Sketches on Atheism

Now theists, listen carefully….

I see no GodThe Burden of Proof

Like it or not, atheism is the default position. Theism is not automatic or inevitable. Theism is not natural. The gods all have to be learnt. They are new information superimposed over the default: a-theism. If this were not the case a single religion centred on a single deity (who we’d expect to speak a single language) would arise naturally and fluidly wherever humans were found, regardless of their isolation or epoch. That, of course, is not the reality. As much as Christians would like to believe otherwise no person has ever arrived at Christianity without it first being taught to them. Mithraism never suddenly appeared in Malaysia, or Mormonism in New Zealand. Without specific guidance no person has ever discovered Islam or Judaism like Newton discovered classical mechanics and gravitation. Scatter ten thousand people and give them ten thousand years to develop in seclusion and no two will arrive at the same superstitions or invent the same religion, but all ten thousand will, however, eventually stumble upon the theory of gravity. It is the theist therefore who is introducing a new element (their particular, geographically centric, linguistically and culturally specific god) to the natural canvas, and it is therefore the theist to whom the burden of proof falls.

A positive claim (unicorns exist) requires evidence. A negative claim (unicorns do not exist) requires a complete lack of evidence. As no evidence exists for unicorns the positive claim (unicorns exist) must be considered false until proven true. This is only rational. The negative is however easily falsifiable. All the unicorn believer needs is one solitary piece of reasonable (even inferable) evidence for the existence of unicorns to shift the entire burden of proof requirement onto the non-believer. Said in another way, any un-falsifiable claim (unicorns, spacefaring turtles, gods) must be read as false before being proven true. It follows then that there is no need for atheism to prove the non-existence of the gods, nor indeed for naturalism to prove the non-existence of the supernatural. Unicorns, spacefaring turtles and gods are not natural, they are the aberration, and should a theist wish to be accepted as a rational human being then it falls to them to present the evidence needed to substantiate the claim. Until such allegations can be supported all positive claims must be considered deviant and abnormal.

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138 thoughts on “Now theists, listen carefully….

    • Yeah, I was debating whether or not to include the ‘supernatural’ or not. I’m a fan of sprites, too. That doesn’t make them real, but then again I’m not out there trying to convince people that they are and they hate this or that. Said it before, the imagination is our greatest artifact… and a little magic is a glorious thing to excite the mind.

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      • Very thorough reply Arb.

        A baby does not have the capacity to consider whether or not believing in God is worthy or not, hence it really isn’t proper to define a baby as being an Atheist.

        Even a child who is raised by Atheists will soon reach adulthood and then can explore the evidence for worthiness if they chose. There has to be at least one “raised Atheist” who became a Christian in adulthood.

        You say, “More contrary to your point is that without someone indoctrinating a child with delusional belief, the child will, most likely retain the idea that there are no magic men in the sky watching us and stories that tell us so, are properly categorized into the realm of mythology”.

        Why can’t you make your point, and have a rebuttal with out calling me delusional?
        I could make the exact conclusion about you. Example: I am so sure of the proof I have that I think you are delusional. What do you propose to do with all of us delusional, God believing, mentally ill people. Shall you line us all up and gas us to death in a chamber for exposing our delusional beliefs on innocent children?

        Really? magic men in the sky?

        Your comments and thoughts show a high level of intelligence and reason then, in my humble opinion, you revert to untruths such as:

        magical beings that watch over us

        we have a natural tendency to rape as well

        would god be cocaine or heroin then, because let me assure you users of those substances find bliss as well

        eternal torment in lakes of fire

        Can you say for sure it wasn’t the devil just saying nice things to make you feel all warm and woogy on the inside?

        All of these untruthful statements marginalize you and makes me think, here we go, another delusional hater who can not control himself. (delusional added to prove my point, I really don’t think you are mentally ill.)

        Roy

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    • I really am impressed with the thoroughness in the way you articulate your ideas with post like these John. You say, “I’m hoping some theists come along and engage”, well then hello.

      You make several points:

      1) atheism is the default position
      2) Theism is not natural. The gods all have to be learnt.
      3) the burden of proof is on me

      1) atheism is the default position

      We cannot be atheists of that which we haven’t considered, which means we cannot say we are born atheists.

      In his book, The Secular Outlook, Paul Cliteur defends, in the first chapter, a particular definition of atheism. He defends it according to the definition I think most of us follow: The atheist is not convinced by the proofs of theism. This being the case, he does what every sensible person would do. He says “I am not a theist” Therefore atheism is a negative doctrine.

      Cliteur thinks what’s central to so much of the confusion in atheist-theist debate is around the word and concept ‘negative’ when unpacking the term atheism. He thinks there are three types of negatives associated with the term.

      (1) Firstly, the term is defined in terms of what it is not (theism), or the atheist defines himself in terms of what he is not (a theist).

      (2) The second is in terms of psychology. Cliteur defines this negatively “from a psychological point of view: belonging to a minority the atheist can not avoid understanding his identity in terms of what he is not.”

      (3) Thirdly, the negative is the active type: attacking and criticizing religious belief and arguments for it.

