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IEET > Rights > Disability > FreeThought > ReproRights > Life > Access > Fellows > Russell Blackford > Contributors > Edgar Dahl

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Imagine No Religion


Edgar Dahl
Edgar Dahl
50 Voices of Disbelief

Posted: Nov 9, 2009

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, West Germans as well as East Germans are regularly polled on their stance toward religion. When asked whether they believe in God, most East Germans simply respond by saying: “Nope, I’m perfectly normal.”

This reply must come as a shock to most Americans. After all, it implies that there is something “abnormal” about a belief in God. As if they had been brought up reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, East Germans do indeed consider religious folks to be odd, bizarre, or even insane.

Being born in East Germany myself, I can easily relate to this attitude. In contrast to what a lot of Americans seem to think, we have never been raised to be hostile toward religion. Actually, it was much worse: we have grown up to be totally and utterly indifferent toward religion.

On Sunday mornings, when American kids went to church, we went to the cinema. I still remember enjoying Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra and Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire, or laughing out loud while watching Blake Edwards’ The Great Race or Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot.

One day—I must have been around ten years old—I was late for Jean Delannoy’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring the fabulous Anthony Quinn and the beautiful Gina Lollobrigida. Disappointed to have missed the screening, I went home, passing the St Paul’s Cathedral. Given that I had some extra time on my hands, I decided to sneak into the church. There were about 15 or 20 people in there, mostly in their 60s or 70s. The musty smell, the morbid paintings, and the bleeding savior nailed to a cross made me anxious.

Still, in order to see what these people were doing, I moved a bit closer. Apparently, they were celebrating the Holy Communion. Gathered around an altar, they handed around a chalice and a platter asking each other to “Eat the Body and Drink the Blood of the Lord.” I shivered! How can anyone eat the flesh and drink the blood of another person? What kind of people are these?

Running home, I asked my mom about the people in the church. She said, “They’re Christians. They believe in God and Satan, and Heaven and Hell. My own parents were religious, too. My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic. Seeing that they were killed by the Nazis while I was only three years old, I don’t know anything about religions, though.” In order to change the seemingly uninteresting subject, she added, “Never mind, it doesn’t concern us.”

It must have been around that time when I first saw Roman Polanski’s movie Rosemary’s Baby on TV (on a West German channel, of course). Later I learned that the movie was not depicting Christians, but Satanists. Yet at that time, I could not see any difference. For me, both were weird people, believing in weird beings, and doing weird things. One may say I was simply too young to be able to tell the difference between two entirely different cults. But this is exactly my point. It only proves how unprejudiced I was! I must have looked at Christianity the same way a Hindu must look at it (or, for that matter, how Christians look at Hindus—as lost and doomed souls praying to a heaven filled with hundreds of Gods).

As strange as it may sound, I was already 12 years old when I first met a Christian in person. In grade six, the daughter of a pastor joined our class. Although she turned out to be a wonderful human being, I still recall that I was reluctant to talk to her. After all, I considered religious people as mystifying people who claim to be in contact with gods, demons, and other beings no one has ever seen.

Given my atheist upbringing it must come as a surprise that, as a student, I enrolled not only in philosophy but also in theology. It was Ingmar Bergman’s movie The Seventh Seal and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov that got me interested in religion when I was about 16 years old. Besides, studying theology seemed to provide me with an excellent education in the humanities. I had to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, was taught about philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy, and enjoyed the history of arts, ideas, and politics.

Reading Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas of Aquin, or William of Ockham, however, could not change my mind. I am still an atheist questioning the existence of God. While I admit that there are quite understandable reasons for believing in a creator, none of these reasons seems to me to be persuasive, leave alone compelling.

Take for example “The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God.” According to this argument, God is “that than which none greater can be conceived.” In other words, God has every possible perfection. He is perfect in knowledge, perfect in power, and perfect in virtue. However, if a being is perfect, the argument goes, then that being must exist. For if it did not exist, it would not be perfect.

As Immanuel Kant noted, this argument is fallacious. Sure, in order for a being to be perfect it has to have certain properties, such as omniscience or omnipotence. But it does not mean that it therefore has to exist. After all, existence is not a property. The definition of God can tell us only what kind of being he must be. Whether he really exists, however, is an entirely different matter that cannot be settled by a mere definition.

Another famous proof is “The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God.” Everything that exists, it is said, has a cause. But if everything has a cause, the universe too must have a cause. That cause is God. Is this a compelling argument? No! If literally everything has a cause, then God too must have a cause. And if God has a cause, his cause must also have a cause, and so on ad infinitum.

When religious apologists noted that the cosmological argument is not sound, they rephrased it by claiming that everything has a cause—except for God. God himself does not have a cause. He is a causa sui, a cause “in and of itself.” But this move is even more vulnerable. For if the premise is true, the conclusion cannot be true, and if the conclusion is true, the premise cannot be true. If everything must have a cause (the premise), then God too must have a cause. If God does not have a cause (the conclusion), then it is obviously wrong that everything must have a cause.

Let us suppose for a moment, if only for the sake of argument, that we could actually make sense of the strange notion of a causa sui. If there can be a thing that does not need a cause, then this might as well be the universe as God. Thus, no matter how hard we try, the cosmological argument is simply not compelling. Moreover, even if it were compelling, it would not prove what it was supposed to prove. All the cosmological argument could possibly prove is “a first cause.” Proving the existence of a first cause, however, is still a long way from proving the existence of the caring and loving God of Christianity.

Probably the most popular proof for the existence of God is still “The Teleological Argument.” Look at the stars in the sky, the trees in the wood, and the animals in the wild. They all behave in an orderly manner. Where does this order come from? It must come from an intelligent designer. And this designer is God! As appealing as this argument may seem, it is certainly not conclusive. As David Hume has pointed out, that something appears to be designed in no way implies that it has been designed. Moreover, with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, we have an alternative explanation for the existence of order in nature. It may very well be an adaptation by natural selection.

Besides, apart from the order in the world, there is quite some disorder. Anyone who has ever visited a hospital and has seen the patients in a neonatal, oncological, or psychiatric ward will probably have some serious doubts about the benevolence of the purported heavenly designer. This brings us straight to the most powerful objection to the God of Christianity: “The Problem of Evil.”

Perhaps no one has put the problem of evil better than Epicurus: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is not benevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence evil?” The traditional Christian answer to the problem of evil has been that we only get what we deserve. You and I—and even this seemingly innocent newborn baby plagued by a horrible disease such as epidermolysis bullosa – deserve to suffer because we are all sinners—“conceived in sin and born in sin.”

A proper response to this outrageous assertion requires more space than I have been allotted. Thus, let’s just focus on a problem that has already been pointed out by Darwin, namely the needless pain and suffering of innocent animals:

That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Some have attempted to explain this in reference to man by imagining that it serves for his moral improvement. But the number of men in the world is as nothing compared with that of all other sentient beings, and these often suffer greatly without any moral improvement. A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as God who could create the universe, is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of animals throughout almost endless times?

One of the most dreadful documentaries I have ever seen was a natural history program by David Attenborough. The film shows the circular migration of more than one million animals within the Serengeti. In order to reach the southern plains, these animals have to pass the Mara River that is full of crocodiles. Thus, while crossing the river, literally hundreds of gnus are killed mercilessly. A few of them escape wounded, but only to be eaten alive by lions lurking on the other side of the river. What kind of God, I asked myself, could possibly have created this “nature red in tooth and claw”?

