St. Anselm Move Over—Here Come Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron!

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St. Anselm's famous ontological proof of God's existence runs something like this:

    I can conceive of a perfect God.
    One of the qualities of perfection is existence.
    Therefore, God exists.

Unfortunately, some benighted souls (I among them) have found the argument somewhat less than convincing. However, Ray Comfort, author of the best-selling God Doesn't Believe in Atheists and ex-atheist side-kick Kirk Cameron promise to prove the existence of the Most High Lord in a debate in New York City on May 5. ABC television is recording the debate and will apparently broadcast it later on Nightline. Comfort claims: 

"Most people equate atheism with intellectualism, but it's actually an intellectual embarrassment. I am amazed at how many people think that God's existence is a matter of faith. It's not, and I will prove it at the debate—once and for all. This is not a joke. I will present undeniable scientific proof that God exists." 

For more alleged proofs of God's existence than you can shake a stick at look here.

Disclosure: Some of my best friends are Christians.  

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  1. Disclosure: Some of my best friends are Christians.

    Therein lies your problem…

  2. As a christian from the conservative side of the church, I hate seeing these types of things. While Kirk and Ray may have good intentions, they’re not elijah and fire is not coming down from heaven. So if they fail to prove God, then they’ve set the Christian community up for attacks and possibly turned folks away.

  3. I know philosophy professors who to this day assert that Anselm’s proof is valid, and that if I have a problem with it I have a problem with logic.

    Never mind the fact that the whole “one aspect of perfection is existence” part is nonsensical. Perfect at what? Perfect for whom?

  4. I am; therefore, I’ll think.

  5. Of course God exists!

    I’m right here.

    Please send cash with all prayers and requests for absolution.

  6. The best “proof” that God exists is that so many people believe it to be true for so long a time. That’s not to say they couldn’t all be wrong, but there really is no way to prove it. My favorite goes is the old ‘the universe is too complex to have been created by chance, therefore, God must exist’. But um, if God is capable of creating the universe, then certainly he is more complex than the universe, and therefore God could not have been created by chance, therefore, a meta-God must exist who can create Gods, and so on and so on.

  7. …I will prove it at the debate…

    I hope they check these guys and all of their equipment for explosives, WMDs, etc…

    “You don’t believe in God? I’ll show you God, sons of bitches!”…KABOOM!!

    As much as I despise her, Rosie had a point in saying that extreme “Christians” parallel extreme “Muslims”.

  8. I took a philosophy of religion class at a local college when I was still in high school. I thought Anselm’s proof was pretty cool. Although I was 17 and baked at the time.

  9. Ronald Bailey,

    You should check this out.

  10. OK, how about this:

    I can’t conceive of a perfect God.
    One of the qualities of imperfection is existence.
    Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

  11. Um, doesn’t that just prove that St. Anselm can conceive of a God that exists?

  12. True Atheism is an irrational belief as it is an adherance to a negative. How does one prove that god does not exist?

  13. I’m not going to make up my mind until Boner weighs in on this matter.

  14. Grotius: Absolutely hilarious. Thanks!

  15. I’m not entirely sure one can conceive of a perfect God. All the conceptions I see are rather less than perfect. I’m also not sure what Anselm’s definition of perfection is. That’s two objections to the first part of the syllogism.
    Given that perfection does not exist in the real world, and is almost always used as an abstraction or a yardstick against which everything fails, I’d suggest that non-existence could be considered a property of perfection.

    So the premises are questionable at best. The conclusion must also be suspect.

  16. Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

  17. Eryk Boston,
    do you believe in tooth fairys? Is it ‘irrational’ to adhere to the ‘belief’ that tooth fairys dont exist?

  18. Which fucking god(s) are we talking about again? Oh yeah, the one these assholes already happen to believe in, “pre-logically”.

    Happens over and over–see Pasqual’s Wager. Some bogus intellectual construct magically points to a god (supposedly), and it is always the same fucking god they already believed in. Otherwise how would you get to Jesus and his wacky sidekick, the Holy Ghost? And without them you might as well be a (gasp!) Jew or something.

    Same shit, different day–the Christers can’t help embarrassing themselves over and over.

  19. Eryck- One recognizes that those asserting the existence of god are making a claim that demands evidence, and suggests that the current evidence is not convincing.
    In other words, atheism is not a belief in a negative, it is a denial of a positive statement.

  20. “a banana is just the right shape for a human mouth”

    Grotius, you just know Comfort is going to be the next Christian conservative to be outed as a gay man, when the video of him fellating Kirk Cameron is posted on YouTube.

  21. I like how this “debate” mentions no one on the opposing side. I can prove lots of things if left utterly unchallenged, too.

  22. “when God made man, glasses weren’t invented…but look where He put our ears!”
    ~Benny Hill

  23. By the way: at this point, I’ve screwed up twice. I keep vowing to myself that I will not engage in discussions where everyone’s mind is made up, and where dialog is fruitless. In other words, I’m out of this thread. Enjoy the shouting match.

  24. “As much as I despise her, Rosie had a point in saying that extreme ‘Christians’ parallel extreme ‘Muslims’.”

    Why? Because you can make up a scenario where they blow up NY? All the shameful abortion-clinic bombings combined don’t equal one month of extremist Muslim terror. Your posts I’ve seen are thoughtful, so please beef up this claim for me!

    “I’m not going to make up my mind until Boner weighs in on this matter.”

    I bow to your sublime allusion, sir.

  25. “”” I can conceive of a perfect God.
    One of the qualities of perfection is existence.
    Therefore, God exists.”””

    I guess this was St. Anselm’s lame attempt at a syllogism.

  26. “Is he able (to prevent evil), but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.”

    Hey, scottp just called libertarians malevolent!

  27. Matt, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. If you say there is a tooth fairy, you must show evidence. If you say there is none, you must do likewise. If you say there is no proof that there is a tooth fairy and that is highly likely to be nonsense you do not have the same burden as when you catagoricaly declare her non-existence.

    If you say you have faith and that you choose to believe regardless of proof that is not the same as the stance of the atheist who does not merely say they doubt or that there is no proof but that god definitively does not exist. It is logically impossible to prove such a negative.

  28. Here’s a link to a helpful article on ontological arguments:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

  29. Fear Not Number Six!
    the haiku brigade is here
    To interrupt pain

  30. “Is he able (to prevent evil), but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.”

    If seen this phrased as “not omni-benevolent” Not the same thing as malevolent.

    cant be allpowerful, allknowing, and allgood given the situation on the ground. Unless you believe the miserable and selfserving platitude ‘god works in mysterious ways’, when some bad S@#$ happens to you.

  31. I’m so looking forward to watching this. I’ll set my TIVO. I didn’t have one before, but then I conceived one to be so perfect that it suddenly existed, and now I can watch this program. Thank you oh great TIVO.

  32. Number 6, “I don’t know” or “I’m not/can’t be sure” is the stance of an agnostic. “There is no god” is the stance of the atheist.

  33. “””True Atheism is an irrational belief as it is an adherance to a negative. How does one prove that god does not exist?”””

    How is it “negative”?

    Those who claim something as fact have the responsibiltiy to support that claim and give evidence as to its truth. It is not the responsibility of the listener to dis-prove the claim.

    If you claim God exists, you have the burden of proof. You are not right until proven wrong.

  34. R.C. Dean,

    Yeah, the banana claim left me speechless.

    biologist,

    I ain’t even going there.

  35. In other words, atheism is not a belief in a negative, it is a denial of a positive statement.

    Well, if you by into the Strong vs. Weak paradigm, the Strong Atheists (such as myself) do believe in the negative.

  36. On balance, I should add that religious persons who insist on trying to prove god’s existence are declaring that they need proof and are thus lacking in true faith which is supposed to be the cornerstone of practicing a “faith”.

  37. Alright, back to square one.

    Agnosticism speaks to knowledge. I am an agnostic.

    Atheism speaks to belief. I am an atheist.

    I am an agnostic atheist.

    Most people, whether they are theists or atheists, are agnostics.

  38. Reinmoose,

    wonderful! Welcome to the world of thinking like an economist.

    [scene changes. desert island with a mechanical engineer, physicist, and an economist. They’re trying to open a can of food]

    ME: okay. I can build this rig that will cut at the exact angle to open the can.
    P: well I can open the can by strking it at the exact angle
    E: here’s how we open it. Assume a can opener…

  39. Eryk, im going to post your original statement again.

    “True Atheism is an irrational belief as it is an adherance to a negative. How does one prove that god does not exist?’

    for the sake of arguement, I’ll grant you atheism is a belief. your characterization of it as irrational is silly. Given the lack of evidence you yourself allude to in this statement “Matt, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim” it is quite rational to become an Atheist.

    Prove to me that tooth fairys dont exist. Until then I will say that tooth fairys dont exist. I hope you’ll agree people will think me the sane one.

  40. Ahhh Eryk, I got ya. By a “true athiest” making the claim that no god exist he would have to support or prove that claim. I agree.

  41. Number 6, “I don’t know” or “I’m not/can’t be sure” is the stance of an agnostic. “There is no god” is the stance of the atheist.

    I see the terminology problem has arisen once more, with theists telling atheists what atheism means. Before this goes any further, please refer to my post here, so that we can get past problems of definition.

    And by “we”, I mean “you”. My haiku brigade emergency pager just went off, so I have work to do.

  42. Eryk,

    “How does one prove that god does not exist?”

    Define for me “god” and I’ll tell you how to determine if one is out there.

  43. Disclosure: Some of my best friends are Christians.

    Unfortunately Ron that doesnt make your approach to the topic of religion any less consistently smarmy and condescending. It sounds like you’re being nice to them by letting them live with illusions

    Actually i normally get as much joy from your disclosures as reciting suras of the q’uran, but this one seemed a little gayzorz.

    I can prove to anyone that God exists by taking them to Junior’s for cheesecake and coffee.

    JG*
    *Not a christian, but personally think libertarians are more annoying and one-dimensional about religion than the bible beaters i went to college with. They at least saw a spectrum to it rather than the black/white nonsense about ‘reason vs. religion’

  44. Certainly no Syllogism would prove the existance of God, or the non-existance of God. Therefore it is an inductive argument. However if you look at the premises that either side could use, the non-existance of God would probably win. I would think there are far more true statments on the no god side than the pro god side.

  45. “How does one prove that god does not exist?”

    The burdon of proof is on the one who makes the claim. I will not believe in gods unless somebody proves they exist just as I will not believe in elves unless somebody proves their existance to me.

  46. Bananas prove God,
    Comfort and Cameron say.
    Explain pineapples.

  47. Rallying to Jake!
    Contributes much to these threads!
    Definitions – key!

    Different forms of Faith
    Collide in religious thought
    hard philosophy!

    Matt D’s DEMAND KURV
    Cannot penetrate this thread
    Moose no understand.

  48. Pasqual’s Wager

    Is that one:

    What are the odds that I-285 is a circle?

  49. Lupito41 | April 26, 2007, 1:35pm | #

    “As much as I despise her, Rosie had a point in saying that extreme ‘Christians’ parallel extreme ‘Muslims’.”

    Why? Because you can make up a scenario where they blow up NY? All the shameful abortion-clinic bombings combined don’t equal one month of extremist Muslim terror. Your posts I’ve seen are thoughtful, so please beef up this claim for me!

    I meant that they see themselves committing murder in the name of their God. The quantity of lives taken becomes irrelevant as soon as a single human being is murdered in the name of whatever God you chose to believe in.

    To elaborate further, the targets of extreme “Muslims” are usually members of another tribe or race who often congregate together in large numbers. If all abortion proponents and homosexuals did the same (congregate), extreme “Christians” would almost certainly resort to the same style of mass killings.