      Cliteur finds it inconsistent then to say that we are “born” atheists, since nothing is being negated; reflections on the theistic God exist in a state of ignorance or are themselves nonexistent. Our lack of belief in God is not the same as everyone’s lack of belief in the blue penguin on Pluto. Until one had come across that sentence, there is little doubt that even the concept of a ‘blue penguin on Pluto’ had entered one’s mind at all. One was not a disbeliever or an apenguinist before discovering this concept; it was simply a state of ignorance or lack of knowledge. And, therefore, one cannot negate or oppose a phenomenon of which one is unaware.

      2) Theism is not natural. The gods all have to be learnt.

      Empirical work by Barrett, Keleman and others has shown that religiosity appears to be innate. Excellent and persuasive, mainly philosophical, work by Atran, Boyer and others has argued that our natural religiosity is a by-product of several generally adaptive predispositions including Hyperactive Agency Detection. It has also been argued that we have been primed to be religious by an indirect evolutionary process called ‘Genetic Priming’.

      Yes, religious ideas come naturally to us. The fact that a thorough understanding of science, the scientific method – and evolutionary theory in particular – takes rather more effort appears to be self-evident.

      A huge percentage of adults in the U.S.(90% +/-) say they believe in god. It is interesting to contrast this figure with a similar percentage (about 90% +/-) of eminent scientists that describe themselves as non-believers. Evidently, the study of science tends to trump our natural tendency for religiosity.(Interestingly, this percentage in disparity has not always been so.)

      Sources:

      sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/barrett/Barrett%20cognitive%20mechanisms%20final.pdf

      academic.research.microsoft.com/Paper/12085177

      philpapers.org/s/Scott%20Atran

      enotes.com/geometry-philosophical-aspects-reference/geometry-philosophical-aspects

      3) the burden of proof is on me

      As a believer, I have experienced God’s Presence, which is all the proof I require to know God is real and that is why I tell others. That is why I offer my alternative view-point here and place the thing I love above all others open for ridicule. If my testimony fails to compel you to come alive spiritually then nothing will be sufficient proof .I have even addressed your question as to why God is invisible.

      So, does that mean I am responsible for trying to find a way to convince you to deem any proof acceptable? No. It becomes a matter of acceptance or rejection of my testimony, and the testimony of so many others, at the extreme joy we have with fellowship with God, and how He has chosen to move in our lives..

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      • We cannot be atheists of that which we haven’t considered, which means we cannot say we are born atheists.

        Why not? Ignorance and mindful dismissal look exactly the same on the outside. I am currently ignorant about great deal of information on Indian Pantheon of gods. My ignorance does not exclude me from make the decision that Shiva, like jesus is firmly in the realm of mythology.

        More contrary to your point is that without someone indoctrinating a child with delusional belief, the child will, most likely retain the idea that there are no magic men in the sky watching us and stories that tell us so, are properly categorized into the realm of mythology.

        I realize the arguments made (loopy as they are) by Cliteur and see them as an attempt to dodge the fact that religions are a learned cultural ailment. But I’ll address them in turn.

        The atheist is not convinced by the proofs of theism.

        This is a misnomer, because unless I am reading the word “proofs” wrong, no such evidence for theism exists, unless you would like to trot out the usual list of proofs (ontological argument, et cetera) that have been thoroughly excoriated by the light of reason and shown to be invalid.

        Therefore atheism is a negative doctrine.

        Using Reason instead of belief is not a negative doctrine. Belief in magic is necessarily excluded because there is no evidence to prove that it is, in fact, real.

        Cliteur finds it inconsistent then to say that we are “born” atheists, since nothing is being negated; reflections on the theistic God exist in a state of ignorance or are themselves nonexistent.

        If we work with Cliteur’s particular definition of what atheism is then his argument may have some weight. However, defining atheism as the notion that there is noting but material world as it is, as opposed to what we want it to be, would seem to make Cliteur’s arguments superfluous.

        And, therefore, one cannot negate or oppose a phenomenon of which one is unaware.

        If one is raised to believe in testable, empirical reality, it most certainly does allow one to negate and oppose a phenomenon that I am unaware of. Square-circles do not exist, whether I have knowledge of them or not. They are, as far we know in our reality, impossible shapes. Thus, magical beings that watch over us and demand our subservience fall into the same category.

        Boyer and others has argued that our natural religiosity is a by-product of several generally adaptive predispositions including Hyperactive Agency Detection.

        Our capacity for self-deception may have genetic precursors, but their effect is limited at best. We have a natural tendency to rape as well, being natural or part of our genetic makeup does not ascribe any special status to raping, or belief in magic.

        Evidently, the study of science tends to trump our natural tendency for religiosity.

        I would put forward the assumption that finding out how things actually work and testing said assumptions would lead to less belief in the supernatural.

        As a believer, I have experienced God’s Presence, which is all the proof I require to know God is real and that is why I tell others.

        Have you? Which god was it? Can you say for sure it wasn’t the devil just saying nice things to make you feel all warm and woogy on the inside? Did it sorta match up with the picture you had in your head (that picture being mapped there by inherited cultural practices)? Confirmation bias is a wonderful thing, no?