After graduating, I decided to specialize in ethical issues arising from new biological and medical technologies. Following an invitation by Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, I joined the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. At that time, I thought I would never ever have to deal with religious issues again. Obviously, I was deeply wrong. Contraception, abortion, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, preconception sex selection, or reproductive cloning—there is literally not a single bioethical issue that the Christian Church does not comment about.

In itself, there is surely nothing wrong with this. Members of the clergy are clearly entitled to take a stance on urgent moral matters. There is, however, something peculiar about the Church’s statements. Religious statements claim to be based on a higher authority than secular statements. Remarkably, not only proponents of the Christian faith, but even opponents of the Christian faith grant religious leaders a kind of moral supremacy. They tend to believe that theologians are somehow experts on ethical issues.

Why is that? The answer is obvious. Most people still consider religion and ethics to be inseparable. Even more than that, they believe that religion is the foundation of ethics—that without theology there can be no morality.

Why do I find this “remarkable”? Well, it is remarkable because it is not true. In fact, it is so blatantly untrue that one must wonder how this belief could possibly survive the age of reason. I am not sure, but I suppose the belief that ethics is based on religion is a result of two millennia of Christian indoctrination. Almost every child is brought up thinking that moral rules derive from the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. The idea that moral rules like “You shall not lie,” “You shall not steal,” or “You shall not kill” are of a religious nature is so engraved in a child’s mind that it will hardly ever question it, not even as an adult.

The clergy certainly welcomes the assumption that religion is the foundation of ethics. It even feeds this belief by raising its finger and proclaiming social disaster if we don’t return to the fold of the Church and acknowledge its moral authority. Thus, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now better known as Pope Benedict XVI, warned us of an impending “dictatorship of relativism.” If we turn our back on God, he said, we will be unable to tell right from wrong.

The idea that religion is the cornerstone of ethics is best illustrated by the so-called “Divine Command Theory of Ethics.” According to the divine command theory, telling right from wrong is easy. Right is what God approves of; wrong is what God disapproves of. Since God approved of fidelity and disapproved of infidelity, fidelity is good and infidelity is evil.

The divine command theory is, however, deeply flawed. As the Greek philosopher Socrates noticed more than two thousand years ago, supporters of this theory are faced with an inescapable dilemma. The dilemma is raised by a simple and quite innocent question: “Is charity good because God approved of it, or did God approve of charity because it is good?”

If someone answers “Charity is good because God approved of it,” he would have to admit that if God happened to approve of cruelty rather than charity, cruelty would be good and charity would be evil. Given that he cannot conceive of God as an entirely arbitrary lawgiver, he will probably hasten to add: “True, but God would never approve of cruelty because He is good.” But this answer doesn’t get him out of trouble; it gets him even deeper into trouble. After all, what can he possibly mean by saying that God is “good”? If “good” only means to be “approved by God,” “God is good” only means that “God approved of himself”—and becomes a vacuous claim. In other words: the divine command theory renders God’s commands arbitrary and reduces the doctrine that God is good tautological.

The only way to avoid this unacceptable conclusion is to say: “Charity is not good because God approved of it. God approved of charity because it is good.” Thus, it could be argued that charity is good because it helps in relieving human suffering and reducing the amount of misery in the world—and that this is the real reason why God approved of charity. This is certainly a much more reasonable response. Moreover, on this response, the doctrine that God is good can actually be preserved.

Those using this response, however, are also faced with a dilemma. By saying that God approved of charity because charity is good, they are admitting that there is a standard of right and wrong that is entirely independent of God. It is not God’s approval or disapproval that makes some actions right and others wrong. Rather, it is their effect on human welfare that makes some actions right and others wrong. Hence, people choosing this option have virtually abandoned their theological conception of ethics and will have to concede that we do not need God in order to tell right from wrong. Instead of turning to God to decide what is good and what is evil, we may as well directly turn to the ultimate standard of right and wrong.

The implications of Socrates’ argument are evident. Contrary to what religious leaders claim, ethics is not based on religion and morality is independent of theology. Therefore, moral theologians do not have a greater claim on moral truth than moral philosophers or any other person willing to abide by rules apt to improve human welfare.

One of my main reasons for joining this book’s “voices of disbelief” is therefore of a moral nature. While it is perfectly acceptable when religious leaders remind the members of their church that, say, physician-assisted suicide is a “sin,” it is entirely unacceptable when religious leaders try to impose their Christian values on everyone else. If a dying patient suffering from unbearable pain feels the moral obligation to partake in the “Passion of Christ,” he is free to do so. But who is the Church to tell those who do not subscribe to their religious views how they ought to die? A liberal democracy based on a strict separation of church and state ought to enable all its citizens to live and die according to their own values.

This article is an excerpt from 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), edited by Udo Schuklenk and IEET Fellow Russell Blackford. Posted by permission of the author and the publishers.


Edgar Dahl is spokesman for the German Society for Reproductive Medicine. He is the editor of Giving Death a Helping Hand: Physician-Assisted Suicide and Public Policy and an anthology on the philosophy of religion.
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COMMENTS


You should trust your younger self. They are indeed “weird people, believing in weird beings, and doing weird things”. And quite mad, to boot.





Most Europeans have followed this trend away from religious belief, along with the Japanese, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians. Even Israel displays a level of nonbelief similar to Europe’s. Gregory S. Paul has studied and written about the social science regarding this phenomenon on his website, The Science of Religion:

http://gspaulscienceofreligion.com/

The few Americans I’ve met who’ve grown up atheistic seem intellectually light-years ahead of the rest of humanity. Having to learn and then unlearn all that religious nonsense wastes resources which we could have applied towards better uses.





The man is moral because he is the rational being. He decides on the basis of Rationality what is good ( Physically Good ) & what is not. The rationality should be the measuriing rode of his actions. Even we can analysis whether one’s action is rational or not & so moral or not.
Secular morality has independent existence. It is the achivement that the Human Being has acquired in his biological struggle of his existence.
Bipin Shroff.





Simon Gardner, are you sure you want to generalize like that? Does it bother you that you are most likely insulting your own grandparents, not to mention some great minds like Faraday, Maxwell, Joule, Joseph Henry, and Newton, to name just a few?





My grandparents were atheist jews. It doesn’t bother me one jot.

Newton has an excuse - just about. Nobody today has any excuse whatsoever. Let’s stick with weird etc…





Re: “some great minds like Faraday, Maxwell, Joule, Joseph Henry, and Newton, to name just a few”

Like those scientists had a choice about their religiosity, given the god-haunted society they lived in?

By contrast, today’s elite scientists, who’ve grown up and live in a religion-optional society, usually dispense with religious belief:

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html#394313A0r003





It is the core goal of every western government to wipe out any religion’s role in society so that the government in charge could gain more power. Politics and Religion have been always been against one another… currently politics has much greater control in the world today.

It is the goal of every writer to carry out the work of the government and screw up peoples minds… Edgar Dahl, you should be ashamed of yourself for feeding such garbage and untrue facts to people - poisoning peoples minds for no good reason. If your a jew than you should try to be the best jew you can be. If your a muslim than you should be the best muslim you could be. If your catholic - like me - than you should be the best catholic you could be.

Humanity’s entire existence is not even a mere speck to the power of God. I recommend that everyone watch this short clip: http://media.causes.com/592201?





Charity is not a good thing. At least not from a christian perspective. In my country a women monastery was visited by a group of nuns from Spain. One of the visitors asked in which charities the monastery is involved. The orthodox nun replyed: We are not involved in charity work because we don’t support begging.
We have to look no further than Mother Theresa to see that alleviating pain is not a moral objective of christianity.
It appears that the only moral action action a man is capable of is kissing the ass of the great dictator in the sky.





