God is Dead, But Your Soul Doesn’t Have to Be

I recently finished up a second hospitalization for my bipolar condition, for which I have been medically retired from the Marine Corps (as of March 30th; I retired while in the hospital system of Chicago, the dates of my internment being from March 22nd to April 12th). Being that I was manic, I was again prone to religious delusion, believing I was (for lack of a better word) God. The first time this happened, back on February 14th, 2010, it was very disconcerting and I oscillated between belief that I was God and belief that I had been chosen by God to carry out His (technical aside; I prefer “Its” but am retaining Biblical standbys) plan.

This second time I was much more fully convinced I was the Lord incarnate. Thankfully, during both incidents, I never had thoughts, intentions or perform actions that would bring harm to myself or others. In this regard I was lucky, and while my stay in the hospitals both times hovered between 3 (for the most recent) and 4 (for the 2010 incident) weeks, most of that is because the medications I am on are very heavy and have a lot of nasty side effects. (Some 30% of people cannot tolerate my medication whatsoever.) Why would a self-described apatheist have religious delusions, you might wonder? And what does this have to do with you?

For the first question, my religious preoccupations almost certainly stem from my upbringing. I was a devout Baptist Christian until about the age of 12, when my parents divorced and I started to become dismayed with religion. While I abandoned my faith and tried out atheism, agnosticism and apatheism (in that order), I never abandoned the ethical and moral underpinnings I had been raised with. The upshot is that I often felt I was depriving myself of “Earthly pleasures” for “no good reason” and thus had a very negative impact on my mood and disposition. Of course, because I had a limited understanding of the Bible and actively avoided reading it or discussing it or studying it further, I thusly had drawn incorrect conclusions about the value of, say, celibacy. (PROTIP: take almost nothing in the Bible as literal.)

What this has to do with you is simple. Many intellectuals, particularly online, fall into the atheist camp. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One can be a spiritual person without belief in a deity, but generally speaking one needs to believe in some kind of power which is higher than oneself (for example, the human spirit, nature, or ancestors). Many atheists, it seems to me, fall into the trap of being atheists merely to attack other people’s belief systems in the sort of way a bully picks on others in order to feel better about him or herself. I’ve also noticed, at least as recently as a few weeks ago when I was more current on my reading, that the rhetoric from our MRA camp has become increasingly toxic and virulent towards women as a class. No, I’m not about to go white knighting or anything of the sort, but we would do well to remember that feminism is an ideology, not a class of human beings.

Spirituality was absolutely critical to my recovery and to my recent turn around and enjoyment of life. I have a very “open” sense of spirituality and incorporate all sorts of philosophies into my personal conception of metaphysics – from Hindu ideas of reincarnation to Christian resurrection, redemption and baptism to Taoism and Buddhist notions of Zen…the list goes on. The key to being happy and healthy rests in taking care of your mind (intellectual stimulation, which the MRA is great for), body (exercise, as I wrote about in my last piece) and soul (the focus of this piece). Again, you don’t have to believe in God (or Allah or Buddha or any other deity) in order to be a spiritual person, but it is vital that you find other people of your same spiritual leanings and enter into communion with them. Spirituality is best enjoyed in the company of others.

Amen, brothers (and sisters).

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41 thoughts on “God is Dead, But Your Soul Doesn’t Have to Be

  1. Hey J,

    Great article. The power of a “power” outside oneself is not just a mental trick. I truly believe that without it, men will kill himself (or someone else).

    I have been thinking lately why I write. I want to write more positive articles, challenge wide spread attitudes in the MRM and MGTOW movement… but I don’t know if they want to read it.

    I found this old blog post from a writer years back I have great respect for. He articulated my feelings then, now and here in your piece why I don’t visit too many MRM blogs anymore. Below are a few choice quotes. Here is the link.

    Time to move beyond MGTOW
    http://dapook.blogspot.com/2008/03/time-to-move-beyond-mgtow.html

    “When food and poison compromise, which is the victor? It is the poison. Eating it may be sustaining… for the short term… but your body fills up with these poison toxins. You begin to lose your ambition, your passion, and generally become filled with bitterness.”

    “The answer is that MGTOW is founded on a negative itself: avoidance of woman. This has caused blanket rants against women. “But many of these rants are accurate, Pook!” So what? A farmer can rant all day about the unfairness of frost, but that will not get him anywhere. There is no cosmic justice out there. The world is what it is and its better to live in it that in a hyper-reality.”

    “All these mistakes have a common theme: egotism.”

    “Since so many join MGTOW based on being wrong in the past, why does everyone act like they are right all the time? It is amazing! The egotism never died. It just shifted into new forms.”

    The food is the genuine enlightening truth about our society.

    The poison is the, as you put it…

    “I’ve also noticed, at least as recently as a few weeks ago when I was more current on my reading, that the rhetoric from our MRA camp has become increasingly toxic and virulent towards women as a class.”

    I want no part of it. There are good women out there. Why focus on the negative all the time? Yes, filtering the bad from the good is annoying, and there is so much bad out there, but to wallow in nihilism and anger is not masculine.

    Masculine men strive for good, for purpose in their life, for the “divine” (read happiness) and work to make the world a better place to be born into.

    Most of the screeds in the MRM are all about gaming stupid chicks these men supposedly hate, how “screwed over” men are in reality, or how they are above both those ways and have gone… their own way in solitude and disconnection from society completely.

    I ask you this…

    Where does the next Shakespeare come from?

    Where does then next Plato come from?

    Where does the next Saint Augustine come from?

    Where does the next Abraham Lincoln come from?

    These are all MEN! Men that did not let the reality of the cruel and uncaring world about them crush their spirits. They rose like a phoenix in response and gave to mankind beliefs, values, stories, attitudes and discourses that have guided man to ever greater heights of accomplishment and status as THE gender of greatness.

    Where is the writing that inspires? I am not inspired by most of what I read on In Mala Fide. I only get a sense of “we are so right” and the dangerous pull of nihilism and angst that threatens to suck me in and take away from me my spirit to grow and conquer, not succumb and give up. That is not to say there are not great article here, it is simply an observation of the overall tone and direction. My pieces clearly are trying to move in a different direction. Perhaps I am naive in thinking such a direction is possible in the online MRM community. I see in your piece here, the spiritual side of man’s quest for self-mastery, you see the importance as I do in developing and securing it as a foundation in leading a masculine life.

    I hope your piece gets read. I tried my hand at taking on the spiritual side of man, but it seems only myself and one other found it of interest to comment at length.

    When man loses his search for the divine, he loses his very reason and purpose for living.

    For if man does not believe he can strive for the divine, it appears he turns 180 degrees and jumps straight off the cliff into hell and oblivion.

    I for one… will not follow such men.

    Wishing you strength and resolve in dealing with your condition. I am betting that if you truly learn some meditation techniques, you might surprise those drug pushing psychiatrists with what MAN can do with his MIND when he takes complete control of it and his emotions.

    Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy
    http://www.amazon.ca/Zen-Training-Philosophy-Katsuki-Sekida/dp/1590302834/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303138057&sr=1-1

  2. This is interesting. I am very curious.

    What was it like to be God? PU theory would predict that you would get laid more during this period, was this true?

    What makes you sure that you weren’t fine then, but manic now? It seems like you were like a real Tyler Durden, but your alter ego was God.

  3. @ J. Durden,

    I’ve read through your papers by now. Philosophy can be a very dangerous subject to study. Some, like Wittgenstein, though philosophy was a disease that need to be cured.

    There’s a fine line between genius and madness. Obsesssion, isolation, the joy of creation. Einstein locks himself in his study for two weeks straight, trying to capture a moment’s inspiration and write it down before it disappears. It’s what it takes, and most of the real ly creative people are abnormal.

    Your story reminds me of the movie “Pie”. Numbers and logic – they can obsess one if allowed, you’ll find patterns everywhere.

  4. Many atheists, it seems to me, fall into the trap of being atheists merely to attack other people’s belief systems in the sort of way a bully picks on others in order to feel better about him or herself.

    i think you’ve got this the wrong way around. nobody would relinquish the assurance that comes with the meaning and security offered by religion just so they can bash people.

    it’s probably more that atheism becomes a cause and an ideology for people with moral judgments and perceived moral implications like any other ideology, and it is for this reason that atheists can be fervent like many religious people. another part is that it involves perceived intellectual superiority; i mean when championing science over faith it’s hard not to notice your whole argument rests on fighting a form of anti-intellectualism. it is also a fact that atheists have higher IQs on average than any religious group; so again it’s hard not to feel that way.

    Spirituality was absolutely critical to my recovery and to my recent turn around and enjoyment of life.

    It’s worth stressing that ‘spirituality’ means roughly “having something you’d die for” or at least “feeling admiration, respect, or awe of certain things.” There are many things people can feel this way about outside of the religions nominated in your personal spirituality set. Love, creative projects, nature, science etc.

  5. It’s not correct to say “if you believe in God, or Allah” because Allah is not a distinct entity from the standard Christian or Judaic God. They are all referring to the historical God of Abraham.

    There are theological differences in how they are understood, but, that doesn’t mean the Lutherans are talking about a different God from the Catholics, even if they can’t agree on theology.

    Furthermore, Allah is just another word for God. The Baha’i also use the word Allah for their idea of God.

    Buddha is not properly understood as a God but as an Enlightened Being.

  6. “Many atheists, it seems to me, fall into the trap of being atheists merely to attack other people’s belief systems in the sort of way a bully picks on others in order to feel better about him or herself.”

    Wrong. Atheists simply do no believe without any proof or reasoning, as your usual religious person do. They just ask you “why do you believe? what is the proof?”. This is all. Of course the fanatics are always pissed by that.

    The real bullies are religius people. In any sense, when they tell you you go to hell (and they do everything to make the hell on earth) or they pretend to impose you their belief.

    In Italy if you want escape the disaster of urban life you can go in some little town. Unfortunately, in almost every f*cking town there is a huge church with a huge bell tower that bangs and bangs almost every f*cking hour.
    You imagine in the summer when the windows are open.
    You will NEVER find an example of BULLYING more than this. It seems Catholics are so retard they can not read a damn clock for themselves and need the sheep call.
    (not that Muslims with their muezzins are better)

  7. Cautious Writer: “Many atheists, it seems to me, fall into the trap of being atheists merely to attack…”

    Aggressive Atheist: “WRONG!”

    Yeah, those atheists can always tell people how wrong they are. Even when people try to cover all the bases by throwing in qualifiers like “it seems to me.”

    Conventionally religious people are narrow-minded dogmatists, and atheists are even narrower-minded dogmatists.

