Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Atheism

A day or two a go some of you may have read the post I put up on Atheism. Firstly, I want to thank Rob who left a comment on the Atheism post I put up a few days ago. I think blogs are a good way to discuss alot of different things ranging from sport to religion.

Religion / faith / belief, whatever you want to call it, is an incredibly huge part of life; sometimes causing splits between families or friends and even causing war between nations.

The majority of people have their own belief or decision about what is true, often being a main thing that people base their life upon.

For those of who you who haven't read Rob's comment:

"What a load of crap. Atheism uses facts to determine truths, while religion uses rumours and faith in un proveable statements. I trust peer reviewed research by educated people over a single book that was written by a bunch of story tellers."

The reason I have posted his comment is not to make him feel judged, but to allow some more thought on this topic which I know for many people is very important to discuss.

I'd love to have anyone and everyone's feedback around the idea of Atheism compared to faith in Jesus.

Keep your eyes on here and it'd be great to continue this theme as it is something very important to discuss.

Comment away :)

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Robert, if you're going to mount an arguement ... it would be good if you did so intelligently.

Atheism aserts the absolute belief that there are no absolutes. It is as much a faith as any religion.

Whilst Christians may not be able to conclusively prove that God exists, atheists cannot prove that God does not exist.

As for your description of the Bible as a "book that was written by a bunch of story tellers" ... there is more historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ and His life than for many other accepted historical figures. Furthermore, the Bible remains, despite 2000 years of constant scrutiny, credible.

For instance, the cornerstone of Christian belief, the Resurrection, would be simple enough to disprove. All that is required is a body. And yet ... the Resurrection, whilst obviously not something you believe in, has never been disproved.

Anonymous said...

Robert,

regardless of whether you believe Atheism or not, the consequences of a belief in nothing are as James Macpherson states.

Macpherson's blog wasn't saying that Atheism wasn't true so much as showing its logical consequences.

At least his post was reasoned and polite.

To respond with "that's crap" and to describe the most widely read book in history as "a bunch of stories" is not an arguement. It's a display of ignorance.

Brother Rob said...

I'm not sure if you realised or not, but the comment wasn't written by me, nor has it anything to do with me.

Rhys said...

Haha Yeah I know Brother Rob, no worries there :) any thoughts on Atheism and its factual, or lack thereof?

Rhys said...

I would be interested to hear the points and reasons which Robert has.

It's important to hear both sides of reasons so that it doesn't end up people missing out on listening to reasons for specific beliefs.

Do you have any thoughts Robert?

Brother Rob said...

Yeah ok good lol. Here's my reflections on the aforementioned post.

It's great to see the attempts made to show theism as the right choice. Unfortunately in this case I wasn't too impressed with the content of the argument or the comments that have followed as they seem to suggest a very closed-minded view of both atheism and theism. I'm sure it allows Christians who share in these ideals some sort of confirmation for their beliefs, but I'm not sure if it speaks to the rest of humanity. It reminds me of the "sinner, you're going to hell!" conversion tactic - it just tells people they're wrong and pisses them off (as per Robert's comment!).

I see materialism as predominately the result of Western individualism and the rise of Capitalism, rather than a direct result of atheism. Surprisingly, Capitalism has strong support from many Right-wing Christians.

Hedonism is closely linked to the previous statement. But interestingly I do observe many 'hedonistic Christians'. (Whether these Christians embody a pure form of Christianity is debatable, but would we call them atheists?)

If relativism is a problem, then so too is absolutism. All absolutism is is somebody saying their own conviction loudly, and this leads to a invitation to denial. Theism does not give certainty, absolutism does.

So as you can see I personally have a few issues with the argument that was put forward. It's main flaw is that it's just too simplistic. To suggest that atheism is the 'root of all evil' makes for persuasive rhetoric but it holds little substance - religion/faith/theistic-ideologies have been the cause of numerous conflicts and evils in the world too and the career-atheists have been very persuasive themselves by pointing this out.

Rhys said...

This comment was posted by Robert on the previous James McPherson post:

"And yet ... the Resurrection, whilst obviously not something you believe in, has never been disproved."

The fact that something has never been disproved is not a good basis for an argument.

You might like to try applying logical thought and factual evidence.