    At least that’s the way I see it…feel free to counter.

  50. Banana – berry
    Does fail the monkey test
    BLUS residuals.

  51. “It sounds like you’re being nice to them by letting them live with illusions.”

    Uh, that is exactly what we are doing, to the extent we do it. See The Grand Inquisitor chapter of The Brothers Karamazov for a fuller explanation.

  52. VM:
    I love that joke, only I’ve heard it with the 3 people being in a hole and the economist says “assume a ladder.”

  53. “when God made man, glasses weren’t invented…but look where He put our ears!”
    ~Benny Hill

    George Carlin also pointed out how God made bugers brown so they could be camoflaged under wooden desks.

  54. Rein –

    agreed it’s a fun one. In B-school I actually got to use it – we were teamed up based on concentration/ background. I was in a group with an MIS type, a marketing type, and an ACTG type. We had a blast. But for the presentation (each of us presented a unique solution based on our disciplines), that’s exactly what I did, “assume a rescue helicopter”…

    As usual, I was much more amused than the others there.

    🙂

  55. VM,

    Can you explain the inside joke behind “DEMAND KURVE?”

  56. I just got the call.
    Fools are arguing again.
    Will they ever learn?

  57. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim? That’s a double-edged sword, friends and others.

    Can you prove that the universe came into being without God? (I mean God defined broadly, ie as something/someone outside the universe and not subject to its laws.) Note that this entails not only proving that the Big Bang or something similar happened; you’ll have to prove that something non-divine caused the Big Bang, etc.

    And if you’re going to quote Hume that causality is a meaningless concept, keep in mind that you’re destroying the basis of science even more than that of religion.

  58. This reminds me of
    Opening Al Capone’s vault
    Call Geraldo now!

  59. http://www.livingwaters.com/Merchant2/graphics/books/bambam.jpg

    WHAT?

    WHHAAAAAAAAT

    man, it’s so good it’s nearly……god.

  60. Um, doesn’t that just prove that St. Anselm can conceive of a God that exists?

    Yes, that’s basically it.

    The Jesuit priest who taught my logic class at Saint Louis U. introduced this “proof,” then let us stew in it a bit. Then he explained why it was bogus. This is the day I learned the word “tautology.”

    Also: If it was possible to prove that God exists, then faith would no longer be a virtue, because faith would no longer have a purpose.

  61. O.K. I’m convinced by the argument.
    Now what do I do about the people who think I believe in the wrong God? Or believe in the right one, but not in the right way? Or in the right one, in the right way, but wear a blue hat instead of a gray one?
    Actually, my view is the same as Nietzchke’s : the trouble with Christians is that you can’t tell them from anybody else. The selfproclaimed don’t act any better than the rest of us. I’ll take talk of God seriously when the churched start behaving like it.

  62. and goddamnit one day we’ll figure out a way to divide the rational and the pre-rational and have everyone be mildly happy. or at least back away from x-treme mountain dew ad hominems. our children will be slightly less foolish for it, or at least a little more polite.

    i have the feeling we’re going to need a giant bonfire though. and probably a lot of guns. and some labor camps! yeah! labor camps!

  63. crimethink,

    Can you prove that the universe came into being without God?

    Would one have to? If one can discern a sufficiently reasonable explanation based on natural processes one wonders why God has to be involved in the process.

  64. Oh no! Not again!

    I wish Douglas Adams were still alive to actually write those three philosophical blockbusters he referenced:

    1) Where God Went Wrong
    2) More of God’s Greatest Mistakes
    3) Who is this God Person Anyway?

  65. Gro –

    when there was all of those arguments about minimum wage, someone kept bringing up a demand curve, probably from poorly understood Econ 79 (not even 101!).

    So that got turned, by Mr. Steven Crane and I, into Matt Damon’s character in “Team America” saying “DEMAND KURV” instead of “MATT DAMON”, because the guy’s argument was basically retarded.

    So it’s an obnoxious catch all for the ?ber simplistic “the market will take care of it” style of argument. (Especially when the current state, defined by the argurer as “free market” somehow incorporates a “might makes right” or a “big corporations do it. I’m for it. That settles it” theme)

    The other day you (correctly) noted that it is obnoxious, in a little brother sort of way. I agree, but some of the snarking here merited a little “younger brothering”.

    🙂

    Stevo – excellent post. As usual, your presence elevates the thread!!!!!!!

    now a short haiku
    roses are read (!) underground
    THE JAM still is best!

    A non sequitur,
    nonsensical, fun haiku
    makes for nonplussed group

  66. If VT happened
    Because “God was not let in”
    One could postulate:

    “In God We Trust” is
    On all U.S. currency;
    God is everywhere.

    Surely, students in
    Classroom had money on hand
    When tragedy struck

  67. but too much money
    made fucking loon named cho
    do all that killing

    There once was a poster named Crane
    Twaddlenocks’ existence was he their bane
    He cause many to grin
    But their heads did spin
    And they became batshit insane!

  68. If there is a god,
    I don’t care and I don’t care
    if there is no god.

  69. “If you say you have faith and that you choose to believe regardless of proof”

    Is it a logical position to believe something just because you want it to be true? Is it a logical positition to believe something because somebody told you it’s true even though they have nothing in which to prove it and you have nothing in which to prove it? That makes you a knee-jerk reactionary.

  70. Can you prove that the universe came into being without God? (I mean God defined broadly, ie as something/someone outside the universe and not subject to its laws.)
    No. Personally, I’ve never made that claim. (If anyone insists on tagging my with a label, I propose Spinozan/Einsteinian weak deist agnostic.) But I can certainly prove that the literal interpretation of the bible (and therefore, of Yehweh) is almost certainly bullshit.

    I’m not familiar with the Hume argument you mention, but I will point out that the Aristotelian Prime Mover argument (I assume you’re headed that way) fails for reasons other than whether or not causation is meaningful.

    And I’ve done it again. Ok. This time I mean it…I will no longer argue this point.

  71. re: the ontological argument

    joe:

    There is a part missing in the description. The essence is :

    A) God is defined to be something/someone greater than all else.

    B) I can conceive of God.

    D) That which exists is greater than that which does does not.

    E) If God exists in my conception and God is by defninition greater than everything else and real existence is greater than imaginary existence, God must exist outside my imagination.

    The real problem to me lies in A and B. You can’t conceive of the infinitely “great” in any clear terms. You only have a fuzzy view of what you are talking about, so you can’t take the next step regarding existence.

  72. James Cameron
    Claims to Have Jesus’ Tomb
    Kirk Cameron Wept

    ——–

    The result of this
    A new sitcom Cameron
    versus Cameron

  73. JasonL,

    That’s where the prophets come in. 😉

  74. I can conceive of a perfect holiday fruitcake.
    I can conceive of a halfway decent comic book or SF film.
    I can conceive of Steve Hackett being part of the Genesis reunion, and only pre-Duke material being played.

    None of the above exist.

  75. I guess St Anselm never heard that “Existence precedes Essence”.

  76. Jason- That version (which is the one I’m familiar with) also demands that we ask why “real existence” is greater than the alternative, and what sense it makes to describe a being that is by definition non-corporeal and outside of time (and therefore the physical universe) as possessing real existence.

    Ok. Really. I’m done.

  77. Jesus wept. I laughed.
    I’m insensitive that way.
    I also ate ham.

  78. Cameron Cameron film:
    Slashfic of epic levels
    I’ll be in my bunk

  79. “Can you prove that the universe came into being without God?”

    Can you prove that it did come into existence through God? How did he do it? Does he have a brain, hands? I can conceive of a multiverse that has always been here. Perhaps big bangs have been going on for an infinity. Saying a god created all this is to take it back unecessarily an extra step.

  80. “Is it a logical positition to believe something because somebody told you it’s true even though they have nothing in which to prove it and you have nothing in which to prove it?”

    do you believe in love?

    (no, serious question. because love generally satisfies the above. i’m also presuming you’re not ron hardin.)

  81. Add this to the collection:
    1. I sing off key
    2. I sang “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
    3. My performance did not deserve an ovation from God.
    4. We have not been flattened by hand clapping.

    Therefore, God exists.

    Silliness aside, I have been on both sides. I know I can’t use my anecdotal experiences to prove something to anyone else, but since having been slapped up along side the head (to get my attention) and the presence of Ruach HaKodesh (Holy spirit) was revealed to me, my migraine headaches and depressions are cured within a few minutes of prayer.

    Does anyone want to argue that the rational thing for me to do is to disavow my belief in God, stop praying, and start paying for ergotamine and elavil prescriptions?

  82. “I can conceive of a perfect holiday fruitcake.
    I can conceive of a halfway decent comic book or SF film.
    I can conceive of Steve Hackett being part of the Genesis reunion, and only pre-Duke material being played.”

    But I can conceive of an alternate universe where all of the above exist.

    Therefore, in an alternate universe, they exist!

  83. crimethink:

    No, nor can we prove that God brought the universe into existence. One cannot use natural phenomena to prove OR disprove supernatural phenomena.

    Popperian practitioners of science would also say that properly, scientists don’t prove anything, we advance knowledge by disproving and eliminating false hypotheses.

    God could have been responsible for the big bang, or not. There’s no way to know.

  84. cheat answer: that’s because the rational and the pre-rational are not the same thing. confusing the two leads to chest pain, constipation, headaches, nausea and kirk cameron.

  85. “a banana is just the right shape for a human mouth”

    I’ve always been much more persuaded by the correlation between the diameters of nostrils and those of forefingers.

  86. Rattlesnake,
    Within my lifetime there were proponents of the “Steady-State” theory of cosmology. They held that the universe always was and was not created, therefore god was superfluous.

    You should have seen the mad scramble to set up new barricades against god when the big bang was discovered.

  87. Mediageek, Can you prove that you can conceive or is this just an unfounded assertion?

  88. “do you believe in love?”

    Love is a feeling that most of us have experienced so it’s not a case of having to accept somebody’s word for it.

  89. “Love is a feeling that most of us have experienced so it’s not a case of having to accept somebody’s word for it.”

    do you believe in reciprocal love, then? have you ever been wrong about it?

    it’s a kind of faith, no doubt.

  90. “The Jesuit priest who taught my logic class at Saint Louis U. introduced this “proof,” then let us stew in it a bit. Then he explained why it was bogus.”

    You realize that today’s Jesuits (at least in America) have pretty much gone native, and have become highly critical of Church doctrines and traditions? So a Jesuit criticizing a Father of the Church is about as shocking as Kenny Rogers smoking dope. Shouldn’t even be newsworthy.

  91. “since having been slapped up along side the head (to get my attention) and the presence of Ruach HaKodesh (Holy spirit) was revealed to me, my migraine headaches and depressions are cured within a few minutes of prayer.”

    Psychosomatics

  92. Anselm’s version was rough, Leibniz’s was clear, and Goddel’s was formal.

    Goddel didn’t publish his during his life IIRC because he was afraid it would be received as an attempt on his part to prove the existence of God in fact, which to his mind it did not. He was seeking only to formalize an ontological style argument.

  93. I believe in God.
    Some people don’t.
    I am okay with that now.
    I truly wish everyone a beautiful day.

    Just so you know, here is my philosophy:

    I married,
    therefore I drink.

  94. jimmydageek:

    Thanks for the extra beef. I get your point, but gay pride parades and N.O.W. rallies on the Hill have never been targeted by Christian terrorists. It seems to me — not a bit Christian or Muslim myself — that extreme Islam teaches in churches and schools the killing of “infidels”, while for Christians it is the miniscule kook fringe, immediately disavowed by the moderate center. And even those kooks have been almost nonexistant in the last decade.

    Perhaps, as you said, identifiable gay communities would be more readily attacked, but the evidence we have seems to indicate otherwise.