  8. Well, Nietzsche is dead. So is Wittgenstein; for that matter, so are Mohammed, Lao-tze, Confucius and even Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni.

    The closest I have gotten to God, or the Underlying Principle, is during deep meditation, undergone to dissolve my “Self” as much as possible. Obviously I haven’t been fully successful; after all, I am here now…. 😉

  9. What’s a ‘soul’ anyway? I mean that seriously.

    Organized religion is for the weak, for the people who are willing to believe comforting delusions at the price of knowledge, progress, and success. The truth is that we are animals, that we live in a world with scarce resources, and that life is therefore constant competition. That all human institutions revolved around controlling which organisms have access to which resources, and that there is nothing whatsoever of greater significance. Organized religion is for those who cannot or do not conquer. You could argue forever about whether religion creates losers or losers create religion, but I tend to think it’s one of those vicious downward spirals. The process goes something like this:

    Priest: You have innate, inalienable worth that comes from an external source and has no relationship to your objective value.

    Tard: You mean it’s ok for me to be poor and ignorant and not try to improve my lot?

    Priest: Yes, exactly. You don’t want to suck pollution from the teats of mammon do you? Do you? Just make sure you don’t desire more than you have, take from others, or revere natural virtues like strength, virility, intelligence and wealth.

    Tard: I feel so warm inside now. I love you. I’ll do what you say. Can you tell me how valuable I am again? Please validate me and affirm my worth.

    Priest: Good dog.

    It persists because it is effective, not because it is good or true. Low-conflict societies tend to be more competitive than high-conflict societies, and religion pacifies the masses by feeding them slave morality systems that prevent them from wanting more, or acting to get more. It’s all about voluntary restriction of access to resources, so the masters can have more. There is a core of truth in many religious teachings, but it’s by design. Because they know the people drawn to their filth are not the discerning sort – that they will not, of their own volition, ruthlessly seek out the bits that are lies to enlighten themselves – to accept the full truths the masters reserver for themselves.

  10. Ok, without meaning to explicitly offend or to disagree with any of the sub-points here, I have to ask:

    We should take advice from a self-admitted nutcase, why exactly?

  11. Rollory:

    Ever heard the saying that we’re all crazy, just to varying degrees? The more I talk to people and the more I go to any sort of group function(s), the more I discover the truth of that sentiment. I think mental disorders are highly undiagnosed, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. But for instance, anyone who professes that God is speaking to them in a human voice is someone who very likely has a mental disorder (hearing voices is a sure fire sign of some kind of wonkiness) and this is common for many religious or spiritual groups, particularly those aimed at recovery (think Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or any Something Anonymous group).

    Moreover, if you look at my diagnosis and people who have it, you’ll find plenty of geniuses and famous people. Bipolar is both a gift and a curse; the gift is the capacity for huge potential but the curse is constant management through healthy living and medication. One slip up and you can wind up back in the hospital like I did. In the early (/earlier) days of psychiatry, people suffering from PTSD were often diagnosed as Bipolar because many of the symptoms can seem the same. In fact, as I was in the hospital this last time, I reflected often on how bipolar puts you through the paces of almost all the other mental disorders; it seems to be like the “super disorder” if you will.

    So you should “take advice from me” for the same reason anyone takes advice from a recovering addict or reads a book about an addiction written by someone who has suffered through it. “Nutcase” is a bit of a mischaracterization anyway; when I go manic I tend to be extremely persuasive and cogent until I’m going so fast there’s no where to go except to an institution.

  12. Weren’t you the guy who was acting all Big-and-in-the-Corps? Whoops …

    Good thing they ditched you before you really did some damage.

    Kinda concerns me they kept you around as long as they did …

  13. All I can say is a big “wow” to the atheist hyper aggression and total delusion – seriously guys, before you try and spew your vile pablum, at least read some basic philosophy and theology – you are totally historically ignorant, and do not even know what Christianity teaches – check out a b;pg such as the well-regarded voxday – voxday.blogspot.com where arguments such as yours (well where you even try and make an argument as opposed to aggressive, hostile assertion) are easily eviscerated on a regular basis. You are merely proving JDurden’s point about atheists being aggressive bullies who seem to take to atheism more as a way to enjoy bullying and putting others down rather than any sort of principled stand. If that were not the case, then why did you (and nearly all atheists one finds on the internet or in print these days) have to be so rude and hostile to JDurden’s respectful and cautious post? Couldn’t you have at least politely disagreed, acknowledging that at least some religious people have more than 50 IQ and are at least somewhat human?

  14. All I can say is a big “wow” to the atheist hyper aggression and total delusion

    You’d probably be able to muster something more if you had a defensible position. Something like, I don’t know……….arguments?

    I think what you and others interpret as hostility and aggression is generally justified contempt for people who don’t understand appeals to emotion, force, or popularity (ad populum), or what biases and fallacies even are, yet who still think they are qualified to have their opinions (programming) taken seriously.

  15. These type of debates are way too complex to be done effectively in a short exchange of blog posts, so that is why I provided some helpful links that deal with the type of arguments that you and your ilk have put forth – there is no point in rehashing the responses to the same old canned atheist “reasoning” again and again – I see no reason to re-write basic philosophy and logic – but I can point you to some helpful sources if you wish to enter this debate at any sort of informed level.

    In any event, if you want to keep being so hostile and aggressive, whilst calling it justified contempt (again no argument provided to backup your assertion that theists simply appeal to any significant degree to emotion, force, or popularity) then go ahead – but it just reinforces what I said – you can’t calmly, reasonably debate people, acknowledging that intelligent people can actually disagree, especially on matters of great import. Of course tempers are going to rise a bit, but seriously – look at how even and measured JDurden was and then look at the atheist responses (starting with traveller, or of course your own posts) – if you want to meet hostility with hostility be my guest but don’t just lash out at someone the second they have the temerity to disagree with you.

    Another good site – http://www.tektonics.org/

    I would love to see your attempts to respond to the arguments provided by these sites (just a sampling of what is out there, really) – of course you will probably just think that anyone who disagrees with you is just not worth your time, but if you have a bit of courage go ahead and have fun…

  16. Translation: I’m too convinced of my own righteous correctness to address the specific arguments and questions you raised in your posts, stoopid atheist. Are you really retarded enough to think that comments sections are appropriate places to have discussions? The many solid proofs of god’s obvious existence are too detailed and lengthy to fit here, but I will condescend to redirect you to the blog of a genius Christian who has debunked everything you said here, and a 1990s-quality website where, if you dig enough, you may find the basic reasoning skills that will lead you to love the savior Jesus. You think that theists have EVER appealed to popularity, force, or emotions? Fucking moron.

    I LUUUUURRRRVVVEEEEEEE MUDKIPZ DURRRRRRRRRRR

  17. Funny from someone whose entire post was nothing but assertions

    1.) “Organized religion is for the weak, for the people who are willing to believe comforting delusions at the price of knowledge, progress, and success.”

    2.) “Organized religion is for those who cannot or do not conquer. You could argue forever about whether religion creates losers or losers create religion, but I tend to think it’s one of those vicious downward spirals. The process goes something like this:”

    I could go on, but you are obviously a very angry individual – I doubt discussion would do you much good – but two quick things

    1.) If you are so certain that the link I included is just a “1990s-quality website where, if you dig enough…” then pick some article or argument and refute it – should be easy enough for your superior atheist brain, right?

    2.) Name one actual argument you made – as in

    a.) make assertion
    b.) provide reasoning/facts to support assertion

    everything was just accustations – religion is for the weak, to control the masses, same old, same old – you are the prosecution here – burden of proof is on you…

  18. My argument is that religion maintains the status quo by appeasing individuals with low quality or status – the weak. That it persists as a social force because it is useful, not because it is true or good, and that true believers are suckers. My point and my reasoning were both clearly presented HERE, and no one has responded to them. Now, that could be because people don’t care or they think my statements are obviously false, but there’s no way to know without responses.

    I don’t lash out at you because you disagree with me – my responses to you are based on my contempt for you and what you’ve posted – which you have intentionally conflated with anger. While you responded to the atheists posting here, your responses lack content. All you’re doing is saying we’re obviously wrong without saying why, and redirecting us to some other sites where some other people supposedly argued persuasively against what has been said here. That tektonics site is crap – if there’s a specific relevant article there please post it and make your point. I’m not going to wade through some narcissist’s poorly-organized christfag masturbation center until I come across an article vaguely addressing my posts and then refute it for you while you refuse to state your position or respond to the discussion that is taking place HERE.
    Do you lack the intelligence to make your own arguments? I browsed through 10-15 articles on the site and none of them even addressed atheism. They were mainly concerned with ‘interpreting’ the book for people who already believed.

    And no – the burden of proof is on you because atheism is the default position. No one is born believing in your Jewgod – that’s something that is PROGRAMMED. That god exists is the assertion, so providing supporting evidence for that claim is the responsibility of theists.

  19. You couldn’t find any articles addressing atheism? You couldn’t have searched for the word “atheism?” It took me a few seconds at most…
    ex: http://www.tektonics.org/qt/smithg01.html

    In terms of arguments placed HERE, fine – my point was that so much is written and it is about 99% likely that any discussion would be just be stuff that someone else had already written – reinventing the wheel. If you make an argument that tons of other atheists have made, and I counter it, but that same back and forth has been done a million times (believe me – I am sure any argument either of us would use has been already used tons of times before.)

    Anyway, in terms of atheism being the default position – considering that nearly every society in the world has developed some form of religion, independently from each other, and that, as even the article I mentioned to you intoned, religious belief seems to come naturally to people. If it didn’t how else could nearly every society everywhere, from the smallest primitive tribes to the most developed civilizations, *nearly all, without almost no exceptions* develop religious beliefs? Also – while children are not born with a faith built-in – neither are they born with political beliefs, knowledge of science, mathematics, language, or just about anything beyond basic instinctive biological functions, really, so the absence of “default programming” doesn’t prove anything about the truth (or not) of a belief. Theism is the default position, as nearly every culture everywhere believes in some form of deity – atheism is the cultural odd man out…

    You will also likely tell me that religion is primary a tool for the elites to suppress the masses, but again, I would love it if you could explain how that is done – when churches are the primary engines of charity, many of our greatest universities were founded by a protestant denomination or the Catholic church, a large majority of the early scientists were Christians, and religious schools are quite competitive, often outperforming their secular peers, and as the article I linked to mentioned (not like this hasn’t been observed by others) religious people are healthier and happier on average than those who are not – they don’t sound like suckers to me. Even if what they believe was not true – it certainly helps them out quite a bit… Plus – could you name a Christian doctrine whose purpose is for keeping people down – name this doctrine, then name an example of people oppressed by it. Are you going to rehash your discussion from above where you say that saying the people have objective value aside from their accomplishments diminishes people? It does the opposite -you are valuable and should never be oppressed or kept down no matter what – even if you are not as smart or strong as others. “All people are endowed by their Creator with…” and so on. Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect – what is so bad about that? Also – if religion suppresses any instincts or thought processes that would cause people to better themselves, like you say here:

    Priest: You have innate, inalienable worth that comes from an external source and has no relationship to your objective value.