"Furthermore, the Bible remains, despite 2000 years of constant scrutiny, credible"...
Credible??? the entire bible is totally open to interpretation. You probably dont agree with the views of christian extremists, but I'm sure their interpretations are as "Credible" to them as you think your interpretation is.

Peter said...

Hi, interesting blog…I must confess that I am having trouble distinguishing between the Rob/Roberts and Anonymous and am actually quite skeptical of the authenticity of them as sources. This, I feel provides a rather nice, albeit tame, segue into being critical of sources.

I am inclined to agree with ‘robert’ in his assertion of the Bible as “written by a bunch of story tellers,” effectively for the reason that a better or more critical definition of the Bible has yet to be posited. Might I also question the ‘credibility’ of James McPherson as a source, someone whose posts appear to be a mix of hypothesis, isogetical understandings of the classics and quotes from widely discredited Biblical literalists who assumed the guise of theologian. I feel a mention of this would clear up aspects of an otherwise convoluted blog.

As a quasi-postscript I would like to note my regret as to the tone and lack of depth to this comment. I found myself unable to negotiate the blog very well and as such have a less than complete understanding of this argument.

Sam said...

This Chistianity/atheism arguement is probably the biggest can of worms to have been opened over the last 100 years, so I guess by opening up the discussion, when people approach it, they're already coming to it extremely loaded with opinions, set for a head on collision.

Also, the depth to which the arguement has to be argued before has to be acknowledged. People aren't naive or easily swayed and the atheistic side of the story is pretty credible. We can't just flush away an opposing argument with a line like 'atheism makes nonsense of everything' It's patronising and arrogant and is setting people up to make knee jerk attacks on Christians.

And I totally agree with Peter. James MacPherson's blog is cool, but there is a substantial amount of isogesis and 'quick fix' answers to the big ideas that oppose Christianity. In order to enter the discussion you must be willing to really wrestle with them properly, or you run the risk of not doing the other person credit - and certainly not yourself.

Rhys said...

Brother Rob, I fully agree.

I think its an important discussion to have at some point because of its eternal importance but I agree that it is a discussion that can take weeks or even months and still not even come close to a conclusion.

I am keen however, at some point, to understand the reasons behind why people don't want to believe there is a God so that both sides of the argument can not only understand each other, but discuss at a proper level without feeling they have to take pot shots just to feel they've defended something.

Rhys said...

Sorry my bad Sam haha, sorry. I thought it was Brother Rob that posted that - great points though :)

Daniel said...

I read the original post and, to be truthful, can't see any problem with it.

Each of the statements posited by Macpherson are true.

If your central philosophy is that there is no God, then materialism, hedonism, relativism etc are all quite natural, not to mention, logical conclusions.

Brother Rob's rebutal is too clever by half. He says materialism is the result of western industrialisation and capitalism.

Oh brother, you're kidding aren't you?

Materialism is not an economic system (capitalism) nor a result of western industry. It is a philosophy that regards matter and motion as being the only components of the universe. Whilst there is no doubt that some Christians (many perhaps) may be maertialistic, the philosophy is only possible if one does not believe in God. If one believes in God then by definition there IS more than matter and motion and so materialism as a philosophy collapses.

The original post simply pointed out that when God is removed from a person's frame of reference, these other isms become legitimate choices.

The post didn't seem to say that Christians can't be materialistic or hedonistic ... simply that those philosophies exist only when God is absent.

I liked it.

Peter said...

Is there not a danger in attributing the more commonplace understanding of materialism, especially when used in conjunction with hedonism, than its ulterior philosophical meaning? From the inferences that were being made it appeared that the ideal being spoken of was asceticism and it appeared to be a throwback to Cartesian dualism. This saw people engaging in the isogesis that the body/matter was bad and mind/spirit was good. Is it not possible to integrate one’s understanding of self, and become more fluid, and more human? I personally prefer a fluidic construct of interpersonal awareness, able to dialogue with others and God.

That said, Sam’s point about being aware of one’s own baggage plays a significant part at this point. None of us are objective.

Brother Rob said...

Thanks Daniel for your reply to my comment.

I re-read the original post and realised that I had made the mistake of confusing consumerism with materialism, my apologies for doing so. (Just to note that I never actually said 'industrialisation' but did point to 'western individualism'.)