@John: I just watched that video of yours….can I have my 5 minutes back please? If the minds of christians really work in such a simplistic way it’s no wonder that religious people regularly avoid any rational arguments and instead sputter unprovable nonsense about first cause and free will.





“Politics and Religion have been always been against one another” @John, that statement is total nonsense! Politics and religion have been bedfellows for as long as both have existed, and in the case of Christianity, at least since the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

Governments such as that in the UK promote religion, e.g. by encouraging more state-funded faith schools, even though this is opposed by the great majority of the population.





I looked at your video John Smith. Unlike the miracles in the bible, it would appear to have happened in living memory. Could you please supply the full name of the professor, the full name and address of the institution, the date this happened, the full name of the believer, and the full names of say 10% of the 300 witnesses? Then one might begin to establish if this alleged event actually happened. Only when that is established might one start investigating why an omnipotent deity choses to intervene in a way thay could be explained by chance. It would have been so much more convincing if the chalk had stopped an meter from the ground and remained suspended there for all the physicists in the world to examine for months after.

Oh, sorry, I should mention the article. I liked its rigerous application of intelligence and rational thought to the bioethical problems that face us.





I can’t see the point of John Smith’s video.  In the absence of other information, it seems to just another made-up “inspirational” story bagging out those awful athiestic scientists and professors.  If this story is true, then how about some details?  It’s worthless as it is, execpt to inflame passions amongst anti-intellectual fundies.





What a wonderfully succinct and thorough article. Its rationality is only matched by the degree to which it is reasonable to a fault. I fail to see how anyone could read this and attempt to avoid the conclusion by advocating a bias in the article, I see no unjustified points or anti-anything rhetoric - a very clearly reasoned and indeed reasonable set of statements unmarred by manipulative appeals to emotion or any other below-the-belt blows.





John, if these words are so poisonous, what are your rebuttals to these arguments?

The best a religious person can be will be achieved when that person seriously reflects on right and wrong and their personal beliefs, at which point if they are intellectually honest then they will realize religions bring little benefit to moral philosophy, and cause much harm.

great article





John Smith, I watched your very silly video. You may want to read the following brief history of this apocryphal tale:

http://www.snopes.com/religion/chalk.asp

The story in that video is an urban legnd, very likely fictitious, and has it’s been around for a long time. It certainly didn’t happen recently at USC.

There may be a venerable tradition of using “parables” to make a point, which goes back to the very beginning of Christianity. But there is no record of Jesus ever making false claims to lend power to his stories. (“Then a good Samaritan came by - he was a very good friend of my cousin, who actually saw this happen, REALLY!”)

It’s unbecoming of any person - Christian, atheist or otherwise - to tell lies to make their point. It’s ESPECIALLY odious to cite lies at the end of a finger-pointing statement accusing Mr. Dahl of telling “untrue facts”. (just what IS an untrue fact? Is it related to a “true lie”?)

I seem to remember something about “false witness” in the bible, and I don’t think there is any exception if your neighbor happens to be an atheist. Why not get a mirror and start searching for beams belore you go screaming “mote!”





“Like those scientists had a choice about their religiosity, given the god-haunted society they lived in?”

Heck yes, they did.

“The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of freethought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccolò Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Périers, and François Rabelais.[84]”—wiki on Atheism





The most frustrating thing that I have observed in atheists’ arguments against the religious is that some of them are stumped when the religious question the origin of morality. I think that this article addresses the problem, but that a more in depth answer could be a vital instrument in the atheist toolbox. People who argue for religion treat morality as if it were something that God bestowed exclusively unto humans. Homo Sapiens is not the only species that acts morally. In “Looking for Spinoza” the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio uses arguments from the cooperation of organisms from bonobos to bumble bees to the annelid Caenorhabditis Elegans to explain that morality is a wonderful strategy for the survival of a species. This theory makes mountains of evolutionary sense. When members of a species can empathize with each other and act to ensure collective safety and well-being, they are more likely to survive. This isn’t trivial. It connects the Darwinian theory of competition with altruism, a trait that is certainly not reserved to humans. I think that this is an excellent reply to the question often proposed by the religious, who ask “Where do you get your morals if not from religion?”. I’d love to hear any feedback.





I’m not very impressed with this article. You merely recite centuries old atheist arguments, which you can find on millions of other websites, with very little original commentary of your own.

I am however glad that you accept that there are understandable reasons for believing in a creator, just as I accept that there are understandable reasons for not believing so. I just don’t find those compelling.

For those of you who think that religious people are weird, I would like to remind you that this is a Transhumanist website, and Transhumanists are people who think they’re going to live forever as superhuman cyborgs. That’s kind of weird.





Edgar Dahl’s points make so much sense that religious people will not understand them.  Adhering to a religion means suspending your powers of reasoning and rational thought and replacing them with blind faith.
People have existensial questions that are not easily answered by facts, so they replace them with fiction that has been woven over the years by people with a desire to control the actions of others.
Regardless of the good intentions of many (and “evil” intentions of many others), there’s no doubt that humanity would have been better served if atheism was the norm in every country.  Any positive effects of organized religion are hugely outweighed by the disasters this mass delusion has brought upon mankind.
Imagine the positive accomplishments that would be possible without the entrenched religious fanaticism in the US, the Muslim theocracies of the Middle-East and Asia, hardcore Jews controlling Israel, etc.  To borrow from John Lennon (as many rightly do): It’s easy if you try.





Kevin wrote: “morality is a wonderful strategy for the survival of a species. This theory makes mountains of evolutionary sense. When members of a species can empathize with each other and act to ensure collective safety and well-being, they are more likely to survive.”

Empathizing makes sense as far as /survival/ is concerned, but unfortunately the theory doesn’t say how empathizing /arrived/. We just assume it did.





That’s a good point Veronica, I should have made that more explicit. If you read Damasio you will understand that the basic idea is that ethical behavior (i.e. cooperation among members of a species to ensure survival and well-being) is adaptive in an evolutionary sense. Collective empathy promotes survival. So really it links back to the origins of evolution itself. You can trace this back to chemical evolution if you like, or, as I assume you might inclined, to some kind of supernatural endowment. Either way, morality is not something that is reserved for our species. The beauty of this theory is that conditions of life favor cooperation and compassion. In my opinion at least, this is far more elegant and awe-inspiring than the idea of a creator whose ethics rely on reward and punishment. Compassion and love become their own reward.





There are times when I am astounded by the religious.

Many of you claim a moral authority superior to other religions and non believers. This concept means you intrinsically believe yourselves to be following the true way of being.

Thus even if you will not admit it, many of you believe you are superior to other peoples. This is not a particularly moral way to think is it?

The results of such thinking are known throughout history, whenever this kind of thinking was applied to the process of “civilising” other peoples who do not believe the same things as the “chosen people”.

This is why I will always reject this original form of fascism.

There is a inborn capacity for morality, and it evolved from early human ancestors banding together to improve their chances of survival. From this was born altruism, so that groups would share resources and protect each other and the group, thus improving the survival of each individual. You will never convince me otherwise until you show me proof of your beliefs, and you will never listen to us because the nature of faith means the more I challenge you the more you cling to your doctrines, as a way of proving your devotion to your mythical “god”.

And the sad thing is you do not seem to see that you have been trapped into a self reinforcing conceptual loop by religious indoctrination.

Faith is a mental feedback loop. Thus it is irrational, and a borderline mental illness.





Nice response, Kevin, but I’d address one minor point. You wrote, “the idea of a creator whose ethics rely on reward and punishment.” From my experience, I’d change one word and say, “the idea of a creator whose ethics /involve/ reward and punishment.”