    Tard: You mean it’s ok for me to be poor and ignorant and not try to improve my lot?

    Priest: Yes, exactly. You don’t want to suck pollution from the teats of mammon do you? Do you? Just make sure you don’t desire more than you have, take from others, or revere natural virtues like strength, virility, intelligence and wealth.

    then why did the church spearhead so much in the way of education and the development of science (sources that back up my claims: http://takimag.com/article/when_man_invented_science/print) and also (http://conancimmerian.blogspot.com/search/label/Enlightenment )

    Also – I would say that “christfag masturbation center” (among others) goes well beyond contempt and into the realm of outright hysterical anger. I have no interest in speaking with someone who engages in such constant invective. I will check for a response but unless it is that of a reasonable, calm human being I will simply ignore it. Reasonable people with respect for the beliefs of others are worth talking to – those who choose to engage in nothing but vicious contempt and vitriol are not.

    There is more I could write, but this has gone on long enough already and I am confident that any other objection that you can come up with, assuming I myself don’t know the answer (there is more knowledge out there than any one person could ever know) you have been provided with enough of a starting point if you wish to seek the truth. No point in going on further until I see what you have to say to what I wrote already.

    Anyway, regardless of whether you issue a polite (no insults, just your reasoning and some sources to back up a few of your claims) response, or choose the path of more invective (and just get ignored) is up to you. Either way, God bless and enjoy your weekend! I will be visiting with family for some of it, but I will try and check back.

  20. Common decency displays? This challenge is accepted.

    I read the tektonics article you linked to, but it is mainly a rebuttal to an atheist’s book that I have not read. The points made in the article seem valid, but the portion discussing biblical quotes is pointless for this discussion because the bible has no bearing on God’s existence. It is a book written by men – debating the nature and meaning of the actions of its characters is unrelated to whether or not those characters existed. We can discuss the subtleties of the relationship beween Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, but I am still an ‘ahobbitist’. As I’ve stated here before, I believe the Bible contains a deep core of truth and wisdom that reflects a deep understanding of human nature and the human condition, but that it is ‘sold’ packaged as parables and allegory, and enforced by divine, everlasting punishment because the average man is not a wise man, and has no love for the pursuit of truth – his natural curiosity having been long-sinced crushed by conditioning and environment.

    I don’t think there is any great mystery behind the development of religion. The human races that have developed intricate religions are those with natural curiosity and intelligence – the inborn quest to explain and understand what we are presented with. The religions that develop reflect the scientific understanding of the cultures they develop in. People who understand the nature of the sun and moon don’t create belief systems that involve great hunts or chariots racing across the sky or ravens or whatever, because it’s unnecessary. That these beliefs existed is only a mark that the people creating them did not have the instruments and education necessary to grasp astronomy. In the same way, an understanding of geography, sociology, psychology, biology, chemistry, neurophysiology, and other sciences reduces the demand for supernatural and mythological explanations for other everyday events. This explains why there is an inverse relationship between intelligence and religiosity.

    Any time you lack both an explanation for something and the tools to explain it you have a choice: invent a plausible belief or accept ignorance and remain unable to answer the question. Human nature causes most people to invent a plausible belief or accept a plausible preexisting one, but the choice that brings you to truth is the admission of ignorance. When humanity lacked astronomical knowledge the only humans with correct astronomical beliefs were the ones who admitted they did not know the truth, while accepting that the truth could be known. It is the same with the great questions of our time. Science has now demonstrated it’s explanatory and predictive power 1000 times greater than any supernatural belief system – the correct answer is NEVER ‘a wizard did it!’.

    If you look at the world, the countries with the most children of a given religion are always the countries with the most parents of that religion. You don’t see the children of tribal Chinese highlanders spontaneously developing a belief in Christ and his religion. That was the point of my observation that children are born atheists. The fact that it is conditioning as a child – programming – that accounts for probably 90% or more of the religious belief that exists, with the rest accounted for by conversion of adults. And it’s why theism declines with a rise in scientific understanding. Take a 500-IQ human who has never had contact with any human culture, give him the most advanced scientific instruments humans can make and as much time as he needs, and ask him for answers to the big questions. Do you think he would conclude that an omnipotent space-deity magically impregnated a married human virgin thousands of years ago, and that the act of nailing her baby to some wood a few decades later, and his belief in that occurrence, was responsible for his ultimate and everlasting metaphysical destiny? Of course not. No matter how you slice it, most of the people in the world today MUST be flat out wrong. Each of the major religions contradicts the others, such that no system of belief can claim a majority. Grouping all theists together regardless of their disagreements does make atheists the odd men out, but that is only legitimate if the question is “Does at least 1 god exist?”. If you change the question to “How many gods exist?”, the true divide becomes more apparent. And if you take it further, to “What gods exist?” the theists will fragment further. But even if it were atheists against theists – as our conversation seems to be – it only allows access to fallacious ad populum arguments. Any honest person arguing for theism must be arguing for the existence of SOME specific god, and if he is he will necessarily be in the minority and therefore have the burden of proof either way, though I still contend that the proper basis for assigning the proof burden is the default state of humans at birth. After all, you’re arguing to someone who escaped the programming process.

    Beliefs in deities exist and persist because humans perceiving causes and effects through their own eyes in the context of their own mind will tend to attribute events to other sentient beings, and because the belief has come to serve several useful functions. When mankind developed the ability to transmit abstract information to new generations – maybe through language, writing, or culture – he was forced to face knowledge of the inevitability of his own death, through knowledge of its universal nature – something I believe we can safely assume nonhuman animals do not face, and humans did not face before society and civilization. If you know you’re going to die, and you fear death, and you don’t have a solid understanding of biology and anthropology, it’s easy for some rascal to come along and tell you that the fairy king will take you to infinite pleasure in an afterlife if you forego the pursuit of your interests in this life, and listen to to his rules – which are conveniently only revealed by the shamans and priests he talks to. Because this arrangement leads to more stable societies by reducing conflict (thou shalt not kill, steal, covet your neighbor’s ass, etc), natural selection ensures that the most religious societies will be the most successful, until some belief system that shapes human behavior in a more evolutionarily-advantageous way comes along. Which is what we have in today’s world, with science. To be clear, this is NOT a conspiracy of priests or elites or Jews – it’s just natural selection. Religion creates better societies, so by definition those societies will dominate. The REASON the societies are better – to be selected in the first place – is that the emotional and spiritual needs of the masses are met in a way that prevents them from engaging in antisocial behaviors. Similar to the idea that beta marriage unlocks productive capacity, but I think this is the actual underlying cause – religion. From which marriage springs.

    It does the opposite -you are valuable and should never be oppressed or kept down no matter what – even if you are not as smart or strong as others. “All people are endowed by their Creator with…” and so on. Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect – what is so bad about that?

    I don’t believe this – I think it’s an emotional, culturally-programmed opinion. Many people simply lack objective value and worth, should statements are opinions, and oppression is Marxist propaganda. Your quote is perfect for what I’m talking about. “All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” is a useful tool. Individuals have value or worth that can be measured objectively and consistently across cultures, in areas such as beauty, intelligence, and strength. If you convinced even the objectively high-value individuals that the objectively low-value individuals have certain rights, you’d create a system where low-value people were able to have high self-esteem based on their mere existence – not on any attributes or achievements. The effect of this is the creation of an underclass of individuals willing to work in low-quality jobs for the benefit of the elites – the unearned self-esteem becomes part of their payment. Again, natural selection rather than conspiracy. What’s bad about this is that it sacrifices the long term health of the species and race. Egalitarianism is a revolt against natural selection applied to humans as animals. When the weak breed you get more weakness. It damages the species as a whole and the environment.

    Now, I don’t take pleasure in these beliefs, or believe them because they make me happy. I believe them because it appears to be true from my perspective. I realize I haven’t addressed your entire post, and there are pieces of that article left for me to respond to, but my day is drawing to a close and I wanted to post this for your consideration. If you don’t answer I will complete my response tomorrow, and if you do please identify the areas you feel I neglected. I look forward to your response, and I hope enjoy your weekend family time. Please forgive me if my previous insensitivity offended you.

  21. First off – it is clear that unlike lots of both theists and atheists who discuss these topics you are intelligent and have clearly thought about the issues – I know that sounds like ‘damning with faint praise’ but If you look at the average atheist v theist debate on the internet neither side has much to be proud of, to be honest. Anyway, my family is currently doing their “Easter weekend plans discussion” as I type this so I am not sure how much time I will have today or tomorrow to respond. (Major holiday weekends in my family are *always* like this!) But either way I love these type of discussions (win or lose I learn and get an intellectual workout) so I do look forward to it and wish you a good weekend if I don’t get the time to respond to compose a response to what you have written.

  22. What’s is a “god”? A god is only a god because you/your mind devotes or clings to it. You give power to your “god”, and in turn, your “god” gives you power. Check out the circular reasoning of many religions (the Jewish scripture says God chose them, Muhammad in the Koran says that he is the messenger, Jesus in the Gospels refers to himself obliquely as the Son of Man, etc. etc. etc. Self-certifying much? LOL!

  23. Hi
    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you – basically family events all weekend then work today…you (probably) know how that goes. Either way, one thing I want to say before I start off is that although we clearly disagree, I don’t have contempt for you or for your positions. While I believe that Christian theism is the correct answer, people can agree to disagree without mutual disrespect and such. There are intelligent atheists as well as intelligent theists of just about all stripes. With that stated, here is my initial response.
    I think it is fair to summarize that you are basically saying that religion was a helpful starting point, but now science has to pick up the ball and keep carrying it, so to speak. That religion is the old-guard, wrapping certain useful truths in mythology, and that science is the new source of truth. Correct me if you disagree with my summary. Your core assumption is that science and religion a.) are concerned primarily with the same subjects (the natural world) and b.) explain the same type of phenomena (physical occurrences.) However, I would contend that this is incorrect. So there are a few counterpoints that I would like to make to this.

