11/19/2006                                                                                       View Comments

A Christ-less Grave

Having demonstrated a complete apostasy from Christianity, it is apparent that I am bound for a "Christ-less" grave. My purposeless, meaningless, hedonistic life will be snuffed out one day soon where I will be subject to the dark cold oblivion of death. Everything I have built on this Earth will crumble and fall. All the goals and ambitions I thought worth my time will amount to nothing after I am gone. All memory of me will be erased from history all too soon. Any possessions accumulated will be dissipated as those who come afterwards divvy them up between themselves, and I will return to the dust from which I came, rarely to be thought of again. My existential world view offers me no hope of continued conscious existence, no escape from the Grim Reaper's sickle, and no assurance of a higher purpose beyond that shared by the plants and animals. The law of the jungle is the rule of life, and the vain pursuit of pleasure is the only motivation to continue breathing.

In contrast, the Christian has an everlasting purpose, thick with meaning that will never be overcome by the darkness of temporary flesh's demise. The heavenly treasures amassed will not rust nor be destroyed throughout all the never ending encroaching years of eternity. The law of Grace is the rule of life, and the pleasure derived from glorifying God and enjoying HIM forever is the only real stimulus to go on fighting the good fight.

When I was a Christian, I mindlessly nodded my head in agreement to the previous paragraphs, sadly contemplating the worthless lives of those outside the faith while silently meditating on my good fortune to be part of the Elect of God, chosen before the foundation of the world. A management philosophy I learned some years ago while still in the military states concisely that "perception is reality." The conclusions that can be drawn from understanding this simple three-word-truth are far reaching, if someone is interested in understanding one major aspect of how people comprehend reality. For instance, before Hitler came to power in Germany, the Fascists preached their gospel of Antisemitism continuously and persuasively. Over time, the bulk of the population became convinced that the ills in their society could be directly attributed to the Jewish influence in politics, economics, etc. Although this idea may seem incomprehensible to most of us today, many people in pre-WWII Germany, as well as most of the rest of Europe, had that perception firmly planted in their minds. To them, the "Jewish problem," and the need to erase it from existence, was an unarguable reality. History is indelibly marked with other examples like this of the consequences brought about through misguided political ideologies. Closer to home, in the work place, if employees have the opinion that management is evil, ever seeking out new ways to aggressively squeeze more labor out of them without compensation, the general morale will decline, confrontations will escalate, and productivity will suffer. If, however, employees are of the opinion that their employer is an ally, looking out to protect their personal best interests while still attaining business goals, the atmosphere will tend to be one of positive cooperation where people want to come to work. Close personal relationships are deeply affected by the "perception is reality" model. The pathologically jealous husband or wife will virtually tear a love affair to shreds with their suspicions of spousal infidelity, regardless of the actual innocence or guilt of the spouse. It many ways it doesn't matter what the truth is in any of these scenarios. What really matters is what the people involved believe to be true.

Christians believe their lives will go on forever. Christians believe that they have a higher, more meaningful purpose than the rest of humanity, partly from the belief that they serve the one true GOD and partly because they believe their efforts will be rewarded and never taken away from them. As Christians we were all told this — or something similar — so many times that we just came to accept it without thinking. To imagine being doomed to a Christ-less grave was to be stripped of any reason to live. If this life is all we have, say some Christians, then suicide might be preferable to mindlessly struggling against the unconquerable adversary of mortality. One Christian actually said he expected me to commit suicide very soon, since I now had no reason to live. That was three years ago.

Whatever people believe to be true, for them it becomes reality. As the Fascists demonstrated, if you repeat something often enough, people will accept it as true. Generations of propagandists around the world have profited from that very practice. Perceived reality and actual reality are often not in agreement, but it is the perceived version which gives people the impetus for their behavior.

The verifiable reality of being human is that we are all mortal. We have life, given to us by the union of our parents, and we do the best we can with the opportunities presented by our individual circumstances. Every one of us will eventually take a final ride in our own funeral procession; nothing can change that for any of us. People naturally tend to think of the world and its history in relation to their own lives. We usually think of things in the past as "when I was younger" or "back in my day." Elderly people often remark on how things have changed over the years. Of course what they mean is how things have changed in their own lifetimes. When we think about the time before we were born, that's all murky and unreal. Distant historical figures and the details of their respective realities are stories we cannot easily relate to. Many people are bored to tears with reading or thinking about history prior to their own birth. Seeing no relevance to their lives, learning history seems a complete waste of time to many. That lack of interest is easily understandable. Before I was born, I did not exist. Since I did not exist back then, my life is unaffected, and whatever happened back then seems irrelevant, at least at first glance. Now, the outcome of history does affect our lives, to be sure, but what I am trying to draw attention to is something else. The actual experiences of those who came before me, I cannot really share. I wasn't there; I wasn't alive. I did not feel their pain, and I did not feel their joy. I was not excited while they had an adventure; I was not saddened by their tragedy. I did not rejoice with their triumphs; I did not mourn their deaths. I wasn't there, so I didn't know or feel anything at all. I feel no disappointment in that lack of experience. I don't feel anything at all about all the uncountable generations before I was born. Millions of people lived and died before I was born, and although I missed them all, I haven’t felt terribly deprived of missing out on it. Since an apparent eternity is spread out going backwards in time before I was ever born, totally bereft of my individuality and presence, is my life therefore pointless? After I am gone, another incomprehensible expanse of time will follow the point where my life intersected with history. I will miss all that comes after just as I missed all that came before. My contention is that I will suffer just as much from that lack of experience in the future as I have suffered from the lack of experience in the past. In other words, not at all. I won't know about it because I won't be there. I won't be sad about it; I won't be anything at all.

This is not hopelessly sad pessimism; it is just plain reality. Life is not empty because it is not eternal. Life is great, grand, fun, exciting, hard, easy, full, empty or whatever we make of it. As a former Christian I am told by my previous religion that life without Christ is nothing. That is one point of view; that is one "perception." I would tell the Christian that a life spent striving to please an unverifiable mythological being in the hopes of attaining personal survival beyond physical life is not necessarily a better way to spend an all too limited lifespan.

All of us face the same fate, not one of us as human beings will escape the clutches of our own death. Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals to cloud their minds and fool themselves into believing that others may die, but they will go on. The only difference between the Christian in death and everyone else is what the person believes happens when he, she, or they die. There is no evidence of anyone surviving beyond the grave. There is no evidence that humans are significantly different from any other form of life on Earth, except perhaps the capacity of our brains. In every other way we share the fate of every other creature on the planet. The DNA of chimpanzees is so close to that of human beings as to nearly make us close cousins. We are smarter than they are, and more able to adapt and survive both individually and corporately, but we are as mortal as they are. It is arrogance as a species that encourages us to believe we are much more special in the scheme of life.

Coming to grips with the idea of personal mortality does not necessarily lead to a destructive self-absorbed lifestyle devoid of compassion, love, giving, mercy, etc. The reason some Christians think that a life without Christ is empty is because they are so preoccupied with their own personal individual survival into eternity. They reason that if there is no individual continuance beyond death, people should just grab for all the selfish fun they can, no matter the consequences. They reason to themselves that if there is no final judgment, then there is no restraint on heinous behavior. This is a childish and overly simplistic idea. What Christians demonstrate when they posit this nonsense is that they are themselves so selfish that if they are not going to get a big fat reward for all their subservience to deity, then they want to break out and have an orgy of pleasure before they die. They reveal their own innermost and shallow motivations. The greatest humanitarians are not those who do good because they believe that eventually they will be rewarded. The real humanitarian heroes are those who do what they do for the rest of humanity just because they love life, love people, and love making things better for others and the future. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and a host of other famous non-Christians have contributed immensely to the betterment of humanity in ways that two millennium of Christians have never even attempted.

There is one final destination for us all; there is no difference regardless of our "perception of reality." The Christian believes differently, but has absolutely no evidence to back up their viewpoint other than the hearsay report of a highly suspect, contradictory book of myths. A book, no less, which was written and complied for the stated purpose of keeping adherents in line by using threats of horrific damnation and promises of indistinct rewards.

What is your perception? What is your reality?

147 comments:

freedy said...

The bible teaching of heaven/rewards,..or hell/punishment is so revolting to me now, that I've lost all respect for anyone who actually believes that crap!
The shallowness of christians is only overshaddowed by the arrogance, that they alone know the secrets of the grave!
Heaven/hell doctrines are for cowards, and mindless goose-stepping morans!

Piprus said...

You really caught my attention with your first paragraph, and I was already thinking of a counter-rant, until I kept reading...well-written, indeed! I quite agree with you, of course. And I can testify that having been a christian, and now an atheist, I have a more positive view of life than ever, because I know that it is not under the control or whimsy of an imaginary middle eastern deity, I don't have a "burden of sin" carried from birth that I need redemption for, and there is not going to be a "day of judgement" or an outpouring of the "wrath of god" on a sinful world. Live life while you've got it. And in a way, we do live on after death...the good we have done in our lives has a way of multiplying itself within the lives of those we leave behind. And that is just fine enough for me. Good posting.

dead__fish said...

VERY VERY well written! I particularly enjoyed that first paragraph!

Anonymous said...

And then you found out you are one of the non-elect rejected from the foundation of the world. Your on the right blog with the rest of the losers.

Harlequin said...

I enjoyed that too...

I tend to think there's something splendidly Byronesque about being the end of one's genetic line (and believe me, there's nothing in mine worth preserving, unless a long, lingering ugly death where everything you ever were is stripped away one memory at a time is an 'admirable trait')

When I'm gone they can harvest what's useful, and pickle the rest with the label 'This is what we do with Bad Boys'... :D

Love

Grandpa

Bentley said...

I knew it would soon happen, we have another anonymous religious christian coward with his/her chest puffed out from being stroked by their own self-righteousness petulation!


What is your perception? What is your reality?

I thought it was very insightful and profound! I particularly liked this,

"I would tell the Christian that a life spent striving to please an unverifiable mythological being in the hopes of attaining personal survival beyond physical life is not necessarily a better way to spend an all too limited lifespan."

Truth and reality becomes a potentual threat to the fundy trying to make himself believe in something that his own intelligence is struggling against by forcing his mind to accept the impossible and the unbelievable.

Was that compiled by you, WM? Very insightful indeed!

boomSLANG said...

And then you found out you are one of the non-elect rejected from the foundation of the world.

Foundation of the world? What might that be?...pillars? lol

Your on the right blog with the rest of the losers.

One of the non-elect...rejected from grammar school.


BTW, a great article....very profound.

Lorena said...

Webmaster
striving to please an unverifiable mythological being in the hopes of attaining personal survival beyond physical life is not necessarily a better way to spend an all too limited lifespan.

Lorena
That's the very thought that led to my deconversion. As a Christian, I was miserable. Jesus did not help me shake the blues. So I concluded that having to live like that in "heaven" for eternity would be "hell."

Now I just pursue my own happiness, which, I discovered, entails loving and being loved by my fellow humans. And I am not depressed anymore.

I believe the name of the game is "Here and Now."

Leon said...

The Christian thinks he has bought into an preneed insurance policy that will guide and carefully and ever so lovingly place him/her into the next realm. The insurance salesman uses words like bought and paid for and to the naive misguided believer thinks he/she has a share or certificate of authority granted to them by a grandiose promise as stated in a book, brought over here by Christopher Columbus just by verbally stating and professing with their mouths and making a pact not to stray away from the teachings of their kind Shepard and the promises of their "Good Book."

A book with the meanderings of a group of fear stricken lunatics, with a grip to control millions and lead them into mindless maniacal oblivion!

Anonymous said...

I know this wasn't a fundy posting this, but if it were, my response to: "All the goals and ambitions I thought worth my time will amount to nothing after I am gone."

Would be:

"Waaaaa"

Janet said...

Aren't we all just glad there exists a God above in the clouds that will judge us all based upon our perception of our reality and our prescribed beliefs?

I personally think there must certainly be a God that will allow deformed babies to be born with birth defects and people born with down syndrome and especially siamese twins, especially the one joined at the head.

I always wondered if siamese twins were conjoined and they shared the same heart, if one of them were an atheist and the other were a christian, how would this God judge them equally since it is the heart that stores the Christian beliefs.

I think God especially gets a kick out of the siamese twins that are joined butted head to head.

These are just the one's that get reported, there's plenty more born with different numbers of limbs and protrusions, I suppose this God enjoys seeing such gross displays that he has allowed to happen to us ignorant worthless mortal fools.

Anonymous said...

Anony, another hopelessly lost xtian. Lost in the sense that you haven't a clue what life is really about.

Dave, excellent insights. I loved the article. There's nothing that proves the Christians wrong like those of us who lived the teachings and dared experiment. They are so far off-track with the provable stuff (forty years ago the adults were saying the world was going to the dogs because of us evils kids and young people who were growing up back then and it hasn't happened yet). This makes it quite safe to assume the less provable part--the "what happens after death" phase--is baloney, too.

A number of years ago when I came to the insight that this life is all we get I felt so sorry for my parents who believe they have to live such self-sacrificial lives to buy a wonderful hereafter. I longed to bring them the good news that it's okay to indulge in simple pleasures like TV, the internet, and music. These things could greatly improve the quality of their lives now that they are old and feeble. But they are not receptive so there isn't much I can do. They are, after all, adults.

I think they are going to be seriously disappointed when they find themselves not in heaven but interred six feet down. My consolation lies in what you said, Dave, when we're dead we're dead and we won't know it. So I guess they won't know they are disappointed and that their sacrifices didn't buy them a spot inside the door of heaven.

Anonymous said...

You know what's odd to me is that the notion of christians going to heaven is not universal among christians or in christian history. I seem to recall reading, either in Shakespeare or in other numerous 19th century works, that one faces oblivion at death. It was none to clear to anyone what one's fate was to be. When lives were much harder (a century ago and going back)I think people were a little saner. Any comments or back-up on this? I really recall this was a very tangible attitude.

Naomi

Tammy said...

I was just glossing over the local obituaries and I came upon this statement about someones father.

"He was a dedicated father, and he cherished his grandchildren with all his heart. His love was felt by many. He was a man that loved God, his family, and was respected by everyone who knew him. We, as his children, were blessed by his knowledge and wisdom. We love you, Dad."

Isn't this really what the whole Christian thing is all about?

Perception!!! I can see Jesus on a hill with his arms outstretched calling his sheeple home, especially in death.

Ahh what grandiose perception that the Bible and it's minions have weaved.

For the Christian it's all about Perception, how they are being perceived. In their minds, are they being perceived as being worthy enough to be called a Christian?

If not, then what shall they do? Shall they come on here and spew their self-righteous religious phrases, in hopes that one of us will perhaps admire what they have said and become as one of them?

Blessed be those that perceive that they have been chosen to rub elbows with the imaginary judge of all of mankind.

freedy said...

"From the foundation of the world"
" Ka'te bole' e'ty kosmos"; means from the beginning of the first world order. Yes according to the babble there was a world order before Adam,(the pre-adamic race).
(They were all destroyed by god).
*The sad thing is the ignorant fundy probably knows nothing or little about the scriptures.
To Piprus,...this is what I was taught in bible school, and is hidden through-out old and new testaments.

freedy said...

That was boomslang,not piprus I was talking too,..oops!

.:webmaster:. said...

Was that compiled by you, WM?

Yup, I'm the author.

boomSLANG said...

obituary of believer:

He was a dedicated father, and he cherished his grandchildren with all his heart. His love was felt by many. He was a man that loved God, his family, and was respected by everyone who knew him. We, as his children, were blessed by his knowledge and wisdom. We love you, Dad.

obituary of a non-believer:

He was a dedicated father, and he cherished his grandchildren with all his heart. His love was felt by many. He was a man who loved his family, and was respected by everyone who knew him. We, as his children, are greatful for his knowledge and wisdom. We love you, Dad.

Trim the fat.

boomSLANG said...

Yup, I'm the author.

Seriously, that's one of the better things I've read lately. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

The thought content behind this essay is very real to me though some of it is a bit lengthy. Also, the German people had a long indoctrination against the Jews that goes all the way back to Shakespeare. So Hitler was able to easily use the Jews as scapegoats for the Deutschland's societal problems. Incidentally, the Roman Catholic church had it's chance to help the Jews from some of the Holocaust but the Pope turned his back on them. Another Christian hypocrite. Anyway, this is a very thoughtful and personal response to the absurdity of Christian myths that unfortunately dominate most of the US. Christians are unable to even remotely consider that life can be blessed without Jesus and all that Christian belief system. Christianity is, in my opinion, a very subtle form of brainwashing that people fall for. It takes a strong person to break out of that mind set and see the absurdity of Christian beliefs.

Ian said...

That's a fascinating article. As someone who does believe in a spiritual side of life (but not bible-god), I must admit that the idea of our lives being meaningless and pointless in the grand scheme of things is a bit hard to swallow. Especially the idea that we have one lifetime, then that's it. I do believe that our conciousness survives death, but now's not the place to discuss that.

As for my perception and my reality, it is that we are here to improve ourselves as individuals, and to contribute meaningfully to this world and it's inhabitants, to use our skills and abiliites for the good of all. If there is a perfect God, that's what I think sie would want us to do.

Warnepiece said...

Webmaster,

That is brilliant! I especially found the parallels between Nazism and Christianity highly appropriate. Just as Christian, and other religious leaders, down through the ages have tried to palm off their own big lies on the unsuspecting, Hitler himself said “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one”. His perception of people’s gullibility was extraordinarily accurate.

And Christians would do well to remember Hitler’s comments in his speech in Passau on October 27, 1928 “We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our movement is Christian. We are filled with a desire for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another in the deep distress of our own people.

Thanks for a very enlightening and well developed article!

jim earl said...

I cannot read this without giving my opinion. Kudos to the WM for a great article. I am printing it out and will leave it on the kitchen table for my wife to read. Hopefully it may help her to see that I'm not alone in my feelings. Thanks again for one of the best short articles I have read lately.

Anonymous said...

Dear Webmaster (is that Dave?),

Sadly, I cannot count myself as one of your enthusiasts. For this, I apologize. I tried, really, but I could not elevate myself sufficiently to find this essay as wonderful as did some of your other readers.

OK. So we all have the same fate. Atheist, theist, we all disappear. We all vanish into the abyss of non-being (which is neither cold nor dark by the way). What advantage does atheism have over theism? I mean, if I, a silly theist, end up in the exact same state as an atheist, then why bother? Meaning is merely subjective, for it cannot endure the compressions of time: even physics tells us that everything will be drawn into the great implosion of a black hole, or some such fate. Time, as we know it, will disappear; history will be obliterated. There will be no memory of you, your good works, your enduring beneficence. There will be no awareness of death; there will be no awareness of life. In death and oblivion there are no answers, no perspectives, no memories. No one is right, or wrong. Truth and falsehood do not exist, they cannot endure the abyss that draws all things unto itself. Atheism and theism vanish into so much absence.

So why should anyone care about theism? Who gives a rat if a person has converted to atheism, or deconverted to it? Nihilism obliviates all other absolutes but itself. How, pray tell, does atheism help me live a "better life" when better is purely a subjective and ephemeral term? You are merely suggesting that theists switch from one ladder to another, though both are made of wax and both lead nowhere. Is it possible that the atheist merely enjoys more of nowhere than a theist; that the atheist possesses more nothingness than the nearest Christian?

Really, you gain nothing, nothing at all, in believing in God, or NOT believing in God. My theism will not make me a better mathematician, nor will it improve my photography; nor will my atheism change the fact that 2+2=4. All kinds of Christians have contributed to the "advancement" of science and knowledge (contrary to your absurd dismissal); as have Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and polytheistic pagans. How will making them atheists improve their lives if, as you admit, their lives are blips that are obliterated in nothingness; how will atheism reshape their creativity?

You know, I cannot understand your first line in ¶3. How could you have mindlessly nodded your head to ¶1 if, in fact, you were a Christian? Moreover, how could you have done this mindlessly, since both ¶1 and ¶2 require significant mindfulness to even understand them?

Lastly, how do you escape the imprisonment of your own meme? You know what I mean: if perception is reality, if truth becomes what one is repeatedly told, then how are you exempt from this? Are you not just a victim of repeated perception? It seems that is the case: you've arrived at nothing NEW here: countless thinkers before you have paved the way. You have accepted a pre-digested creed as time-worn as Christian orthodoxy.

Anyhow, just a few hasty thoughts.

May you have a blessed life,

BG

Anonymous said...

Ha - Here is where Christians get lost and give up.

"I am the Truth, the light and the way" yeah we have all heard that one and dont feel like marching and following. But look again at the passage written another way.
"I am (is) the Truth, light etc..
Follow and know you are the I Am
"I am" is the silence in you, the person who meets the ocean, the person who awakes at 4 in the morning feeling at one with everything. "I am" is the answer you FEEl when answering Who am I? I am is the silent part of you which is friggin everything!! Call it That. Everything is made of That, you are That, I am That etc..
So the christians follow the messenger and not the message. Its like going to a baseball game, getting into and becomeing the spirit of the game and then coming home and telling everyone baseball is only Brooks Robinson.
Correct translation of that bible quote is "I am the truth, the light and the way, No one comes to the father except through I AM"

I am is all.... I am is you.

Mike Smith

Look deeeply to see if you exist.... then whats left... I Am

.:webmaster:. said...

Dear Webmaster (is that Dave?),

Yes, I’m Dave

Sadly, I cannot count myself as one of your enthusiasts. For this, I apologize. I tried, really, but I could not elevate myself sufficiently to find this essay as wonderful as did some of your other readers.

Sad? Could not elevate? I read a bit on your site, and you are clearly a died-in-the-wool, unapologetic, confident-in-your-beliefs "True Christian™." Or did you simply mean to barb me with a little sarcasm? If so, I approve. I like sarcasm as a tool for generating discussion.

OK. So we all have the same fate. Atheist, theist, we all disappear. We all vanish into the abyss of non-being (which is neither cold nor dark by the way). What advantage does atheism have over theism? I mean, if I, a silly theist, end up in the exact same state as an atheist, then why bother? Meaning is merely subjective, for it cannot endure the compressions of time: even physics tells us that everything will be drawn into the great implosion of a black hole, or some such fate. Time, as we know it, will disappear; history will be obliterated. There will be no memory of you, your good works, your enduring beneficence. There will be no awareness of death; there will be no awareness of life. In death and oblivion there are no answers, no perspectives, no memories. No one is right, or wrong. Truth and falsehood do not exist, they cannot endure the abyss that draws all things unto itself. Atheism and theism vanish into so much absence.

Now, this is good. Thank you for this part of your contribution.

Clearly you see the world as having value only as it relates to you individually. I don't know if you have a family, or children, but for me, my life has more meaning in giving of my time and resources toward my kids than it does in spending it all on personal pleasures. If I am poor, sick and dying, but my children are successful and healthy, I'll feel that I've done quite well. Ultimately life is about the future of our species, not the future of the individual. For example, we don't mourn the loss of one dinosaur; we mourn the extinction of the dinosaurs. We don't mourn the loss of one buffalo, but we will mourn the loss of all buffalo. Do you get the point? Survival of humankind is probably more important than my individual desire to live forever. Don't misinterpret here, that doesn't mean I am of no individual value or that I think a fascist regime that destroys people is a good idea. Fascism and Communism didn't do any good for the survival of humanity. In my opinion, the governments rooted in democratic principles offer the best chances for "our kind." And there may be better governmental constructs we haven't thought of yet, but democratic concepts and ideals have done much to bring people out of the horror of a darker, more ignorant times.

From what you wrote above, you only see the value in life contained in only one thing — you. You seem to be asking, "Without me, what is the point of anything?" There is certainly more to life and reality than me or you. We are part of a much bigger picture called life on planet Earth, and religion creates a terrible gulf between us, preaching eternal condemnation of those who believe the wrong form of the incorrect religion.

So why should anyone care about theism? Who gives a rat if a person has converted to atheism, or deconverted to it? Nihilism obliviates all other absolutes but itself. How, pray tell, does atheism help me live a "better life" when better is purely a subjective and ephemeral term? You are merely suggesting that theists switch from one ladder to another, though both are made of wax and both lead nowhere. Is it possible that the atheist merely enjoys more of nowhere than a theist; that the atheist possesses more nothingness than the nearest Christian?

Because ideas have consequences, and those who really believe that all unbelievers will be tortured in unending horror by a just and wise God, logically should have no problem torturing and killing unbelievers if necessary. In fact, a little study of western history will demonstrate that for over 1,000 years, Christianity did torture, maim and kill unbelievers, frequently, and in great numbers. Secular laws now prohibit that behavior in the West, but Islam is still in the Dark Ages, and the bodies of unbelievers are piling up.

I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of this site. This site is for people who have realized that Christianity is untrue. When people leave a religious cult, especially one as pervasive as Christianity, it can be emotionally difficult. Then, when that individual finds there are many, many people who were once firmly committed to Christianity, only to leave it later — in some cases, decades later — it can be quite encouraging.

What I wonder is why you find life without a religion to be filled with nothingness and meaninglessness? While death may mean personal oblivion, oblivion is certainly not nearly as depressing to a person as is the fear of an eternal life of torture in some sadistic God's hell. Is it?

Really, you gain nothing, nothing at all, in believing in God, or NOT believing in God. My theism will not make me a better mathematician, nor will it improve my photography; nor will my atheism change the fact that 2+2=4. All kinds of Christians have contributed to the "advancement" of science and knowledge (contrary to your absurd dismissal); as have Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and polytheistic pagans. How will making them atheists improve their lives if, as you admit, their lives are blips that are obliterated in nothingness; how will atheism reshape their creativity?

I suppose to properly answer this section, we'd have to first come to some agreement on self-evident truth. My assumption here would be that reality is preferable to fantasy in regards to life choices. If it's entertainment value one is seeking, then fantasy and reality may be equal competitors, depending on the audience. Life can be entertaining, but I would think that someone who believed they had been given power from God to heal people, and therefore neglected attending medical school, has made a life choice that will eventually be regretted. However, had that same person had a better grasp on reality, the world might have another doctor.

I mean, I love the Harry Potter stories, but I know that magic is pretend. As a child is was fun to believe in Santa, but maturity tends to change our perspectives on these things. You wouldn't honestly advocate that someone live in a fantasy world because reality isn't quite as attractive as we'd like it do be, would you?

You know, I cannot understand your first line in ¶3. How could you have mindlessly nodded your head to ¶1 if, in fact, you were a Christian? Moreover, how could you have done this mindlessly, since both ¶1 and ¶2 require significant mindfulness to even understand them?

I agree with you. I would better have expressed my idea by saying "I ignorantly nodded my head to" or "I stupidly nodded my head to" or "I mistakenly nodded my head to" or something similar. At the time that I initially accepted these beliefs I was 11 years old. And in the years prior to that, I'd been taken to church, attended Sunday school, and been to vacation Bible schools. Looking back in retrospect, I was mindless. I was a child, and I was programmed.

Lastly, how do you escape the imprisonment of your own meme? You know what I mean: if perception is reality, if truth becomes what one is repeatedly told, then how are you exempt from this? Are you not just a victim of repeated perception? It seems that is the case: you've arrived at nothing NEW here: countless thinkers before you have paved the way. You have accepted a pre-digested creed as time-worn as Christian orthodoxy.

There is kernel of truth in this statement of yours. We are all subject to the confines of our individual minds and capabilities. Therefore, I question everything — including myself. In fact, it was from questioning my long held beliefs that eventually led me to my present philosophical position. I didn’t just read a book by an atheist and chuck 30 years of committed Christian living. In fact, I didn’t read a single book by an atheist until long after I left Christianity. It was studying conflicting Christian versions of theology and history that gave me the initial doubts strong enough to shake my beliefs.

Anyhow, just a few hasty thoughts.

Likewise.

boomSLANG said...

So we all have the same fate. Atheist, theist, we all disappear. We all vanish into the abyss of non-being (which is neither cold nor dark by the way). What advantage does atheism have over theism? I mean, if I, a silly theist, end up in the exact same state as an atheist, then why bother?

"Why bother?" This is a question frequently asked by theists/dualists, and honestly, I always fail to understand this "black and white" mentality. How/why does an atemporal existance supercede a temporal life? I call the former an "existance", because without death(finality), there IS no "life"; without life, there is no death. There is a fundamental dichotomy there. Moreover, from an atemporal standpoint---once you perform every task/desire you could ever fathom; once you have every single question you could possibly conjure up answered(infinite knowledge)...then---THEN---is a better time to ask "what's the point?" It seems that an eternal existance would ultimately become a mundane "hell"(pun intended).

A hypothetical to the hypothetical could be---would someone who lived to be 80 or 90 yrs old have more "purpose" in their life, as opposed to someone whose life was cut short at age 40? And of course, it depends on the individual's subjective beliefs/circumstances---but based purely on measured time, I don't see the correlation of the equation "more time" = "more purpose". Additionally, if the person who lives longer spends 20% of their time trying to get into the "next life", they have wasted precious moments of the one life that they know they have, when they could've been doing/saying the things they won't get a chance to do "later".

Sure, the theist can talk about God's love being eternal and "perfect", etc...but "perfect" leads to bordem. Conceptually speaking--- a "perfect" God must've known that perfection leads to bordem too, otherwise, he wouldn't 've created us knowing we'd be imperfect. After all, God presumably was leading a fine, fine, "perfect" uninterupted existance, but somewhere along the line, arbitrarily decided that "conflict" must have something over perfection, otherwise "why bother" with imperfect mortals?

how do you escape the imprisonment of your own meme? You know what I mean: if perception is reality, if truth becomes what one is repeatedly told, then how are you exempt from this?

Simple--don't believe everything you've repeatedly been told. Skepticism isn't a "meme"; nonbelief isn't a "meme". I believe a lot of things--likewise, I disbelief a lot of things. Neutrality isn't a "meme". Mind you, theists are frequently skeptical of skepticism. They are skeptical of all other gods, along with those gods' respective "Holy" books, if they have them. I would say that's mildly hypocritical.

Are you not just a victim of repeated perception? It seems that is the case: you've arrived at nothing NEW here: countless thinkers before you have paved the way. You have accepted a pre-digested creed as time-worn as Christian orthodoxy.

I might've misderstood, but throughtout, you seem to be saying that an atheist/agnostic worldview is equally as bad as Christian/religious world view. It seems you would want to elevate Christianity over atheism if you put so much creedence in your worldview.



(I know this wasn't my discussion, these are just some thoughts. Take it, or leave it.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave/Webmaster,

How unfortunate it is that you should misunderstand me. There was nothing sarcastic in my opening lines. My words were utterly sincere: I am unable to share in your readers' enthusiasm. Try as I may, no matter how hard I lift myself up, I cannot see what others see so clearly. This is a function of my own obtuse brain. If there is indeed truth in numbers, I am outnumbered, and I do not even get the equation.

I find it interesting that you should first label me as a "dyed-in-the-wool True Christian™" and then describe me as an egoist. As you may know, True Christians™ are hardly encouraged to be egoists, though, I am sure, one could argue that even altruism (or selflessness) is a form of selfishness. But had you spent more than a brief moment at my website you would not have been so quick to stereotype me. Not that you would resort to a veiled ad hominem right off the bat; but if you are interested, I would describe myself as a True Sceptic™ with Roman Catholic propensities. I have been an Episcopalian for most of my adult life. But the bottom line is that I am, at the very least, a theist.

OK. So I will reject my alleged egoism and say that the propagation and survival of humanity are the main goals of each of us. Or so you suggest. But who cares? What, really, is the difference? If the abyss is both our beginning and our end, then what do survival and propagation mean other than some bizarre effort to delay the inevitable? I do not know of a single scientist who would argue that humanity can survive the destruction of the universe; a destruction that will and must come.

Here's the analogy I find in your ideas. Life is like a white room with two doors in it. One door is an entrance only, the other is strictly an exit. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a human walks in to the great whiteness; he or she learns that there is nothing on the other side of either door. Our person is also told the brutal facts: he or she MUST at some point exit back into the great nothing. So, to make things more palatable, everyone inside the white room, realizing that it is just a waiting room, decides to make the MOST of it. But the fact is that making the most of it is merely a delay; it is to play with illusions. Whether we make the most of it by insisting that God is coming to take us out of the room to bring us to an even greater room -- one with no exits; or we simply try to occupy ourselves with procreation and meaning and survival for their own sakes; either way we are delusional. Any option inside that room is a lie, a fabrication, a pretense.

In fact, it would seem that the only HONEST person in that room would be the one insisting that we all rush out the exit door right now! Why delay the inevitable? Why endure the anxiety? Why allow one more person another second of disease, pain, loss, fear? Who cares what the cosmos thinks of our cowardice, for it is only cowardice if we believe in a metaphysical place from where our decisions are judged; who cares at all if there is -- in truth -- NOTHING metaphysical anywhere or anytime?

In fact, I believe you have injected a metaphysics -- a transcendent meaning -- to your own anti-transcendent worldview: you have argued that survival is somehow important. But to even suggest that survival is intrinsically important begs a question: important to whom? From whence comes this meaning and value other than from within the white room, full of deluded souls?

Camus might have thought it courageous to look into the abyss and nonetheless defy it by creating one's own purpose. But that is not courage; it is cowardice. Courage hurls oneself into what is real: and the only absolute that is definitely real is everything outside that white room. Everything inside is pure distraction.

You are right: ideas do have consequences. If you must insist on taking the simplest, most extreme example of "hell" found in the narrowest Christian traditions, then by all means do so. But realize you are arguing, at least with me, against a straw man of your own creation. Of course, one can quite equally point out that the true atheist's worldview gives us the absurdities of Nietzsche and Beckett, and the nausea of Jean-Paul Sartre. Ideas touting the glories of the abyss no doubt have their own dangers; to say that they don't or even to argue against them is to defend an idea with evangelical fervor, apologizing with as much energy as Josh McDowell at a Wheaton College roundtable.

But here is an idea I am not sure you mean to posit. You wrote:

Clearly you see the world as having value only as it relates to you individually. I don't know if you have a family, or children, but for me, my life has more meaning in giving of my time and resources toward my kids than it does in spending it all on personal pleasures. If I am poor, sick and dying, but my children are successful and healthy, I'll feel that I've done quite well. Ultimately life is about the future of our species, not the future of the individual.

Odd that you should tell me that I am an egoist and then present yourself as one as well: "I'll feel that I've done quite well." What do you mean by "ultimately?" What does that mean in an atheist's universe? There is nothing ultimate; all there is is nothing. The future is nothing. There is no individual, there is no collective.

You ask me if atheism is less inhumane than theism, i.e. the afterlife or lack thereof. Oblivion, you believe, is less scary than damnation. I would like to know how you know that. Regardless, the question is not about the afterlife, since it does not exist. The only thing that matters -- in your argument -- is the white room. Well then, what are you going to tell the children in that room? Are you going to tell them that the exit door is inevitable death and oblivion; are you going to torment them with delay after delay; or are you going to tell them that they are possibly going to be rescued, or that the door MIGHT lead to bliss? Which statement produces LESS anxiety in the white room, the true one or the lie? (Moreover, no one KNOWS FOR SURE that the exit is final, except the atheists.) Remember, we are only talking about survival in this life; the afterlife does not exist.

But you ignore Darwinism, don't you? Darwinism is all about competition, about survival. We do not mourn the extinction of the dinosaurs at all; we should mourn nothing that dies. Everything that has lived has had its chance to survive in the wildly competitive biosphere. We accept death as normal, a given. Don't we? But I wonder if you've ever once thought that the best way to survive (your highest goal, not mine) is to be a theist? For all we know, Darwinism has shown that the universe somehow favors theists; that the fittest who survive are even Christian fundamentalists. I mean, since there are so many fundamentalists, one would be hard pressed not to conclude that this is true: fundamentalists flourish. Is this because they are the best equipped for survival in a ruthlessly competitive world? Do they fare better because they believe a lie? Are the atheists who look squarely at the meaninglessness of the cosmos doomed by accepting the truth?

You are right that theists have killed their thousands. But the atheists, Mao and Stalin (among others), have killed their millions, their tens of millions. Latest tallies for the Spanish Inquisition put the death toll at, what, 4000? That's a light day in the atheists' gulags of the past 100 years.

Lastly, I understand completely your decision to reject Christianity for, well, nothingness. The internal conflicts within Christian theology are indeed disappointing, discouraging, and even disgusting. I am not one to quibble with the pains associated with faith, and the apparent conflict between faith and reason. I know too well the void, the nothingness, that one can find at the very heart of too much Christian dialogue. But I must say I personally find that to be a quality of Protestantism: being Protestant leads to far more intellectual problems than being Catholic. Of course, I know my Catholic peers who have left that faith would laugh at me. Perhaps, then, scepticism always comes in response to the tradition in which one is raised. But my personal experience is that Catholicism is far more integrated -- as is the Catholic view of the human person -- than is Protestantism. I mean, the Protestants were that group that put their whole wager on the infallibility and inerrancy of a book. Catholics have never been so restrictive.

Anyhow, peace and mirth to you. I am now off to listen to White Room by Cream. I may even listen to it backwards.

BG

Anonymous said...

Dear Boomslang,

Your remarks are appreciated.

Regarding the tedium you believe one might feel in an eternal existence, I can only say that there is something of a mistake evident in your musings. Let me ask you: What is infinity plus 1? What is infinity times 10? Can a person have a quarter cup of infinity, another person a whole cup?

You see, there is no consuming infinity; there is no reaching a saturation point in the eternal. So one could never find this tedious. One billion years is the same as a second: there is no waiting around where there is no clock. The atemporal life can never lead to boredom or satiety. They are functions of time and quantity, neither of which exist in the eternal or the infinite.

I agree with you that scepticism is not a meme; neither is belief. But my comments are referring to a sceptic's answers: that person whose scepticism leads him (or her) away from Christianity does so for a set of reasons, and that he usually accepts some OTHER explanation than Christianity. Hence, I am saying that both the reasons for leaving Christianity are not original to the sceptic (they rarely are) but are inherited from an intellectual predecessor; and that the OTHER explanation is also NOT original to the sceptic. That other explanation is a time-worn, bone-weary (perhaps) set of ideas that can also be described as mimetic: they themselves constitute a creed.

I mean, in about two seconds I can whip off nearly every reason a person rejects Christianity; and I can quite ably rip off a bunch of alternative explanations. I can do this NOT because I am an original thinker, but because I have heard so many different creeds, chants, and opinions. It is always a good exercise for each of us to ask ourselves if we have EVER had an original thought. The exercise can be quite scary. A sceptic nearly always lands on something; what he lands on is usually something constructed or known by countless others beforehand. How then does the sceptic know that his scepticism, and the answers he accepts, are not all due to his interest in belonging to a certain group; or to impress others; or to depress one's parents with "openmindedness" that they deem rebellious and disobedient? How does the sceptic know that he is not just trying to be the center of attention? You know what I mean: "I had no idea you of all people could be an ATHEIST!" or "Wow! A former Christian minister with an exciting DE-conversion story: Come hear his testimony!" Seriously, Christian or not, most of these ideas are rutted deep in the consciousness of humanity, with respective pilgrims grinding paths to the predictable.

I may indeed want to elevate Christianity over atheism. But atheism cannot give me any reason why I shouldn't, or why I can't. If nothingness is the only absolute, then Christian nothingness is as dynamic or as dead as atheistic nothingness. Why bother believing the truth if its outcome is identical with believing a lie? If both ideologies amount to a null set, well nothing plus nothing means nothing.

Peace and mirth,

BG

Jim Arvo said...

BG, I'd like to respond to some of your comments, if I may, even though you directed them to the webmaster.

BG: "...If the abyss is both our beginning and our end, then what do survival and propagation mean other than some bizarre effort to delay the inevitable? I do not know of a single scientist who would argue that humanity can survive the destruction of the universe; a destruction that will and must come."

You seem to be espousing the philosophy that only that which is infinitely enduring is "meaningful." If we face personal oblivion when we die, then life has no meaning. If nothing can survive the big crunch, then nothing in the universe has any meaning. I'd like to know why infinity has any necessary connection with "meaning". I know that my life is finite, as well as the lives of my kids, but that in no way detracts from their "meaning" to me. The lives of those around me inform virtually every decision I make, and interactions with them account for a good bit of my waking hours. I'd like for you to explain how that fails to be "meaningful" in any intelligible sense of the word.

Here is a challenge that I often put to those who insist that only the infinite is meaningful. Take a metal spring binder--the kind that you open up by folding the little metal handles back and squeezing--and clamp it to the flesh on the back of your arm. Leave it there for five minutes. This is clearly a *finite* act; it will have no lasting consequences. Once the five minutes is up, it will receded into the past and be forgotten. Will you please go and do that now? I'll wait.

Did you do it? If not, why not? If you did, then you know it hurts like hell. Now, is it your contention that this act means absolutely nothing, and is therefore something you would be willing to repeat if I ask? (If not, why not?)

I wonder, as a kid did you refuse to go on rides at the carnival because they only last a finite time? Did you forego cakes and cookies because you can only enjoy them for a finite time? If so, that makes no sense to me at all.

BG: "In fact, it would seem that the only HONEST person in that room would be the one insisting that we all rush out the exit door right now! Why delay the inevitable? Why endure the anxiety? Why allow one more person another second of disease, pain, loss, fear?"

Why not kill ourselves right now? For one thing, we are biological organisms that are exquisitely tuned for survival--that is, our most fundamental motivations are "hard-wired" into us and require no "justification" at all. We wish to survive because our ancestors who exhibited this trait tended to be more successful at producing offspring than those who did not. If you insist that "survival" is therefore intrinsically "meaningless", then go right ahead. That assertion is itself meaningless.

BG: "In fact, I believe you have injected a metaphysics -- a transcendent meaning -- to your own anti-transcendent worldview: you have argued that survival is somehow important. But to even suggest that survival is intrinsically important begs a question: important to whom? From whence comes this meaning and value other than from within the white room, full of deluded souls?"

You seem to be searching for something beyond biology. Why? I suspect it's because you have a preconceived notion of what is "meaningful", and you simply deem anything that is not rooted in that concept to be "meaningless". That's nothing more than a semantic game. You assume a definition of "meaning" that serves your own purposes, but you do not give any rationale for adopting that definition. We can all play that trick, and thereby ramble on without saying anything at all (as I believe you have done).

BG: "Of course, one can quite equally point out that the true atheist's worldview gives us the absurdities of Nietzsche and Beckett, and the nausea of Jean-Paul Sartre."

As with the majority of believers, it appears you wish to demonize skeptics who do not accept your theology, throwing invectives at those you deem to be somehow representative of all atheists. This is nothing more than a diversion, in my opinion. Believers would not waste a minute on such castigation if they could offer compelling evidence for their claims. Since such evidence is painfully absent, it seems the only alternative is to demonize dissenters. I do not have a high opinion of that tactic.

BG: "What does that mean in an atheist's universe? There is nothing ultimate; all there is is nothing. The future is nothing. There is no individual, there is no collective."

What a bunch of nonsense that is! We don't share your unfounded belief in invisible conscious beings, so you project your bleak assessment onto us. You moan about impending nothingness as if it somehow undermined the present. Perhaps to you it would. If so, then I urge you to keep your religion. But for us you are leaping to ridiculous conclusions. Let me see if I can get this across to you another way. I'll project my worldview onto yours and demonstrate how dismal your life must be. You apparently think that only the infinite is meaningful, and this meaning is ultimately attached to some deity. If that is the case, then virtually everything in this life must be totally meaningless to you, as it is all temporal. How awful that must be! Furthermore, you seem to think that you have no intrinsic meaning of your own, as it all derives from your deity. Hence, you own life (even if infinite!) is meaningless in itself. How absolutely depressing that must be! How can you endure it? (See? My worldview doesn't illuminate yours any more than yours illuminates mine.)

BG: "But you ignore Darwinism, don't you? Darwinism is all about competition, about survival. We do not mourn the extinction of the dinosaurs at all; we should mourn nothing that dies. Everything that has lived has had its chance to survive in the wildly competitive biosphere. We accept death as normal, a given. Don't we?"

Yes, death is normal. However, this is not to say that it therefore makes no difference to those of us who survive. Again, you seem to endorse a fatuous philosophical assertion in lieu of empirical evidence. Furthermore, Darwinian selection is simply a *description* of what happens; it is not normative in the least. That is, it speaks to what *is*, not what *ought* to be.

In summary, I find your philosophy to be as empty as you claim our lives to be. It seems to be based on nothing at all aside from an unfounded preconception of what is "meaningful". Moreover, your entire argument is backwards in that you seem to argue about what *is*based on what you think would be most "meaningful." As far as I can tell, the universe in under no obligation to conform to what you feel is most desirable.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim Arvo,

I would love to answer your questions!

Of course, I think I already have: I am not saying meaning must be eternal to be meaningful or even worthwhile. I am saying that all "meanings" are meaningless and meaningful to the same degree: they add up to nothing. By all means, enjoy your temporal meaning. Celebrate it; embrace it with all gusto. But no ONE meaning is BETTER than another. To suggest so, or to introduce "better" into the discussion, is to bring something meta, something beyond, into the discussion. I have not said eternality is better, nor have I said that eternity provides meaning of a higher order. I am saying that if the atheist believes that the ground of being is nothingness and meaninglessness, then atheism has no advantage over any form of theism.

I don't care if there is meaning inside the parentheses. If there is no afterlife, there is no meaning that endures one's own consciousness. None. Hence, since all things are temporal, not one thing leads a person to anything other than the great emptiness. One person who embraces theism may not get to nothingness as well as an atheist, but it matters not. Nothing, not even history, can judge who is the "more right" or the "more correct." These terms don't apply to the abyss.

So we all can high-five each other for being so very right about everything here in the anteroom of nihilism. But no one gains a thing from such celebrations: such celebrations are, indeed, the opiate of the people. We are going nowhere as swiftly or as slowly as we like.

Your required task, I am sorry to say, is utterly silly. You are asking me to endure pain for five minutes. OK. I have. Now what. All one can say is that I have felt pain. I cannot know if I have even felt it; lost, as I might be, in the great phenomenological battle of philosophy. Do I even exist? But even if I do, all I can say is that I FELT PAIN. Time and pain have nothing to do with meaning: Meaning is something WE ADD to our experience. We don't FIND meaning. We IMPOSE it. It is utterly SELF generated; or, we PERMIT ourselves to obey or accept someone else's meaningful explanation. If there is no meaning in the universe that one can find; if there is nothing that transcends experience that shapes reality, then meaning is simply a self-creation designed to self-hypnotize: it is an effort to sedate yourself to the harsh reality that you are fooling yourself.

This is as preposterous as any theist's trust in a life preserver being tossed from heaven. An atheist claims that there is no life preserver coming from heaven; and then he tosses an imaginary one to himself.

"We are exquisitely tuned for survival?" Really? Who TOLD YOU THIS and HOW do you know it? Tuned by whom, by what? And what of survival? Egads? How long, in the scheme of things, has organic life been active on this planet? Now compare that to cosmological time; compare that to the eternal abyss. Do you mean to say that 1 billion years of biology implies longevity or "fine tuning"? The very idea you bring is again, IMPOSED by you: the cosmos does not give you this. We have survived hardly any time at all; and we won't for much longer. Hence, judged against time, we are not "finely tuned" at all!

Now, you tell me to hurt myself and then ask why I won't. Of course, my answer is because I am not a nihilist. You should ask a nihilist; in other words, ask yourself. You are the one who then asks why we don't just kill ourselves. You then IMPOSE some sort of reason why life is GOOD; but goodness is a total fabrication of the mind solely to keep it feeling hopeful. But, if you are an atheist, you cannot accept this -- really -- though you are allowed to do whatever you want, since nothing is meaningful except to the solipsistic self.