Sacul Sacul wrote: “Regardless of the good intentions of many (and “evil” intentions of many others), there’s no doubt that humanity would have been better served if atheism was the norm in every country.”

I’m sure Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, and Stalin would wholeheartedly agree with you.  Let’s just give up trying to guess what “might” have been better.





shorter: Armand • Ontario • Nov 9, 2009
Belittle article, claim it’s unoriginal
Fudge the issue, say both sides are the same, so you’ll stick with yours
Belittle the context of the article


Because religious arguments are always original, and arguments are purely about conviction





@Kevin:

The most frustrating thing that I have observed in atheists’ arguments against the religious is that some of them are stumped when the religious question the origin of morality.

— There are many books out there about this.  The one that introduced me to the answer to this question is Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene.  He explains a possible method whereby genes reproduce, and how that eventually translates into a biological source of morality.  Richard does a much better job than I could of explaining this, so please check out the book if you want an answer to this.





Kevin writes: “The most frustrating thing that I have observed in atheists’ arguments against the religious is that some of them are stumped when the religious question the origin of morality.”

I don’t see how a god necessarily solves that problem. An amoral or nihilistic god could have created us. The most parsimonious theism would state that a god created humanity, period, without addressing any of this other baggage about morality, life’s purpose or meaning, the necessity to worship it, an afterlife, etc.

Theism tends to accumulate a lot of accidental side beliefs, like a snowball rolling down a mountain which picks up tree branches, rocks and other loose debris in its path that will stick to it. We know theism attracts this clutter because religious reform efforts often engage in god-cleaning, like how the Protestants: removed most of the Catholic iconography from their churches,; tried to simplify and rationalize the theology; and reduced the number of holidays and rituals. Even then the resulting product still incorporated too many unsubstantiated or arbitrary beliefs.





Abraham, I don’t think that I accept your amendment. At least in Christian theology, an immoral life on earth results in eternal damnation while a righteous life is rewarded by an eternity in heaven. I cannot conceive of a system based more on reward and punishment than that and, in fact, it is one of the greatest problems, I think, with that religion. David Hume points out in his essay “Of the Immortality of the Soul” that, in all just concepts of morality, the punishment should fit the crime. This is central to many moral systems. Why then, he asks, does God punish people eternally for a finite and almost insignificant span of life, even if they lived deep in sin?

Rokeisland, thanks very much for the suggestion, Richard Dawkins is one of my favorite scientists and writers, his book is on my list of must-reads, I’m just having trouble finding the time!

Mark Plus, I’m not sure where exactly our paths diverge. I think that you may have misunderstood my earlier posts. I agree with you that Theism or Deism, or whatever is not synonymous with religion. I think one of the most elegant examples of this point is Spinoza’s conception of God or Nature (Deus sive Natura). Spinoza was a neutral monist (although that term came about after his death). He believed that God, or Nature, is simply (though amazingly) the universe itself and is, in fact, determined. Although I obviously cannot do justice to his entire belief system here - I would recommend reading “Ethics” - I agree to some extent with his ideas. They remind me of Carl Sagan’s and Stephen Hawking’s conception of the Universe. If I’ve misunderstood your comments please let me know!





Kevin wrote: “Abraham, I don’t think that I accept your amendment. At least in Christian theology,...”

It might help to not focus only on Christian theology. My use of the word “involve” instead of “rely on” allows for more types of religious theology.





@veronica:  It did not “arrive”.  It evolved.  You missed the point.

@Armand: You seem to not be impressed because Mr. Dahl’s conclusion does not align with yours.  Care to expand further on the flaws of his arguments, or the arguments that he has presented from other philosophers?

@John Smith: Your only claim is that the power of humanity is nothing compared to the power of your god.  Please back this up with verifiable evidence.  Also, there is nothing wrong with questioning claims.  If an atheist makes a bold claim, it should be questioned.  If a religious person makes a bold claim, it should also be questioned.  There is no get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to critical thought.  If your beliefs and your preachings are not sound, then they should be faced with the same criticism as anything else.  As said previously, what are these so-called “untrue facts” in the article?





Thank you Abraham, I will concede the point. I have already mentioned that I am at the very least not opposed to Theism and Deism, but rather to religion. I have no argument with those who accept that the ultimate cause(s) of the universe are unknown and possibly unknowable, only with those who patronize specific religious scriptures and gods in the absence of evidence and against scientific understanding.





Oh, my, John Smith…please read history.
It is blatently clear that governments and priestly castes have been in collusion with one another for centuries in the Western world (not to mention the Eastern). Along with armies behind them, emperors relied upon the priests to bestow special power upon them to rule. How do you think the emperors were popularized? By their priests who said God put rulers here on earth to lead the people [in the Christian faith, this is straight from Saint Paul of Tarsus.]

For the first time in history, the United States was a nation founded to be a secular government, founded by various Christians, Deists and other monotheists. They DELIBERATELY founded a secular government in order to avoid the religious bloodshed they and their forebears had witnessed in Europe. Unfortunately, we’ve blurred that wall of separation between church and state.

Britain and the Netherlands are being swamped by religious fanatics hijacking their societies and governments, attempting to tern them into draconic theocracies because these governments have not gone far enough in separating church and state.

The only part of your statement: “It is the core goal of every western government to wipe out any religion’s role in society so that the government in charge could gain more power. Politics and Religion have been always been against one another… currently politics has much greater control in the world today.” IS accurate in that governments DO seek to gain more power always. They will use whatever means are at their disposal. That is the nature of government. The church, synogogue or mosque has rarely mitigated this, but has predominately sought to expand government power. Why, because they and government work hand-in-glove to exercise power over the populus.

If any religions have sought to overthrow a government, it has been to establish one in which they were no longer persecuted or to establish a theocracy.





This was so rational and readable! I look forward to reading all the other contributors’ essays in the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, from which it comes.





Veronica,

“but unfortunately the theory doesn’t say how empathizing arrived”.

Try “evolution by natural selection”.





GFA: Only in /general/ does it say how emphathizing arrived, and the mechanisms are all guesses.





For many, religious belief was formed at an early age and in the presence of other adherents. I understand the arguements both pro and con and the rationale behind them. For myself it has been initial indoctrination, a falling away and then a series of logical questions followed by a series of profound occurences that has brought me back into believing in GOD. The sad part of Dogma whether religious or not is that the dangerous aspects of it revolves around a controlling oligarchy that derives its authority from inside the controlling oligarchy and subjugates the “laity” or “citizens” often times in ways that primarily benefit the oligarchy. Belief often times involves FAITH and one defintion of that is the substance of things hoped for or the evidence of things not seen, which of course begs more questions. Logically speaking this question will be answered of course some day, either yes or no.  As for myself my inquisitive mind has been satisifed and I simply ask GOD that other rationale minds maybe reached as well - not by force but by honest discourse.





Everything has a cause is not refuted by God, the First or Uncaused Cause. The premise is that every created thing has a cause.

You cannot love someone without first knowing that someone. You may not even be comfortable with someone from a different culture. It is the same with God. External religious rituals may or may not draw a person alone.

It is understandable that the author thought Christians weird with the extent of knowledge he had about them. The first century Romans thought Christians were weird too.





The first century Romans were quite right.





Greetings, Myfriendscallmetiny,

Reading back over what I’ve just written below, good grief, I can get long-winded. Sorry about that. But your response intrigued me wink

Your background sounds a lot like CS Lewis who at a certain point in his youth (even after childhood indoctrination) came to be an atheist for some years, then reverted back to Christianity. He went back to Christianity by what he considered sound logic. If I remember correctly, (it’s been some years since I read him), he basically used the same arguments as many apologists before him.