    1.) First off, in terms of your contention that science is replacing religion’s explanatory power “Science has now demonstrated it’s explanatory and predictive power 1000 times greater than any supernatural belief system – the correct answer is NEVER ‘a wizard did it!’.”, you would need to start off by establishing that science can answer the types of questions that religion is primarily concerned with. While science can tell us much about the physical world, as you correctly claim, you did also mention that core truths about morality and behavior were contained in religion. If we are to jettison religion for science (as religion is in your view an outdated relic of the past) than I would next ask how can obtain morality/behavior rules from science – and how do you define whose moral rules are the ones we live by, and by what right we enforce them on society? (Different religions have different moral rules – some in common of course, but they are definitely different enough.) You could say we could use some form of utilitarianism, but the problem with that is that different people have very different ideas of what that is, and in any event utilitarianism is just as arbitrary a standard to set for morality as is any religious belief system. (Numerous leading atheists like Richard Dawkins have admitted as such and that atheism basically has to essentially borrow a religion’s morality.) There are many non-religious philosophical moral systems, but the key problem comes from that fact that Bob can have philosophical belief system A, Jim can have philosophical B, and John can have philosophical belief system C – how do pick on over the other? Democratic voting, mob rule, who has the biggest guns (historically one of these.) Either way, none of these systems have a solid logical claim on those who don’t accept it. Science can tell us how something happens – it can describe the physical makeup of the universe with fantastic results – maybe we can even, given a set of values, describe how to optimally obtain said values, but we cannot say that said values are the values to pursue in the first place. Two good quotes on the matter, the first by Richard Feynman
    “It is that scientific knowledge enables us to do all kinds of things and to
    make all kinds of things. Of course if we make good things, it is not only
    to the credit of science; it is also to the credit of the moral choice which led
    us to good work. Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either
    good or bad—but it does not carry instructions on how to use it.”
    and the 2nd, ironically enough ,by Richard Dawkins, a biologist and well-known atheist: (referring to how as helpful as science is, it has also been harmful – think nuclear weapons here as an example)

    People certainly blame science for nuclear weapons and similar horrors.
    It’s been said before but needs to be said again: if you want to do evil, science
    provides the most powerful weapons to do evil; but equally, if you want to do good, science puts into your hands the most powerful tools to
    do so. The trick is to want the right things, then science will provide you
    with the most effective methods of achieving them.

    Note though that science cannot tell us what is good or evil. So it leaves many pressing questions totally unanswered, and not just the morality question that I considered above. Science cannot tell us the purpose of life, or if anything exists beyond physical reality – science can only study some subset of physical reality, and has no way to reach anything beyond it – anything non-material, or judge in any way whether or not such things exist. As the Oxford English Dictionary states, science is defined as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” If you believe differently, i.e. that science can apprehend more than just the natural world, then let me know how. As Galileo said “Religion tells how to go to Heaven, science tells how the heavens go.” Can our 5 senses, and the tools and logical deductions from such, answer any of the “big” questions? How can you be so certain that nothing exists outside of the material realm that could inform these questions that science is (by definition) limited to observing? Historically, and still today, there are scientists, many of great renown, who have never seen a conflict between a serious, non-mythological interpretation their religious faith and science. They go forth hand in hand, supporting each other, no conflict in sight. In the end, the only way to carry the argument that religion is outdated and science is the way forward (as opposed to science having started in the religious framework of medieval Europe and supported by the contention that a logical and consistent God made the world to operate in a specific, unchanging fashion) would be for science to be able to answer these “big” questions in some reliable, unequivocal manner. Science cannot replace religion and cannot really address most of the questions that it answers, and religion likewise (at least Christianity, which is the only religion that I am concerned with) does not address the questions that science answers. As an aside, science is tentative and self-correcting – not what I would want as the basis of trying to find out eternal truths.

    2.) If as you mention above, we need to consider each religion individually – (you say “Any honest person arguing for theism must be arguing for the existence of SOME specific god” – which is not true BTW since you can argue for theism in general via arguing against its’ alternative, atheism, or you can argue that some supernatural force must exist for other reasons but only argue some very basic attributes common to nearly all religions, but I digress – continuing on…). If we have to consider each religion individually, then I will simply pick Christianity to consider, and would like to ask which natural phenomena Christianity says are occurring due to direct divine intervention (as opposed to believing in a watchmaker God who made the rules at the start and let it run, and only occasionally intervened directly.) Also, on this point, neither I nor Galileo are concerned with some native american shaman religion, and you can’t lump all religions into one category anymore than you can every theory of the nature of the combustion – just because the phlogiston theory was laughable does not make the alternative modern view of combustion somehow invalid. Likewise, I agree that some religions are laughable, but that does not make all so, as they make very different claims, with only a few similarities (as mentioned above.) Most of the early scientists were Christian and the Catholic Church was a major sponsor of early scientific development and the whole creation of scientific method and the rigorous application of logic to the study of the world and society. (I linked to some articles about this in my prior post.) if what you were saying is correct then the same people who allegedly relied on myths to explain what they did not understand found no issue (or lack of ability for) creating the scientific method and following through with it – finding natural explanations for things is what they expected to find and in no way contradicting their faith then, nor does it now. If you disagree, list examples.

    3.) You maintain that atheism is the default position at birth. – “I still contend that the proper basis for assigning the proof burden is the default state of humans at birth.” However, children are not born so much as atheists – i.e. the active belief that no form of God exists – they simply don’t know anything or believe anything about anything at all – no active beliefs or even uncertainties are yet present – they are not atheists (who actively believe no God exists) or even agnostics (who are unsure what to believe) but more like (to coin a term) a-knowledge-theists – at the moment of birth they know nothing – they have no idea what a god is, or whether one exists or not, or whether there is good reason for one to exist or not. No thoughts or doubts or uncertainties or anything at all is in their brains as of yet. They also don’t have any language or knowledge of logic or basic reasoning skills or anything else – and we assume that these things, developed as they are by contact with people around them and their interaction with their environment, are ‘default positions.’ Of course, children’s beliefs on both religion (and same for those who are taught atheism by their parents) are usually pretty simple anyway – no child is going to understand Summa Theologica as a kid anyway. So in the end, I think the best way to put it is that the average adult, educated or otherwise, having run through the basic states of cognitive development, has some form of theism, and I would hold that as a default. As I had mentioned in my prior post, the fact that religion developed just about everywhere points to some natural religious faculty in man – while the religions are different, the notion of transcendent truth, that physical reality is not everything, and that there are beings (or just one Being) beyond us are really incredibly common in humans. If humans were not naturally inclined toward some form of theism (thus making it humanity’s default position) than how else did it develop like just about everywhere? If atheism were our default, it we would expect to see more nonreligious societies, as we would need some way to ensure that the ‘default programming’ of nearly society, no matter how loosely or tightly organized or controlled by a certain elite sector of the populace, could overcome this default belief. Elites could have come up with other ways to mold society to their will if that is what they were after. You can of course use religion to impose your ideas on people, but you certainly don’t have to – try the Soviet Union or North Korea for example, or feminist/liberal indoctrination that we see going on today – not exactly a friend of “patriarchal” religions like Christianity.
    4.) How does religion damage our long term survival? “What’s bad about this is that it sacrifices the long term health of the species and race.” You yourself even said “The REASON the societies are better – to be selected in the first place – is that the emotional and spiritual needs of the masses are met in a way that prevents them from engaging in antisocial behaviors.” (As an aside, why did we evolve with such emotional and spiritual needs if they have no basis in reality? If we are hungry or thirsty that comports to something that exists – it is ironic that we somehow evolved certain tendencies/needs that not only have no basis in reality but are allegedly so destructive – obviously millions of years of human evolution and however many tens of thousands of human history is not long-term enough for religion to have been harmful to mankind’s long term survival.) As much as I personally love science, I must admit that it is science that developed nuclear weapons, biological weapons, and dangerous levels of pollution (if some people are to be believed), and more. Only in the past few centuries of scientific development has mankind actually been in danger of extinguishing itself, so it does not look like religion is the problem vis-à-vis our race making it another few millennia. In addition, religious people live longer, are less likely to suffer from depression, commit suicide, and have less health and mental health problems. All in all they seem to be in general more fit individuals, from an evolutionary standpoint. (They also have more children, as would be expected as well) (there are tons of sources on this, I don’t want to spam you with links so one just example is http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/05/990517064323.htm.
    If science is the future and religion is the just an oppressive tool used to guide people into socially useful behaviors, and is harmful to our long term survival to boot, how does that comport with these and similar observations? It would seem that those who escaped this programming and attached themselves to science and the new way forward would have their needs met in a superior form, if science is indeed the replacement for religion.
    Whew – I don’t even know if the blog supports posts this long – it may be better to take this elsewhere as I am not sure the host appreciates the blog space being used like this or not. Up to you (and him of course.)
    Oh – one final thing – your language did not so much offend me as create an atmosphere were debate is impossible – everyone gets emotional about these issues, but if emotions are running to strongly then debate becomes pointless. That is why I never discuss any meaningful issue with people who talk like that – it has 0% chance of going anywhere and just ends up wasting time and making people angry. I, like most of us, have been called far worse in my life anyway. With work I generally would check back for a response in the evenings but I am interested in seeing what you write back. Hope you enjoyed your weekend!

  24. No problem – I do understand how it goes. In my case I’m working 12 hour days 7 days a week. Haven’t had a day off since August. But on the bright side the work is easy enough, and when I’m not busy I can debate religion online 🙂 The contempt I have is not based on religiosity or intelligence – it’s based on the fact that, in my experience, all debates with theists eventually come down to appeals to emotion, insistence that their position is valid even if it’s not logically consistent – that faith (belief without evidence) is required, refusal to continue once a solid point has made, referral to books or priests or other outside sources, or some other fallacy or revelation of bad faith. It’s left me with the conviction that 95%+ of theists are stupid, intellectually lazy, or malicious Philistines. I give you the benefit of the doubt, and don’t include you in these categories.

    I’d first like to clarify my position in response to your summary. I do not accept either (a) or (b). My belief is that science is purely descriptive/positive, and that religion and philosophy are both descriptive/positive AND prescriptive/normative. In other words, science is concerned purely with what IS, while religion and philosophy both address what is AND what to do, what one should do, or what is best. Science is concerned with what sort of environment humans live in, and what humans are, while religion and philosophy are additionally concerned with what to do in that environment. So there is not anything fundamentally ‘wrong’ with religion – I have no problem with the existence of religiosity. The problem occurs when religious prescriptions are presented as absolutes even in the face of changing circumstances or knowledge, or when the descriptive aspects of a religion are not aligned with reality, because then the prescriptions that religions make will be maladaptive – they will not be useful for a person in the environment that is real. Since science uses methods that consider biases and cognitive distortions, is peer-reviewed, and focuses on results that can be tested and reproduced, it has absolutely demolished religion in terms of detecting, analyzing, and understanding our natural environment. Religious and supernatural explanations for the things we experience from Earth are no longer plausible alternatives to scientific explanations, or admissions of ignorance.