        If my testimony fails to compel you

        Evidence would be compelling, testimony is not. Saying that we have genetic tendencies toward religious belief and arriving (somehow) that theism is a rational position to hold, is to far a leap for me.

        and the testimony of so many others,

        Would god be cocaine or heroin then, because let me assure you users of those substances find bliss as well. Just because many people do a certain action, or believe a certain way, does not make it right.

        at the extreme joy we have with fellowship with God, and how He has chosen to move in our lives..

        That would be the same guy who happily commits atheists to eternal torment in lakes of fire… Pass thanks. 🙂 We have enough egregious totalitarian rule here on earth, we do not need to subscribe to any of the heavenly variety.

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      • Hi Roy. Yes, you do engage and for that I thank you. We don’t agree on much, you certainly haven’t convinced me of anything, but you do present your case with conviction. Applause.

        Now, to your points:

        1) People have tried to define “atheism” as some sort of belief, but this is in error, and I don’t follow Cliteur’s definition of atheism. Atheism is simply a-theism, without theism. No child is born a theist, therefore a-theism is the natural state, the default position. Show me an infant who worships Baal and you’d have something. Show me one example of the same deity popping up in two isolated human populations and you’d have something. Nothing of the sort has ever happened because theism is not natural.

        2) You’ve not established in any sense that theism is natural. What does exist is a tendency for us to superstition: an error is causal association. To that I completely agree. It’s why my blog is titled The Superstitious Naked Ape. We are superstitious. That, however, is not theism. It is superstition.

        3) “You’ve experienced God’s Presence” is not proof, and you know it. As to this point though, I don’t care if you worship a house brick. It’s really none of my business. It becomes my business when you start trying to convince others of the house bricks existence and use the “teachings” of that house brick to meddle in our secular society. If in public you say, “the house brick is real!” then I will demand evidence for your house brick. As I’m not the one making the positive claim it is you who has to prove it exists.

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      • We can be A-unicornists, and they can be Athinkers. Because, their position REQUIRES a lack of thinking … And, we don’t believe in unicorns any less than god.

        I also vote that we refrain from capitalizing the word god unless its at the beginning of a sentence. We don’t capitalize the word unicorn.

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      • Done! I’m an A-unicornists. And I don’t capitilise god as there are many floating around. Even the Christian god was a polytheistic god for centuries before melding into one. Christian hates hearing that, but its a fact.

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      • Now now guys come one. Athinkers… they will say we are nasty and we are trying to be nice here, note however that I vote in favor of Athinkers to refer to theists

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      • We are labeled by how we are unlike them.

        Theism requires dismissal of thinking. There’s no denying that. It’s called faith.

        To me it’s not being nasty just to be nasty. I can’t even tell my mother I’m an atheist without making her cry.

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      • I was nice to FL, then he just turned weird. A-thinker applies to any person who cites Ken Ham’s, Answers in Genesis. He’s the guy who built the Creation Museum which has dioramas of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. That shit is insane 🙂

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      • I wouldn’t stand outside a church and try to sell Athinker t-shirts.

        But anyone who enters a theatrical setting like this is fair game.

        And, is it really that mean? Thinking is the devil, isn’t it?

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      • Great point! God (we’re told) doesn’t want anyone partaking of knowledge, therefore gods directive is to be an a-thinker. The math works, the reasoning is sound… I do believe you’ve just established a new natural law!

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    • 🙂 I’d be easier on them if they stopped making such wild and unjustified claims. You yourself put it best: If they stop their self-indulgent evangelical work (and meddling in our secular societies) we’ll stop harassing them with reality.

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  1. And the claimants must be considered deviant and abnormal? My, my, such strong language and I haven’t finished my coffee this morning.

    Maybe a preface (in John Wayne’s voice .., “Now. listen and listen good, pilgrims, …” could soften the message. But I guess that those steeped in illogic won’t be reached by logic.

    We are all atheists, we just include one more god to not believe in than do the theists.

    Cheers!

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  2. I like this post but I think the little circle of smugly back-slapping fellow atheists could be more critical and challenging. The burden of proof is on no-one. And I’m sure it is unscientific to suggest that just because something hasn’t been discovered by science, it doesn’t exist.

    Also we have to be taught many things that are not the default position. What about language? I wasn’t born knowing all these words and if no-one had communicated them to me I wouldn’t know they existed. (I sense there may be a flaw in here somewhere but I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.)

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    • Good lord, don’t attempt anything before coffee! 🙂

      I’m hoping some theists come along and engage. They usually do, but before then it is a choir of the converted. I just hope they’re all wearing the white tunics as I requested! 🙂

      I think, however, you’re wrong in your example of language. Communication is a default, even if its just gestures. That’s natural, although structured language does have to be learnt. The point of burden of proof is that it lays firmly with the person making the positive claim of something which is not natural, like the gods. Given no two identical gods have ever arisen anywhere on the planet we must assume religion to be entirely unnatural. If Baal was worshiped by Australian aborigines then we’d be looking at a completely different picture.