Yes, you are right: my assertion that meaninglessness is meaningless is perfectly echoed by you. I don't care what we think we are hardwired to do. Sociobiologists have been arguing your point -- about genetic self-interest -- for decades. I personally accept this. But most homosexuals do not think this way at all, and would be offended by your claim that the more SUCCESSFUL living is rooted in procreating. And they are perfectly entitled to be so offended because, or so they argue, people who limit genetics to procreative self-interest are IMPOSING an order that the universe has not rubber-stamped. Be whatever you want, is the chant of the day. But you must know the consequences that come from such ideas.

You accuse me of hurling invectives at those who do not accept my theology. But I have done no such thing, nor have I posited one premise for "my theology." I am examining whether atheism is intellectually viable. So far, it is coming up quite short. I am not opposed to atheism per se; I am opposed to any atheist suggesting that atheism is better than theism. But there is NOTHING in the atheist's universe that entitles him to say such a thing, SINCE MEANING (according to him), COMES FROM THE INDIVIDUAL PERSON. If you accept this, then YOU MUST ACCEPT that another person's meaning is exactly that: it is their's. If you want to tell them they shouldn't or mustn't believe a particular way, fine. Perhaps that is built into your own sense of what a meaningful life is: you need to tell people that their own worldview is wrong. But since you appear to be a person who loves intellectual consistency, then you HAVE to accept that you have no privileged view of meaning if, indeed, meaning comes from each person. One cannot say that meaning comes from something OTHER than the person (a group is just a collection of persons) and remain an atheist. For atheism permits NO outside or extrinsic meaning whatsoever.

You know, now that I re-read the following paragraph of yours, I am tempted to beg that you retract it, since I have not demonized anyone here (or elsewhere), I have not propounded anything theistic, and I have not played to some sort of stereotype. Read it again and note that your sentences twine themselves into fallacies:

As with the majority of believers, it appears you wish to demonize skeptics who do not accept your theology, throwing invectives at those you deem to be somehow representative of all atheists. This is nothing more than a diversion, in my opinion. Believers would not waste a minute on such castigation if they could offer compelling evidence for their claims. Since such evidence is painfully absent, it seems the only alternative is to demonize dissenters. I do not have a high opinion of that tactic.

As you can see, this paragraph has no place here. You must think I am someone else; or you want to reduce me to a stereotype. I have done not one of the things you have claimed. No wonder you have a low opinion of that tactic. If I comment that Beckett and Nietzsche have created absurdities, well, I have not dismissed either of those fine thinkers; nor have I dismissed Mr. Sartre if I refer to Nausea, his book of that title. I am merely pointing out the very things they themselves pointed out: Nietzsche, who is one of my favorite philosophers, did in fact struggle with absurdities, as did Beckett. So, you see, I am not rejecting them; I embrace them. So I do not know where you are directing your comments.

It's odd that you should argue that as far as you're concerned, "the universe is under no obligation to conform" to what I feel "is most desirable." This is odd for two reasons. First, I have not shared my desires at all. Second, you have just coopted a classical theology argument: the Church sees no reason why God should be at all obliged to conform to your expectations. Your argument is structurally identical. You've just changed the terms.

I know exactly what Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest means, and I am saying that his descriptive is merely that: it does not tell us what makes something more fit than another, other than that one thing outlasts the other. I am saying that if we accept competition as a given -- rooted in biology -- and if survival is our goal, then someone needs to tell me what advantage atheism has over the fundamentalists who have been surviving just fine. You are right that Darwinism does not speak to what OUGHT to be. Religion does that. Science, atheistic philosophy: these are not in the business of telling us about oughts and shoulds and should nots, at least of the sort we are discussing here. If I am going to be empirical about this, then it is quite clear that death is indeed normative: we surely can't stop death without destroying the topsoil (decaying matter) necessary for life, and thus destroying life. There is no life without death. I can't see how THAT is not normative. Nor can I see how it is NOT normative that, if there is NO afterlife, then there are NO answers for any questions raised about God, meaning, the origins of consciousness, being, or who killed JKF. There is only nothing. Death means not only do we not know we are dead; it means we do not know we were ever alive. The grave is not silent, or dark, or cold. It is NOTHING. And so is every foolish thing we think is NOT nothing.

We are all only delaying the end for no known reason, except perhaps for fear of the unknown.

By the way, I made no specific claim that anyone's life is empty. I have not attacked a single person, though I think a good case could be made that you attacked me. I have merely attempted to show that certain ideas are empty. I mean, those folks who have ideas that are empty and yet claim to have found meaning are as curious to me as those who claim to have witnessed miracles. But I will not say their lives are empty. I will merely say that their "meaning" does not come from their ideas. Their meaning comes in spite of their ideas. Or, they must admit to intellectual inconsistency.

Lastly, I am not arguing for what is "most" or "more" meaningful. I am not even arguing for meaning. I am showing that it is thinkers such as yourself who think TIME has something to do with meaning. You think that the things you do which help people survive longer -- those things which strengthen humanity for the longer haul -- are meaningful. I am sure you would think that actions of yours which limit humanity's life span would be less meaningful. If so, then you must see that it is the atheists who are embedding meaning with length of time, too.

Peace and mirth,

BG

By the way, asking me whether I as a child ever refused to ride a amusement park ride because it was short-lived is to ask the wrong child. In fact, every child I've ever known was incredibly disappointed that the rides EVER stopped. And I can hardly think of a man who is glad that his sex life is finite, or that sex lasts but a few moments. I had dinner with an 87-year-old man last night, and I can assure you that he is not that happy that sex is a limited pleasure. What greater compliment can we pay to anything than to hope that it is eternal?

boomSLANG said...

Let me ask you: What is infinity plus 1? What is infinity times 10? Can a person have a quarter cup of infinity, another person a whole cup?

Good evening,

I am completely aware of the "concept" of "infinity", and the implications of such. So then, in essence, your answer would be something to the tune of.... "there's an infinite 'amount' of things to do in an atemporal existance, therefore, tedium wouldn't be a possiblity." If I'm wrong, by all means......I'm listening.

One billion years is the same as a second: there is no waiting around where there is no clock.

Yes, I know, the "greatest" conceivable/inconceivable "amount"---"infinity". Ironically, though, the smallest conceivable amount, as well. So, to postulate--- maybe when our hearts stop pumping; maybe when blood no longer provides oxygen to our vital organs, and gases and fluids pool in these organs; maybe when our brains cease to function and we "die"----maybe it's true, after all---maybe our "thoughts", including "self-awareness", somehow do pass on to "infinity". Infinity, um, the smallest conceivable amount of time..i.e.."nothing". But all is not lost, you are correct in that there still won't be any "waiting around". Agreed. That's just another way of looking at it, expanding on your own description of "infinity".

One more brief question on the matter of dualism---what is the "state" of this disembodied "non-physical" part of the self..i.e..the "soul", when one's physical body is asleep? This is considering, that presumably, "sleep" won't be necessary, or even logically possible, when there is "no clock"(your words). Just curious, and thanks in advance.

I agree with you that scepticism is not a meme; neither is belief. But my comments are referring to a sceptic's answers: that person whose scepticism leads him (or her) away from Christianity does so for a set of reasons, and that he usually accepts some OTHER explanation than Christianity.

One observation---your "scepticism" has lead you away from non-belief, no? Aren't you being skeptical of skepticism? I find that a bit hypocritical. Moreover, I disagree that I've accepted another "explanation". On the contrary, where the supernatural/metaphysical are concerned--- I don't accept those things as an "explanation", and thus, I'm content with pleading agnosticism until when/if there is a logical explanation. The unknown is not necessarily unknowable. Conclusion--the postition of neutrality is not an "explanation".

If nothingness is the only absolute, then Christian nothingness is as dynamic or as dead as atheistic nothingness. Why bother believing the truth if its outcome is identical with believing a lie? If both ideologies amount to a null set, well nothing plus nothing means nothing.

Scatch beneath the surface, and this is really nothing more than Pascal's Wager, IMO. Nonetheless, it say two things, right off the bat: 1) that the one proposing it isn't all that secure in what they believe, and 2) that if it's better to "believe just in case", one should examine all religions and pick the one with the hottest "hell", "just in case" the one with the best "Heaven", is the wrong one = )

Moving on---I fully understand the "white room" analogy wasn't directed toward me, however, I'd like to leave a counter-analogy. Take it, or leave it. Here it is:

You take your friends and family to the carnival. You are the one-hundreth "group" to go through the entrance, and the Ringmaster gives you limitless/life-time free passes for you and your loved ones to return any time you please. You go in, ride some rides, win some goldfish, eat pure sugar on a stick, get heckled, check out some 12 yr olds who look 30, yada, yada .....then you leave, and when you get back home and check your messages, you discover that the Ringmaster had left a message saying that he made an error, and that the passes were only good through June, 2040...so then, not a "lifetime", as originally promised.

Question: Do you take advantage of the time that you can spend with your loved ones at the carnival?.... by attending, having fun, and not focusing on the the time limit?....or do you sulk, bitch, cry, and moan that you were originally "promised" a lifetime of free passes, and therefore sit at home saying "this can't be....it can't, it can't, it can't!?!?!?

(it's really a rhetorical question)

Also, I can't let this go:

Lastly, I understand completely your decision to reject Christianity for, well, nothingness.

Then, pray tell, why the continuing dialogue? No one is saying "nothingness" is necessary "better", only more likely. Furthermore, no one is saying god is disproven, only unproven. 'Balls in your court.

Thank you, and that's all for now.

boomSLANG said...

LMAO!....sorry Jim, I didn't read your "carnival" analogy before I hit the "publish" button. D'oh!

Anonymous said...

Dear Boomslang,

I guess I am involved in two distinct conversations, one with an atheist, the other with an agnostic.

I don't think I've really defined infinity other than that it is neither divisible nor augmentable. One can't add to it, one can't subtract it. It is not a state of being; it is not a state of knowing. And I see it, right now at least, as synonymous with eternity, the condition of timelessness. Now, it could be argued that nothing can happen in timelessness, not even sequential or linear thought, since sequential thought, in my mind, requires some sort of time. I am even willing to suggest that it is impossible for a being to be outside of time: If God makes a decision at all it must require the passage of time, e.g., He was not creating the world and then He was. He could not be doing both at once. If He decides X after concluding Y, then the very word "after" gives everything away: God is in time.

But we were talking about eternity, or at least you were. And you suggested that tedium might be eternity's only treasure. I argued that this could not be the case, since one could not get bored in eternity. But one might not get bored because there is nothing more to do; one might get bored because there is everything to do, or because it is not possible to do anything outside of time. I do not know. Nor do I know what exactly it is I am getting at. Perhaps I am confusing eternity with timelessness: perhaps we need to be thinking about time that has no terminus. But if that is the case, then an endless time seems like it should be timeless. Does that make sense? I know I've wandered from the psych ward (but at least I know it). But I can at least say this: I am not saying that there are an infinite number of things to do in an atemporal existence. I am saying there is no way of knowing a thing about any of it. Surely one cannot know if the atemporal breeds tedium. But I think tedium would be unlikely if, indeed, it could be possible to have a body and mind in an atemporal state (the body, I believe, is necessary: I do not believe in disembodied human consciousness).

I am sorry if I implied that you accepted "another explanation." I do not know the first thing about you. I was referring simply to the atheist in the abstract, the atheist par excellence. I have never met an atheist who does not think he has a right view of the world; I am referring to those who believe that they perceive reality better than the theists. These types of atheists, the prototypes perhaps, have indeed accepted an explanation of the world. They have not themselves discovered it; they've merely agreed with it. Moreover, many of these folks have come out of theism; hence, they are not generating doubts a priori or even ex nihilo; their doubts emerge from a set of propositions that must result in a certain other set of doubts and detractions. The doubters have not created even their own doubts, since the antithesis of nearly every proposition is latent within it; doubts and detractions (or negations) are predictable responses to nearly any set of statements. Nor have they created their own responses once they accept the arguments they follow: they embrace an identical atheism that is not one whit original to them (though there might be slight variations among them). There is, in fact, an atheist tradition complete with its own lexicon and apologies. So if I am sceptical of scepticism, I am usually sceptical of its claims that it is given solely to logic. There are sceptics out there who are sceptical for reasons that have nothing to do with logic, though they hide behind logic with vigor. But forgive me: I do not mean to confuse a sceptic with an atheist. There are probably some gullible atheists out there who have simply accepted what they've been told without question. I am merely sceptical of those who claim that Reason -- and not something else -- has led them to atheism. I am a Christian sceptic, or so I believe. But there are definitely atheistic fundamentalists. My point in making this distinction is simple, though perhaps a bit awkward; but there are indeed people who are atheists because it makes them feel proud, hip, powerful; for some, atheism exonerates them somehow, protecting them from guilt; some are atheists because they want to be like (or be) the smartest guy in the room, or even the world: Mr. Dawkins is an atheist, so I want to be one too. Others reject Christianity because they could not be a star in that sphere; so now they embrace atheism, hoping to be a different type of star. If there are Christians who accept Christ for a bunch of crazy reasons, then I have no doubt atheists do the same; the proof of this is not to be found in ideology but psychology. So, if I sound sceptical of scepticism, then you might be right. But what I am certainly sceptical of is bogus scepticism. (And by atheistic fundamentalists I mean those atheists who have based their view of reality on propositions, ideas, evidence and theories they have not created, thought, evaluated, gathered or analyzed for themselves: they are entirely dependent on the authority of others.)

I have written a letter to Christopher Hitchens that speaks to my point here. Sceptics believe that they have the corner on logic and reason; you have said that you will withhold judgment until you are given a logical explanation. I am saying that the conclusion one must reach if we take your position seriously does not support your position. Choice is involved, not compulsion.

No, if you scratch beneath the surface of my comments you will not find Pascal's Wager. There is no plus column or minus column in my statement:

"If both ideologies amount to a null set, well nothing plus nothing means nothing."

This simply points out that atheism has no advantage over theism; there is no wager, because there is no benefit in one over the other. I am dismissed as a theist because I believe (allegedly) that my meaning is found in some sort of endless time; while the atheist does not dismiss himself because his meaning is found in a more honest, or more survivable, or LONGER stretch of time. If the atheist is right that nothing is the total outcome of reality, then there is no wager. I accept the atheist's theory, but I reject his praxis; for if the theory is right, then anybody should be whatever he or she wants to be without being chided or proselytized by the atheist.

As for your carnival question: If a person chooses to have fun or not have fun, they are both equal. Complaining that the end is near or not complaining matters not one whit: the atheist tells me that everything I do ends in the inferno; he tells me that every second I ride on the roller coaster I am merely distracting myself to death. If, at the end of the carnival, those who have fun and those who don't both get annihilation for their reward, and even the carnival and everyone else are likewise annihilated, then discussing whether being glad or sad is rendered meaningless. It is just delusion either way. But the sour-faced folks are at least the most honest people about the carnival's reality: no one will ever gain a thing by riding a single carnival ride, since even memory is crushed in the black hole. Two seconds of life, or two decades, they both get you the same thing. Nothing.

Finally, regarding why I am bothering to discuss this all if I understand why someone rejects Christianity for nothingness; well, I can only say that merely because I understand something does not mean that I agree with it or that I think it right. But you have only given a truncated version of my overall statement. I was specifically speaking to the variety of religious problems unique to Protestantism, and that one can be fully deadened by those problems and the lovelessness with which they are often treated. I did not say that I agree with the overall arguments presented. I am merely saying that I understand. Egads, if I didn't, I would not be human. Man, I even understand why people hurt other folks or even kill: I am not above true human emotion, doubt and struggle. I know pain; I know disillusionment. And please realize that even if I understand the totality of an atheist's defense of his atheism, it does not follow that I have to accept it. I can, after all, reject truth if I feel like it. I mean, Christians have been accusing non-believers of that for millennia. Surely an atheist will not treat me the same way if I look at atheism and say that I believe atheism is true and yet reject it nonetheless. Why should anyone care?

Peace to you, and thanks for the engaging dialogue. It keeps the mind sharp in the dulling whiteness of this very cramped room.

BG

boomSLANG said...

It's late, and honestly, I feel the discussion is becoming convoluted, to a degree. I'll re-think it tomorrow. For now, only a couple of things:

I guess I am involved in two distinct conversations, one with an atheist, the other with an agnostic.

Um, those would be me. I am an agnostic atheist. Allow me---The existance of "God", and it's metaphysical trimmings..i.e.."afterlife", "souls" etc., cannot empirically be "known". Even you pointed out "meta" as "beyond", yes? Right, so, beyond the physical realm is what I speak of when I say "metaphysical". This lack of "knowledge" makes me "agnostic"--- hopefully you follow me so far.

Now---Atheism is about "belief". While it cannot be known whether "God" and his/her/it's "eternal domain" exists, I choose to not have a "belief" in such things, based on this lack of empirical evidence. However, if sufficient evidence is introduced(feel free anytime)..I promise, I will follow God's plan EVEN IF I HATE IT. This is where the position of "neutrality" comes in. My Atheism, regardless of where Contra' thinks I got the "information", is NOT a conviction. I'm not an atheist because it's "hip", or my neighbor's one. Please. And BTW, if Atheism is a "creed", religion, belief, monopoly....then NOT collecting butterflies is a "hobbie".

So, Contra', when you sit there and say over and over and over that we(the atheist) "reject Christianity for nothingness"....you are henously OFF the mark in your assumption. And really, as if "nothingness" actually "sounds" better than "eternal bliss"? What's up with that? AGAIN, I tell you---no one is telling Contra', at least I'm not, that "nothingness" is "better" than theism, only that it's truer, based on the empirical evidence that we have to date. Can we please move away from this now?..or do you still insist on taking issue with it? If so, WHERE, exactly?

BTW, if I understand you correctly, the crux of your business here on this ex-christian website is that you want atheists to confess that non-theism has no advantages over theism(in the "long run"). Firstly, and ironically, I'm actually envious of theists in some ways. I would much rather take my chances of being perpetually bored, floating around in the clouds with my deceased friends and family members, reminiscing of the olden days back on the ol' globe, than "going to sleep" forever, even though I won't know, one way, or the other. However, again, there is not one shred of empirical evidence that shows that the mind survives death. NONE. If evidence exists that I'm unaware of, now would be a fabulous time to introduce it, before this get's more convoluted and/or "cramped".

As for the carnival analogy, you went off on your "nihilist" kick again, which is odd, since you agreed that "meaning" is assigned by the individual, or didn't you? Again, I can barely tell when you're supporting your own worldview, or caricaturing mine. Nontheless, you said this much about it:

In fact, every child I've ever known was incredibly disappointed that the rides EVER stopped.

Right, but we aren't "children" anymore, are we?

Jim Arvo said...

BG: "I am saying that if the atheist believes that the ground of being is nothingness and meaninglessness, then atheism has no advantage over any form of theism."

You're playing word games and erecting straw men. Tell me what the "ground of being" means. Tell me who holds this opinion. Please stop plastering the label "atheist" on all manner of ill-posed ideas.

BG: "If there is no afterlife, there is no meaning that endures one's own consciousness. None."

Okay, once I am dead, nothing is "meaningful" to me, as I have no more thoughts. Now, let's see where you go with this...

BG: "Hence, since all things are temporal, not one thing leads a person to anything other than the great emptiness."

What does it mean to "lead" a person to "great emptiness"? You mean there is no way to avoid death? If so, I agree. But your rhetoric is so loaded with bizarre connotations I can't be sure of what you're saying.

BG: "Nothing, not even history, can judge who is the 'more right' or the 'more correct.' These terms don't apply to the abyss."

Abyss? It seems you desperately want to impart some great significance to death, but I have no idea what you're asserting or what you have to back it up. As for 'right' and 'wrong', of course some ideas will be seen as better reflections of reality than others, so I can't make sense of that statement either.

BG: "If there is no meaning in the universe that one can find; if there is nothing that transcends experience that shapes reality, then meaning is simply a self-creation designed to self-hypnotize: it is an effort to sedate yourself to the harsh reality that you are fooling yourself."

Self-hypnotize? Sedate? Where on earth are you dredging up this nonsense? I agree that meaning is subjective. I can't make heads or tails of the rest of your comments. In any case I can't agree with much of anything you say simply because of all the loaded language.

BG: "An atheist claims that there is no life preserver coming from heaven; and then he tosses an imaginary one to himself."

Can you please be more specific? What imaginary life preserver are you imagining?

I said "We are exquisitely tuned for survival?" You replied "Really? Who TOLD YOU THIS and HOW do you know it? Tuned by whom, by what?" By evolution. The evidence supporting this idea is vast, and I was "told" this by no one person, but gathered it from many sources, including its detractors and some direct observation. It is absolutely proven? No. All one can ask is that a theory fit the data, and that's what evolution does, quite spectacularly. Are you looking to debate evolution, or are you just being contrary for sport?

BG: "Do you mean to say that 1 billion years of biology implies longevity or 'fine tuning'? The very idea you bring is again, IMPOSED by you: the cosmos does not give you this. We have survived hardly any time at all; and we won't for much longer. Hence, judged against time, we are not "finely tuned" at all!"

Sorry, but I cannot make any sense of your comments here either. Fine tuning is a metaphor. Metaphors are useful forms of expression, even in science. If you are saying that theories are constructs of the mind then, yes, I agree. Is it epistemology that you wish to ague about now? I must confess, it seems you just want to be absolutely contrary on every point rather than offer anything of substance yourself. By the way, I can make a discussion plunge into an infinite regress too. It's quite easy, but rarely productive.

BG: "You are the one who then asks why we don't just kill ourselves. You then IMPOSE some sort of reason why life is GOOD; but goodness is a total fabrication of the mind solely to keep it feeling hopeful. But, if you are an atheist, you cannot accept this -- really -- though you are allowed to do whatever you want, since nothing is meaningful except to the solipsistic self."

You are seriously confused. I categorically do NOT suggest that anyone kill themselves, and I placed no valuation on anything except from my own subjective point of view. You keep projecting idiotic positions onto atheists. I have no idea what you're trying to accomplish, but you are making little sense. Why don't you try to articulate YOUR position without doing violence to anybody else's? Another option might be to first try to grasp another position before you attack it. Somewhere in a previous post you claim that you do this, but your rhetoric indicates otherwise.

BG: "I don't care what we think we are hardwired to do. Sociobiologists have been arguing your point -- about genetic self-interest -- for decades. I personally accept this. But most homosexuals do not think this way at all,..."

Now you're going to speak for homosexuals? A great many of them DO think that their sexual orientation is rooted in biology, and I suspect that they may be right. That does not detract from the point I made about self-preservation being an aid to procreation. Effective strategies for procreation are selected for--not to the exclusion of everything else; that was your extrapolation.

BG: "...and would be offended by your claim that the more SUCCESSFUL living is rooted in procreating. And they are perfectly entitled to be so offended because, or so they argue, people who limit genetics to procreative self-interest are IMPOSING an order that the universe has not rubber-stamped."

Hu? You have done absolute violence to my words. You equivocate on the word "imposing", making it sound as though I am somehow placing a burden on a class of people (who you rudely assert that I am offending). Frankly, I think you are grasping at straws.

BG: "You accuse me of hurling invectives at those who do not accept my theology. But I have done no such thing, nor have I posited one premise for 'my theology.' I am examining whether atheism is intellectually viable. So far, it is coming up quite short."

I agree that you have articulated no theology. You've done little but cast aspersions by distorting what others say and by inventing fatuous philosophies for them. As for "examining" atheism, I find that a stretch. It seems to me you already have an agenda as you continually make idiotic assertion about atheism and atheists. First, you cannot address atheism in the absence of theism. If you reject atheism (roughly, the position of NOT believing in any invisible conscious entities), then you endorse theism (roughly, the belief in one or more invisible conscious entities). You cannot assess the position of someone who does not believe in unicorns without looking at the available evidence for unicorns. So how is it that *atheism* comes up short? I suggest that you (or any theist) produce some credible evidence for the fantastic claims of theism before you disparage atheism. Thus far you have not. Thus far theists have not. So tell me how you think that theists have somehow come out on top. As for invectives, perhaps I should have phrased that as casting aspersions; however, I don't regard repeatedly projecting asinine philosophies onto others as somehow more noble than the use of invective.

BG: "I am not opposed to atheism per se; I am opposed to any atheist suggesting that atheism is better than theism. But there is NOTHING in the atheist's universe that entitles him to say such a thing, SINCE MEANING (according to him), COMES FROM THE INDIVIDUAL PERSON."

That is your OWN theory about what atheism entails, and it's ludicrous. I certainly do have every right to say that atheism makes more sense than theism if the latter has no supporting evidence. This "meaning" bandwagon that you're on is getting tiresome. Show me that theism is a better model for reality and I'll adopt it. Show me that it makes valid predictions more frequently than, say, a materialistic view, and I'll adopt it. Tell me that you can do neither, and I'll politely ask you to go bother someone else. Get it?

BG: "...since you appear to be a person who loves intellectual consistency, then you HAVE to accept that you have no privileged view of meaning if, indeed, meaning comes from each person. One cannot say that meaning comes from something OTHER than the person (a group is just a collection of persons) and remain an atheist. For atheism permits NO outside or extrinsic meaning whatsoever."

I'll wager that you cannot even define "meaning", yet you continually make these categorical pronouncements! I admit that I have no more claim to "meaning" as anybody else (whatever it may mean), but I most emphatically DO claim that I am in a better position to determine how well an idea comports with reality than a person who refuses to examine it critically, or a person who fails to see the value of evidence.

BG: "You know, now that I re-read the following paragraph of yours, I am tempted to beg that you retract it, since I have not demonized anyone here (or elsewhere), I have not propounded anything theistic, and I have not played to some sort of stereotype.

I retract nothing. You have touted nothing but a fatuous stereotype in your last two posts. Yes, you "demonize" by projecting nonsensical positions onto atheists in the abstract, and in making inflammatory statements such as the assertion that atheism may be nothing more than a ploy for gaining attention. How absolutely ridiculous.

BG: "It's odd that you should argue that as far as you're concerned, 'the universe is under no obligation to conform' to what I feel 'is most desirable.' This is odd for two reasons. First, I have not shared my desires at all."

No, but you have portrayed yourself as a bigot of sorts. True, you have yet give any explicit indication of what your position is, aside from some inexplicable desire to paint atheists in a bad light. (No doubt you will deny even that.)

BG: "Second, you have just coopted a classical theology argument: the Church sees no reason why God should be at all obliged to conform to your expectations. Your argument is structurally identical. You've just changed the terms."

First, what possible difference does it make if theists deploy an argument with the same structure? That's irrelevant. Next you'll complain that I copied Modus Ponens from Aquinas. Second, the theistic argument posits infinitely more than my version, as "god" is usually purported to have a long list of superlative attributes, not one of which can be backed by anything substantive. Third, you skipped over my preceding point, which is that your arguments are consistently backwards; you opine the "meaninglessness" and "emptiness" implied by atheism, as if that could undermine the position (even if true). Why not worry about which is closer to the truth, and how to make that determination, and then consider the implications?

BG: "...if we accept competition as a given -- rooted in biology -- and if survival is our goal, then someone needs to tell me what advantage atheism has over the fundamentalists who have been surviving just fine."

As a meme, religion has been very successful, but only by adapting. Religions change over time. As to what status religion will enjoy 100 years from now, it's difficult to even speculate. If baseless beliefs continue to lose ground to rationally-supported beliefs, then religion will eventually die out.

BG: "...Nor can I see how it is NOT normative that, if there is NO afterlife, then there are NO answers for any questions raised about God, meaning, the origins of consciousness, being, or who killed JKF. There is only nothing. "

Again you argue backwards from consequences. How does NOT having everything revealed to you in an afterlife prescribe what OUGHT to happen while alive? While you may find it disturbing that there may be no afterlife, that does not make the prospect of an afterlife any more promising.

BG: "Death means not only do we not know we are dead; it means we do not know we were ever alive. The grave is not silent, or dark, or cold. It is NOTHING. And so is every foolish thing we think is NOT nothing."

The first part is correct. (You seem very fixated on death, however.) As for the last sentence, I have no idea what you mean.

BG: "...I made no specific claim that anyone's life is empty. I have not attacked a single person, though I think a good case could be made that you attacked me."

You attack a group, namely atheists, which includes me. You make ridiculous assertions and demeaning comments, wielding a very broad brush, which to me smacks of bigotry. If you think that is an "attack" on you, then so be it. I am tolerant of practically any view that one wishes to hold, so long as they refrain from projecting ridiculous and inflammatory characterizations on others.

BG: "I have merely attempted to show that certain ideas are empty...."

But you are the chief purveyor of empty rhetoric here. Your comments are bombastic and crammed with misconceptions and inflated language. You've succeeded in showing absolutely nothing.

BG: "I am not even arguing for meaning. I am showing that it is thinkers such as yourself who think TIME has something to do with meaning."

I've not spoken to that point at all, but I will now. You claim that "meaning" is somehow independent of time? That is completely absurd. You have agreed that meaning is a construct of the human mind--it's subjective. The mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, which is a biochemical mechanism. So far as we know, nothing can "happen" in the brain except over time. Concepts in the brain result from changes in its structure. If you wish to define "meaning" that is somehow independent of time, then I invite you to do so: please spell out your definition.

BG: "You think that the things you do which help people survive longer -- those things which strengthen humanity for the longer haul -- are meaningful. I am sure you would think that actions of yours which limit humanity's life span would be less meaningful. If so, then you must see that it is the atheists who are embedding meaning with length of time, too."

Again, I can't make sense of this. I have made no statements about "strengthening humanity" let alone whether doing so is meaningful or not. But again you seem to be making some broad assertion about all atheists--unfortunately I can't decipher it.

BG: "...What greater compliment can we pay to anything than to hope that it is eternal?"

I'm assuming that you included that as a PS because it's completely beside the point, right? My question was aimed at the motivation to ENGAGE in some activity knowing that it is finite, which has nothing to do with wishing it could go on forever.

Dave8 said...

BG: "I don't think I've really defined infinity other than that it is neither divisible nor augmentable. One can't add to it, one can't subtract it."

Just want to make sure you are aware of your shortcomings in your ability to link language to reality.

The word "infinte" is a materially constructed term, to represent the/an endless expansion of the material realm. In other words, the "word" itself is "material", and can only be "applied" to the material realm, as a means of measurement or theorization.

You attempt to use the word infinite to mean something metaphysical, or you take the word infinite which is a material term, and attempt to apply it to some metaphysical claim. By the way, a metaphysical claim, is not itself "metaphysical", there is nothing magical about that word, nor the attributes you apply to it.

The very term "meta" physical begs everyone to look past their physical existence. You are attempting to logically formulate an argument, therefore, let me provide your logical fallacy.

"In logic, begging the question, also known as circular reasoning and by the Latin name petitio principii, is an informal fallacy found in many attempts at logical arguments. An argument which begs the question is one in which a premise presupposes the conclusion in some way. Such an argument may be valid in the sense in which logicians use that term, yet provides no reason at all to believe its conclusion."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Your circular reasoning:

p implies q

Your statement: The word "infinity" implies "metaphysical"

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

Throwing out a bunch of rhetoric, and trying to surround your fallacy with a bunch of material, doesn't elevate its validity.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Mr. Gnade,

I admire your erudition. You are no doubt an educated and articulate man, and your knowledge of philosophy far exceeds my own. However, I disagree with the position you take with regard to theism vs. atheism.

You state that atheism literally has nothing to offer contra Christianity. Essentially, it seems you are offering that the problem is one of epistemology or metaphysics. All this is well and good, if the problem were confined to academic discussions. However, each one of us is forced to reconcile ourselves in relation to our physical existence, whether or not such existence can be objectively proven. Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that the problems facing humanity are not confined to academic questions. I hope you agree.

Atheism, as I understand it, offers a skeptical view of the universe that simply does not accept the existence of that which is not falsifiable; deities in particular. It is concerned primarily with empiricism, and accepts the provisional nature of knowledge. In simpler, more practical terms atheists are concerned with this world and this life, rather than a belief that there is more to follow.

To borrow your analogy of a white room, there is only one exit. The theist asserts that there is something beyond that demands belief, worship, and in most cases certain behaviors of us before we reach that exit. The atheist simply sees no reason for this and accepts that the white room contains that which is testable and ostensibly knowable. Moreover, the atheist observes that the behaviors of many theists hasten our arrival at the exit, or divide the residents into exclusive cliques that seem to focus on demonizing each other, all based on the notion that something outside the room wrote a book. To the atheist, this is insanity.

A better way to live is to dispense with those divisive books, and work to enhance everyone's experiences in and knowledge of the white room. If we waste our energy fighting over whose book was written by something unknowable beyond the exit, we miss out on real chances to improve not only our lot but that of future generations.

Atheism is not nihilism, as you seem to suggest. Nihilism is a decidedly pessimistic belief that there is no meaning to life, that loyalties, morals, and values are baseless, and true knowledge is impossible. Based on this definition all nihilists may very well be atheists, but not all atheists are nihilists. Many atheists (myself included) are optimistic about the future, have deep loyalties to family, friends, or society at large, and accept an evolutionary basis for our values and morals. Knowledge provisional, but not impossible to obtain. Meaning, though certainly subjective, derives from relationship and endeavor.

You've pointed to Stalin and Mao as examples of the evil that atheism is capable of. To be sure, these men were atheists and responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity the world has seen in recent decades. However, it was not atheism that drove them to commit those crimes. Indeed, it seems that their atheism was incidental to their psychology, rather than the driving force. Interestingly enough, neither Stalin or Mao gave much credence to science or empiricism.

The incidental nature of a worldview to ambition or psychology could also be applied to Hitler, though in his case it was Christianity. In this case, it was certain Church doctrines that paved the way for his ambition to be realized in such a heinous way. The blood libel against the Jews, fostered and encouraged by the Christian Church gave license to his actions. Six million Jews lost their lives at the behest of a member of the Catholic Church, aided and abetted by theist doctrine.

As for the rest of world history, it is replete with examples of crusades, inquisitions, imperial expansions, and incidents of ethnic or religious cleansing/genocide driven at least in part by theistic belief. That you should cite only one example strikes me as disingenuous, though I hope you'll prove me wrong.

At different times, theists have both aided and hampered the advance of science. Today, we have theists flying planes into buildings, blowing themselves up among crowds of people, inhibiting the advance of medical science, proscribing the rights of homosexuals, indirectly contributing to the AIDS epidemic, and attempting to legislate their beliefs to all of us and into our schools using the government. This is not to say that all theists are equally culpable, or that some aren't doing their best to address these problems. Yet it is theistic doctrine that drives all of the above, not atheism.

As Sam Harris observed, no society ever suffered from its people becoming too reasonable. Atheism is a reasonable and moral position to take, because it is concerned with this world. Focusing on what may lay beyond the exit can cause us to lose sight of what's important in the here and now. Atheism is humanistic, and as such is suited to improving the lives of not only those living today, but also future generations.

Ok, I'm off my soapbox (and caffeine high). Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

To everyone here,

Please take note of J.C. Samuelson's reply to me. It is perfect. It is genteel, thoughtful, brilliant; he stays on topic; he hurls no ad hominems.

Thank you, Mr. Samuelson, for showing me how it is done.

I am off to church, the first time in over three years, so I write in haste. The Catholic Church, in fact. FYI, Mr. Samuelson: I think you are wrong about the Catholic connection in Hitler's mania. But we can talk about that some other time.

Dave8,

Did I say that the word "infinite" implies "metaphysical"? Hmm. I do not see where I said any such thing. You haven't, have you, committed the fallacy of amphiboly or equivocation, have you; you know, the fallacy of switching the terms? Or are you implying that I have used the terms interchangeably? Maybe I have, but I doubt it. But please note something: I said that I believe there is no such as thing as a disembodied human consciousness. I also doubted whether a being could be outside of time. And I further stated that, instead of talking about timelessness, I felt I should be talking about time with no terminus (though I doubted this possibility too). So, you see, I have not left the material realm at all; I am not off in some meta: I am talking about the psycho-somatic unity of the human person still IN time. I am further suggesting that it is the atheists in this discussion who are bringing meaning from "outside" their experience, from "beyond" even their idea of the cosmos; they are being metaphysical.

Everyone else,

I did not come here to propound my personal metaphysic. I am trying to follow the arguments of atheists; I am trying to explore the implications of an atheistic worldview. (And I do not mean to explore, as some have taken shelter in, the world of doubt; I mean to explore a universe where there is NO GOD. I am not interested in exploring doubts, or the falsifiability of certain claims. I ACCEPT the idea that we know for a fact that there is no God. With that said, there is no reason I cannot explore the implications of that fact.)

I am wondering who here is willing to concede this one point: atheists do not have any edge over theists in the logic department. If I have attempted to show one thing, and one thing only, it is this: theists are no less rational, or no more rational, than anyone else. Reason can justify falsehoods, after all; and UNreason can, in fact, draw the right conclusions. Do you think me irrational? Contra-rational? Or do you merely find me frustrating, elusive, obtuse, even abstruse?

But one thing you cannot say: you can't say I am afraid of discussing things openly. Nor can you suggest that I have at any point been unkind or ungracious.

Mr. Samuelson, once again, thank you for your reply. I shall respond to you soon. (Oiks! It seems I've had more time to write than I thought!)

Peace and mirth to all,

BG

PS. To end this post on a light note, I share this from Steven Wright, the great(est?) comedian: Every person in the world is completely unique, except for this one guy I know. You've got to love that.

Alan said...

contratimes wrote:

I am saying that if we accept competition as a given -- rooted in biology -- and if survival is our goal, then someone needs to tell me what advantage atheism has over the fundamentalists who have been surviving just fine.

You are confusing the theory of evolution with Social Darwinism. There is nothing in nature or human society (leaving aside eugenics) that would select fundamentalism over atheism or vice versa. Also evolution is about natural selection and genetic drift, competition plays a role but it is not the only factor at work.

Larry Dobbs said...

If I may interject a comment!

BG,

While it may seem that "tact" met with your approval, is the only way of properly communicating, because one must be met with your standards of approval, Mr. Samuelson communicated his point very well, yet I am at a loss as to what has suddenly compelled you to attend a church after 3 1/2 years?

I'm wondering to myself, what mental force would make someone,(a man of early 40's perhaps?) after 3 1/2 years, go to a man made building and pretend to show reverence to man made icons and effigies and man envisioned religious idols?

1. Some hidden guilt perhaps?

2. A sudden pulsive idea perhaps?

3. Maybe a chance to review what you wrote here and to verify in your mind perhaps and to solidify your beliefs?

4. To receive some form of false redemption or people praise?

5. Maybe all of the above?

6. Perhaps none of the above, if not, then forgive me for my presumption.

To continue,

The Atheistic stand IMO, is by observation, this being, what was discussed earlier by you and Mr. Samuelson was, to refresh your memory,
Mr Samuelson: You've pointed to Stalin and Mao as examples of the evil that atheism is capable of. To be sure, these men were atheists and responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity the world has seen in recent decades. However, it was not atheism that drove them to commit those crimes. Indeed, it seems that their atheism was incidental to their psychology, rather than the driving force. Interestingly enough, neither Stalin or Mao gave much credence to science or empiricism.

The incidental nature of a worldview to ambition or psychology could also be applied to Hitler, though in his case it was Christianity. In this case, it was certain Church doctrines that paved the way for his ambition to be realized in such a heinous way. The blood libel against the Jews, fostered and encouraged by the Christian Church gave license to his actions. Six million Jews lost their lives at the behest of a member of the Catholic Church, aided and abetted by theist doctrine.


The Atheist observation is, that had an all knowing, all benevolent, all omniscient, God exist, then this God could have easily prevented any of the previous atrocities (especially Gods chosen, Jews?) to been prevented, he/she/it could have intervened and caused any of the above murderer's to have had a heart attack or stroke and no one would have been the wiser that a God had intervened.

Then you BG: I ACCEPT the idea that we know for a fact that there is no God. With that said, there is no reason I cannot explore the implications of that fact.)


Yet you are bound somewhere in your thinking that, you need to show your face in a church, there was some type of motivation behind that.

Earlier un-shakable indoctrination perhaps?

Now after exploring the implicications, Did you or Have you found God, a God, or false Gods or no God?

If not, why not???

We patently await the results of your exploration!

Dave8 said...

Contratimes: "Did I say that the word "infinite" implies "metaphysical"? Hmm. I do not see where I said any such thing. You haven't, have you, committed the fallacy of amphiboly or equivocation, have you; you know, the fallacy of switching the terms?"

Maybe I have, but I doubt it.

Contratimes: "Or are you implying that I have used the terms interchangeably? Maybe I have, but I doubt it."

Are you as sure about your religious beliefs, as you are of the statements you make?

Contratimes: "You see, there is no consuming infinity; there is no reaching a saturation point in the eternal. So one could never find this tedious. One billion years is the same as a second: there is no waiting around where there is no clock. The atemporal life can never lead to boredom or satiety. They are functions of time and quantity, neither of which exist in the eternal or the infinite.

Eternal:
-Metaphysics. existing outside all relations of time; not subject to change.
-something that is eternal.
-the Eternal, God.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eternal

Infinite: "Mathematics.
Existing beyond or being greater than any arbitrarily large value.
Unlimited in spatial extent: a line of infinite length.
Of or relating to a set capable of being put into one-to-one correspondence with a proper subset of itself."
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/infinite

Contratimes, you are speaking of "time", "space", etc., which are "material" constructs. Then, you correlate "infinite", in the material sense (time, space), with "eternity", a "metaphysical" term.

Your circular reasoning:

p implies q

You invoke, "infinite" (p), to imply "eternity" (q)...

Implies: "To involve by logical necessity; entail:"
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/imply

Logical Fallacy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Contratimes, your use of the material term "infinite" (space, time), does not necessitate the logical validity of your metaphysical term, "eternity", yet, by your very words, you "imply" it.

Now, at this point, Contratimes, lets review what an "an hominem" is, so that everyone knows the language we are using to describe your post.

Ad Hominem: "2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument."
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ad%20hominem

Now, its abundantly clear, that many people are deconstructing your post, and exposing it as fallacious reasoning.

You are not your words, and trying to use an "ad hominem" defense, to cover your obvious fallacious reasoning, is a strawman.

Strawman: "straw man -- A fallacy that occurs when someone attacks a less defensible position than the one actually being put forth. This occurs very often in politics, when one seeks to derive maximum approval for himself/herself or for a cause"

You, have attacked what you believed to be my weakest argument, however, it is the very argument that underlines your entire post, almost throughout.

As a matter of fact, let me continue just through the words you have posted in just this post alone.

Contratimes: "But please note something: I said that I believe there is no such as thing as a disembodied human consciousness."

Disembody: "To free (the soul or spirit) from the body.
To divest of material existence or substance."
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disembodied

Contratimes, you are speaking of something "metaphysical", or "immaterial", leaving the body. You then, begin discussing "human consciousness" a material construct. Then, you correlate "human consciousness", in the material sense, with "disembody", a "metaphysical" term used to describe the leaving of an immaterial object from the body.

Your circular reasoning:

p implies q

You invoke, "disembody" (p), to imply "human consciousness" (q)...

Implies: "To involve by logical necessity; entail:"
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/imply

Logical Fallacy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Contratimes, your use of the material term "human consciousness" (material), does not necessitate the logical validity of your metaphysical term, "disembody", yet, by your very words, you "imply" there is a correlation.

Contratimes: "I also doubted whether a being could be outside of time."

Again, your "being and time" are material, yet you are attempting to imply based on those two terms, that you can speculate on the "metaphysical", the "void", or that which is "outside", of the realm of time and being, i.e., the "material", realm.

See previous fallacious outline, and replace the material words with "being", and "time", and then for the "metaphysical" implication, place "outside", of that material realm.

Contratimes: "And I further stated that, instead of talking about timelessness, I felt I should be talking about time with no terminus (though I doubted this possibility too)."

Are you confused as to which of the two you should be talking about? Again, you are talking of a material construct "time", and then talking about a "place" that is beyond "time", uh, that would be "metaphysical", or the "immaterial" realm. Once, again, you are implying that one of the terms, can be linked to the other.

Contratimes: "So, you see, I have not left the material realm at all; I am not off in some meta:

:-) Oh, I quite agree. You in "fact" have not left the material realm, you are quite clearly in this physical realm, and not off in some "meta" realm. However, seeing your post above, you have quite clearly outlined numerous implications of the "metaphysical" realm. Implication, based on "doubt", as you state, therefore, you have "no" link between the material words to the "immaterial" objects you talk of, and further, you doubt yourself in the process.

Contratimes: "I am talking about the psycho-somatic unity of the human person still IN time."

Psychosomatic: "Of or relating to a disorder having physical symptoms but originating from mental or emotional causes."
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/psycho-somatic

So, you are suggesting that a person who has a mental disorder, can manifest the metaphysical claims you suggest, i.e., timelessness, eternity, disembodiment, etc., while still living in this material realm (time). So, mentally ill people can mis-perceive reality?

Okay, I'll buy that.

Contratimes: "I am further suggesting that it is the atheists in this discussion who are bringing meaning from "outside" their experience, from "beyond" even their idea of the cosmos; they are being metaphysical."

So... you believe there is an "outside"? That there is something "beyond"? I am called an atheist on my best days, so, lets go with the understanding I "don't" accept your compartmentalized use of "outside", or "inside". Where does that place your "theory"?

Name one thing in the universe that is not "connected", and I'll then call it "outside". Until then, your argument is illogical. To be outside, or "meta" physical, there has to be a separation of the material realm, from "something else". Why don't you define that "something else" for me, I don't believe I am disconnected.

You see, Contratimes, I have yet to find anything "independent" of "reality". I believe, all of my experience in this material life, has been interdependent with my surroundings.

This is not a theistic approach to dogma, especially the Catholic flavor, where there are compart"mental"ized domains rampant outside the material universe.

The Catholic belief, from my readings of their dogma, is that they must "remove" themselves "independently" from the material domain (which I believe to be something close to a delusion at best or a psychosis in matured stages). Catholicism tends to use "prayer", to reach out and touch some "independent" entity, outside the "cosmos" - call it god if you wish.

That is not someone with a belief that includes an "interdependent" relationship, with existence. The Catolic doctrine teaches, there are "multiple" existences, one in which one "lives", and the "other". Now, I'm talking dogma here, and the bible - don't take it personal.

Further, the Catholic religion believes that the two different "existences", have a medium, by which one sneaker nets messages between the two domains. That messenger would be the "holy incorporeal/disembodied spirit", who either floats between the two domains, or glues them together.

Let me couch all of that which I just spoke of, and say the "words" in which I talked of, exist in this material realm. Further, to talk of an abstract idea, doesn't "force" it out of this material realm. So the word "god", "metaphsyical", etc., are just materially based words, used to color existence. It doesn't matter how bad someone wants to go out of their mind, to find some "other" existence, I don't buy it.

Now, if I don't understand something or have interpreted your message wrong, then... please enlighten me. I have plenty of experience with the material forms that go to Catholic church, regularly. And, I know, I think, where you are coming from, but don't buy into your argument that all Atheists consider an "outside" box, independent of their material existence. Personally, I have seen nothing to support the claim.

Dave8 said...

Contratimes/BG: "I ACCEPT the idea that we know for a fact that there is no God. With that said, there is no reason I cannot explore the implications of that fact."