    Like you pointed out in your post, science cannot address what to do with the information we have – that comes down to our values and goals and capabilities. Which is where I have another problem with the religions that exist, because religions like Christianity PRESCRIBE goals and values for people – telling them that they SHOULD believe, how they SHOULD behave, what they SHOULD value, and what they SHOULD want. Christianity, for example, manages this by making a claim to OBJECTIVE, divine morality – a system that exists outside of us, and by which an action can be said to be good or evil, and according to which people will receive punishments or rewards once they are dead. But I don’t believe good and evil exist, and I believe EVERYTHING is part of the natural world.

    So what I’m saying here is that religion is useful today, but the major religions we have are based on descriptions of the world that are thousands of years old – they incorporate things that have long been known to be false. Many of the specific claims they make – like reincarnation or God or souls or heaven or creation or floods – are DESCRIPTIVE claims in the realm of science, and science has demonstrated them to be false. When religions prescribe behaviors based on inaccurate descriptions, like the religions we have today, you end up with suboptimal behaviors and falsehood being spread as truth. I’m calling for modern philosophies and religions that use the most up to date understandings of our physical world to then make better prescriptions of behavior. The Abrahamic religions are doomed in this regard, because the many powerful organizations that have an interest in preserving them have to contend with the fact that their own beliefs are self-referentially infallible, but are clearly fallible in the face of science or compared to each other. I take the bible as a book of wisdom written in allegory, but which is out of date.

    2)I agree with what you’ve said here. My point is that there is no valid, logical reason to believe in a watchmaker God, or the mythology of Christ. It’s not necessary for explaining anything, and there is no evidence. The people who believe it are those who believe that belief without evidence (faith) is valid, and who read a book that told them it was so.

    3) The point I am making about the children lacking a belief in God, is that no matter how you slice it the burden of proof is on the person asserting that God exists. After all, a belief in the Christ-God is the minority worldwide, and there’s no way to prove something DOESN’T exist somewhere. A child has to be convinced/socialized/programmed to believe there is a God – it’s not something children arrive at independently. It’s like, if I walk up to a man on the street and tell him I have 50 billion dollars worth of invisible gold floating 10m above my head. He can’t prove I don’t, and I’m the one making the assertion that it exists, so it’s my burden to demonstrate it if I expect him to believe. In the case of theism, there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a God. There is nothing in existence that cannot be explained another way.

    Concerning why religion persists and exists, I think my previous answer about covered it:

    “Beliefs in deities exist and persist because humans perceiving causes and effects through their own eyes in the context of their own mind will tend to attribute events to other sentient beings, and because the belief has come to serve several useful functions.”

    I don’t see any mystery in it. We are naturally curious tool makers. We want to understand our environment. We haven’t had the tools to do so for 99% of our history – no microscopes or telescopes or academies or science – so we made shit up that was plausible. We don’t know why the sun goes across the sky every day, so we say it’s a fiery chariot or make up some personal story for it because we see the world from sentient eyes. Our spiritual needs are, to me, the quest for truth and meaning, and DO NOT necessitate a belief in a deity.

    4) If you reread where I wrote that, my comment was addressing egalitarianism, not religion. It’s related to religion only because some – like modern Christianity – use egalitarianism as a tool for gaining power. My point is that religions that discourage antisocial behaviors while encouraging prosocial behaviors are more successful societies, by definition, so they will persist at the expense of societies with beliefs that encourage internecine competition. Egalitarianism – in this sense the belief that people have inalienable worth and rights regardless of their objective worth – is one method of doing this. It incentivizes keeping people alive who are weak, worthless, or parasitic by a natural virtue standard. This benefits MODERN society because those people can then become specialized wage slaves with a low standard of living, or cannon fodder against other cultures. The elites don’t have to live near them because we no longer have communities, but they benefit from their labor or deaths. This makes their culture/society/civilization more successful, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for their society long term, or for the species or race as a whole because, for example, it means you’re going to have a proliferation of inferior genetic material, and, in democracies, inferior cultures and policies. The apparent contradiction between me saying it’s good for a society, and bad for the race, is a matter of the time window we’re looking at. Stable, egalitarians cultures have been displacing conflicted, tribal cultures for hundreds of years, but that is not enough time for the deleterious genetic effects of dysgenic policies to accumulate to the point that they outweigh the benefits of stable, high-population societies. Whether it will ever reach that point remains to be seen, but for the time being we all have to bear the costs of huge populations of low-quality parasites.

    I don’t debate that the devoutly religious are more evolutionary ‘fit’ in many/most environments (that is my point), but the effects their beliefs have on others are often highly negative. Take charity, as an example. People who give charity mean well, but do great evil, because their charity only serves to encourage poverty and the proliferation of weakness. Giving money to the poor only creates more poverty, and more poor people. But the fitness of religious people is ENTIRELY beside what I’m trying to say. My core point is that religion provides adaptive advantages, but that doesn’t mean religious claims are TRUE. In fact, in this world of delusion believing or speaking the truth is actually maladaptive.

    I don’t think we have many significant disagreements about religion, or its usefulness, or goodness. What I’m saying is that many of its claims – which have been historically beneficial – are simply false. So my question is – what basis is there for believing in a deity? It’s not necessary to explain existence. There’s no evidence for one. The church has proven to be a corrupt, power-hungry institution. The bible is just a book. All people are fallible, and most people MUST have false belief systems. So why aren’t you, at a minimum, agnostic? That’s what I’m trying to get at here. I don’t know of any arguments for God’s existence that are not clear, elementary fallacies.

    Concerning my previous language/comments, my intent was only to drop a drive-by scornful comment that delivered my position. I didn’t expect anyone to want to have a rational debate about it. I contend that, in that context, my comment was reasonable because it was a true reflection of my beliefs and feelings, and was relevant to the article and tone of this website. When you made it known you were willing to have a discussion I altered my tone appropriately (I think?).

  25. Although you will see my responses to your points here, and I certainly look forward to your responses, I think the first major issue that divides our perspectives is the issue about the explanatory power of science. (Namely, what type of questions science can even attempt to answer.) Besides my responses below which detail my position on that, hopefully after you are done reading what I wrote below you will indulge my love of posting links (if someone argued something already I don’t always feel the need to repeat it – it is not the same thing as intellectual laziness. You may not agree with my positions, and that is your right, but I am not being intellectually lazy by using something that someone already wrote that expresses what I am saying) and read 2nd half of the following blog post – the author articulates a lot what I am trying to say regarding science (although I don’t really follow the evolution and Creation debate much myself and that is part of the post) http://voxday.blogspot.com/2010/12/out-of-date-evolutionist.html)

    Also – One thing in general I notice is that you seem to think that science has answered conclusively so many things that it has not. Science is tentative and self-correcting, and the more we learn the more we realize how little we know and truly understand. It is simply not true to state that science has conclusively given us the answers to ‘everything’ – not only can it never do that since it ontologically cannot address anything beyond physical reality, even in established areas of science we are in constant disagreement in key theories, and trying to prove historical events in the past (aka somehow get a complete picture of the origin of the universe) is a very difficult endeavor since you cannot replicate historical events. We can propose a mechanism by which something happened, but our scientific knowledge is so far from exhaustive that we cannot possible know for certain. New evidence can overturn old theories in part or wholesale, and have done so many times in the past few hundred years of major scientific development. You may choose to believe that one day science will answer all things, but that is an article of simple belief without evidence – the jury is very much out on even our basic understanding of many matters.

    Anyway, my actual response…my comments are in italics, your writing in normal font.

    No problem – I do understand how it goes. In my case I’m working 12 hour days 7 days a week. Haven’t had a day off since August.

    Phew – hopefully you can get some time off soon…that is a pretty rough schedule. Take care of yourself out there! 🙂

    But on the bright side the work is easy enough, and when I’m not busy I can debate religion online 🙂 The contempt I have is not based on religiosity or intelligence – it’s based on the fact that, in my experience, all debates with theists eventually come down to appeals to emotion, insistence that their position is valid even if it’s not logically consistent – that faith (belief without evidence) is required, refusal to continue once a solid point has made, referral to books or priests or other outside sources, or some other fallacy or revelation of bad faith. It’s left me with the conviction that 95%+ of theists are stupid, intellectually lazy, or malicious Philistines. I give you the benefit of the doubt, and don’t include you in these categories.

    Thank you. I would like to also note that many atheists are the same – people in general, no matter their religion or lack thereof often cannot offer even the most rudimentary defenses for their positions. Although we disagree on these said positions, I think we can agree on that at least. I view this more as an intellectual exercise than anything else – to see if I am capable of arguing my own positions well. I am sure someone like William Lane Craig or JP Moreland could argue the issue far better than I, but it is good mental exercise if nothing else…

    I’d first like to clarify my position in response to your summary. I do not accept either (a) or (b). My belief is that science is purely descriptive/positive, and that religion and philosophy are both descriptive/positive AND prescriptive/normative. In other words, science is concerned purely with what IS, while religion and philosophy both address what is AND what to do, what one should do, or what is best. Science is concerned with what sort of environment humans live in, and what humans are, while religion and philosophy are additionally concerned with what to do in that environment. So there is not anything fundamentally ‘wrong’ with religion – I have no problem with the existence of religiosity. The problem occurs when religious prescriptions are presented as absolutes even in the face of changing circumstances or knowledge, or when the descriptive aspects of a religion are not aligned with reality, because then the prescriptions that religions make will be maladaptive – they will not be useful for a person in the environment that is real. Since science uses methods that consider biases and cognitive distortions, is peer-reviewed, and focuses on results that can be tested and reproduced, it has absolutely demolished religion in terms of detecting, analyzing, and understanding our natural environment. Religious and supernatural explanations for the things we experience from Earth are no longer plausible alternatives to scientific explanations, or admissions of ignorance.

    We return again to the argument that I made last time – some religions have attempted to provide supernatural explanations behind natural events, but you cannot categorically assume that all do so . Give me 1-2 examples from Christianity that do so – noting that miracles are by definitions exceptions to the rule and not assertions of how things normally go. Your argument relies on their being a natural phenomena (like fire, wind, etc) being assigned a supernatural cause as the explanation of how they *always operate*, not the existence of explicit times when things did not operate as usual. Basically I am saying that Christianity is not descriptive in a way that violates how science is descriptive. It is not incompatible with any scientific description of natural phenomena.)