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      • But gods are natural, that’s why every civilization tries to communicate their understanding of them. It’s clearly a default understanding if every single society came to the same conclusion – there is an invisible deity (or several) tinkering in the background and it wants humans to worship it. You can’t claim that what babies understand about life is the default.

        “If every trace of any single language were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created that way again. There might be some other language in its place, but not that exact language.”

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      • All human life started in Africa. We didn’t magically appear as the same species all over the world.

        Searching for God is not a default. Searching for answers and meaning is. Very long ago there might have been a politician who was friends with a mystic or an artist.

        The greedy few needed a way to control people who they stole from and justify their selfishness. So that need justified believing the story and spreading the word of the mystics.

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      • You’re talking here more about superstition, not theism, and superstition is a residue of the natural: errors in causal relations. Gods have to be created, and they’re created to fill in a blank spot in understanding. If identical (or even similar) deities were to emerge in isolated human populations you might have a case for the natural, but that’s not the reality. The default is no-theism. It is the natural state of a human at rest.

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      • @theguywiththeeye You’ve just said ‘God’ – you’re violating your Unicorn principle. Seeking understanding and meaning via invisible deities is totally the default. You leave some children lying around somewhere with food and no other input and see what they’ve come up with by the time they’re 40.

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      • Dang it! I did capitalize god 🙂

        Suppose that is true … Why should we assume whatever a group comes to an agreement on would make the subject of the agreement true? It wouldn’t be if they were unable to temper their subjectivity with some objective method.

        In fact, 40 people is such a small sample size … It would be unlikely that they would develop a scientific method.

        Our brains are incredible flawed. We can’t trust them without an objective standard.

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      • It’s not inevitable. Plus the argument falls apart as no two will invent the same god. It’s an imaginative process, not natural. Again, show me one instance where the same deity (same name, same background story, same look, same language, same ritualised dogma) popped up in two completely isolated populations. Do that and you’ll have a case.

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      • We’re talking about whether theism is the default here. It is. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a consistent or rational belief – it’s the conclusion that all societies appear to have come to, for whatever reason. And I left the children some food.

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      • They would eat it all too quickly.

        If there was no greedy jerk in the lot then they would all take care of each other and they wouldn’t have a reason to question their existence.

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      • Your conclusions are based on primitive, naturally superstitious cultures. I’m not doubting we’re a superstitious lot. It’s why my blog is called The Superstitious Naked Apes. That’s what we are. Don’t confuse superstition with theism, though. The latter is an elaborate growth from the former, and the former a residue of errors in cognitive processing.

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      • Thank you for touching on errors in cognitive processing.

        Does any other creature require so much maintenance lest it becomes a TORTURE DEVICE?? That’s not a rhetorical question.

        Our brains (and our bodies) are so poorly designed that they require constant maintenance. I’m not that impressed that we can put our heads together and build a stadium to watch the fittest of us run and play catch.

        We can’t say that ANYTHING that we’ve come up with at this point is evidence of any god. If a god were real and came down and interacted with us, it’d probably say, “WHAT!? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!? HOW DID YOU GO FROM 2 BILLION TO 7 BILLION IN 90 YEARS!? I DIDN’T MAKE YOU RABBITS FOR A REASON!? AND, WHAT’S WITH ALL THE STEEL & CONCRETE!? YOU’RE FUCKING UP EVERYTHING!?”

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      • “And just who the fuck kicked the hole in the ozone!?”

        Yeah, cognitive errors is the root of all this mess. We’re actually geared to making the mistakes, though. I wrote about it somewhere. Nature found it better for us to make quick (albeit mostly wrong) casual associations rather than labor through more time consuming rational scepticism.

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      • Rat’s, apparently. The utterly horrible Skinner Box experiments in the 60’s proved that. I think all creatures in possession of enough neurons are subject to insanity. Take a look at those sun bears in China…. poor things have totally lost their minds.

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      • Hahahah … poor thing.

        I feel like all of these discussions are connected. I apologize for creating digressions in your threads, but it’s what I do.

        Of course life is going to feel like a test with the way society is designed. We are not geared for self-sufficiency like some proclaim. Of course we are going to need some god to pray to … this shit is torture. The rich bastards have created an earth-sized torture chamber for the rest of us … oh, but it’s god’s will … those who suffer in this life will be rewarded in the next. BULLSHIT!!!!!! What a CROCK OF BULLSHIT!

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      • Excellent! I think this is worth touching on in any discussion with an Athinkist.

        They become so attached to the conclusions that they jump (or perhaps blast off into infinite space) to.

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      • I’d like to answer your question John, ” Again, show me one instance where the same deity (same name, same background story, same look, same language, same ritualised dogma) popped up in two completely isolated populations.”

        But first a little humor…

        The Total Mass Of Hell, And Absolute Proof In The Existence Of God
        Author Unknown

        First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

        1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
        2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

        So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, “It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you, ” and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct……leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting “Oh my God.”

