it just seems more efficient to ask for the claims and discuss those.

The second reason is that I've found that some Christians will often refuse to discuss claims with someone who identifies themselves as any kind of atheist for the reason that they think the position describes a dogmatic rejection of evidence. ("Well, of course you're not a Christian, you've already made up your mind to reject God.") So allowing myself to be described as a strong atheist excludes me from conversations (for reasons that I find bogus) that I would like to see continue.

Eric said...

"It sounds like you are creating a false dilemma. Atheists can also lack belief in God because there is insufficient evidence for the proposition that God exists. Why would you deny this?"

I don't deny this. What I find odd is that you seem to have concluded that this isn't in itself *a reason*. If I ask you why you don't believe that god exists, and you respond by saying that it's because there is, in your judgment, insufficient evidence, you're giving a *reason* for your lack of belief. And since you're providing a reason, you're making a claim, one that you're obligated to defend. (You can apply the same reasoning to your 'sister' question.)

""God exists" is a proposition. I thought a fair minded reader would understand that was the proposition we were discussing."

No, I disagree. I initially read it that way, but it made no sense. Look at the post you wrote in response to Vallicella:

"The proposition is the existence of a God. Both the proposition and the affirmative to the proposition are called theism, and the denial is atheism."

If you were discussing the proposition, "god exists," then what sense can be made of your referring to "both the proposition and the affirmative to the proposition"? The best way I could find to make sense of this would be to take you to be using the term 'proposition' to mean something along the lines of "the issue under discussion."

"Atheism is a description of the false position to the proposition that is Theism. Theism is the proposition, and theism is also a description of the true property."

See? "Theism is the proposition" *and* "theism is also a description of the true property." Now you just said that the proposition any fair minded reader would tease out of your post was, "god exists," but how in the world can the proposition "god exists" be the "true property"?

Papalinton said...

"A Universal Negative is an assertion that is impossible to prove." [Ben Yachov]

Absolutely. One does not have to prove a negative. One should *assume* the negative.

For example, we do not have to prove that gravity exists. We assume the negative. That is our baseline. After a couple of falls and broken legs, we will then have proven the positive about gravity. Gravity exists.

For theism. We assume the negative. That is our baseline. After a couple of resurrections from the dead, a few walks on water, a half-dozen virgin births [cases of abiogenesis], A recorded meetings of jesus with another of the five hundred, or a couple of witnessed episodes of involvement with a talking burning bush, or a bunch of stars aligning up to inscribe the words, "God is here for you", ought to be enough to clinch proof that god exists.

It's a simple as that.

Otherwise one must *assume* the negative.

BenYachov said...

Wow Paps you are actually trying to argue rationally rather then just regurgitate Gnu platitudes you picked up off of dawkins.com!

Nice!

Keep it up you might actually shed your latent fundamentalism once and for all.

>Otherwise one must *assume* the negative.

Interesting, a sort of reverse presuppositionism?

Cheers!

Tony Hoffman said...

Eric: “If you were discussing the proposition, "god exists," then what sense can be made of your referring to "both the proposition and the affirmative to the proposition"? The best way I could find to make sense of this would be to take you to be using the term 'proposition' to mean something along the lines of "the issue under discussion."

Sorry that I wasn’t being clear; I was explaining that theism is, for me, a term that can understood to be both shorthand for the proposition: God exists; as well as being the description for the true part of that proposition (atheism is the false).

Eric: “See? "Theism is the proposition" *and* "theism is also a description of the true property." Now you just said that the proposition any fair minded reader would tease out of your post was, "god exists," but how in the world can the proposition "god exists" be the "true property"?”

I think my explanation above should clear that up. If not, another way of saying it is that I was trying to explain that common usage indicates this to me:

theism = god exists (the proposition)
theism = true that god exists
atheism = false that god exists

I admit that atheism could be the proposition, God does not exist. But seeing as how we can’t logically prove it to be true it seems like a poor choice for the proposition regarding the existence of God – why assign the burden of proof to something that cannot bear the burden?

But you seem especially annoyed that I so quickly dismissed the post. And maybe I did scan it and dismiss it too quickly. So I read it again. But now that I’ve read it again, here are some of the other problems that still bother me:

MP: “Atheism is something people discuss, debate, argue for, argue against, draw conclusions from, believe, disbelieve, entertain, and so on..... But one cannot discuss, debate, argue for, . . . believe, etc. a lack of something.”

Why can I not argue for a lack of belief in something? Don’t defense attorneys argue for a lack of evidence that their clients are guilty? Don’t doctors discuss treatment options based on a lack of indicators in the blood of their patients? Don’t people demonstrate against and argue for a lack of reasons to go to war?

BenYachov said...

Tony said.
>But seeing as how we can’t logically prove it to be true...

Not true you can show that a specific concept of God is contradictory or incoherent. Thus disprove it's existence.

BenYachov said...

Tony said:

>And maybe I did scan it and dismiss it too quickly.


@Tony
That was not a smart thing to do Tony.

You accused me of evidencing a cognitive bias in search of confirmation.

Not cool.

Yet here you are not examining the argument closely enough before deciding you reject and that is was "stupid".

Well at least you are man enough to own up to it now. That I do respect but our conversation could have been a little more pleasant if you didn't do that.

I apologize if I was too rough on you but hopefully we will both learn from this.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben: “...you can show that a specific concept of God is contradictory or incoherent. Thus disprove it's existence.”
But it can’t be done for ALL concepts of God, and that is my point.
Ben: “You accused me of evidencing a cognitive bias in search of confirmation.

Not cool.

Yet here you are not examining the argument closely enough before deciding you reject and that is was "stupid".

Well at least you are man enough to own up to it now. That I do respect but our conversation could have been a little more pleasant if you didn't do that.

I apologize if I was too rough on you but hopefully we will both learn from this.”

Ben, we are all fallible, and susceptible to bias. I did not mean to exclude myself from the kind of criticism I leveled at you. I hope that you continue to search for and find good models to emulate on blogs such as these (there are some who comment here and on other blogs from whom I’ve learned so much, and to whom I’m very grateful), and continue to learn how to think more critically. That is what I hope for myself, and all of us who engage in these discussions.

BenYachov said...

@Tony
>But it can’t be done for ALL concepts of God, and that is my point.

That's not my problem. Christian missionaries (smart ones at least) realize you can't have a one size fits all approach to preaching to other religions. You have to learn something about them & that means learning the specifics.

If you don't care enough to do your homework then give up polemics against religion and find something else you are suited for.

I fault Dawkins & Co as the originators of this whole one size fits all anti-religious polemic fantasy. It doesn't work that way in the real world.

>Ben, we are all fallible, and susceptible to bias. I did not mean to exclude myself from the kind of criticism I leveled at you.

No worries guy. I forgive you.

>I hope that you continue to search for and find good models..etc.

I knew deep down you where not a Gnu. As a Catholic I firmly believe the closer we get to reason and being reasonable the closer we get to God. Even if I have no hope of convincing any particular Atheist of becoming a Christian if I can ge em' to be more rational I believe I open them up to Grace regardless.
So yes I admit it. I am always evangelizing. But not in the way you are used too. St Francis said preach the Gospel always and when needed use words.

Anyway peace to you friend.