Really, the existance of God cannot be “logicked out”. You either believe or you don’t. It takes a leap of faith, beyond what is in the world and what is logical. As an atheist, I never ask a believer to “prove” anything. That is an impossible feat. I simply engage in polite discourse and scratch my head as to how they can make that leap. Based on how this world operates, there is no substance to “things hoped for.”  There IS substance to things made, however.

I do agree that “dogma” can exist in religious OR nonreligious circles. But faith is a whole other ballgame. You see, I am a former Christian and was for some time (until I literally “came to my senses”.) 

I stopped being a believer after I read the Bible. Before then, I was just another “happy-go-lucky SS/Church Service and Wednesday evening Bible study” Christian. The nice parts were emphasized, and the naughty parts were glossed over and explained away. After sitting down and really concentrating on what the Bible was saying, after a while, I wondered how in the world anyone could remain a worshipper of a deity that acted like a paranoid mafia don.

Later, when I read the Koran, I saw striking similarities between what the OT God was asking his followers to do and the draconic edicts set forth in the Koran. And then I asked myself, what do people get out of the Bible in order to justify enslaving another race, bombing abortion clinics and murdering doctors. What do people get out of the Koran to justify enslaving other nations and murdering innocent men, women and children by the tens of thousands? It basically boiled down to lack of respect for human life-lack of respect for themselves, much less for others.

Yes, yes, I know…many Christians are against abortion. And some are even against torture and capital punishment. It was only after I became an atheist that I had to sit down and really think about WHY I am opposed to abortion, to torture and to capital punishment. Here’s my argument: Life is precious and is worthy of being respected not because a deity says so, but because the preservation of it is conducive to our mutual survival and to wellbeing individually and societally. What is anathema to the florishing of life here on earth is evil. It takes a sick mind to torture someone or to kill someone for any purpose outside of self-defense.

I have come to have too much a sense of LIFE to believe that I need a god to tell me to do good to others. As an atheist, my kindliness, my love for others, my giving of myself all contribute to and celebrate life and freedom. I now feel the freeist that I have EVER felt. It’s because I let go of that yoke, however gentle and let go of that burden, however light. My contributions to the wellbeing of others is really no different than that of a devout Christian or Moslim (except I don’t need the celestial middleman).

One of my favorite authors is CS Lewis. Some more of my favorite people who have helped humanity are: Elie Wiesel, Mohandas Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, G. Edward Griffin, (not to mention my very beloved-and devoutly Christian-brothers!). I disagree with their religious beliefs, but I DO respect their contributions to humankind.

There is not one thing in the way of benefitting mankind that a Christian can do that a nonbeliever cannot (and vice versa). I likewise appreciate nonbelievers like Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, Carl Sagan, James Watson, Francis Crick, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Isaac Asimov, Lance Armstrong, Jodie Foster, Charles Schultz and Mark Twain.

Also to say that the world is orderly and beautiful and looks as though there MUST be a Master Designer, is, again, a leap of faith. It is not based upon evidence. Let’s take an analogy: a stick looks bent when it is poked in clear water, but as we all know, it is not really bent. We have the additional advantage of poking our hand under water and feeling that the stick is straight to prove our point. This is corraborating evidence (i.e., evidence complementary to evidence already given and tending to strengthen or confirm it-that is, additional evidence of a different character on the same point).

There’s a alternative explanation to how the world is as it is (evolution) armed with a LOT of evidence/corraborating evidence to back it up. Until a better theory comes up, it’s the best one we have. And to say that God created evolution is, again, a leap of faith, not the conclusion of a logical progression.

There is no way to KNOW there is a god. I KNOW there is air because I am breathing it right now, even though I do not see it, or feel it significantly. I don’t KNOW there is a god because I do not engage that entity physically. (And I haven’t wrestled any angels lately wink

God, by my definition is that entity that is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent—beyond anything that man could conceive. He is outside of nature, He is supernatural. Being supernatural, His existance cannot be proved by natural means, which is what humans are limited to.

Like many nonbelievers and some nonbeliving scientists, we humbly recognize this limitation and thus come to the logical conclusion that there is a high probability that there is no god. I am not arrogant enough to say that I KNOW there is absolutely NO god. Now THAT would be hubris. 

All said and told, you either believe or you do not.

Regards, AE





This article is a little disappointing and most of the ideas stated for the atheist position here are far too similar to Richard Dawkins - “The God delusion”, chapters 1and 2 : yet is this merely coincidence? As the arguments for and against the existence of God appear to follow the same old rhetoric. Is this all there is? Are these the arguments leading the God debate that will take us into the 21st century?

Yet do we really need to argue with others regarding the belief in the existence of God? Or should we debate the question of “freedom” of choice to pursue secular belief systems and the rights of the individual to pursue their faith without prejudices and persecution?

There are many forms of religious beliefs in God, not only the Abrahamic faiths and Christianity, (which appear to be the target of debate here). There are other monistic faiths, there is deism, (which attempts to explain the dilemmas concerning the reality of freewill, the limitations of religious doctrines, the impartiality of God, and man’s presumptions and projection of his own morals, choices and judgements in the name of God).

There is Pantheism
1. (rare) worship that admits or tolerates all gods
2. The doctrine or belief that God is the universe and its phenomena (taken or conceived of as a whole) or the doctrine that regards the universe as a manifestation of God

And if none of these rock your boat there is Buddhism and Advaita both themselves forms of atheism.

What the real shame is, however, is how much anger and aggression this simple article appears to have generated, especially from the atheists?

Q - What is one possible connection between the following ideas?

Frank Tipler : Omega point, the “great architect”, (the matrix trilogy), Posthumanity, Transhumanism and God?

If God does not exist yet we have the notions and ideas of God, and if we continue to aspire to God and these lofty values.. And if our scientific search proves there is indeed no God, and if advances in technology permit the manipulation of matter, minds and life itself : then it may well prove to be the case that we are indeed the nearest thing to God? Which then leads us back to the first cause and the origins of the ideas and notions concerning the existence of God once more? And a new understanding of past religious values may well be required to deal with such a possibility?

For even those of us who do not prescribe to the belief in a “creator”, cannot deny the reality of “creation”. Is the Universe God? Or is God the Universe?
“Who are we?”.. are we merely the Universe manifest?





I would like to begin by thanking Dr Dahl for his completely intelligible, short but comprehensible article ‘Imagine No Religion’. I found it refreshing to read an article on Religion that was mostly based on personal experience instead of a so called scientific debate about God Vs Darwin, Richard Dawkins and countless other authors who have been writing about this subject for centuries. As a lay person I found Dr Dahl’s article a very lucid explanation as to why he was a non believer.

As I was reading the article my 15 year old daughter joined me and after we had read the article she asked me “Mum, can you imagine no religion”? I was caught completely off guard and had no immediate answer to give her. Whilst I pondered her question, earnestly she said to me “If there was no Religion Mum we would have no history!”  In the eyes of my 15 year old she poses many questions such as “Would it be a better world if there was no Religion? I myself ask “Would there be such opposites as good & evil, Joy & Sorrow”? No racial wars? Would the absence of religion have prevented 9/11?

As a child I often heard the saying ‘learn from the mistakes of your forefathers’!  My own belief is that it is not just our personal & immediate history that shapes our character, but that of the worlds past and present. Slavery taught me that it was unjust to treat another as inferior based on the colour of our skin. The Holocaust taught me that to genocide an entire race due to their ability to excel in any given occupation is meaningless and illogical. What of the influence of religion in the arts?  I cannot imagine a world without Michael Angelo’s Sistine Chapel, the Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) its walls adorned by frescoes by Giotto (C- 1267 : Jan 1337) and his pupils and the countless cathedrals and Domes that are centuries old around Europe. What of Beethoven, Mozart & Tchaikovsky and the countless other writers, poets and artist who have both been tormented and inspired by religion to produce some of their most world renowned works of art.