    This threat has sprawled. Feel free to email me, or to simply look forward to another exchange in the future.

  95. I can conceive of a perfect Burrito.
    One of the qualities of perfection is Good Green Chile.
    Therefore, Burrito’s exist. And I’m having one for lunch

  96. “Mediageek, Can you prove that you can conceive or is this just an unfounded assertion?”

    Thus far in my life, I’m completely happy to have not conceived…

  97. Ah yes, Ray “Argumentum ad Banana” Comfort.

    A banana is
    Also the exact right shape
    To put somewhere else.

  98. Mister Twister-

    Can God Himself microwave a burrito so hot that not even He can eat it?

    (stolen from some movie or something.)

  99. “do you believe in reciprocal love, then? have you ever been wrong about it?”

    “it’s a kind of faith, no doubt.”

    I’m not sure I know where you’re coming from? There is reciprocal love, nothing supernatural about that. Sometimes there is nonrequited love. I’ve been there before. Nothing supernatural about that either.

  100. How about the proof from nitrous oxide: I was having my wisdom teeth taken out and . . . wow, man.

  101. “Thanks for the extra beef. I get your point, but gay pride parades and N.O.W. rallies on the Hill have never been targeted by Christian terrorists. It seems to me — not a bit Christian or Muslim myself — that extreme Islam teaches in churches and schools the killing of “infidels”, while for Christians it is the miniscule kook fringe, immediately disavowed by the moderate center. And even those kooks have been almost nonexistant in the last decade.”

    The only reason Christianity isn’t as bad as the Muslim religion now is that Christianity has been secularized. Thank goodness we are no longer living in medieval times.

  102. Changing the argument from “perfect” to “greater” doesn’t really help it.

    Unless the meaning of “greater” being invoked is “larger”, we’re ultimately talking about a value judgment.

    Greater when applied to what end? Greater when compared to what state? Greater for whom?

  103. jimmydageek:

    meant to say this “thread” has sprawled, not “threat”.

  104. Oh, this No Star idiot again, with same argument:

    Science is subject to change (i.e. falsifiable), therefore it is impermanent and may be “wrong”–unlike the “God” he conveniently found when his life got too pathetic. Since “He” is a belief beyond falsification, he can never fail! QED, God is better than science.

    Zzzzzzz. Won’t these losers ever shut the fuck up, for Christ’s sake? And I mean that literally–these “dopes for Christ” are the worst imaginable advertisement for Him.

  105. referring to the original statement:

    “Is it a logical positition to believe something because somebody told you it’s true even though they have nothing in which to prove it and you have nothing in which to prove it?”

    what i’m saying is that there’s a line between the rational and the pre-rational (or intuitive or whatever you want to call it) that everyone engages in. some people take it a bit further and form communities around it, is all.

    i mean, personally i’m a discordian apagnostic (and i’m not even sure about that).

  106. “A banana is
    Also the exact right shape
    To put somewhere else.”

    Like a cigar?

  107. #6,
    But I can certainly prove that the literal interpretation of the bible (and therefore, of Yehweh) is almost certainly bullshit.

    Well, you did put in that qualifier ‘almost’.

    The commonly accepted literal interpretation of the translated Bible is not worth defending. The Hebrew original given in several accounts are forms that should be recognized as poetry.

    The word bara (bet, resh, aleph) translated as created actually means to fatten up or to fill a void such as grain fills a stomach. So, the Bible does not say that God created (in the western sense) the heavens and the earth from nothing. It is a poetic portayal that He expanded it and filled up the nothingness.

    Five senturies before the doppler shifts were understood, a 15th century rabbi proposed an expanding universe based on his reading and understanding of Tenach.

  108. So a Jesuit criticizing a Father of the Church is about as shocking as Kenny Rogers smoking dope.

    Actually, not just Jesuits, but “the great majority of scholastic philosophers have rejected the ontological argument as propounded by St. Anselm and Descartes” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06608b.htm#IBf).

    And by the way, St. Anselm is a Doctor, not a Father, of the Church.

  109. “The Hebrew original given in several accounts are forms that should be recognized as poetry.”

    definitely!

  110. Ugh, the love example.

    “Love” is a cluster of emotions that share aspects of subjective experiences, behavioral responses, and neurological underpinings. It’s existence is not an issue of controversy as it can readily be directly and indirectly observed by a variety of means, for personal experience to running an fMRI on people who are shown pictures of people they have some form of love towards vs those they don’t know.

  111. Kirk Cameron from “Groin Pains”?

  112. I can conceive of underpants.

    Profit!

  113. Never mind the shape of the banana…the important thing is to learn how to defend oneself from someone wielding a banana.

    MadMax re. Jesuits in the U.S. – if by “gone native” you mean “apply rational thought to the study and practice of theology,” then I guess I would agree. As someone who was educated by Jesuits during high school, I can attest to the high value the Society of Jesus places on intelligence. Sorry, but unlike yourself, I cannot perceive this as a flaw in the organization.

  114. Rattlesnake Jake:

    “The only reason Christianity isn’t as bad as the Muslim religion now is that Christianity has been secularized. Thank goodness we are no longer living in medieval times.”

    Glad to see you agree that Islam is more dangerous than Christianity, since, indeed, we do not live in medieval times.

  115. To believe in Love
    all one need do is crouch down
    and hug a beagle

  116. cgee! Mr. Apricot Harrison warned us about that!

    To believe in Love
    all one need do is crouch down
    and hug a brown lab

    (pure potery there, Reinmoose. The cutest beagle lived across from us and would make really sincere, intense eye contact. very cute)

  117. Oh, henry,

    Your argument from rudeness
    “Shut the fuck up” no more disproves God than any argument has proven him.

    I was once where you are now. Believe me I understand your frustration. I feel your pain.

  118. Nothing more to say
    except that the filter is
    a beautiful thing

    Name calling even by
    people sort of kinda right
    trip to nowheresville

  119. Never mind the shape of the banana…the important thing is to learn how to defend oneself from someone wielding a banana.

    What about a poin-ted stick?

  120. The thing about God and religion is that God’s existence is not about proof, it’s about faith.

    God does not need or want proof. God wants faith. There is no need to try to argue his existence because that is not his will. He demands that we surrender to him by faith, not by facts. Faith is the test. I’m not a religious man but I’m pretty sure the Bible backs me up on this one.

    ANYONE that truly believes should feel no need to convince others. What others believe is not important. It’s what you believe that matters.
    Men of science will never have proof, God meant for it to be that way.

  121. Jesuits are the
    Green Berets of Catholic Church
    Mental Chuck Norris

  122. God does not need or want proof. God wants faith.
    Ah, the old existential trap. God gives us reason, but doesn’t want us to use it to question his existence. He set us up with every reason to disbelieve, and will punish us when we do doubt. By hellfire and eternal agony. Because he loves us.

  123. my my Vic you are Tricky indeed

  124. the argument from nitrous
    compelling but argument
    from pot…where was I?

  125. Would they still believe
    If his name were thought to be
    “Bearded sky fairy”?

  126. “a 15th century rabbi proposed an expanding universe based on his reading and understanding of Tenach.”

    Now what is it in Genesis that can be interpreted in that way and where is the evidence that this is exactly what the rabbi believed was in the Tenach?

  127. Vic – Stevo beatcha to it above 🙂

    Bio’s arguement
    is from nitrus – didja see
    the blower! BLOWER!

    The nitrus blower!
    last of the interceptors
    kicks Knightrider’s ass.

    Jake Boone how about
    bemerkined fairy sky man
    I’ll donate merkin!

  128. The only reason Christianity isn’t as bad as the Muslim religion now is that Christianity has been secularized.

    I don’t think it’s so much that Christianity has become secularized, as it is that the appearance of devout Christianity has ceased to be a means of gaining power in most places. Any time people who want to exercise power over others find an advantage in professing a religion, that religion is going to be misused.

    This is how Judaism, for instance, has been able to present itself as a peaceful religion, since it hadn’t been a majority religion in any nation for milennia. Now that they actually do have a state of their own, it’s become clear that Jews can oppress in the name of religion as well as anyone else. Mentioning this above a whisper, however, is bound to lead to accusations of anti-semitism, which I’m sure will be forthcoming here.

  129. To fall out of Love
    All one need only visit
    Neighbor, hear beagle

  130. God is full of love
    but will make you burn for doubt
    because he loves you.

    God loves children
    except ones who masturbate
    they must suffer hell

    God is forgiving
    He showed his love allowing
    his son to suffer

    Not a single sparrow falls
    That the diety doesn’t knew about
    So why do we get cancer?

  131. I wouldn’t call it tricky because I’m simply acknowledging what it is at the core of their belief.

    I’m merely pointing out that a true follower of God could care less about the arugment of the existence of God. The concept of proof is irrelevent when following the doctrine.

    That changes nothing. If you try to impress upon me the existence of God, I will still ask for proof, knowing I’m not going to get any. But if you tell me he exists, you still have the responsibility to prove it, Otherwise, I don’t have to believe you.

  132. HEY! I WANNA TRY!!!

    I can conceive of a perfect flying pig that has a knack for writing catchy three-minute pop songs — in Ladino, the language of medieval Spanish Jewry.
    One of the qualities of perfection is existence.
    Therefore, a flying pig that has a knack for writing catchy three-minute pop songs — in Ladino, the language of medieval Spanish Jewry — exists.

    Whoa, it works.

  133. Man is God’s image
    Man has merkin by nature
    Therefore God has one

  134. “I was once where you are now.”

    And I was once where you are NoStar. Christianity brought nothing but sorrow for me. Now I’m free!

  135. NoStar,

    I was not criticizing God–only you. You so easily conflate the two.

    So, how big of a loser did you become before God bailed you out–Drunk? Dope fiend? Pedophile? You’re not on Death Row, are you? That is a popular place for God to show up. God loves the losers, for sure–for they tell us so incessantly.

  136. “He demands that we surrender to him by faith, not by facts. Faith is the test.”

    Why is this important? What is the value in it? What is the virtue in it?

  137. “””Ah, the old existential trap. God gives us reason, but doesn’t want us to use it to question his existence. He set us up with every reason to disbelieve, and will punish us when we do doubt. By hellfire and eternal agony. Because he loves us.””””

    Close. My understanding is that God wants us to have freewill, to make our own choices, under our own motivations. That is the only way we can be free to choose him. Without freewill you would not have the choice to believe or not. The Bible says the choice must be yours to make.

    It’s not a trap at all, because it not about proof, it’s about belief. Proof is not necessary for belief, that seems to be true for many of us in the secular world too. I can’t say that’s good thing. I personally need proof, and that seems to annoy alot of people in my life. 🙂 I will not apologize for that either.

  138. “””Why is this important? What is the value in it? What is the virtue in it?”””

    It’s probably not important, has no value, or virtue to you, and no one should care it if does nor not. If your really interested in the answer, read the Bible.

  139. “I don’t think it’s so much that Christianity has become secularized”

    Actually, what I meant was that Western society has become more secularized, which has weakened Christianity. Christianity is no longer in power. We wouldn’t stand for it in Western society. So Christianity has had to tone itself down if it wants to get any converts at all.

  140. MacPimp | April 26, 2007, 2:54pm | #

    Ah yes, Ray “Argumentum ad Banana” Comfort.

    A banana is
    Also the exact right shape
    To put somewhere else.

    Like the back of a Volkwagen?

  141. We’re not going to fall for a banana in the tailpipe.

  142. There is no free will with a omniscient, omnipotent Creator God. He made the universe knowing every jot and tittle in advance. Forever before creation He knew He would create a world just so it would produce a Hitler that would toss people into into ovens. If God knew all beforehand, then Hitler really had no other choice than to do what he did–the fact that he did it (and God knew about it before the world was wrought, yet wrought the world exactly that way) proves it.