Here we go again... you have an invalid claim, that you want someone to give you an answer to, and the question would be why.

You once again, tie the "material" to the "immaterial", you suggest "god" has meaning in your statement. Here is your circular reasoning:

p implies q

Your Statement: A "God" (p) implies "implications without a god" (q), that can "be" explored.

Contratimes/BG: "I am not interested in exploring doubts, or the falsifiability of certain claims."

And, why would that be one has to wonder.

Contratimes: "I am wondering who here is willing to concede this one point: atheists do not have any edge over theists in the logic department. If I have attempted to show one thing, and one thing only, it is this: theists are no less rational, or no more rational, than anyone else."

Per your requirement, you don't care about "falsifiability". Yet, you wish to equate the theist with the atheist on rationality.

By removing, the falsifiability standard, everything becomes equal in the reason department, as there is no measure by which to validate reason.

You have to prove that there exists more than what could be beyond empirical falsifiability, before you can remove it, else... your entire little game is useless. You've removed the standards by which the theist is rationally separated from the theist - a.k.a. the empirically testable material existence.

Why not go ahead and do a research test on all catholics, by taking away the supernatural realm (whatever that is), and seeing if they are any different than atheists in their beliefs.

Your entire game, is based on leading the witness (ironic in this case that the witness would be the atheist). Your test demonstrates that if an atheist will concede their measure of empirical falsifiability, then they will be just like all the other people who don't use such a standard in "all" aspects of their lives, especially the events that are "life/death" related.

I can only conclude that you have an agenda that doesn't align with those of sincerity, by creating such a test. As such, I will wait until you respond more lucidly, before I continue this little game.

What is your "test" for trying to illustrate the reasoning capabilities as the same between the atheist and theist, if falsifiablility is not the measure?

.:webmaster:. said...

BG: But who cares?

WM: You have suggested that because my individual life is not eternal, I shouldn’t care about my life? Huh? Because everything exists in time, and time marches on, I should wallow in apathy and depression? Is that the message you intended to convey?

I'm sorry BG, I don't follow an "eternal existence has meaning/temporary existence has no meaning," philosophy. Although you hinted that you may not agree with the doctrine of eternal torture in hell for unbelievers, you've stated you are a Christian. So, since you haven't stated your position on what forms of life you believe will be resurrected to live in happy harmony in heaven, I assume that you are in agreement with most Christians in that people are the only life forms that will be living forever. You don't, for instance, believe my pet cat will end up in heaven, or perhaps in hell, do you? You don't think the turkeys we ate this week are waiting to be resurrected. Or do you? Usually Christians confine the resurrection and eternity to human beings only, but there have been those who believed every single individual life would eventually be resurrected: animal, plant, insect, you name it. Regardless, most Christians would soundly reject the idea that animals have a soul or will attain to an afterlife. Yet, even Christian pet owners think of their pets as part of the family. Sure, our pets can't talk, but we all love our cats and dogs, don't we? And our pets' lives are a bit shorter than ours too! Are you suggesting we should just put all of those silly animals out of their misery, because they aren't going to live forever?

Your posts have helped illustrate a point in my original rant, that Christianity is focused on death while claiming to be focused on life. I applaud you for that.

BG: I do not know of a single scientist who would argue that humanity can survive the destruction of the universe; a destruction that will and must come.

WM: Do you personally know of a single scientist that categorically states there will be "a destruction that will and must come"?

BG: Here's the analogy I find in your ideas.

WM: I don't follow your thought process here either. Life is not an empty white room for me, or anyone I know. Life is colorful, expansive, and fun. If colorless conclusions are the way life is for non-eternal beings, then I guess my cat should immediately run under the next car that drives by and get his miserable little life over with.

Forgive a little personal commentary at this point, but what a sad outlook on life you must have developed in order to come to analogize all of natural life as a dull waiting for death. At the risk of assuming too much, can you really think that a life lived without belief in a mystical transcendence is without meaning and worthless? I think you may be confusing a Christian worldview with an atheistic worldview. It is Christianity that denigrates "this natural world" as being evil, passing away, and ruled by Satan. It is Christianity that dwells on "laying up treasures in heaven" and holding firm the faith until the coming of the Lord. If anyone is living in a small, closed, colorless room, it is those whose minds have been padded and straight-jacketed by religion.

BG: Survival is intrinsically important begs a question: important to whom?

WM: Us, that's to whom. You don't think your survival is important? Suppose for just a minute now that there really is no metaphysical "realm" where angels, demons, deities and flying, un-dead, man-gods sit on thrones. Are you then going to rush into the street and jump under a speeding truck? We, like all of the other life forms on this planet, are hardwired to survive. The survival instinct is one of the foundational steps on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It is probably this same instinct that drives people to fabricate religions that promise transcendence from mortality. Sentience's downside, perhaps, is understanding that we are mortal.

BG: You are right: ideas do have consequences.

WM: When people believe that a deranged, murderous, petty, maniacal God as described in the Old Testament and/or a son-murdering, hell-threatening God as described in the New Testament embody all of reality, and that there is no escape from an eventual eternity of either kissing or cursing the deity's royal ass in some magical place called heaven or hell, well, that's when flying planes into buildings starts to make a bit of sense. Ideas indeed have consequences.

WM: I typed this far in this response this morning, and then lost Internet connectivity for six hours. In the mean time, others have thoroughly answered your pomposity, so I close this conversation with you by quoting you:

BG: Please take note of …'s reply to me. It is perfect. It is genteel, thoughtful, brilliant; he stays on topic; he hurls no ad hominems. Thank you ... for showing ... how it is done.

BG: You ... describe me as an egoist ....

No, that's the way you present yourself in your writing.

Peace, love, happiness and a big, wet, sloppy smooch on the cheek.

boomSLANG said...

Honestly, why bother extolling a post for all other posters to take notice of in the first place? Shouldn't we all be saying, "go F%CK YOURSELF, you condescending self-rightious religious bigot!"...?

I mean, think about it, we're all just a bunch of doomed-to-nothingness atheists anyway, right? Seriously, there's no point, whatsoever, in trying to be "genteel", or "thoughful", as none of this consideration has any "meaning" anyway...if, by the very projected definitons and doom-laden characteristics that have been prescribe to us/for us, are true.

Honestly, Contra', when I re-read some of your "philosophies" on life and death, I feel like I'm reading the "Memoirs of a closet Nihilist". And you're supposed to be the one with "the Lord" dwelling inside your heart?...or wait a minute, are you?..or aren't you? After gaggles of lengthy finger-pointing posts, I STILL don't know what exactly your position is, in terms of theism. So far, I've got-- atheism is just as suck-ass as theism.....and life is like a white room.

So what's keeping you?....is it because "suicide" is seen as a "sin"? I'm not trying to be insensitive(like I should care, per you)....but it seems like a legitimate question. Why hang out in the "white room" with the rest of us when you are certain there's perpetual bliss on the other side of the "door"?

Also, why offer "peace and mirth" if I can't derive meaning from it?

Anonymous said...

I believe that BG by saying "Peace and Mirth" is trying to insinuate the calling card of a wise man.

He has yet to impose upon us that attribute!

Anonymous said...

Yes, BG is full of porcine excrement. He is full of himself. But I repeat myself.

Dave8 said...

Dave8: "You've removed the standards by which the theist is rationally separated from the theist - a.k.a. the empirically testable material existence."

Mea culpa, correction... a standard by which to rationally separate the theist from the atheist - a.k.a. the empirically testable material existence.

Astreja said...

Webmaster, good call bringing up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

It suddenly occurred to me that many religious systems try to subvert that very hierarchy, training followers to deny legitimate physiological and psychological needs. Starving and struggling to pay the rent? Reward in heaven for you, kiddo. Scared when you walk down a dark street at night? Shame on you for not having faith. Sex? Don't go there.

No wonder so many desperate believers end up cracking -- They're violating their own prime directives as human beings.

Oh, and BG/Contra: When I was eleven years old I had a vision of the end of the universe. Didn't see any gods hanging out there. Saw lots of annihilated civilizations, though.

But guess what? Thirty-eight years after that bleak vision of The Big Nothing I am still alive and enjoying my life.

Because of that vision, not despite it. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave8 (and everyone else),

I am almost tempted to suggest that you are perseverating. But I will refrain. Only you know why you are focused on this minutiae:

Now, at this point, Contratimes, lets review what an "an hominem" is, so that everyone knows the language we are using to describe your post.

Ad Hominem: "2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument."
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ad%20hominem

Now, its abundantly clear, that many people are deconstructing your post, and exposing it as fallacious reasoning.

You are not your words, and trying to use an "ad hominem" defense, to cover your obvious fallacious reasoning, is a strawman.


First, permit me to correct you. I have not erected a straw man here; and, anyway, I believe you mean a red herring. Regardless, when the very first comment I received from the host included this -- that I was deemed by the Webmaster to be a "True Christian™" (his term, complete with trademark symbol) -- then I know that I am on safe ground when I mention the argumentum ad hominem-abusive. I am not trying to distract anybody, or blow down a flimsy argument of my own construction. Plus, I have also been called a "bigot" in this thread, or, at least, I am allegedly bordering on being one; I'm deemed ridiculous, "full of porcine excrement"; I have been accused of hurling invective, among other pleasantries. I take these assaults in stride (and there have not been many of them); I hardly take them personally. I mention the ad hominem solely to remind people that such barbs are not valid arguments.

Now, you seem obsessed with cornering me on some technicality about begging the question. I honestly cannot understand your point. But let me try to get at it as well as I can:

First, I note that you go to this link
for a citation of "eternal." I am glad you are so thorough. But I also note that you cite only entries 4, 5, and 6. Why did you do this? Did these support your argument against me? How so, when I've already argued that by "eternal" I am arguing from something like entries 1 and 2? (Please remember that dictionaries do not tell us what words must mean; they merely tell us how they are [usually] used.) Now, to really augment your pedanticism with some of my own, I cite Peter Angeles' Dictionary of Philosophy citation for "Eternal": "1. Everlasting. Of infinite duration. Endless continuation in time without beginning or end. SEMPITERNAL. Perpetual. 2. Having no succession, but existing all at once, an unchanging, timelessly present One."

OK. Will this help you if I review what I wrote in this thread, you know, when I had already redefined my position BEFORE you came in with your p's and q's? I said that I did not necessarily accept definition 2 (Angeles); I preferred number 1, which means that I prefer to think of the eternal as being in time. Which makes this less about the metaphysics you seem to be hung up on. Moreover, I have not personally said here that I oppose metaphysics; I don't. What I oppose are those who claim that all meaning is subjective and who then impose a metaphysical meaning onto reality (and then treat it objectively). If I choose to speak metaphysically, so be it: it is not inconsistent with my basal beliefs.

Secondly, as for your other observation re: this statement of mine, about which you wrote:

"Contratimes/BG: "I ACCEPT the idea that we know for a fact that there is no God. With that said, there is no reason I cannot explore the implications of that fact."

Here we go again... you have an invalid claim, that you want someone to give you an answer to, and the question would be why.

You once again, tie the "material" to the "immaterial", you suggest "god" has meaning in your statement.
[your words in bold]

Why is this at all difficult for you? Let me restate this, then, if I must: There is no god. There is no God. OK. Let me state this in even different terms. There is (A) nothing transcendent of the universe; (B) all meaning is contained therein in a strict subjective sense. Is that a permissible starting point? If not, then I do not know what is. But if you accept this as a starting point, then you must accept that it is OK for me to argue from B if I want. And here is that argument: That there is nothing in the universe that shows that one meaning is better than another. I do not care if someone points out that one person's meaning is irrational, or truncated, or limited: such characteristics might indeed make that person's meaning all the more meaningful to them. No one in this thread has shown me -- not at all -- what one GAINS from perceiving reality like the Webmaster does when compared to religious fundamentalism. I have at least conceded that there might be temporal gains, but so what? If meaning is SUBJECTIVE, which no one has denied here, then TEMPORALITY has nothing to do with it. Who cares if your meaning gives you more options (a function of time)? Who cares if you "survive" longer? Who cares if you "make gains in science?" What if my subjective meaning -- and all my pleasure -- is derived from rejecting your meanings? Who are you (by you I mean this generically) to say that my meaning is less than yours, or less effective, or less humane, or even less intelligent? If meaning is subjective, then, well, it is subjective. Why bother trying to objectify it at every turn, unless, of course, doing so is part of your personal sense of meaning?

Moreover, if I accept reality as is -- there is nothing transcendent, there is nothing beyond the White Room -- then there is nothing that prevents me from analyzing the implications of this fact within the White Room. What you can only say here, Dave8, and you have stated it, is that I don't play by the rules, the standards, as you call them. What standards are they? I mean this: in a closed universe where all meaning is subjective, please tell me what rules exist that I must follow? After all, if meaning is subjective, then who is to tell me that my violation of certain logic rules renders me meaningless, or my philosopy meaningless, if meaning is defined by me? What if my greatest pleasure while awaiting annihilation is to fashion circular arguments?

Dave8, are you at all suggesting that there is an objective standard by which we can judge meaningfulness? I wonder. You surely seem to imply that there is some great import not to reason in a circle. But, as you may know, some circles are inevitable.

No one, as far as I can tell (some might think they have), has contradicted my White Room analogy. We are all in the White Room; the classical atheist claims that all we can know is in the White Room; that meaning is subjective; that survival is the classical atheist's biggest source of ambition and altruism (survival of corporate humanity); that the entire universe is going to end in the big crush; that oblivion is the origin and fate of all people, all things, all ideas, all poetry, all art, all science, all history, all laughter, all joy, all tears, all motion, all sunsets and all bounding puppies. This is reality: I am not making this up, not one bit of it. Hence, some people are going to look at the White Room's exit door with anxiety; others will look at it with acceptance and peace. Some in the White Room will gather around Holy Writ, seeking solace; others will snicker at the readers of holy texts and find consolation in sex, academics, consumption, art, sport, argument, travel, exploration, inquiry, kind deeds, poetry, medicine, science, psychology, economic theory, chess. But there is only one thing to say about all options in that White Room: they are mere distractions, mere ways of coping, mere fables. The atheist staring blankly at the exit door who hurls himself through it is perhaps the only one who really believes the "truth" about reality. He realizes that the tired Problem of Evil argument makes no sense: for if people do and MUST suffer, then struggling to endure and survive causes more suffering; he realizes that hastening annihilation is a form of mercy. Everything else is mere pretense. He accepts that all the bustle and bickering and B.S. of the White Room is merely a delay strategy; he may even conclude that it is cowardice, rooted in so much fiction. He even sees other atheists as being quite religious, such as those who believe that they can somehow make the White Room permanent, or that they can bolt the exit door closed; that they can avoid the inevitable with science, the very science that proves the great compression or fragmentation of all known and knowable things. The honest atheist looks at the People of the Holy Book and sees an incredible irony: he sees his atheist friends scoffing at the religious for hoping that some God will throw them a life-preserver, and then he sees those very atheists throw themselves life-preservers they have fashioned in vain from their own subjective hopes: hopes for more time, for more pleasure, for more fun, and more knowledge about how to keep the exit door closed.

I may not fight fair, I may be illogical, but in a world where meaning is supplied by me, then, please, allow me to distract myself however I wish: as a theist in a Catholic Church or as a pseudo-atheist at this blog.

No one, also, has answered my question: If oblivion is the end of ALL THINGS (and there is no hell or heaven), then which consoles people more in the White Room: A lie that tells them they MIGHT be rescued, or a truth that tells them that they won't? At least one atheist here is appalled by the Christian idea of hell (whatever THAT is), and yet is somehow comforted by the fact of oblivion, an idea which, to some people, makes THIS LIFE HELL.

Blessings!

BG

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Samuelson,

I promised you a reply, and here it is (for what it is worth).

Please, do not be impressed with me in any way; I am hardly erudite, and I hardly understand philosophy. I mean it. And no one can insult me here with a barb that all can readily predict will be forthcoming: I know my own limitations better than anyone; no reader can find me more ridiculous than I find myself.

Let me quote your fine definition of atheism:

Atheism, as I understand it, offers a skeptical view of the universe that simply does not accept the existence of that which is not falsifiable; deities in particular. It is concerned primarily with empiricism, and accepts the provisional nature of knowledge. In simpler, more practical terms atheists are concerned with this world and this life, rather than a belief that there is more to follow.

This is a wonderful place to begin. May I start with some scepticism? Consider it scepticism of scepticism, if you wish. But I DO have a problem with this part of your statement:

Atheism, as I understand it, offers a skeptical view of the universe that simply does not accept the existence of that which is not falsifiable; deities in particular.

OK. Let me ask start here. The existence of God is not falsifiable. Therefore, since atheists do not accept what is not falsifiable, atheists do not accept the existence of God. True? But is this statement falsifiable: the existence of God is not falsifiable? What I mean to say is this: We do not KNOW that the existence of God is falsifiable or not. All we can say is that we do not know whether God's existence CAN be shown to be falsifiable or not. It may very well be provable or disprovable. It is just that we do not know -- yet -- whether God can be so proven. Every statement I've read in the philosophy of science concerning this matter merely concedes that science has a priori decided that God is not allowed in the laboratory; but not because he is not able to be examined, but because we have a materialistic assumption in science that God is not one trace or tidbit material. If someone says to you that Intelligent Design (for example) is not science, they are not talking science when they say that: they are talking something else. There is not a single scientific experiment, not a single lab experiment or scientific study, that has shown that Intelligent Design is not science, nor is there a single experiment that shows that God is falsifiable (or not). All these statements come from the philosophy or epistemology of science. That we cannot find God in a petri dish says nothing about God; but it may in fact say everything about us, about our science and epistemology at this point in time. We are limited: We can't say that God is or is not falsifiable. We can only say that we have NO idea how we can show either. The limitation may be one of presuppositional limitation; perhaps we are thinking too narrowly (or not narrowly enough). Perhaps there is a genius among us who will indeed find something; who will discover a methodology that reveals some fingerprint of God's creative fiat on creation.

So, a true agnostic approach here is not to say that atheists do not accept God because he is DEFINITELY not falsifiable; we just don't know how to figure it all out. Scientists, by and large, begin an inquiry something like this: When excavating a cell, or an ancient artifact, you MUST NOT LOOK for any explanation that does not come from a closed materialistic system. Of course, no one seems to reflect on the fact that God might indeed be a closed materialistic system. It's like the ancients believing that the sun was a god; science comes along and tells us the sun is nothing but a hydrogen reactor fusing helium with intense vigor. No one seems to wonder that maybe a god's real essence is a huge fusion reactor. I mean, if we could get a bit of God's DNA into the lab, how do we know it would not be the helium atom, or liquid mercury? When we use the terms we do -- evolution, instinct, fusion, fission, quantum mechanics -- perhaps we are actually describing God's actions and the remnants of his handiwork?

What I find, honestly, is hubris in much of atheism. Many atheists are not humble before what they cannot know: they boast that what is unknowable is ALWAYS going to be unknowable. When someone tells you that God cannot be proved, they are speaking, not from science, but from religion. You see, God MIGHT be proved, and we are marching toward that momentous discovery right now. I would never dare to say that humanity is so limited, or that science is so impaired, that we cannot someday discover -- definitively -- that God cannot be known by humanity, or a single scientist.

So, if we are going to be agnostic, let us be so with humility. If someone comes to me with a demand that I outline some criteria by which I might find God in the laboratory, and if they scoff at me when I can't provide those criteria, I will merely remind people that there was a time when we could not fly, and that, though there were dreamers who believed we someday could, they themselves did not know the mathematics or the engineering or the physics to make the space shuttle possible. What we don't know now should never be absolutized.

You wrote:

At different times, theists have both aided and hampered the advance of science. Today, we have theists flying planes into buildings, blowing themselves up among crowds of people, inhibiting the advance of medical science, proscribing the rights of homosexuals, indirectly contributing to the AIDS epidemic, and attempting to legislate their beliefs to all of us and into our schools using the government. This is not to say that all theists are equally culpable, or that some aren't doing their best to address these problems. Yet it is theistic doctrine that drives all of the above, not atheism.

OK. So what does this mean, really? Well, for one, it means you have a religious zeal for science. Let me explain. But first let me sort of rewrite your statement:

Scientists, whether atheistic (Carl Sagan) or theistic (Darwin, Pascal), have both aided and hampered the advance of humanity. For while science has given us prescription lenses and the stethoscope, it has brought upon humanity sorrows on a massive scale. Religion, as we all know, did not create the atomic bomb. Science did. And science has also created various plagues and chemical weapons. Science has given us antibiotics, only to put us on the threshold of having us lose our ability to fight infections unaided. Science gave us radiation treatment, known to cause certain cancers. Science has given us the cruise missile. Science has given us the MRI, a device my doctor on Monday of last week suggested may weaken brain tissue and may actually cause strokes. Science has given us angioplasty, a procedure that some studies show may actually cause more harm than good. Science gave us the assault rifle, the internal combustion engine, the fossil fuel industry, the gypsy moth infestation, the brown tree snake plague in Guam, the computer industry (described as many as the most toxic industry on the planet). Strip mines are not for religious people; zinc and nickel and mercury and silicon and all sorts of heavy metals are mined for scientific purposes. Science has given us the plastic that chokes our landfills. It has given us hearing loss with iPod headphones and massive loudspeakers. Science gave us car crashes and artificial turf, roofing adhesive and Freon; chloro-flourocarbons and DDT; insecticides and tainted flu vaccines; and diseases innumerable from environmental causes linked to the advances in that great deity, science. Whether the explosion or gas leak at a chemical plant, whether Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, or a plane flown into a building, one can blame science rather easily.

You get the picture. At it ain't pretty. Complaining that the religious stand in the way of science is a bit like complaining that a dam stands in the way of disaster. The apotheosis of science is a fact, and it is unjustified. It reminds me a bit of Al Gore debuting his movie on global warming at the Cannes Film Festival, you know, the festival of yachts. Thousands of people over the last several months have consumed millions of gallons of oil simply to see a movie (at Cannes and elswhere) about the dangers of consuming oil. Gore himself flies around the world warning us about the atmospheric damage caused by flying.

It could be argued that nearly every time science intervenes in natural history, even when it intervenes to correct its own mistakes, it creates more problems.

Also: To say that atheism is concerned with this world and imply that Christianity is not is a bit misbegotten. Egads, do you think Mother Theresa was caring for the sick and dying because she was fixated on something other than this world? The countless Christian doctors, lawyers, firemen, physicists: do you think they care only about some other world? And do you think a Christian doctor's theism makes him stop and pray before he knows whether to clamp a severed femoral artery? Do the atheist and the theist practice medicine differently in the trauma center?

You are right: I do believe that atheism and nihilism are synonymous. I reject an atheist's argument that his sense of meaning and purpose is somehow exempt from being called a religious faith. It is utterly and completely a faith-based enterprise; as such, it is indistinguishable from any other religious belief. The only honest atheism is nihilistic, stripped of fictions and pretense. It stares at reality without flinching, without reaching for more.

In response to my connection of atheism and genocide you wrote this:

You've pointed to Stalin and Mao as examples of the evil that atheism is capable of. To be sure, these men were atheists and responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity the world has seen in recent decades. However, it was not atheism that drove them to commit those crimes. Indeed, it seems that their atheism was incidental to their psychology, rather than the driving force.

You are no doubt right about this. But Christians have long answered in an identical manner: Christians who committed violence were not REALLY acting out their Christianity. They were acting out of their inherited cultural proclivities, or their corrupted psychologies, or their misunderstanding of the Christian creed. But our points sort of cancel each other: we agree that atheists and theists have been murderous. We just don't agree (though perhaps we do) on whether atheism or theism (as isms) leads to genocide.

I think Sam Harris is utterly wrong. The most ordered societies are the most oppressive. North Korea, Albania (of old), the former USSR, Cuba: these are all intended to be utterly reasonable. And they are dead for being so; and if not dead, they are deadly. Prisons are the most reasoned places on earth; there is an immense rationalism in the walls of any prison, and there is nothing but sorrow and sadness too. G. K. Chesterton perhaps said it best, that the madman is NOT the person who has lost his reason. The madman is that person who has lost everything BUT his reason. Give me a room full of poets any day over a room full of logicians. Give me a doctor who looks at me with reason AND a hunch, a contra-rational or even intuitive hunch, and I will take his advice any day over that doctor who simply follows reason. It awes the mind to think of all the hunches and guesses and whims that have brought us some of life's greatest moments, and some of life's greatest treasures. Give me a balance of reason and faith, of logic and intuition, of certainty and guesswork. In short, give me romance, the combination of the mysterious and the explained. I will be happy, free, and in good health.

Anyhow, too many words. But all offered with the sincere hope that life blesses you.

Peace, always.

BG

boomSLANG said...

Contra', I fully accept that I will more than likely be ignore, do in part, or in full, to my earlier post, which was analogously done. The profane insulting hypothetical was done to illustrate a point---that point being, that if we are all just "buying time" from the inevitable "oblivion" as you assert, then it would be pointless to be "genteel"; it would be pointless to strive to match the post that you extol so much. In other words, one post wouldn't be any more "meaningful" than another, by your very own "logic". Nonetheless, I make no apologies and I will break down some of your comments to other viewers. Take it, or leave it.

No one, also, has answered my question: If oblivion is the end of ALL THINGS (and there is no hell or heaven), then which consoles people more in the White Room: A lie that tells them they MIGHT be rescued, or a truth that tells them that they won't?

Doesn't needing to be "consoled" imply at least some form of "discontent"?..."sadness"? Where did Contra' gain the "knowledge" that all non-theists are discontent and need to be "consoled"? Where did he get the "knowledge" that all non-theists---even if we are "buying time" while in his proverbial Empty White Room of life---that we MUST stay focused on the other side of the door? We must, we must, we MUST!!!! Who says?

While I can appreciate that fact that Contra' can articulate himself in his writings, it seems to me, once again, that his mission is to project "meaning" on our behalf, and then in essence, turn right around and tell us what our problems should be, based on that projected meaning, while then becoming miffed and mystified when we can't give him answers that suit him. He actually reminds me of biblegod in this sense---he creates the very problem he seeks to have solved.

At least one atheist here is appalled by the Christian idea of hell (whatever THAT is), and yet is somehow comforted by the fact of oblivion, an idea which, to some people, makes THIS LIFE HELL.

More generalizing and hypothesizing. I don't know to whom he refers, but contrarily, I would posit that a perpetual "existance" would be closer to a "hell". And speaking of "hell", what does he mean when he says "whatever that is"? The "concept" of "hell" comes from the very same doctrinal grabbag of concepts that the idea of "heaven" comes from; that the "idea" of "God" comes from; that the "idea" of "sin" comes from; that the "idea" of "Truth" comes from; that the "idea" that there's "no meaning without Jesus" comes from. It's all revealed "knowledge". BTW, I swear to shit--a little over a year ago, I drove by a church marquee that said "Without Jesus you have no life!" Hmmm...this message sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it?

What advantage does atheism have over theism?

To answer the original "original" question(which keeps morphing)---there are several reasons, I'll give two for now:

Like I said in an earlier post--if the theist spends 20 % of their lifetime focused on trying to get into "the next life", that's 20% more time they could've been showing/telling their friends and family that they love them.(loosely assuming something so trivial gives "meaning".)

Secondly, to teach people to keep "Faith" in things that are contradictory to reason, only hinders the advancement of mankind.

Thanks for reading. All comments are welcomed.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave (Webmaster),

It is interesting how much you know about me without knowing a thing about me. It is not very agnostic of you. Well, on second thought, it is VERY agnostic of you. (Ohh, the fun one can have with words.):-)

I don't believe I said a thing about what YOU should care about. I think it is quite clear that I have been asking "Who cares?" in light of the reality that is given: a world with no god, with no transcendence. I would like to know why I, for instance, should care that you are an atheist, or why you should care to tell me about atheism in general. Why? What does it benefit me, or anyone, to be an atheist? Or a theist, for that matter, in light of the fact that there is no God. Who cares about surviving? You? Me? For what? For more of this?

Alas, if you must, let me change the White Room analogy to the Rainbow Room. Is that better? The room is not only filled with color, it is filled with sounds, tastes, odors, and sensations of all kinds. Now what? The reason I described a White Room is because it is the atheist who tells me the room is filled ONLY WITH THE MEANING EACH PERSON PROVIDES. Moreover, I did not want to offend the blind, the deaf, the mute; those suffering from the inability to taste, smell, or feel. (What sort of existence, by the way, do they have in the White Room, or in the Rainbow Room? One can only wonder.)

So, here is where I stand: If meaning is subjective, then there is no meaning in the Rainbow Room that is better than any other. Hence, who cares?

You ask:

Because everything exists in time, and time marches on, I should wallow in apathy and depression? Is that the message you intended to convey?

No, I am not telling you to wallow. I am telling you that there is no reason that you SHOULD NOT. Do whatever you like. ONLY YOU can decide what is meaningful for you. I am also telling you two other things: First, that the theist is doing the exact same thing as you, though what is meaningful to the theist is merely different from what you find meaningful. Second, that the person who admits that meaning is itself a fiction is the only honest person in the Rainbow Room. All others are just erecting illusions. Which is fine for them to do, since meaning is subjective. If you want to assert that survival is the summum bonum of life, do so. If you want to believe Jesus rose from the dead, do so. The Rainbow Room permits this, as does the White Room and the common atheist's worldview. Of course, there are uncommon atheists who like to impose their subjectivity on others, asserting that life is whatever you want it to mean as long as you mean it as an atheist.

You wrote:

"Although you hinted that you may not agree with the doctrine of eternal torture in hell for unbelievers, you've stated you are a Christian. So, since you haven't stated your position on what forms of life you believe will be resurrected to live in happy harmony in heaven, I assume that you are in agreement with most Christians in that people are the only life forms that will be living forever."

Well, here I can do no other than to point out that I have not stated anything about what I think the resurrection means, what it is, or who is raised. I may be a Christian universalist, of course; I may be a Christian nihilist, believing that good deeds are the best recipe for a good life. But you are assuming too much. Besides, I am not here to discuss my Christianity. Please allow me to state that, for purposes here, I renounce Christianity. I want nothing to do with it; I accept that theism is mythology and atheism is true. But making this admission does me little good resolving my newly discovered problem: the world with no God, with no transcendence, may make perfect sense, but there is nothing in this world that demands that I jettison subjectivism. After all, nearly everyone here admits that their "meaning" comes from their own selves. As I said too many times already, if that is the case, then theism, which comes from the self, is equally valid for living in the White/Rainbow Room. So, let us not fixate on what people think I believe. Let us fixate on the realities of a godless universe.

You wrote:

Your posts have helped illustrate a point in my original rant, that Christianity is focused on death while claiming to be focused on life. I applaud you for that.

But it is not my alleged Christianity -- which I reject -- that leads me to focus on death. Death causes me to focus on death. So does LIFE. And so does the universe in which there is no god. This is MY prerogative: I find meaning in fixating on death (or not).

You ask me:

Do you personally know of a single scientist that categorically states there will be "a destruction that will and must come"?

Yes, I do.

You wrote:

It is Christianity that denigrates "this natural world" as being evil, passing away, and ruled by Satan.

No, Christianity does not dwell on this "natural world" being evil, and you can find NO orthodox position of the sort. What Christianity believes is that the natural world is wounded. There's a big difference, no?

Now, you quote me here:

Survival is intrinsically important begs a question: important to whom?

Then you write in reply:

Us, that's to whom. You don't think your survival is important? Suppose for just a minute now that there really is no metaphysical "realm" where angels, demons, deities and flying, un-dead, man-gods sit on thrones. Are you then going to rush into the street and jump under a speeding truck? We, like all of the other life forms on this planet, are hardwired to survive. The survival instinct is one of the foundational steps on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It is probably this same instinct that drives people to fabricate religions that promise transcendence from mortality. Sentience's downside, perhaps, is understanding that we are mortal.

I wonder if you realize how close you've come to proving my point. I did not say my survival was not important. I am saying that atheists (you may not be one of them) say that they find meaning in survival. And I am saying there is no objective meaning in survival. How can there be, if, as everyone has said here, MEANING IS SUBJECTIVE? Surviving for the mere sake of surviving is nothing, as is surviving because one likes the Rainbow Room. And you seem to be arguing as if "hard-wired" means something, that it indicates some big moral or some meta-meaning. So what if we are hard-wired? Plus, evolution is not some principle, it is a process; it is not directing or guiding, it is merely happening. Humans may wildly evolve into something wicked cool, but there is no meaning in that, no direction to it or purpose, and there is no value to it if we are thus NOT going to SURVIVE anyway. The sun, the stars, these shall all pass away. There is no intrinsic glory in surviving longer, especially if, in the end, we do not survive (how is that survival?). And please realize that someone on this thread has said that evolution has "finely-tuned" us to survive. No it hasn't. Evolution does no tuning: piano tuners tune, and car mechanics. In other words, intelligence tunes. Moreover, we are hardly in a position to say that we are finely-tuned to survive when compared to TIME: we humans (and all organisms) have existed but a short time and will not last a long time, proving, at last, that we are not that fit for survival (one look at the parameters necessary for biological life to emerge and one understands the very narrow confines in which we are fine-tuned: a few degrees here, a few degrees there, and we disappear quickly). Survival is hardly worth talking about in any moral or philosophic sense. And when you say that some people are driven to fabricate religions in order to cope, my reply is that you are right. But that is not my total reply, for I believe that even (many) atheists (you could not be one of them) fabricate meaning -- like survival or color or whatever -- in order to cope: Maslow's hierarchy, apparently, demands this.

You wrote:

When people believe that ... there is no escape from an eventual eternity of either kissing or cursing the deity's royal ass in some magical place called heaven or hell, well, that's when flying planes into buildings starts to make a bit of sense.

Of course, I would not caricaturize Christianity this way. I would merely point out that any person who believes that we are born of nothing and we end with nothing will have a hard time convincing the children in the Rainbow Room that they should find meaning in the colors: Some of them are going to believe that you have just consigned them to a very real hell.

You may call me an egoist, if you want, though I think, in this context, I might be an egotist. Regardless, I can be whatever I want, no?

It is a pleasure finding such passion about life in others. Good for you. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, and I am flattered that you should take the time to help me hone my own worldview. These dialogues are always good for me; they help me, I think, not only be a better thinker, they help me be a better man.

Peace to you, and may you have a good life.

Gnade

Alan said...

contratimes wrote:

Every statement I've read in the philosophy of science concerning this matter merely concedes that science has a priori decided that God is not allowed in the laboratory; but not because he is not able to be examined, but because we have a materialistic assumption in science that God is not one trace or tidbit material.

The existence of God is a perfectly valid subject for scientific inquiry, in the studies that have been done, like the Harvard study of prayer, no evidence has been found. You then say that science makes a materialistic assumption that God is immaterial, which makes no sense.

There is not a single scientific experiment, not a single lab experiment or scientific study, that has shown that Intelligent Design is not science...

It is up to Intelligent Design advocates to follow the methodology of science, which they cannot. ID has not produced any experimental work, and in fact ID advocates don't even have a scientific definition of design.

We can't say that God is or is not falsifiable. We can only say that we have NO idea how we can show either

This is incorrect. If you define God as a being that effects our physical world then that is testable. If you define God as a being in another dimension that does not effect our world then that is outside current scientific methodology, and is more an exercise in philosophy.

When excavating a cell, or an ancient artifact, you MUST NOT LOOK for any explanation that does not come from a closed materialistic system

You don't define what a "closed materialistic system" actually is, but you can offer any hypothesis you want to explain the data.

When someone tells you that God cannot be proved, they are speaking, not from science, but from religion

No, they are speaking from experience. People have been trying to prove the existence of God for thousands of years with no success.

You see, God MIGHT be proved, and we are marching toward that momentous discovery right now.

How are we marching toward that momentous discovery?

What we don't know now should never be absolutized.

Science constantly challenges our assumptions and adds to our knowledge, things that are true withstand scrutiny, those that don't are discarded.

Scientists, whether atheistic (Carl Sagan) or theistic (Darwin, Pascal), have both aided and hampered the advance of humanity.

You might as well argue that knowledge has aided and hampered humanity. The imprudent use of knowledge has caused harm, but saying we can blame science for Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, or a plane flown into a building is disingenuous.

Do the atheist and the theist practice medicine differently in the trauma center?

No, they both behave like atheists.

Christians who committed violence were not REALLY acting out their Christianity

If you have a guidebook for telling who is a "true" Christian, please let us know.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boomslang,

I believe I have spelled out my case very well in other comments here.

As for your quip about gentility, since I am supposed to be a Christian (though I just rejected that above), then gentility is a welcome thing in a fallen world. In a world where there is nothing transcendent, then gentility is also a gift. But you are right: Since all meaning is subjective, one man's cruelty is another man's kindness. Gentility becomes elastic, fluid, even, perhaps, meaningless (for those who want to fashion meaning that way, according to their own proclivities).

I mention consolation in the White Room because someone here argued that the concept of hell was tormenting and cruel. I see that it is; but I also see that telling children that meaning is subjective and that oblivion is both our womb and grave is hardly an improvement on things.

It may be that all non-theists are filled with joy. But I would think that, if this were the case, they would not be as inspired to help humanity with its many ills. Surely at least a few non-theists (and that is what I said, by the way, not all, as you report), are discontent: they are very cranky and disturbed by Christianity (and don't tell me they are not).

You are right that I am saying that we must stay focussed on the exit door, for that is reality. It is the absolute. Everything else is subjective wishfulness. Moreover, it is my FREE choice, since I am now a subjectivist, to fixate on that door, and tell you all to as well, if I so choose. I find meaning in that.

It is interesting that you should mention revealed truth. Please note something. I have not made a single reference to revealed truth in any of the sentences I have posted here. Have I? You can't find a one. Not one! I don't believe in revealed truth today (see above). I only need to follow the path laid here by others. And what do I find? If you don't know the answer yet, well, then I have failed to articulate my ideas in a manner that you would appreciate (as you intimate in your comments).

I must quote you here:

Like I said in an earlier post--if the theist spends 20 % of their lifetime focused on trying to get into "the next life", that's 20% more time they could've been showing/telling their friends and family that they love them.

As for my wasting time being a theist versus being an atheist, well, all I can say is "Oiks!" I shouldn't enjoy the sounds of a symphony, or the undulating flight of the pileated woodpecker, I should not be photographing beauty and irony, or penning poems about war and death and injustice, if I instead should be using my time telling people I love them. Wasted time, after all, is wasted time.

Peace to you, Boomslang, and thanks for being a person who is engaged in the deeper things in life. I appreciate our exchange.

Blessings!

Gnade

boomSLANG said...

So, if we are going to be agnostic, let us be so with humility.

Note: "Being" some "thing" with "humility" is a temporal/temporary act. Whether it is a "gift", is irrelevant, as whatever meaning I, the non-theist, derive from it, it is "meaningless"(or so I've been told by the theist). Thus, it is only a "diversion" from the inevitable "oblivion" that lies in the "abyss", remember? So, again, we can ask: Why be humble?

You are right: I do believe that atheism and nihilism are synonymous.

This is totally absurd, IMO. That's like saying theism is synonymous with extremism. If all non-theists are motivated and/or affected by "nothingness" in EXACTLY the same regard, or disregard(as you assert)....then we can say that ALL theists are motivated and/or affected by the "hereafter" in exactly the same regard, which we know, is blatantly untrue. The Phelp's "Children of God" believe I should join them in their "hate homosexuals" campaign, in order to make it into the "hereafter".

It(Atheism) is utterly and completely a faith-based enterprise; as such, it is indistinguishable from any other religious belief.

Unreal. Okay, you no doubt have no belief in "Allah", so are you a member of the "faith-based enterprise" for the non-existance of Allah?

It(Atheism) stares at reality without flinching, without reaching for more.[bold added]

...::sigh::..

Again, you could have no way of knowing what people do, or do not, "reach for"---not to mention, these crass assertions are based on what you "THINK" everyone should "reach for". More projecting from the one-size-fits-all community called "theists".

We just don't agree (though perhaps we do) on whether atheism or theism (as isms) leads to genocide.

What physical wars are being fought right this second in the name of non-theism? And genocide?....I thought propagation of the species was unimportant?...'just a way of "buying time" before the inevitable "abyss".

Give me a doctor who looks at me with reason AND a hunch, a contra-rational or even intuitive hunch, and I will take his advice any day over that doctor who simply follows reason.

A "hunch" might get the wrong leg amputated. That's why people get second, third, and fourth opinions. Science isn't perfect, nonetheless, I'll take the doctor trained in science over the one who "prays", or "blesses" me.

Reason be with you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alan,

I think if you were to reread my posts you would see that I have already anticipated your questions, or I've already answered them.

I have said that all we can say is that we do not know how to test for God; and that we do not know that we can't (always) or never will. And I have intimated that we may have already found him and not known it. This latter idea is a bit like standing on a vast white plain on a hillside. It is mere dirt, mere chalk and limestone. But we are blind because of proximity: it is really a giant Thin Man on a Sussex slope. We can't see it because we think we've already found its essence, or that there is no evidence for more. But all we have found is white dust. We need to pull away to see that it is a giant white rendering of a man -- in perspective -- painted onto a giant hillside (this is a Chesterton analogy, by the way).

Guess what? There is nothing disingenuous in what I wrote. It is dead on. Blaming theism for impeding humanity is disingenuous, because it is to misunderstand theism. But I have not misunderstood science (which implies application, I believe).

As for me showing you the quintessential or real Christian, why should I do that? I made no claim that I could: I merely pointed out how some Christians argue in defense of charges that Christianity breeds violence. I have no idea what a true Christian looks like, just as I have no idea what a true atheist looks like.

Science is not the only thing that challenges our presuppositions. Without doing anything scientific here, I have challenged presuppositions; as have others. Religion, in fact, challenges presuppositions: pro-life advocates challenge science's view of fetal life; they challenge denials of embryonic value, and so on.

Yes, you are right, and you prove MY POINT: If the atheistic and the theistic medical doctors both behave like atheists (your claim), then there is NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT BEING AN ATHEIST. Being a theist changes nothing about REALITY. Thank you, thank you, for that.

Peace, and mirth.

Gnade

Jim Arvo said...

contratimes/BG, you have yet to define "meaning", so there is a great deal of equivocation and miscommunication going on here. The colloquial sense of "meaning" is either the intention of an utterance, say, or the quality of having great significance or exerting great influence. Clearly it's the second that comes closest to being relevant to your point, is it not? But then, you may have something else in mind.

So, before trying to address the old philosophical questions you've been raising, can we agree what "meaning" is, and then perhaps cite a few examples of things that indeed have "meaning"? Without this exercise, there is little point in making fine distinctions, and scant hope of reaching agreement. It's like performing brain surgery with butter knives.

In a similar spirit, you've been asking "What advantage does atheism have over theism?" This is also futile to address without knowing what you mean by "advantage". Can you cite an example where one belief has an "advantage" over another? Does that not immediately raise the question of "advantage with respect to what?" In other words, there is an implicit norm in that question. If you make the norm explicit, perhaps you can get an answer. If you are looking for others to supply that norm, then perhaps you ought to ask a different question, as atheism vs. theism seems to be only a distraction.

You said "What I find, honestly, is hubris in much of atheism. Many atheists are not humble before what they cannot know: they boast that what is unknowable is ALWAYS going to be unknowable." You continue to make judgments about "many atheists," none of which strike me as realistic, and many of which seem purely antagonistic. May I suggest that you pose the question "If something is unknowable today, will it necessarily remain so forever?" and see how people here respond. Phrased that way it seems quite silly, does it not? But if indeed "may atheists" believe this, then a simple experiment should help us to gauge how many. You may count me as a "no" vote.

If you are indeed here to seek answers, and not simply to pronounce your own conclusions (as you implied earlier), then it seems to me that asking an atheist where they stand would be far more useful than stating where your hypothetical (and largely fictional) atheist stands. This would also reduce the risk of equivocation, as you will likely be asked to clarify what you mean when you pose your question to a living breathing person as opposed to a fictional puppet.

I await your definitions of meaning and advantage. It would be helpful to also hear your definition of atheist, as I gather from your comments that you intend significantly more than many atheists do (including me).

Anonymous said...

Dear Larry Dodds,

Thank you for the comments.

You wrote:

The Atheist observation is, that had an all knowing, all benevolent, all omniscient, God exist, then this God could have easily prevented any of the previous atrocities (especially Gods chosen, Jews?) to been prevented, he/she/it could have intervened and caused any of the above murderer's to have had a heart attack or stroke and no one would have been the wiser that a God had intervened.

This is classic theodicy, the classic problem of evil, except for one premise. You mention God's omni-benevolence and you mention his omnipotence. These two are usually pinned onto the problem of evil argument. But then you add one which is not part of the classical problem. You add omniscience. I wonder why you've done that here. Because, you see, it could lead to an atheist's undoing. Please, tell us: How would an omniscient being stop evil and suffering?

OK. Now, if you want to see my answer to the problem of evil, then I invite you to read my (ENTIRE) four part series, The Problem of Knowing Good and Evil, which starts here. If you think you've "heard it all before," then do not read it; but I believe it presents a very fresh, unique argument. Of course, I will let you decide for yourself. I can at least promise that you will be entertained.

Peace,

BG

Alan said...

contratimes wrote:

I have said that all we can say is that we do not know how to test for God

You need to define what you mean by "God." A being that causes changes in our physical world can be tested for.

And I have intimated that we may have already found him and not known it

That is an absurd statement. You can't find something without knowing that you found it.

Blaming theism for impeding humanity is disingenuous...

That is not something I addressed, however I would disagree.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim Arvo,

I have at no time prevented anyone from defining terms. Anyone here, if they thought I was equivocating, could have asked me earlier for definitions; and any reader or writer could have defined these terms themselves -- how they meant them -- such as the word "atheist", without waiting for me to ask them. If you would like to define atheism, please do. If you would like to define theism, please do. If you would like to defend a particular definition of advantage, I encourage you to do so.

But before you do, let me ask you: isn't this all a bit late? I mean, Alan has perhaps unwittingly given me the upper hand.

I asked the following:

Do the atheist and the theist practice medicine differently in the trauma center?

Alan answered perfectly:

No, they both behave like atheists.

You see the problem here, don't you? You see how this proves my point, right? Here's how I responded to Alan:

Yes, you are right, and you prove MY POINT: If the atheistic and the theistic medical doctors both behave like atheists (your claim), then there is NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT BEING AN ATHEIST. Being a theist changes nothing about REALITY. Thank you, thank you, for that.

So, have we not come to the end of this? Does this not prove my point: If the atheist and the theist define meaning for themselves, there is nothing gained in being one or the other. Alan, at least, thinks is the case, and he, I believe, is on your side in this debate.

Choose whatever definition you want in order to define "advantage." I am fine with whatever YOU choose. Don't expect me to help here, though I could. Am I wrong that atheists believe that non-theism is an advantage, a benefit, a plus, a victory, a glory, a head-start, a rung above, a step higher, than theism? What is that benefit if we all define our own meaning?

I am seriously interested in your reply.

Blessings!

BG

.:webmaster:. said...

Dear Dave (Webmaster),

BG: I don't believe I said a thing…

WM: Perhaps if you would condescend to defining some terms as Jim suggested and then transparently state the position you hold on these things, rather than using a cryptic question/answer/didactic approach to the topic, the discussion would be more productive. As it is, all I find myself doing is guessing at your real purpose while getting the impression, from the timbre of your writing, that you have an inflated opinion of yourself. Frankly, the evasive, flowery, phraseology is annoying.

