Another look at religion  

Monday, April 09, 2007

One of my readers called me crazy for espousing to be an atheist. (I'm not picking on you encephalophone.) It was difficult to explain how going from "yeah there's )possibly something" to "no, I really think there isn't anything." Pharyngula has an interesting discussion up that references this article.

It may not be your cup of tea and that's fine if it isn't, but I found it pretty fascinating to read all of the responses. As usual there's a mixture of opinions and levels of articulation.

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8 comments: to “ Another look at religion

  • encephalophone
    Monday, April 9, 2007 at 7:24:00 PM CDT  

    You're crazy and you cheat at cards!

    Wait, I didn't say you were crazy. I'm saying you can't reasonably call yourself an atheist (by my definition, anyway). Maybe we're arguing over the terminology. What is an atheist? A person who chooses to believe that God does not exist? Maybe you're definition is more fuzzy than mine, like "an atheist is a person who is at least 75% sure that God does not exist". What I'm saying is that unless you believe that you can PROVE that God does not exist (which sounds crazy to me!), you would logically have to concede that God may exist. Not a very comfortable position to take, of course, but that would make you an agnostic, no?

    Haven't you any doubts?

    By the way, I think you're the only person I know with whom I would dare have this conversation. Nobody else is reading this... are they?

  • ordinarygirl
    Monday, April 9, 2007 at 8:30:00 PM CDT  

    Well, I guess it depends on how you define God.

    Do you define God like Elaine Pagels?

    Interviewer: So when you think about the God that you believe in, how would you describe that God?

    Pagels: Well, I've learned from the texts I work on that there really aren't words to describe God. You spoke earlier about a transcendent reality. I think it's certainly true that these are not just fictions that we arbitrarily invent.

    I don't see how you can believe in or not believe in a god that fuzzy. If you can't describe what you believe in or what you think might be out there, then what are you also leaving room for? Should I also believe in the Easter Bunny because I can't disprove him (her?/it?)?

    I don't feel like I have to prove the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or anything else that seems to me to be imaginary doesn't exist to say, "I don't believe the Easter Bunny exists." Why should I have to do the same thing with God?

    If I define God as the God of a specific religion then I feel like I can genuinely say, "I don't believe in that," by disagreeing with the text.

    The closest I can come is saying that I'm in awe of the universe and everything in it. I'm in awe of how small we are on the cosmic scale and how unlikely it was for us to come to be. But is that believing in God?

  • ordinarygirl
    Monday, April 9, 2007 at 8:30:00 PM CDT  

    And I only cheat at Rummicube (and that was when I was 9 years old)! ;)

  • encephalophone
    Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 11:02:00 PM CDT  

    No one claims that the Easter Bunny created everything, and I don't know any adults who believes that the Easter Bunny is real. Billions of mature adults believe in God. I think that makes an important difference. Besides, your comparison presumes that God is imaginary.

    Perhaps what you're saying is that "belief" is an emotional state, more than a logical state. You choose to believe that God does not exist because it suits you emotionally, because you feel it, not because logic dictates it.

    Emotions have a huge impact on people's decision-making. Probably it helps us more than it hurts us, but we sure believe in a lot of crazy shit--Communism, SUV's, "American Idol"....

    We see what you believe, but what do you think?

  • ordinarygirl
    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 8:30:00 AM CDT  

    There are plenty (millions) of adults that believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Does that make it true? There are millions of adults that believe that global warming is a conspiracy theory. Just because a lot of people believe in something doesn't mean that it's real.

    Sure, belief is an emotional state for a lot of people. For others, maybe not. I don't see how that enters into the equation when discussing what I think is real or not. You can't say something is real just because you feel it. Feelings aren't evidence. We all feel things that aren't real at some point in our lives.

    I think there is no God.

  • encephalophone
    Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 9:05:00 PM CDT  

    Don't read this too fast, it won't make any sense if you do, especially if you're drunk.

    I'm defining God as "the intelligent creator of all that is".

    I'm using capital letters where quotes would be annoying, on words like Logic, Reason, and Faith.

    I'm also making the assumption that there has never been any evidence of His existence made public which satisfies the requirements for scientific evidence.

    SO... I'm NOT saying that Belief has anything what-so-ever to do with reality. Essentially, I'm saying that it doesn't.

    I am saying that people DO IN FACT say that this-or-that is real or not real because of how they feel. Were the moon landings fake? Is the Earth round? Was Jesus a real person, and was he the Son of God? How do you KNOW? In an absence of data that they have collected with their own senses (by, say, orbiting the earth or standing on the moon), and in order to reach a satisfying yes-or-no conclusion, people rely on their emotions to tell them what to believe. It's Faith, and faith is an emotional commitment.

    Does Faith have any bearing on what is real or not? Reason says that it doesn't, as you have pointed out. Which do you embrace, then? Faith or Reason? Even if you choose Reason over Faith, it's still an emotional choice (yes, it IS), which Reason dictates is not necessarily true.

    Whenever I think about the subject of God or No-God, I always end-up in this circular puzzle. Logic cannot be used to rule-out the existence of God. Logic cannot be used to prove the existence of God. Therefore, the existence or non-existence of God cannot be demonstrated logically. What I'm saying then is that God may or may not exist. Under these circumstances, I see no other choice but agnosticism, which I define as "taking the position that there may or may not be a God". I'm stuck there.

    I've never heard anyone make a case for agnosticism, but then I'm not that well-read. I think most people much prefer to make a choice one way or the other and get emotionally attached to it.

    Atheism--the belief that there is no God--requires a leap of faith. Does it not?

  • ordinarygirl
    Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 10:06:00 PM CDT  

    "Atheism--the belief that there is no God--requires a leap of faith. Does it not?"

    No. Atheism is the absence of belief in God. It doesn't take faith to not believe in something.

    I have no emotional feeling about gravity or the earth being round. These are things that I can find evidence for. These are things I can believe are true because the evidence is convincing to me. The evidence for God is non-existent. How can I be convinced?

  • ordinarygirl
    Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 4:03:00 PM CDT  

    P.S. Dikii has a good post about agnosticism here.

    I can almost find his arguments convincing, except that there are so many things in my life I rule out because it's fantasy or there's just not evidence. Why is God any different?


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