I am, as Dr Dahl refers to the likes of me a ‘Liberal Christian’ (and just for the record Dr Dahl, I do not go around saying ‘God Is Love’) I hold nothing against the opinions of the ‘50 Voices of Disbelief’. As for me religion is a means of solace a form of refuge from a life that has put me and those I love through unbearable loss and hardship. Yes, there have been numerous times I have berated at heavens door. Having said that I have to say that I have reached a point in my life, that I do not hold God responsible for my sorrows, I simply accept it as life. At age five my daughter looked at the colour of her skin and then at mine and quite innocently asked “Mummy why are you brown and Daddy and I are golden and then proceeded on to asking her father if “we could send Mummy back to God and he can make me golden too”?  I answered her as best as I could and told her that there were millions of people who look very different to each other, that they even spoke a different language. I then asked her to imagine a world where we all looked the same and spoke the same and that would be very boring indeed? My response to religion is akin to what I said to my five year old. I see religion as the root of most ethical, moral & political debates. It makes for many interesting debates and conversations. Without religion ‘50 Voices of Disbelief’ would never have come to fruition. Imagine That!





Greetings, CygnusX1:

It is unfortunate that some atheists are rather vitriolic. Not all of us are, as I’m sure you are aware. Existence of God is not really debatable, logically. So, to press on….we DO need to ask some fresh questions and from different perspectives than only the “monotheists vs the atheists.”

You make another excellent point with:
“Or should we debate the question of “freedom” of choice to pursue secular belief systems and the rights of the individual to pursue their faith without prejudices and persecution?”

This is a VERY important debate. How DO we define “freedom” and what are its limits? A good debatable issue is freedom of speech: for example, a religious leader inciting his congregation to go out and persecute, even attack people of another race or religion because this religious leader claimed that there was a world-wide conspiracy of this other race/religion to take over the world. And many of his congregants do just that. Just how far is a society to allow “pulpit freedom”?

I really like your questions in your last 2 paragraphs….something to think about, eh? wink

First, we must define God, which many have said is impossible. Then, I ask, are we indeed, as Krishnamurti put it, “the world?” And are we slowly evolving into what many people imagine as “God”? And collectively as God, will we create the next universe, the next God?  Very cool questions! I think it was Frank Lloyd Wright that said, “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature”. Another thing is, if God IS Nature, is the whole universe, then there is nothing supernatural. And then, the sister question: If God is Nature, and a creator must be outside his creation to create it, then how is He Creator of Himself?

In a way, (in reference to your statement that “...even those of us who do not prescribe to the belief in a “creator”, cannot deny the reality of “creation”), I do deny that there is a creation, (i.e., I do not define the world as a “creation”) simply because I do not prescribe to a belief in a creator.

I like your questions, and hope to see more of your points and arguments.

Regards, AE





AnotherEnigma writes: “Existence of God is not really debatable, logically.”

Says whom? Your chosen philosophers who you necessarily believe have flawless logic on this question?





Edgar - keep up the great work.
Your writing, knowledge, and understanding are very impressive.





Malcolm writes: “@veronica: It (the faculty of empathy) did not “arrive”. It evolved. You missed the point.”

The way I’m using the term “arrived” means that it “arrived on the scene”. That is, at one point in history it didn’t exist and later on it did. I pointed out that all we have is educated guesses as to how this happened. Obviously I didn’t miss the point.

“The first century Romans were quite right (in thinking that the Christians were weird.” writes Simon Gardner.  Um, you mean “the first century PAGAN Romans were quite right.” (smirk)





Greetings, Abraham:
In reference to
“Existence of God is not really debatable, logically.”
&
Your comment:
“Says whom? Your chosen philosophers who you necessarily believe have flawless logic on this question?”

Well, I say so. Please allow me to explain:

First off, I never said that any (as you call them) “chosen philosophers” have flawless logic. I don’t know of any philosopher in history that has that! wink 

I said that “the existence of God is not really debatable” based upon my definitions of logic and also debate which are these:
Logic is a system to define terms which both you and I have knowledge of, putting those terms together and step by step building a coherent view of reality.

This definition is based on the fact that I exist and the physical world exists. My reality is built upon the interaction I have with the physical world. The physical world exists independently of me. At some level, we’ve all accepted this premise because without it, no language would be possible and with no language, no logic, philosophy or religion. If the world did not exist independently of you or me, we would not have a common focus, i.e., the world. We’d be in our own little world, with not common foci and therefore no common references.

We would not both perceive the particular tree, or particular house, or other people in order to build the universal concepts of tree, house, people. In order to communicate we need the focal point of the world, of reality, of what IS in order to communicate. Logic is based upon this rather prosaic fact: I exist, you exist, the physical world and its things exist independently of you and me.

I define debate as a discussion whose players seek to prove their points of view. For example: Does God exist?

Now, the monotheistic religions, particularly the Judeo-Christian ones have an anthropomorphized deity said to exist outside of nature, supernatural, beyond his creation. In order to be a little comprehensible, he must be anthropomorphised and his intelligence must resemble man’s, even his emotions of anger, jealousy, love, mercy, etc. He must speak intelligibly to his prophets.

Logic, which is based upon nature, sets out to prove something, to have a conclusion of some sort. God’s existence cannot be proved within the confines of logic simply because, if he exists, he exists outside of the physical world. As logic is based upon our language and terms in that language, which are based upon the physical world, and as debate is presumably based upon logic, then I conclude that God’s existence cannot really be debated.

Science, based upon logic, has not been able to prove God’s existence. It is, as theologians themselves have said, a matter of faith. You either believe or you do not believe.

Now as to your comment: “who you necessarily believe”, referring to philosophers….I was quoting Frank Lloyd Wright and J. Krishnamurti. I do not necessarily “believe them” or agree with their conclusions. There is, particularly in Krishnamurti, some I disagree with. However, this is not to say that with further study I wouldn’t agree with him. I was putting these two forth as possible references to what CygnusX1 and I were discussing.

I hope that this answers your question.

Regards,
AE





I appreciate your thoughts, AE. I would just add that deductive logic is part of logic. If we can’t prove God’s existence, maybe (I’m not saying definitely, but maybe) we can deduce it.





A gentle response to Edgar Dahl.
I have to say that I found it a very weak approach from a trained mind.  First, it seems a heavily romanticised version of his epiphany in the Cathedral. He labours too much the point that he was brought up totally ignorant of Christianity, when he was surrounded by western influences from film and television and churches, even if mostly empty in East Germany, still in existence in his neighbourhood. This assumed ignorance enables his later surprise at his witness of the rites. “Apparently they were celebrating the holy communion.” It puts him in the well-used satirical role of the observer from Mars who finds human practices weird or deplorable.

There is also a potent mix of vagueness “one day’ and too much incidental evidence thrown in to give confirming credence to his recall “The fabulous Anthony Quinn etc”. In all, I don’t believe it happened that way.
He gives a specious reality to the development of an intellectual observation that the rites of the Christian Church are odd. There is nothing wrong with the statement that such activities are odd: I just think that he falsifies the process. 

This is borne out by the chronology. He claims his parents were killed by Nazis when he was three. Ergo he must have been at least three in 1945. He also states that he was about 10 when he didn’t see The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This film was released in 1957. This would make him at least fifteen. The whole thing, as depicted, is impossible!