One thing I would like to make knows is that this is not a staunchly atheistic site. It is, however, a staunchly ex-Christian site. There are many posters here who subscribe to some form of theism or deism. The stated purpose of the site is not necessarily to promote atheism as much as it is to encourage those who have left the cult of Christianity. To let those who are de-programming know that they are not alone.

BG: Well, here I can do no other than to point out that I have not stated anything about what I think…

WM: Again, transparency would be appreciated.

WM: Do you personally know of a single scientist that categorically states there will be "a destruction that will and must come"?

BG: Yes, I do.

WM: Does this person have a name? Or a book? I'd be interested.

WM: It is Christianity that denigrates "this natural world" as being evil, passing away, and ruled by Satan.

BG: No, Christianity does not dwell on this "natural world" being evil, and you can find NO orthodox position of the sort.

WM: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”—I John 2:15 “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.”— Matthew 13:40. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” II Cor 4:4, “The prince of this world cometh” John 14:30. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, —Eph 2:2. “For we wrestle … against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” — Eph 6:12.

Now, perhaps some churches teach that the creation is only wounded, but many teach that this world will be destroyed by fire: “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”— II Peter 3:10.

BG: I wonder if you realize how close you've come to proving my point.

WM: Call me dense, but I’m not getting the point. Science is nowhere near solving all the mysteries of the universe, life or the number 42. You appear to me to be arguing against a naturalistic worldview based on assumptions as to what science has or has not discovered thus far. I don’t know that "the sun, stars, and these shall all pass away," although that is a Christian belief.

WMWhen people believe that ... there is no escape from an eventual eternity of either kissing or cursing the deity's royal ass in some magical place called heaven or hell, well, that's when flying planes into buildings starts to make a bit of sense.

BG: Of course, I would not caricaturize Christianity this way.

WM: Of course you wouldn’t, but sometimes caricatures not only bear a striking resemblance to the model, but capture the model’s very essence. In this case, the caricature is apt.

Hugs, kisses, and a friendly noogie on the pate.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boomslang,

I see you are commenting on my remarks offered to Mr. Samuelson. Forgive me for the delay in offering a reply.

Here is one thing you said (about my argument) that I believe should not go unnoticed. First you quote me:

It(Atheism) is utterly and completely a faith-based enterprise; as such, it is indistinguishable from any other religious belief.

And then you reply:

Unreal. Okay, you no doubt have no belief in "Allah", so are you a member of the "faith-based enterprise" for the non-existance of Allah?

Please note what you've done. You have put in parentheses the word "Atheism". But it has no right being there in that alleged quote, since it is NOT WHAT I SAID. You've added it, proving that you did not understand my statement.

Here is what I wrote:

You are right: I do believe that atheism and nihilism are synonymous. I reject an atheist's argument that his sense of meaning and purpose is somehow exempt from being called a religious faith. It is utterly and completely a faith-based enterprise; as such, it is indistinguishable from any other religious belief. The only honest atheism is nihilistic, stripped of fictions and pretense. It stares at reality without flinching, without reaching for more.

Please note what the IT modifies in line 3: IT modifies "sense of meaning and purpose." I am NOT saying atheism is a religious conviction. Far from it. I am saying that an atheist's sense of purpose and meaning is a fiction, self-generated, based entirely in faith. It is not FOUND in the cosmos; it is not found in the White Room; it is not found in science or logic or reason. It is found in faith. Exactly the way a theist's sense of meaning is found: it is found in the myth-generating self. The atheist who accepts this fact, and strips himself of his mythic trappings so to look squarely at the absolute which is NOTHINGNESS, is, indeed a nihilist. Honesty, in my opinion, necessitates this benign acceptance that nothingness is the only absolute.

So, in all of this, I wonder if you will correct your mistake (which you made more than once, by the way).

As for non-theistic wars: Hmm. You've got me stumped. Name a religious war right now that's going on. Then we'll go from there.

Of course, let's not forget that between Stalin and Mao we're looking at about 60,000,000 dead, and there's the 2 million (right?) of Pol Pot. Those weren't wars. Those were mere atheistic exterminations.

Blessings!

BG

.:webmaster:. said...

BG, since you deem it fruitful to link up your lofty teachings and mis-credit atheism with crimes against humanity, here's a link or two for that you may find helpful: A Moral Argument for Atheism. | The Revenge of the Petty Bourgeoisie Intelligentsia.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

You are right to point out that the earth, and all that is in it, shall be destroyed, or Christianity declares. But not because it is evil, but because what cannot be healed cannot endure. But annihilation is not the end; a new heaven and new earth are restored (which sounds, curiously, like Nietzsche's eternal recurrence). But I will avoid debating what it means when Christianity describes the fate of evil people. That is a very different subject. But it might just mean that some people refuse to be healed. That makes sense, since I know people like that right now.

My points stand re: definitions. I have made myself clear, and Alan has given me the most important statement of this debate.

I have no doubt, sir, that there are theists here, or deists. I have perhaps sent a few Christians here myself. But the fact remains that I have been accused here of fixating on death. If people would just go back and read your initial post, the one that inspired this discussion, everyone will see that you are quite fixated on death. In fact, it is a hinge of your argument: we all have the same fate, and the same origins -- nothingness. I did not introduce this fatalism. You did. Moreover, you hardly defined a single term; nor did you make any real attempt to present Christianity as it really is. You painted a caricature of it; we both know you did, if you are the former Christian you claim to be. Why should I, a guest here, do what the host has not done? If you want to define words, go for it. I'd love that. But I did not come here to discuss MY CHRISTIANITY; apparently that is what everyone wants me to do because they believe themselves skilled in destroying Christian faith. However, the destruction here has not occurred within Christianity. It has occurred within atheism. Any atheist who is not a nihilist is fooling himself or herself. Any atheist who thinks that there is no transcendence and that meaning is subjective, cannot with any sense of honor say that theism is not also a form of viable subjective meaning. If there is nothing absolute but the void, then any meaning is as good as anything else for the subjective self.

Alan, you see, agrees with me. He might not have meant to, but I can't help that.

Peace,

Gnade

PS. Thanks for the link to the site. I will gladly read it. At least one of us will click on a link sent to the other. And I will not merely click, I will study, analyze, engage. Alas, hardly a person from here has looked at my links. What do you think of that? Interesting.

.:webmaster:. said...

BG: Alas, hardly a person from here has looked at my links. What do you think of that? Interesting.

Could there be more reasons than one that people aren't frequenting your site?

Think about it.

BG: Why should I, a guest here, do what the host has not done?

BG, I've been posting on this site since 2001. People are pretty well familiar with my style and intentions. You, however, are a stranger, so introductions are in order. Apparently the message I attempted to convey came across clearly to my audience. Your message is shrouded in mist, hence the request for definitions. It's not asking too much.

Love, flowers, bell bottoms, and a Hendricks riff.

boomSLANG said...

So, in all of this, I wonder if you will correct your mistake (which you made more than once, by the way).

Wonder no more---I'd much rather my errors be pointed out, than defend them in perpetuity = ) Thanks again, and my humble apologies(although it should mean nothing to you)

I reject an atheist's argument that his sense of meaning and purpose is somehow exempt from being called a religious faith. It is utterly and completely a faith-based enterprise

Irrelevant conclusion, nonetheless. Look, you can "call" something anything you damned well please. However, you can't, and haven't, substantiated your misguided interpretation/generalization of what "meaning" is for a "person" who lacks belief in God(s). "Faith-based" implies something EXTRA...as in "The Christian Faith". I don't call it that, theists call it that. Why don't they refer to themselves as members of the "Christian Knowledge"? ..or "The Christian Agnostics"?

Again, so Contra', where is the "extra" in the non-belief in God(s)?....even if every theist on the globe shouts, "The meaning in life for a non-theist is a faith!!!"(add collective spittle from the Christians)Waiting.

As for non-theistic wars: Hmm. You've got me stumped. Name a religious war right now that's going on. Then we'll go from there.

You're too intelligent to be a dolt. So why don't you tell ME what your "loophole" is? You obviously have one---tell me why the Protestants killing the Catholics; the Muslims killing the Jews ISN'T "religiously" motivated, and THEN we'll go from there.

Moreover, since you love to generalize so much about non-theists, where is the evidence that ALL theists, uh, "flourish", I believe is the word you used. That means--every denomintation/sect/religion should be shown to "flourish", if you insist on making blanketed assertions. And we can use your definition of "flourish".

BTW, it's a "Christ-less" grave..not...a "God-less" grave. Do tell---how do you arrive at "Christ" from a "Thin Man on a Sussex slope"? No analogies please, only factual information on how you arrive from "A", to "B".

As for my wasting time being a theist versus being an atheist, well, all I can say is "Oiks!" I shouldn't enjoy the sounds of a symphony, or the undulating flight of the pileated woodpecker, I should not be photographing beauty and irony, or penning poems about war and death and injustice, if I instead should be using my time telling people I love them. Wasted time, after all, is wasted time.

Both sad and ironic how you equate such activities as listening to oboes and snapping pictures with letting the people you care about know how you feel about them.

Please, tell us: How would an omniscient being stop evil and suffering?

He'd use his "omnipotence".

(more later)

Reason be with you.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Mr. Gnade,

I've missed a great deal of discussion while I was at work, I see. Therefore, what follows may have already been addressed, answered, or dismissed. Nevertheless, I'm posting it. Mostly because I did spend my lunch hour on it. :)

*********************************

Thank you for the kind words, though I can see some rather large gaps in my reply to you and hardly think it could be called 'brilliant.' Be that as it may, having read your most recent post in light of the overall tenor of this dialogue I think I have a clearer understanding of your position - or at least facets thereof - than before. My previous reply was written very late and in retrospect was not complete. Caffeine is a poor substitute for healthy, uninterrupted sleep. However, others have answered quite capably even if their prose did not meet with your approval.

If you'll forgive my presumption, the sum of your position seems that it could be expressed in three questions: Why do atheists care how theists distract themselves in this White Room if we are all bound for oblivion and meaning is - well, meaningless? Furthermore, if meaning and value are subjective, who erects the standards by which reason, logic, and behavior are measured, if not each individual? Finally, isn't atheism equal to theism with regard to epistemology?

Would this be accurate? If not, we can fine-tune it later. For the moment, I will assume it is and add my two-cents to the answers others have already provided. I don't pretend to speak for all atheists; mine is the opinion of just one secular humanist.

Your position belies a common prejudice among theists that those of us who either straddle or reside on the other side of the theological fence have a substantively different approach to life. This is true in only one respect: we don't believe in or worship a deity. Therefore, we do not busy ourselves with the task of 'laying up treasures in heaven.' Otherwise, most of us have the same concerns as theists. To wit, we are concerned about our health, our families, our communities, our environment, and of course the rising cost of gas. In other words, the business of living.

In purely generic terms, everyone lives temporally to the extent that all of us go about the business of living one way or another until the inevitable happens. Each of us attempts to add value and meaning to our own life, the lives of those around us, and the world at large. The atheist believes that by conducting that business she is simply adding value and meaning as described above. Rather than paving the way to heaven, the atheist is paving the way for future generations to do the same. Hopefully the cumulative effect will be that a) there will be future generations; b) there will be an earth for them to live on, to the extent that we can keep our human tendency to destroy the environment in check; c) they will be able to enjoy life and build upon previous generations' achievements.

I've already said this (and Dave outlined it nicely in his first reply to you), but again the atheist derives personal meaning from relationship and endeavor. That meaning may indeed be subjective and temporal, but that doesn't reduce its importance. Take this a step further and we can easily deduce that a person's life has meaning beyond the individual. We add or remove value from the lives of those around us by our actions, and have meaning for them to the extent that they are close to us. To my daughter, I mean safety, love, and learning (along with a new Playstation). That this meaning is temporal (I must eventually die), does not make it any less important for my daughter. Hopefully, she can take something away from her time with me that will enhance her life and that she decides is worth passing on to her children.

On a grander scale, our lives can have meaning for the world in which we live. Though most of our fellow humans will never know us, we can make choices that influence their lives in profound ways. The decisions we make individually based on our subjective values from which we derive our subjective meanings do not mean much. But as a collective, they do. Our collective decision to prosecute a war or pursue peace, to enact laws that add to or remove others' rights, to control the availability of jobs, products, or services - all of which are based on subjective values and meanings - can radically alter the values, perceptions, and even the meaning of life for both individuals and societies.

Theists live much the same way, and derive further meaning from that by their own definitions (except for perhaps pantheists) exists in a place inaccessible save through death.

The above should illustrate that although the meanings and values we subjectively apply need not originate with a transcendent being, they themselves transcend the individual. They become a living legacy through successive generations and, given a long enough timeline, societies.

This brings me to why atheists care how theists distract themselves.

At this point, the answer to this question should be self-evident. As Dave pointed out in his first reply to you, ideas have consequences. Theists who derive meaning from some allegedly eternal Truth™ can make things decidedly unpleasant for the rest of us, including other theists. Having read some of your blog, I know you are cognizant of this. After all, Islamists (theists) derive their meaning for life and their values - each of which is again, subjective as you say - from some book they say originates with something eternal outside the White Room. As you well know, their values and meaning of life has had profound implications for us, starting before but punctuated by 9/11.

Here in the U.S., the evangelical movement has been trying with some success to impose theistic doctrines through government into the laboratory, the classroom, and even the bedroom. In other words, they are hardly keeping to themselves, as many theists suggest for the rest of us. The Catholic Church rabidly denounces condom use, advocating abstinence instead. Unfortunately, people aren't very good at abstinence (witness the ever growing population). Thus, we have millions of people (particularly in Africa) having unprotected sex, generating unwanted and so-called illegitimate children (those that aren't aborted anyway), and helping to spread STDs, of which AIDS is the most heinous. Why? In part, at least, from this verse: Gen. 38:9-10.

Bottom line is that we have 1st and 14th century ideas being promulgated in the 21st century in rather unpleasant and even destructive ways. That is why atheists care how theists distract themselves.

Moving on...

We've already covered the subject of meaning and value, so I won't repeat it. However, the second question was regarding who erects the standards for reason, logic, and behavior. The answer is really very simple; we do. Collectively as a species we have gradually evolved set rules by which we govern our behavior and define the rules of logic. Our behavioral rules evolved out of the need for survival not just as individuals but as members of a collective, and on the grandest scale, a species. We are by turns cooperative and competitive, depending on which most enhances life.

Regarding logic and reason, even theists agree with nearly every rule, except in the one domain that sometimes seems nearly impervious; religion. Indeed, they have arisen out of many successive (and subjective) judgments, but for all intensive purposes are accepted by the bulk of humanity as valid and seemingly transcendent, objective, or eternal truths. That anyone should argue about whether these things are valid or not because they might not originate with the divine seems a waste of time.

Now, it's true that there are those who break these rules. In behavioral terms, this has a negative impact on the quality of life and sometimes survival itself for the individual and those s/he hurts in the process. Such people, if they survive their own anti-social behavior, are usually ostracized, imprisoned, or terminated so as to prevent them from acting in a similar manner in the future. Breaking the rules of logic or reason are much less deadly, and usually result simply with the individual being marginalized as a thinker in polite circles. However, there are times when faulty logic or reason carries through to behavior, in which case it can have the same effect as straightforward behavioral malfunction. These folks are treated to a similar dose of collective retribution.

Finally, if all things were equal I would gladly concede that theism and atheism are on even footing with regard to epistemology. However, all things are not equal. Opinion is not equal to fact, a lack of evidence is not equal to its presence, and objectivity is not equal to subjectivity. Of course, hierarchical judgments like this are themselves subjective, so the question must be put to the collective. Fortunately, it already has. I don't know and have never met anyone, theist or non-theist, who would argue the reverse, though I suppose it's possible.

By the way, this is not to say that atheism has what theism lacks. Both have shares of each. But more theists than atheists seem to prefer opinion while calling it fact, to point at gaps in our knowledge and call it evidence, and to cling to subjectivity rather than striving for objectivity. No one can be truly objective, of course. But it is worth striving for, because that is where the evidence is found, gathered, vetted, and eventually taught. We may never find pure, objective truth, but we may perhaps come close. Theists are welcome to join in the search as far as I'm concerned, so long as they are willing to give up their 1st and 14th century superstitions in light of new evidence. I won't be holding my breath, though.

Alan said...

contratimes wrote:

Alan, you see, agrees with me. He might not have meant to, but I can't help that.

contratimes, I'm not sure I even know what you are talking about. I should have said both the atheist and the theist doctor will behave the same, using reason and logic, as that is what they are trained to do and that is what will provide the best possible outcome. Away from the operating room the religious doctor may lead his life and raise his kids in a totally different way than the atheist, religious people can often compartmentalize rational thought and irrational belief.

As for your claim that "any atheist who is not a nihilist is fooling himself or herself," according to Merriam-Webster nihilism is:

1 a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless
b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths

I don't think that describes very many atheists.

Jim Arvo said...

BG: "Anyone here, if they thought I was equivocating, could have asked me earlier for definitions; and any reader or writer could have defined these terms themselves -- how they meant them -- such as the word "atheist"..."

Correct. I have done all of the above. I challenged you to define what you meant by "meaning" early on, I gave my impression of what is "meaningful" (relationships with others who influence my thinking and my decisions), and I gave you rough definitions of both "atheist" and "theist". To refresh your memory, I said that as an atheist I harbor no belief in invisible conscious entities.

BG: "let me ask you: isn't this all a bit late?"

No, as I explained above. Regardless, if you are legitimately interested in gaining an understanding of what you ask, why would it matter when pertinent points are made?

BG: "I mean, Alan has perhaps unwittingly given me the upper hand.... I asked the following: Do the atheist and the theist practice medicine differently in the trauma center?..."

I can see you are quite proud of that. But I wouldn't be patting myself on the back just yet. I will not put words into Alan's mouth, but I would have phrased it just a bit differently. I would have said that both ought to behave like atheists, at least with respect to prayer. In other words, it is still a possibility that the Christian would opt for prayer instead of action, which (in my view) could have tragic consequences. So, I posit that there *is* a difference, which could result in different outcomes (although, thankfully, it usually does not).

BG: "So, have we not come to the end of this? Does this not prove my point: If the atheist and the theist define meaning for themselves, there is nothing gained in being one or the other."

Not by a long shot. Not all definitions of "meaning" connote pure subjectivity, although I suspect that all reasonable definitions do entail some subjectivity. For example, another view of "meaning" is the correspondence between "concepts" (subjective) and "reality" (objective). So, I would still like for you to tell me how you define meaning. (This is my third request.) Also, you fail to make a concrete connection between "meaning" and "gain". You have too many undefined terms for your statement to impart any useful idea, so this has yet to get started, in my opinion.

BG: "Alan, at least, thinks is the case, and he, I believe, is on your side in this debate."

This is hardly a debate. You are making some fairly outlandish assertions (e.g. atheism = nihilism) and making quite a few statements that can be interpreted in vastly different ways. Most of it seems to boil down to semantics. You like your definition of atheist, and you think it entails something. I'm still trying to figure out what that is, and what you have to support it.

BG: "Choose whatever definition you want in order to define 'advantage.' I am fine with whatever YOU choose."

You asked the question, so you should be able to define what you mean by it. The alternatives that you offer for "advantage" still fail to articulate a norm. If I were to supply the norm of alphabetical ordering, then "atheism" comes out "on top". Not a very useful norm.

But I will give you a definition nonetheless. I will take it to be an "advantage" to harbor fewer unsupported or very poorly supported beliefs. The rationale being that it is then less likely to make further inferences that are similarly unsupported, and thereby lessen one pervasive source of error in reasoning.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Mr. Gnade,

Thank you for the reply.

"All we can say is that we do not know whether God's existence CAN be shown to be falsifiable or not. It may very well be provable or disprovable."

Suppose a neighbor believes his household hammer once belonged to Thor, God of Thunder. This is an example of a belief that can't be falsified. Why? Because regardless how skillful our questions, no matter how compelling our evidence is that it actually came from the corner hardware store, he can continue to provide answers that leave us scratching our heads. Even were we to trace the lineage of each and every molecule of that hammer, he can still equivocate, redefine evidence, indulge in some theological gerrymandering, and in the end claim that it existed with Thor in a realm forever beyond our reach (or even has a dual existence; one in this universe, one on the astral plane).

The theist can (and often does) do the same with his deity. If we were, as ID proponents sometimes suggest, to find a supremely advanced alien civilization capable of creating everything in the universe, the theist can still assert that his god is the origin of it all. In one of those odd twists of fate, the theist would very likely be asking the same question atheists have been asking since the beginning; who designed the designer?

In short, the problem of infinite regress (circular reasoning) is why God cannot be falsified. There is, and can be, no emprirical evidence for or against that which forever lies beyond our physical, temporal reach. An atheist can't prove God doesn't exist any more than a theist can prove otherwise. An atheist can accept this and safely reject God as an unfalsifiable, untestable concept.

Alan suggested that if God is defined as a being that effects our physical universe, then God would be testable. I would suggest that if this were the case, we would be testing phenomena (the effects), not God. If the phenomena can be determined to have been caused by natural processes supported by other findings now or in the future, then God is not a necessary explanation.

"If someone says to you that Intelligent Design (for example) is not science, they are not talking science when they say that...There is not a single scientific experiment, not a single lab experiment or scientific study, that has shown that Intelligent Design is not science..."

I am saying that ID is not science, and I am talking science. That may seem like a bold statement, but it really isn't. Science is what scientists do. If ID proponents ever move beyond the hypothetical, develop a cogent definition of design that isn't entirely dependent on the anthropic principle, and conduct experiments of their own that show positive evidence for design that could refute aspects of evolution, I will gladly retract my initial statement.

At this juncture, ID proponents - as intelligent and knowledgeable as some of them surely are - have done little more than arbitrarily determine that some things have been designed and point to gaps in evolutionary theory. As an additional exercise, they've tried their damnedest to get their theory accepted as a workable alternative to evolution everywhere except in the scientific community. Even Phillip Johnson, one of ID's principle advocates, has said "This isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science...It's about religion and philosophy. (quoted from this article). I seem to remember also reading another quote from an ID proponent who admitted that ID's weakest link is the absence of supporting evidence, or something to that effect. I wish I could remember where; I'd give you the link.

But enough about that.

"I mean, if we could get a bit of God's DNA into the lab, how do we know it would not be the helium atom, or liquid mercury?"

Many theists would call that pantheism, and not reflective at all of the personal God they have a relationship with. One might have a good chuckle at those who have, as it turns out, been saying an atom loves them. But I digress.

If it were to be the case that we have been examining God all along, I have to ask - what is the point of theism? To put it another way, if God can be described in such naturalistic terms then why call it God in the first place? Do you see now why God is not important in the laboratory? Thank you for helping to prove the point before anyone even mentioned it.

"Many atheists are not humble before what they cannot know: they boast that what is unknowable is ALWAYS going to be unknowable."

Are you related to Donald Rumsfeld? Sorry, couldn't resist. Ok, seriously though do you see a contradiction (and potential for circular reasoning) here? "Atheists...cannot know..." you said. We cannot know that what is unknowable may someday be knowable, but then we will know that we did not know that what is unknowable would become knowable , which means that we could know but didn't know that the unknowable was actually knowable...

To borrow your expression....OIKS!

I am always humbled by the immensity of what we do not know, but stand in awe of what we have learned so far.

"...God MIGHT be proved, and we are marching toward that momentous discovery right now."

We are? Says who? Are you referring to the imminent return of Jesus, the inevitable march toward death (after which we atheists will find out how wrong we were), or something else entirely? If it was either of the former, then I will gracefully concede the point; there would be nothing left to discuss. If it was the latter, perhaps all is not lost.

"...there was a time when we could not fly, and that, though there were dreamers who believed we someday could, they themselves did not know the mathematics or the engineering or the physics to make the space shuttle possible."

True enough. However, you will note that these things conform to the natural laws of physics and energy. We did not understand them, but they could be understood. God is categorically different by any standard except pantheism, in which case God really has no place in science anyway.

"Scientists...have both aided and hampered the advance of humanity."

I have argued nothing to the contrary. Not once have I said that science was the perfect solution to all of life's problems; what I have always argued is that science produces superior answers to questions pertaining to our existence. Its solutions, while imperfect, are generally more reliable than the miraculous. Yes, this is a subjective judgment related to the hierarchy of knowledge I pointed to in a previous post. If this is religious zeal, as you say, then guilty as charged.

Where science looks to find answers in this, our tangible, temporal, and testable universe, religion looks to the intangible, the omnitemporal, and untestable beyond. Non-overlapping magisteria, as the late Dr. Gould said.

"To say that atheism is concerned with this world and imply that Christianity is not is a bit misbegotten."

I think I hinted at this in today's post, but here is another answer tailored to this statement.

There are theists who involve themselves quite deeply in improving the lives of others. I never meant to suggest otherwise, and I can see how one could draw that conclusion from what I said. Mea Culpa. Personally, I think they would probably do so regardless of belief, acting on the 'better angels of our nature,' as it were. Nevertheless, I can only say that from a theological standpoint this could only come about if they were willing to disregard or minimize the importance of contradictory doctrines within their own faith. That is, theists who do so have to ignore or reinterpret faith doctrines that conflict with those advocating positive engagement with the world. One need look no further than the Bible or the Koran to find these contradictory commands.

At this point I feel it is important to say that not all of the ideas theism offers are bad. Yet those good ideas are also found in philosophies that aren't tied to gods. As such they are not dependent on theism, or if they were at one time they no longer need be.

"Do the atheist and the theist practice medicine differently in the trauma center?"

Alan answered this extremely well, and I don't think he handed you the victory you think he did. The theist and atheist both practice medicine as atheists because they should. Theism offers no workable answers to medical problems. Scientific naturalism does. If the theist doctor were to adopt purely theistic methods at the operating table, the mortality rate of his patients would be horrifying - until he lost his license, that is.

The theist doctor does not practice theist medicine because it does not work. This elevates him to technical equality with the atheist doctor at the operating table. Please note that I said 'technical equality.' I was not assigning an arbitrary value as individuals to either of them.

"The only honest atheism is nihilistic, stripped of fictions and pretense. It stares at reality without flinching, without reaching for more."

On the contrary, the honest atheist recognizes the normative and functionally absolute nature of evolved ethics and behavior. He recognizes these norms as adding value to his own existence and that of his fellows. He unflinchingly reaches for more for himself, his loved ones, and his society because that is what humans do; to do otherwise would be an aberration. He strips away fictions and pretense because they get in the way of progress.

In contrast, the theist clings to fictions and pretense. He recognizes the normative and functionally absolute nature of ethics and behavior, but makes allowances for those ideas belonging to his faith that reduce the quality of life and thinks all of it comes from heaven. He deludes himself into thinking he is reaching for more by looking to heaven and receives nothing for his effort except vague reassurances that he someday will - after he dies.

Each of the above are simplifications, of course. There is a great deal of nuance and diversity in practice, I recognize that. The point is merely that atheism and nihilism are not synonymous. We might have some fun looking at prison demographics to see how many Christians take up residence there compared to atheists, but I don't think that's really necessary. We might also have some fun looking at cultural differences between theistic vs. secular societies, but that isn't necessary either.

"I think Sam Harris is utterly wrong. The most ordered societies are the most oppressive."

I think you utterly misread the quote. Here is a more correct version of the quote: "I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable." Nothing about how 'ordered' a society is or might be. I don't know a single reasonable person, atheist or theist, who would argue that the governments you name constitute a reasonable approach to a healthy society.

For context, here's the full quote: "Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share. I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable" (this quote can be found here and in the book The End of Faith).

No one is arguing that we dispense with intuition, poetry, creativity, guesswork, or hunches. Yet if my intuition tells me aliens are poisoning the water supply, it is evidence that will set me free.

Anonymous said...

Dear everyone,

[A quick preface. I want to thank all of you for being so assiduous, and so passionate, in your pursuit of truth. It is engaging, exciting, and, at times, unnerving. And for those of you who find my writing style too "flowery", well, forgive me. My hope, in part, is to entertain. How tedious this all would be if there was not something fun for me to do. I mean, if we really are in a White Room, then surely no one will mind if I paint the walls, hang some drapes, or spray beer all over the ceiling.]

Because everyone seems so completely befuddled by what has transpired here, let me simplify everything for the sake of clarity.

I am going to begin with a comment that Webmaster/Dave made in the middle of this thread, and then I am going BACK to his original post, "A Christ-Less Grave." Then, I am going to explore the logical consequences of Webmaster/Dave's position.

Here is what Webmaster/Dave said to me in a comment (11/26, 6:59pm) in this very thread:

Your posts have helped illustrate a point in my original rant, that Christianity is focused on death while claiming to be focused on life. I applaud you for that.

Permit me to make two points, one of which is minor. First, I have not propounded Christianity in a single post here: I have been nearly silent about that faith. Any reference to it by me has come as a response to something presented here. I have not intiated a thing about that religion. Second, if we take a couple of minutes to reread Webmaster/Dave's (hereon Dave) initial essay, we discover that Dave is focused on death. In fact, his whole argument presented in "A Christ-less Grave" is built on death.

Read ¶6 of Dave's essay now (if you are at all serious about understanding this debate). (¶s 7, 8, 9, and 10 are also telling.)

Let's note a couple of things Dave states (I shall quote him):

The verifiable reality of being human is that we are all mortal.

Every one of us will eventually take a final ride in our own funeral procession; nothing can change that for any of us.

Before I was born, I did not exist.

Since an apparent eternity is spread out going backwards in time before I was ever born, totally bereft of my individuality and presence, is my life therefore pointless? After I am gone, another incomprehensible expanse of time will follow the point where my life intersected with history. I will miss all that comes after just as I missed all that came before. My contention is that I will suffer just as much from that lack of experience in the future as I have suffered from the lack of experience in the past. In other words, not at all. I won't know about it because I won't be there. I won't be sad about it; I won't be anything at all.
[emphasis added - bg]

Now, a few clips from later paragraphs (same essay):

This is not hopelessly sad pessimism; it is just plain reality.

All of us face the same fate, not one of us as human beings will escape the clutches of our own death. Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals to cloud their minds and fool themselves into believing that others may die, but they will go on. The only difference between the Christian in death and everyone else is what the person believes happens when he, she, or they die.


Now, perhaps the most important quote:

There is one final destination for us all; there is no difference regardless of our "perception of reality."

Some of you instantly see the problems in Dave's argument. It should at least be noted how fixated Dave is on using DEATH as an argument against the meaningfulness of Christianity. Notice too that Dave says death -- oblivion, nothingness, annihilation -- comes "regardless of our 'perception of reality.'"

Please note what Dave has already said about perception in his essay:

As a former Christian I am told by my previous religion that life without Christ is nothing. That is one point of view; that is one "perception." I would tell the Christian that a life spent striving to please an unverifiable mythological being in the hopes of attaining personal survival beyond physical life is not necessarily a better way to spend an all too limited lifespan.

OK. Hold these thoughts on the backburner of your brain for a moment.

Note what I did when I first joined this thread. I asked a question. A simple one. It was asked in the context of Dave's own argument. I did not abuse Dave, I did not caricaturize his position. I simply asked, "What advantage does an atheist have over a theist?" Now, there was no answer -- really -- given to this question. That is why I introduced the White Room analogy, which morphed into the Rainbow Room.

Here is where I stand thus far:

There is NO GOD.
There is no meaning apart from the individual self.


STOP. Is anyone having a hard time with my stance so far? No? Good. Let me continue.

Meaning, or as Dave might put it, perception, is framed by the individual who finds himself alive in an otherwise silent, closed universe.

If there is no META-meaning, if there is no transcendence; if, as Dave said, one perception leads to the same fate as the next perception, then there is nothing gained, no advantage gained, in holding one meaning or perception over another. Dave admits that his perception gets him a big fat nothing. He also admits that Christianity gets him a big fat nothing.


I have put these sentences in bold type so you can refer to them easily. Is there any significant problem in how I've presented Dave's ideas thus far? Have I been fair? No problems? Good.

Now, note what Dave says in this clip, and watch what I do with his statement (later). Dave says in his essay:

Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals to cloud their minds and fool themselves into believing that others may die, but they will go on.(op.cit.)

Now, let me say that Dave is completely right here. People do fool themselves; they do so all the time. But let me point out something else. When I painted a fairly bleak picture of a universe without transcendence (in my first comment to Dave), Dave replied with this (in part):

Clearly you see the world as having value only as it relates to you individually. I don't know if you have a family, or children, but for me, my life has more meaning in giving of my time and resources toward my kids than it does in spending it all on personal pleasures. If I am poor, sick and dying, but my children are successful and healthy, I'll feel that I've done quite well. Ultimately life is about the future of our species, not the future of the individual....

From what you wrote above, you only see the value in life contained in only one thing — you. You seem to be asking, "Without me, what is the point of anything?" There is certainly more to life and reality than me or you. We are part of a much bigger picture called life on planet Earth.
[emphasis added]

(Let me point out one thing: Dave also only finds meaning insofar as it relates to him individually: he individually finds meaning in HIS family. Even if we grant that he finds meaning in a group, he still individually finds meaning there; and the group is also nothing more than a set of individuals who do the same.)

In light of all these remarks, and remarks made by other commenters here, I concluded that "meaning" must be subjective. I concluded that meaningfulness is personal, that it comes from the person. I am not going to find meaning in a sunset; there is no meaning in Darwinism; both a sunset and Darwin's natural selection (and all that it portends) are just PROCESSES. They are what's happening. Now, please recall that Dave said (in his comments to me) that he believes that the meaning for life, rooted in evolution, is the survival of the species. Recall that he said, "We are part of a much bigger picture called life on planet Earth." I said to him (and others in the comment thread) that this is a meta-belief; it is not something proven to him by evolution: it is merely something he sees there. Who says we are part of a much "bigger picture"? Who says the picture is even big? On whose authority do we base this claim? Plus, we are not "finely-tuned" for survival, as someone argued. But even if we were, mere survival for survival's sake is nothing: it is not meaningful, it is merely surviving. For what? Answer: So we may all enjoy our own subjectivism as long as possible.

And that is not a bad answer, right?

But let me now take Dave's statement above and do violence to it (as someone accused me of doing with their words here). Here is Dave's statement again:

Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals to cloud their minds and fool themselves into believing that others may die, but they will go on.

And here is mine:

Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals and meanings to cloud their minds and fool themselves into believing that THOUGH they may die, OTHER people will go on. [Emphasis added to indicate emendations made by me]

What is the HARD REALITY Dave is talking about? He is talking about the BIG VOID; the BIG DEATH where there is no meaning, no light, no laughter, no anything; where there is no God, no heaven, no answers to who killed JFK. He is talking about the non-existence of an afterlife, that an afterlife is a myth.

But I have also shown throughout this thread that survival of the species, and all the noble intent behind it in Dave's perception, is also myth. For Dave HAS ALREADY told us nothing will survive. So, if that is the case, Dave will nobly die trying to ensure the survival of people he has already proven can't survive. Would it not be the case that Dave is also given to futility; are his actions JUST as futile as the Christians? Dave scoffs at Christians for living for an after-life. But he does not scoff at his own ambitions for affecting what can be called the Dave Afterlife: he wants to affect a future he (A) cannot KNOW exists (his admission), (B) cannot last even if it does beyond his own life, (C) is rendered meaningless because, in the end, there will be no one alive to bring subjective meaning to anything, anywhere, at any time. By Dave's own argument we can thus conclude that believing in "survival" is just another myth Dave has erected to cope with the hard reality of non-existence. Dave believes in an after-life that remains in this life after he is gone. But it does not remain at all, does it? The Dave Afterlife is a fiction.

But Dave is not content with mere survival for finding meaning, nor is Boomslang. Both believe in LOVE; loving one's wife, neighbor, dog, whatever. But what is love? Why is this suddenly the summum bonum of reality? Who says? What empirical argument is there that proves that love even exists? What lab experiment is there that absolutizes love?

Alas, this is too confusing for some folks, so they choose to raise SCIENCE up as the summum bonum of humanity. This is where we find meaning: in human knowledge. But, OIKS! What do we discover? That even this is a subjective enterprise; that this is a mere coping mechanism. Science, as I have shown, is no doubt responsible for great things; but it probably accounts for more atrocities, horrors, and diseases on this planet than anything else: it is far worse than organized religions, though, one could argue that some people have organized around it as a religion. If science is all about progress, where are we progressing to? If we do not know to where we are trying to progress, then how can we tell if we are progressing? Alas, faith in science is exactly that: It is faith. Progress? Also a religious fiction. I mean, there are people who believe driving cars shows progress over walking, though walking is not known to cause global warming and we do not hear about 50,000 deaths due to walking collisions on American highways. And let us not even consider the garbage heaps filled with the detritus of cars and the wastes of science.

So, where are we? We have seen that survival, love, science, progress, human "knowledge"; that each of these is a myth erected to give us some sense of purpose before the "hard reality" that Dave espoused.

And now, for the conclusion of all of this:

If Dave is right, then there is NO ABSOLUTE OBJECTIVE REASON that a person cannot, or should not, or must not, be a theist. Theism is just ONE more subjective dynamic of human experience that gives some people meaning while they await the big "hard reality." Moreover, the only kind of atheism that does not carry the baggage of myths or coping mechanisms is that type of atheism that refuses to fabricate fictions in order to cope with the fact that the exit door is inescapable. Honest atheism is nihilistic (from Latin, meaning "nothing").

Now, please note this: Nothing I have argued here comes from Christianity, a Bible, my philosophy, or "revealed truth." It comes from the facts given here, facts that I accept for purposes of dialogue: there is NO God, there is NO resurrection, there is no transcendence.

Lastly, look at what happened in this dialogue between me and Alan. I asked:

Do the atheist and the theist practice medicine differently in the trauma center?

To my question, Alan answered:

No, they both behave like atheists.

To which I replied:

Yes, you are right, and you prove MY POINT: If the atheistic and the theistic medical doctors both behave like atheists (your claim), then there is NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT BEING AN ATHEIST. Being a theist changes nothing about REALITY. Thank you, thank you, for that.

This exchange with Alan is devastating to the atheist position that Dave espoused in his essay. I do not see where Dave, or anyone else, can go. But watch what Alan tries to do (and Alan is a smart guy) in his later reply to me:

"contratimes, I'm not sure I even know what you are talking about. I should have said both the atheist and the theist doctor will behave the same, using reason and logic, as that is what they are trained to do and that is what will provide the best possible outcome. Away from the operating room the religious doctor may lead his life and raise his kids in a totally different way than the atheist, religious people can often compartmentalize rational thought and irrational belief."

Suddenly, Alan doesn't know what I mean. But he does, because he would not suddenly try to tell me what he should have said. And then he starts to tell me that the atheist and theist would behave differently -- BUT NOT AS DOCTORS -- but at something else. But I did not ask about something else. I asked about being doctors. Logic and reason are not the privilege of atheists, though many atheists act like they are. The theist is in fact logical: either the resurrection of Christ happened or it did not. This is how a Christian theist begins that inquiry. It is entirely rational. But Alan runs from the trap that he fell into, and he cannot escape: If atheists are right about the world, then there is nothing gained in being an atheist, and there is nothing gained in being a theist.

Here ends the argument proper.

Now, a couple of quick notes:

Mr. Samuelson:

You may think I misread Sam Harris' argument about reason. But I did not. I merely took it as far as I wanted. Now, please. Look at the title of Mr. Harris' book. It's called The End of Faith. Perhaps Mr. Harris means that faith is nearing extinction, or does he mean that he knows what "faith" must lead to, it's "end"? Irrespective of what he means, you should go read my Letter to Christopher Hitchens and then ask whether the title of Mr. Harris' book reveals that he believes in myths.

Dear Dave,

Your remark suggesting that my website is not worth going to (you make no argument as to why) reveals a lot about the level of discourse I have found here. If people are true freethinkers, they would follow the links I have offered. Of course, unbeknownst to you, several people did take a look at my essays and yet they did not leave a word. You might be one of them. I might account for everyone's silence by believing they are fearful or merely ill-equipped; but I will account for it by accepting defeat. Perhaps I will tell Technorati to knock my blog out of the top .1% of blogs; and I will let my 2,100 unique visitors this month know that I have to face a hard reality.)

To you all, it has been fun. I am sorry that I could not answer every single charge against me. There is just one of me, you know. I am really more fun than you all might think, and I'm far more friend than foe.

Keep thinking hard, and may you each know joy!

Bill Gnade

.:webmaster:. said...

Thank you, Bill, for clearly stating your intent.

BG: Some of you instantly see the problems in Dave's argument.

It's not really an argument, Bill. We all die, that's obvious, and it's not something to be feared. If there is an argument I'm making, it's that death is not something to be feared. Death is just a part of nature. We are part of nature just like all the other forms of life on the planet, and that is not a horrible thing. Our value and meaning is not lessened because we are not meta-creatures. And we needn't live in fear that a sadistically brutal God is waiting for our last breath so he can torture us for not believing in him/her/it. That's the entire point of the rant, regardless of my feeble use of language.

The expansive twisting of words and prosaic revolutions of meta-logic you have attempted to weave appear to me no more than artistic armchair philosophizing, loftly presented, using words to paint a reasonable sounding emotional appeal that brings an audience to its feet, applauding the concept that faith in God (whatever or whomever this God might be, since you don't say, although the Christian God is implied throughout) makes sense. Unfortunately, religion doesn't really work the way you're painting it. When large groups of people believe strongly in their monotheistic religion, they go beyond polite conversation and use whatever means available to attempt to bring society into conformity with that religion. And that's when flying airplanes into skyscrapers can even make sense.

As you've noted above, words are wonderful things, but words are only devices we use to try and describe reality, words aren't in and of themselves that reality. In other words (so to speak), no matter how deviously devised your web of words, where is the hard evidence for your God? When you produce that evidence, instead of merely creatively crafting long strains of prose, then perhaps I too will become one of your avid consumers.

PS: Although I disagree completely with your conclusions, I will acknowledge you've made some interesting observations and provoked some stimulating discussion. It has been fun. Thanks.

boomSLANG said...

Webmaster said:

The expansive twisting of words and prosaic revolutions of meta-logic you have attempted to weave appear to me no more than artistic armchair philosophizing, loftly presented, using words to paint a reasonable sounding emotional appeal that brings an audience to its feet, applauding the concept that faith in God (whatever or whomever this God might be, since you don't say, although the Christian God is implied throughout) makes sense. Unfortunately, religion doesn't really work the way you're painting it. When large groups of people believe strongly in their monotheistic religion, they go beyond polite conversation and use whatever means available to attempt to bring society into conformity with that religion. And that's when flying airplanes into skyscrapers can even make sense.

Kudos, Web'/Dave. You echoed my sentiments, exactly. You were genteel, thoughtful, and brilliant ; ) Seriously though, I don't think I could do it justice---in fact, I know I can't. Notwithstanding, I have some general comments on certain points, which I may make later.

Over-n-out.

Alan said...

BG wrote:

Suddenly, Alan doesn't know what I mean

Bill, there's nothing sudden about it, your writing didn't make sense to me from the beginning (and your lack of brevity didn't help) but it all became clear when I took a look at your website. I'll just echo what Dave said, instead of long drawn-out intellectual hair-splitting just show us some tangible evidence of God's existence, and we'll go from there.

Jim Arvo said...

BG, I have no idea whether you plan to return, so I'm going to address my reply to the others here. If you do decide to come back, feel free to respond. In my opinion, BG's rhetoric is so mired in sophistry that it starts nowhere and goes nowhere. Yet, BG obviously views himself the purveyor of great wisdom (which I found absolutely grating, to be perfectly frank). I can't resist pointing out how full of holes and fallacies his arguments are.

BG quotes Dave: "There is one final destination for us all; there is no difference regardless of our 'perception of reality.'", and says "Some of you instantly see the problems in Dave's argument...." BG is correct in asserting that there is a fallacy lurking here, but it's one that he commits by equivocating; an error he makes repeatedly, as I demonstrate below. This may explain his reluctance to define his terms, despite repeated requests.

BG: "I simply asked, 'What advantage does an atheist have over a theist?' Now, there was no answer -- really -- given to this question."

I pointed out the problem with that question as posed, and I even tried to answer it anyway. His complaint is moot.

BG: "There is no meaning apart from the individual self.... STOP. Is anyone having a hard time with my stance so far?"

Yes, as I've pointed out numerous times, the word "meaning" can have multiple interpretations. Sometimes BG appears to mean one, sometimes another, and sometimes it's not clear what he means. Hence, his main proposition is unintelligible and his ensuing argument amounts to equivocation. If "meaning" connotes the association between concepts and reality, then his statement is clearly false. If "meaning" connotes something like "significance" then he might be able to argue cogently for his premise (but he never did so).

BG: "If there is no META-meaning, if there is no transcendence; if, as Dave said, one perception leads to the same fate as the next perception, then there is nothing gained, no advantage gained, in holding one meaning or perception over another..."

Here BG equivocates on "advantage". Dave's point was that one's beliefs do not change the fact that we will one day die; hence, with respect to that goal, there can be no advantage. BG then takes the liberty of interpreting "advantage" in a broad sense, and declare (or imply) that one's beliefs are also irrelevant to life. His argument is a classic fallacy.

BG: "Plus, we are not 'finely-tuned' for survival, as someone argued."

That would be me. BG have never given any reason aside from pointing out that life spans are finite. This amounts to equivocation on the word "survival". In the sense I used it, the relevant time scale is that which will allow for procreation. Outside of that, evolution has little or nothing to say. BG's notion of "survival" relative to all of time is something else altogether. Hence, this argument is also fallacious.

BG: "But even if we were, mere survival for survival's sake is nothing: it is not meaningful, it is merely surviving..."

Again, there's that word "meaningful". What does it mean to say that survival is "not meaningful"? BG never once tries to explicate this idea, except to declare it totally subjective. Even if that were so, how does that imply that survival lacks this quality? BG seems to think it has something to do with eternity, but never stated this clearly, and certainly never produced anything resembling an argument to support it.

BG did the following violence to Dave's comment...

"Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals and meanings to cloud their minds and fool themselves..."

Interesting hypothesis, if one can get past the loaded connotations of "cloud their minds" and "fool themselves". Of course, BG has nothing at all to support this bizarre choice of words.

BG: "...By Dave's own argument we can thus conclude that believing in 'survival' is just another myth Dave has erected to cope with the hard reality of non-existence. Dave believes in an after-life that remains in this life after he is gone. But it does not remain at all, does it? The Dave Afterlife is a fiction."

Again we see the assertion that if something does not "remain" (last forever) then it is somehow rendered "meaningless" (whatever that means). This argument also includes more equivocation on the word "survival". BG never acknowledged the importance of biology--that we are biological organisms with basic needs and drives that are not linked to any philosophy. Our desire to "survive" is manifested most poignantly in the nurturing of our children, who bring fantastic "meaning" (in the sense of "significance" and "impact") to our lives. As I said early on, I acknowledge that I will not live forever, and neither will my kids. From this fact BG would have us believe that "meaning" is thereby null and void. Stating it again and again does not make it so, particularly when the terms remain undefined.

BG: "Alas, this is too confusing for some folks, so they choose to raise SCIENCE up as the summum bonum of humanity..."

That is both arrogant and patently false. It's a straw man. Those of us who often speak of science do so because it is perhaps the most spectacularly successful enterprise thus far undertaken by man. It has yielded amazing results. That does not make it the "summum bonum of humanity", but it does make it a fantastically useful tool; one that would be foolish to ignore.

