The Guilt By Religious Association Canard

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Ken
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    says:

    The bottom line is that atheism cannot disprove the existence of God(s) anymore than theisms can prove it – at best you can make imperfect philosophical arguments that God(s) does or does not exist while ultimately relying on some form of more or less blind faith.

    Burden of proof argument in 3 . . 2 . . 1 . . . . 🙂Report

  2. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    Yeah, I’ve been gearing myself up mentally for that from the instant I hit the “publish” button. I’m hoping that linking to Chris’ post will defuse that a bit, though, since it makes the whole point that atheism itself requires a certain amount of blind faith.Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Religion is an easy scapegoat – even a trendy scapegoat. This is largely because within organized religion there are so many flaws (though mainly with the organization, I might add, not the religion necessarily though the line is admittedly fuzzy).

    The League’s consortium on atheism, theism, and the interplay between science and religion is here. It was one of our earliest discussions and, I think, remains one of our best.

    Couldn’t agree more….Report

  4. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    I’m hoping that linking to Chris’ post will defuse that a bit, though, since it makes the whole point that atheism itself requires a certain amount of blind faith.

    Mark, check out the thread on this post. When it comes to this subject, you just can’t please everyone.

    C’est la vie.Report

  5. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    Damn. It took all I could to keep my laughs silent while reading that thread. Jaybird at his best, the other dude totally not realizing that every word he wrote was proving yours and Jaybird’s point for you, etc., etc.Report

  6. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    It was an interesting debate, to be sure…Report

  7. Avatar Judd
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    says:

    “The bottom line is that atheism cannot disprove the existence of God(s) anymore than theisms can prove it – at best you can make imperfect philosophical arguments that God(s) does or does not exist while ultimately relying on some form of more or less blind faith”

    You’re right when you say no one can disprove the existence of god. But no one can disprove the existence of unicorns or leprechauns, either. No one would say that you have to “rely on blind faith” to disbelieve in unicorns, but you just said the same thing about god, even though those two things have the same probability of existing.

    The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. Nothing exists unless and until it is proven to exist. If you cannot prove the existence of god, the I have no reason to take you seriously.Report

  8. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Ken – so prescient of you:

    Burden of proof argument in 3 . . 2 . . 1 . . . . 🙂

    Then Judd w/:

    The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. Nothing exists unless and until it is proven to exist. If you cannot prove the existence of god, the I have no reason to take you seriously.

    Well imagine that!

    Actually the “burden of proof” is a nonissue. Nobody is required to prove anything. This is not a discussion about proof, and thus any burden of said proof is irrelevant.Report

  9. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    As Augustine (and later Descartes) understood–following Plotinus–I am consciousness therefore I am.

    Augustine said God is The Subject of all subjects. In the phenomenological moment of “I am conscious therefore I exist” there is actually an awareness of oneself as consciousness. Really: I am aware that I am conscious, therefore I exist.

    The Awareness part (the Subject in which all subjects arise) is God.

    Or so says Plotinus, Plato, Augustine and a whole slew of the world’s mystics. So the burden of proof is fine–I could (as I tried to do there) point you to that experience. It’s just that existence here is the wrong category (as Kant so brilliantly stated demolished Anselm’s Ontological Argument for the Existence of God). Existence is not another predicate (like good or funny or whatever) but the ground from which any predicate could be. The question is more one of experience and interpretation (even atheists have mystical experiences they just don’t interpret them as God-given).

    Hell, even unicorns exist in the minds of children and people who read stories. They just don’t ex-ist (literally “stand out”) in the physical sphere like a rock or dolphin.

    The burden of proof as its being used here iow is hiding a prejudice against the reality of subjective experience. If God is to be found (if there is a God) it/he/she/they is to be found in subjectivity. Which is why the Flying Spaghetti Monster argument is so useless as well as attempts to “prove” God’s existence through natural events (like Aquinas’ argument from contingency or motion or Intelligent Design arguments).Report

  10. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

    Christopher Hitchens, “god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” p. 150.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    It seems to me quite obvious that a Cartesian God would not exist. Evil precludes a cartesian God. That inconsistent triad is busted by Evil.

    Now, if you want to bust open a Bible and try to reconcile one’s faith with an Old Testament God, well then. That’s a God worth wrestling with.

    And if someone who struck me as… I don’t know what the term would be… “Zen” seems vastly inappropriate… I’ll give an analogy. Once upon a time, I saw a pencil drawing of Don Quixote. He was wearing tatters and a comic suit of armor and looking up. Not with a thousand (or two-thousand) yard stare, but looking at something. The eyes terrified me. Not because I thought he was crazy, but because of the miniscule chance that he was not. When you looked at the eyes, you stopped seeing the tatters, the comic armor.

    When you meet someone like that. When they tell you that they hear the voice of God.

    That’s terrifying. That makes you say “what if I’m wrong?” Not because of Pascal’s silly wager on the “what if I get hell?” side of the equation, but because of the “What if there is an Underlying Moral Fabric to the Universe? What if I have a role in Its/His plans?”