But I did not dismiss Macpherson's post based solely on his 'facts'. I was more concerned with his methods and approach. (Nonetheless with the 'facts' that I did comment on (now minus materialism :-P) I see some problems. But I must re-insist that my major concern with his post is his rhetoric and tactics.)

Because of the simplicity it appears convincing. While painting an ugly picture of some spin-offs of atheism-beliefs, however, he almost looks ignorant of the ugly spin-off's that have resulted from theism-beliefs. One such example I alluded to was 'absolutism' which, in my opinion, is just as scary as relativism.

Macpherson has used a similar approach to that of Dawkin's and (to some extent) Harris except in reverse. If we realise how narrow minded Dawkin's is as an atheist, we may begin to understand the ignorance associated with Macpherson's post and the subsequent response of Robert.

I hope this alludes clearer to my position. Thanks.

Brother Rob said...

Let me just expand on why I think Macpherson's view is too simplistic as I don't think I explained this enough in my previous comments.

In technical terms Macpherson's argument is what logicians would call a "false obversion". An obversion is a type of immediate inference in which from a given proposition a contradictory proposition is inferred. In Macpherson's case his obversions are over-simplified, and accordingly, false. Thus his argument logically fails.

Macpherson, through each of his statements, suggests that atheism leads to these conclusions. His inference "without God" implies that theism does not, in fact, lead to these same conclusions.

[If A then B, Therefore not A then not B]

So, for example, because atheism leads to 'hedonism', it logically follows that theism does not, in fact, lead to this.

But if we classify the world into Atheism vs Theism and their simplified consequences, we ignore the reality and complexity that belief or unbelief in God actually exist in 'atheisms' and 'theisms', for there are many embodiments of each. A simplified view of atheisms may conclude that all atheisms lead to hedonism. Yet numerous atheists have managed to actualise non-hedonistic (and seemingly valid) lifestyles. Buddhism, for instance, is an atheistic religion - yet it promotes asceticism rather than hedonism.

This type of argument (and basis for belief in God) sees reality in terms of black and white. If you are not one, then you are the other/opposite. This worldview is far too simplistic in a reality as complex and as rich as ours. Absolutist polemics can appeal to the mind for their simplicity, but the over-simplification ends up denying the mysteriousness that resides within God and His creation.

Robert said...

"I am keen however, at some point, to understand the reasons behind why people don't want to believe there is a God..."

Basically, it's a logical explaination to unexplainable circumstances.

People have believed in a God or Gods throughout almost all recordable human history. When a volcano errupts, people would think "hmm, we must have made our god angry". At wartime, people would pray to their 'god of war' to offer them the upper hand in battle. Governements were managed partially with the mood of the gods in mind. Why did people believe in so many gods?

Perhaps it was a way to explain things that people didnt understand? The Nile river would flood and gave fertile crops for the coming year. If the Egyption people appeased Hapi, the god of fertility, then their crops would be bountiful. Or, was it just a particularly high tide due to the position of the moon relative to the earth, and its gravitational pull.

Lack of knowledge is easily explained away by fanciful thoughts of an almighty being that controls our life. It makes us feel confortable, that when we are all alone, we still have someone who cares. Its that same feeling we get from our mothers and fathers - that comfortable feeling.

"But" I here you rhetort, "what about all the miracles that have been witnessed in our lifetime?". "What about the feeling I get from going to church? The very feeling i get from just walking inside a church?"

Well, I'd like to here about such miracles that people have experienced for themselves. It easy to hypothesise God related explanations, and its equally easy to offer science based explanations. I know that believers in god would trust the god explanations, but personally, I trust the proveable explanations...

For example, the feeling you get as you walk in a large open cathedral with the church organ playing? Sure - I know the feeling, It feels almost surreal. The christian explanation may be that the church is a holy building, that connects them to God. The scientific explanation may have something to do more with the lower frequencies of the organ.

I admit my initial comments were harsh, and rash. However, saying that Atheism is "the absolute belief that there is no Absolute" is not true by any stretch. Perhaps the belief that there is no absolute being - yes.