        ****

        To believe in a God, ANY GOD, would necessitate believing that that God had a plan. Religion is no longer in one place. It is now world-wide. While someone with no belief in a God may assume that our technology is a product of our own ingenuity, it takes on a new meaning to those who believe that it can serve a purpose parallel to the question that you have posed. Why didn’t “the divine one” appear on multiple continents? Jesus wasn’t even accepted by all on the continent that He did appear on! He still isn’t by the Jews (the people he showed himself to).

        God didn’t create us all to be wind up soldiers to do everything He wants us to do.” Why? Same reason why you wouldn’t want your child to be some mindless drone. You want your child to love you. In the end, you can’t prove to anyone that your child does love you. You can point to physical affection and words, but their actions will tell otherwise when they’re old enough to rebel. So their love comes down to a FEELING that you cannot substantiate to anyone. That is faith. That is what constitutes a relationship with God. And believe me — you can feel it. It is not all in my mind.

        But I will put to you the test,when asking me whether God is real. You ask God if he is real, that he show you. If God IS real, wouldn’t he show you? Yes, he would. Have you ever asked? Dare Him to show you. You have nothing to lose. As a matter of fact, you only have something to gain. If God isn’t real and he shows you nothing (over your lifetime – remember he has your whole life) then you have proven your point. If he does show you that he is real and you can gain an eternity in Heaven you win again. Ask Him.

        Roy

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      • Thanks, Roy. Yeah, I’ve seen that joke before. Quite good. The backstory I heard was that it was an extra credit physics exams question. Be nice to think that was true.

        Now, you’re simply talking about your god and trying to justify why that particular god ignored 99.999999999999999999% of the planet. I’m talking about theism. Larger subject. If theism was natural it would have emerged in one relatively unformed way in all human populations. It hasn’t. Animism, zoomorphic cults, Totemism, Polytheism, Monotheism, the Dreaming, UFO religions, Wicca… all differing manifestations (debris) of superstition, which is nothing but an irrational mistake in cognition.

        To you test. You’re forgetting I was once a catholic. You simply do not want to accept that before returning to the natural state of a-theism I did (as an adult) honestly explore the notion of god. I have a post, I think it’s the first, Losing My Religion. That might give a little background.

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      • They’d be foolish if they did. A-theism is the default. There’s no reason whatsoever to move from that position. I don’t have to go out of my way to prove a giant talking house brick named Eddie exists. Those who worship Ed have to prove to me he exists.

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  3. I think you’re spot on with deities. I do think though that humans naturally believe in the supernatural, because figuring out what is ‘natural’ is really, really hard. We’ve only had the best tools to do so (science) since the Enlightenment. It’s far easier to attribute causation to magic or spirits. We all are hard wired to seek out patterns, and need to explain them somehow, even when there is no pattern.

    Like you point out, believing in specific gods and the dogma that goes with them must be learned.

    Speaking of human nature, I read this yesterday. I think you’ll find it interesting.

    http://www.psmag.com/magazines/pacific-standard-cover-story/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135/

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    • Morning, reasoning! I’m with you on the supernatural. I included it here only to support naturalism. In my mind there is room for the supernatural, but before it can be verified it too must fall under the banner of “subject to burden of proof.”

      Damn, half-way through that article and its crazy cool! Thanks! I’m going to have to roam through it in detail. Sort of related to it Australian aborigines (broad term for the 900 ‘nations” that existed pre-1777) had no word for “ownership.” It was a completely alien notion to them.

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  4. I thought this line important:
    “If this were not the case a single religion centred on a single deity (who we’d expect to speak a single language) would arise naturally and fluidly wherever humans were found, regardless of their isolation or epoch. That, of course, is not the reality.”
    Over the ages humans have “rediscovered” science principals repeatedly and they are always either the same or very similar. In other words, they do not change. Unlike religions which are always different from culture to culture, reflecting the fact that they are fabricated. Religions are not discovered, or rediscovered because they do not exist without the imagination of the human mind. Even if all humans were to cease to exist, and even though the concept of scientific principals are our own construct, nature would continue to reflect the reality of the principals. If another creature arose upon the planet to replace us and they were to acquire comparable levels of intelligence they too would eventually “re-discover” scientific principals, but would have to fabricate their own unique belief systems.

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  5. Another way to look at it, is that Religion is easy…all you need is a fire, some shadows and some unjustified fear of the natural world. Science on the other hand forces you to think and critically evaluate your assumptions.

    Even in today’s civilized societies the former rather than the later mode of thinking is still common place.

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    • No one said it better than the giant of Empiricism, Francis Bacon:

      “The General root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other.”

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  6. ” As much as Christians would like to believe otherwise no person has ever arrived at Christianity without it first being taught to them. ….. Said in another way, any un-falsifiable claim (unicorns, spacefaring turtles, gods) must be read as false before being proven true. It follows then that there is no need for atheism to prove the non-existence of the gods, nor indeed for naturalism to prove the non-existence of the supernatural. “

    You always do such a great job of cogently pointing out the obvious but this post I think does it in a much more brief and better way than anything you’ve posted before. And THAT is saying quite a bit considering all of your previous work on this.