    If you see that, do you have any choice but to say something like “Oh, my goodness, I have to outfit myself… oh, all I have are these tatters and these pots and pans for armor… they will have to do”?Report

  12. Avatar Consumatopia
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    says:

    The focus on whether atheism requires “faith” is confusing. Theism requires at least one more assumption than atheism. However, that additional assumption can be made up for if you can use it to explain more things than you could without assuming it. If you have subjective evidence like Chris is talking about, then I can see how atheism would require at as much faith as theism, if faith is considered the sum of everything you’ve assumed and everything you’ve left unexplained.

    However, I think it’s worth stepping back and thinking about the point of this argument. I agree absolutely with Ken’s criticism of Myers at popehat, but I’m pretty sure that simple human inconsistency/hypocrisy in the face of great passion is the cause of this, not the abstract epistemological problems we might address here.

    Or to put it another way, there are militant agnostics too, so fixing the epistemology doesn’t seem to fix the common sense.Report

  13. Avatar Consumatopia
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    says:

    Jaybird, what if you come across more than one guy in tatters, and they all have equal certainty but inconsistent claims?Report

  14. Avatar Bob Cheeks
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    says:

    Man exists in a tension described by Plato as the metaxy, the in-between, that is defined by the poles of immanence and transcendence. The experience of this reality within this so-called metaxy is symbolized by T.S. Eliot’s comments in his “Four Quartets”; “history is a pattern of timeless moments”, and “the point of intersection of the timeless with time.” Consequently, man’s reality, experienced within consciousness, either exists in this tension or in the area of either pole(hypostatization).
    When our reality is derailed within this tension by a limiting or rejection, usually of the transcendent, we experience a distortion; either psycopathologically or pneuomopathologically expressed in modernity by an egophanic revolt agaisnt theology and/or metaphysics as we try to recover the tension of existence.
    Typically, however, when we lose the experience of truth our thinking collapses into a world-immanent consciousness.
    I see some of that here, but damn it is so interesting to see bright, young people struggling with the challenges of existence. Atheism is not for the faint of heart.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “Jaybird, what if you come across more than one guy in tatters, and they all have equal certainty but inconsistent claims?”

    It’s not the guys in tatters, nor (necessarily) their certainty that gets me.

    I mean, look at (yes, I’m bringing him up again) Doctor Dobson. He’s fairly certain and, as I understand it, fairly on-target when it comes to toddler-rearing. What I see in his certainty (and tatters) is a great deal of authoritarianism. Here is The Way. You must follow it. Exactly. If you don’t follow it exactly, it’s a demonstration that you were never on it. It’s exceptionally Nazarene.

    I have met a handful of people who see God and decide to change their own lives… and they’re still working on their own lives. Those folks are the ones who make me wonder.

    Back to your question, “Jaybird, what if you come across more than one guy in tatters, and they all have equal certainty but inconsistent claims?”

    The guys I’m talking about… those who see God and decide to change their lives all have equal certainty but, so far, I’ve not met one who did not agree that the imperative was to change his or her life and get to it. My life? That’s none of their business, as far as they’re concerned. They are no longer distracted by the trivia of other folk.Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    In a nutshell, there are the people who say “I’ve just talked to God and here’s a list of all of the shit you’re doing wrong” and the people who say “I’ve just talked to God and I need to change my life.”

    The former people all look like the same bunch of moral busybodies.

    The latter people are the ones who give me pause.Report

  17. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    “The latter people are the ones who give me pause.”

    This just takes it back one step. What do you make of a Born again next to a Hindu that both are changing their lives? What conclusion should we take from the variety of sources of this behavior?Report

  18. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    So of I believe in sex and drugs I’m a believer in some kind of bogus salvation? Because I trust sex and drugs? This nonsense could only be written by a theologian. I trust sex and drugs because they deliver what they promise, which isn’t salvation. It’s orgasms and hallucinations. Dr Chris’s theology promises salvation and delivers pie in the sky when you die.Report

  19. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    Roque,

    First off I’m not a Doctor (I have a Master’s degree).

    Secondly, what I was discussing was absolute trust, primal trust. What Tillich called “ultimate concern.” The way in which you describe your relationship to sex/drugs is not ultimate concern. It’s as it were a relative trust. Like how I trust that my frig will keep working based on experience. One day I suppose it might not (just like the sex and drugs might not deliver sometimes) but it’s not an existential crisis. So your example isn’t applicable.

    I have met people from whom sex or drugs or money are in fact their ultimate concern. Ultimate concerns (whether consciously or unconsciously) promote a kind of salvation myth. Usually unconsciously. They create a situation in which you desire something outside of you to be free and healed (the real meaning of the word salvation from salus Latin for health).

    Once that True Self (and Truth) is located outside of you, then the activity of searching is the cause of suffering. So searching for happiness and freedom in some alternate state will bring suffering. In fact an endless cycle of suffering. The more you seek the more pain you will experience which will cause you to seek all the more leading to more pain (since the seeking is both cause/symptom) leading to more seeking to more pain to more seeking…..Until you give up the ghost on the seeking and (in Christian terms) face the crucifixion within.