BG: "Moreover, the only kind of atheism that does not carry the baggage of myths or coping mechanisms is that type of atheism that refuses to fabricate fictions in order to cope with the fact that the exit door is inescapable. Honest atheism is nihilistic (from Latin, meaning "nothing")."

Translation: If there is no escaping death, then life is meaningless. What rubbish. At the risk of being repetitive, I'll point out that this is again equivocation. The fact that life may end in "nothing" does not mean that life is "nothing". Yet, this is the error that BG commits again and again and again.

BG: "Lastly, look at what happened in this dialogue between me and Alan...."

And once again we are treated to a replay of what BG sees as his big victory. In my opinion BG lost that one rather decisively, but he does not seem interested in visiting the issue again; I suppose he wants to hang on to that one illusory "victory".

J. C. Samuelson said...

Bill,

Finally it comes clear. After developing an elaborate straw man, well-seasoned with equivocation (thank you Jim) and deliberate ambiguity, in which atheism is a synonym for nihilism which would thereby render all philosophies equal, BG knocks it down with one deft stroke of the keyboard (apparently with Alan's help - he thinks). Very well.

I will gracefully concede, sir, that in a vacuum - devoid of interaction with others or the environment except for the two absolutes of birth and death - all philosophies amount to a null result and are therefore equal. I would thank you for helping me to realize this, but frankly it's a mystery to me why this is important. But thank you anyway for highlighting this apparently gaping hole in atheist epistemology.

Thanks for the entertainment, as well.

Everyone else,

My apologies. Should've seen it earlier and not posted such long, seemingly pointless and wordy missives.

Dave, that was a very gracious farewell post. Kudos!

"It's like sex. It's a painstaking, arduous task that seems to go on forever and just when you think things are going your way, nothing happens." ~ Sgt. Frank Drebin, Detective-Lieutenant, Police Squad.

Jim Arvo said...

JCS said "My apologies. Should've seen it earlier and not posted such long, seemingly pointless and wordy missives."

Don't be silly! Your posts are the best part of this thread.

Anonymous said...

Dear everyone,

Since there seem to be a few lingering questions about the argument I've presented here, I am going to try to make myself even clearer.

Let me begin with Jim Arvo's latest comment. He writes (in part):

Yes, as I've pointed out numerous times, the word "meaning" can have multiple interpretations. Sometimes BG appears to mean one, sometimes another, and sometimes it's not clear what he means. Hence, his main proposition is unintelligible and his ensuing argument amounts to equivocation. If "meaning" connotes the association between concepts and reality, then his statement is clearly false. If "meaning" connotes something like "significance" then he might be able to argue cogently for his premise (but he never did so).

Sadly, it appears yet again that I have not made myself clear enough when I use the word "meaning." In making my clarification here -- by defining my terms -- I want to point out two things: First, I am not the one who introduced "meaning" into this whole debate: Dave did in his essay when he wrote that "Christians believe that they have a higher, more meaningful purpose than the rest of humanity"; and second, I have already defined "meaning", as have several others (for me). Dave also asked me the following: "What I wonder is why you find life without a religion to be filled with nothingness and meaninglessness?" Apparently, up until recently, the use of the word "meaning" has been received without a problem.

In one of Jim's first comments to me he asked rhetorically (to which I answered rhetorically, by the way):

Why not kill ourselves right now?

Jim asked this in the wake of my insistence that the honest atheist does indeed kill himself: the honest atheist realizes that all his reasons for living are mere fictions, or so I averred (or something like that). The honest atheist looks at the inevitability of suffering for all humanity (or Dave's "hard reality"), and wants to free himself, mercifully, by jumping headlong into his fate, which is the abyss.

So now we come to the crux of what everybody has been saying here about meaning. But first, let me posit the first premise that I accept:

THERE IS NO GOD.

Remember the White Room: it has an exit door which is inevitable. You must pass through it to oblivion. Why do you not throw yourself out of that White Room? Why don't you kill yourself?

Well, how has everyone answered that question here? They have answered it this way: I do not kill myself because MY LIFE has meaning.

In other words, "meaning" is that which keeps us all from committing suicide right now. Meaning keeps us alive. Meaning gives us pleasure. Meaning gives us a "perception" (Dave's word) that steels us against the "hard reality" of oblivion we all must face (Dave's argument, not mine).

So you see, I have defined meaning already; I have been speaking to it exactly. Moreover, I have even addressed several meanings posited by some of you, which are: survival, progeny, evolution, love, progress, science (knowledge). And I have shown that these are certainly meaningful, but only in a subjective sense. I have also opined that these are based in faith; that we cannot empirically justify them as "better" or "preferable", because these terms, and others like them, are laden with metaphysical import (and atheism forbids metaphysics). And what I have also shown is that theism is also a subjective meaning: it gives pleasure and hope, no matter how illusory, to people facing the abyss. Again, no matter what meaning a person embraces, the payoff is exactly the same: nothing.

Not one thing I've said here have I brought from outside this discussion. I have stayed utterly consistent. If I have gone in circles, it is because people keep asking me to go back to what I've already made clear. To me, taking umbrage that I have not defined my terms, when I have, suggests that people merely want to avoid the harsh reality of my overall conclusions, which are:

C1. There is no ontological advantage in being an atheist, nor is the atheist's position privileged over the theist's, nor is there any significant epistemological advantage in being an atheist other than being right that there is no God. But this knowledge yields no necessary benefit.

C2. The atheist has no intrinsic need, requirement, compulsion, or reason to tell others about his or her atheism, nor to tell others that their perception of reality is inferior. All viewpoints lead to the same ultimate conclusion. If everyone is going to Rome, and all roads lead there, then there is no reason to give directions, especially if Rome -- and the roads -- are nothingness and the journey is all there is to know: one can choose to enjoy the trip with or without a map, or even in being utterly lost. Purpose is subjective.

Now. One rebuttal to my argument, a rebuttal I regard as a weak one, stems for the argument that ideas have consequences. But no one here needs to tell me that ideas have consequences: I have just proven that they have. But what is meant here is something like this:

Non-theistic ideas lead to freedom, harmony, peace.

Theistic ideas lead to illusion, frustration, fear, enslavement, guilt.

Are we in agreement on this? I sure hope so!

I once was talking to an old friend of mine, an older woman who was a pot-smoking, leftist-Marxist, New-Age occultist who insisted that reincarnation was true. As a result of her religious belief, she felt that abortion was justified. "We are just telling the babies to go back and start again," she said. "We are saying, 'Go back! Your time has not yet come. We're not ready for you.'" And she was certain that the dead babies (she called them babies) would indeed return someday in the future.

So, here is a woman who believed her idea about reincarnation had a consequence: she could kill something and it would be OK, since it would "come back."

Now, I do not know many Buddhists or Hindus who might agree with my friend (she was, by the way, a Vegan and wildly anti-hunting -- honest!). But it does seem to make some sense: a belief in reincarnation may lead to genocide; you know, "Please don't mind that I am chopping off your head, because you will come back anyway."

If this is true, and it is with my friend (to a lesser degree), I guess it is also true that people may kill others A) if they think there is a God who will punish those victims in the afterlife, or B) that there is a heaven or hell where such victims will reside. In fact, in some twisted mind, even some variation of this is surely true. Of course, there are other theistic ideas that may lead to violence beside the two I've listed above.

But there is also the idea that death is nothing to fear. There is the idea that death is pure nothingness. In fact, one could fashion that nothingness into what sounds like bliss: "You will be released from all cares, worries, fears, and pains in the great sleep."

Was this the view of death that gave Stalin his swagger? Was this the view of death that gave Mao and Pol Pot their killing fields, that let them smile over dinner though millions were dying just miles away? Were they just exterminating competing subjectivisms, ones that did not correspond to their own? Were they just obliterating erroneous, inferior ideas, ones that did not work to the betterment of society, that did not secure survival for the body corporate?

I cannot answer these questions, but I can say this: there is no guarantee that the atheistic worldview is not also prone to violence. Yes, some atheist might look at life and see its frail and astonishing uniqueness, its beauty and joy; but these are nothing but gems in the eye of the beholder, mere subjectivisms. For some powerful atheist, genocide might be his meaning, his beauty. I am under the impression that should atheism prevail -- should it ever become the dominant worldview -- in a world purged of all theism, there is nothing in the universe that declares that benevolence, altruism, love, kindness, or mercy are at all important. I am not saying that atheism MUST lead to violence. I am saying that, like everything else, there is no reason why it can't. In a world where meaning is generated by the individual, there is nothing any of us can point to other than our own subjective preferences that proves killing and oppression are intrinsically and absolutely evil, bad, or just plain wrong. Again, this is not some old tired argument: I am saying that there is no reason to think that non-theism will not become oppressive. After all, there is no God, and yet one of the White Room's greatest myths -- Christianity -- has been shown to produce some grotesquely violent souls. If a myth that believes love and goodness and God are absolutes can nonetheless lead to violence; if a myth that believes that those who do not love are most in danger of damnation, if this myth nevertheless may lead to despair and violence, then I am not so sure non-theism -- which rejects these absolutes as subjectively held "meanings" -- is any safeguard against abuse.

Can I be honest with you all here? I hope so. I can't understand why I have been asked here what my beliefs about reality are. Why are you asking me about my theism, my Christianity? As far as I can tell, what is under scrutiny here is Dave's essay. My Christianity has NOTHING to do with Dave's atheism. My faith has nothing to do with Jim Arvo's agnosticism, or Boomslang's, or Alan's scepticism.

Let me ask you this: Is Dave's essay, "A Christ-less Grave," inerrant? Is it perfect? If it is not perfect, if it is not inerrant, then what are Dave's mistakes: what are the errors, what are the imperfections? I am assuming none of you will say that Dave is infallible in his post. But if that is the case, why are you not addressing his fallibility? I don't believe Dave has NOT made a mistake in his essay. I think I have shown that mistake quite clearly. But what is the fascination with my reasoning? What is the fascination with my prose?

Or do you all actually believe in a sort of doctrine of infallibility, and that Dave is infallible indeed?

I cannot know the answers to these questions. I have shown myself consistent, decent, civil, fair, forthright, tough, kind, and on topic. I have not wavered. I have made every effort to be clear. I have not gloated. I have not claimed "victory." But I do not for the life of me see why I became the focal point. All sorts of writers came here before I did, and not one issued a (serious) challenge to Dave. I offer a challenge and everyone swirls around me (which is fine, but largely irrelevant), and yet everyone ignores Dave's argument.

And then, after all this effort, Dave tells me in his latest comment that his essay was not really presenting an argument. How I missed this fact eludes me, but I wish I had known it when I first landed on this site.

Anyway, thanks to you all.

Peace, this night, and always.

Bill Gnade

Dave8 said...

BG: "I am almost tempted to suggest that you are perseverating. But I will refrain."

But... you didn't refrain; therefore, consider yourself as "one up" on repetitive gestures. And, I am responding to your statements, as best I can, with that flexibility of your demand to be as nutty as you want.

BG: "Only you know why you are focused on this minutiae:"

Minutiae: "precise details; small or trifling matters: the minutiae of his craft."

The core of your very argument is being supported by your epistemological standards. I have shown you where your epistemology, reaches beyond the material realm, and requires anyone entering your argument or search for some truth, to play on your epistemological ball field. Epistemology is the foundation of your very question, on rationality. You hide behind the defense of "I don't know philosophy that well", but you refuse to enter into the discussion on epistemological argument.

And, that's because the rational truth for the supernatural, and immaterial, is not acceptable by the materialist. So, you are trying to sequester atheists to answer questions at your beckoned call, only if they continue to accept your irrational epistemological standards.

BG: "First, permit me to correct you. I have not erected a straw man here;"

Actually, no, I meant straw man. You are dodging the epistemological discussion, using evasive tactics as a defense, or better known as a straw man argument. Your straw man argument, that "everyone is attacking your words", etc., and just not "answering" your questions, is removing the light off of the epistemological discussion. Therefore, you are indeed focusing on the smaller of the subjects being discussed.

Just because you believe your question is the core issue, doesn't really mean it's the "core" issue. Whatever your answers are, or whatever response you get... will ultimately, boil down to the acceptance of an epistemological standard. Therefore, the "core" will be the epistemological standard. Hiding behind peripheral rhetoric will not hide that from anyone who has had similar discussions and knowledge.

If you suggest your discussion is not philosophically founded, then, please... tell everyone what it "is" founded on. Plain meaningless rhetoric? Then, really, what will the answers be worth?

BG: "...and, anyway, I believe you mean a red herring."

Yes, your straw man is a red herring, leading away from the core topic of epistemology.

BG: "Regardless, when the very first comment I received from the host included this -- that I was deemed by the Webmaster to be a "True Christian™" (his term, complete with trademark symbol) -- then I know that I am on safe ground when I mention the argumentum ad hominem-abusive."

I can't speak for anyone else, but... here's how I understand "true Christian". Most people on this site will agree that "universals" don't exist, with the few exceptions to the rule, which are "constants", like "change". Therefore, there is no "perfect" Christian definition that will encompass "all" of Christendom.

It's a jest to those who believe there "does" in "fact" exist a universally perfect term called “Christianity", and that people "perfectly 'fit into that category.

When Christians are approached, and start declaring that "other" people really aren't the "true" Christians, because of the atrocities they commit. It's inevitable, that they attempt to follow up, with the "perfect" ideal of a Christian. Thus, for example; "Hitler", wasn't a "true Christian", per these Christians, who have the oracular ability to "know", what a True Christian "Is". When people make universal statements, on much of anything, they usually get tested on the basic premise of their epistemological foundation. And, yes, it’s humorous to see the many hubris types step up to the plate and demand they know what a "true Christian" really is. Is it sporting to jest on someone else's ignorance? I suppose, but hopefully along the way, the person being logically tested, will see how ridiculous their claim is.

BG: "I mention the ad hominem solely to remind people that such barbs are not valid arguments."

However, my core argument rests solely on epistemology, a place you have refused to go.

BG: "Now, you seem obsessed with cornering me on some technicality about begging the question. I honestly cannot understand your point. But let me try to get at it as well as I can:"

Before we begin, this goes directly to the point of epistemology. Specifically, what can reasonable be "explored", and hold merit, based on one's epistemological standards.

BG: "First, I note that you go to this link for a citation of "eternal." I am glad you are so thorough. But I also note that you cite only entries 4, 5, and 6. Why did you do this?"

Because, you have a trend of using "immaterial" analogy and it "fit" the pattern. Disembody, timelessness, etc., etc., are not attributes known to you by experience. Do you suggest you can hold knowledge not based on experience?

BG: "Did these support your argument against me? How so, when I've already argued that by "eternal" I am arguing from something like entries 1 and 2? (Please remember that dictionaries do not tell us what words must mean; they merely tell us how they are [usually] used.)"

So, you believe you can create words to mean whatever you want them to mean, on the fly. Well, that is an original tactic, didn't see that one coming. Still, there is a pattern, of "immaterial" precepts, and communication will still render such "concepts", its just a matter of how long the conversation takes place, and how "thorough" the person checking the words is.

BG: "Now, to really augment your pedanticism with some of my own, I cite Peter Angeles' Dictionary of Philosophy citation for "Eternal": "1. Everlasting. Of infinite duration. Endless continuation in time without beginning or end. SEMPITERNAL. Perpetual. 2. Having no succession, but existing all at once, an unchanging, timelessly present One."

Okay, we are now again focused on an epistemological discussion. On this specific topic, now that you have added a little more information, what you are suggesting... is a "universal" truth. A Universal Truth, based on the denial of "change". You have declared a term that represents something either in this material or immaterial (material term/concept) realm, to exist without being affected by "change".

I know of "no" material form, that can escape "change" in this material realm, and you continue to suggest you are not discussing the immaterial realm. Therefore, in order for anyone to talk on such a matter, requires them to accept your materially based "universal" truth, as a legitimate precept to your argument(s).

Here, you can make an argument, that "infinity" etc., is a measure of such an ideal. However, you can "not" link, the materially based "timeless" to something "immaterial", like a god, heaven, etc. And, that is the crux of the matter. You have asserted that you wish to explore the rationality between theist and atheist.
Most religious people, do not believe their "god", is sitting in this natural universe, its not in their doctrine as such. So, you can see the contradiction ahead of time, pardon the pun, if you are going to suggest that a theist is rational by leaping from one material realm to the immaterial realm. Using a material definition, ideal, or concept is still going to have to bridge the gap between that which is physical and their ideal of something that is meta-physical. However, lets explore... it's just a matter of time.

BG: "OK. Will this help you if I review what I wrote in this thread, you know, when I had already redefined my position BEFORE you came in with your p's and q's? I said that I did not necessarily accept definition 2 (Angeles); I preferred number 1, which means that I prefer to think of the eternal as being in time."

Is this to be considered a Universal ideal, or not. You must realize that the term "eternal", if taken in a material sense, pun intended, represent "all" time standards, from Planck to relative. Therefore,
"Universal", an ideal presented in many different "forms" by "Christians", who come on this site. That is not a ping, it's just to allow you to be aware that there are many who are sensitive to those who promote "Universals" as their "Ideal" starting point in a discussion.

BG: "Which makes this less about the metaphysics you seem to be hung up on. Moreover, I have not personally said here that I oppose metaphysics; I don't."

And, this would be an epistemological difference. It's not logical to suggest there exists something beyond the physical/metaphysical realm, without some proof. I think I know where you are going with this, but... I'll wait.

BG: "What I oppose are those who claim that all meaning is subjective and who then impose a metaphysical meaning onto reality (and then treat it objectively)."

I agree that all meaning is subjective. The term "subjective" means, according to most people on this planet, that meaning is derived by a "subject", called a "person", for something to be "Universal Objective", a person can not be in the picture, to derive that meaning. And, a human can not "escape" their subjective being, in order to make statements about a Universal Objective.

The term "Objective", like many other "terms" in language, represents an opposite from what is accepted. The opposite of being prejudiced by experience (subjective), is the range of prejudice one imposes on their reality, those who are on the extreme subjective end are typically intolerant and bigoted, and those who are on the other side (as much as one can get while still being the "subject" of humanity), are cold, calculating, and impersonal. Still, all humanity is "subject" to "experiences” that form their ability to "reason", and make "value" judgments.

Further, I don't agree that a metaphysical meaning exists; I suggest that the term itself is a material object/string of material characters, displayed on a physical PC screen. All "knowledge" is materially based, and therefore, all ideas of "god", etc., and all other metaphysical ideals, are... material.

Therefore, as a labeled atheist, I don't believe in the "objective" reality, I believe the ideal of "objective" is a measure from what a person models in their mind (materially) beyond their subjective being. It's a concept, but like "infinity". And, thus, I wouldn't impose a metaphysical position, or an overlay of objective on either material or immaterial realms (which is a material concept).

BG: If I choose to speak metaphysically, so be it: it is not inconsistent with my basal beliefs."

But, it is inconsistent when you are attempting to measure two entirely different epistemological standards. You stated you wanted to demonstrate in some manner, how the theist is somehow equal to the atheist in the ability to be rational. One has to assume that both the metaphysical and physical, are therefore, "equal", as a playing field for measurement. I would suggest that "most", if not "all" atheists deny the metaphysical, because the metaphysical is synonymous with supernatural, and supernatural is synonymous with "god, heaven, angel, demon, etc." You may accept that there are different domains of "reality", and that they are all equally valid places where reasoning can take place.

Most, if not "all", atheists don't see a separate domain of reality, and by definition believe anyone who does accept such a separation of reality, does not do so, on the ground of empirical reasoning.

BG: "Why is this at all difficult for you? Let me restate this, then, if I must: There is no god. There is no God. OK. Let me state this in even different terms. There is (A) nothing transcendent of the universe; (B) all meaning is contained therein in a strict subjective sense. Is that a permissible starting point?"

Yes, but it conflicts with your above statement:

"If I choose to speak metaphysically, so be it: it is not inconsistent with my basal beliefs"

Metaphysical: adj 1: pertaining to or of the nature of metaphysics; "metaphysical philosophy" 2: without material form or substance; "metaphysical forces" 3: highly abstract and over-theoretical; "metaphysical reasoning" http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/metaphysical

Supernatural: "Of or relating to existence outside the natural world. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces. Of or relating to a deity. Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous. Of or relating to the miraculous."
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/supernatural

I picked all definitions in their sections, please provide another if you want. I would suggest that the terms supernatural and metaphysical are synonymous in the realm of "form" or "being". This makes your basal belief (metaphysical) contradictory with your non-belief in a god (supernatural), unless your "god", is natural.

BG: "If not, then I do not know what is. But if you accept this as a starting point, then you must accept that it is OK for me to argue from B if I want. And here is that argument: That there is nothing in the universe that shows that one meaning is better than another."

Ah, equivocation. There is "meaning", and then there is "Meaning". One asserts there is a "personal" meaning, and the other a "Universal" meaning in life. I would truly concede that everyone has an equally subjective view of their own individual meaning.
However, we possibly part ways, in the discussion of Universal meaning. Here is where the "True Christian" comes in. This is where the religious state there is some "Universal" truth; many call "God", "Eternity", "Infinite", etc.

If the application of such abstract material thoughts is contained within this universe, then they are subjectively understood. However, when one "applies" their "subjectively" abstract thought/ideal, as a Universal, then it becomes absurd.

The hallmark of the more "religious", and "dogmatically" influenced, is in their blind "faith", that Universals exist... not only exist, but that all "humanity" must buy into their irrational belief (faith), or they will perish for all Supernatural Eternity.

Therefore, I don't equivocate between individual and Universal meaning. And, as such, I don't see equality in rationalizing or reasoning between the theist and atheist. The atheist typically accepts their subjective meaning, and fervently guards against those who assert Universal meanings, until empirical evidence is provided, suggesting someone has Universal Knowledge and can support such a claim.

BG: "I do not care if someone points out that one person's meaning is irrational, or truncated, or limited: such characteristics might indeed make that person's meaning all the more meaningful to them."

Individually subjective meaning - sure.

BG: "No one in this thread has shown me -- not at all -- what one GAINS from perceiving reality like the Webmaster does when compared to religious fundamentalism."

You are projecting/painting the WM as someone who is selling a Universal Truth. And, as such, is teaching everyone here to think and believe just like him. Just like the fundamentalist leaders. I disagree. The WM, has an open forum, you are speaking on this thread of a widely divergent view than many others on this site.

Yet, the WM hasn't yanked your chain, damned you to hell a thousand times, and based his decision on a "Universal" truth. This site for many is a tool by which we can search for personal truth - that is the "GAIN". I have never heard the WM advocate that his belief is or should be "Universally" accepted. In other words, the WM portrays a world view, from what I have seen as free thought, and what one "GAINS" from free thought, is the ability to "grow" and be more "aware" of their life.

Now, religious fundamentalism teaches, no-free thought, else you go to hell. There is no growth, or advancement in society on many fronts. What a person "loses" with this ideal, is "freedom", of thought, and ability to experience life unashamed.

What do I "GAIN" from the WMs personal ideal? I am allowed to come here, and discuss with you "freely" my world views, without being shunned because of my divergent belief from mainstream society, or anyone else. I have "no" voice, in a fundamentalist religion. I lose autonomy, in a fundamental religion; there are so many "restrictions" in their ideology that a person loses their life, literally, by abiding by some "Absolute" Universal Code that is taught. What I gain, there dear BG, is the right to live, and become.

BG: "I have at least conceded that there might be temporal gains, but so what?"

If temporal means, I get to be free my whole life to search for deeper individual meaning, then, it's not a simple "so what" to me. This is one of the reasons; I can not accept fundamentalist religion, period. As well, since I can only worry about what I can control, in this physical/material realm, I need not "worry" about some "afterlife" scenario. The "so what" is useless for anything beyond which I can not control, and since I can not control anything beyond my material existence, then... my "individual" meaning, is of paramount importance to me.

BG: "If meaning is SUBJECTIVE, which no one has denied here, then TEMPORALITY has nothing to do with it."

Agreed.

BG: "Who cares if your meaning gives you more options (a function of time)?"

Time is a subjective product of the human species. It is not bottled somewhere that you can pick up from the local grocery store, i.e., Can I get a bottle of time to go, etc.

BG: "Who cares if you "survive" longer?"

A subjective statement, okay, your call.

BG: "Who cares if you "make gains in science?"

Yet, another subjective statement, based on "individual" meaning. Keep them coming.

BG: "What if my subjective meaning -- and all my pleasure -- is derived from rejecting your meanings?"

Okay, there's another example of a subjective statement, a "personal" truth if you want to call it that.

BG: "Who are you (by you I mean this generically) to say that my meaning is less than yours, or less effective, or less humane, or even less intelligent?"

Because dear BG, I have the right to have subjective meaning, as well as you do. You can have your subjective meaning, and I can dissent if I want based on my subjective insights.

BG: "If meaning is subjective, then, well, it is subjective. Why bother trying to objectify it at every turn, unless, of course, doing so is part of your personal sense of meaning?"

Why... BG, does it matter that someone "chooses" to subjectively follow an "objective" path, or not? I mean, it's their path, right? Subjectively speaking. One person can go into nihilism if they want, it's their subjective position, and they are free to make that choice, right?

BG: "Moreover, if I accept reality as is -- there is nothing transcendent, there is nothing beyond the White Room -- then there is nothing that prevents me from analyzing the implications of this fact within the White Room."

Dear BG, the material word and ideal of "transcendence" is very real indeed, to the person holding such a thought. However, the person holding the material thought, can not "apply" their material ideal to the reality in which they currently live - the physical/material realm. In essence, a person choosing to selectively believe in a self-imposed blind spot by rejecting what they see, or envisioning the "opposite" of what they sense, is "strictly" a matter of mental manipulation, either willfully/unwillfully.

BG: "What you can only say here, Dave8, and you have stated it, is that I don't play by the rules, the standards, as you call them. What standards are they? I mean this: in a closed universe where all meaning is subjective, please tell me what rules exist that I must follow?"

:-) The rules, there BG, are those that sustain your "life". They are material rules, for instance, you don't have to stay out of a lake if you can't swim, but... you can surely will yourself against your better survival instincts to walk straight in, and drown. I may not be able to make you go jump in a lake, but you can surely do it for yourself - it's your right, in my opinion :-)

I have a belief system that is a little strange to some, so... let me put it bluntly. You don't have to "play" by the rules, however, I observe the "rules" being imposed on you "whether" you accept it or not.
There is truth and honesty in that, and I admire it. Yes, yes, you can be in denial/mental blind spots, to the point of taking actions to end your life, it happens. I have to study suicide briefings constantly because of the position I work in... there are many people, who routinely believe they can "beat" the rules, that they can envision themselves able to "trick" or "out-maneuver" the rules, yet... statistics show the result.

Yes, a person can go to their grave smiling in delusion, and they have that right. However, those who believe they can escape the "rules"... well, I prefer them to keep as far away from me as possible.

Speaking of those "rules", I find it amazing you are able to fix the universe in your mind as a "finite" plane. Does your "thought" of that existence change the rules of the Universe.

BG: "After all, if meaning is subjective, then who is to tell me that my violation of certain logic rules renders me meaningless, or my philosophy meaningless, if meaning is defined by me? What if my greatest pleasure while awaiting annihilation is to fashion circular arguments?"

Subjectively speaking, you have all the right in the world, yet, it doesn't remove the rules, by which you will be subject. Hey, in my subjective belief system, you don't get to "break" the rules, perhaps, flex... is as close as it gets. And on the tip of modern research, there is a lot of flexing going on.

BG: "Dave8, are you at all suggesting that there is an objective standard by which we can judge meaningfulness?

Meaningfulness is subjectively understood. Well, religions don't believe this, but... I do.

BG: "I wonder."

I agree wholeheartedly :-)

BG: "You surely seem to imply that there is some great import not to reason in a circle. But, as you may know, some circles are inevitable."

:-) I love geometrics BG. And, yes, my belief system does well to import geometric considerations.
However, I believe there are processes that are non-circular, yet... flow along perpetual processes. As well, I believe there are processes that cross-over other processes at certain points. Yes, BG, I will go with you on the belief that our reality does "present' itself as a "process", on multiple levels, and dimensions, but I don't consider a single "circle" to do the trick. As well, the word "inevitable", well... not really sure about that term. I like you, don't like semantic games, so... let me just say, the word inevitable seems to be one of those factors in the universe that seem to have "flex". The life-span of humanity was very young only a few hundred years ago, and even today depending on where one lives in the world, with "procedural" exploration, not that its been the most fruitful, has allowed humanity to "expand" its lifespan by over fifty years. What used to be "inevitable", has been postponed by half a century for many, because the conditions have been controlled much more efficiently. That creeping of the "line" that leads towards "inevitable", it being manipulated, redefined, and shortened.

BG: "No one, as far as I can tell (some might think they have), has contradicted my White Room analogy. We are all in the White Room; the classical atheist claims that all we can know is in the White Room; that meaning is subjective; that survival is the classical atheist's biggest source of ambition and altruism (survival of corporate humanity); that the entire universe is going to end in the big crush; that oblivion is the origin and fate of all people, all things, all ideas, all poetry, all art, all science, all history, all laughter, all joy, all tears, all motion, all sunsets and all bounding puppies."

BG, if your belief, is that your white room analogy can't be "challenged", then you will always believe that if you want to superimpose your desire onto all arguments to the contrary. Its your subjective belief, you can have it. However, I personally don't see the white room. You have compartmentalized and limited the universe, by placing it in a little white box. You remove the universe as part of the inter-relationship with humanity and all other organic life. Is it too much of a leap, to allow the labeled atheist enough latitude to state the interdependency of the two, you know, the universe and organic life/humanity. I get my subjective belief, right? You are capable of envisioning, timelessness, eternity, and disembodiment, white rooms that have finite walls representing the universe, and yet, you suggest the atheist to be one who is overly limiting. The theist appears to know no bounds when it comes to creating domains, and limits.
Sure, psychologically speaking, compartmentalizing is strong, and presents the illusion of strength/security. However, the rules of reality say different. Tell me where the walls are located in the white room, and I'll tell you why they are too close, okay :-)
As well, you provide doors... I don't believe there are doors in your white room, not even one. As a door, in your analogy, to me, represents something that ends, permanently. Can you speak of such things? What rules suggest to you that this is consistent with all of the other rules?

How can you be so sure, that when you walk through one door, you aren't walking back through the second door? In your circle, as you presented?

BG: "This is reality: I am not making this up, not one bit of it. Hence, some people are going to look at the White Room's exit door with anxiety; others will look at it with acceptance and peace. Some in the White Room will gather around Holy Writ, seeking solace; others will snicker at the readers of holy texts and find consolation in sex, academics, consumption, art, sport, argument, travel, exploration, inquiry, kind deeds, poetry, medicine, science, psychology, economic theory, chess. But there is only one thing to say about all options in that White Room: they are mere distractions, mere ways of coping, mere fables. The atheist staring blankly at the exit door who hurls himself through it is perhaps the only one who really believes the "truth" about reality."

That's a pretty big paint brush you're using BG. And, you're talking about individual "subjective" truth about reality, right? I mean, I haven't presented a "universal" argument, have I? I am subjectively laden, in my being. When I come across someone who can present a universal truth, then I will gladly accept the information presented. And, I don't hurl myself anywhere, because... I hold no "universal" truth about reality.

The "theist" believes in universal truths - god, etc. You portray all atheists as if they as a whole know a universal truth and that is a patently false generalization. The theist typically believes that life is a distraction; they believe that we are born in a sinful body, incapable of being cleansed by our own doing that we have to seek out that which is beyond this reality, in order to find joy/peace, etc. A theist would be most likely to jump through a door, looking for the god on the other side, especially if they blindly believe their mental vision strong enough.

BG: "He realizes that the tired Problem of Evil argument makes no sense: for if people do and MUST suffer, then struggling to endure and survive causes more suffering; he realizes that hastening annihilation is a form of mercy. Everything else is mere pretense. He accepts that all the bustle and bickering and B.S. of the White Room is merely a delay strategy; he may even conclude that it is cowardice, rooted in so much fiction. He even sees other atheists as being quite religious, such as those who believe that they can somehow make the White Room permanent, or that they can bolt the exit door closed; that they can avoid the inevitable with science, the very science that proves the great compression or fragmentation of all known and knowable things. The honest atheist looks at the People of the Holy Book and sees an incredible irony: he sees his atheist friends scoffing at the religious for hoping that some God will throw them a life-preserver, and then he sees those very atheists throw themselves life-preservers they have fashioned in vain from their own subjective hopes: hopes for more time, for more pleasure, for more fun, and more knowledge about how to keep the exit door closed.”

Interpreted as, the theist seeks death and a release from this merely fabled life, in sin. And the atheist, seeks to keep themselves alive as long as possible. However, then you apply the biased "reason" by which atheists want to seek a longer life, i.e., more pleasure, more fun, etc. Do you see the contradiction? If as "you" stated, the atheist seeks to find a way to hurl themselves out the white door, because they see the futility in a mundane life, yet you turn around and suggest that atheists don't really want to hurl themselves out the door, no, no... you suggest they (per your analogy) are trying to nail the exit door closed - that's absurd.

BG: "I may not fight fair, I may be illogical, but in a world where meaning is supplied by me, then, please, allow me to distract myself however I wish: as a theist in a Catholic Church or as a pseudo-atheist at this blog."

You can subjectively present yourself as you wish, but, the rules still trump you. And, as you attempt to promote yourself as a pseudo-atheist, why don't you learn the meaning of atheism.

BG: "No one, also, has answered my question: If oblivion is the end of ALL THINGS (and there is no hell or heaven), then which consoles people more in the White Room: A lie that tells them they MIGHT be rescued, or a truth that tells them that they won't? At least one atheist here is appalled by the Christian idea of hell (whatever THAT is), and yet is somehow comforted by the fact of oblivion, an idea which, to some people, makes THIS LIFE HELL.”

Again, as stated more eloquently by many others. Atheism isn't synonymous with Nihilism.


What sparked your response to me is because I challenged your ability to make "reasoned" statements. You stated that the theist is just as reasonable as the atheist in their belief. I still disagree. Meaning isn’t synonymous with “reason” either. A person’s “meaning” in life, isn’t tied to their ability to “reason” necessarily.

What you have convolutedly proposed in your white room analogy, and throughout your entire discourse, boils down to the difference between “art” and “science”.

Your “flowery” words, used to paint the white walls, do not have to be “reasoned”. Art isn’t confined to reasoning; it’s a form of expression, maybe with subjective “meaning”, but not necessarily “reasoned”. Ask a pianist how they can improvise on the piano for hours on end, and ask them what their “reasoning” was… and they will look at you like you need to be drug tested. There isn’t necessarily reason behind all “forms” of expression. They may just find it has personal “meaning”, not necessarily “reasoned” meaning.

Like many classes I have had to take, the professor usually whips out a question at the beginning of a field of study, and asks… is “this” course of study an “art” or a “science”? And, my canned response is… both.

Art is what humanity (subjectively) imposes on its universe. Science is what humanity (subjectively) tries to “pull” from its universe. It comes down to “intent”, there BG.

The “theist” need not reason one iota, in order to “color their world”, they are not interpreting their universe/world, they are creating it in their mind, and using information they have accumulated over time and could really care less about the basic makeup of their colors. The “atheist” intends, generally speaking to “color their world”; however, they are intent (generally speaking), on studying the makeup of the “colors”, before applying them.

Practically speaking, the “atheist”, has a better working knowledge of the colors, and is able to create a wider variety of colors/hues to use on the “white walls” of the white room.

The “theist”, because they have taken a vow to limit themselves to very few colors, and to deny the need to seek understanding of “other” possible colors that are out there, are sitting in a room, that is more “white” and colorless than the “atheists’”.

The theist only needs to reason, in order to support their ideological claims, and resistance to seeking a wider variety of colors. The theist reasons to hide reality. The atheist reasons to expose reality. We each ascribe a value to our intentions; some do it with much more known clarity than others.

Nihilism: “6. Annihilation of the self, or the individual consciousness, esp. as an aspect of mystical experience.” Psychiatry. A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one's mind, body, or self does not exist.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nihilism
The theist annihilates their individual consciousness and self, in the effort to limit their “colors”. Your assignment of nihilism towards the atheist is pointing the finger away from the theists’ belief system.

The atheist doesn’t engage in “self-nihilism”, the theist does. BG, you suggest the atheist engages in nihilism because they view artistic expression as just that, artistic expression. That doesn’t remove the individual meaning of the person creatively thinking, many atheists would agree that the individual has the right to sit around dreaming. However, one can’t annihilate what can’t be placed into this existence; so, the atheist can be considered a nihilist the moment they refuse to acknowledge a “god” the mystical theist has modeled in their mind.

Meaning: Based on the knowledge we obtain in our lives. One who can’t obtain a certain level of knowledge, due to willful ignorance, or because of their restrictive environmental conditions. Therefore, BG… meaning is much more “limited” to the theist, because they refuse to acknowledge all the possibilities and colors in our reality. Sure, the theist still has subjective meaning… like the atheist, yet… it’s more restrictive – I consider it a shame, where the theist considers it a virtue.

Lying: “3. an inaccurate or false statement.”
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lie
Here BG, here’s a question for you. If someone is “artistically” coloring their world, and telling others, that other colors aren’t available or that other people are lying about the existence of “other” colors, then is that a “lie”, or…?

BG, we all paint pictures in our mind, we are biologically wired for such a process. And, you’re right, the process of reasoning may well exist for everyone within biological limitation.

However, not everyone employs their reasoning capabilities “equally”. The doctrinal theist is shunned when they engage in “reasoning” by religious leadership. They are asked to keep the “faith”, because “faith” is a fragile concept that reason tends to break. Faith is the opposite of reason.

So, it’s more accurate to say that theists by doctrine in general are led to not reason, it’s how it works. Now, some turn on their reasoning ability outside of their religious affairs, sure, but… that’s not reasoning within the compartmentalized little part of their life that they like engaging in “limited” artistic expression – at church.

So, if someone finds meaning escaping reality, once a week, because they can lay back and not worry about any “thinking” or “reasoning”, then okay. It’s when the uneducated “theist”, takes their artistic expression and portrays it as a universal truth – that’s lying.

Okay, you have yet to refute anything I have stated; I have covered your “reason” test between the theist and atheist. The theist refuses to engage their potential to reason, because it interferes with their nice plain semi-white walled room. You’re reasoning at this moment, but that switch gets flipped when we engage your religious belief, and use terms, like; disembody, eternity, timelessness, etc, etc. And, finally, I find it amusing that one has to turn off a biological function by will, during the moments they suggest is the most important time in their life – religious services and worship.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave8,

I have merely skimmed your post. Sorry, but I cannot now reply. I believe you have come back into this debate a little late. You should read the threads after your last post (the one that preceded this one).

Quickly, please don't accuse me of something I have not done. I have REPEATEDLY entered the epistemological game. You are utterly and completely wrong here. How do I know? Because I have linked to my Christopher Hitchens essay several times in this dialogue. And that essay has everything to do with epistemology. So please, just stop making accusations against me that are rooted in misunderstanding or stubbornness.

The issue here Dave8, is not the validity of a single thing I've said, though I have been a good neighbor, and responded to most everyone in order to make myself clear. I have tried not to ignore, or avoid, a thing. The ONLY issue we should be discussing is whether Dave (Webmaster) has written a perfect statement in favor of atheism over theism, and whether he has shown his position to be any better, or even substantively different, than a Christian's, given Dave's starting point. Don't dwell on my fallibility. Why not show us how Dave's argument is infallible, inerrant? Or are people intimating that Dave's essay is NOT falsifiable? If that is the case, what does this imply about epistemology, and what does this mean about the reasonability and acceptability of Dave's work?

Obviously, everybody here believes in the infallibility of Dave. It is mere induction on my part, but I shall infer from all that dead silence that you all think Dave has complete and total mastery over his subject matter. The only conclusion we can all agree on then, I shall assume, is that I am the only person in this thread who believes that Dave is not the Pope on matters of atheism, or on the faults of Christianity.

Be well, Dave8.

Peace to all!

Bill Gnade

PS. To you all: Re: my alleged fallacious conflation of nihilism and atheism. Last night I wrote (elsewhere) the following, and I think I'll stand by it this morning:

I believe that I have not equivocated at all; though, even if I have, I believe the substance and structure of my argument remain. There is nothing in my argument that says atheists MUST be nihilists. I am saying that if NOTHINGNESS is the only absolute, then nihilism is the most brutal (candid? frank? raw? honest?) form of atheism. In other words, some atheists are naked: they do not dress in anything but the nothingness into which we all must go. Other atheists reject this. I am saying that, since there is no God, and there is no transcendent meaning in anything, then everyone can therefore choose whatever they want to believe. Hence, atheists can freely choose to be nihilists, or not. And, get this, atheists can even choose to be Christians (or vice versa).

Alan said...

Hi Bill

Maybe you can clear something up. You write:

THERE IS NO GOD

Yet on your website you write:

Grace abounds in Christianity, from sea to sea, star to sun, earth to hearth, Heart to heart. There is no peace without forgiveness, the forgiveness of God toward man, and man toward God

You also write:

I can't speak for God: God can do amazing things.

Seems like an odd contradiction.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave8,

You misunderstand what a straw man fallacy is. I have not erected one. A straw man is to erect an opponent's position as weakly as possible and then blow it down. The imagery of the straw man speaks for itself. Hence, it has nothing to do with avoidance, as you suggest. The red-herring is about avoidance, about distraction. (But even accusing me of that fallacy is a mistake.)

If you want to disagree with my belief that I did the exact opposite of a straw man, then you are free to do so. I think the record shows that I have bent over backwards to represent Dave's "argument" (he now says it never was one), in the strongest, most complete, and most exacting manner possible. I have not disrespected his statements; I have not miswritten them or misconstrued them. I erected a man of steel. And then I have tried to see if it can stand on its own. I don't think it can.

Blessings!

BG

Anonymous said...

Dear Alan,

Thank you for visiting my website.

You have missed something critical. I told everyone here that I was -- for purposes of analyzing Dave's argument -- denouncing Christianity and theism. And I did just that. I was completely up front about this. It does NOT matter what I actually believe. That does not alter the logic I followed. I started where Dave told me to start. And I followed where his argument led.

Moreover, even if I accept in total, in actuality, that there is no God, there is no contradication if I embrace subjectivism: If I don't really believe that there is a God and yet I choose to pretend there is, one can only say that I am quirkily inconsistent. But you can't say that I am inherently contradictory: I am entitled to form meaning ANY WAY I WANT. No one here, no one in the Church, no one anywhere, can tell me that I am wrong for doing this if there is, in fact, nothing absolute other than the abyss. If I find meaning in what you specifically think is a contradiction, then, the universe, which has no meaning, cannot comment on this: my alleged contradictoriness is merely something I do, with alacrity. If someone were to pursue criticizing me for thinking this way, I would accuse them of doing what theists allegedly do when they say life can't be meaningful if there is no God. I would say that my critics are arguing that a life fraught with contradictions can't be meaningful. Who are they to say? If they should choose this tactic, then they are just like theists.

But again, you are subtly asking me to reconcile my Christianity to what has gone on here. My Christianity is utterly irrelevant. Moreover, this reminds me of those who ask me to posit proof or evidence of a God that they have announced does not exist. Who is given to contradictions? If God does not exist, then do not ask me for evidence that He does. That is absurdity par excellence. If you are a person who denies God's existence, then please know this: Even if I had incontrovertible proof that God did exist, I would not (necessarily) share it with you. You already KNOW; you've already made your decision. To ask why I would even withhold such evidence is like some sort of M. C. Escher sketch. Similarly, if meaning is subjective, then please do not ask me to justify my own personal meaning. Who knows? Perhaps what keeps me from killing myself is my love of contradictions and paradox. Who can say there is a thing wrong with that?

Lastly, let me set the record straight. I am not an atheist, I do not start where Dave started, and I believe that Jesus Christ, in total and actuality, is not only ontologically real, He is the incarnate God who was raised from the dead. I am nearly thoroughly orthodox: I am a Roman Catholic with some Protestant propensities (just like I said in my second comment here). But I will repeat: my faith is irrelevant if it is a priori rejected. If someone is interested in how I reconcile my faith, my mind, my heart -- with my doubts, my scepticism -- then they are free to contact me directly. I will not bring dessert to a party if the host has forewarned me that he rejects dessert. And I will not defend that faith here until (perhaps) people begin to tell me why they've all given Dave a pass about his infallibility. I mean, if Dave's argument is errant and yet everyone accepts it, then they do so on faith; if they believe Dave's argument is errant, then they are hiding this fact by not pointing out his mistakes (to him, by the way).

Much too hastily, but with all respect,

Bill Gnade

Anonymous said...

Alan,

It seems I've created a new word, "contradication." I am sure George Bush knows what it means. But I believe it means that I have misspelled contradiction. Sorry.

Peace,

Bill Gnade

Dave8 said...

BG: "You misunderstand what a straw man fallacy is."

:-) Not really, I am just starting from my subjective POV. A straw man is applied to another person's logic, based on what the unerlying main argument is supposed to be.

My underlying main argument since the beginning was to identify clear epistemology. Your underlying main argument has been to critique the WMs POV. Where I see a straw man, attacking a main argument, you see it as superfluous and not the main issue.

Our starting points were different, I came at it logically with your post as the focus.

BG: "I have not erected one. A straw man is to erect an opponent's position as weakly as possible and then blow it down. The imagery of the straw man speaks for itself. Hence, it has nothing to do with avoidance, as you suggest. The red-herring is about avoidance, about distraction. (But even accusing me of that fallacy is a mistake.)"

Its all based on the focus of the discussion, we have obviously focused on what we considered to be of greatest importance. I have focused on logic and your post, and you have focused on the WMs.

BG: "If you want to disagree with my belief that I did the exact opposite of a straw man, then you are free to do so. I think the record shows that I have bent over backwards to represent Dave's "argument" (he now says it never was one), in the strongest, most complete, and most exacting manner possible."

In a subjective being's life, I'm not sure we can truly represent other people... that would be like me trying to represent your thoughts, which I couldn't possibly have. Even if I had your words, I could not possibly know their correlary meaning to other events in your life. I could ask for additional information, and "try" to get a better insight, but... I suppose that's the best we could ever do.

BG: "I have not disrespected his statements; I have not miswritten them or misconstrued them. I erected a man of steel. And then I have tried to see if it can stand on its own. I don't think it can."

If a man of steel is synonymous with "perfect", then, it seems one would have to be "perfect" to be able to measure the standard itself. By not being the perfect standard, one just accepts their humanity. Perhaps, the difference may be in how one approaches life then?

Peace!

Dave8 said...

BG, just curious... does a person receive a title through self acceptance, or... are they defined by those around them?

I mean, we mentally model reality, and display reality by using some form/symbols, right?

That means, I could creatively/artistically create a definition that I could apply to a christian, and it would be totally sound, or not so sound, but I could do so. Then, I could assign it to a person to represent what I believed a person represented.

For instance, I could call a christian a prgamatic nihilist, a materialist, a reductionist/minimalist, and on, and on.

If we can't define that standard, because we ourselves are subjectively laden, what do we rely on to judge others? Is it in their thoughts, which we can't possibly know, or their actions? If actions... are words necessary? If not, then what does it mean to be religious/non-religious?

Just trying to see your point of view (POV).

Dave8 said...

BG, I pulled this from your site blog. It was interesting, I'm not sure I totally agree with your below statement. If you have the time, I would like to "explore" your insights.