    But please don’t let this be the end of this exercise. I always enjoy the refreshers on this topic you offer.

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    • Thanks, Larry. I’m a natural woffler (is that a word?) but blogging is forcing me to be more concise. Douglas Adams was once (mildly) criticised for Hitchhikers being just over 50,000 words. He answered by saying, “Ah, but do you have any idea just how much work went into getting the story into those 50,000!”

      Like

  7. Fantastic post. The demand for evidence is definitely fair game. Any rebuttal referencing the supernatural as an ultimate authority should be mocked and rightfully dismissed.

    Like

  8. My friend, you could not have put it better than what you already have wrote. Here is something for you

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.” – Penn Jillette

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  9. Fantastic work John. The logic is unassailable.

    With a presentation as solid as this, you’d think the light would instantly go on for someone as intelligent as vidasdecristo seems.

    The thing is, believers don’t require proof. If they did, they wouldn’t be believers.

    I wonder, can anyone recall when last the scientific community burned someone alive for not “believing” in evolution?

    Like

    • Cheers, Richard! Roy did respond, but as I suspected he doesn’t hold that a-theism is the default position. This, of course, is in error as its clearly not natural. But, as you said, believers will believe regardless of the evidence.

      Like

  10. I always knew who god was
    I always knew his ways
    I always knew his special style
    Though his face I’ve never gazed

    But then my neighbor told me
    My mind was in a haze
    And that god was nothing like
    The one that I gave praise

    At him I laughed out loud
    Said it was he who’s in a daze
    That he could be so foolish
    Of my neighbor I’m amazed

    Do people ever have the same idea of who/what god is? Not even those of the same faith can come up with the same definition.

    Like

  11. @theguywiththeeye
    “We can be A-unicornists, and they can be Athinkers. Because, their position REQUIRES a lack of thinking … And, we don’t believe in unicorns any less than god.”
    Love this!

    “I also vote that we refrain from capitalizing the word god unless its at the beginning of a sentence. We don’t capitalize the word unicorn.”
    Thank you! I have no idea why atheists capitalise it, and when I queried one once I got a pert answer back about grammar. I might dig that post out and copy and paste your quote! (adding a story about a unicorn who said it was the only unicorn and was to be called Unicorn)

    Like

  12. Ehhhh…
    “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.” – Unknown
    What benefit and good to humanity did any of those religions bring to humans? Nothing except for fear of something that doesn’t exist, wars, hatred of the diverse, child molest, women suppression, division, racism, slowing progress of science and medicine, burning witches on the stick, killing children, occupying other’s countries… I could go on and on and on

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    • Buy up all the sources of fish, become their owner and deny everyone access to them unless they’re able to pay whatever price you demand.

      That’s from the bible of mammonism, which is a religion that isn’t discussed much. Its principle denomination is called capitalism and it’s practiced more than any other religion in history. In fact, it’s about to become a global theocracy.

      Like

  13. Oh man – impeccable logic but the sneaky old church covered that a few years ago when the vatican announced the possibility of extraterrestrial life.(stating there was no limit to god’s power) Toss your argument at the faithful, and I guarantee that instead of considering your point they’ll be telling you that god made unicorns.

    Like

      • Sadly the Bible mentions unicorns 2 or 3 times.

        Modern readers have trouble with the Bible’s unicorns because we forget that a single-horned feature is not uncommon on god’s menu for animal design. (Consider the rhinoceros and narwhal.)

        Eighteenth century reports from southern Africa described rock drawings and eyewitness accounts of fierce, single-horned, equine-like animals. One such report describes “a single horn, directly in front, about as long as one’s arm, and at the base about as thick. It had a sharp point; it was not attached to the bone of the forehead, but fixed only in the skin.

        The below site has 10 pics and info on 10 animals that have got extinct in the last two hundred years. Who knows how many have gone bye-bye in the last three thousand.

        listverse.com/2009/07/25/10-recently-extinct-animals/

        Like

  14. I don’t know if I exactly agree. Only because the idea of entities, deities, beings, spirits, etc. is so prevalent, even among the most hidden-away-from-humanity groups of people. Nevertheless, I respect atheists. I wish I was one most of the time.

    Like

      • It tends to be, yes. I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t be a spiritual atheist. I see a lot of blogs talking about just this. Keep it simple: atheism is simply the absence of belief in the gods.

        Like

      • I don’t think that article explains the position of a spiritual atheist. Perhaps one can define themselves as, (I was raised to believe in God then as an adult rejected God as real but still cling to spirituality because I really doubt my disbelief.)

        You see, you can’t ride the fence. You can’t believe in both naturalism and supernaturalism. Either there is a Creator and a path to a relationship, a soul, an afterlife, or not.

        The two terms, spiritual and atheist, are a contradiction in their traditional definitions.

        On a diff sub, what’s up with Nate? Maybe unicorns where real?

        Like

      • Roy,

        You don’t need god or mysticism to create an experience which makes you feel connected to your environment. There’s nothing supernatural about it.