    We are all God’s little poseable dolls–and we can adopt no pose he was not forseen and preordained by the very structure of His Creation.

    Hallelujah!

  143. Our senses and science can only detect what is in our 4 dimensional universe. I have read that gravition equations indicate that other dimensions do exist.

    It is not so much that God demands our faith, it’s just that there is no other way to probe into the other dimensions.

  144. “My understanding is that God wants us to have freewill, to make our own choices, under our own motivations. That is the only way we can be free to choose him. Without freewill you would not have the choice to believe or not.”

    So God would rather us have free will than to save us from Hell. Why did he invent Hell? Why should we be punished for an eternity in Hell for not accepting a certain belief on faith? How is that such a bad thing that it deserves eternal damnation? I’m sorry, but there’s no way that I can worship such a monster.

  145. and the joe six pack commenter anti-proof

    I can conceive of a libertarian society
    I once got pissed at a Christian once
    therefor libertarians can’t believe in god.

    disclosure: I am an atheist.

  146. “If your really interested in the answer, read the Bible.”

    I have, and it’s nothing but nonsense. I can see where faith is important to some people because they have an emotional need to delude themselves, but when they entertain the belief that those of us who don’t believe like them are going to suffer an eternity in Hell because of our nonbelief, I just don’t see how any loving person can embrace such a monstrous philosophy.

  147. “It is not so much that God demands our faith, it’s just that there is no other way to probe into the other dimensions.”

    Uh, which “God” is that, by the way. I am goung to take a wild guess you are referring to the Christian conception of God (if singular one of those can be posited–a dubious notion).

    But why should we limit ourselves to the Christian God? You made yourself Exhibit “A” here–offering up your life as some kind of proof of your God. But many Muslims could do exactly the same for Allah. There are untold masses who lead lives of misery, criminality, etc., until they found “the truth” through Islam. What should the rest of us choose your God over Allah? Because of the geographical accident of our births that makes your God more familiar to us? Christmas, Easter and that happy horseshit?

    NoStar, believe any shit you like. Just stop believing you can talk meaningfully about your beliefs–you can’t.

  148. Oh henry,
    None of those states of depravity laid me low. Truth is, my wife died. Her spirit came to me and not only comforted me, but she showed me where she had hidden some of her possessions that I didn’t even know existed.

    Then just before she left for good, she said, “There is someone I want you to meet.”
    As I felt her spirit leave, I felt the Spirit of God envelope me.

    Since then God has shown me many ways how I have been blessed both before and after having saw the light.

  149. For all of you christians that are trying the funz of logic today:

    If each of you were born in Saudi Arabia, to Saudi muslim parents xx years ago, would you all still believe in your Christian god?

  150. Another point along henry’s reasoning is that if God is omniscient, he knew before he created us that some of us would not accept him on faith (I’m speaking of the Christian God), so why did he create us knowing that we would reject him and end up going to Hell? It seems cruel to have created us in the first place. This has led some Christian apologists to reject the concept of God’s omniscience.

  151. yes – cuz it’s the SAME GOD!

  152. “””He made the universe knowing every jot and tittle in advance.””””

    Where in the Bible does it say that? Christians do believe God can change your/their life, I think they call it testifying. If their doctrine was so static, they could not hold that belief.

    Of course the Bible is loaded with contadictions, that’s why it’s easy for seculars to tear it apart. I know a few people that went full blow athiest after reading it. It’s not unreasonable to argue that something that contradicts its self, often, is not a reliable source for the truth.

  153. Of course G_d exists. Because anything less would not have been able to create ME.

  154. crimethink “The burden of proof is on the one making the claim?”

    Uh, yes. Why is this even controversial? At all?

    You advance a claim and expect me to take it seriously, then you’d better provide reasons.

    Note that for virtually any problem at all you claim to explain, resorting to God is always just creating a bigger problem to solve a smaller one. If something like God that deliberately chooses to create a universe that looks like ours can “just” exist, then there is no problem at all with having a universe that looks like ours just existing either, no extra help or explanation required. Either you are incredulous about why or you aren’t, but you can’t beg off a question like “why is what is the way it is” for God that you just demanded we explain for the universe.

  155. “It’s not unreasonable to argue that something that contradicts its self, often, is not a reliable source for the truth.”

    Leave Harry Reid out of this.

  156. I believed for years
    Until I read the Bible
    Turns out it’s Made Up

  157. Oh henry,
    How can you talk meaningfully about a God that you cannot conceive of?

    You might however appreciate this joke from Irish comedian Dave Allen:

    The Pope and an atheist were arguing about God. The Pope threw up his hands in despair and said “Your situation is as hopeless as a blind man in a pitch dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.”

    The atheist replied, “Then we are not dissimilar, for your situation is also like the blind man in a pitch dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. The only difference is, you think you’ve found it.

  158. NoStar,

    OK, you had what you perceived to be a mystical experience–one which lead you to the Christian God. I cannot argue “against” that–it is basis for belief that is not falsifiable. Or as Swift said, you cannot reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into to begin with.

    However, as I said, many others can and do claim equally powerful experiences–which lead them to different gods and different beliefs. Why should I accept yours and not theirs?

    In short, I say–enjoy your life with your beliefs. You seem happier for them. But quit kidding yourself about what your words about your beliefs can do. Perhaps “the witness” of your life might influence those who know you in the real world–but dumb arguments about the impermanence of science (which you have made here repeatedly) do more harm than good for your type.

  159. It’s not a trap at all, because it not about proof, it’s about belief.

    Non Sequitur

  160. “Us Crazy Humans Wrote it. Won’t you take a look?”
    hier

  161. “””but when they entertain the belief that those of us who don’t believe like them are going to suffer an eternity in Hell because of our nonbelief, I just don’t see how any loving person can embrace such a monstrous philosophy.
    “””

    Sure, I agree. Not only do I not see how any loving person could embrace that, I do not see how a loving deity would force that condition on his “children”.

    Enter the Mormon’s belief that everyone goes to some level of heaven. I just want to know on which level is the executive bathroom.

  162. TV, Christers hold all kinds of contradictory beliefs–this is news to you?

    Ask any born again type if God is omniscient. I don’t contend any such thing–they do.

  163. The NSA decided to show the president their new computer which apparently was the world’s most powerful becaue it linked all the computers in the world and contained all the world’s knowledge.

    “Just ask it any question”, said the head of NSA.

    “Is there a God?”, asked the president.

    The computer buzzed and whirred for a while and finally came back with a question of its own:

    *Define God.*

    “The all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe”, wrote the president.

    The computer buzzed and whirled for a little while longer and finally put this on the screen:

    *There Is Now*

  164. Oh henry,
    How can you talk meaningfully about a God that you cannot conceive of?

    One could ask you the same thing.

  165. BREAKING NEWS: This just in.

    “Ayn” Rand does not exist. She admitted as much when she named herself Ayn which in Hebrew means “non-existant.”

  166. plunge,

    You’re quite right. In trying to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, both the theist and atheist wind up at a point where they can’t explain any further.

    My problem is with those who claim that atheism should be the default belief, and anything else requires proof. I question why atheism should be granted such special status among opinions on this issue.

  167. Where did God come from?

  168. “[A] nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said.”

  169. “””TV, Christers hold all kinds of contradictory beliefs–this is news to you?””

    Not news to me at all. I’m originally from the Bible belt.

  170. henry,
    I have no answer for why you should pick one God over another. In fact, one of the first things I said was that I understood that my anecdotal evidence is not proof.

    Have you noticed that no one has attempted to answer the question that I asked in my first post?

    Does anyone want to argue that the rational thing for me to do is to disavow my belief in God, stop praying, and start paying for ergotamine and elavil prescriptions?

  171. Reinmoose,

    Where did god come from?

    Born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth.

    No need to thank me, I’m happy to be of assistance.

  172. NoStar… that’s where JESUS came from. I’m talking about the one that created the Heavens and the Earth

  173. Mike, you stole that from Asimov – and skipped the ending. 🙂

  174. “Does anyone want to argue that the rational thing for me to do is to disavow my belief in God, stop praying, and start paying for ergotamine and elavil prescriptions?”

    It would be neither rational nor irrational to do that. You are out in arationality, so defining your actions by the standards of reason is a futile endeavor.

  175. Same guy. He did the creating in his pre-incarnate form.

    String theory says it all began with a vibration. The gospel of John says it began with a word. John goes on to say that the word was with god and was god. Yeshua is the word. In fact the Hebrew for of Alpha and Omega is Aleph V’Tav. Aleph Vav Tav spells a word “Ote” which means word.

    The creator, the act of creation, and the created, all one and the same.

  176. Crimethink- Even if the default position were some sort of theism, there is no way to logically get from “Some being created all that is,” to “And that being is the Christian god.”

  177. “Does anyone want to argue that the rational thing for me to do is to disavow my belief in God, stop praying, and start paying for ergotamine and elavil prescriptions?”

    I would argue that the most rational thing for you to do is to keep doing what you’re doing, as it clearly makes you happy to do so.

  178. henry,
    Fair enough. It is refreshing to hear, in these parts at least, an admission that there are limits to what science or rational thought can address.

  179. He didn’t say that, NoStar. None the less, I don’t think anyone here would presume to say that reason and science are omniscient. That, in fact, is the difference between secularist and religious worldviews; secularists do not believe that the existence of those limits necessitates the belief in a particular god, or any god.

  180. If it was possible to prove that God exists, then faith would no longer be a virtue, because faith would no longer have a purpose.

    Dude, you just won yourself a free ticket to the VIP section of heaven as long as you dont fucking convert to Mormonism. Those guys so get on my nerves. I keep making their wives have like 15 kids, thinking it will drive them nuts, but dammit if they dont all end up so *nice* about it. The biggest myth about me is that I’m like, ‘Beneficent’ and shit. Didnt they read the #(*$@_$ Bible? I get mad pissed. I drop a plaugue on a mother like whoa. I make people kill their kids in front of me….*as a practical joke*. Seriously. I dont trust a Christian who dont drink.

    Catch you on the flipside

  181. But God created science and rational thought as a means to better understand his world. Does god want to keep us dumb by limiting our knowledge of the universe? Is limiting the education of your children the way of God? Honestly, he allows us to learn about the ugly side of the universe, war, poverty, starvation and such, would he not want us to learn about the beauty of all the universe? Why the limit?

    NoStar, if god said have sex with your mother, would you?

  182. Regarding the “what value or virtue” question, I think the question is why the demonstration of faith has value TO GOD. Why would God consider a virtue? To what end?

    God hides, but then is pleased when you see through his trick and have faith in him anyway. WHY does this please him? What difference could it possibly make to him? Why would my failure to do so not please him?

    If his reasons are inscrutable, how can we pretend to understand what he wants enough to build a religion around it?

  183. Sorry, I meant to type that message TO Tricky, but somehow zoned out and typed Tricky in the name slot instead. My bad.

  184. That Tricky post wasn’t me. I always link my email.

  185. crimethink,

    I question why atheism should be granted such special status among opinions on this issue.

    We get special status because we have no leaders and even if we did they wouldn’t wear funny hats. 😉

  186. All the atheists here now join me in air guitaring to Rush’s “Freewill.” Of course i’m pretty skeptical about the idea of free will, but still, its a good song.

  187. Would anyone care to point out to me the flaw in the following that is not present in the God version above?

    I can conceive of a perfect [unicorn].
    One of the qualities of perfection is existence.
    Therefore, [unicorns] exist.

  188. Fluffy, you talking to me?

    “”” I think the question is why the demonstration of faith has value TO GOD.”””

    I refer that question to God.