    Like you pointed out in your post, science cannot address what to do with the information we have – that comes down to our values and goals and capabilities. Which is where I have another problem with the religions that exist, because religions like Christianity PRESCRIBE goals and values for people – telling them that they SHOULD believe, how they SHOULD behave, what they SHOULD value, and what they SHOULD want. Christianity, for example, manages this by making a claim to OBJECTIVE, divine morality – a system that exists outside of us, and by which an action can be said to be good or evil, and according to which people will receive punishments or rewards once they are dead. If morality is not objective, then we still face the same problem – if morality is then subjective (is there an alternative if morality is not subjective?) how do we agree upon what morality is? Historically people have competed in shoving their morality down someone else’s throat at the point of a sword or gun – and if morality is subjective then there is no reason that can’t be the way morality is to be determined. If you are right and morality is not objective, then can we agree that there is no fixed morality? That seems to be what you are arguing, and if so, then than I would ask afterward why if there is no morality or fixed set of values/preferences that survival or being useful is seen as somehow ‘good’ or more desirable than the alternative. (You may say that it really isn’t and that is fine, I just want a clarification on this point.) But I don’t believe good and evil exist, and I believe EVERYTHING is part of the natural world.

    So what I’m saying here is that religion is useful today, but the major religions we have are based on descriptions of the world that are thousands of years old – they incorporate things that have long been known to be false. Many of the specific claims they make – like reincarnation or God or souls or heaven (How can science prove that souls don’t exist – recall the definition of science that I provided from the Oxford English Dictionary – it is only about the *physical* world and cannot make any claims whatsoever about the existence or lack thereof of anything above matter.) or creation or floods – are DESCRIPTIVE claims in the realm of science, and science has demonstrated them to be false. (Some examples of one of these claims that science has proven false – aka if souls have been disproven, and if so, point to what scientific law or theory accomplishes this.) When religions prescribe behaviors based on inaccurate descriptions, like the religions we have today, you end up with suboptimal behaviors and falsehood being spread as truth. (Can you give me a few examples of some of the suboptimal behaviors? If religious people are, as you mentioned, seemingly more evolutionarily fit, then how suboptimal can these behaviors be – or how do you expect suboptimal behaviors to develop? Note – I do respond to your charity argument, which is presumably on of these suboptimal behaviors, below.) I’m calling for modern philosophies and religions that use the most up to date understandings of our physical world to then make better prescriptions of behavior. (I would love to know how we are going to go about doing this. Mankind’s track record for humanistic philosophies’ is not exactly something to brag about…Marxism being one such wonderful prototypical example. Point to a consistent and working humanistic philosophy out there…) The Abrahamic religions are doomed in this regard, because the many powerful organizations that have an interest in preserving them have to contend with the fact that their own beliefs are self-referentially infallible, but are clearly fallible in the face of science or compared to each other. (If they are so clearly fallible in the face of science, provide an example of such a belief that has been scientifically falsified. On your second point “…compared to each other…”, the fact that one religion disagrees with another only implies that they cannot both be right, it does not make them both wrong.) I take the bible as a book of wisdom written in allegory, but which is out of date.

    2)I agree with what you’ve said here. My point is that there is no valid, logical reason to believe in a watchmaker God, or the mythology of Christ. It’s not necessary for explaining anything, and there is no evidence. The people who believe it are those who believe that belief without evidence (faith) is valid, and who read a book that told them it was so. (This is a huge series of claims with nothing backing them up. First off, faith is not simply believing in something without evidence. The Biblical definition of faith is reasonable trust – and in fact that is what any reasonable person would hold to – no one would say ‘I believe XYZ for absolutely no reason – what they would say, when dealing with matters that they are unable to verify 100%, is “I cannot prove XYZ, but I have good reason to believe that it is true.” There are tons of things you, or anything else, believe but cannot prove – that reality is real and that our senses perceive it, that logic is real and valid, and so on. We have good reasons to believe these things but must assume them as axioms – logical positivism (that only that which can be logically proven is true) is self-refuting as that statement in and of itself is not provable with logic – logic cannot verify itself. If atheism is the case and we are nothing but biochemical creations, then what we call rationality and our ability to perceive reality is a by-product of that as well. All that tells us is that this somehow contributes to evolutionary survival vis-à-vis our natural environment and other biological organisms – it tells us nothing about their ‘objective’ truth value. How can we be sure that mess of neurons and calcium ions is actually showing us something even resembling what is real? In addition, there is plenty of historical, archaeological evidence that supports the veracity of the Bible (this may be branching off the main topic of discussion so I will only pursue this topic if you wish) and there are several good philosophical arguments as well.

    3) The point I am making about the children lacking a belief in God, is that no matter how you slice it the burden of proof is on the person asserting that God exists. After all, a belief in the Christ-God is the minority worldwide, and there’s no way to prove something DOESN’T exist somewhere. A child has to be convinced/socialized/programmed to believe there is a God – it’s not something children arrive at independently. (And they arrive at atheism independently?) It’s like, if I walk up to a man on the street and tell him I have 50 billion dollars worth of invisible gold floating 10m above my head. He can’t prove I don’t, and I’m the one making the assertion that it exists, so it’s my burden to demonstrate it if I expect him to believe. In the case of theism, there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a God. There is nothing in existence that cannot be explained another way. (Really – a bit hard to prove that one I would think…)
    Concerning why religion persists and exists, I think my previous answer about covered it:
    “Beliefs in deities exist and persist because humans perceiving causes and effects through their own eyes in the context of their own mind will tend to attribute events to other sentient beings, and because the belief has come to serve several useful functions.”

    I don’t see any mystery in it. We are naturally curious tool makers. We want to understand our environment. We haven’t had the tools to do so for 99% of our history – no microscopes or telescopes or academies or science – so we made shit up that was plausible. We don’t know why the sun goes across the sky every day, so we say it’s a fiery chariot or make up some personal story for it because we see the world from sentient eyes. Our spiritual needs are, to me, (“to me” – i.e. your personal feelings on the matter – while it is true that the search for truth and meaning does not necessitate a deity, from a technical perspective, it seems that is where it has ended up for just about everybody from every culture. This also opens up that philosophical can of worms known as the atheist quest for meaning – if we are just a bunch of atoms in mindless universe that will live for a short time and then cease to exist, devoid of any purpose other than creating more organisms like us to live and perish in the same fashion for no reason whatsoever, I must admit that I am having difficulty seeing where you can derive meaning…) the quest for truth and meaning, and DO NOT necessitate a belief in a deity.
    If atheism is the way we are born, (recall atheism is the active belief in the non-existence of God) as opposed to not being sure – then that still leaves the issue of how religion ever got started – if most people are born atheist, then why did most people develop theistic religion if it was not a normal by-product of human development – you would think that atheistic societies and tribes would have been more common if atheism was our starting point, and religion only later developed. You can’t claim that people’s natural atheism was somehow overwritten by social programming, since that does not answer how the social programming came to be in the first place. It is one thing to claim that religion has positive evolutionary consequences, but from a raw practical/naturalistic perspective the positive behavioral traits of religion should have evolved differently – the aspects of religion that do not directly push pro-social behavior are quite expensive in terms of social resources and the cognitive developments in our brains that would have been required to support these abstract theological notions – during the evolutionary process, wouldn’t have those more expensive behaviors (like worship services, spending time focusing on a god as opposed to this life, having a dedicated priest class) been selected against in favor of those who held the pro-social behaviors due to their secular benefit and not for religious reasons? Plus, while different ideas of the supernatural/divine (aka different religions) may have developed, the *overall concept* that there is a supernatural is nigh universal. Also – being born not knowing anything about a given religion and being born atheist are not the same thing at all – atheism is the ACTIVE belief that God does not exist, as opposed to a blank slate that knows nothing of the matter either way – asserting non-existence is no more appropriate (and equally asserting) as a default answer than any of the particular existence-asserting answers. Not being sure and ever needing to be taught some particular answer to this question is not the same thing as naturally being an atheist.

    4) If you reread where I wrote that, my comment was addressing egalitarianism, not religion. It’s related to religion only because some – like modern Christianity – use egalitarianism as a tool for gaining power. (How do they use it to gain power – you are asserting this is the case but are not demonstrating that this is true – couldn’t it be that they actually believe that people are of equal worth before God – do you acknowledge that people can actually believe things without ulterior motives? Just like you say that you don’t like the alleged fact that some people are objectively worthless, could not religion (in this case Christianity) simply believe that egalitarianism is the case as a consequence of the religion, and not simply some form of power grab?) My point is that religions that discourage antisocial behaviors while encouraging prosocial behaviors are more successful societies, by definition, so they will persist at the expense of societies with beliefs that encourage internecine competition. Egalitarianism – in this sense the belief that people have inalienable worth and rights regardless of their objective worth – is one method of doing this. It incentivizes keeping people alive who are weak, worthless, or parasitic by a natural virtue standard. This benefits MODERN society because those people can then become specialized wage slaves with a low standard of living, or cannon fodder against other cultures. The elites don’t have to live near them because we no longer have communities, but they benefit from their labor or deaths. This makes their culture/society/civilization more successful, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for their society long term, or for the species or race as a whole because, for example, it means you’re going to have a proliferation of inferior genetic material, and, in democracies, inferior cultures and policies. The apparent contradiction between me saying it’s good for a society, and bad for the race, is a matter of the time window we’re looking at. Stable, egalitarians cultures have been displacing conflicted, tribal cultures for hundreds of years, but that is not enough time for the deleterious genetic effects of dysgenic policies to accumulate to the point that they outweigh the benefits of stable, high-population societies. Whether it will ever reach that point remains to be seen, but for the time being we all have to bear the costs of huge populations of low-quality parasites. (What religious beliefs are bringing this about – note that the modern leftist welfare state and Christianity don’t really get along that well. It is more the product of a mostly secular leftism that we have the welfare state and its consequences. Charity supporting those who refuse to contribute (welfare) is a recent invention in this country and most religious organizations and groups oppose it and other such leftist garbage.)