Second.  The arguments
The ontological argument has been well-worn, and there is nothing new in his triumphal observation that the proving the existence of a first cause is a long way from proving the existence of a caring, loving god. So what?
The teleological argument is, post Darwin, equally tired. And the societal causes of evil are equally no longer in need of propagandised advancement.
So, we do really have a tired argument.
If only there were fewer Don Quixotes tilting at delusive windmills, and more rigorous, self-confident and honest debate asserting positives rather than self-congratulatory and easy, because too old hat, dismissals of practices already acknowledged to be indefensible.

Nathan





Nathan,

I understand your confusion about the time-line; I had to re-read it to understand.

‘She said, “They’re Christians. They believe in God and Satan, and Heaven and Hell. My own parents were religious, too. My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic. Seeing that they were killed by the Nazis while I was only three years old, I don’t know anything about religions, though.” In order to change the seemingly uninteresting subject, she added, “Never mind, it doesn’t concern us.”’

It’s a quote from his mother.  His mother’s parents died when she was three.





I sent in a response to Edgar Dahl’s “Imagine No Religion” article. I would be grateful if you did NOT attach it to your comments. While I would stand by most of my response, there was a serious mis-reading of the death of Edgar’s mother’s parents which throws the chronological argument out of kilter. Apologies for the too rapid firing from the hip. I am not a trained mind!!





Three points:

1. Pure mathematics is full of the situations that the article labels as absurd. Every number has a successor, so numbers go on forever. Mathematicians have no trouble conceiving of a limit to this chain of number, which is a number that is its own successor.

2. Science or rational thought or logic proves its own inconsistency or its own incompleteness. See at least Godel’s theorem.

3. Classical logic, with its determinism and absolute objective view of reality, and which is implicitly used in this article, is known to be an approximation. Quantum logic (which corresponds to the most accurate scientific theory known to us) allows for inherent ambiguities and contradictions and a subjective view of reality.

All in all, the article uses outdated science to reject the possibility of God. In fact, the more one delves into science, the more one ascertains the limitations of science and rational thought. One is then left with essentially two possibilities:
- admit that much about the universe is beyond the reach of science and rational thought and just live with it, or
- believe in the unseen

Once one believes in the unseen, the road to God is a direct one.





@ Mike…

Unfortunately there is no such thing as a “perfect example”, because there is no such thing as perfection, and we all make mistakes… even God?

Nathan shows his integrity both with his mistake and his response to it. And I would guess that his points have cleared up any confusion for at least some of us? I for one found the authors dialogue confusing and less than perfect.

ps. on a lighter note, perhaps you could provide a “pop-up” caution when submitting comments, such as “are you sure you really want to post this?” or “have you checked your spellin misstakes?”

;0]





In reference to:
Post by Abraham on 11/12 at 08:54 PM

I appreciate your thoughts, AE. I would just add that deductive logic is part of logic. If we can’t prove God’s existence, maybe (I’m not saying definitely, but maybe) we can deduce it.

My response:

Granted, God’s existence (and nonexistence) can be deduced, but these deductions would be fallacious.

For example…....
1st, a definition of terms:
Create = 1. To cause to exist; bring into being. In this web dictionary definition, “create” does not imply intent. For our purposes, however, let’s assume intent, as this meaning is the general consensus among folks arguing these issues.
Cause = (verb) Give rise to; cause to happen or occur, not necessarily intentionally. (noun) Anything producing an effect or result; a person or thing acting voluntarily or involuntarily as the agent that brings about an effect or result.
Mindful vs. mindless: Per the general notion of what IS mindful, like the theists, I am assuming as a definition, an intelligence similar to ours, but on an infinite scale, guiding everything. Mindless, then would simply mean “without this mind”.

(2 possible arguments, one for and one against)

The Theist…....
1st Premise: Each thing or phenomenon in the physical world has a cause.
2nd Premise: The physical world is made up of its individual things/phenomena.
3rd Premise: The physical world then, has a cause
4th Premise: The physical world is too complex to have had a mindless, natural cause
5th Premise:  The physical world had to have had a mindful, supernatural cause because there is no other cause in lieu of the natural
6th Premise: A creator is a causing Agent
Therefore the physical world was caused by a creator.

What is wrong with this argument?
1. There is still a leap of faith in the conclusion here. Yes, a creator is a causing agent. But that still does not necessarily mean the world was caused by a creator.
2. There is still an assumption in the premises of “couldn’t be caused by mindless nature” that is not backed up by evidence that a supernatural agent did it.
3. There is no reason to assume that the natural world is too complex to have had a mindless, natural cause.
a. How IS it too complex for natural causes?
b. By what criteria do WE determine that it is too complex for natural causes? As naturalists, we can determine it to have natural causes based upon what we observe in the natural world.
c. When we argue for a creator, we are assuming that the world is too complex for nature to evolve without an outside intelligence and that leaves a void (and by inference, that void must be filled with something superior than mere nature.) Usually, then, in comes omniscience (basically our brains to the power of infinity). We’re assuming by default in the premises that an intelligence similar to ours, (but infinite/all-knowing) had to have made this complex world.
Assuming a conclusion in the midst of premises is a logical fallacy.

Many things in the physical world ARE intentionally created, like paintings, skyscrapers and automobiles. How does this lead to the premise that dogs, cats and trees are created? Man is the only thing on earth that we KNOW for a fact intentionally engineers (creates) things (has technology).

An Atheist argument….....
God = supernatural, immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being
Man = natural, mortal, relatively weak, ignorant and only able to be one place at one time per individual.
Cause/Create = (as defined before the 1st argument)

Premise1: There is no objective, peer reviewable evidence for the existence of the supernatural nor its phenomena.
Premise 2: There is no ability by humans to observe, record, peer review supernatural things or phenomena.
Premise 2: God is defined as independent of his alleged creation and is therefore allegedly supernatural
Premise 3: God cannot be objectively observed, recorded and the results peer reviewed because those observing/recording and their tools are part of the natural world and he is not.
Premise 4: God’s actions (which by definition are supernatural) thus cannot be deduced to be what causes various phenomena in the natural world without fallaciously assuming this in the premises.
Therefore, there is no supernatural phenomena and God does not exist.

What is wrong with this argument?
How does it follow that he definately does not exist? The lack of evidence to support something that someone has come up with in a hypothesis does not PROVE something does not exist.

On the other hand, the “proving” paradox is this: based upon observable, peer reviewable evidence, if God were “proved” to exist, he would cease to be what monotheists consider God. Using successful means within nature to prove the existence of something would indicate that particular something as natural.

I do assert that lack of evidence of something that has been hypothesized merely indicates the low probability of something’s existence, not necessarily its nonexistence.

So, for the atheist’s conclusion, it would be better if I said that since there is a great lack of evidence to support the claim that God exists, and that any evidence that can be verified by us of his existence would demode him to that of the natural world, thus there is a high probability that he does not exist. Therefore, I take the atheist position.

On a lighter note (in reference to lack of evidence not equalling nonexistence), I do say this: until Anton Van Leeuwenhoek and his microscope, people didn’t know there were tiny creatures swimming about in water. After observing these, I can understand if his friends preferred wine—and lots of it !! 
Cheers wink

Regards,
AE





Can one of the leaders of IEET explain what this essay - decent as it is - is even doing here? Shouldn’t the essays here have at least /something/ to do with ethics or emerging technologies?





Mike, your response was coy, but not much else.

