Atheist baking soda!

Note: So as to not type “some” all of the time, I’m speaking in generalities here. So take it as a given that yes, I know there are Christians and atheists who don’t do these things, and if you don’t, I know you don’t.

On Facebook, I commented on a friend’s post about how atheism isn’t a religion. That’s up for debate, and if it is, it certainly isn’t in all cases. That’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about atheists being atheists for a minute. Just their simple disbelief.

Having argued with quite a few atheists, I can say a couple things. One is, it’s often as tedious as arguing with fundamentalist Christians. The other is that, much like fundamentalist Christians, many atheists seem to take any disagreement as an attack. So I figured what the hell, I’d state my position. Disbelieve all you like. You don’t believe in a god or gods or the “supernatural’ or whatever. Good for you.

I mean that, I’m not being sarcastic at all. I am totally down with your lack of belief. You have every right to have it, and anybody who challenges you or claims you’re an immoral devourer of babies or whatever is an idiot. So OK, if I’m content, why am I arguing with you? Because, again much like fundamentalist Christians, you want to convert people. You think those of us with a religion are stupid, and by the gods, you’re going to show us how damn clever you are!

So you start making statements, religion comes from a fear of death! You start making arguments and claiming science tells us things, like, if we don’t need a god to explain the universe then a god doesn’t exist! Or you start making dumb arguments that you think apply to every religion but not only don’t, but they don’t even prove what you’re trying to demonstrate, like this one here. If you don’t feel like reading it, it basically boils down to, “I shit, therefore there is no God”. But read it anyway, it’s hilarious.

http://www.positiveatheism.org/crt/horrors.htm

Now see, the thing is, you’re not just saying with these things, here’s why I personally don’t believe in a god. If you did, again, I’d be fine with that. You’re arguing because you think you’re right, and people should believe like you. I’ve heard every single one of these arguments, and a lot more but I only have so much time, so let’s tackle them.

Somebody once insisted that religion comes from a fear of death. The origin of religion, so they claimed, was to offer comfort about what happens after death. OK, fine, how do we tackle this? Well, like any good scientist, we go examine the data. Here’s some data.

In Hebrew mythology, i.e. the Bible, everybody went to Sheol, a sort of dark shadowy place. You were just sort of there, you didn’t do anything. There’s a tablet, I believe it’s Akkadian, where the dead are described as fluttering around like birds and eating clay and drinking sewer water. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have reincarnation, but of course, you can just as easily be punished as rewarded, as in Christianity. Most Chinese religion doesn’t even speculate on the afterlife. There are some hints of reincarnation in the Zhuangzi, but it’s difficult to tell if he’s being serious or just using it to make a point about change. Confucius specifically says you don’t even understand this life, why worry if there’s another one?

The point being, either we get little to no speculation on death, or things that wouldn’t be comforting whatsoever. Seriously, if you find being a powerless shade and/or eating clay and drinking sewer water comforting, go get the help you so obviously need. Of course there are religions that offer a comforting afterlife, I don’t deny that at all. But you’d think if this is the origin of religion, you’d have a lot more happy afterlife scenarios.

Moving on to the second argument, we don’t need a god to explain the universe. Thus, the reasoning goes, there is no such a thing as a god, it’s totally unnecessary. In the first place, this is a philosophical preference, not some sort of fact science tells us. In the second, it assumes that the only way things can be is if they have a necessity. Nicely Medieval, philosophically speaking, but hardly scientific.

In the third, it doesn’t really work as an argument. Suppose I said I was married, but you’ve never seen my wife. I tell you this is because she has a medical condition and remains at home. But I say, she wants me to buy her ice cream. You insist that I just wanted ice cream, or that i’m buying ice cream for my fictive wife to maintain my delusion of being married, Etc. You say there is no evidence of my wife, you’ve tried to find her family and such.

The point in this hypothetical is obvious, there is a wife, and the fact that you can’t determine her existence matters not one little bit as to whether that’s true or not. The fact that a wife isn’t necessary to explain my actions, Etc. has no baring on whether I’m married or not. Now sure, this isn’t the best analogy, clearly for some Christians their god does explain features of the universe. But again, the fact that their god isn’t a necessary explanation seems to me to have no baring on whether or not it actually exists.

Which brings us to our final argument, which I’ll call physical horrors. The author basically argues that since “God” is perfect, and we’re designed imperfectly with shit and snot and blood and all, “God” is imperfect. If “God” is imperfect, “God” can’t exist, since “God” is defined as perfect. Remember how I said this doesn’t prove what it purports to argue? I’m assuming you’ll see the two obvious flaws in this argument, but here they are.

1. This only applies to Christianity. He keeps saying “the theistic god”, and maybe “theistic” is his synonym for Christianity. But really, can you think of a “non-theistic god”? That’s kind of a contradiction in terms, so I doubt it.

2. Even if we accept that he’s only disproving the Christian god, all he’s done is proven that said god’s attribute of perfection doesn’t make sense. OK, so the Christian god could exist as an imperfect being. All this really demonstrates is that Christian theology might have to drop perfection as an attribute their god possesses. Shocking shocking stuff.