"Surely you see the conundrum. Though we can have things outside of ourselves be objects of our own consciousness, we are not able to make our own consciousness an object of itself. It is not possible for the subject to be its own object; it's not possible for the knower to simultaneously know himself. It is a bit like Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty: one can't measure the position or velocity of a particle without affecting either (and hence one can't be certain of either). Thus, we cannot prove to ourselves that we even have selves: it is not possible to make one's mind an object of scrutiny. How then does each of us even know we have a self?

We know this by extrapolation made in faith. It is faith, not certainty, that is at the bottom of our 'certainty.' I cannot prove to you I exist, because I cannot prove my own existence even to myself. I have to make a leap of faith that I exist, or that my existence and mind and thoughts correspond at all to the reality outside my very being. There is no one who is not faith-full. Faith is the very basis of human epistemology. You can be certain of it."
http://contratimes.blogspot.com/2006/09/existence-of-god-letter-to-christopher.html

Do you believe we can only exist, or know of our existence "relative" to our environment? So, a person would lose their identity and sanity if they were in a white room, according to your analogy, right?

So, anyone in your white room, would be devoid of spatial resistence, and able to develope biologically, right?

BG: "Though we can have things outside of ourselves be objects of our own consciousness, we are not able to make our own consciousness an object of itself."

What does it mean, to have "things" outside of "ourselves", or to have "objects" within our "consciousness"? Is the reflection in the mental mirror, you suggest, as "object", or just an electrical neural impulse representing the external reality? We can't perceive our own consciousness? What do you propose a consciousness is exactly?

What is the difference between conscience/consciousness/thought?

Is a person's conscience/thought reflective of a neural process? To be thought(ful), is to be full of thought, being fully engaged in the "thought" process renders a "conscience". To have a conscience makes one human, to not have a conscience or to not be engaged in the "thought" process, renders one "inhuman" and capable of atrocities.

To be conscious is to be aware of ones existence.

BG: "It is not possible for the subject to be its own object; it's not possible for the knower to simultaneously know himself."

If objects are stored in our minds as electro-neural impulses, then isn't it possible to store an image that represents ourselves, biologically, and in relation to our environment? Are we consciously representative, of all the knowledge we hold? If so, do we just need to be "aware" of recalling that information?

Do you believe a person can extricate different levels of consciousness, based on sensory ability to recall knowledge at different times in their life? Or do, you see being a conscious entity, something consistent throughout one's life?

Thought, is one of those topics I didn't get into, in college. Of course, I went to a religious university, and it would have been extremely contentious, as one persons' thought, is another persons' soul, depending on a persons' knowledge base, which creates their POV. Just thought I'd take you up on reading your blog

Peace.

Alan said...

Bill wrote:

It does NOT matter what I actually believe.

Sorry Bill, I don't buy that, and your behavior here says just the opposite (your glee that I fell into your "trap," for example.) Also, if you had incontrovertible proof of God's existence it would be: a) the most significant discovery in the history of mankind, b) your duty as a Christian to share it with the world, and c) all you would ever need to "destroy" atheism. The "you wouldn't accept my evidence because your mind is already made up" defense is a common refrain from Christians on this website and carries no weight. If there is anything we can determine from your writing, it is that you believe the universe is meaningless unless a supreme being gives it meaning, you can tell me I'm mistaken until your keyboard wears out but its plain as day.

webmaster: my apologies for feeding any trolls ;)

Jim Arvo said...

And the exchange goes on...

BG: "First, I am not the one who introduced 'meaning' into this whole debate...

Correct. But you made it a central plank in your thesis, and you freely exchanged it with other words, such as "perception". Your rhetoric made it necessary to clarify what the word meant and how it was being used.

BG: "second, I have already defined 'meaning', as have several others (for me)..."

No, you have never "defined" meaning. I gave you several explicit definitions, and others provided implicit definitions, but you never expressed any preference for one above another (at least none that I recall). As for why it was not an issue from the very start, many words can be used in their colloquial sense without problem. The word "meaning" is often used casually without need of clarification. However, when an argument turns on one or two core concepts, you had better be clear about those concepts. Moreover, if a word is used in multiple senses, leading to equivocation, then it's time to be more precise about the sense of the word. Your most frequent error is equivocation, as I've explained at length above, and will continue to point out below.

BG: "In one of Jim's first comments to me he asked rhetorically (to which I answered rhetorically, by the way): Why not kill ourselves right now?"

Do you seriously think I was posing that as a legitimate question? I was paraphrasing your question so that I could answer it directly. Please go back and look at the context.

BG: "...the honest atheist realizes that all his reasons for living are mere fictions, or so I averred (or something like that). The honest atheist looks at the inevitability of suffering for all humanity (or Dave's "hard reality"), and wants to free himself, mercifully, by jumping headlong into his fate, which is the abyss."

Okay, I'm going to indulge your game for a moment. The honest theist will attempt to understand what an atheist's position is without trying to color it with emotionally charged language, and without making inflammatory generalizations. The honest theist will offer evidence for his position if he has it or admit that he has none. The honest theist will not force labels onto others that they themseleves do not think appropriate (e.g. I am an atheist, not an agnostic, not a nihilist). Have I made my point, or do I need to be more explicit?

BG: "In other words, 'meaning' is that which keeps us all from committing suicide right now. Meaning keeps us alive. Meaning gives us pleasure. Meaning gives us a 'perception'... So you see, I have defined meaning already...."

Blerg keeps us from committing suicide. Blerg keeps us alive. Blerg gives us pleasure. Blerg gives us "grock." Now you know what "blerg" is, right? Still no definition from you, let alone any attempt to use the word consistently. By the way, you'll note I usually put quotes around that word to flag it as suspicious--i.e. something that may need to be more carefully defined.

BG: "...I have even addressed several meanings posited by some of you, which are: survival, progeny, evolution, love, progress, science (knowledge). And I have shown that these are certainly meaningful, but only in a subjective sense."

You've done no such thing. In effect, you simply dismiss anything which is not eternal as meaningless. You have also disregarded the objective nature of science, and the physical basis of our needs and drives. In other words, you arrive at your nihilistic view by systematically closing your eyes to all that is. Why not just embrace solipsism?

BG: "Again, no matter what meaning a person embraces, the payoff is exactly the same: nothing."

I will spell out this tired fallacy once more, as clearly as I can. In one sense, the "payoff" is indeed "nothing"; we can all agree that no belief (which is what you intend by "meaning" here) can change the fact that you will one day die--call that result "nothing" if you like (from the point of view of the individual). But the sense of "payoff" in your above sentence is quite different; it implies that there is no reason for a person to adopt one belief over another. So, your argument comes down to this once you strip away the equivocation: Since we will one day die no matter what we believe, then our beliefs make no difference while living. Now, if that's your thesis, then go ahead and defend it. Thus far it is a dogmatic assertion at best, if not an outright fallacy.

BG: "To me, taking umbrage that I have not defined my terms, when I have, suggests that people merely want to avoid the harsh reality of my overall conclusions,..."

But you have NOT defined your terms, and you have NOT made any attempt to even use them consistently. Hence, you repeatedly commit the fallacy of equivocation. I see no improvement. None. Ignoring a fallacy does not make it go away.

BG: "There is no ontological advantage in being an atheist, nor is the atheist's position privileged over the theist's, nor is there any significant epistemological advantage in being an atheist other than being right that there is no God. But this knowledge yields no necessary benefit."

Now you use the terms "ontological advantage" and "epistemological advantage". I will interpret those together implying an increased likelihood of holding beliefs that accord with reality. Operationally, that might mean increasing the likelihood of making correct predictions about the effects of various causes that we observe. (If you mean something else, then please do supply your own definition, or amend/redact mine.) You then claim that this yields no "benefit". To avoid equivocation, let's be clear what "benefit" means. If you mean avoiding death, then you are right; your statement is simply the original observation in disguise. There is no dispute. However, the statement is vacuous. If by "benefit" you mean helping to meet basic biological needs, then the statement is clearly false. If my beliefs about how the world operates are "accurate", then I am in a better position to meet my needs, and the needs of those around me, than if my beliefs are "inaccurate".

So, removing the equivocation from your conclusion, it becomes either vacuously true, or demonstrably false. Take your pick.

BG: "The atheist has no intrinsic need, requirement, compulsion, or reason to tell others about his or her atheism, nor to tell others that their perception of reality is inferior. All viewpoints lead to the same ultimate conclusion."

Equivocation on "conclusion". If you mean "death", then yes, the statement is vacuously true. If you mean that all beliefs produce the same behaviors while alive, then the statement is blatantly false. Again, take your pick.

BG: "Now. One rebuttal to my argument, a rebuttal I regard as a weak one, stems for the argument that ideas have consequences."

Yes, ideas do have consequences. You seem to believe that those consequences are unimportant, or "meaningless". However, none of your rhetoric explicates this view.

BG: "I am under the impression that should atheism prevail -- should it ever become the dominant worldview -- in a world purged of all theism, there is nothing in the universe that declares that benevolence, altruism, love, kindness, or mercy are at all important."

Here we have the crux of the matter. I strongly suspect that this is the underlying belief that has been driving your rhetoric from the start, and making your equivocal statements so alluring that you cannot perceive the flaws, even when they are pointed out to you. (This, by the way, is probably why some have been interested in discovering your true convictions; it often makes it easier to understand the person's biases.)

Your "impression" can only seem plausible if you imagine humans to be empty vessels into which one can pour whatever beliefs, emotions, and drives one desires. If that were true, then yes, one could easily imagine a world in which people merely sought their own immediate gratification and had no compunction toward murder and all manner of treachery. Whether humanity would exist for very long in that state is another matter, and not relevant to the immediate point I'm making, which is this: We are NOT empty vessels. We are biological organisms with a long ontogenic history. We have many fundamental needs and drives. Our brains are wired for social interaction, and replete with heuristics that are squarely aimed at communication, empathy, cooperation, and yes, competition (to name just a few). On this physical substrate a long *social* history exists in which abstract ideas have flourished; those which comport best with reality and with our biological natures have tended to succeed. In short, if you wish to simply ignore who we are, and what we have built as a species, then nihilism may look plausible to you. For the rest of us, that position is on a par with solipsism.

You ask why we should focus on your arguments rather than finding flaws in Dave's essay. Easy. Your position is worlds apart from that of anyone here. You espouse a position of nihilism, which to most of us is absurd. Dave's position is very reasonable, even if not perfect. Nobody's ideas are flawless. That's one reason we discuss things, and quite often disagree amongst ourselves.

boomSLANG said...

It's doubtful I can improve upon what's already been said, but I'll make some general comments, anyway.

On a personal level, I found B.G. to have a broad command of the English language. I can also appreciate the fact that he didn't resort to the same classic hellfire "threats" of his religious counterparts, or bludgeon us to death with biblical quotes. That part was refreshing. However, playing the eloborate "dot-to-dot" game has been frustrating, especially when we all know what the final drawing reveals.

To begin---the thing that really strikes me as a bit odd, Contra'(if you're there) is that you keep attempting to clarify and re-clarify your position. From what I gather, that's because you feel that you are being misunderstood? Assuming "yes", you might just have to accept that people may NEVER accept Bill Gnade's conclusions about the way he see's the world, no matter how objective he thinks he's being; no matter how articulate of a man he may be.

So, B.G., it seems the Webmaster's original post rang true for most, but for you, it did not. Fine. You came here and you commented. Again, fine. However, the article's premise wasn't being offered to you with conditions attached to it. No one is saying you MUST believe it, or there will be consequences effecting your livelyhood. You are free to reject it, as you have done, and we are free to reject your rejection, as we have done.

Moving on---the crux is, "Atheism is no better than Theism", with "better" meaning, "having more meaning", with "meaning" meaning, a variety of things. Nonetheless, B.G., in arriving at this conclusion, in my opinion, you have fabricated a straw man, caricatured Atheism, and contradicted your own premise all along the way. You'll correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure of it---but you seem to be saying that for every last God-less person on this planet, that whatever "meaning" they derive in their natural existance ..i.e.. whatever purposefulness; contentment; satisfaction; joy; love; pleasure...basically, anything that they "feel" emotionally in their lifetime, is a "lie"---a mere distraction of the inevitable "nothingness" that awaits. Good so far?

Keeping in line with the aforementioned, and for the "sake of argument", you do your damnedest to "suck it all in" and "level" the playing field, by supposedly going along with the Atheist premise that there is no God; no afterlife, etc..which, subsequently, you would be consigning that theists are wasting their time and "meaning", too.(again, which you admit for the sake of argument)

Okay, firstly, you have tipped your cards on more than one occasion. So the saying goes---you can take the man out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the man. In other words, you are essentally saying, "I'll agree to go out to eat with you guys, but try to ignore the fact that I'm naked." "OIKS!" So I'm saying, you cannot be truly objective about living a temporal life, unless you could somehow remove your conviction that there is an atemporal life awaiting you. The point/difference being, we have evidence of this life.

Secondly, and due to this inability to be truly objective, your "premise" is errected based on how Bill Gnade see's non-theists, not how they actually are. To give benefit of doubt, you have shown that "nihilism" is "latin" for "nothing". Fantastic...but try as you might, you have fallen short in showing that Atheism is english for "nothing". You have only shown what you feel it should "mean", based on being a theist. You are TELLING us that the proverbial glass is half empty, not asking us---and based on your answer, you are TELLING us that the glass yields no water at all.

Thirdly, it is clear that you are in fact a Christian. So all along when you mention "God" or "atoms" or a "Thin man on a Sussex slope", you mean Jesus Christ. You have been disigenuous about claiming not to be disigenuous. I wonder though, are you currently visiting any Muslim websites tossing around "White Room" analogies? I mean, don't you "care" that they "care" how Bill Gnade spends his time in the "holding cell"? After all, according to your doctrine, their fate amounts to a big fat goose egg, or even worse according to some of your fellow "theists". A Muslim's "meaning" denies the inevitable, just like a non-theist's "meaning" denies the inevitable, right? Yes, because they reject your idea of what lies beyond the "White Room".

So see, this isn't about the benefits of theism vs the benefits of non-theism; this isn't about how non-theists spend their time in the "White Room" vs how theists spend their time in the "White Room". This is clearly about the benefits of Christianity vs non-Christianity. It's about how Christians spend their time in the "White Room" vs how NON-Christians spend their time in the "White Room".

B.G., you made a big dramatic interjection about how you've NOT brought your particular brand of religious convictions into the discussion, yet, you know perfectly well that if you did, your argument would crumble due to lack of evidence, thus, affecting the premise of your original argument. You circumvented that whole part of your "philosophy", because like all Christians, you have an agenda based on a conviction, but can't back it up with facts.

Dave8 to Contratimes: If you suggest your discussion is not philosophically founded, then, please... tell everyone what it "is" founded on.

Do we really need Detective Columbo to solve this?

Jim Arvo said...

BG: "Moreover, this reminds me of those who ask me to posit proof or evidence of a God that they have announced does not exist."

Who, specifically, has said that god categorically does not exist then asked your for evidence?

BG: "If God does not exist, then do not ask me for evidence that He does. That is absurdity par excellence."

You say "There is a God!". I say "I don't believe you. Show me your evidence."

You just deployed a classic straw man argument; one that has been evident throughout much of your writing.

.:webmaster:. said...

JA said: "So, your argument comes down to this once you strip away the equivocation: Since we will one day die no matter what we believe, then our beliefs make no difference while living. Now, if that's your thesis, then go ahead and defend it. Thus far it is a dogmatic assertion at best, if not an outright fallacy."

Methinks you most excellently and concisely nailed it.

boomSLANG said...

BG: If God does not exist, then do not ask me for evidence that He does. That is absurdity par excellence.[bold added]

I'll tell you what I find absurd, and that is, for a man who is as well spoken as B.G....that he is seemingly STILL struggling to understand what Atheism actually means. Either that, or he's undelightfully stubborn.

Refresher: Atheism is NOT a "statement"...i.e.."God does not exist". It is a position that one takes, that says, I have no belief in god(s), until objective evidence is put forth that one exists. It's neutrality, NOT a conviction. The word really wouldn't even be necessary if it weren't for people insisting that gods DO exist. We don't have a designated word for people who don't believe in "elves", do we? So again---no one is saying that "God" is disproven, only UNproven. If someone on this thread said "God doesn't exist", and said it as an absolute, or implied it as such, then they misrepresented Atheism.

Now, I hope I've been helpful enough, as well as genteel enough, to not have to go over this crap again in this discussion.

Thanks so much.

boomSLANG said...

Atheism refresher, Part II:

So now, WHICH "idea" of "God" was it we were talking about? For the sake of argument, let's say that "God" and Her attributes could objectively be defined, and thus, She could objectively be shown to exist, empircally. Okay---SO? How does THAT necessitate and "make True" the implication that this "entity" and the Christian biblegod are one and the same? ANY takers?...any theists?...any believers?...anybody willing to waste their time on explanations for people who, even if they do comprehend it, it won't matter, because...oh, because nothing matters inside the empty white room if the result is the abyss?

Thanks in advance.

Jim Arvo said...

My three-year-old says "Daddy, there's a monster under my bed!"

I say "Show me."

Absurdity par excellence!

J. C. Samuelson said...

To: Bill, Boom, Jim, Dave, Alan, Dave8, and anyone else who's been taking part in or following this discussion

I had a stroke of insight today that might resolve our difficulties. There's no time to finish it now however, but I'll try hard to have it finished tomorrow.

Dave8 said...

boomSLANG: "Do we really need Detective Columbo to solve this?"

Only, if we need to find the "real" BG, who currently suggests he is in spiritual possession of another person's body, and more than capable of rendering their "True Thoughts" :-)

Reductio Ad Summum Absurdum

Dave8 said...

JCS: "I had a stroke of insight today that might resolve our difficulties. There's no time to finish it now however, but I'll try hard to have it finished tomorrow."

Hey JCS, take your time... BG is stil engaged in his out of body experience, using some theoretical "spiritual" power of attorney. :-)

J. C. Samuelson said...

Dear Bill,

Sometimes, insight comes in spurts. I've revised my position on whether to post this to the thread or keep it confined to email, because I think we might all benefit from it. What follows is a clumsy attempt to reshape this discussion into something a bit more fruitful, perhaps even find resolution.

It seems that we having been arguing in circles. Unless I'm mistaken, we've failed to reach agreement because of purely epistemic considerations. There is certainly more to it, but I'm sure this is foundational. Also, as interesting as this discussion has been, Ex-Christian.net isn't really the proper forum for it (I'm sure Dave, at least, would agree). Hopefully, the epiphany that led to this post will help to answer your question, though in my estimation an answer has already been given. Whether you're satisfied with the answer will be for you to decide.

Some of this is a bit bold, so I'll ask you in advance to forgive my presumption in what follows. Some of it may also seem repetitive, since Jim already pointed to and demonstrated the potential and actual equivocation. Where I address the same thing, it's meant to reinforce what he's already said. Keep in mind that although I'm critical of your argument, I hold you in high regard.

The question was asked, what advantage does atheism have over theism? First of all, the terms are poorly chosen. This is not to disparage your ability with language or judgment; I doubt even you realized the implications when you first posed the question. Part of the problem is that 'atheism' and 'theism' are heavy with emotional baggage and loaded with assumption. In addition, each is informed by diverse philosophies. You - rather arbitrarily, in my opinion - focused on one. This will be explained later. On the other hand, we've tried to pin down your specific brand of theism because, as you surely know, theism can't be tied to one philosophy either. After all, you can't help but be informed by it; you are limited by your subjectivity just as we are.

It must be admitted that we also zeroed in on one fairly specific type of theism even as we searched for your specific brand. Given the site name and the content of your blog, this perhaps isn't surprising.

Several other terms have suffered from a lack of clear definition. Advantage, reason, and meaning are just a few. As Jim points out, advantage can be applied in either narrow or broad senses, which I will demonstrate you have applied interchangeably throughout. As it is, what constitutes an advantage is highly subjective; what any individual considers an advantage can be radically different from another's. Not having a clear idea of which type of advantage is being discussed merely compounds the problem.

To demonstrate, you apply 'advantage' as what is to be gained in the broadest sense (i.e., a term of any length, but usually long) when you refer to the absolute of death. In other words, in this sense advantage means 'net gain.' In contrast, when asking the question about how doctors behave in the trauma center with respect to their theological leanings, that's advantage in a narrower sense; confined to the trauma center and the patient's immediate survival (i.e., short- or mid-term). If we apply advantage in the broadest sense to the question, you're right; neither enjoys an advantage in that we are all bound for death eventually regardless of how skilled the doctor may be. However, this is not the sense in which it was asked and it doesn't seem relevant to the original question except in light of a narrower definition.

The terms reason and meaning have also suffered. Reason has alternately referred to cognitive proclivities, conceptual organization, or purpose. For example, when addressing Sam Harris' quote you equivocate for him by interpreting 'reasonable' as 'purposeful' or 'organized' and ignoring the full context. Harris obviously means 'rational' or 'rational thinking,' referring to cognition. To appreciate the quote, here it is with his intended definition - informed by context - inserted: "I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too [rational]." You admit to equivocating when you say you simply "took it as far as [you] wanted."

I can't improve on what Jim has already said regarding meaning, so I'll leave that as it is. In any case I don't mean to focus on what others have so eloquently addressed. As to whether you have the right to apply whatever meaning you like to the terms in play, I agree. However, you can hardly expect to get a clear answer unless we agree on the semantics. Refusing to help clarify your meaning only serves to paint you as being deliberately ambiguous; maybe even deceptive. Then again, perhaps you are just as confused as we are, and are groping for definitions even as you type the words. Personally, I've had to refer to the dictionary several times to better understand of what's been happening here.

Returning to the question, there is another lingering fallacy implicit to the choice of terms that some may have already spotted. It's the fallacy of bifurication; the fallacy of the excluded middle. This is not to say that there might be someone who is both theist and atheist in the narrowest sense. It is only to say that because you have applied an arbitrarily specific interpretation of atheism in order to prove your point, you have excluded all the other possibilities that lie on a continuum between the two. I believe this stems from your subscription to the Kant school of philosophical idealism.

Supported by science (e.g., Heisenberg's uncertainty principle; part of quantum physics), your philosophy appears to be an expression of Kant's philosophy of transcendental idealism. Very well-suited to generic theology, this idealism acknowledges the existence of a physical reality but the mind is preeminent, giving rise to the idea of transcendence. Kant posited that reason consists of a priori intuitions pertaining to cause & effect, space & time. Furthermore, reason is empty absent our senses that give us imperfect impressions of the physical reality. What reason does is to organize these impressions to give us a cogent understanding of reality as a whole, albeit an imperfect one (i.e., subjective).

The most pertinent part of idealism here is that to Kant, thought is an activity which allows us to learn about reality. We improve our knowledge through exploration and experimentation, and therefore must have the freedom to do so. As a result materialism, which - being deterministic (not disposed to freedom) - hypothesizes reason or mind to be merely the result of undirected physical processes must necessarily be false.

Perhaps partly as a result of your experiences with atheists, who do tend to talk quite a bit about physical processes and science, you've logically deduced that atheists in general must be materialists. This would comport with many atheists' denial of transcendence, particularly of a transcendent 'other' that theists call by many names, and which seems directly opposite your own beliefs and philosophy. We have even reinforced your perception through our continued references to naturalistic ideas - science.

Combining all of the above, you've deemed the most honest atheist to be true Epicurean materialist, for she must be the antithesis of the most strident fundamentalist of faith; a True Believer™. Since undirected physical processes are meaningless and purposeless in and of themselves, and since morality requires freedom to explore our thoughts, atheists must therefore also be nihilists. Thus, you've tried to adopt this perspective in order to examine the implications of a purely materialistic universe, which you've arbitrarily decided is the position of a True Atheist™.

From the perspective of this hypothetical disciple of Democritus, we describe the material universe. We have agreed it is a closed system, that we can't know whether or not there is a trancendent 'other' outside the system, and that all of us must inevitably face the absolute. We have even agreed that in the face of that one absolute, there is no net gain for the individual. All people are utterly equal individuals in death. In that sense, we have conceded your point - many times, actually. But this is not all.

This hypothetical atheist is also a zealot; a proselytizing champion for material truth. He feels he is in some way superior to his theist counterparts because of the spectacular success of scientific endeavor. Not content to live and let live, he thumps his book on evolution just as surely as the fundamentalist thumps his Bible. For him, science is as you say, the summum bonum of life. He is boastful and arrogant (like Richard Dawkins - according to Ted Haggard, anyway). He is every bit the dogmatist; his materialism is almost dialectical, making his atheism not unlike that of Marx or Lenin.

Still, this atheist is not without his contradictions. He is the Marquis de Sade when it comes to mystery, flaying it away with every stroke of his scientific whip. He is the poisoner of poetic inspiration, the crusher of creativity, the eliminator of intuition, and the sworn enemy of faith. Yet somehow he can also be caring, compassionate, thoughtful, even brilliant, adding value to other's lives through science that aids them. Or he can use it for destruction. But whether or not he does is entirely up to him and not subject to any morality but his own. And being human he finds meaning in his nothingness, purpose in his subjectivity. His mistake is in thinking that this somehow amounts to something. He is in almost every way an anti-hero.

The one major virtue our hypothetical atheist has, is that he's believable. There have been, and still remain today, atheists with many of those traits. If there is a weakness in atheism as a personal philosophy, this would be it.

Compare this to the generic theist that has been ever so subtly woven into our discussion. He exists in your answers and contrasts our arguments. He is unassuming and patient. Content with his subjectivity, he is as honest as our atheist in that he admits that he doesn't know what God is or may be. For all he knows, God is found in the atomic particle and therefore part of our closed system, or He exists in the mind as a consoling presence. If he is a doctor, he is every bit as scientific as the atheist, skillfully applying knowledge of our physical world to his craft. He might be a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu, or a Pagan. For him, god is simply a certainty; a hope for something better. But God is. How could anyone find fault with him for simply believing? Moreover, what advantage does an atheist have over him at any time? He is very nearly the quintessential hero.

The answer, really, is none. But the comparison appears to be flawed. Do you see it? You'll also notice that I excluded Buddhism from the short list of potential theistic religions. This is because Buddhists are most often of secular dispostion rather than theistic in that they don't usually worship deities. There are few sects that do, but this is not the norm. The reason this is important will become clear.

For all his virtues, this generic theist is not the equivalent of our dogmatic atheist. This is the main failure of your argument. In order for this theist to be the beneficiary of whatever victory you may have gained here, he had to become more secular. He had to become less certain, less dogmatic, more open to science, more willing to explore and understand, more tolerant. He had to be more discerning in which concepts to apply to his life from scripture, and less convinced of its literal truth.

The closest equivalents would really be the fundamentalists. An Islamist, Christian Reconstructionist, a Westboro Baptist, an anti-homosexual Evangelical Creationist, a Dominionist - these are a few we might pick. Informed by their absolute certainty in a transcendental 'other' that has a very specific name, with very specific traits, who gives very specific commands, and has very specific plans for humanity, they set about the task of trying to make everyone conform to their idea of reality. A reality whose description they cull from scripture, deemed to be the product of divine authorship and therefore inerrant. It is to be taken literally. All the while he claims to do this because he loves everyone and doesn't want to see them burn in hell, which is of course literal. He is in almost every way an anti-hero.

If we compare the two anti-heroes in our materialist universe, the fundamentalist theist loses this debate decisively. This is because if we live in a closed system, all advantages must be considered in that context. That is, we are all united in purpose with regard to survival, for that is the only purpose that can really have meaning to those living within such a system. Those who have the advantage survive longest. Progress could be measured this way. Secularists and enlightened theists share this advantage. Though the fundamentalists benefit from our endeavors and a community of like-minded brethren, thereby aiding their survival, they are opposed to the very things that help us progress as far as we can. This opposition is expressed in many ways, from the relatively mild Christian Scientist who refuses medical science, to the suicide bomber. They also distract themselves by interfering in the distractions of others, rather than simply living.

Before closing, we'll briefly return to the fallacy of the excluded middle mentioned earlier.

Part of your assumption was that the most honest atheist would be a pure materialist. There are atheists who believe in transcendence, but that the duality exists only between the mind and body. That's non-theistic idealism; a philosophy not far removed from your own. This is simply the absence of belief in a transcendent 'other' that you call God. Another possibility is that an atheist (or theist, really) chooses an interpretation of nature according to subjective purpose as long as it's consistent with scientific observation. One final possibility is the atheist who chooses a secular religion, such as Buddhism. He can explore spirituality without the theological baggage. Sam Harris is one of these. Maybe that's why I like him so much. He's authentically interested in those aspects of life and it doesn't contradict his atheism.

Who's to say who is the most honest? Is the fundamentalist more honest in his belief than you, in that he strips away all the materialistic chaff that distracts him from his spiritual certainty? Or is it you who's more honest in your search for truth, entertaining new ideas, and confessing your uncertainty while still adhering to the truths that you sense have value? The answer should be obvious.

In any event there are many atheists who don't have a problem with believers who simply comfort themselves with what might amount to false hope. As long as they're playing well with others - including atheists - the question can remain academic and prove to be an entertaining distraction. When it gets too rowdy though, then the gloves come off.

So you see, this never really was a debate about what advantage atheism has over theism. Nor has it been about fallacies. This was about materialism vs. idealism, and dogma vs. simple faith. In the final analysis, only we can decide what answer we're satisfied with.

"On a long enough timeline, everyone's survival rate drops to zero."
~ Tyler Durden, the main character in "Fight Club"

Bill Gnade said...

Six months since my last visit: How disappointing it is for me to see that every one of my comments in this thread shows up as "anonymous." I do not post anonymous anythings, anywhere, at any time.

That my "Contratimes" tag has been replaced by "anonymous" is perhaps only explained by my having changed my Blogger name to my actual name. So, for any of you reading this who believe me to be too cowardly for anything but anonymity, please realize that this change in my moniker appears to be the fault of technology, and not any fault of my own.

BG, Gnade, Contratimes: in this thread, they are all the same.

Peace to you.

Gnade

fjell_strom said...

I just spent (wasted?) my entire Saturday morning, afternoon, and a portion of the evening dredging through every entry of this six-month-old argument.

How fantastically thrilled I was to find, at the end, that Bill Gnade (whose last name means Mercy in German) actually returned just two days ago to make another comment!

Throughout this debate, the regulars of ex-Christian - in particular Jim Arvo - seemed time and again to invite BG to investigate the confusing nature of his use of language, to which BG seemed to react every time by merely dishing out a second helping.

What I never understood, however, was why no one bothered to mention an incredibly simple - very human - word. A word I think which would have had a lot of relevance.

That word is "enjoyment".

How many thousands of words were wasted over trying to figure out if our lives were "meaningful", both on the part of BG and everyone else?

I think BG's assertion that oblivion as the END demands that the honest atheist immediately bring about his own demise could have been deftly swept to the side with a single use of the word "enjoy".

Jim Arvo nearly nailed it with an analogy about childhood pleasures.

I enjoy being alive.

I am not particularly concerned with what it might or could or maybe does or doesn't mean.

I enjoy it. I enjoy being alive.

I am not eager to leave here because I enjoy being here. Whether you "think" I ought not enjoy being here is besides the point.

I do.

.:webmaster:. said...

Excellent point, Fjell. I enjoy my life as well.

Thanks.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear fjell_strom,

It is curious to me how few people understand what I have written throughout this thread. I have said (elsewhere) many times that I can do everything in my power to write as clearly as possible; that it is my responsibility to be a great writer. But it is not my responsibility to make people great readers.

My argument from beginning to end fits entirely into a context. That context is not designed or defined by me; it is defined and designed by the author of "A Christ-less Grave." It is he who has set our task before us. My obligation in issuing a comment is solely to him. There is nothing herein stating that I must reply to every comment or counterargument, no matter how lame or astute. But, being a man of reasonable courtesy, I did try to respond to everything placed before me.

Now, what is the context Mr. Webmaster set before us? I should think it is perfectly clear: he has much to gripe about regarding Christianity in particular and theism in general. In other words, he has an issue.

What is Mr. Webmaster's conclusion? Well, allow me to pull it out:

There is one final destination for us all; there is no difference regardless of our "perception of reality." The Christian believes differently, but has absolutely no evidence to back up their viewpoint other than the hearsay report of a highly suspect, contradictory book of myths. A book, no less, which was written and complied for the stated purpose of keeping adherents in line by using threats of horrific damnation and promises of indistinct rewards.

So it is clear that I am not the person obsessed with destination, or the "final end" of man. In fact, I am not obsessed with anything. But Mr. Webmaster clearly is at least concerned (if not obsessed): he has reached an absolute conclusion about Man's end. He has also concluded much about the preposterousness of Christianity's claims that the final end is different than what Mr. Webmaster "knows" it to be.

My response to Mr. Webmaster is utterly simple: Who cares? and Why care? This is not really meant in an absolutely facetious sense; rather, it is meant partly facetiously so to address the thrust of his remarks: Why does it matter that people get things right? And why does he care what Christians think? Why does he care what influence Christians have on others?

There is nothing overly tricky about my approach. If meaning, purpose and, yes, even "enjoyment" are defined by each person, then there is no "better" meaning, purpose or enjoyment. After all, this whole existence-thing boils down to taste, preference, even aesthetics: there is no Absolute or law or mandate or "truth" compelling me to believe, act, or think a certain way. I am autonomous, and thus I am free to be as reasonable or unreasonable as I wish, all to my enjoyment.

But Mr. Webmaster believes in an over-arching, absolute truth; he believes there is a "should" and a "should not" quality to life: one should not be a Christian, or a theist, or wrong about materialism or the afterlife. He is genuinely concerned about deception and fraud. I am saying that such a viewpoint, and such concern, is entirely his own; that there is no reason others could not, or must not, disregard it.

Please note that if I define for myself what is meaningful, purposive, interesting, enlightening, enjoyable, erotic, spiritual, inspirational, rational, wrong, right and coherent, then I have no one to answer to, nor do I have to comply to some sort of outside standard: I can frolic in irrationalism if I choose. But I have not told anyone that their ONLY option is suicide: I have merely said that the atheist who is most transparent about what is in front of him; that man who does not delude himself with lies or pretensions; that man who does not sedate himself against pain or fear or anxiety with happy little thoughts; that man who says frankly that his purpose comes solely from himself in the face of a silent universe; THAT man and this type of atheist is all the more honest if he chooses to just quit taking up space and kill himself. I am not saying that he must or that he should, but that it is utterly cogent, reasonable and lucid IF he should (or might) kill himself. I "get" the suicide who chooses "reality" over this parenthetical existence wherein we create meaning for the mere interim. I "get" his impatience, and I get his interest in choosing that he himself shall be the decisive factor in his final moment: he derives power and meaning in not letting "chance" choose his final moment for him. He "enjoys" (your word) ending his life on his own, meaningful and decisive terms.

(Look, I will even concede that atheism is right and that all theistic truths are detrimental. But I don't see how that changes my initial question: Who cares? Every argument posited here that defends some sort of standard for obeying atheism's clearest statements, from pragmatism to survivalism to "enjoyment", still does not add up to anything that answers the "Who cares?" or "Why care?" questions I have thrown out. Why, REALLY, should I care? (My guess is that should you answer this, your answer will unwittingly open the door to theism.)

You may not like the way I've described atheism. Fine. But what if I say that I "enjoy" this sort of worldview; what if I find pleasure in representing atheism this way? Who are you to suggest that I am wrong? Of course, you might "enjoy" pointing out my error, or even my lunacy. That's fine, too.

I am sorry you felt you wasted your time with this thread. I had the exact opposite feeling with this conversation: I feel like I gained quite a lot.

My last name is also the German word for "grace."

Gnade

PS. I am really glad you and The Webmaster enjoy your lives. Most of the Christians I know enjoy their lives, too. In fact, they claim to enjoy their lives BECAUSE of their fideism and theism. That works for them. Does that bother you?

Brunnen Ausgestattet said...

BG, "Most of the Christians I know enjoy their lives, too. In fact, they claim to enjoy their lives BECAUSE of their fideism and theism. That works for them. Does that bother you?"

BG, are you suggesting that Christians accept god as an abstraction of art? Or, is it more likely they are accepting of their god as a scientific fact?

The problem with mixing fantasy and reality, is that a person can be easily manipulated BG, and, that in itself isn't a bad thing, I mean, we are all bombarded by media propaganda. However, religion for the "most" part, is a political juggernaut, much more so, than a spiritual platform.

When large quantities of people, can be easily swayed to commit any act asked of them, because they can't tell aesthetics from the realistic consequences of their actions, I'd say that I care.

Brunnen Ausgestattet said...

BG, here's how I see things stacking up.

Spirituality is an individual sport.

When two people become involved it is no longer a spiritual sport, it’s a social event.

When three or more people become involved it's a social event with a political base potential.

When four or more people come together, it's a social event, with a political base potential, with economic benefit as defined by whatever number of followers is required for federal tax exemption.

When five or more people come together, it's a social event, with a political base potential, with economic benefit along with the ability to psychologically farm infants as they are born within the group creating a movement or business.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Brunnen,

What if we take your argument and change one term? Let us change "spirituality" to "materialism" (philosophical). Does that change anything else?

All groups can become what you've just described. Atheists have been known to form mob rule; they've been known to commence some indecent and immoral campaigns against human liberty and even free thought. In parts of the world such atheists continue today to have their way with dissenting opinions.

Or is it the American tax-exempt status of religious groups that bothers you? That's fair. But you seem to be suggesting that religious groups can be a dangerous thing. I agree, though I would go further and assert that any group can be a dangerous thing.

But surely we return to a modified form of my initial argument: if meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, etc., are defined by the individual, there is nothing intrinsically wrong or immoral or even worrisome if individuals coalesce around shared self-identities. It is their prerogative to group together since THEY, and not anyone else, decide what is true, lovely, meaningful, etc. Of course, you are also free to find meaning in contradistinction to that group: you can protest or upbraid mob mentalities, and you can define yourself independent of groups altogether. And, if the group you protest won't let you protest or gain personal autonomy, you still maintain that most autonomous and defiant gift: you can kill yourself. Surely suicide is better than submitting oneself to the tyranny of any mob, theistic or atheistic, no?

But the fact is that your discomfort with groups is rooted in your personal perspective: there is nothing you can appeal to in this universe that exists as a normative rule regarding the behaviors, goals, ambitions, and interests of any given group. People will be people, even if that means that they will be crazy people. But to what do you appeal to affect change in the face of such group pressures? Surely to make change you cannot appeal to yourself, to some personally defined prescription, right? Surely you appeal to some common ground, some absolute, one that exists outside the whims of humanity, outside the caprice of kings and lords and bitter bosses?

Peace to you,

BG

Jim Arvo said...

Here we go again...

BG: "It is curious to me how few people understand what I have written throughout this thread. I have said (elsewhere) many times that I can do everything in my power to write as clearly as possible; that it is my responsibility to be a great writer. But it is not my responsibility to make people great readers."

I'm wondering, Bill, if you actually understand much that has been said to you. Before chastising others for not understanding your position, let's do two things. First, let's see if we can agree on what your position is, and second, let's see if you can accurately articulate at least one of the opposing positions that have been spelled out for you here.

Your position has been quite clear from the start, despite your unwillingness to state it concisely. A torrent of words, Bill, does not make a clear argument; it is not a substitute for clear thinking. From the start you have argued that life is "meaningless" without a god because 1) our actions cannot avert death, and 2) we manufacture our own "meaning". In short, all is nihilism without god. You've obfuscated this point with rivers of prose, and you've constructed numerous fallacious arguments by equivocating on word meanings. I have personally pointed this out to you, in great detail, numerous times. Unfortunately, you have not addressed these deficiencies in your arguments, and from what you say next, it appears you have no intention of doing so.

BG: "My obligation in issuing a comment is solely to him [the WM, as the author of the initial post]. There is nothing herein stating that I must reply to every comment or counterargument, no matter how lame or astute. But, being a man of reasonable courtesy, I did try to respond to everything placed before me."

In other words, you feel justified in ignoring what the rest of us say. If we find that your reasoning is faulty, then you needn't respond to our comments. Am I reading you correctly?

BG: "...it is clear that I am not the person obsessed with destination, or the 'final end' of man."

Clear to whom? Shall we count how many references you made to the "abyss" (meaning death) in your posts? Shall we count how many times you appeal to the "meaninglessness" of life if its final destination is the grave? It's clear to me that you are far more fascinated with death than anybody else here. I can't imagine why you need to deny that.

BG: "But Mr. Webmaster clearly is at least concerned (if not obsessed): he has reached an absolute conclusion about Man's end. He has also concluded much about the preposterousness of Christianity's claims that the final end is different than what Mr. Webmaster 'knows' it to be."

I do not wish to speak for Dave, but I will include him among the people here who clearly recognize the fallibility of human reason and the futility of declaring anything to be absolutely proven, except in the abstract realm of mathematics. If you wish to avoid attacking straw men, then I urge you to focus on what the evidence supports. In particular, is there any evidence to support what you assert? For example, if you have evidence of life that continues beyond the functioning of the brain, then by all means spell it out. In the absence of such evidence, belief in such a thing is purely a matter of faith (which you are quite welcome to, by the way).

BG: "There is nothing overly tricky about my approach. If meaning, purpose and, yes, even 'enjoyment' are defined by each person, then there is no 'better' meaning, purpose or enjoyment."

You are hiding behind words again, Bill. You wish for us to endorse your claim based on loose colloquial definitions of words that are pivotal to your argument, and for which you will ultimately substitute different definitions (but only implicitly, as you seem to have an aversion to defining your terms).

I suspect your use of quotes around the words "enjoyment" and "better" indicates that you abdicate the responsibility of defining them; you are saying, in effect, "Substitute your favorite definition, for I will not define them for you." Or, possibly, you mean to imply that colloquial definitions are fine; that your point will remain valid despite the definitions we adopt. If you intend either of these, then I can see where we are headed--directly back to the same fallacious arguments you've erected numerous times before.

Let's take the word "better" that you placed in quotes above. How can any construct of the mind be "better" than another? If you take the word "better" to mean allowing for more accurate predictions of the world around us, then clearly some mental constructs are better than others, and this can be objectively demonstrated. I've made this point to you several times before, but to no avail.

The words "meaning" and "purpose" are, of course, even more troublesome. I've asked you numerous times to define "meaning", and you have thus far refused. This is not a trick question. As I've spelled out quite clearly for you several times, there are multiple interpretations of that word, and you flit among them leaving a trail of fallacious arguments behind you.

So, before we launch this discussion again, let's head off the major opportunities for equivocation by defining the terms that seem to be pivotal to your position. I hereby request that you

1) Define "meaning".

2) Define what you intend by one concept (e.g. "meaning" or "purpose") being "better" than another. (Previously you used the word "advantage", which exhibited precisely the same problems.)

If you refuse to define your terms, Bill, please explain how we can have a meaningful discussion. I'm not even going to take the time to respond to your other comments (which includes more straw man arguments regarding atheism) until you can clear this most basic hurdle. I have no interest in repeating myself ad nauseam about your equivocation.

.:webmaster:. said...

BG,

I was with you on your little post until you wrote, "Surely suicide is better than submitting oneself to the tyranny of any mob, theistic or atheistic, no?"

Patrick Henry once said, "Give me liberty, or give me death." Perhaps, BG, you forgot about the option of fighting.

Then you wrote, “There is nothing you can appeal to in this universe that exists as a normative rule regarding the behaviors, goals, ambitions, and interests of any given group.”

What you may have intended is that there is nothing supernatural that exists in this universe which declares the normative rule regarding human behaviors, goals, etc. If this is what you meant, I’d agree with you. Unfortunately it is up to organized societies of people to determine proper group behavior, and there have been plenty of failed experiments in this area over the history of our species. Even among those who supposedly have all the answers handed down from on high, there is and has been little or no agreement. It is one of the challenges of humankind since climbing out of the trees with self awareness to learn to live together, promote personal freedoms, and protect from those who would try to victimize others. It’s a daunting challenge to consider on a global scale, Bill, but it is our challenge and retreating into a flowery fantasy won't help -- your god has been absolutely no help at all thus far. In fact, if god belief was all it would take to make everything beautiful and smell like lilacs, then I’d encourage it. But it is obvious that a large portion of the Islamic world is drowning in god belief and it hasn’t made life better or more ordered for anyone. And I doubt either one of us would trade our nice soft secular society for the religiously fevered wretchedness that ruled Europe for over 1,000 years. Yuck.

I personally could care less if someone believes in a god, gods, goddesses, the FORCE or nothing at all. That’s entirely the individual's affair. But when those with a religiously motivated agenda band together to start mandating science education, fiscal policy, attacks on foreign lands, and restrictive laws intended to favor particular religious beliefs… well, then I am ready to fight.

And Bill, suggesting suicide to anyone, even in jest or to make a stupid point on a pathetic little website, is uncalled for and asinine. The writer on the other end of the comment is a human being. I hope you are ashamed of yourself.

“Hugs”

.:webmaster:. said...

Oh, and Bill, on your earlier post, there is only one thing I'd like to address:

"And why does he care what Christians think? Why does he care what influence Christians have on others?"

I don't care what Christians think. I don't care what Islamists think, what Buddhists think, or what Bill Gnade thinks. Your thoughts are your business. This website is to encourage those people who are escaping from the cult you are promoting. Frankly, escaping a cult is painful, and for some, traumatic.

If I were an alcoholic, I would not want a person coming into my house and blathering on about the benefits of beer. If I had escaped addiction to cocaine, then... well, you get the point. Religion is like a drug. It is addictive, and although the argument can be made that some people are able to abuse drugs and alcohol without noticeably ill effects, most others cannot.

That’s how many of those who have been freed of religion feel about it. It is a sickness. It is nasty mind virus, born of superstition and ignorance, which has lead to disappointment, depression, and destroyed too much of our lives. 30 years of that lunacy was enough for me. I don’t want any more of it.

I hope that answers your questions.

boomSLANG said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same.....

Bill: I am really glad you and The Webmaster enjoy your lives. Most of the Christians I know enjoy their lives, too. In fact, they claim to enjoy their lives BECAUSE of their fideism and theism. That works for them. Does that bother you?

Dear Bill,

I, too, know many Christians who enjoy their lives, as well as a few Buddhists, Deists, and also, several people like myself who not only disbelieve in Yahweh, but who disbelieve in the myriad other gods that you, too, disbelieve in.

Moving on...

If "meaning" is purely subjective---which, I'm not really sure if we've actually agreed on this, or if you're going along for the sake of argument(?)---but if the former, then it really shouldn't be of any great astonishment that most people across the board find "enjoyment" in their lives(since "enjoyment" is purely subjective).

However, in my experience, a crucial difference in the above mentioned groups of people is that it is the former who have been indoctrinated to literally "recruit" fellow members. In fact, most of the Christians I know believe it is required of them to do so.

Nonetheless, my point is that if the ever-popular Christian motif "heaven or hell?" is not set forth explicitly, then it is at least "set forth" implicitly.

It's like, if you're an African-American who happens upon a KKK rally, you don't need to actually hear one or all of them say, "white power!...die n*gger!", to know that one needs to be "white" in order to be a part of their group; to know what their ideology is.

(that may be a poor analogy because one cannot change their skin color, however, it makes the point that if you've heard of the "KKK", then you know what the "conditions" are for being in their "club")

So, Bill, the way I see it with Christians, whether fundamentalist, or moderate; whether it's an "in your face", a'la Shirley Phelps "type"...or if it's some little ol' lady passing out Christian tracts---the message is still ever-present: Love(accept) Jesus Christ....or pay the consequences(burn in hell)

So Bill, that is one difference; that's one reason why I personally "care" how Christians spend their lives before the "abyss". Whether their lives are truly "fulfilled", or not, is not the issue---I'm talking about where proselytizing is concerned; I'm talking about when people wield a holy book as their only "evidence" for why I "need" to convert---a holy book that I find utterly abhorent, BTW.