    I don’t debate that the devoutly religious are more evolutionary ‘fit’ in many/most environments (that is my point), but the effects their beliefs have on others are often highly negative. Take charity, as an example. People who give charity mean well, but do great evil, because their charity only serves to encourage poverty and the proliferation of weakness. Giving money to the poor only creates more poverty, and more poor people. (Again – a major claim. Abuse of charity does in fact do this, but Christianity (and just about any other religion I know if) does not teach unlimited charity – aka ‘those who won’t work won’t eat’ is an actual Bible quote. Some charity can be harmful, but much charity is quite helpful – say you lost your job and fell on hard times. I believe you are intelligent and probably have several useful skills – would letting you starve to death if you ran out of money and did not have a job due to external economic conditions or an illness really be the right way to go? Charity is (the religious idea, not the political implementation) mainly aimed at those who have fallen on hard times due to no meaningful fault of their own – it is not (although it can be abused as such) intended to reward laziness or indolence – note that many Christians are in stark opposition to the leftist welfare state, for reasons such as that. Also, in the absence of objective values, there is no reason why “low-quality parasites” or anyone else, if they are able to out breed others, should not do so – this may detriment society as you say, but in the absence of values why would this be a bad thing – we evolved in a state of nature so reproductive fitness is the only value, and it seems that religious people have it in spades compared to their nonreligious brethren. If people were treated truly equally (real egalitarianism, not the fake leftist version) than the “high-quality people” by virtue of their superior decision making and economic productivity would reproduce more. The system we have is not egalitarianism but rather a form of political correctness that advantages certain groups over others – the results you see today are the results of that and not a simple belief that all people are equally worthwhile in eyes of God. Not everyone can be some brilliant scientist, but I for one am glad that someone who is not that bright is still allowed to experience life based on their own choices, and is not denied basic rights because they are less fit – eugenics is an ugly thing, though I don’t think you advocate taking it that far. Still, if these ‘less fit’ people can find productive jobs that do stuff we need to get done, I still don’t see how this is hurting society.

    But the fitness of religious people is ENTIRELY beside what I’m trying to say. My core point is that religion provides adaptive advantages, but that doesn’t mean religious claims are TRUE. In fact, in this world of delusion believing or speaking the truth is actually maladaptive.
    I don’t think we have many significant disagreements about religion, or its usefulness, or goodness. What I’m saying is that many of its claims – which have been historically beneficial – are simply false. (Give specific examples of false claims please.)

    So my question is – what basis is there for believing in a deity? It’s not necessary to explain existence. (The jury is very much still out on that one – did we really just pop into existence from nonexistence – if you believe so, where is the science that demonstrates this or even allows the possibility?) There’s no evidence for one. The church has proven to be a corrupt, power-hungry institution. (Have some individuals displayed such behavior – yes, since they are human. But is the entire institution able to be classified as such – this is a pretty big claim.) The bible is just a book. (While this is another big can of worms to go into, even many nonbelievers would not subscribe to that claim) All people are fallible, and most people MUST have false belief systems. (True – but couldn’t atheism be one such?) So why aren’t you, at a minimum, agnostic? That’s what I’m trying to get at here. I don’t know of any arguments for God’s existence that are not clear, elementary fallacies.

    continued below…

  26. Continuing on…

    (There are plenty of such arguments, both philosophically and also based on the historical/archaeological evidence of the reliability of the Bible – we cannot scientifically evaluate statements about the divine, but we can reasonably trust the Bible in areas that we cannot verify but seeing that it is trustworthy in those areas where we can. As I mentioned earlier, this is a big area so you may or may not have interest in branching off there – but as per my comment at the top of my reply, the issue of scientism should come first. After that, if all such arguments are clear, elementary fallacies, than let’s pick a famous one, like the Kalam Cosmological Argument – give me a clear, elementary refutation of that, please. It also demonstrates that contrary to your earlier claim, it is possible to argue for the existence of God in general, and not any particular one. You had earlier said “Any honest person arguing for theism must be arguing for the existence of SOME specific god ” – this is demonstrated not true. While most theists will have particular god in mind, many arguments apply to any divine being, such as the Kalam Argument mentioned above.)

    Concerning my previous language/comments, my intent was only to drop a drive-by scornful comment that delivered my position. I didn’t expect anyone to want to have a rational debate about it. I contend that, in that context, my comment was reasonable because it was a true reflection of my beliefs and feelings, and was relevant to the article and tone of this website. When you made it known you were willing to have a discussion I altered my tone appropriately (I think?). You did alter it so no problem there.

    Whew! I think that was enough for now. As I now know you are very busy with work so by all means take your time on a response – I am the patient sort. (This is not some sort of subtle knock – I do just mean that since I just learned of your insane work hours I don’t want to suck up too much of your (limited) free time. (Of course you did say you were responding during work hours so hopefully that does not prove to be an issue for you…) Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond to me. I look forward to what you will have to say in return!

  27. Mr. Durden –

    Apologies for randomly posting this here but it was the most recent post of yours I could find and I wanted there to be at least some chance that you would see this.

    I am the primary songwriter for the band Redemption, and last year you wrote up a rather detailed deconstruction of one of my works, The Fullness of Time, for a website called Spearhead.

    I wanted to thank you very much for taking the time to put so much thought into your analysis! I hope that you were able to enjoy the music as well.

    One who has spent such time deserves an honest answer, even if it’s likely to be rather anticlimactic. The truth is, the songs that comprise The Fullness of Time are about a betrayal I suffered at the hands of a close male friend who stabbed me in the back to advance his career. They have nothing to do with a woman, or with women.

    The song Sapphire is a different story — that was a soul-destroying episode. But Fullness Parts 1-4 are about a turncoat male friend.

    I nonetheless found your analysis very interesting to read. And insofar as the purpose of our music is to find a connection with people, I’m glad it resonated with you on some level.

    Certainly the message of Release is applicable to more than one scenario…”I’m still standing, and I’m not going to crawl.”

    Be well, and thank you for your service!

    Regards,

    Nick

  28. Nick,

    Thanks for the comment! I’m a huge fan and so it’s very humbling to have you comment on my analysis. I’m not sure how well I prefaced my write ups last year by saying they were a pointed interpretation (with the audience of the Spearhead in mind) but it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Fullness of Time doesn’t have anything to do with women.

    I’ve always been a big fan and your music is helping me recover from my most recent hospitalization. I know it’s rough for artists right now, especially ones in the less popular/mainstream genres, so I wish you and the band all the best and hope to one day catch you on a tour or purchase a new album!

  29. Thanks for your response! You did caveat and preface your analysis very well, and as insofar as the point of our music is to provide a connection, even if it was an interpretation different from the concept that spurred me to write those lyrics, your analysis made them your own and allowed you to ruminate on some very powerful and important themes, perhaps helped a bit my the lyrics. So I’m glad they served that purpose for you.

    I am, of course, tremendously honored that you have found some comfort in our music. Life is in many ways about challenges, character, and recovery. The lyrics are very honest in dealing with those things — I think they are a common element of the human condition. And certainly, there’s more to come with the CD that we are working on right now, which at its core is about facing mortality — clearly something we all grapple with.

    My best wishes for your continued recovery, and thank you so much for your kind words, interest, and support!!

  30. I too, hope and pray for you continued recovery J Durden!

    Anyway, golden fetus – you still out there? Not rushing you – I know you are very busy with work, just curious if you want to continue our discussion or not.

    Let me know.

    — PC Geek

  31. I’m here – I’ve just had low motivation to spend my limited time crafting a satisfactory response, when I expect the ROI to be low. I feel like you’re dancing around my core points, and have failed to clearly state your position. Doing something like playing devil’s advocate to keep me on the defensive.

    I’ve stated and explained my position in detail, but it still comes down to the fact that the burden of proof is on you, because it is you ASSERTING the existence of something. You have to provide evidence for it, and up to this point you haven’t, and I still haven’t got a clue what YOU believe or why. Yes, STRONG atheism is the active disbelief in god. But it doesn’t change the fact that children are born without belief in god (agnostic, WEAK atheist) – and actively resist that belief. Observe the first time any curious child is told about god and you’ll see mankind’s natural skepticism. You walk up to a kid and tell them there’s a magical fairy king in the sky who watches everything they do and is going to torture them for all eternity if they don’t eat their carrots, and you’ll see the questions they ask. What does he look like? How do you know he’s there? Can I see him? Why not? Etc etc. The process of indoctrinating them with your religious ideology IS the process that destroys their natural curiosity and inhibits their ability to question.

    I’ve already stated that I don’t believe there is ANY objective meaning. That you can’t derive any from anywhere because it doesn’t exist. I am a nihilist. And I’ve already explained my interpretation of the origin of theistic belief several times. Humans see things from a human perspective, so we tend to attribute human characteristics and motivations to inhuman beings and inanimate objects. This is a universal part of human nature and there isn’t any mystery to it. We understand causes and effects from the point of view of a sentient being, so we tend to believe all causes and effects come from sentient beings. If it’s not animals or witch doctors or spirits its gods. If all of these people were talking about the same being – as you seem to imply – they would be describing it consistently – rather than thousands of different contradictory supernatural systems. I don’t accept that the behaviors you listed are maladaptive. Worship services, priest classes, etc are what reinforce those adaptive beliefs. Without them the beliefs would have disappeared or fragmented. And it’s a much more adaptive way for people to spend their time than competing with each other. It establishes a unified identity that serves to direct their aggression outside the group. I also don’t think the origin of social programming requires any explanation whatsoever. It’s simply and obvious. It has always existed. It even exists among non-human animals. It’s just the process where young learn the biases and guesses and fallacies and skills of the old or face punishment. I am strong eugenics advocate, within certain ethical bounds, but the rest of our conversation seems pointless and peripheral to the core issue, which is:

    What gods exist?

    There isn’t any point talking about the origin or purpose of religion unless this is answered. As I stated long ago, religion is useful and can be ‘good’, but many of its specific claims are false. ALL I care about here is the question of whether or not gods exist – what rational basis there is for believing in supernatural sentience that is aware of humans or created the universe. Whether or not theism is TRUE.

    So what is YOUR position? Are you arguing for the existence of a god, or some specific god? What is YOUR rational basis for that belief? What rational steps did YOU take to get from a lack of belief to the belief you have now? I’m not interested in what some other smart people said about the possibility of god, or arguments based on the existence of beliefs rather than truth. I want to know what you personally believe, and what your personal basis for that belief is – I want to know why you individually believe that a deity exists.

    It’s not intellectual laziness I’m worried about. I’m worried that you have an emotional/programmed belief in god, and that you’re then setting out to justify that belief. That, rather than looking at the world and saying ‘what is true?’, you look at the world and say “what evidence is there for the belief in god that I already have?’. If this is true, the conversation is pointless because I already know that theists have internally-consistent answers for every atheist criticism. Whenever some fallacy is pointed out, they can just resort to ‘god works in mysterious ways’ or ‘you just have to have faith’. If I’m wrong, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to explain your stance and reasoning. After all, how can I respond otherwise? What’s the point of having a conversation if I’m having it with someone else’s arguments or websites. I’m asking what YOU believe, and what YOUR basis for that belief is.