        Supernatural is science fiction, anyway … If I run into Harrison Ford in a parking lot, I’m not going to ask him to show me inside his millennium falcon. But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the movie.

        Like

      • I don’t subscribe to the supernatural, but one can without also believing in the gods. Atheism-lite, perhaps. Gods are unnatural. As Drenn pointed out in her/his excellent post “Religion can only exist in humanity’s presence.” http://drenn1077.com/2013/03/06/but-what-of-the-god-spot/

        This doesn’t necessarily mean a person has to jettison some notion of energy persistence, perhaps something more in line with Buddhism. I like the precepts of Buddhism but it breaks down for me in saying an consciousness lives on. The idea disregards the laws of conservation of energy. Now, to be entirely fair, a Buddhist does not believe an individual’s entire conscious self (their memories) gets remade into a tree, a hedgehog, or another human being rather a core – an element – of it goes on to inhabit another life form on the next phase in a wheel of existence. Over time and with right actions that core acquires greater and greater spiritual mass, or karma (literally meaning ‘action’ which includes the fruits and the consequences of those actions), elevating itself with each rebirth higher and higher up the forever turning wheel of life: samsara. It’s a beautiful notion, unquestionably poetic, but regretfully burdened by the awkward reality that there is absolutely no way of testing it for accuracy. It is bewitching and charming and graceful and wonder-full, but in the end the promise of spiritual reincarnation is no different than the Mormon imaginings of a sexed-up Celestial Kingdom where making spirit babies is the order of the day: a promise based on nothing other than someone at one time thought it sounded pretty good and had the added value of helping alleviate people’s fear of total conscious annihilation.

        I think Nate was just allowing for the possibility of mistakes to be made by ancient and primitive peoples.

        Like

      • Your missing the point. How many other sentient beings like us, do you know of. A spiritual atheist feels something on a level that is unlike all other atheists. There is a push to connect to what our subconsciousness knows as truth, that we are more than just flesh and blood.

        If all we are, and why we exist, is because of evolution and chance, and this was so easily achieved by nothing, then why are we the only sentient species capable of doing what we do?

        I think that’s what the Lady meant when she said, “I am religionless and I believe in every god”. and “That’s why I just call the big jumble of gods “Universe”.”

        I found the following on an atheists blog,

        “Although Spiritual Atheists do not believe in a literal “God”; we generally recognize “God” as an important and powerful symbol of the inter-connectedness and one-ness of the Universe. We see that, individually, everything in the Universe is a part of “God”; and, collectively, everything in the Universe is “God”. And that there is only one “God”.

        Is God’s body not the very Universe itself? Is God’s consciousness not the very consciousness that is present in all of life everywhere? Is not all of life sacred?

        Even so, many Spiritual Atheists are extremely reluctant to make use of the word “God”, due to the extreme desecration it has suffered by traditional Theists and Atheists alike.”

        Like

    • Oh, I don’t disagree that superstition leads to theism, it does. Point was that no theism emerges in isolation, therefore its not natural.

      Try being an atheist for a week. You already were when you were a kid, and you are already today. Think about it, you dismiss tens of thousands of other gods without even thinking about it. So, join us heathens and dismiss just one more… that’s all it really is 🙂

      Like

      • See, thats the problem, I don’t dismiss any of them. I am religionless and I believe in every god. At least that some form of something like that sort of exists in some way. Very technical….

        Like

  15. Pingback: But, What of the God Spot? | Freethinker's corner

  16. Came back for a second read…the comments are often as enlightening as the post. Other than Roy? Doesn’t he come with instructions? Like, don’t get wet, don’t expose to sunlight and make sure he is back in his cage by sundown?
    Shakes head…

    “If this were not the case a single religion centred on a single deity (who we’d expect to speak a single language) would arise naturally and fluidly wherever humans were found, regardless of their isolation or epoch. That, of course, is not the reality.”

    That paragraph alone should be made compulsory reading for every ding bat , god believing bible believing nit-wit on the planet. In fact William Lane Craig, Unklee, and Tim effin O’Neill should have this stuck to their shaving mirror and be forced to recite it every damn morning.

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    • “If this were not the case a single religion centred on a single deity (who we’d expect to speak a single language) would arise naturally and fluidly wherever humans were found, regardless of their isolation or epoch. That, of course, is not the reality.”

      Why exactly does the above idea have to be true Ark? Suppose there is a creative force behind the universe, it’s complexity yet perfect order to sustain life, and then life itself. How is it your mind and thoughts surpass this force? Why does it have to answer your question why it does, or does not do, what you think it should, or should not, do?

      Just because a thing does not behave as you would have it behave does not make it not real.

      Like

      • First you have to acknowledge that you believe YOUR god is also the product of coitus between a 12-14 year old Jewish girl and a deity who should know that it is not cool to shag kids – a revolting thought in anyone’s book. Oh, WAIT a moment…not in your book, right?
        Seems Mohamed was not the only pedophile in town, was he, now?

        I realise this concept will have your little mind fizzing and popping and reaching for the Hot Line to William Lane Craig for help, but these are the Facts, Jack.

        “Just because a thing does not behave as you would have it behave does not make it not real.”