    What, no answer? He must be out of the office.

    I have no idea, but that is their belief. I could speculate that after reading all the contradictions in the Bible he was well aware that reason would not work. My better guess is that at some point in assembling the bible it became obvious that they need to build it around faith or no one would take them serious.

  189. Ok Grotius:

    A planet of playthings
    We dance on the strings
    Of powers we cannot percieve

    Kicked in the face, you can pray
    for a place
    in heaven’s unearthly estate..

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice…
    etc.

    But since I’m a drummer, I’ll be trying (and failing) to air drum along with the professor.

  190. As i know that to contradict His teachings, I wouldn’t believe it to be God speaking.

    If I did believe it was God speaking, lock me up. I’ve gone off deep end.

  191. RC, You have to prove you can in fact conceive.

  192. “You’re quite right. In trying to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, both the theist and atheist wind up at a point where they can’t explain any further.”

    But since atheists are almost never trying to make any absolute claims about being able to explain the entire universe, they have nothing to defend. Theists are. Burden: theirs.

    “My problem is with those who claim that atheism should be the default belief, and anything else requires proof. I question why atheism should be granted such special status among opinions on this issue.”

    Your problem is that you just aren’t appreciating the implication of the idea that atheism ISN’T A BELIEF. Atheism isn’t a default “belief”: non-belief in a claim is the default and atheism is a description of non-belief in regards to god. I don’t believe in god. Would you agree that that makes me an atheist. If so, then good: there’s you answer. I DON’T believe. That isn’t itself a belief: it’s at most a statement about the contents of my own mind.

  193. NoStar–I think you overstate the “scienticism” that exists here. It’s just that some of us decide that, as to the questions we can’t hope science and reason can ever address, these are really questions that may not be worth asking, however deeply satisfying an answer to them would be–hence my earlier quote from Wittgenstein (“[A] nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said.”). In short, some of the “gaps” you have filled in through other means, we are content to leave open, not being willing to take the leap into arationality you have. Candidly, and without hurling any personal insult your way, we often find such leaps indistinguishable from madness. Your choices seem harmless to me–of many others who have made similar choices, I cannot say the same thing. This applies to non-theistic choices as well–obsessions about race, for example. Much of Nazism was desperately arational, although they tried to dress up their mania in all the language of reason and science–fascists from other nations just couldn’t fathom the intense Antisemitism; it came from somewhere “out there”–some deeply weird German shit that left Italian and Spanish fascists baffled. They may have disliked Jews, but the whole murderous rage thing–it was inexplicable (and still is, despite the volumes written on the subject).

    This thread started about a couple of morons attempting inane “proofs” of their God, with such “proofs” dressed in the verbiage of logic, reason and science, the same act the Nazis pulled (leave Godwin to the side–I am not equating them to Nazis morally). If somebody wants to proclaim a mystical experience to me as their basis of deistic belief (as you have), then, as I said, it is rather pointless to try to “debate” them–it is better to just let them go in peace. But when intellectual frauds like Mr. Cameron and Mr. Comfort try to debase what little foundations of thought the human race has been able to cobble together over the centuries, I am going to unload on them and their defenders.

    Since this is where I came in, I am now going out.

  194. henry,
    That is a good note to leave on. I shall follow suit.

  195. Nostar, if you haven’t completely left, the gulf between the OT God who said to kill all the Canannites, even the children and animals, and the NT God who promulgated the Golden Rule, is so vast that it makes it at least possible that God will change his mind again and start commanding us to fuck our mothers.

    It’s a smaller distance to travel.

  196. NoStar, I hope you’re not quite gone yet.

    Does anyone want to argue that the rational thing for me to do is to disavow my belief in God, stop praying, and start paying for ergotamine and elavil prescriptions?

    Not at all. If there’s utility in your worship, by all means continue. I’d love for you to try some experiments, though. Next time you feel a headache coming on, aim for that same mental state, but pray to something different, or to nothing. See whether you can produce the same physiological response.

  197. To discuss the concept of “God” gives the idea more credibility than it deserves. Discussions of gods, leprechauns, unicorns, and other such nonsense should be left to groups of very high people. Now everybody here should either be high, or move onto something more interesting. Jesus!

  198. I was only going to lurk, but….

    Maurkov,
    I have tried that with generic meditation. Neither the depression, nor migraines are lessened. To pray to another god would be by definition blasphemous and therefore a sin. I try to avoid doing that.

    fluffy,
    You just don’t know what God was punishing them for. NT prophecy says the Wrathful face of God will make a final appearance. I see no chasm.

  199. The infants?

    God can go fuck himself then.

  200. Plunge wrote, Atheism isn’t a default “belief”: non-belief in a claim is the default and atheism is a description of non-belief in regards to god. I don’t believe in god. Would you agree that that makes me an atheist. If so, then good: there’s you answer. I DON’T believe. That isn’t itself a belief: it’s at most a statement about the contents of my own mind.

    Is your conception that atheism is the same as agnosticism?

  201. God and mystical thinking are the cause of most of humanity’s problems, yet we’ve been living under the god/mysticism regime for so long that adapting to a society based on evidence and truth could destroy the beautiful, yet flawed, society we currently have. I truly believe that the goal of religion is to sap human beings of the very passions that makes us human. Perhaps this was necessary for the survival of the species 2,500 years ago, hell, perhaps it is necessary today, but I tend to think we worship ourselves these days. Even the hardcore religionists seem to have forgotten humility. But if believing in God helps you find your path, who am I to complain?

  202. Number 6,

    As was the case with a lot of atheists in their youth “Freewill” was something of an anthem for me. The fact that it is the only “pop song” I know that deals with atheism explains some of that.

  203. Fluffy, God’s actions tell us

    Thou shall not kill, unless in a form of punishment or war.

    Humm, I guess we are paying attention.

  204. “MadMax re. Jesuits in the U.S. – if by ‘gone native’ you mean ‘apply rational thought to the study and practice of theology,’ then I guess I would agree. As someone who was educated by Jesuits during high school, I can attest to the high value the Society of Jesus places on intelligence. Sorry, but unlike yourself, I cannot perceive this as a flaw in the organization.”

    The Jesuits have been valuing rational thought since the sixteenth century. In contrast, they have only been pinkos for a few decades – this hasn’t been long enough to *completely* eradicate the intellectual traditions of the Order.

    “monstrous philosophy.”

    Wrong.

    “happy horseshit”

    Wrong from the other direction.

  205. jp:”Is your conception that atheism is the same as agnosticism?”

    No. I don’t see what’s so hard about this.

    Agnosticism concerns the issue of knowledge, atheism of belief. They “measure” as it were, two different things. One can be both.

    The bottom line is that virtually everyone, even people that claim that “true” atheism is only the caricatured idea that someone runs around squinting really hard believing no gods exist, in practice call people who state they do not believe IN god, atheists. And that definition is what most well-known atheists use, so it’s generally just an exercise in confusion for theists and hysterical agnostics to insist otherwise.

  206. plunge — I think it’s useful to distinguish between the statement “no god exists” and the statement “no one has advanced a persuasive argument that a god exists.” If someone asserts that no god exists, then he takes upon himself a burden of proof comparable to the one that rests on a person who asserts that a god does exist.

  207. An atheist accepts his belief that no God exists as true.
    An agnostic would claim not to know if God exists.

  208. I am proud to call myself an Apatheist.
    I do not care if any god exists. If there
    is a god and he cares about me caring
    about the existence of god, god knows
    where to contact me.

  209. plunge,

    The default position should be “I don’t know whether God exists,” not “God does not exist” or “God does exist,” for that matter. Atheists profess to believe the latter.

  210. We get special status because we have no leaders and even if we did they wouldn’t wear funny hats.

    That is mighty convenient. How many times have you brought up the dirty deeds committed by my coreligionists of ages past, despite the fact that my political beliefs are totally different from theirs? Yet I’m not allowed to pin the sins of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao on you and your ilk despite the fact that they shared your religious outlook.

  211. My second-to-last post should end “Atheists profess to believe the second of those.”

  212. Apatheist!!! Oh, my!

    Did you read my haiku earlier?
    I’ll post it again!

    If there is a god,
    I don’t care and I don’t care
    if there is no god.

    Did you like it?

  213. I firmly believe that I do not have enough evidence to believe that a god exists. This does not mean that I do not believe in god, nor does it mean that I do… I just would never go blowing other people up or executing them for a reason about which I cannot be 100% certain. As henry said (or as I think he was saying), some of us don’t solicit belief structures to fill gaps in our lives.
    I, personally, would LIKE for there to be a god and an eternal heaven and all that jazz, but that doesn’t mean I believe it to be so. It’s not a matter of willingness to believe (as my Mother seems to think), I am simply incapable of legitimately putting that much of myself into something I cannot fully justify.
    What does that make me?
    Agnostic?
    Tragic?
    Reasonable?
    Damned to Hell?
    A Christ Denier?
    Human?
    Sane?

  214. As I tried to explain upthread, there are definitional problems when talking about agnosticism and atheism, because there are only two words but more than two positions. Here is the relevant portion from the earlier thread:

    ————-

    So many positions… so few words.

    I suppose, since I’m pointing out the problem, I should try and propose a solution. Therefore, I hereby decree (because decreeing is more fun than proposing) that Atheism refers to the lack of belief in a supernatural power. Agnosticism refers to lack of experience of the supernatural (both “Atheism” and “Agnosticism” will then agree with the meanings of their root words). Dunnotheism refers to the “I don’t know if there’s a god” position, and Cantknowtheism refers to the position that it’s not possible to know whether there’s a god or not. Certainlynottheism can be used to refer to the positive belief of no supernatural power.

    Note that “Certainlynottheism” must be carefully enunciated to avoid sounding like “Certainlynaziism,” which is a problem I’ll leave to the next person to update the language.

    ————-

    Please use these neologisms to clearly define your positions rather than blindly wading in to try and assign one of them to all atheists. Thank you.

  215. “The default position should be “I don’t know whether God exists,” not “God does not exist” or “God does exist,” for that matter. Atheists profess to believe the latter.”

    A number of people are offering variants of this argument here, and I don’t see it.

    The default state is the null state. I believe that nothing exists until evidence of the existence of something is presented.

    “There is no God,” isn’t really an affirmative statement. It’s simply a contingent statement reiterating the null state.

    You simply can’t equate a statement of absence with a statement of presence.

  216. The default state is the null state. I believe that nothing exists until evidence of the existence of something is presented.

    Then you don’t believe anything exists. Can you prove that you yourself exist? Perhaps. Can you prove that anything else exists? I don’t think so.

  217. Sorry, due to the highnumber of comments I jumped to the end and sumited my two cents
    without reading your comment, highnumber.

    I have been calling myself an Apatheist for
    several years, have never met another Apatheist
    and coined the word to dicribe my disinterest in the topic.

    Funny thing is, it upsets the Atheists more than the religous.

  218. You simply can’t equate a statement of absence with a statement of presence.

    I’m not equating them. Clearly they are not the same statement — but they both are statements. A statement of absence is not a null statement, since a null statement says nothing, giving no information, while a statement of absence does give information.

  219. Agnosticism comes from the Greek. A meaning “without”, and gnosis meaning “knowledge”. (that’s knowledge, not experience, Jake)

    Does that help Reinmoose?

  220. that does make it much clearer. That doesn’t rule out the other possibilities though, does it?

    And crimethink, I think you’re just playing with semantics here. A lack of existence of and an absence when dealing with a God are exactly the same thing.

    H(0): God = 0
    H(1): God =/= 0

    Does that help explain it at all? The first IS a claim of nothing (clearly, as it is equal to zero) and the second is a claim to something.

  221. Fluffy — Try it this way:

    Statement 1: There is intelligent life on other planets.