AnotherEnigma wrote: “Granted, God’s existence (and nonexistence) can be deduced, but these deductions would be fallacious. “

AE, I think that your interesting analysis (the one with all the premises) shows that the deductions could be wrong, not would be wrong.





Perhaps the real reason for posting a “religion” essay is because you know it generates the most comments. Getting 59 comments is so much more satisfying that getting 5.





Greetings, Veronica:

In response to:
“AE, I think that your interesting analysis (the one with all the premises) shows that the deductions could be wrong, not would be wrong.”

Veronica, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that my arguments do not validate my point that the deductions in the syllogisms are necessarily wrong, but only that it is possible that they are wrong. Is this correct?

If so, (AND if my arguments-and syllogisms-are constructed correctly), I must disagree. The reason is, IF we are arguing from the prism of formal logic, then, according to the rules of formal logic, the conclusions presented above in the examples of arguments for/against the existence of God are invalid. Validity only guarantees the truth of the conclusion if the premises are true. In the syllogistic examples, the premises are false, so the conclusions remain false.

If you disagree with this, please elaborate your above statement so that I can understand better and perhaps be corrected. wink





I’ll just put it this way.
I believe the following two sentences of yours contradict each other:

“I do assert that lack of evidence of something that has been hypothesized merely indicates the low probability of something’s existence, not necessarily its nonexistence. “
and
“Existence of God is not really debatable, logically.”

People do debate things of low probability.

I also think that your statement, “any evidence that can be verified by us of his existence would demode him to that of the natural world” is a postulate that needs rigorous defending.





Interesting points, Veronica. I will examine these closely and see where I either contradicted myself/had invalid premises OR didn’t express myself adequately.  Thank you for your input.

Regards,
AE





Greetings, Veronica…..picking up from yesterday,

As to
“I do assert that lack of evidence of something that has been hypothesized merely indicates the low probability of something’s existence, not necessarily its nonexistence. “
and
“Existence of God is not really debatable, logically.”

contradicting each other, I disagree.

You are correct in stating that people debate things of low probability. But, their debates cannot follow logically because their premises are necessarily not based upon verifiable fact precisely BECAUSE of the lack of verifiable evidence to support their premises.
————————-
As to: “I also think that your statement, ‘any evidence that can be verified by us of his existence would demode him to that of the natural world’ is a postulate that needs rigorous defending.”

Ok, let me try again…..We generally regard supernatural as “above” natural. Supernatural is generally defined as that which is also more powerful than natural, that is, taking my Harry Potter wand and making things materialize or disappear, a phenomena quite outside the bounds of physics, for example.

Say that I believe in God as defined by the Bible. Why? Because There is a delightful story about him in a big book that I must also assume is true since God said it was true in the big book. Now, the prophets describe God in all sorts of ways, kind of like blind guys, positioned about an elephant trying to describe it based on each vantage point. Now God is defined as supernatural, he is defined as beyond the scope of the universe and man is also described as quite the opposite of him.

Now IF God were to be followed about by a team of scientists taking measurements and recording phenomena, they’d likely study all the allegedly supernatural components of his interaction with the physical world (like the plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea).

For a minute, let’s keep in our pocket the definition of supernatural as “that which is above or beyond the bounds of nature and its operation and thus more powerful than nature.”

IF scientists could explain all this data in a coherent explanation consistent with the known laws of standard physics and quantum mechanics and even expand upon known laws based on the new data, then, the physical interaction of God with the natural world would be explanable and would no longer be regarded as supernatural.

God’s “supernaturalness” cannot be proven by these verifiable measurements because the only things that the measurements are recording is God’s interactions with the physical world, not the supernatural world. IF scientists could explain how these measurements could be what they are within the known laws of nature (or formulate additional laws of nature consistent with known laws), then the interactions of God with the physical world could no longer justifiably be regarded as supernatural.

Thus, his superiority to the natural world cannot be proved. He would have to swoop us up to his realm and give us supernatural powers in order to enable us to prove that he was supernatural.

I hope this clarifies.

Regards,
AE





“IF scientists could explain how these measurements could be what they are within the known laws of nature (or formulate additional laws of nature consistent with known laws), then the interactions of God with the physical world could no longer justifiably be regarded as supernatural. “

I disagree.  Scientists or mathematicians have calculated how long a beer can would tip over on it own, based on the chance movement of its subatomic particles vibrating mostly in one direction at a given moment. (On average, the net displacement of all these particles is about zero at a given moment, but theoretically, all the particles could be heading in one direction.) The answer is about once in a quadrillion years. Now, lets say this very phenomenon happens to you right as you reach for a brewski this afternoon.

Although you might resort to this scientific explanation, and be hunky dory with it, I do believe that you would say, “I believe in God.”





LoL!! wink I’ve found it the best resort around.

But, yeah, at some point in rather profound state of inebriation from my favorite beer, I could say in light of strange brewski phenomena (and sex) I DO believe, I DO, I DO, I DO!!! wink

I’ve enjoyed our conversation, Veronica! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Regards, AE





We don’t simply assume empathy arrived.  We are aware that it exists in humans.  That proves that it arrived.





As an American atheist I can tell you that there are many more of us than you think, but most have not “come out of the closet” at this point.  There is a clear increase in this country and I firmly believe we will one day emerge from the dark ages we’re in.

John Smith, I have another thought for you.  You say ” If your (sic)a jew than (sic) you should try to be the best jew you can be. If your (sic) a muslim than (sic) you should be the best muslim you could be. If your (sic) catholic - like me - than (sic) you should be the best catholic you could be.”

None of us “are” any of these things.  We are all born atheists, without belief in a higher being, and are taught the belief systems you’re referring to.  This is not in a person’s DNA, like skin color.  These are learned behaviors.  It makes sense to say “stay true to your family, race, sex, etc.” because these are what you actually are.  But to say stay “true to your faith” assumes you have one.  Once you have made the rational decision that there are no gods, your truth is atheism.





“We are all born atheists, without belief in a higher being, and are taught the belief systems you’re referring to. This is not in a person’s DNA, like skin color. These are learned behaviors. “

If you were to go to Russia, where the country was fed a diet of atheism, you’d find that millions have gravitated towards some form of religion. Why? Is it because of “a learned behavior”? Try to convince /them/ of that. In some cases it might just be. But in other cases, they’ll tell you it was simply an inner yearning.





I have to agree. We probably weren’t born atheist. Atheism is a product of critical thinking and we weren’t born with that.





My point is that people are not born into the world with a theistic belief, or any belief, for that matter.  Atheism is “a lack of belief in god,” so therefore we are obviously born atheist.

To say you’re a jew because your parents were jewish (or any other religion, for the matter) is ridiculous.  You were born with no beliefs, were later taught the beliefs of your family and friends and ultimately must decide which belief system you wish to follow.

During life, people make up their own minds in terms of what they decide to believe.  The majority of people remain in the religion they were raised in because that’s what they were taught.  Some who were raised without religion become religious, and many who were raised in a religion become less religious, or become atheists.





We are born “a-EVERY BELIEF,” that is without any beliefs, including a belief in god or gods.

Before there was mono-theistic superstition, there was poly-theistic superstition.  But even back then, people were born without that belief and had to be taught it.





“To say you’re a jew because your parents were jewish (or any other religion, for the matter) is ridiculous.”

Eh, that’s only true if you think that being a jew means believing in a certain thing. But if it means belong to something like a family, then it is not ridiculous at all.





I probably shouldn’t have used jewish as the religion I cited because I know many jews consider themselves jewish by nationality, even if they don’t believe in the religion.  They are, I believe, unique in this way.  But this was a discussion about religion, not nationality.  I believe it holds true for all religions, as religions.





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