        This might be true. The fact that you behave like a raving idiot does not mean that you are one. But sadly, all the signs are there.

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      • The Jesus story does get off to a very weird start. I mean, here is a god who apparently made EVERYTHING, including Adam and Eve… but he had to knock up a 14 year old Palestinian girl just to get a toe inside the earthly door. Odd. The Bible writers could have done with some script continuity supervisors….

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      • Hateful lies and name calling, I am so sad for you Ark. But that is OK, I kind of expect it from an immature 17 year old.

        To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

        Do I need to tell you again what that hate will do to you Ark?

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      • Come on, Roy… even you have to admit that theism is unnatural. If not forced it would simply evaporate. Strange and wonderful superstitions will of course emerge and mysticism will find a foothold, but no religion or deity has been, or will be, repeated anywhere.

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      • RFLMFAO…
        Hate? Oh my giddy aunt.
        Your puerile ramblings are so fraught with naivety they are worth their weight in gold, Roy.
        17? Ah…heady days, head days. Hanging out with winos,stealing cars, smoking crack, rolling homeless people. Yeah…that was me. Urban terrorist, then the Lord found me and for a while was saved. Right, this is The Ark to a ‘T’.

        That you deigned to ignore my comment but rather came back at me with infantile vitriol rams home the point wonderfully, thank you very much, and no doubt the realisation that you worship a deist pedophile is right at this moment making you gag on the sheer horror, but nonetheless, truth of it.

        Ain’t religion a bitch, Roy? Suck it up my friend, suck it up.

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      • Belief in God is completely natural John.

        Atheists love to say, “If the belief in God were natural, there would be no need to teach it.” Baloney. Children have to be taught everything; the burner on the stove is hot, look both ways before crossing the street, etc. Ever taught a child to not crap in their diaper? In fact, children here are required, by law, to go to school to learn things.

        My legacy is my children and I will teach them what I learned. They know passion for life, and tolerance for other peaceful peeps, and when the time was right they made up their own minds about God just like everyone else does.

        Your ignorance of Scripture is amazing. God had to be flesh and blood just like us to being a living example.

        What you say Ark does not merit a comment because the evil lies are so profound and wicked. You can not hurt me, nor make we feel in any way contrary to how I chose to feel. But I wonder who hurt you. My heart cries that you suffer so…

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      • It would make more sense to me if Jesus was Lucifer posing as the son of god. That would make sense to me. I would understand why god would want lucifer to be tortured to death. And that would be just like Lucifer to abandon his family and convince “disciples” to abandon their families and go on a road trip a’bummin and a’moochin with the “son of god.”

        Jesus’s life has Lucifer written all over it.

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      • Stop it, you’re blowing my mind 🙂

        But seriously, this is a great idea, and it WORKS! Honestly, would a peace loving savior smite an olive tree? No, the bloody devil would, though. Only a true fucker would smite a tree!

        Like

      • Anything could be, if you have the patience. Start as a narrated series using the stories from the bible (like the tree smiting incident). Xtians like to “interpret” the stories as they see fit so you should also be able to “interpret” the stories as you see fit. This could be fun.

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      • Well, you’re asking that to a person who doesn’t even believe jesus ever lived. That said, it’s not obnoxious if you’re just using the stories that are published in the bible… simply interpreting them as others have not. Start the tree smiting and see where it goes. that’s an easy one to pose the question.

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      • “Belief in God is completely natural…”

        Well Roy, to correct you, i said Theism was unnatural, and you’re welcome to try and disprove that. I’ve even given you the ways to proves me wrong in my latest post/meme.

        As to belief, it can’t be natural if theism isn’t natural. Belief is as such forced. It is manufactured, just like the deities inside hundreds of religions that have graced mans imagination. That’s not however to say there’s isn’t a physiological trigger deep inside our gnome which eventually leads to belief after first passing through superstition. There is… and to get the answer you’ll have to read my next post 😉

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      • “Just because a thing does not behave as you would have it behave does not make it not real.” I like the triple negative here. But I also agree. There seems to be a general agreement among the atheists here about how imaginary deities should behave. Which is odd. You have to hand it to the believers that as their deities are supernatural, anything they choose to believe is possible. The argument about the single religion centred on a single deity is only correct in reference to strict interpretations of individual monotheistic religions, not to theism generally.

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      • How an imaginary deity behaves? However you want them to behave.
        I think that being in the U.S. we are indeed talking of the major deity promoted, and it is a monotheistic deity. Even in the event of a pluralistic theism, we would be talking of the same gods, originating over and over, should they exist. As it is, the only repetition occurs is when one religion draws on another for its application of attributes for its god or gods. When a religion originates independently they are always different with the exception perhaps that they are modeled on the humans involved, or a shifting of parental authority from parents to gods.

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  17. Oh, John … I wish we could let people like you just live in your little world. So special.

    A: Let’s all agree that we won’t tell him the truth until tomorrow. Look at him; he’s happy.

    B: Is he making Rancor mount Leia??

    Like

  18. Pingback: magic moments | violetwisp

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