Next, Bill, there's this whole implication of "Atheist = Nihilist".

Okay, "some" Atheists might very well be Nihilists. So? The worst "Atheist(s)" might act amorally(unethically) at times. So?

Again, it seems that the "worst" Atheist model is being compared to the "best" Christian model. 'Not really an objective way to look at things, is it? Furthermore, if one wants to push this whole "the most honest" Atheist "could do this, that, or the other thing" issue....I could very well say that the "most honest" Christians are those who could, and would, stone people to death for working on the Sabbath; the "the most honest" Christians are those who could, and would, keep slaves. If none apply?..then guess what?...then maybe there ARE no "honest Christians".

And then there's this underlying issue of limited/unlimited existence.

If the premise is that merely "living", in and of itself, isn't "meaningful", then tell me---where is the motivation to keep doing it for an infinite amount of time?

Moreover, if "God" will let a Christian annihilate him or herself involuntarily(via chemical dependency, or whatever); if such a result is "God's plan", then voluntary self-annihilation("suicide") would be "God's plan", as well. After all, we hear stories all the time of people who attempt suicide, but God "saves them". Surely, if it was "God's will" to save those who live, then it MUST be "God's will" for those whom he doesn't save, to die.

So then, my question: Why aren't Christians getting "honest" with themselves?...yes, by ending this insignifigant limited life as a mortal, so in turn, that they may go "live" with "God" in perpetuity? It would only make sense, right?...go "kill yourself".

Nice, huh?

alanh said...

Bill Gnade wrote:

Please note that if I define for myself what is meaningful, purposive, interesting, enlightening, enjoyable, erotic, spiritual, inspirational, rational, wrong, right and coherent, then I have no one to answer to, nor do I have to comply to some sort of outside standard...

That isn't how it works, however. Some of these things you may define for yourself, some come from the culture around you, some are defined by society and codified into law. This standard Christian argument ignores the fact that man lives in society and faces penalties for wrongdoing.

...that man who says frankly that his purpose comes solely from himself in the face of a silent universe; THAT man and this type of atheist is all the more honest if he chooses to just quit taking up space and kill himself.

You only see atheism from your Christian perspective, and can't acknowledge that we make our own purpose, individually and collectively, without some supreme being giving it to us. The purpose of life according to most religions is to follow orders in hopes of a reward that can't be shown to exist.

It is curious to me how few people understand what I have written throughout this thread.

Its probably because your claim that atheism and nihilism are synonymous doesn't make sense.

-----------
atheism:

Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.

nihilism:

1) Philosophy.

1. An extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence.
2. A doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

2) Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value and a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief.

---------

Anyone who argues that these two things are synonymous is trying to put a square peg in a round hole, so its no wonder people are scratching their heads.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Webmaster,

It seems that I have my hands full. Not bad for someone who allegedly writes and speaks fallaciously at all points. The gang is returning.

You have not paid careful attention to my position here. I have not advocated suicide for anyone. Besides, I am speaking to a group of people I assume to be engaged in debate, in intellectual inquiry, in a discussion detached from emotion and sundry passions. Moreover, I responded (with the suicide argument) to those folks here who suggested that I was advocating that the atheist should just kill himself. As you can read for yourself, I said no such thing. But, as I've said repeatedly, if this is a closed, godless, materialistic universe, where I define for myself all that is deemed purposive, enjoyable, loving, meaningful, moral, and pleasurable, then there is no ground -- other than myself -- on which I can base my judgment or censure of suicide.

Of course, I do believe in fighting, because I believe in something ultimate for which I fight. Clearly my many posts here prove this. So, you are right: Fighting is a worthy thing. But what do I fight for; what am I trying to preserve? And what do you fight for, and why?

But surely you might agree that the person who defines his own values without appeal to anything extrinsic to him is arguably at his level best when he chooses suicide -- death on HIS OWN TERMS -- rather than give the MOB (which was the context of my remarks) the pleasure of doing it for him, no?

Does anyone else here believe I said anything that encourages suicide, that suggests I BELIEVE suicide is the answer to any question? I don't believe that suicide is an answer at all. But, and here I go again, if each of us defines our world without appeal to anything outside ourselves, then I have no way to condemn suicide. I can only condemn it for myself (unless I derive meaning from also damning others, which is my prerogative, too, if I so wish).

Peace to you.

Gnade

.:webmaster:. said...

Bill, it isn't that your writing is fallacious, it is that your writing style embodies a down right odd way to use the English language. As a result, your sentences are often misleading, your intent appears veiled, your train of thought sometimes difficult to follow, and quite frankly, I find the whole exercise of trying to decode your rambling missives extremely annoying.

Your unwillingness to retract your encouragement to commit suicide indicates a complete lack of real compassion to those who may have been traumatized by your religion. Obviously you either can't comprehend such a thing or you just don't give a damn.

Bill, here's a lesson in etiquette: When someone suggests you've made an offensive gaffe in communication, the proper "HUMAN" response is not arrogant denial of having made a slip, it is a sincere apology for stating something in such a way as to have been misunderstood. It is the sender's responsibility to ensure that real communication occurs. If the sender is sending code, then few people are going to get the message.

Perhaps no one but you lives in your world, so a great big perfumed and fluffy-collared-shirt fantasy suits you just fine. I have more people than just me in my world, and I've found that reality is much more satisfying, even with it's challenges, than disappointing and murky religious delusion.

Bill, you keep mentioning "anything outside ourselves." Please define what the fuck you are talking about. The assumption in my mind is that you are alluding to messages transmitted from your extra-dimensional, petty, murderously homicidal and mythological tribal deity as found in your Bronze Age relgious book. Perhaps it would help productive discussion if you would condescend to expressing yourself like a regular person and simply transparently state in common language what you are driving at when you say "outside yourself." If I answer to anything outside myself, it is to other humans.

Here's how I'll answer what I can only guess you are asking: Every choice I make comes from INSIDE MY BRAIN. I don't know where you make your decisions, but I would suggest they all come from inside your head too.

You also assume "I am speaking to a group of people..."

That's where you should have stopped. The people who post here are just people. You made yourself an ass(umption) by supposing that you can set the rules of engagement to a discussion on this site. It ain't "debatebillgnadethewayheapproves.com." This ain't your rose garden. These people are people who have left or are leaving Christianity, and I for one did not do it lightly or without considerable personal sacrifice and cost. And, joining and leaving religion involves considerable emotion in most cases, so there will be expressed emotion in many of these type of discussions. It's called being human, baby. Deal with it.

Bill, I've said over and over and over to you that I don't care what delusions you hold dear, so long as they remains part of your private life. Why do you feel the compulsion to re-evangelize admitted apostates? Do you even know?

Further, Some truths in life are self evident. One of the most obvious is that life has value. Every living thing on this planet understands this concept, and no mystical force is needed to ratify this understanding. Only sociopaths or perhaps the medically depressed require "outside" (whatever "outside" might mean to you) constraints to come to this elemental and primal conclusion.

Snuggles

.:webmaster:. said...

Addendum:

Even your use of the word extrinsic needs clarification. Do you mean foreign, mysterious, outside, or all of the above? If you are merely referencing Roget's, then "outside" must still be defined.

You wrote: "But surely you might agree that the person who defines his own values without appeal to anything extrinsic to him is arguably at his level best when he chooses suicide"

No, I think that here you have made a strikingly ridiculous comment based on I'm not sure what. In short, your hammering of this pointless argument makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. It might be time to change your medication.

boomSLANG said...

To my fellow ex'ers participating in this discussion(and Jim Arvo too, because I know he was never a Christian)

Personally, as irritating and convoluted as what many feel Mr. Gnade's approach is, I think it's because he doesn't really have a choice. I'm dead-serious(no pun). I mean, he's an articulate writer, no doubt about it, but an articulate "goose chase" is still a goose-chase; a strawman dressed in an Armani Collezioni, is still a strawman. But...and again, what are his choices?

He can:

1) Not post at all; stifle himself.

2) Do what he's been doing; write post after post after post after post attacking a caricatured, distorted, personal projection of what he "thinks" a non-Theist should be....AND even what they should ultimately think---all the while, utilizing terms that are completely open to interpretation..e.g.."anything outside ourselves". "Outside"??? "AnyTHING"??? Wull shit, it doesn't get more vague than that, does it? lol.

3) And then of course, he could do always opt for this approach:

February 08, 2007 EST Anonymous wrote:

"God is VERY REAL...I'm not gonna come on here and try to sugarcoat it either....
what have u got to lose if u belive in God?? If u don't believe in God, and u find out there is 1, you'll be sorry!! Plus, god is AWESOME and he loves EVERYONE!! You people that don't believe in him are basically slapping Him in the face reapeatedly, but He STILL LOVES U....DOESN'T THAT TELL U SOMETHING?? WHO DO U KNOW THAT WILL LOVE U NO MATTER WHAT???!! THERE'S NO1 LIKE THAT, NO MATTER WHAT U THINK/SAY!!
I say u give God a try for about a month, and if u don't like Him, the Devil will be GLAD to take u back and destroy ur life, and trick u and cause u pain... and etc. need i say more??"


You see, the point is, no matter how articulate a man is; no matter how great a writer---when one trys to rationalize a concept that is so irrational, so self-contradicting, this is what you end up with.

Giving credit where it's due---Mr Gnade is at least smart enough to know that such utter poppycock won't work here, which, IMO, is why he resorts to option "2", over option "3". I just hope he doesn't forget about option "1".

BTW, if Mr Gnade would think he could present a better argument than Anonymous Feb 8 for his "God"....again, that would be FOR the existence of his "God"...e.g.."Yahweh", aka, "Jesus Christ", I'd certainly be VERY interested in having a look at it. And I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that everyone else here would, as well...no?

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Arvo,

I think you will agree that the gang has turned out in force. Again.

I came here last week because I was thinking of linking to this thread. When I noticed that my moniker had been expunged and replaced with ANONYMOUS, I posted SOLELY so people can find me, and to know that I am not some hidden, anonymous entity. So, I did not come here to provoke anyone or reinvigorate a discussion that has been decisively closed for six months. What is curious, too, is that even after I posted a mere clarification -- that BG and Gnade and Contra(times) were all the same -- some person felt it necessary to disrespect me in my absence. The thread speaks for itself. I am not offended; I am simply bemused.

All this to say that your "Here we go again" quip is unnecessary. Besides, I would love to know how you and the others here have suddenly regained interest in a debate that everyone seems to agree I LOST. Of course, the opposite is arguably (and probably demonstrably) the case. But why the sudden interest in my position?

I want to be utterly candid with you: You make me want to scream. I swear you are choosing to be obtuse solely as a debate tactic. You want ME to define terms!? You mean to tell me that you do not know, in plain language, what "meaning" means? Plus, it is infuriating when you write so paradoxically:

Your position has been quite clear from the start, despite your unwillingness to state it concisely.

Ahh, so my position has been CLEAR from the start, has it? Well, maybe not, because you say this in the very same paragraph (and one following it):

A torrent of words, Bill, does not make a clear argument; it is not a substitute for clear thinking.…

You've obfuscated this point with rivers of prose, and you've constructed numerous fallacious arguments by equivocating on word meanings. I have personally pointed this out to you, in great detail, numerous times. Unfortunately, you have not addressed these deficiencies in your arguments, and from what you say next, it appears you have no intention of doing so.…Clear to whom?


So, either my position, my MEANING, has been clear or it has not. On the one hand you say my position is clear; on the other hand you say I've been obfuscating and fallacious. If the latter, then I am not clear; if the former, then I am not obfuscatory or illogical. Which is it?

And while I will concede that I may have made mistakes along the way (who hasn't?), I will not concede that my essential argument is even remotely obscure or fallacious.

Let me be clear again: The MEANING of MEANING is irrelevant in ALL of this discussion. The only relevant premise is the SOURCE of meaning. Do we not all agree that, if there is no God, then we MUST accept the following statements?

1. Since there is no God, only matter and mind exist.

2. Mind is only a function of matter; there is no IMMATERIAL mind.

3. Since there is nothing "other" to human consciousness than what consciousness can know, perceive, verify, justify, and understand, then it follows that anything outside of consciousness does not, at least practically speaking, exist.

4. Since there is no intended design, purpose or intelligence to the cosmos, since there is no creator or definer or absolute force defining anything, humans cannot help but be existentialists.

5. Essentialists stand in contradistinction to existentialists: Essentialists believe that "essence precedes existence," that there is indeed a Logos or Idea or Form that exists outside of and prior to human existence (and consciousness), and that such a Logos, Idea, or Form defines how any THING that takes material form is pre-defined: Its essence precedes its existence. In this "view", human consciousness, cognition, identity and value are contingent upon a prior existing, transcendent norm, form, idea, or construct (which is itself not contingent on humans).

6. Existentialism is nothing other than the inverse of essentialism: Existence comes first, followed by essence. In other words, humans find that they FIRST exist, and then determine FOR THEMSELVES what their essences are going to be: Existence precedes essence.

7. The universe, being a non-being in any theological or ontological sense, i.e., it is not sentient or conscious or willful or intentionally purposive; the universe does not and cannot impose any "meaning" or "purpose" or "value" or "enjoyment" or "identity" or anything (other than physical and biological laws) on human consciousness, human will, or human ambition.

8. Thus, humans are autonomous when it comes to defining "ultimate" or "final" or "absolute" (or even secondary, tertiary or other) meaning, value, purpose. Humans "find" or "discover" or "create" meaning/purpose/value/bliss, it is not given them by a sentient or willful force outside themselves.


If you would like, Mr. Arvo, I can bore us all with defining what "meaning" means. Shall I at least list the many types of meaning? Well, let me just list some philosophical types:

MEANING

a. behavioristic
b. cognitive
c. connotative
d. definitional
e. denotative
f. descriptive or literal
g. emotive
h. empirical
i. expressive
j. factual
k. linguistic
l. logical
m. referential
n. religious or spiritual
o. representative

Now, these are just the TYPES of meaning we could discuss here. I have culled them from my utterly threadbare and dog-eared Dictionary of Philosophy. I will gladly define them, but how does that matter? The primary premise I have posited regards the FINAL and SOLE SOURCE of what is meaningful to each and every person on this planet. In fact, this idea of SOURCE pertains to everything of consciousness, not just meaning: What is the source for truth, purpose, value, etc? We could define these terms all day long; we could even waste time arguing about which definitions are legitimate. But it is futile, really.

But I will offer this to you: Why don't you define meaning, as you see fit, and I will adhere to it like a barnacle to a hull.

Now, perhaps I can streamline this all by asking people whether they accept the following beliefs I hold about the universe if there is no God. (Please note: I have not ONCE posited that in a godless universe there is no meaning: I have asserted that there is no transcendent meaning. Moreover, I have said that "meaning" is contingent upon human consciousness and will. With that said, anyone here who believes I have argued that atheists' lives are meaningless is simply wrong. But I will not deny my other conviction: nihilism is the "end" of all Being.)

Does anyone here believe that each one of us DOES NOT determine for himself or herself what is true, meaningful, purposive, enjoyable and so on? (Let me clarify the use of "true" here: I believe that each of us is responsible for constructing our own systems of epistemological validation, justification, or falsification; I also accept that any person is entirely free [cognitively, morally, and "spiritually"] to deny all forms of justification, or to accept the forms of justification constructed by others.)

Does anyone here disagree with me so far?

Lastly, Mr. Arvo, you are fearful I will provoke you to nausea. It is interesting that I do not feel anything so unpleasant, though I am quite certain I'd be justified were I to make a similar claim. So, I have tried desperately once again NOT to equivocate here, though I wonder how you can say I have equivocated at all when I have not, according to you, defined my terms. If I haven't, then you cannot hold me accountable. Besides, as I have said before, I am free to equivocate since there is nothing in this universe that tells me I can't. But I promise that I am doing all I can to be clear with you and everyone else. I have set forth very clear, distinct propositions for you. They are not static, of course, since nothing linguistic or cognitive can be. But I will try to keep things as tight and rigorous as possible. I just implore you to hold yourself to the same standard you hold me. I mean, surely I could dismiss you for not defining "equivocation," "obfuscation," "fallacious," or "clear." You see, don't you, that you have not defined your terms, either? Am I not a real pecksniff for pointing out that you have not once defined "define?" But I don't need you to, nor do I argue that way. I prefer plain language; I prefer a more conversant tone. But, if you insist, I will maintain this ostensibly higher road of philosophical analysis, even though I thought I was doing so all along.

Peace to you,

BG

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Webmaster,

Permit me, first, to acknowledge that you are a real human being. Not only that, but I acknowledge that you are a man who deserves respect, honor, comfort, and kindness. There is more to say about you, for sure, and I hope some day to state that to your face. I hold no animosity towards you, or anyone here.

Second, please note that I have been absolutely taken to task here, by you and others, for being all sorts of things that are rather unseemly. I have been, repeatedly, treated rather poorly: I have been scoffed at, mocked, derided, and even gossiped about. I hope you can see that I have not ONCE been so petty: I have not committed a single ad hominem - abusive in this entire thread. Nor have I been anything but polite (with a few exceptions, perhaps, which I regret).

Third, please note that my writing style is part of my humanity: you, and others, have loathed me for it, or, at best, attempted to disabuse me of it. But I have tried to write, not as a philosopher, but as a person you might have a dinner conversation with: I have written the way I speak. It is my interlocutors who have demanded that I "define terms" or who have pushed for a more pedantic and analytical style; some here have even resorted to symbolic logic to dismantle me. So, I am sorry that you feel I have been inhuman or unfeeling here. I have merely been myself.

Also, I ask that you at least do me just one courtesy, and that is that you stop claiming that I have come here to proselytize. I have done no such thing. I have not advocated theism, nor have I peddled Christianity in any form whatsoever. I have tried doggedly to stay on topic; that topic is solely the ideas in and behind your essay, "A Christ-less Grave." You cannot find a single reference suggesting I am given to missionary work here. And you will hardly find an evangelist at work at my own website.

How do you know I did not come here because I am thinking of rejecting theism myself? How do you know that I am not kicking and screaming at you all (in my verbose manner) because I am wrestling with my own life? Well, guess what? I AM wrestling with my life. You have no idea the desperation I feel, nor do you know whether I am suicidal. So I urge you to extend to me the sort of sensitivity I have shown to the topic at hand (and those who come here). There is nothing extraneous or duplicitous about my words; I have fixed on a very fine point, and I have done so as a gentleman. You do not know me, though I am really quite transparent: I am a Christian racked with pain, doubt, grief and fear. And I know that the sources of these pains, doubts and struggles come from all sorts of places, including my own faith. Do you think I do not know the difficulties associated with Christian belief? Do you think I am blind, or stupid? Do you think I couldn't undermine my own religious hopes? Do you think that I think I am whole?

I personally do not feel as wonderful as everybody else does here. Most of you have talked to me about how wonderful, lovely, beautiful, blissful, meaningful, and dynamic your lives are, lives enfused with atheism and freed from the shackles of religion, myth and fantasy.

Have I told anyone here that my life is better than anyone else's, or that my life is full of meaning, joy, and beauty?

I don't think I have. Nor have I even hinted that Christianity has made me happy (or better, or even right).

But from the bottom of my heart I say this: I am sorry if I have hurt you or anyone else here. If you say I have hurt you, well, then I have. Forgive me. But please note that I have merely followed the direction of this discussion: I have been in response mode the entire time. I can only do what I can with the time allotted me. I try to answer people's questions and challenges with all due respect, but clearly some of you find me to be less than what I think I am.

Lastly, I did not apologize for my suicide remark because I believe it clearly does not advocate suicide. If you want to know my thoughts on suicide, you can read my several essays on the suicide of one my dearest Christian friends (the essays are posted at my website).

Peace to you,

Bill Gnade

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Boomslang,

You can, if you wish, address me directly. Or, at least, you could include me in your conversation.

Please, tell me what the straw man is that I have built? What straw man have I knocked over?

There is nothing at all in my argument that resembles a straw man. I have quite clearly and quite accurately stated atheism. I have not flinched at its most difficult propositions. In fact, I have accepted them for the purposes of analysis. I have not taken the easiest or flimsiest ideas presented here, and then knocked those over. I have taken the strongest aspects of atheism, and I have challenged those. I even believe, falsely, no doubt, that I have proven them to be rather unimportant.

But if you would like, please revisit the whole of my argument and show me how the dozens and dozens of pages I've typed amount to a straw man. Or you can just read my latest post to Jim Arvo. Perhaps you can find the straw man there.

Lastly, I am pleased that you have, in your post, given me the benefit of the doubt: you believe I always choose option 2. Thanks for the high praise, and thanks for considering me an articulate writer. But I would point out one small thing: Irrespective of the small kindnesses you show me, your entire post is a straw man.

Peace to you,

Gnade

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Boomslang,

My apologies. I see you have actually written two posts. Permit me to reply to your first one now.

Thank you for addressing me directly.

OK. Let me say this. This is the first post in this thread that I recall stopping me in my tracks. You raise fair and decent issues. I will have to give them more scrutiny than I can offer on the fly here.

Let me ask you: Do atheists proselytize? I think it's evident that some do. What makes their missionary work different than Billy Graham's? I don't mean for you to describe the accidental differences, I would like you to describe the essential differences. I see them both being nearly identical.

I may get back to the rest of your post tonight. But, if not, I don't think I can give it what it deserves until Saturday night or even Sunday. Sorry. Is that OK?

Peace,

Gnade

PS. Your second post is still a straw man. :-)

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Alanh,

You come very late to this debate, don't you? Had you been part of this earlier, or had you read through my comments on this thread, you would not have written the following:

You only see atheism from your Christian perspective, and can't acknowledge that we make our own purpose, individually and collectively, without some supreme being giving it to us. The purpose of life according to most religions is to follow orders in hopes of a reward that can't be shown to exist.

Had you read even my most recent comments, you would know that I DO INDEED acknowledge that atheists make their "own purpose, individually and collectively, without some supreme being giving it to" them. It is a premise I have embraced probably a hundred times in this discussion. And I have shown why it is faulty, at least in part. And that part is not only essential, it is huge.

Moreover, I thank you for posting three definitions of nihilism, but I opt for the simplest one you leave out, and it is the primary one: nihil Latin: nothing. In other words, nihilism as I have used it means nothing other than the fact all atheists accept: the end of all being is nothingness. There is no anything beyond death, or even human consciousness. There are no answers to our greatest questions of existence; the grave will not even tell us whether Jesus' body was stolen or who killed JFK. There is no right or wrong in the end; there is no value, no up or left or blue or love. There is nothing.

I have used the word accurately and fairly. I have not said that a living atheist's life is meaningless, or filled with nothingness. I am saying that everything in the atheist's life, AND THE THEIST'S life, ends up in the abyss. And there is no one here going to deny that the abyss is where we are all heading, and there is no one here ready to assert that this universe is not going to destroy itself.

So, you are mistaken (about me) on two points.

Lastly, I may only see atheism from my Christian perspective, as you say, but then you must admit that you are limited in your view of Christianity, since you see it from your vantage as an atheist. However, I reject this sort of argument. (And note that I have not inserted Christianity into my argument.)

Peace to you,

Gnade

Bill Gnade said...

Everyone,

I have been thinking on a few things said by the Webmaster. This is a place for those seeking support for decisions that involve leaving Christianity. Hence, this discussion may be turning inappropriate. Besides, the thread is so stinking huge that it is unwieldy and almost unusable. So, for the moment, this is what I will do: I will return to answer Boomslang, as promised, but I might just leave off discussion as it stands. But I am not opposed to discussing this stuff (elsewhere?). If you want to continue talking to me, you can always find me at my website, or your can email me. My email address is easily found in my Blogger profile.

But if you want me to stay, I will consider it. My sense is that we are becoming dreadfully redundant.

Peace and mirth,

Gnade

.:webmaster:. said...

Bill,

Thank you for attempting to be transparent in your position and agenda in this discussion. It is much easier (for me) to have a civil conversation when I am provided a more comprehensive view of where the other person is coming from. Nearly 100% of the Christians who post here do so for no other reason other than to proselytize. It has become exhaustingly annoying, and some of the verbiage you use tends to obfuscate things (at least for me).

If I could encapsulate what you are asking-telling-discussing, it would be that if there is no metaphysical mind out there, then nihilism is the result.

I would posit that no matter what the result, if there is no metaphysical mind, then there is no metaphysical mind, and no matter who wants there to be such an entity, if it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist.

So, at the root of this conversation (as I see it) is the question of whether there is a god or not.

I am a person who likes to simplify discussions, cut to the root of things, and deal down closer to the earth. With my head in the clouds I loose the ability to be any earthly good. It is part of MY humanity to see things this way. Hopefully you can understand.

For me, life is precious, valuable, and loaded with beauty and awe and wonder. I am amazed when I look out a clear night sky and see stars and galaxies without number. I am fully aware of how puny I am in comparison to the Universe and that if humans are not able to evolve beyond superstition and petty squabbles and learn how to leave this planet and inhabit the far reaches of space, we are likely to eventually imitate the history of the dinosaurs.

But none of that directly concerns me, because I have more immediate needs that occupy my life, over which I have some measure of power to effect positive change. I can do nothing about the ultimate fate of humankind, or for that matter, my own. I can only take what opportunities I do have to as positively as I’m able, influence the people I touch on a daily basis. I have found that not being so preoccupied with my own navel has made my life richer in every way. Introspective navel gazing is a habit for those who live a great portion of time in their minds. I try to occasionally live in the real world with others. It lends a more upbeat perspective.

We all die, Bill. That’s a fact. It’s not necessarily good or bad, it just is. It is part of nature, and we are part of that nature. All of life survives off the surrender of life by others. Eating is a process that relies on something’s death.

Do I LIKE the reality in which we live? It doesn’t matter whether I LIKE it or not. It is what it is. It is entirely up to us (human beings) to make life something to relish, or something to destroy. We have the power to do both. I am optimistic that we (humans) will not allow the destructive tendencies within us to gain ultimate ascendancy. I am optimistic because when the overwhelming majority of new parents see their new children, those parents are filled with hope for the future – the future of their children, and thus the future of humankind.

Life lusts after life, for no other reason than to live. This “truth” is the source of my “hope.” I don’t need a god to instill hope in my breast.

Now, if someone – anyone – could show me that the metaphysical exists anywhere outside the imagination of religiously inclined people, then I would certainly be willing to reconsider my position on the question of GOD. However, so far, no one has been able to offer me a shred of evidence for this being. And desiring that such a creature exists is as satisfying to my mind as wanting Santa Claus to exist. It might make a person feel good for a moment, but it’s not real. I want real.

Others may choose to live with a Stepford wife. I’d rather have my real, flesh-and-blood, flawed, and aging wife. I like real.

boomSLANG said...

Dear Bill,

Borrowing from the perspective of your whole line of hypothetical reasoning: As person who holds no belief in gods, biblical God, or otherwise, why would you suspect/expect that I should care if I "include" you, offend you, misunderstand you, or whatever else undesired end? If we----meaning, every one of us non-Theists in this discussion----were to don Bill Gnade's version of what "Atheism means", this whole discussion would be moot. We'd all be wasting our time, including you. That's right, Sir....if "nothing matters" and I'm "deluding myself with lies"; if I'm a pathetic "fake"; if I'm the equivalent of a tree-trunk that's "cursed" with self-awareness; if I'm just here "buying time" before the "abyss".....wouldn't you first wonder why I'd give a rat's hind-quarters if you like how I engage you in this discussion before you inquire about it? Remember, it's Bill Gnade who's giving away the free "one-size-fits-all" Atheist "T-shirts". We didn't come to your booth, you brought your booth to our market. On the other hand, yes, it's an open forum.

About the "strawman" accusation---I arrive at this conclusion based on the fact that, metaphorically speaking, you've taken Tinker Toys and "built yourself an Atheist" the only way you know how, and that is from a Christian "blue-print". You've thus, spent the majority of your time attacking that, as a whole, instead of acknowedging us as individuals....AND, choosing to not offer a case for what you think is a "better" and more palatable philosophy for healthy living..e.g.."Christianity". And I think you know what I "mean" when I say "better". If not, keep reading, my friend.

You see, Bill, my grandmother's second husband stuck the end of shot gun in his mouth after he sent my grandmother to the store for something. She, a devout believer(Mennonite) came home to find her husband(also Mennonite) sprawled out on the floor as if he were asleep, but much to her displeasure, his entire face was missing.(by the way, the state doesn't clean such messes up..so I ended up doing it..yay)

Anyway, I've been stationary in the town where I currently reside for many, many years, Bill. Believe it or not, I know, and have lived through, two sets of twins whose twin committed suicide, BOTH Catholics..one by hanging; one by hand-gun..both under fourty yrs of age.

Now, between your personal loss of loved ones to suicide, and mine...I think, and hope, that you and I can clearly see that the mere belief in a supreme being; the mere belief in an ultimate consciousness, and/or purpose, does not equate to the "healthy living" I mentioned earlier. I'm sorry for your loss, BTW, and I hope you accept it from one human being to another, and not from an "Atheist" to a "Theist"...which, I hope you can see the underlying point by now.

Since you've chosen to be a little more transparent, I'll be perfectly honest and say that there are times when I wish I still believed, Bill. The problem is, you cannot "unring" a bell.....well, at least, I cannot. I'm stuck with this now, and trust me, it's sometimes a burden being responsible for my own happiness 24/7. On the other hand, I don't have to live in guilt and fear any longer; I don't have to lie awake tormenting myself wondering if just being human is "good enough" for the god known as "Jesus".

I honestly don't know where you and I will go from here(in this debate). Time will tell. It's funny, though... when I browse your blog, I don't think of a person who is questioning his beliefs. I suppose I'll have to read more, eh?


Sincerely, "boomSLANG"

alanh said...

Bill, when I said we make our own purpose I was talking about everyone, not just atheists. Religion is one way man creates purpose, but it is, as you know, a misguided effort.

I am saying that everything in the atheist's life, AND THE THEIST'S life, ends up in the abyss

So the atheist is honest about life, the theist isn't. I think you have it backwards: theists, particularly Christians and Muslims, should be looking to die as soon as possible, in order to get to "heaven." The atheist knows this life is all he gets so he needs to make the most of it. And again, we live in societies, and these societies continue to exist after we are gone. We all will leave a legacy of some sort, however large or small, working to leave something of value or making some part of this world a better place is a much better pursuit than spending time preparing for an afterlife that doesn't exist.

Brunnen Ausgestattet said...

BG, it appears you have at least sketched out some clearer thoughts on which to speak. I hope no one minds me attempting a response.

BG's statements;

"1. Since there is no God, only matter and mind exist.

2. Mind is only a function of matter; there is no IMMATERIAL mind.

3. Since there is nothing "other" to human consciousness than what consciousness can know, perceive, verify, justify, and understand, then it follows that anything outside of consciousness does not, at least practically speaking, exist.

4. Since there is no intended design, purpose or intelligence to the cosmos, since there is no creator or definer or absolute force defining anything, humans cannot help but be existentialists.

5. Essentialists stand in contradistinction to existentialists: Essentialists believe that "essence precedes existence," that there is indeed a Logos or Idea or Form that exists outside of and prior to human existence (and consciousness), and that such a Logos, Idea, or Form defines how any THING that takes material form is pre-defined: Its essence precedes its existence. In this "view", human consciousness, cognition, identity and value are contingent upon a prior existing, transcendent norm, form, idea, or construct (which is itself not contingent on humans).

6. Existentialism is nothing other than the inverse of essentialism: Existence comes first, followed by essence. In other words, humans find that they FIRST exist, and then determine FOR THEMSELVES what their essences are going to be: Existence precedes essence.

7. The universe, being a non-being in any theological or ontological sense, i.e., it is not sentient or conscious or willful or intentionally purposive; the universe does not and cannot impose any "meaning" or "purpose" or "value" or "enjoyment" or "identity" or anything (other than physical and biological laws) on human consciousness, human will, or human ambition.

8. Thus, humans are autonomous when it comes to defining "ultimate" or "final" or "absolute" (or even secondary, tertiary or other) meaning, value, purpose. Humans "find" or "discover" or "create" meaning/purpose/value/bliss, it is not given them by a sentient or willful force outside themselves."

Okay, BG, I just have a few thoughts on your claim of atheistic existentialism. First, as others have noted, all atheists are "not" the same, there is no doctrinal stance or manifesto, unless you are suggesting you have one of those, and then, I'd suggest I declare myself a separatist to the manifesto on the grounds of individuality and freedom of mind, so that I may "become".

Speaking for "myself" alone, I implicate myself as an atheist, when I suggest I no longer hold to the tenets that supported a personal "deity". Thus, rationally, I no longer believe in my personal god, or, I disbelieve the tenets that supported my god concept. Each person may disbelieve in different tenets, and come by their atheism differently. You provided a plethora of philosophical contexts that a person may come to find atheism; cognitive, behaviorist, etc.

As an aside; when one uses the dictionary definition of atheism, they must make the attempt to put their atheism or theism for that matter in the form of particular individual belief or in a "general" universal belief context.

Universal absolutes are absurd, in any form, but individual beliefs can either be rational or irrational. So, it would be fair to suggest that one can't suggest that "all" atheists believe a certain, fixed way, either all individually rational/irrational.

However, contrapuntal to that theory, is the obvious inclination that one can suggest a certain "doctrine" to be irrational, based on internal conflict. If the "root" of a belief system is founded upon such doctrine, then all followers would in essence be considered irrational as well, by inherency.

Now, why is this important. Well, you are suggesting that "atheists" in general hold to existentialism. That is "not" necessarily the case.

While I can logically produce a valid argument for my implicit atheism individually, I am not necessarily in-tune with existentialism.

Here's an alternative view. Existence and Essence are a singularity that comes into "existence" simultaneously, if we are going to create hypotheticals. To extricate a "unified" reality, one must use some method by which to parse, you're suggesting a materialistic dualism which fails in this case, no?

One "Becomes", or is "to be", as existence and essence march forward - interdependently and inextricably unified under "One" Universe.

Whether or not the "One" Universe is a willful force (or not), misses the point - that I am "part" of a Unified Universe. Therefore, I must accept that I approach; or "find" or "discover" or "create" meaning/purpose/value/bliss "not" autonomously. "I" am influenced, and it is that interdependent influence that gave me the opportunity to reach "self-awareness" or "consciousness", that allows me to become more "interactive" with Nature.

And, so, if one suggests I must be an atheistic existentialist because I may describe my "self-accepted" meaning, appreciation, bliss as something of value to me, they would be wrong. My "bliss", per my belief, and even this belief statement, coincide within One Universe, without conflict.

It would be more accurate to suggest I am closer to; I experience the Universe, as much as it Experiences me. I exist with the Universe, as much as it Exists with me. But, BG, you seem to want to know, to what "degree" - autonomously & existentially? Not me. But I do strive to meld, in harmony; it's that; which sets me free.

Now, my beliefs are my own, obviously, I can speak for no other individual. I have my own particular beliefs, based on logic and symbolized in form, with the understanding that there are "some" universals (laws, sub-laws, sub-sub-laws) or absolutes I accept. I "exist" is an absolute for me, without that, all following logic fails. And, with that, I declare my consciousness, and search from whence I came "to be".

As well, I will reply to the normative or relativist approach you presented in a previous reply to me, regarding mob rule mentality. Also, I'll suggest that I have no ill-feelings towards you Bill. I am at a loss however, of your intent in posing questions. I have no problem answering, "many" questions as long as there is a perceived point.

If you want to know what people believe, then why not ask them? If you want to present your view of them, or how they line up to other philosophies, in order for them to attempt to extricate themselves from such renderings, then, you are exercising other people's logic in relation to your presentation(s).

Do you believe there are people, who may actually have a belief system, free of conflict and in harmony with all known personal experience and facts in one's particular life? Moreover, do you believe it is "possible"?

boomSLANG said...

BG: Let me ask you: Do atheists proselytize? I think it's evident that some do. What makes their missionary work different than Billy Graham's? I don't mean for you to describe the accidental differences, I would like you to describe the essential differences. I see them both being nearly identical.

BG,

'Sorry, I seem to have over-looked a post of yours. Anyway, just to avoid the semantics sparring, I'll start out by providing this:

Proselytize:

1) To induce someone to convert to one's own religious faith.
2) To induce someone to join one's own political party or to espouse one's doctrine. (American Heritage)

Okay, analogously speaking, there would be no need for an influenza vaccine, if there were no "flu". I really would rather not research every post on this thread, but I think I already stated somewhere that we wouldn't even need the term "A-theist", if it were not for people insisting that, in "fact", gods do exist(Theist). I don't think that's unreasonable so far..do you?

Of course, both the "flu", and the "flu shot", are "aggressive"....so "yes", Atheists can be equally as aggressive as Theists---however, I don't see how one can call non-belief a "doctrine".

I think it's a safe bet that you, Bill Gnade, don't have a belief in the Islamic Prophet, "Muhammad". Assuming you don't(because Jesus HATES two-timers = ), surely you don't have, or need, a "doctrine" to simply lack belief in Muhammad, correct? If I'm wrong, can you/would you "point" to this "doctrine" so I/we can see what it says?

Bill, Joe Arab is making the claim, probably an outrageous one in your eyes, that Muhammad was sitting in a cave and was communicating with Allah("God")....yada, yada, blah, blah....and viola, Allah's wishes for mankind ended up being delineated in the book known as the "Holy Qu'ran". In short, the Qu'ran condones the killing of non-believers. We NEED to be aggressive in our non-belief of their fantastic claims, because people are dying because of it; lives are at stake. Again, is this unreasonable?

As far as Atheism having a "Billy Graham" counterpart---for sake of argument, let's say you pick Sam Harris. Okay, the difference, once again, is those distinctions I already described herein...plus,(from an earlier post of mine) the fact that the A-theist is not "conditionally" offering his counter-worldview. One is free to reject it, and go on their merry way.... unharmed, no threats; no "if", "ands", or "buts". Not to be redundant--but this is just NOT the case with religions such as Christianity, and Islam, etc.

Bill, if I'm not mistaken, one of your original inquiries(primary reasons for being here) was to find out why Atheists care how Theists, namely Christians, spend their time in the "white room", before the "abyss". Well, I've done my best, per several posts, to personally tell you why I "care". Anything more on that specific topic would be redundant, I think. Let me know.

Notwithstanding, sadly, I'm still to this day a little unclear as to the ultimate point you're trying to make with the "Nihilism" bit. Maybe this discussion should be all you and the Webmaster, since your issue is concerning his topic.

Nonetheless, Bill, you seem to be incredibly focused on the "death" part of Atheism/Theism, when we've all been trying to keeped focused on the "life" part. We've already established, I hope, that belief in God doesn't automatically make for a happy existence...."abyss", or no "abyss". Or maybe I'm a poor reader....I'd like to think not.

Over...and out.

Jim Arvo said...

Bill,

BG: "...your 'Here we go again' quip is unnecessary."

No, of course it was not necessary. No comment here is necessary. However, I think it was an apt expression of exasperation, seeing the same nihilistic arguments from you yet again. Your arguments were debunked the first time around, and it seems you have not changed them. Hence, "Here we go again [with the same old fallacious arguments]." That is my opinion, and I shall express it as I wish.

BG: "Besides, I would love to know how you and the others here have suddenly regained interest in a debate that everyone seems to agree I LOST. Of course, the opposite is arguably (and probably demonstrably) the case. But why the sudden interest in my position?"

Frankly, I do not have a lot of interest in your arguments, as they seem superficial to me (i.e. they do not get past the level of word play). But I will participate as I wish, when I wish. As for you having "demonstrably" "won" the argument, please explain how you can have numerous fallacies pointed out to you, then steadfastly ignore them, and then declare victory. Methinks you inject a bit of bluster here, perhaps for comic relief.

BG: "I want to be utterly candid with you: You make me want to scream. I swear you are choosing to be obtuse solely as a debate tactic. You want ME to define terms!? You mean to tell me that you do not know, in plain language, what 'meaning' means?"

If a scream is the harbinger of progress, I welcome it! You accuse me of being obtuse, presumably because I will not allow you to continue with your equivocation. Bill, your arguments are complete nonsense because you use words inconsistently. I've called you out on this ad nauseam. You make ME want to scream, Bill, because you hide behind fuzzy word meanings. That is the antithesis of good writing, and it's the antithesis of clear thinking.

Yes, of course I can define "meaning", and I've done so several times above. (Perhaps this slipped your mind.) How many times must I explain this to you, Bill? You must use a word CONSISTENTLY if you wish to argue cogently, and avoid the fallacy of equivocation. This fact does not appear to be on your radar screen, hence you fall into this fallacy repeatedly. (And it doesn't appear this is going to change any time soon.)

BG: "Ahh, so my position has been CLEAR from the start, has it? Well, maybe not, because you say this in the very same paragraph (and one following it)..."

Bill, you have made it clear that you see no "value" or "meaning" in life (in some vague undefined sense) unless there is some transcendent being who bestows it upon us. In that sense, and that sense alone, it has been "clear" where you stand. However your arguments have not been "clear" in the sense that you habitually use inflated and emotionally charged language (e.g. "abyss" instead of "death"), you fail to define your terms, you repeatedly equivocate, and you project fatuous arguments onto others. So, your position has been clear to most of us, but your arguments are not clear as they are a tangle of nonsense. I'm sorry to have so terribly confused you by those two contextually distinct uses of the word "clear". Is it "clear" now?

BG: "Let me be clear again: The MEANING of MEANING is irrelevant in ALL of this discussion. The only relevant premise is the SOURCE of meaning."

Oh, I see now. It doesn't matter what "gramblish" means; what matters is where it comes from! As for "meaning" being irrelevant to this discussion, that's quite a surprise to me. From a quick scan through this thread I find these statements of yours:

1) "I am saying that if the atheist believes that the ground of being is nothingness and meaninglessness, then atheism has no advantage over any form of theism."

2) "We all vanish into the abyss of non-being.... What advantage does atheism have over theism? I mean, if I, a silly theist, end up in the exact same state as an atheist, then why bother?..."

3) "Meaning is merely subjective...

4) "No one is right, or wrong. Truth and falsehood do not exist, they cannot endure the abyss that draws all things unto itself."

5) "If the abyss is both our beginning and our end, then what do survival and propagation mean other than some bizarre effort to delay the inevitable?"

6) "How will making them atheists improve their lives if, as you admit, their lives are blips that are obliterated in nothingness...

Leaving aside all the straw man arguments you put into the mouths of atheists, you seem to have been quite interested from the start with meaning and purpose (or their lack) in the face of "nothingness" and your beloved "abyss". Moreover, you continue to make statements about "meaning" (still undefined) in your most recent posts.

BG: "Do we not all agree that, if there is no God, then we MUST accept the following statements?"

No, absolutely not! For one thing, most of your points are mired in ill-defined concepts. Let's take "...humans find that they FIRST exist, and then determine FOR THEMSELVES what their essences are going to be...". I can only guess how a human might "define" what their "essence" is going to be. As far as I can tell it's just another slippery synonym for finding "meaning", "value", and "purpose", all of which can have an array of connotations from operational to mystical. To be concrete, if you mean that we each consciously decide which goals to pursue (i.e. what is "important" to us), then your statement is false, as there are many subconscious determinants of behavior as well as factors that command our attention. As it would take me hours to spell out other possible interpretations of your statements, and whether I would agree or disagree, I will not attempt to do that homework for you.

BG: "The universe, being a non-being in any theological or ontological sense, i.e., it is not sentient or conscious or willful or intentionally purposive; the universe does not and cannot impose any 'meaning'..."

And in this context, what do you intend by the word MEANING?! If you intend a connection with some preordained plan by some supernatural entity, then your statement is a vacuous tautology. If you intend an association between concepts and their physical counterparts, your statement is obviously false. If you intend a locus of concepts that exert significant influence on a person's life by affecting decisions and emotions, then again your statement is quite clearly false. Stop hiding behind that word, Bill! Explain exactly what you intend by it (if you dare).

BG: "Thus, humans are autonomous when it comes to defining 'ultimate' or 'final' or 'absolute' (or even secondary, tertiary or other) meaning,..."

What is "ultimate meaning" or "final meaning" or "absolute meaning"?! Didn't you say that "meaning" had nothing to do with your argument? Why does it keep turning up? And why do you refuse to state what you intend by it? And what do you mean by "autonomous"? Is that an oblique reference to "free will"? Or do you simply mean independent of the wishes of some supreme being?

BG: "If you would like, Mr. Arvo, I can bore us all with defining what 'meaning' means. Shall I at least list the many types of meaning?..."

Could you possibly be more obstinate on this point? It's absolutely comical. No! I do not want a list of definitions from you (with the implication that it can be defined in multiple ways). Has it not been clearly established from the start that there are multiple definitions? Have I not given you alternate definitions myself? What I want from you, Bill, is consistent usage of the term, which means telling us what you intend by the word in a given context.

BG: "I will gladly define them, but how does that matter? The primary premise I have posited regards the FINAL and SOLE SOURCE of what is meaningful to each and every person on this planet."

How does it matter?! Are you still unclear on that? If you consistently define "meaning" to be, for example, a subjective concept (e.g. a physical construct in a physical brain), then you cannot glibly shift to asserting anything about "ultimate meaning" as if that is the same thing, whatever you intend by the latter. If you intend something different by the former, then let's hear your definition.

BG: "In fact, this idea of SOURCE pertains to everything of consciousness, not just meaning: What is the source for truth, purpose, value, etc?"

How can you speak of the "source" of anything if you cannot even define what it is you are talking about? If "meaning" or "truth" is a collection of cognitive associations in the brain, we can talk about how those associations are formed; that would be a candidate for its "source", would it not? If "meaning" or "truth" is correspondence with some divine plan, then we cannot speak about its "source" without first broaching the topic of the divine, and what "plans" might exist in that realm? Agree? If "meaning" or "truth" is a locus of high-level associations that guide our decision making and elicit emotional responses, then it's hard to imagine how one can discuss the "source" without delving into our philogenetic past (e.g. evolutionary psychology). Do you think otherwise? These concepts are vastly different, and they point to different "sources".

BG: "We could define these terms all day long; we could even waste time arguing about which definitions are legitimate. But it is futile, really."

Until you define what you intend by meaning, value, purpose etc., and use those words consistently, your argument cannot even get off the ground. In fact, that's where we started, and that's exactly where we remain. You have yet to get off the ground, as you have yet to define how you intend many of the words that are pivotal to your "argument." No amount of complaining from you will alleviate that fundamental deficiency.

(I will reply to your most recent comments as time--and interest--permit.)

J. C. Samuelson said...

Hi Bill,

I hope all is well in your life, though you seem to have hinted that it isn't. I was hoping to continue our email correspondence past the initial few, but it appears that life took hold of both of us. It's good to see you're still alive and thinking. Hopefully, you will forgive my ongoing pedestrian and long-winded attempts to answer your questions.

The question at the heart of your argument has been: Why should we be concerned with how others distract themselves between the cradle and the grave? All metaphysics are moot when considered in light of the one absolute - death. Correct? You've asked:

Why does it matter that people get things right? And why does he care what Christians think? Why does he care what influence Christians have on others?

...and stated...