    Statement 2: We do not know whether there is intelligent life on other planets.

    Statement 3: There is no intelligent life on other planets.

    Statements 1 and 3 are equally difficult to prove.

  222. Agnosticism comes from the Greek. A meaning “without”, and gnosis meaning “knowledge”. (that’s knowledge, not experience, Jake)

    I stand corrected.

  223. That made sense when I wrote it down…
    Look, the point is that the null hypothesis IS the default. We assume it is zero unless our hypothesis test proves it to be otherwise. There, that’s what I meant to say.

  224. “”
    Fluffy
    The default state is the null state. I believe that nothing exists until evidence of the existence of something is presented.

    Crimethink
    Then you don’t believe anything exists. Can you prove that you yourself exist? Perhaps.
    “”

    I think you missed the part where he said “until evidence of the existence of something is presented” part.

    I would imagine sensory perception of self, others, and environment would count as evidence. When you hear something you know you exist. If you didn’t exit you wouldn’t have heard it.

  225. “””that does make it much clearer. That doesn’t rule out the other possibilities though, does it?”””

    Well, if they are possible, I can’t rule them out.

    After much consideration, I have determined you are human.

  226. TrickyVic — The waiting-for-evidence stance would be agnosticism, wouldn’t it? I.e., a god may or may not exist, and you won’t one way or the other until you have persuasive evidence. (As opposed to the stance that one has enough evidence to reach the conclusion that no god exists.)

  227. JP, I think it’s actually useful to look at your previous example:

    ‘I think it’s useful to distinguish between the statement “no god exists” and the statement “no one has advanced a persuasive argument that a god exists.”‘

    My point is that during the time span prior to the advancement of a persuasive argument that a god exists, the default belief should be that no god exists.

    “No god exists” summarizes the current state of your knowledge, or in this case lack of knowledge, about a god; “no one has advanced a persuasive argument that a god exists” is merely the REASON for that. “But hey, a god MIGHT exist” isn’t really relevant and doesn’t change the fact that the default state is still that no god exists.

  228. crimethink,

    (A) Lighten up; it was a joke. (B) Yeah, but I ain’t a commie. Better dead than red. Now maybe if I professed an allegience to the regimes of Stalin, Mao, etc. you might have a point. (C) At least when it comes to the atheists that I know trying to get them to adopt a leader, join an organization, etc. is a bit like herding cats.

  229. Apatheist,

    It doesn’t upset me.

  230. Fluffy — I think the statements “a god might exist” and “god does not exist” are contradictory, like the statements “there might be a snapping turtle in this lake” and “there is no snapping turtle in this lake.”

  231. “”TrickyVic — The waiting-for-evidence stance would be agnosticism, wouldn’t it?”””

    I would say yes. You are “without knowledge”, at least not enough to convince you, so you are waiting for more evidence.

    Sure

  232. TrickyVic,

    As I noted above, most folks are agnostics. Most people divide over whether they are theists or atheists. I am an agnostic atheist.

  233. Back to the muslim fundy/christian fundy posts, as if in cue today in the news.

    A bomb at an abortion clinic in Texas

    &

    A bomb making weapon hording “militia” in Alabama.

    What are the odds both are doing the “Christian god’s work”?

  234. JP, replace the word “null” with the word “zero” it might make more sense.

    I think Fluffy’s point is that if you start with zero knowledge, you have zero knowledge, and if you are asking, are there are snapping turtles in the lake? The best place to start is with zero knowledge (I have no knowledge of snapping turtles in the lake) and look for evidence of their existence.

  235. TrickyVic — I agree with your formulation, but Fluffy seems to be saying something different (unless I’m misreading her). She seems to be saying that there is no difference between the statements “I don’t know whether a god exists” and “no god exists.”

  236. It’s been fun. Goodnight all.

  237. Grotius is godlike?

  238. I have no evidence that the national flag of Namibia has blue on it. Should I then believe, by default, that there is no blue on the flag of Namibia?

  239. A lack of existence of and an absence when dealing with a God are exactly the same thing.

    H(0): God = 0
    H(1): God =/= 0

    In math, if you don’t know the value of a variable in an expression, you can’t just assume it’s zero by default. Likewise, if you don’t know whether a statement is true or false, you can’t assume it’s false by default.

    If you’re looking for a mathematical description of the correct default position, it would be more like God = 0/0, a number which can have any or no value.

  240. “The Jesuit priest who taught my logic class at Saint Louis U. introduced this “proof,” then let us stew in it a bit. Then he explained why it was bogus.”

    You realize that today’s Jesuits (at least in America) have pretty much gone native, and have become highly critical of Church doctrines and traditions? So a Jesuit criticizing a Father of the Church is about as shocking as Kenny Rogers smoking dope. Shouldn’t even be newsworthy.

    Yeah, I’m well aware that Jesuits have a reputation for being rebels and all. I’ve heard them described as “the Air Force of the Church” — a bit freer, less constrained by the discipline and grunt-work that other orders have to live with. In fact, there was a time when my dad half-seriously kept telling me I ought to become a priest — only he recommended that I join the Jesuits, because I wouldn’t have to be such a grind.
    ———————————–

    Number 6 | April 26, 2007, 3:24pm | #

    Jesuits are the
    Green Berets of Catholic Church
    Mental Chuck Norris

    That is beautiful.

  241. Oops, I forgot to continue part 1 of my post, which is why I mentioned that my logic teacher is a Jesuit in the first place:

    There are some others who post here who are convinced that any believers must, by definition, be illogical dummies.

  242. Anyway, this is the problem with St. Anselm’s “proof”:

    He presupposes an entity (God) that is presupposed to have a certain quality (perfection), and on the basis of that latter quality, thinks he has proved that entity’s existence.

    However, that’s just a tautology. For any entity’s ability to possess any quality hinges on that entity existing.

    You could just as easily claim:

    1) Imagine a blue unicorn.

    2) Things that don’t exist don’t have colors.

    3) If a blue unicorn didn’t exist, then it could not be blue.

    4) But for something to be both blue and not blue is a logical contradiction.

    5) Therefore, logically, a blue unicorn must exist.

  243. Sorry, Ron Bailey, you completely botched Anselm’s argument (and it is an ARGUMENT, and not a proof). As an athiest who has read Anselms’s Proslogion, I can tell you that it is, actually, very sophisticated. The key to the argument, which I don’t think anyone here has yet addressed (and I haven’t read all the comments here) is that Anselm defines god negatively. His entire logical argument hinges on it. God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought.” Anselm assigns no perfections to it (you’re thinking of Descartes’ argument, or at least Kant’s refutation ontological proof, which doesn’t quite touch on Anselm’s argument).

    If nothing else, Anselm’s argument helps one to understand the outer limits of logic, of categorization, and to probe our implicit assumptions about the relationship between mind and material, and between relative and absolute qualities (particularly with respect to the term ‘greater’).

    Oh, and Stevo: Guanillo, a contemporary of Anselm, had a refutation of his ontological argument very similar to your unicorn example. In Anselm’s reply to him, he destroyed the so-called refutation. I’m telling you, it’s some subtle fucking shit.

  244. Crimethink –

    Actually, yes, you should.

    Beyond that I would say further that the default state is that there is no such country as Namibia and no such thing as flags.

    I think the statement “there might be a God” describes a future possible state of knowledge. The “present” state of knowledge that would precede that possibility is No-God. If I already know there is a God, there is no need to consider the possibility that there might be one.

    I don’t think your mathematical concept would apply, since an equation employing such a variable would be dealing with all possible states of knowledge along the curve, as it were, and the actual knowledge we can possess at a given moment in time is discrete.

  245. I read through this whole thread – would have been nice if any of ya had bothered to define your terms. What’s this God ya keep talkin’ ’bout?

  246. Oh, and Stevo: Guanillo, a contemporary of Anselm, had a refutation of his ontological argument very similar to your unicorn example. In Anselm’s reply to him, he destroyed the so-called refutation. I’m telling you, it’s some subtle fucking shit.

    Interesting. I’ll make a note to look that up someday. But I am highly skeptical.

  247. By the way, isn’t “Guanillo” Spanish for “little bird shit”? But that’s neither here nor there.

  248. Oops, it’s “Guanilo” with one L. That’s different.

    My initial investigations make me no less skeptical. It doesn’t matter whether the quality you assign to a posited entity is unique or necessary; the fact remains that the truth of “an entity possesses such-and-such characteristic” depends on whether that entity actually exists, and therefore any argument based on that characteristic, whatever that characterist is, is tautological.

    Although Anselm’s reply to Guanilo is dense and subtle, it’s not obvious to me so far that Anselm “destroyed” Guanilo’s counter-argument.

    BTW, there is a difference between saying, “Your argument for the existence of God is flawed” and saying, “I don’t believe in the existence of God.” It looks like Anselm might have been a little blurry on this distinction when he replied to Guanilo.

    I’m tired.

  249. I don’t take God’s existence very seriously and I assign it a low probability, in roughly the same way I do with ghosts and karma. And I think this is a rationally appropriate attitude towards the question. Am I still an atheist? (I think the answer is obviously yes.)

    T Bone is right that Bailey’s presentation is more similar to Descartes’ ontological argument (presented in the fifth Meditation) than to Anselm’s (from the Proslogion). But it’s still a distortion of both arguments.

    However, I think T Bone is insinuating that Anselm’s response to Gaunilo is obviously successful. I doubt that.

  250. T Bone,

    So sayeth Thomas Williams (a Scotus scholar) in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy:

    “In order to defend himself against Gaunilo’s criticism, Anselm would have to show why Gaunilo’s argument about the island is not in fact analogous to his own argument about that than which nothing greater can be thought. Surprisingly, he never does this. His long-winded and indeed somewhat intemperate ‘Reply to Gaunilo’ asserts more than once that the island example fails, but he never explains why it fails. The usual reply given on Anselm’s behalf (and indeed often attributed to Anselm himself) is that the notion of a greatest conceivable island is incoherent; however great an island might be, one could always conceive of a greater. This is a lame response, since it is open to Gaunilo to say exactly the same thing about the greatest conceivable being; it is therefore no wonder that Anselm did not say anything of the sort.”

    From looking over Anselm’s reply right now, it looks to me like he’s relying on the old conflation between eternality and necessary existence, and in a way that could always be parodied with an eternal island example.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m willing to change my mind and say that Anselm actually won the dispute. But I don’t think it’s obvious, as you seem to insinuate.

  251. Kirk, Ray,
    Quit harshin’ my buzz

  252. Beggin’ your pardon, if you please, Mr. Comfort and Mr. Cameron, I would be most indebted to you fine gentlemen if you could be so kind as to refrain from harshin’ my buzz.

  253. Man, Im still not convinced I exist.

  254. “Of course G_d exists. Because anything less would not have been able to create ME.”

    How did he do it? Does he have hands or a brain? You were created through genetic mutations and natural selection.

  255. “How can you talk meaningfully about a God that you cannot conceive of?”

    We are not talking about an actual being, but people’s concept of a being which as far as we’re concerned is imaginary.

  256. I think the statement “there might be a God” describes a future possible state of knowledge. The “present” state of knowledge that would precede that possibility is No-God. If I already know there is a God, there is no need to consider the possibility that there might be one.

    Fluffy — If you’re still reading this thread, good morning. I think you’re mashing together two distinct propositions: “I don’t know whether a god exists” and “no god exists.”

    Not knowing is different from knowing. If an assertion is made, the listener’s options aren’t only “it’s true” and “it’s not true.” When the listener doesn’t know whether it’s true, then the listener need not (and in practice listeners generally do not) conclude that it’s not true.