So to sum up, and pay attention because this is important, here’s what I’m saying.

1. If you’re going to step out of the realm of personal belief and start telling me why I’m wrong to believe something, i.e. try to convert me, I get to argue back at you. That’s sort of how debate works.

2. Atheist arguments about religion are generally problematic and aren’t nearly as clever as atheists seem to think they are. No, these are not devastating shots against “religion”, particularly since most of them deal with Christianity. That means they don’t apply to most of the world’s religions right out of the gate. Please, if you’re going to do this, take the time to be the good scientist/devotee of rationality you so often claim that you are, and go examine the actual data from the actual religions of the world. Or at least be honest and say you’re only talking about whatever version of Christianity you’re most familiar with, and nothing else. And by all the dancing Jesuses, please, quit stating your philosophical positions as some sort of fact proven by science, would you?

Here is what I am DEFINITELY NOT SAYING.

3. It follows from one and two that since I think you’re wrong, I think religion is right and you should totally believe in one right away. Let’s illustrate with a small example.

Suppose you claim baking soda is the only cleaning product that actually cleans. I demonstrate that, nope, you’re wrong, other cleaning products clean as well. Does that mean I’m saying, therefore, you should stop using baking soda and use these other cleaning products? Nope. As long as baking soda gets done what you need it to get done, have a blast with your baking soda. Also, quit preaching at me about how stupid I must be to be using bleach.

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2 Responses to Atheist baking soda!

  1. Henry Emrich says:

    Some stuff: 1. In the vast majority of cases, Atheists don’t actually exhibit "lack of belief". They very strongly *believe* that a particular entity/class of entities does *not* exist. There’s a big difference between debating the relative probability of something existing, and claiming that it "doesn’t exist, definitively. Why I say "entity or CLASS of entities", comes next: 2. The "God" of Abrahamic monotheism (in all of it’s variants) is presumed to be utterly and completely unique. This is where you get the Jewish/Muslim distaste for the idea of the trinity, and emphatic statements about how said entity is "one", etc. Polytheistic religions, by contrast, tend to regard the various "Gods" as more akin to a class of entities — basically, a "species". Now, already, there’s a *huge* difference between those two ideas. Now, let’s examine some polytheistic stuff. I’ll take on Asatru, because it’s what I’ve most recently read about (albeit in a somewhat cursory manner). First, you can’t really consider any of the Norse Gods to be "omnipotent", if for no other reason than the notion of several equally "omnipotent" beings is a contradiction in terms. The various "gods" can be — and are — impacted by the actions of other "Gods". Loki, for example, does massive amounts of crazy shit to utterly annoy the rest of them (which is part of why they eventually gang up on him,a and basically throw him into "lockdown".) So, no. Any entity which can be harmed, helped, or in ANY WAY impacted by any other entity is not "omnipotent", in that other entities have "power" over it. If Thor is capable of breaking Loki’s nose, the Loki is not "omnipotent". (If he merely "permits" himself to be effected by Thor’s mighty, mighty blow, then you have to wonder why an entity which *could* be genuinely omnipotent chooses NOT to be, which introduces a whole new set of questions). What matters here is NOT whether such an entity can do "anything it wants to do", but whether it can be in ANY WAY impacted by any other entities. Omnipotence presupposes something akin to a "prime mover, un-moved". (Paranthetically, this is also why I tend to see any attempt by monotheists to "worship" their God to be somewhat insulting to the thing they claim to be worshipping. If "God" is capable of being harmed (or helped) by what it’s "creatures" do, then to that extent, we have "power over" God, which utterly defeats the notion of it as "almighty". To the extent that I have "might", "God" does not. By the same token, a genuinely "omnipotent" God wouldn’t need "tools" of any kind. Even to the extent that such an entity would merely create other entities to counteract stuff like boredom or lonliness, it is *still* exhibiting some kind of "need", which is inevitably tied to the notion of "lacking" something. If I "need" food because I’m hungry, it therefore follows that I "lack" food. EVEN IF I can "act to get food", that still does not obviate the fact that I "lacked" something, and had to "do" something, as a result. Anyway, sorry for the digression, but to get back to my original point: There’s a huge difference between the notion of a single, genuinely "omnipotent" and utterly unique entity (Monotheism — Abrahamic or otherwise), and the claim that there is a "class" of beings which are merely *appear* omnipotent in comparison to humans. Interestingly, polytheistic religions introduce their own set of problems: Why *should* we appeal to these vastly-more-powerful entities (The "Gods"), instead of trying to become more powerful/capable ourselves, to the extent that such is possible/practical? Assuming increase in power/efficacy is possible, then will humans one day become "gods" in relation to something THEY created? Would such entities eventually rebel?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanomachy Really, when you think about it, both Monotheism and Polytheism are at least somewhat self-contradictory. Monotheists act as if they have "power over" their God (by actively trying to placate Him, or not "displease" him) and Polytheists act as if they DON’T (by petitioning "almighty" entities which are just as limited as they themselves, albeit somewhat more powerful).