I dont doubt that religion does a lot of good for people, communities, e.t.c. But I do know that religion also has a bad side - Extremists who kill innocent people, countries that go to war over relgion, e.t.c

You'll of course note that these extreme examples are illogical use of religion. I just think religion is illogical, when there are proveable explanations for things.

Alicia said...

Thanks for your comment Rhys :) haha yea i'm very interested and i've been reading it. But I don't like to get tied up in those sorts of debates, I prefer to listen. I agree with what Sam said about being loaded with opinions and a "head on collision."
I have my own opinions and beliefs but I prefer to listen to arguments and form my own opinions in my head rather than participate in the actual arguing. I don't pretend to know everything about christianity and thus oppose it, but nor can I follow it. If you were however to ask what I believed in, I would tell you =)
Also I like what brother Rob said

pie said...

Rhys, you wanted an understanding of why people choose not to believe in a God.

It is because some people (God forbid) approach the world with an open mind. Those who do don't jump to the best possible conclusion (an all good God who will grant us eternal life yada yada), and instead choose to question.

Atheism probably isn't the best conclusion to draw, (I can't see any conclusive proof that a God doesn't/can't exist), but in my view it is a more authentic belief than unjustified christianity. With Atheism you surrender to a finite worldly existence, and so such a belief probably isn't induced by the promise of reward (as opposed to unjusitified christianity). (note - I am not saying christianity itself is unjustified, but am referring to people who hold beliefs in it, where those beliefs I believe are unjustified). People who hold this belief probably do so because they have rationally, as far as they are concerned, concluded that a God does not exist.

You were raised with the belief that God is true, and (taking a wild guess here) you probably havn't spent a whole lot of time questioning his existence. Belief for you is a snug fit, there isn't much reason to question it, as the only possible result could be negative as far as you are concerned.

I don't believe in God because as far as I am concerned, I have not been convinced that it is a belief that is rational for me to hold. I am not closed off to the possibility of ever holding such a belief, but just don't hold it now. Some of us were not raised in extremely christian environments, and as such did not start with the same conclusions as you.

Maybe you are right, and there is a God, and he will "show me the way" or whatever later in life. If you are right, then perhaps his purpose for me was to live a life of agnosticism for however long until he did reach me. But I am not going to throw away my reason and rationality and just adopt a belief that I don't actually hold just because to do so would be easier and perhaps more rewarding. Such an approach is futile - it wouldn't be an actual belief so would compromise not only my rationality, but also my faith.

Perhaps I could take a Kierkegaardean 'leap of faith', and see what happens, but before I did I would rather explore other possibilities.

I hope this sheds some light on an opposing world view which you don't seem to understand.

Timothy said...

I would like to say - it all kinda hangs on does God exist?

So instead of talking about God why don't you ask him to show himself to you. If he is real and created the world he can talk to you? he can heal you? he can love you?

I know God's real because he has done those things for me.

If you want to see God move miraculously go on thursday 2cnd og August to Beaumont centre/church on Beaumont street in auckland city at 7pm. for a miracle invasion.

If God can do miracles then he is real - that is my logic.

Otherwise if you want to find out the supernatural is real.. go to south america and watch Witch Doctors put curses on people and them drop to the ground. Then watch people cast demons out of them in the name of Jesus.

hmm not so theological ... my bad

pie said...

Um I'm not too sure where you are going with that post, and I'm not too sure what you mean by witnessing miracles.

Surely God would not perform miracles willy nilly at a weekly church gathering, for if he did so surely it would be compromising the free will of his people. By performing, as you call them, miracles, God would have to be defying the very laws of nature we base our existence on. Nothing short of this should be deemed a miracle. Yet to defy these laws, he would be proving his existence, and through such solid proof faith itself would not be faith, but rather rational belief, based on the witnessing of something that defies the laws of nature. Yet if this God shows such nature-defying acts to your church, why does he not try and convince us, the unsaved, of his existence through similar ingenious tactics?

This is surely not what you are basing your faith on? The fact that you have been healed from something? "talked to" by something? If God so willingly acts to appease your doubts about his existence why is it that so many people hold so much doubt, yet remain questioning?

I don't think it is because of our close mindedness that we fail to see the miracles you speak of, but rather that they are not in themselves miracles, but merely commonplace occurrences that you attribute miracle status to. Feel free to try and prove me wrong with examples, however....