    For example:

    – “Osama Bin Laden is dead.” I don’t know whether he’s dead. Therefore, am I jusitifed in concluding that a true statement is “OBL is not dead”?

    – Nick says, “Liam Neeson is my uncle.” You don’t know whether Liam Neeson is Nick’s uncle. Therefore, are you justified in concluding that a true statement is “Liam Neeson is not Nick’s uncle”?

    – A researcher comes up with the hypothesis “sustained high cholesterol is a contributing cause of Alzheimer’s disease.” He doesn’t know whether sustained high cholesterol is a contributing cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, is he justified in concluding that a true statement is “sustained high cholesterol is not a contributing cause of Alzheimer’s disease”?

  257. “Same guy. He did the creating in his pre-incarnate form.”

    How do you know that, NoStar? Or is it the case you believe in Christianity because you were born in America? If you were born in Iran, you would probably be Muslim.

  258. “As i know that to contradict His teachings, I wouldn’t believe it to be God speaking.”

    NoStar, what if God told you to take your rebellious child to the city gate and have him stoned to death? Believe it or not, it says that in the Bible plus many other idiotic things. Do you obey everything that is in the Bible? That’s one big reason I left Christianity.

  259. “You just don’t know what God was punishing them for.”

    NoStar, God commanded the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites so there would be none left to influence the Israelites on matters of religion after the Isralites gained control of the land.

  260. God commanded the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites so there would be none left to influence the Israelites on matters of religion after the Isralites gained control of the land.

    It was my understanding that He told them they could let the virgin women and girls live.

  261. It was my understanding that He told them they could let the virgin women and girls live.

    Now, that’s my kind of a God!

  262. “It was my understanding that He told them they could let the virgin women and girls live.”

    That’s true in one case in Samuel. The Israelites were told to spare the virgins for their own use.

  263. “As was the case with a lot of atheists in their youth “Freewill” was something of an anthem for me. The fact that it is the only “pop song” I know that deals with atheism explains some of that”

    What about John Lennon’s “Imagine”?

  264. “Fluffy, God’s actions tell us

    Thou shall not kill, unless in a form of punishment or war.”

    Actually, the commandment not to kill applied only to the killing of other Jews. It was still ok to kill gentiles.

  265. “If someone asserts that no god exists, then he takes upon himself a burden of proof comparable to the one that rests on a person who asserts that a god does exist.”

    Which would be the more rational, to say that I don’t know whether or not unicorns exist or that unicorns don’t exist? If it is rational to say that unicorns don’t exist, then why isn’t it rational to say that God doesn’t exist? I will assume that unicorns don’t exist unless somebody can prove otherwise to me and likewise, I will assume that gods or God doesn’t exist unless somebody can prove otherwise to me.

  266. “Yet I’m not allowed to pin the sins of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao on you and your ilk despite the fact that they shared your religious outlook.”

    Hitler wasn’t an atheist, he was a Christian. He even required prayer and Bible reading in schools.

  267. “Can you prove that you yourself exist? Perhaps. Can you prove that anything else exists? I don’t think so.”

    We can only go with what our senses tell us. If my senses don’t reveal to me that God exists, then I can’t say he exists.

  268. I once called myself agnostic because I reasoned along the same lines that jp is arguing. I now call myself atheist because I don’t see how a God can exist. If God is a spiritual being, how can he think if he doesn’t have a physical brain? If God is physical, why can’t we see him? If he is physical and is so far away that we can’t see him, how can he communicate with us? How can he communicate with one person without all of us hearing him. There are just too many insurmountable problems with the concept of a god, so it actually seems more foolish to me to consider the possibility of a god as it does to consider the possibility of a unicorn.

  269. Rattlesnake — I don’t think it’s irrational to conclude that no god exists. You looked at the data around you and drew an inductive conclusion that the non-existence of a god is likely — so likely, in fact, as to be a virtual certainty. That makes perfect sense.

    What I’ve taken issue with is the argument by Fluffy and perhaps some others that the “I don’t know if there’s a god” state is the same as the “I’ve concluded there is no god” state. Or, to put it differently, the argument that the asserted non-existence of a god requires no proof in order to be given credence, while the asserted existence of god must be proven to be given credence. Neither proposition is self-evident.

  270. jp, maybe we agree on this: There’s nothing in itself irrational about believing in God and there’s nothing in itself irrational about believing that there is no God. If someone takes up the issue, reads about it, talks about it with others, thinks about it, and ends up reaching a conclusion, then that’s all rationally okay. Probably some conclusions are more reasonable than others, but the basic procedure is okay.

    The problem is when people have strong convictions without any considered reasoning to back it up. And this is irrational whether you’re a blindly dogmatic theist, a blindly dogmatic atheist, or a blindly dogmatic agnostic (this last variety is surprisingly common).

  271. Dave2 — Yes, I agree with that.

  272. Dave2, Stevo (doubt you’re still here):

    Anselm implies that Guanilo’s argument fails b/c “that than which a greater cannot be thought” has the unique property of (shown in part III of the Proslogion) that in cannot be thought of not existing. If you think of it as not existing, then you are not thinking of “that than which a greater cannot be thought” because one can think of “that than which a greater cannot be thought, and which exists”, which is greater. Unicorns and islands don’t have this property. Indeed, one can think of an island so great (defined however you like, so long as you use the word ‘great’ honestly) that it cannot possibly exist.

  273. It seem that Anselm is not ultimately arguing that “that than which a greater cannot be thought” exists, but rather that it must be thought of as existing. Which means what, exactly?

    Funny stuff.

  274. “It was my understanding that He told them they could let the virgin women and girls live.”

    That’s true in one case in Samuel. The Israelites were told to spare the virgins for their own use.

    What about the Midianites in Numbers 31 or the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead in Judges 21?

  275. T Bone, I think Gaunilo still has the obvious rejoinder: the lost island also cannot be thought of not existing, for exactly the same reasons.

    After all, if you thought of the lost island as not existing, then you must not be thinking of that island than which none greater can be thought — after all, one could always think of something just like it except that it exists. (You write that this doesn’t work for islands, but I fail to see why. It works just the same way as with that than which none greater can be thought.)

    So I don’t see how this move helps defuse the parody.

  276. “Yet I’m not allowed to pin the sins of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao on you and your ilk despite the fact that they shared your religious outlook.”

    This statement is just plain stupid (even the Hitler inaccuracy aside).

    Atheists do not share “an outlook.” THEISTS share, at least, minimally, an outlook. Atheists share only the fact that they are not theists. Claiming that a non-believer has anything particularly in common with Stalin just because both were not religious is as stupid as claiming that the Pope shares in the sin of John Hinkley because both are non-professional baseball players.

    The fact that people bring up such stupid arguments just goes to show that they haven’t thought seriously about what it means to be religious or not.

  277. jp:”I think it’s useful to distinguish between the statement “no god exists” and the statement “no one has advanced a persuasive argument that a god exists.” If someone asserts that no god exists, then he takes upon himself a burden of proof comparable to the one that rests on a person who asserts that a god does exist.”

    You are 100% correct sir. Note however that the statement “I do not believe in a god,” a statement which virtually anyone would conclude that the speaker is an atheist, does not incurr an such burden. Either you believe in a god or you don’t: there is no “middle ground.” Belief is an assertive activity: if you aren’t engaged in it, then you aren’t a believer, and that’s that.

    crimethink: “The default position should be “I don’t know whether God exists,””

    You are confusing yourself here. Knowledge and belief are two different things. The default state of an knowledge claim is ignorance. The default state of belief claim is the lack of belief.

    “not “God does not exist” or “God does exist,” for that matter. Atheists profess to believe the latter.”

    Nope. Atheists, writ large, are non-believers. SOME atheists profess the latter, just like SOME theists are female.

    But at basic, atheists are folks that lack god belief. Most of us have considered god belief arguments to some degree and found them wanting, and as such have either simply remained without god belief, or discarded previously held beliefs. Some atheists go farther and claim, for various reasons, that God does not exist.

    Of course, if you want to insist that atheists are ONLY those folks that positively assert that there are definitely no gods period, then it raises the question of why you give so much attention to those people and ignore the seeming majority of us here that do not believe in gods. I would suggest that this neglect and attempt to define us out of the debate is because we are a bigger rhetorical threat, since by our skepticism we don’t incurr any burden, and so aren’t easily subjected to caricature and pre-emptive attacks.

  278. plunge — I think what you’re saying is that you’re an agnostic and a practical atheist. In other words, you don’t have sufficient evidence to conclude that there is a god, and unless that situation changes, you’re going to proceed on the assumption that no god exists. Makes sense to me.

    This is different from what fluffy is saying — that lack of certainty about the existence of a god compels certainty about the non-existence of a god. Fluffy’s position strikes me as not rational (at least, not rational in the way she’s stated it).

  279. “plunge — I think what you’re saying is that you’re an agnostic and a practical atheist. In other words, you don’t have sufficient evidence to conclude that there is a god, and unless that situation changes, you’re going to proceed on the assumption that no god exists.”

    No. No “assumption” is necessary. The claim that god exists is an assumption. Not buying that assumption is not, itself an assumption. The claim that god exists is not so presumptively true that not believing in it somehow requires one to run around actively straining to not believe it and building a worldview not believing it. In fact, it requires no effort at all. Belief requires effort. Lacking a particular belief requires no effort whatsoever.

    “This is different from what fluffy is saying — that lack of certainty about the existence of a god compels certainty about the non-existence of a god.”

    If that is really what fluffy is saying then you’re right, lack of evidence and certainty alone does not warrant jumping to conclusions like “God does not exist.” But then, fluffys confusion may just stem from the confusion deliberately spread by theists: that the only positions are believe in god, say maybe god exists but you don’t really know, or positively assert that no gods exist. The perfectly rational “I don’t believe in a god” is left off the map. That, I suspect, is why so many theists insist on a very circumscribed definition of “atheism.”

  280. plunge — If your agnostic/atheist state of mind does not involve an assumption, then this is how I think your argument plays out. I’d be interested in knowing where I go astray:

    1. Begin with the statement “I don’t believe in a god.”

    2. That belief is either based on reasoning or it’s not.

    3. If it’s not based on reasoning, then it’s just a blind conviction — in essence, I don’t care what evidence may be forthcoming, I will not ever believe in a god. It’s at the opposite extreme from the position of the unthinking believer (e.g., “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”).

    4. If belief #1 is based on reasoning, then that reasoning most likely took the form of on an inductive process. (I agree that formal proofs like Anselm’s haven’t cut it.) For example, the person who holds belief #1 looked at the evidence for existence of a god (such as the persistence of belief, the intelligence of certain believers, and the accounts of apparently trustworthy people who claim to have had firsthand experience of a god), and he looked at the evidence against the existence of a god (such as the absence of supernatural agency in everyday life and the problem of evil), and he then determined that the con evidence sufficiently outweighed the pro evidence that he was justified in concluding (or adopting the belief) that a god probably does not exist. He may even conclude that the balance between the pro and con evidence is so one-sided that the non-existence of a god is almost indistinguishable from a certainty.

    5. The reasoning process in #4 results in a belief, a conclusion — the belief that with some degree of probability god does not exist. Reaching this belief may seem effortless, as you say, because the evidence on one side is so persuasive and the evidence on the other side is so unpersuasive that no conscious thought is needed to conclude what is most likely to be the case. But a reasoning process is still there if the belief does not come within #3.

  281. Your reasoning goes wrong right at the start.

    Not believing in god is not “a belief.” The lack of a particular belief is not “a belief.” There is no particular reasoning required to support not believing in something: that is almost 180degrees backwards. Reasoning is required to support an affirmative BELIEF, not the lack of a particular belief. Lacking convincing reasons, one isn’t compelled to believe.