If meaning, purpose and, yes, even "enjoyment" are defined by each person, then there is no "better" meaning, purpose or enjoyment. After all, this whole existence-thing boils down to taste, preference, even aesthetics: there is no Absolute or law or mandate or "truth" compelling me to believe, act, or think a certain way. I am autonomous, and thus I am free to be as reasonable or unreasonable as I wish, all to my enjoyment.

...also...

I define for myself what is meaningful, purposive, interesting, enlightening, enjoyable, erotic, spiritual, inspirational, rational, wrong, right and coherent, then I have no one to answer to, nor do I have to comply to some sort of outside standard: I can frolic in irrationalism if I choose.

Going one step further, you've asserted pure materialistic atheism is virtually synonymous with nihilism since there would be no intrinsic meaning to anything, including the life of the individual:

...the atheist who is most transparent about what is in front of him; that man who does not delude himself with lies or pretensions; that man who does not sedate himself against pain or fear or anxiety with happy little thoughts; that man who says frankly that his purpose comes solely from himself in the face of a silent universe; THAT man and this type of atheist is all the more honest if he chooses to just quit taking up space and kill himself.

I would agree that, in principle, all of our activities, thoughts, dreams, beliefs, the meaning/purpose we assign to our lives and so forth, are nothing more than diversions we've invented; stories we tell ourselves in order to live. But to my mind this is so much coffehouse philosophy and has little practical application. Indeed, I am hard pressed to imagine anyone who could successfully pull off the kind of nihilism you suggest is the honest response to a purely materialistic existence.

In my opinion, the kind of nihilism to which you seem to refer runs counter to both individual and cooperative self-interest which, as a result of biological and societal evolution, combine (along with other factors) to provide an internal and external compass we need for a fulfilling existence. That is, there is no need for a transcendent divinity that gives meaning and purpose to the universe, and it is hardly dishonest or delusional to live according to one's essential nature (as defined by the aforementioned evolutionary by-products). It seems to me that those of us who believe in transcendent divinities are doing little more than projecting; imagining that the compass originates with something beyond our material existence. But whatever the case, I would go so far as to say that existence only has any meaning as long as there is someone who exists to provide it. Yet even if we strip away the imaginary meaning and purpose we give our existence as you suggest, that still isn't enough grounds for suicide.

For good or ill, our existence includes the instinct to survive. This isn't something we thought about and decided was a good philosophy. It's how we evolved. It just is. And, the survival instinct could hardly be said to be meaningful on any level other than the materialistic. As sentient beings we are, of course, capable of overriding this instinct, but in the absence of some equally powerful motivation (such as extreme loneliness or depression) there is little reason to bother. Material beings don't need metaphysics to have an honest reason to go on living. When was the last time you heard of an animal - say, a tiger - taking its own life because it found no satisfactory answers to metaphysical quandaries? Maybe they do, or would if they were inventive enough to find ways to accomplish the act, but so far as I know it's never been observed to happen. The critters who share space with us here on earth certainly are purely materialistic in the sense that there is no metaphysic that guides them to do anything more than eat, sleep, and procreate. They seem to do just fine without some contrived meaning or purpose, even those who have developed more elaborate social systems or exhibit altruitic behavior.

It might even be said that if you're looking for some real nihilists, look no further than the animal kingdom. They have no reason to live beyond instinct, but don't bother trying to die either. It seems to take more than a lack of a contrived meaning or purpose to compel creatures to actively seek death. Humans, of course, are a bit more complicated.

For us, a meaning or purpose provides support for our evolutionary instincts. That is, they have an evolutionary function. In their absence, we sometimes do take our own lives. But again, this is counter to individual and collective self-interest. A person whose purpose is derived from his social group violates the interests of both himself and the group if his behavior is self-destructive. The consequences can be devastating. At the very least, the person who chooses such behaviors can almost be assured of isolation. Thus, individual and collective self-interest serve to provide a sort of moral framework that is functionally absolute, if not truly absolute. But I'm out of my depth when discussing something like this, which seems better handled by those more familiar with evo-devo or anthropology.

It seems to me those of us who subscribe to a belief in divine purpose have a better reason to die than those that don't share that belief. In a way, these beliefs can give the kind of motivation to die that is lacking in those who simply don't believe. For example, martyrdom for a religious cause is generally seen as a high ideal, even among those who don't find it strictly appealing on a more visceral level. Believing that one will receive a reward in an imagined afterlife for being a martyr can help remove the natural inhibition of the survival instinct. And what of the imagined Armageddon? Many theists seem morbidly fascinated by the idea, fearing that they'll be part of it while hoping and praying they won't. But even then, the idea of dying gloriously in the cause of one's faith is often fantasized as a primary goal. Considered in that light, doesn't it seem a bit absurd to say that the atheist has better grounds for self-termination?

There's more I'd like to say about meaning and why it matters who or what has influence and how much. But I'm being called away at the moment and it would be nice to know if this is at all close to answering at least part of your position (or even if I've accurately characterized your position in the quotes at the top) before continuing. So, I'm out for now.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Bill,

I decided to continue where I left off since I haven't heard from you. There's more to say on the following quotes of yours that I didn't get to, not necessarily in this order:

1. Why does it matter that people get things right? And why does he care what Christians think? Why does he care what influence Christians have on others?

2. If meaning, purpose and, yes, even "enjoyment" are defined by each person, then there is no "better" meaning, purpose or enjoyment. After all, this whole existence-thing boils down to taste, preference, even aesthetics: there is no Absolute or law or mandate or "truth" compelling me to believe, act, or think a certain way. I am autonomous, and thus I am free to be as reasonable or unreasonable as I wish, all to my enjoyment.

3. I define for myself what is meaningful, purposive, interesting, enlightening, enjoyable, erotic, spiritual, inspirational, rational, wrong, right and coherent, then I have no one to answer to, nor do I have to comply to some sort of outside standard: I can frolic in irrationalism if I choose.

We can talk about self-determination until the cows come home but it's only part of the story. The influence of genetics and biology, as well as physical and social environments from birth forward help determine how we view the world and the choices we make. A controversial example might be sexual orientation.

There is evidence that our sexuality is partly determined by genes, the development of certain parts of the brain, brain chemistry, environment in the womb, and more. A person who finds the same sex attractive doesn't make a conscious decision in favor of one sex over the other. It may be arguable that under the right conditions a person might be able to make a conscious choice to force a change, but it takes a great deal of effort and a strong desire to change before the individual can override his/her programming. But even if a person does take that step, there's no guarantee of permanent change. Even some notable Christians (Albert Mohler, for one) have begun to acknowledge that sexual orientation is the result of forces of nature rather than a conscious choice, which in my opinion is all to the good. Their recommended stance, however, leaves much to be desired (Mohler all but advocated the application of eugenics, which I find both disturbing and ironic).

Surely the same could be said of many of our other proclivities. Another case in point would be groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, specifically the Phelps clan. These people are so lost in groupthink that it is arguable that few (if any) of them could be said to be self-determined people. Fred Phelps arguably suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and has conditioned his children to follow him without question. In turn, they condition their children, and so on. The rare individual that breaks away from that group or others like it by exercising his/her own will no doubt feels the effects of that conditioning for life. Is the meaning, purpose or enjoyment the Phelps' derive from that sort of thinking inherently worse than others? Does it matter in the long run? Not really, but it illustrates well how external influence shapes our thinking.

It just seems to me that there are many things that influence how we think or act, and I think it's an illusion that we are entirely self-determined. We might have that capability to an extent, but more often than not it takes greater effort to overcome genetic and/or cultural programming. In fact, I would go so far as to say we can never truly eliminate their influence. These external factors (or, perhaps "factors beyond our control" would be more precise) help shape how we think, behave, feel, and believe. I tend to think these factors become so ingrained that we believe they are a part of us, giving us the illusion of complete self-determination.

The point is that what we find "meaningful, purposive, interesting, enlightening, enjoyable, erotic, spiritual, inspirational, rational, wrong, right and coherent" isn't completely self-determined, even if it sometimes seems so. If a person lives in accordance with his nature, it doesn't follow that he/she is clinging to delusions that should be stripped away as an exercise in pure honesty. A purposeless, material universe does not demand that each individual be entirely self-determined. Nor does it eliminate the influence of forces beyond the individual's control, to include both biological and social factors. It follows that there are external influences and standards we are subject to. But again, there is no divine driving force needed as one of them.

To be sure, there's still "no "better" meaning, purpose or enjoyment," and no Absolute mandate that people conform to a particular set of established parameters (except, of course, those things which are physically impossible). But there's little reason to suffer from existential angst because such things might be absent in a purely materialistic universe.

So if there is no "no "better" meaning, purpose or enjoyment," why bother with what others believe or do? Two reasons: the aggressive influence of some groups and a hierarchy of knowledge which is ignored or twisted by those groups. Since this existence is the only one any of us has any experience with, it seems important to me that we make the most of it. Those groups that dogmatize ideals and aggressively foist them on the rest of us seem more concerned that we all make the most of an imagined future life instead of living this one. That is, it seems important to them that their dogma be viewed as the right one regardless of whether there is superior information available. If it were otherwise, I wouldn't bat an eye.

While it's certainly true that there are plenty of dogmatic ideals that have no religious basis, such as those based on race, politics, economics, or class, religion seems to capitalize and buttress existing schisms. Tempered by the notion of absolute Truth™ existing divisions become mutually supportive, perpetuating the idea that some people are more special, more valuable than others. This is a colossal waste of energy and time that could better be spent experiencing this one existence we have. Though neither variety of worldview has an advantage in the face of a terminal existence, it's not about receiving a trophy prize at the exit. If we can live a supportive coexistence and leave a positive legacy for future generations for as long as there are future generations, that's a good enough reason to go on. I'm unaware of any evidence that resisting newer and better information and clinging to archaic and divisive ideals is beneficial for anyone. Yet I have no problem with those people who cling to those ideals out of sentimentality or for comfort alone. It's those who insist that they represent an absolute Truth™ that we must all accept whether we like it or not that give me the willies.

Therefore, if a billion people want to believe in orbiting teapots, purple pygmies on Pluto, or God, that seems perfectly fine to me. A little silly perhaps, but harmless. On the other hand, if these same people want to implement an education policy requiring that all children be indoctrinated into this supposed Truth™, discriminate against those who don't share the same beliefs or lifestyle, inhibit or restrict the advancement of science we all benefit from, or blow people up for the sake of promoting these beliefs or to receive an illusory reward in an illusory afterlife, then we have a problem.

To put it succinctly, it is the dogma that motivates me to object to certain varieties of belief, not beliefs themselves. Dogma is simply incompatible with an equitable and peaceful coexistence.

Does any of this make me or my ideas "better" or more deserving of the label of "truth" than theirs? Of course not. But it does seem to be a more rational approach to this, our only existence. Others are certainly free to revel in irrationalism to their hearts content, but we all have to deal with this existence. It may ultimately be a trip to nowhere, but we're all going whether we like it or not. So in the meantime, instead of trying to fit this existence into a Bronze Age box, by force if necessary, they (and we) would be better served by becoming less concerned with worshipping the right God or an imagined afterlife and focus on an existence we can actually know something about.

The message of this post and the one before it is that I don't really care what people believe, unless their actions toward the rest of us are harmful. Furthermore, none of us is completely self-determined, and to become so would take a lifetime of concentrated effort and isn't even necessary to live a fulfilling life. Some of us are more self-determined than others, but it isn't a competition to see who wins on that score. As for nihilism, there's no basis for thinking that it provides any motivation for suicide, even if we assume that a True Atheist™ should be one. It's a passive notion about the metaphysics of life, and as far as I know it usually takes an active motivation (e.g., pain, loneliness, depression) to seek death. While a nihilist is certainly subject to those sorts of malaise, they don't seem more prone to them than anyone else. From the perspective of moral nihilism, it occurs to me that a nihilist is no more likely to violate an existing moral framework than anyone else, regardless of whether moral codes are absolute or not. Morality is an abstract concept in which there are no real absolutes anyway. It too is subjectively defined. Lying, stealing, killing, and so forth arguably have moral applications, whereas other times they don't.

In closing, it seems to me that by saying a True Atheist™ should be a nihilist, you seem to be surreptitiously attempting to set up theism as superior, which I find amusing and judge unsuccessful. Though you haven't championed theism as such, by essentially accusing (admittedly in a very polite and articulate manner) those atheists who are not nihilists of being less than completely honest, you can simultaneously dehumanize your caricature of atheism and declare victory for theism as the natural choice for anyone who considers himself an honest, caring human being. Your premise is faulty because - although material itself (matter & energy) is nihilistic, and atheism is a materialistic philosophy - it does not reflect how it works in practice with real live human beings. So, as I said before your arguments seem little more than coffeehouse philosophy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. It just makes the discussion somewhat beside the point.

A favorite quote that I think has illustrative value for this discussion:

I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own." ~ Bertrand Russell, 1925

Bill Gnade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Gnade said...

Dear Everybody,

Like each person here, I have a life worth living. With that said, I am busy living that life. Hence, I am too busy to reply to your comments as swiftly as I'd like. So, here is my plan. I first owe a reply to BOOMSLANG. In first replying to him, I also hope to address indirectly a few questions raised by J.C. SAMUELSON. Then, I will reply to JIM ARVO. After Jim, I will directly respond to J.C. SAMUELSON (who has posted two lengthy comments). Finally, I will reply to ALANH and DAVE, the WEBMASTER.

I hope (I'd promise, but I can't) to have my replies to each of you by the end of this week. Sorry for the delay. If I could, I would reply instantly.

After my comments are posted and each of you has your say (if you choose to say anything), I will read your responses and decide then whether I will respond in kind here. But as I have already said, this thread is nearly played. It is also nearly uselessly cumbersome. Besides, there are folks here introducing ideas, as if they're fresh, that I introduced in November. In many ways, or so it appears, we are repeating ourselves, or not listening to each other, or lately joining in on a conversation we think we instantly understand. I have enjoyed re-reading much of this thread (no small task), for it has helped me descry its continuity (it is all a jolly row, if I may be so plain.) But it is evident that some have not done likewise.

I will be back (or so I hope). Honest.

Gnade

Bill Gnade said...

Boomslang (and everyone else),

I have been wildly busy. But I have thought a lot about the replies I promised, though they won't be ready for awhile (I'm still ruminating).

Boomslang, since I promised a reply to you first, I have to ask you one thing, and implore you to give me just a YES or NO answer. I want to make sure my "bigger" reply is based on clear understanding.

You wrote (May 20, 2007):

If "meaning" is purely subjective---which, I'm not really sure if we've actually agreed on this, or if you're [Bill Gnade] going along for the sake of argument(?)---but if the former, then it really shouldn't be of any great astonishment that most people across the board find "enjoyment" in their lives (since "enjoyment" is purely subjective).

I have one question, Booms: Do you believe that “meaning is purely subjective”? I don’t know if you do: I can't tell whether you're asking if I alone agree with the premise, or if we BOTH agree with the premise.

Do you believe that "meaning is purely subjective?"

Gnade

boomSLANG said...

Bill Gnade: I have one question, Booms: Do you believe that “meaning is purely subjective”? I don’t know if you do: I can't tell whether you're asking if I alone agree with the premise, or if we BOTH agree with the premise

Hi Bill,

Although it was passive, I first asked the same question, hence, the "(?)":

(previously, to Bill Gnade): "If 'meaning' is purely subjective---which, I'm not really sure if we've actually agreed on this, or if you're going along for the sake of argument(?)"

Moreover, in my observation, out of all parties involved in this discussion, and considering your use of hypotheticals, analogies, etc., to bring "Atheism" under question, I think that you've been the most evasive as to where you actually stand on this whole "meaning" issue. A few people even pointed out that "meaning's" meaning is "subjective", as well.

Anyway, considering these things, I think it would be nice(and helpful to the discussion) if you would finally disclose your stance on "meaning", and if you believe it is "subjective".

To try and be of help to this discussion, I'll ask: Could an objective definition of "meaning" be, "things" that compel us to want to go on living? Just a thought.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Boomslang,

I appreciate the reply. But, forgive me. I am still not sure where you stand on the issue.

You used the phrase, 'meaning is purely subjective.' Is meaning purely subjective?

Yes, I think that a definition of meaning like the one you offer is suitable. There are all sorts of possibilities here, which is what I've been saying all along. But I want to know whether you are saying (I think you are), that YOU believe meaning is purely subjective. Because I do NOT want to respond the wrong way; I do not want to be accused (again, though not by you) of obfuscation or equivocation.

A yes or no will suffice. Maybe you answered already, but I can be a bit dense sometimes.

Peace.

Gnade

boomSLANG said...

Bill,

Yeah, I can be dense, too. So to be clear, you're saying, you're not going to answer the question(the one I asked first, and then again, one post ago) until I answer you? This discussion might be turning into a "Pointless-Grave". lol

"Yes", Bill, your intuition's correct, I determine what meaning "means", and so, what give's my life "meaning". Your turn.

boomSLANG said...

PS: I have to step out for several hours, so if I don't respond(any further today), I don't want people to think that I don't anticipate finding out if some other person, or "thing", has been assigning meaning to my life all along, unbeknownst to me. Just givin' the heads-up. = )

Over, and out.

Bill Gnade said...

Boomslang,

No, no. I think you misunderstand me. I have already made my view clear on this, or so I thought. In fact, it is this very reason why I've been raked over the coals here (by others). I will explain later.

But thanks for the answer. I, too, have to go out for a few hours. I might not be back here (at this thread), though, until late Saturday night.

More soon.

Peace.

Gnade

boomSLANG said...

Bill: I have already made my view clear on this, or so I thought.

Point me to the specific post. Again, the "dense" thing. 'Sorry.

Out.

Bill Gnade said...

[Dear Boomslang,

No, I am being dense, and presumptuous. I should have said that I THOUGHT I made myself clear. If you do not think so, or you have not found such evidence, then I have failed. Surely others have thought I have been incredibly obscure.

Here is my reply to you, as promised.]


Dear Boomslang,

You wrote (as already noted):

‘If "meaning" is purely subjective---which, I'm not really sure if we've actually agreed on this, or if you're [Bill Gnade] going along for the sake of argument(?)---but if the former, then it really shouldn't be of any great astonishment that most people across the board find "enjoyment" in their lives (since "enjoyment" is purely subjective).’

Yes. I have stipulated this repeatedly: “meaning” is purely subjective. I have not once denied this, nor have I obfuscated the point. (I may not totally agree with subjectivism epistemologically, but that's unimportant right now.) In fact, it is the most important point regarding what I have said here; it is the basal point, or, if you will, the starting point. In Jim Arvo’s second comment in this whole thread (addressed to me) he said, “I agree that meaning is subjective.” Of course, Mr. Arvo was agreeing with ME. So we have all accepted this: even Alanh, a recent interlocutor here (it seems), wrote in two posts:

‘You [Bill Gnade] only see atheism from your Christian perspective, and can't acknowledge that we make our own purpose, individually and collectively, without some supreme being giving it to us.… when I said we make our own purpose I was talking about everyone, not just atheists. Religion is one way man creates purpose, but it is, as you know, a misguided effort.’

Please note that not a single person has challenged either Mr. Arvo or Allanh for their insistence that “meaning” (purpose, value, etc.) is subjective. Since that is the case, everyone here must accept it when I say the same thing. (Curiously, Jim Arvo has nearly perseverated on my failure to define “meaning” but has had no problem accepting the term when used by others – and they never define it!) Had Alanh paid any attention at all to this thread, he would have known that I have argued not only that atheists define meaning for themselves; I’ve argued that Christians (and all theists) do, too. I argued this in my first comment here back in November.

Booms, in reply to my query why those who believe in pure (your word) subjectivism should care what other subjectivists do, you wrote:

‘… in my experience, a crucial difference in the above mentioned groups of people is that it is the former who have been indoctrinated to literally "recruit" fellow members. In fact, most of the Christians I know believe it is required of them to do so.’

Of course, I agree: Christians are called (though not forced) to spread the gospel. But that is nothing new, nor is it particularly helpful to even note: Soviet Communism, founded on atheistic, materialistic principles, actually DID FORCE people to recruit and convert – or die. So, all we can conclude from this is that group mentalities can be quite disconcerting. But we also MUST conclude that if everyone is a subjectivist, then none of us is really privileged to tell one group or other that they cannot or should not derive meaning from proselytizing. And, lastly, there are definitely atheists who do try, though probably on their own motivation (and not due to the edicts of some holy writ), to convert theists.

You add:

‘Nonetheless, my point is that if the ever-popular Christian motif "heaven or hell?" is not set forth explicitly, then it is at least "set forth" implicitly.’

This, too, is true, but theists, even Christian theists, are not the only groups who use threats like this. Heck, I have been already ostracized and tossed out of the fold by people here in this thread. There are threats of all kinds; atheists even use them, even those atheists who do not walk in lockstep with Mao or Stalin or Pol Pot. There are threats of shame; there are intellectual threats; and there is plenty of condescension, mockery and scoffing. But, all I can conclude from this is that other subjectivists find meaning and enjoyment in bullying others; no matter what threats they use, I can only divine that such bullies derive pleasure and purpose in pushing others around.

This statement of yours is curious, Booms:

‘So, Bill, the way I see it with Christians, whether fundamentalist, or moderate; whether it's an "in your face", a'la Shirley Phelps "type"...or if it's some little ol' lady passing out Christian tracts---the message is still ever-present: Love(accept) Jesus Christ....or pay the consequences(burn in hell)’

I find this curious because you mention only fundamentalists and moderates: you ignore that many liberals of all types have their own “in your face” zeal about the nature of God, or even His non-nature (His non-existence). In short, there are over-zealous folks of every ilk – be they atheist, theist, Buddhist, liberal or conservative.

And then you conclude, and I appreciate that you conclude with such candor:

‘So Bill, that is one difference; that's one reason why I personally "care" how Christians spend their lives before the "abyss". Whether their lives are truly "fulfilled", or not, is not the issue---I'm talking about where proselytizing is concerned; I'm talking about when people wield a holy book as their only "evidence" for why I "need" to convert---a holy book that I find utterly abhorent, BTW.’

I am glad you care. I care, too. But we are both subjectivists according to everyone here; and so are the Christians with their book (Alanh said so above). But hidden in your argument is an appeal to an objective standard, no? You don’t think Christians should NOT proselytize because they are subjectively wrong; you do not mean that you subjectively find them mistaken. You believe that they are objectively and demonstrably wrong: you believe that you can even objectively show them they are wrong, that their ideas do not comport with objective reality. Am I wrong about any of this? But there is no objective reality if all meaning is subjective, purely subjective, as you said. So we have only two options: we either jettison this idea that all meaning is subjective (and all hard, factual knowledge, by the way) and accept that there is a standard objective reality, or we must accept that all zealous Christian bible-wielders are behaving appropriate to their subjectivism; and you are behaving appropriate to yours.

Now, perhaps you are going to argue that all meaning is subjective, but not all of reality: that there is a “real” objective and standard reality, and then there is an equally “real” though personal, subjective reality. The former acts as judge of the latter: the “real” extrinsic reality judges the validity of one’s internal, personal, subjective beliefs. Am I right so far? So you might hold that a person is free to believe subjectively that God created Adam and Eve as whole and entirely immediate beings; and yet you might also direct such a person to an objective and extrinsic standard, evolution perhaps, that should, if the person was open-minded, convert him or her to radical conformity: the person’s worldview would conform to reality, objective reality. Objective reality proves that Adam and Eve were not created from dust in the early morning dew of Eden.

But if you admit this, then we have a problem, for now we have a person – this convert to hard, objective reality – whose “meaning” and “purpose” and “essence” and enjoyment, and whatever else you want to heap on here, is NOT subjective at all: it is demonstrably and knowably in conformity with an objective reality. Thus, this person's meaning is not self-derived. It's derived from something other than the self, namely, objective reality.

All of which begs several questions: If there IS such a reality, how did it come into existence, how do we KNOW it, and where did this idea of “all meaning is purely subjective” come from?

Booms, regarding nihilism, you wrote:

‘Next, Bill, there's this whole implication of "Atheist = Nihilist".

Okay, "some" Atheists might very well be Nihilists. So? The worst "Atheist(s)" might act amorally(unethically) at times. So?

Again, it seems that the "worst" Atheist model is being compared to the "best" Christian model.’


This comparison may indeed be taking place, but I have not a thing to do with it. I am merely stating a fact, one which even the Webmaster/Dave admitted in his initial essay: Nothingness prevails. This is true, at least to atheists; and if atheists are right, it is thus true even for theists: I, a theist, am going nowhere in no time at all. But we are in fact running into problems even with this, since we seem to be venturing out of the “all meaning is subjective” realm and into the realm of “objective reality.” Somehow, we need to justify this idea of objective; we need to ask some tough questions about it. For there seems to be “meaning” that exists independent of each of us; there seems to be some extrinsic world we feel compelled to conform ourselves to. But if this is the case, then perhaps nothingness is not the fate of human consciousness. Perhaps there is something that persists if there is meaning, value, and truth INDEPENDENT of us. For surely that is what we mean here when we say “objective” reality: we are talking about a standard reality that is not dependent on human consciousness: we believe in the force of gravity not because men SAY it exists; we say we believe in gravity because it DOES exist, irrespective of what men say.

And then you add this, Boomslang, even though you’ve talked about pure subjectivity:

'Not really an objective way to look at things, is it?

So there is indeed an “objective way” that helps us conform our minds and our sense of purpose and meaning to some reality, right?

But, Boomslang, this is where you gave me great pause (when I told you that you stopped me in my tracks):

’Furthermore, if one wants to push this whole "the most honest" Atheist "could do this, that, or the other thing" issue....I could very well say that the "most honest" Christians are those who could, and would, stone people to death for working on the Sabbath; the "the most honest" Christians are those who could, and would, keep slaves. If none apply?..then guess what?...then maybe there ARE no "honest Christians".

I guess you could say all of those things: in fact, in a purely subjective world, I think you could say whatever you want. And since meaning is, in your words, “purely subjective”, then you must accept that Christians who do not stone their neighbors or hold slaves do so (for very credible and demonstrable theological reasons, by the way) because they derive subjective meaning from not doing so (of course, you could derive meaning from NOT accepting that conclusion). But, most everyone here (except me), has argued duplicitously: meaning is subjective and yet it is ultimately and objectively true that there is no God, no after-life and no intrinsic purpose to life: meaning, purpose, pleasure, value, worth – all of these are contingent upon the will of the subject and do not exist in the world extrinsic to any person (of course, we all see the contradiction). But if the “objective” facts are that there is indeed nothing outside our subjectivism, then I am saying that the True Atheist is perfectly justified for ending his or her life: I understand a person who does not want to live in a world filled with suffering, pain, war, turmoil, rape, AIDS, or typhoid; I understand a person who looks at his life’s work, and all that he loves and all that he has built, and, knowing that all of it will and must be destroyed, never to be returned or rescued or redeemed; I understand that man who sees nothing but futility in his ambitions and says to himself that he does not wish to prolong the inevitable. (Each person here is frustrated when he or she types a response to a comment and somehow the essay is deleted or lost. But it did exist for a short time; it was completed before it was lost. Why would anyone be upset that his or her work was lost, or did not endure? If it endured one second, does it have less value than it did if it lasted two seconds, two minutes, or six months? Alas, imagine a whole life lost, every second of hard and purposive work yielding nothing! )

I am talking about atheists who truly look at the implications of the totality of what they claim reality is ultimately and fully and finally like, independent of what they strive to do or achieve: I am talking about the stark view of the hard realist in the White Room I discussed earlier in this thread. I am not taking the standard route here and saying that one SHOULD kill oneself; I am not even really asking the silly question, “What’s preventing you from killing yourself?” I am stating that if a person realizes that everything is purely subjective EXCEPT nothingness, then I can understand WHY that person kills him or herself.

But the Christians you are describing are not, as they sit in the White Room, the stark realists! They are pretending there is indeed something outside that White Room; they believe in a home outside, one where they will be accepted and loved and where their works, good or bad, will be redeemed and refined and rewarded. Killing themselves cannot fit anywhere into their subjectivism: suicide makes no sense to their worldview. But suicide can make sense to the atheist I’ve described above. Who here is going to say that suicide doesn’t make sense, at least to me?

Amazingly, people have suggested, or so I believe, that I am OBJECTIVELY wrong for asserting the hard facts about life in the White Room.

Just note what you say here, Boomslang:

‘And then there's this underlying issue of limited/unlimited existence.

If the premise is that merely "living", in and of itself, isn't "meaningful", then tell me---where is the motivation to keep doing it for an infinite amount of time?’


One wonders what you mean by “in and of itself.” If you are a subjectivist, this makes sense, but only to you and those who embrace similar ideas in their subjectively constructed worldviews. But you are really using “in and of itself” in an objective sense: you are suggesting that there is an extrinsic, objective value to “living.” If you are, and I don’t see how you can say otherwise, then I agree with you, but now we are back to the whole problem of objective reality: whence does it come, how do we know it, and how does it manage to exist independent of us?

Anyhow, enough for now.

Peace.

Gnade

Jim Arvo said...

Bill said "In Jim Arvo’s second comment in this whole thread (addressed to me) he said, “I agree that meaning is subjective.” Of course, Mr. Arvo was agreeing with ME. So we have all accepted this..."

Not so fast. I did indeed agree, early on, based on the context of the discussion at that point that "meaning" was subjective. Since that time, it became clear that you were using the word in various ways, and it became necessary to be more precise. As I have said a number of times, colloquial, vague or informal definitions often suffice, but when an argument turns on a particular definition, it then becomes necessary to exercise more caution. I hope my subsequent remarks made it quite clear that that time had come.

Bill: "Curiously, Jim Arvo has nearly perseverated on my failure to define “meaning” but has had no problem accepting the term when used by others – and they never define it!"

Colloquial usage often suffices--it depends on the argument. Do you disagree with this? I've explained that at least three times. When somebody equivocates on a word, it's time to nail it down. You've committed this fallacy numerous times, and it appears to be central to your argument--hence, I've held your feet to the fire. I don't recall anybody else committing this fallacy.

Bill: "...I have argued not only that atheists define meaning for themselves; I’ve argued that Christians (and all theists) do, too..."

Sure you have. That's ONE sense of the word you've used. You have also made reference to "ultimate meaning" which is something different, is it not? Similarly, you've continually implied that life is "meaningless" if it ends in the "abyss", which makes absolutely no sense if "meaning" is taken to be subjective. It's roughly equivalent to saying that nobody breathes air because one ceases to breath when one is dead--and, of course, we will all die. This is one of your common maneuvers.

Let's be sure to plainly agree on something, however: The word "meaning" has multiple valid definitions. You and I have both made this point multiple times. There is absolutely no contention on this point. Hence, I'm a bit baffled as to why you are concerned about whether "meaning" is subjective or not. It depends ENTIRELY on how you define it, does it not? I've given you several definitions of the word that would suggest it is indeed subjective. I've also given you several definitions that would suggest it is NOT subjective. There is no "right" answer here--it depends on which definition you pick. Can we agree on this?

Bill: "But there is no objective reality if all meaning is subjective, purely subjective,..."

What does that mean?! If you DEFINE meaning to be something that is subjective, how does that allow you to conclude anything about "reality"? More importantly, what do you intend by "all meaning is subjective"? This implies that you have some universal notion of "meaning" in mind; i.e. you are not simply selecting one of many definitions--one that implies subjectivity. Right? You have something more universal in mind. Otherwise, "all meaning is subjective" is simply a tautology. Right?

BG: "So we have only two options: we either jettison this idea that all meaning is subjective... and accept that there is a standard objective reality,..."

I've given you interpretations of meaning that are not subjective. DEFINE WHAT YOU INTEND BY THE WORD "MEANING" IN THIS CONTEXT. What connection is there between YOUR notion of "meaning" and "objective reality"?

Bill, you have yet to define what you intend by the word "meaning", except to say that you think it is subjective. Similarly, I could assert that "color" is subjective (in one sense of the word), but that in no way defines what is intended by that word. Moreover, you have clearly used "meaning" in multiple ways. Do you intend to ever clearly state what you intend by "meaning"? Do you think it unnecessary to use the word consistently? (By the way, this in no way is limited to the word "meaning". I expect that any word that is central to an argument may be examined, adequately defined, and used consistently without having to fight tooth-and-nail for such at every turn. Is that unreasonable?)

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Jim Arvo,

I have not yet read your latest response, though I will. As I promised, you are next. So, be patient, and I will reply to you in turn.

Have a great weekend.

Bill Gnade

boomSLANG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
.:webmaster:. said...

A hearty, subjective applause to Boom!

boomSLANG said...

Webmaster said: "A hearty, subjective applause to Boom!"

Thanks, and here it is again, with some corrections.(Again, pardon the length)

Boom'(Previously): ‘… in my experience, a crucial difference in the above mentioned groups of people is that it is the former who have been indoctrinated to literally "recruit" fellow members. In fact, most of the Christians I know believe it is required of them to do so.’

Bill Gnade responds: Of course, I agree: Christians are called (though not forced) to spread the gospel. But that is nothing new, nor is it particularly helpful to even note: Soviet Communism, founded on atheistic, materialistic principles, actually DID FORCE people to recruit and convert – or die.

Greetings Bill,

I don't know if you're aware of this, or not, but there is such a thing as "Christian Communism". So it seems to me, Bill, that "communism" is more of a political mode of thinking. Additionally, if even Theists can adhere to communist principles(and it appears that at least "some" can, have, and do), then that kind of deflates the hypothesis that there exists some kind of direct "default" link between all people who disbelieve in Zeus, Osiris, Buddha, Muhammad, etc..i.e.."gods", and "Communism". Also, I think it brings into question the assertion that communism was "founded" on Atheistic principles.

But back to the subject of "recruiting" members for one's beliefs/non-beliefs---even if we take a hypothetical situation where one's political agenda was that of communism, and that they happened to not believe in gods--- where is the Atheist "doctrine" that calls out to them to "make" the entire world one of Atheism? Where is the "doctrine", the "Holy Gospel", that delineates, in no uncertain terms, that you WILL sustain bodily harm for non-compliance to Atheism? And as I'm sure you've noticed, Bill, I didn't ask where the Communist "doctrine" is that calls out to people to make the world one of Communism, because there very well may BE such a "doctrine". As I've shown, that is irrelevant.

To be clear, Bill, I'm saying that I don't think that you have shown, or can show, a direct correlation between the two ideas(Atheism and Communism), in giving an answer to my question, which again, is: Where is the "Atheist" doctrine/hand-book that strongly encourages, or even "recommends", the recruiting/conversion of other human beings to non-belief in gods, this, in conjunction with threats of bodily harm????

Bill Gnade: And, lastly, there are definitely atheists who do try, though probably on their own motivation (and not due to the edicts of some holy writ), to convert theists.

Right, remembering of course, that such people wouldn't have/need said "motivation" in the first place, if, AGAIN, it were not for people insisting that, 1) gods exist, 2) "My God is the 'True' God, and all others are false", and 3) Convert and submit to my God, or pay the 'price'."

Boom'(previously): ‘Nonetheless, my point is that if the ever-popular Christian motif "heaven or hell?" is not set forth explicitly, then it is at least "set forth" implicitly.’

Bill Gnade responds: This, too, is true, but theists, even Christian theists, are not the only groups who use threats like this. Heck, I have been already ostracized and tossed out of the fold by people here in this thread. There are threats of all kinds; atheists even use them, even those atheists who do not walk in lockstep with Mao or Stalin or Pol Pot. There are threats of shame; there are intellectual threats; and there is plenty of condescension, mockery and scoffing. But, all I can conclude from this is that other subjectivists find meaning and enjoyment in bullying others; no matter what threats they use, I can only divine that such bullies derive pleasure and purpose in pushing others around.

Bill, I'm glad we see agreement that the "Heaven or Hell?" motif is clearly an ever-looming "threat"(because it is), however, I'm disappointed that you didn't address it, and instead, seemingly went for the "tit-for-tat" argument...e.g..'Yeah, but Atheists use threats, too'.

And that said, Bill, here's the difference(s) between your described "threats", and the Christian "bottom line": If you, Bill, or anyone else, feels "shame"--or any of the other things that you mentioned--you can simply remove yourself from the situation, and know, that at the end of the day?... the hurtful "text" and/or "words" are at worst, another human being's opinion. On the other hand, at the end of the day from a Theistic doctrinal standpoint--specifically, Christian or Muslim--the threat of being perpetually incinerated for non-compliance by one's OWN alleged "creator", is NOT merely presented as "opinion". And furthermore, hell no, you cannot simply "remove" yourself from the situation. Do you see the difference, Bill? Let me illustrate a bit further, to be sure.

Bill Gnade, during my pre-teen years, I was repeatedly told by my Christian fundamentalist maternal grandparents, that I was essentially a "broken sinner", and if I didn't "repent", that I would be branded(LITERALLY) with "the number of the Beast", and then "left behind", due to the "Rapture".

Now, for being only 12, or so, years old, these aren't very fun words, Bill. In fact, they are/were pretty f%cking frightening, Bill. The guilt and fear I had was paralyzing, and it was inescapable, because after all, it was "GOD"...not a couple of dudes on a playground, or on a blog.

Do you see the point I'm making, yet?...the difference? Gosh, I really hope so. And this brings us to "subjective beliefs", vs "objective reality".
_______________________________

Boom'(previously): "So Bill, that is one difference; that's one reason why I personally 'care' how Christians spend their lives before the 'abyss'. Whether their lives are truly 'fulfilled', or not, is not the issue---I'm talking about where proselytizing is concerned; I'm talking about when people wield a holy book as their only 'evidence' for why I 'need' to convert---a holy book that I find utterly abhorent, BTW."

Bill Gnade responds: I am glad you care. I care, too. But we are both subjectivists according to everyone here; and so are the Christians with their book (Alanh said so above). But hidden in your argument is an appeal to an objective standard, no? You don’t think Christians should NOT proselytize because they are subjectively wrong; you do not mean that you subjectively find them mistaken. You believe that they are objectively and demonstrably wrong: you believe that you can even objectively show them they are wrong, that their ideas do not comport with objective reality. [bold added]

Again, and I DO apologize to those people, Atheist, or otherwise, who have to see me keep repeating myself.... but "NO", I CANNOT "demonstrate" that there are "no gods". Again, my Atheism is NOT a statement about "knowledge"; it is a statement about belief, and so, Bill, I DIS-believe in all of the same gods that you disbelieve in, just one "extra".

Furthermore, Bill, while "yes", I believe that this "natural reality" is all that there "is", again, "NO", I cannot "objectively" show that there is NOT a "supernatural" reality---the onus is yours to show that there IS one.

On the other hand, as much as we can objectively show that there are no "square circles" in existance, conceptually, or otherwise, I think that it can be "demonstrably" shown that the "Holy Bible" is far from the "objective Truth" that it's proponents claim it is.

And BTW, concerning this issue, I'm not talking about whether or not I derive "meaning" out of discussing whether or not the bible is true, or not. If I "derive meaning" out of slamming the living sh*t out of people who believe in the Toothfairy?.... it's got nothing to do with whether or not there EXISTS a miniature winged girl who leaves money in exchange for teeth. So please, I'm hoping we can leave that part of this "subjective"/"objective" discussion OUT, where that is concerned.

Moving on...

To Bill, and all types of Theists:

***As an Atheist, I'm NOT saying that "God" is disproven, "demonstrably" ...I'm saying that "God" is UN-proven, "demonstrably".

So Bill, you're right/we're right that my "meaning", whether I be Atheist, Theist, Communist, Capitalist, German, English, black, white, etc., etc., is "subjective". However, you are wrong in your accessment that my Atheism(my non-belief in gods)"comports" to some sort of "objective" Atheistic "doctrine", or "dogma".
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Boom'(previously): "Furthermore, if one wants to push this whole 'the most honest' Atheist 'could do this, that, or the other thing' issue....I could very well say that the 'most honest' Christians are those who could, and would, stone people to death for working on the Sabbath; the 'the most honest' Christians are those who could, and would, keep slaves. If none apply?..then guess what?...then maybe there ARE no 'honest Christians'."

Bill Gnade repsonds: I guess you could say all of those things: in fact, in a purely subjective world, I think you could say whatever you want. And since meaning is, in your words, “purely subjective”, then you must accept that Christians who do not stone their neighbors or hold slaves do so (for very credible and demonstrable theological reasons, by the way),

Actually, "no", I don't accept that. If "some" Christians can show, "demonstratively", that it's unethical to do what their presumably objectively-True Holy Book says IS "ethical", then there's a problem. Direct me to the specific verse(s) that "undo" the "Commandments", if you care to.

The problem, the contradiction, is that, if Christians are deriving "meaning" out of NOT following the bible, then they evidently don't need a bible, nor biblegod, to know what's ethical, and/or, what causes unnecessary harm to others. Thus, they don't "need" to threaten me and/or proselytize, whether they derive "meaning" from doing so, or not. Remember, they are the ones claiming that they "need" to proselytize and "remind" of us of "Hell", etc.

Bill continues: But, most everyone here (except me), has argued duplicitously: meaning is subjective and yet it is ultimately and objectively true that there is no God [Bold added]

On more time: "NO". See here***, several paragraphs up.

Bill, I really wish we could get past this "burden of proof" issue. Can we? How?
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Bill(on "Nihilism"): I am merely stating a fact, one which even the Webmaster/Dave admitted in his initial essay: Nothingness prevails. This is true, at least to atheists; and if atheists are right, it is thus true even for theists: I, a theist, am going nowhere in no time at all. But we are in fact running into problems even with this, since we seem to be venturing out of the “all meaning is subjective” realm and into the realm of “objective reality.”

How have "we" ventured out of it? To the best of my knowledge, you are continually the one who is merging, or "cross-breeding", the two as you see fit. Bill, if it subjectively gives you "meaning" to believe that your "mind" can survive the death of your brain? Great. If it gives me "meaning" to NOT believe it. Ditto. We've already agreed on this much. However, "if" it is an "objective Truth" that life goes on after the death of the brain, then there's only two ways I can "know" this. Either, A) I'll find out for MYSELF when I'm lying on Satan's BBQ(as God stands by and watches), or B) The one CLAIMING that "life goes on" after the death of the brain gives credible evidence that it DOES. BTW, 'got any? I don't ask sarcastically---I merely see it being VERRRY helpful to this discussion at this point.

Bill Gnade: Somehow, we need to justify this idea of objective; we need to ask some tough questions about it. For there seems to be “meaning” that exists independent of each of us; there seems to be some extrinsic world we feel compelled to conform ourselves to.

With all due respect, I don't know how you arrive at this, other than just re-asserting what you already "feel" is "objectively" true. I'm trying to "conform" myself to "nature", because, thus far, I see no compelling evidence that there is anything more.

BTW, Bill, are you saying that there would, or would not, be a point, or "meaning", to the universe if the alleged human prototypes, "Adam and Eve", were never brought into existance? 'Just curious.

Bill Gnade: For surely that is what we mean here when we say “objective” reality: we are talking about a standard reality that is not dependent on human consciousness: we believe in the force of gravity not because men SAY it exists; we say we believe in gravity because it DOES exist, irrespective of what men say.

Again, "we" this, and "we" that. Bill Gnade is the one talking about a "standard reality that is not dependent on human consciousness". That's why I just asked this: "Bill, are you saying that there would, or would not, be a point, or "meaning", to the universe if the alleged human prototypes, "Adam and Eve", were never brought into existance?"

In other words, if the alleged first human proto-types never existed, obviously, "human consciousness" wouldn't exist...the same "consciousness" that Bill Gnade uses to conclude that there's an objective reality "beyond consciousness". In conclusion, the reasoning to your premise seems circular.

Bill Gnade: But if the “objective” facts are that there is indeed nothing outside our subjectivism, then I am saying that the True Atheist is perfectly justified for ending his or her life: I understand a person who does not want to live in a world filled with suffering, pain, war, turmoil, rape, AIDS, or typhoid; I understand a person who looks at his life’s work, and all that he loves and all that he has built, and, knowing that all of it will and must be destroyed, never to be returned or rescued or redeemed; I understand that man who sees nothing but futility in his ambitions and says to himself that he does not wish to prolong the inevitable.

Good. You understand. Then you also hopefully understand the Christian, the one who adopts a "Nihilist" view in this Earthly life, DESPITE, being the one who claims to have a direct line of communication with "Jesus"(God); the one claiming to have an intimate "relationship" with the "meaning giver"---BUT, the one who takes their own life, because obviously, neither the sought-after "meaning", nor their Earthly "relationship with God" was enough. If this IS the case, I see zero reason to conclude that a perpetual existance of "more of the same" would be different. In fact, I see it being a "hell".

BTW, Bill, for someone who talks so much about suicide, I'm glad, again, to see that you're not recommending it. As I said(in a previous post), of all the people I've personally known who took their own life, they were Christian. And that is the truth, as ironic as it may be.

Bill quoted me: "And then there's this underlying issue of limited/unlimited existence.

If the premise is that merely "living", in and of itself, isn't "meaningful", then tell me---where is the motivation to keep doing it for an infinite amount of time?"


Bill responds: One wonders what you mean by “in and of itself.”

Right. Okay, I mean, to "be alive"; have "consciousness".....but should've added, in a healthy body. Obviously, to be "created" without bones, or conjoined to another human being wouldn't be much fun. But that's just speculation---and yes, I fully understand it's subjective.

Bill: If you are a subjectivist, this makes sense, but only to you and those who embrace similar ideas in their subjectively constructed worldviews. But you are really using “in and of itself” in an objective sense: you are suggesting that there is an extrinsic, objective value to “living.”

I'm comparing "somethingness", to "nothingness", so in that regard, "yes". But then there's the subjective "middle". Is any of this unreasonable?

Bill continues: If you are[asserting an "objective" value to living], and I don’t see how you can say otherwise, then I agree with you, but now we are back to the whole problem of objective reality: whence does it come, how do we know it, and how does it manage to exist independent of us?

Bill, question: Do you remember your time in "nothingness"? You know, the time before you were born, but when you allegedly existed as a "soul"? I'll assume not. And if not, therefore, you couldn't make any claims about it, "objective", or otherwise, including that there is a "reality" that exists "independent" of "us"..i.e.."consciousness". Obviously, you're "here" now, so I'd like to know how you can make claims about said " objective reality", that's all.

Honestly, I have a headache, so I'm stopping right here.

Over, and out.

Boom'

Jim Arvo said...

Bill: "But, most everyone here (except me), has argued duplicitously: meaning is subjective and yet it is ultimately and objectively true that there is no God."

Bill, I'm speechless. What you've just demonstrated is that we've never left square one, and probably never will leave square one. After all these exchanges, that's still what you think we're saying? This isn't even about the word "meaning"--it's about grasping the most elementary aspects of what we're saying to you. Good grief....

alanh said...

Bill, here's some suggestions for defining "meaning," from the American Heritage Dictionary:

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Meaning

1) Something that is conveyed or signified; sense or significance.
2) Something that one wishes to convey, especially by language: The writer's meaning was obscured by his convoluted prose.
3) An interpreted goal, intent, or end: “The central meaning of his pontificate is to restore papal authority” (Conor Cruise O'Brien).
4) Inner significance: “But who can comprehend the meaning of the voice of the city?” (O. Henry).

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The typical claim is that life is "meaningless" without god, which is apparently what you are trying to establish, unless a) you are arguing that religion is a useful fiction to help one cope with reality, or b) your definition of god is not the Christian one. Saying that "meaning" is subjective is an ambiguous statement unless there is a clear definition of "meaning." If you think you've already defined "meaning" just do us a favor and restate your definition.