    The Kalam cosmological argument – if used to support deity existence – IS a clear, elementary fallacy – or several. There is no justification whatsoever for jumping from the premise ‘the universe has a first cause’ to ‘that first cause is god’. Within the context of that argument there is no reason the first cause must be an omnipotent sentient being. If you DEFINE ‘god’ as ‘first cause’, then you’re just resorting to tautological semantic trickery and equivocation. It also raises the issue of ‘what caused the first cause?’ – what caused god? If you respond that god has always existed you establish that it is possible for things to exist that have no first cause, and thereby invalidate the entire argument because you could as easily place the universe in the category of things without a cause and avoid it. If you respond that something else did cause god – that god is just one link in the causal chain – then the argument falls apart again, since the argument itself is assigning ‘god’ status to the first cause. You’d just have an infinite regression of causes called ‘god’. And still all of that would be totally separated from the concepts of god that common men use. It just happens that the Abrahamic tricksters that started this used two definitions for god – one being ‘first cause of the universe’ and the other being ‘omnipotent sentience involved in human affairs’ and knew the argument would be sufficient for the uneducated and dishonest who can’t or won’t recognize equivocation.

  32. I. Hi again goldenfetus. Note that the indentation for my outline format got lost when posting to the blogsite, but otherwise what I wrote transferred in tact.
    II. My position – Christianity
    a. I have not gone into much detail since the rift between our beliefs is wider than that between any two religions; two theists of any stripe are likely closer than an atheist and a theist, so I figure that more general notions of atheism v theism are a better starting point. This is why I have not gone into much detail (but I did mention the Bible and that there is very strong evidence supporting it quite explicitly, did I not? Look at my previous response.) I certainly can elaborate if you wish, but since you have made several other fundamental errors, I see no need to go further into my faith, as you have made several other basic errors that need to be dealt with first.
    b. In addition, there is no point to talking about what gods exist until the issue of whether such a thing has any probability has been dealt with. If you don’t believe that anything can have a nonmaterial explanation, and that in fact material explanations can account for everything, then the details of what you believe to be an imaginary being are not worth pursuing. Always start with the basics.
    III. You had stated in your previous response that science has disproven religious notions like souls – could you please a.) explain how science could even address what lies beyond material reality and b.) Provide some scientific proof that souls (just to pick one such religious notion) don’t exist. This assertion of yours in particular I would like to hear a reply to. You did not address my response to this at all. Either acknowledge that you were wrong or come up with a response.
    IV. I post those links since others have already written refutations to the arguments that you bring forth – do I really have to repeat them? One of the reasons we have written language is that we don’t have to go out of our way to personally repeat the same information again and again – if you claim, that for example, the Kalam argument is wrong, I can point you to sources that already address every one of your objections. I can explain your errors, however I see no need to answer objections that have already been dealt with a hundred fold by others – nothing you are saying is new or novel – your arguments have been put forth many times before, and dealt with summarily many times before, by people smarter and better at expressing their ideas than either of us. Nevertheless, I do address Kalam below – but you should probably read up on it a bit before you try to poke holes in it – you made the most common atheist objections to it – and these objections have been dealt with many times before.
    V. Kalam Argument
    a. First off, do you accept the premise of “the universe has a first cause”
    i. If so – then there exists something above all of creation – sounds like the most basic characteristic of the definition of a god – a transcendent being. You say that “Within the context of that argument there is no reason the first cause must be an omnipotent sentient being.” Maybe not – but clearly this being, as this being is ontologically above all creation and space time, must be something pretty darn significant. That is what the argument is trying to establish – your statement is merely a straw man.
    1. “. There is no justification whatsoever for jumping from the premise ‘the universe has a first cause’ to ‘that first cause is god’. Within the context of that argument there is no reason the first cause must be an omnipotent sentient being. If you DEFINE ‘god’ as ‘first cause’, then you’re just resorting to tautological semantic trickery and equivocation.” Recall that the Kalam argument is a general theism argument, establishing some basic premises that theism relies upon – namely the existence of something transcending the universe, as opposed to atheism, which believes that material reality is all there is – it does not establish that any particular god exists, but merely that something of cosmic power and significance, above our entire universe, exists. There is no tautology – this argument does not claim this being is any particular god, and it is perfectly reasonable to propose that this higher being is God, and to attempt to see if we can find out more about Him. Judeo-Christianity is one such belief system claiming to accurately describe this being – its’ validity as an accurate belief system does not rest (nor did I or anyone say it does) on the Kalam argument. You do not seem to understand exactly what the argument is proving. Look up this argument on Google.
    ii. If you do not believe the universe had a cause, then you believe counter to all science and everything that mankind as observed since the beginning of time – everything that we have ever observed in this universe has a cause – nothing sprung spontaneously into existence.
    b. About God always existing – you make a key logical category error here – recall that we just said that this being exists outside of space time – things inside space time always have a cause and came into existence at some definitive point it time, God, existing outside of space and time is not subject to this same restraint. He created the notion of existence and time and creation in the first place. You are conflating “inside space time and thus subject to its’ rules” and “a being/beings outside of space time and not subject to those rules.”
    1. Your statement that “If you respond that something else did cause god” – I don’t claim this, so this tack is not relevant and there is no need to address it.
    c. It is true that the positive benefits of religion (and the horrors that have come from secularism) don’t prove any religion is a rigorous sense, nor was it intended to. Likewise, the fact that religion is more adaptive than irreligion, and thus religious societies have tended to survive, does not cast any aspersions on the truth of religion either – whether you take my story or yours (or a synthesis of the two) to explain how theistic belief came about is a direct consequence of your own religious positions.
    VI. One other statement that I made that I would really like to see a response to is when I said that ““If atheism is the case and we are nothing but biochemical creations, then what we call rationality and our ability to perceive reality is a by-product of that as well. All that tells us is that this somehow contributes to evolutionary survival vis-à-vis our natural environment and other biological organisms – it tells us nothing about their ‘objective’ truth value. How can we be sure that mess of neurons and calcium ions is actually showing us something even resembling what is real? If you are right, then why should even suspect that your brain can give a proper accounting of reality at all?
    VII. Back to the “children being atheists” argument – as I mentioned before, atheism is the assertion the God does not exist, just like theism of any stripe is the assertion that some form of god/life force exists. Agnosticism is not weak” atheism – atheism and agnosticism are categorically different beliefs. You are the one guilty of equivocation here. You cannot equate active belief that something does not exist with uncertainty either way.
    a. “You walk up to a kid and tell them there’s a magical fairy king in the sky who watches everything they do and is going to torture them for all eternity if they don’t eat their carrots, and you’ll see the questions they ask. What does he look like? How do you know he’s there? Can I see him? Why not? Etc etc.”
    i. Asking questions about this being does not have anything to do with a natural atheism – if I told a kid about a new ride at the carnival, or a country on the other side of the planet, they child would ask the same sort of questions. I fail to see how asking questions about something in any way has anything to do with its existence or not. You keep confusing the basic argument that some form of deity/supernatural exists with the issue of a particular deity. A particular religion must be taught, yes, just like science, a soceities’ language, and so on must be taught. However humans naturally think teleologically, a point you actually make in your reply to me – “We understand causes and effects from the point of view of a sentient being, so we tend to believe all causes and effects come from sentient beings. If it’s not animals or witch doctors or spirits its gods.” If we, as you state, see cause and effect in this manner, this would seem to indicate a natural inclination to theism – I would like an explanation of how this would indicate that children have a natural inclination toward atheism. If they see cause and effect teleologically, then why would they not see the cause of the entire universe the same way? Plus, you did not answer my question from earlier – even if religion is well adaptive and thus, once existing, would thrive and eliminate its’ competition, how did such thinking come about in so many disparate cultures across the globe – could not the adaptive parts of religion come about in a different way? If people aren’t naturally religious, why then did it manage to come about just about everywhere – nearly all cultures, those extinct and those who are not, had a form of theism or some variety – so even while those whose religion promoted adaptive behavior thrived, by what mechanism did it come about in the first place? (Again, you will likely repeat your earlier statement that it is because humans think teleologically, but if you repeat that statement, note that it implies that atheism is not the default position – if you think teleologically about small phenomena, would you somehow not think that way about larger ones, like the whole universe?)
    ii. “The process of indoctrinating them with your religious ideology IS the process that destroys their natural curiosity and inhibits their ability to question.” Assertion totally without proof – show me some evidence that children of religious families are somehow less curious or inquisitive – little kids of religious folk I know ask “Why Why Why” until they are blue in the face like anyone else’s kids. Plus, religious societies in Western Europe, and primarily religious scientists, started the whole enterprise of science in the first place. Religion definitely killed curiosity there… Stop making assertions like this without any supporting evidence!
    VIII. “I am strong eugenics advocate, within certain ethical bounds,” – and pray tell, what ethical bounds are these, and how do you know these are right? Some form of utilitarianism? This sounds like a straight ride to the gas chambers and internment camps…
    IX. Overall, before any discussion continues further, you need to defend some of the serious errors that you have made in your argument. Especially sections (II), (IV), and (V) – number (II) shows that you do not understand the definition of science, and (IV) shows that aren’t aware of the what the Kalam Cosmological argument claims – errors like these are part of the reasons that I put up those links – you need to do some background reading so as to avoid making fundamental errors such as these. (V) is fun, and I would like to see how you answer it. In any event, I can certainly delve into the evidence behind my own belief system (Christianity) but if I do that I would expect tit-for-tat – I would want you to provide some supporting evidence that atheism is true (not just some attempt to disprove theism, but actual demonstration of the veracity of atheism.) However, as I said before, please address (II, IV, and V) in full before any further discussion.
    X. I think an outline format makes it easier to organize thoughts, but of course you may disagree. Hopefully you will respond in an outline format yourself for ease of reference, but if not that is fine. Anyway, good night and look forward to hearing from you soon!

  33. @Golden Fetus: It’s been weeks since my last post and nary a peep from you – are you just writing up some lengthy response or are you giving up?

  34. @Golden Fetus: Your lack of response for such a long time indicates that you have forfeited our debate. Still, it was interesting talking to you while it lasted. Hopefully our discussion stimulated some thinking on your part – it certainly did for me.

    Regards,
    PC Geek

  35. Pingback: The Truth of God’s Word

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