    In my case, I have, in fact, examined some of the arguments made that urge me to believe in gods, but I’ve found them all unconvincing, and as such, I’ve not subsequently had any reason to take up a belief in god. But me doing so is irrelevant: people could just as well never consider the issue or give it any thought. They too are unbelievers, and in essentially the same way: lacking any reason to believe, they don’t believe. It’s as simple as that.

    When someone states that they do no believe in god, they are making a statement that is essentially only about themselves, not any sort of conclusion about the contents of existence. I don’t need to judge any sort of “probability” of god’s existence. I don’t see any sufficient reason to believe in god, and thus I don’t. I have no idea if a god exists or not, and I don’t see any valid way to assign a probability to the possibility. All of that is irrelevant regardless. There COULD at an moment be a bomb in my basement. But I don’t have any reason to believe that there is, and so I’m not going to go down and check every few seconds.

    Belief is an AFFIRMATIVE action a person undertakes. If you don’t believe, it doesn’t mean that you run around straining or thinking about how not to believe, or believing the negation of the claim. Not believing in god isn’t, in that respect, much different from not playing professional baseball: it requires no effort or justification.

    I’ve honestly never seen what’s so hard to understand about any of this, but somehow theists, agnostics, and even some atheists seem to get tied up in knots by it.

  282. plunge —

    A couple of thoughts.

    Belief is an AFFIRMATIVE action a person undertakes. If you don’t believe, it doesn’t mean that you run around straining or thinking about how not to believe, or believing the negation of the claim.

    You said above that you do believe the negation of the claim (i.e., “I don’t believe in god.” (5-26-07 at 5:42 pm)). In addition, any negation of a claim can be reframed as a positive claim: “I don’t believe that O.J. was involved in the murders of Ron and Nicole” becomes “I believe in O.J.’s innocence of the murders of Ron and Nicole.” “I don’t believe in alien abductions” becomes “I believe that people who claim they were abducted by aliens are deluded or lying.” “I don’t believe in a god” becomes “I believe that the universe was not created by an intelligent being and that human action is not governed by any kind of providence” (along with whatever else is entailed by a god-free worldview). Not believing in x is functionally equivalent to believing in not-x. Your belief in not-x seems effortless to you because it’s so familiar, and because (I gather) the fact that not-x represents the true state of things is so patently obvious to you. Many religious people are of course exactly the opposite — their belief in x seems effortless and natural, and they can’t understand why atheists go out of their way to believe not-x.

    – An alternative explanation I can think of for your position would be that you don’t care one way or the other. The question of whether there is or is not a god doesn’t interest you, and so you go about your business without really thinking about where the universe came from or what happens to people when they die. That position is not theist, atheist, or agnostic. It’s not really a “position” at all on the matter, because no thought has been devoted to it and no conceptions have been formed regarding it. It’s similar to my “position” regarding who assassinated JFK: I don’t believe that Oswald did or didn’t do it, nor do I believe that the issue is ultimately indeterminable. I don’t believe anything about it at all, because it doesn’t interest me and I haven’t given it any serious thought or attempted to learn anything about it.

    Perhaps this is what you mean when you say that you’ve “never seen what’s so hard to understand about any of this.” You don’t care whether there’s a god or not, and you don’t understand why other people keep insisting that you take a position on the issue.

  283. “You said above that you do believe the negation of the claim (i.e., “I don’t believe in god.” (5-26-07 at 5:42 pm)). ”

    A ha! I think now we’ve hit upon the problem: you think that a statement of what a person does or does not believe in is an existential statement! That’s where you go wrong. Let’s map this out in strict logic so it’s as clear as possible. The statement “I do not believe in a god” maps out to ~BG. The statement you mistakenly believe is equivalent is “I believe there is no god” or B~G. These two statements are not, in fact, equivalent, and only the latter is actually even a statement belief (the former is actually a statement about the presence or absence of a specific belief, not it’s object!).

    Would it make it clearer if I pointed out that I also ~B~G, that is, I don’t “believe” in no god either?

    Your problem is that you think a person is required to take one position or the other on a truth claim. They are not. We can see this by making the claim perfectly conventional: say someone claims that they have 5 dollars in their pocket. I don’t, in fact, know anything about the contents of their pockets, or know the person at all and whether to trust them. So it’s not rationally justified for me to commit to either the position that they have 5 dollars or the position that they don’t. You’re going to have to convince me either way. It’s not that I’m disinterested, it’s that I’m skeptical and unwilling to just jump to one conclusion or the other when there is no justified reason to do so.

    It’s the same in the case of claims about the existence of God. Theists have failed to convince me that any god exists, so I remain as I began when I was a baby without any coherent beliefs: a being without god beliefs, who does not believe in God (though since that time, I have acquired all sorts of beliefs that have won approval by seeming to justify themselves). But it isn’t necessary for me to take the position that no gods exist either: if anyone important ran around claiming that, they’d also have to convince me (and they haven’t done so, but then virtually no one has tried or demanded I do so in the way theists do).

    I think another problem you are having is that you are not fully separating the object of truth claims (say, God) from the justifications for those claims. I have lots of strong opinions and beliefs about the _arguments_ made for god, and none in particular about god. I am not “disinterested” in the subject as you surmise, in fact this is a subject that interests me a lot. I just think your conception of things is a false dilemna caused by confusing too many different logical concepts.

  284. plunge — I think we’re back where we started.

    Theists have failed to convince me that any god exists, so I remain as I began when I was a baby without any coherent beliefs: a being without god beliefs, who does not believe in God . . . . But it isn’t necessary for me to take the position that no gods exist either: if anyone important ran around claiming that, they’d also have to convince me . . . .

    That would make you (at least by the conventional use of the term) an agnostic — someone who, without ignoring the issue, neither believes nor disbelieves. (See for example the definition of “agnosticism” in The Dictionary of the History of Ideas*: “We shall then take agnosticism to be the more limited claim that we either do not or cannot know that God or any other transcendent reality or state exists and thus we should suspend judgment concerning the assertion that God exists. That is to say, the agnostic neither affirms nor denies it. . . . [S]uch a construal captures in its characterization both what was essentially at issue in the great agnostic debates in the nineteenth century and the issue as it has come down to us.”).

    Some have argued that agnosticism is the same as “weak atheism,” i.e., the position that there is probably, but not certainly, no god. But that doesn’t seem to be your position.

    I suppose that, etymologically, one could argue that “atheist” (non-theist) should refer to anyone who does not believe in a god, regardless of whether he doesn’t believe because he lacks sufficient data to decide the issue, or because he has concluded that there is in fact no god. But (in my limited experience) I haven’t seen anybody in the literature use “atheist” in that broad way.

    *Available online at http://etext.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/ot2www-dhi?specfile=/texts/english/dhi/dhi.o2w&act=text&offset=233116&textreg=0&query=

  285. “That would make you (at least by the conventional use of the term) an agnostic — someone who, without ignoring the issue, neither believes nor disbelieves”

    Indeed, I have no problem with anyone calling me an agnostic. I AM agnostic in the sense that I do not have any knowledge supporting the idea that God exists.

    However, because for me knowledge or rational argument is a necessary precursor for belief (this is not true for everyone: some people are agnostic about god but are ALSO theists: they believe on faith), I cannot believe. Agnosticism does not measure belief, so it is really not a particularly descriptive category when it comes to characterizing whether or not I am a believer. Either I believe in God, or I don’t: “agnosticism” is not a “midway” position because there is no midway position.

    I do not believe in a God. Virtually anyone on the planet, regardless of what creative dictionary definition they hold to, would call me an atheist. You, in fact, seemed to agree that it made me an atheist. I am, indeed, the “weak” sort of atheist, but that seems to encompass the majority of people who say they are atheists, and all strong atheists are ALSO weak atheists, by definition. Given that, I don’t see why its so hard to accept our definition.

    But honestly, I don’t care THAT much how you define atheist. If you want to claim, against all objections by the majority of atheists throughout history, against the plain logic and derivation of the word, and against the good sense to have a set of terms that are both comprehensive and equal measured, that atheist means ONLY those who actively claim that they are certain no gods exist, have at it. Dictionaries have played it either way: sometimes defining it one way, sometimes another. Dictionaries just measure common usage: many note that “wicked” is part of what “atheist” means too. Since there are more theists than atheists, theists are always going to win the common usage game of defining us any way they wish. So, given that, I will happily just call myself a non-believer or non-theist.

    However, I think your usage is prone both to equivocation and generally is used to misrepresent people (not unlike adding “wicked” to the definition of atheist, or “lazy” to the definition of Mexican). Virtually, all of the atheists around today use and understand atheism to include both strong and weak atheists, and so when you talk about their arguments, you have to understand their usage even if you don’t agree that it is proper: otherwise you will be misrepresenting them.

    And yet, when these people are discussed, people using your narrow definition often still do include them: misusing the very terminology they so vehemently insisted on!

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked whether or not I believe in god, responded that no I don’t, and then had the person characterize me as an atheist… and then go on to demand that I prove my “claim” that no gods exist. I don’t even have to say that I’m an atheist at any point: the play this game all by themselves!

    This is, I hope you’ll agree, ludicrous behavior, and yet I suspect it is exactly the sort of trap and inconsistency that many theologians and theists desire to remain: the confusion makes it easier for them to avoid anything but the most caricatured positions of some atheists.

  286. Not going to read the whole thread right now.

    (Disclosure: Will probably never have time to read the full thread, so I regret not reading anything who wrote something interesting…and the odds of that being…well, nevermind)

    I can prove to anyone that God exists by taking them to Junior’s for cheesecake and coffee.

    Gilmore,

    I had Junior’s cheesecake when I was in NYC. It was good, but not that good.

  287. VM | April 26, 2007, 4:27pm | #
    “Us Crazy Humans Wrote it. Won’t you take a look?”
    hier

    VM,

    That’s one of my favorites!

  288. plunge — Fair enough. It’s not for me to tell you how to express yourself. But, seriously, if theists consistently misunderstand you when you say that you don’t believe in god, why don’t you just say, “I’m an agnostic”? That’s what I say, and they all seem to get what I mean.

  289. Except they don’t really get what it means, and they routinely misrepresent what lots of other people mean when they say that they don’t believe in god, or are atheists, or what have you. And, as I noted, it doesn’t matter what I label myself: even if I don’t label myself, they still declare me an atheist and then misapply their own definition!

    The problem is that many people’s understanding of the situation is faulty, and that’s only going to cause confusion and misrepresentation unless someone argues the issue. To far too many people, there are three choices: believe in god, or positively assert that there is no god, or just be unsure (agnostic). But this is badly confuses things, because it mixes together several different sorts of issues into one bizarre non-continuous continuum.

    I’m a non-theist. A non-believer. There isn’t anything wishy-washy about that: I’ve looked at the arguments for gods and claims made about religions, and I’m not undecided on them: I think they are almost all terrible and unconvincing. But to reject those arguments, I don’t need to do what many confused atheists (atheists theists to take great delight in confusing!) make any positive assertions about the non-existence of gods.

    There is also the problem of clarity: if someone asks you if you believe in god, and you say that you are agnostic, then what you’ve really done is avoided the question. You’ve answered a different question, without answering whether or not you believe in god.

  290. There is also the problem of clarity: if someone asks you if you believe in god, and you say that you are agnostic, then what you’ve really done is avoided the question. You’ve answered a different question, without answering whether or not you believe in god.

    I disagree, but maybe we can take that up another day. Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

  291. “I disagree, but maybe we can take that up another day.”

    You can’t really disagree. “Do you believe in god” is a binary question. Either you do or you don’t. Trying to be coy about it is like being coy when someone asks you if you can turn into a cantelope at will. Either you can or you have business saying anything other than that you can’t.

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