  2. khomus says:

    I disagree about the majority of atheists, but since neither of us has a bunch of statistics on the subject, we’ll move along. <br/> <br/>I’ve never understood your idea that a god/gods shouldn’t need anything. In particular, this seems to sum up your argument, for me. "To the extent that I have "might", "God" does not." Really? That’s like saying, to the extent that Joe BodyBuilder can bench press a car, I cannot. The two of them have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. That’s like suggesting that because you can stop a flood, a god can’t. <br/> <br/>Also, let’s look at your needs claim. You say that if a god creates things against boredom, that’s still a need and it’s not omnipotent. You have yet to establish why all powerful means you should have no needs whatsoever. In addition, you’re sort of confusing needs. Without food, I will die. With boredom, that’s sort of open to question. <br/> <br/>Perhaps you want to suggest that, if a god is all powerful, it can fulfill its own needs. That’s fine, but why then can’t we simply assume that creating other beings fulfills its needs? You want to say, well because they’re external and separate from the god! For one thing, you’ve yet to establish this. For another thing, let’s replace a god with a human for a minute. Your argument then goes, if a human does blah with tools because it’s bored, it’s not all powerful because it needs the tools to solve its boredom. OK, but it is actually solving its boredom. And I’d think, if it makes the tools to do so, that makes it more powerful, not less. You seem to be suggesting that if you solve boredom, for instance, in any way other than in your own mind, you’re somehow compromised, because you needed something else to do it. <br/> <br/>Next, let’s turn to your problems of polytheism. "Why *should* we appeal to these vastly-more-powerful entities (The "Gods"), instead of trying to become more powerful/capable ourselves, to the extent that <br/>such is possible/practical?" Why do you consider these to be mutually exclusive? You seem to be suggesting, very Republican of you, that if we’re appealing to somebody/something else for help, we’re not doing it totally ourselves, which makes us inherently less powerful. <br/> <br/>So if you’re moving, you should move yourself? You shouldn’t ask friends for help, or hire movers, or whatever? Because that makes you less powerful? I don’t get it. I’m not seeing the connection here. <br/> <br/>Moving right along: <br/> <br/>Really, when you think about it, both Monotheism and Polytheism are at least somewhat self-contradictory. Monotheists act as if they have "power over" their <br/>God (by actively trying to placate Him, or not "displease" him) and Polytheists act as if they DON’T (by petitioning "almighty" entities which are just <br/>as limited as they themselves, albeit somewhat more powerful). <br/> <br/> <br/>Let’s tackle these. So I should never go to a doctor? Sure, she’s more powerful than I am in medical knowledge, but she’s just as limited as I am. Similarly, if the doctor is reluctant to take me as a patient, and I beg her, and she says yes, do I have power over her? Or did she make her own decision? Let’s flip it around, she does a test and it doesn’t find anything. If I refrain from going "you stupid fucking bitch, you’re an idiot!", because it will displease her, does that mean I have power over her? If anything, she has power over me, I’m probably calculating that displeasing her will make her drop me as a patient or, at the least, make her relate to me badly. <br/> <br/>I’m sorry, I’m just not seeing these contradictions, and I’ve yet to see them in all the years you’ve been telling me about them. They all seem to be predicated on the idea that if there’s an omnipotent god, it should be this self-contained capsule thing, interacting with nothing. If there are multiple gods, they’re still limited, even if they’re limited far less than we are, so we should just ignore them because they’re still limited. That’s the one that’s really weird to me. By that logic, we should never interact with other people either. If we apply your omnipotent god criterion, it follows that the more powerful we become, the less we should interact with anyone or anything. I think I begin to see why Rand appealed to you, yep! 🙂 <br/> <br/>At least you’ve got philosophical backing for the idea of an unmoved mover, but that’s always seemed sort of bizarre to me as well. I haven’t examined it enough to pin down why though, so I won’t try to go into it. I will say though, I’m still not sure the unmoved mover works the way you seem to think it does. Because you seem to be claiming it can’t, or shouldn’t, interact with the universe, and if it does, it should be totally unaffected by it. <br/> <br/>Suppose there is a big wheel in front of me. I reach my hand out, grasp the wheel, and give it a few good spins. Then I let go. Now I’ve moved the wheel, and I’m unaffected by the wheel, as long as I stay far enough away from it. But what happens if I reach my hand into the middle of the spokes? Probably some bleeding fingers. So the wheel can affect me, even though I’m the one that started it moving, and I’m perfectly capable of not having it affect me in any way whatsoever. <br/> <br/>I can start the wheel, I can stop the wheel, hell I can probably break the wheel. So with respect to it, I’m pretty much omnipotent. How does it automatically follow that I am always, in all cases, unaffected by the wheel? Does the wheel’s ability to affect me diminish my powers with respect to it? Not as far as I can tell.

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