    Rather than face that reality most people (in my experience) are just pretty numb to all the pain they feel. They may numb that pain through drugs or various addictions or not. But generally they would rather keep seeking around in the exterior world to keep them distracted from the fear-desire trap within themselves. [I may be wrong as well. This is an educated guess on my part].

    And btw, since you keep bringing this up, my theological position is a little more sophisticated than the immature version of religious faith you keep projecting onto me. If you would like to know what I believe (fundamentally trust in) I find it would be better to ask me instead of assuming.Report

  20. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “What do you make of a Born again next to a Hindu that both are changing their lives? What conclusion should we take from the variety of sources of this behavior?”

    I actually am in the process of writing an essay on the nature of morality (and the politics that lead from it)… maybe I’ll submit it for a guest post. When I finish it.Report

  21. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    “I have met people from whom sex or drugs or money are in fact their ultimate concern.”

    But if they are yet another means to the end? A liturgy in an earlier religion or a spiritual practice? Are the Dionysian Mysteries so easily discarded?Report

  22. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    Cascadian,

    Definitely not. In fact I would say at a deeper level (though certainly not all the time) people use drugs to reach transcendence. The same issue applies though in spiritual seeking as in conventional seeking. Why is the person seeking? At the core (again usually unconscious) it is because they believe the other state will bring them bliss and erase the pain of their current state, if only temporarily. And maybe it does, but the comedown then is that much more horrible as you have seen the beautiful but still think it is outside you, somewhere else. You think you have been to heaven and now realize you are in hell and everything becomes–at its worst–a quest to get back to heaven. When all the time the kingdom of heaven is already within your midst. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear.Report

  23. Avatar Bob Cheeks
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    says:

    …which is the premise for the gnostic deformation!Report

  24. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    Chris: this description doesn’t resemble my experience. We seem to be speaking at cross-purposes. You seem to be speaking about the degradations of drug addiction. But must spiritual exploration and seeking through drugs turn into a scene from the Downtown East Side? It’s not my cup of tea, but what about the shamanistic traditions?

    What about sacred sexuality? Certainly the Mysteries involve that as well. Many of us, regardless of one’s own tradition, will be aware of the potential for transcendence during sex. Like other spiritual practices you may be more familiar with, sacred sexuality may be a means through which a person may experience ecstasy – an encounter with the divine, both immanent and transcendent. What a person does after such a mystical experience is up to them, and the truth-content of the experience.Report

  25. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    Master Chris:
    Just to be clear (since sarcasm is lost on you):
    I deny that people look for salvation in sex and drugs. Your saying that this search is unconscious concedes the point. How on Earth can anyone look for salvation unconsciously? Sex and drugs deliver on their promises–orgasms and hallucinations–while your religion fails miserably to deliver on it’s promise–salvation, eternal life after death, and/or pie in the sky.

    Your we’re all believers hogwash is your attempt to ignore real differences among people with empty moral relativism. This kind of bogus philosophy could only come from the theology schools of today’s leftist universities. Impossible to imagine a real theologian proposing such utter nonsense.Report

  26. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    “Impossible to imagine a real theologian proposing such utter nonsense.”

    Roque, Oh, I don’t know, nonsense is the bread and butter of theology. If theologian is defined as one concerned with “the study of God and of God’s relation to the world” (Merriam Webster) how can one class of them be termed “real” and another class be cast as unreal, bogus? The study of such totally subjective flimflammery is devoid of any content that can be classified as “real.”Report

  27. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    Bob:
    You’re correct of course. My use of the word “real” was not supposed to be rigorous. I was only trying to distinguish trendy we’re all believers-style so-called thought from more conventional theology. You’re correct that it’s all bogus. Some of it is trendy-feelgood bogus–Master Chris–and some is classic bogus. I just can’t believe how belief gives Master Chris the wherewithal to pontificate about unbelief.Report

  28. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    Roque, I took your use of “real” theology in two ways:

    1. Traditional theology. But what the hell does that mean given religion’s rich tapestry of heresies? Talk about which side owns the most votes at an ecumenical council or the best equipped army on the battlefield. In such ways man defines his gods. Oh, and universities, both leftist and rightist.

    2. Pure pointed sarcasm.Report

  29. Avatar A.R.Yngve
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    says:

    Now, here’s an odd thing:
    It is so easy to postulate a such-and-such deity. Basically, anyone can do this.

    But: it is also possible to postulate all kinds of hostile, menacing, indifferent or frankly untrustworthy gods — not just clunky H.P.Lovecraft Elder Gods, but supreme beings which we cannot put neither trust nor faith in because they are fundamentally unreliable.

    For example: imagine a deity which sees reality as a fiction which it can edit and re-edit “after the fact” — you wake up and even the past has been instantly altered.

    Or: a deity which actually enjoys human suffering, in the same way as we watch tragic plays or films — i.e. as entertainment.

    Or: a sleeping deity which dreams our universe and will forget it when it wakes up.

    Or…Report

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