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Arguing for Theism

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FiskeMiles

Arguing for Theism

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I feel guilty about having hijacked the topic dedicated to Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion, to carry on an extended debate about whether it is more rational to be an atheist than to be a theist.I thought I would try starting a new topic (my first on booktalk) with a slight twist on our previous conversation. I don't think MadArchitect has made a strong argument for theism, in point of fact. And, even though I am a committed atheist, I'm willing to bet I can make a stronger argument for theism than what I have heard so far.I'm going to assert a Christian position, since that is the religion I am most familiar with. I think similar arguments could be made for Islam, Judaism, etc. Keep in mind, this is a thought experiment. I'll begin by stating that my world view is based on faith in God. Everything else I believe is subordinate to this. I see no problem with the lack of empirical evidence of God's existence. As beings of the natural world, why should we expect to perceive evidence of the supernatural? I'm not ruling out the possibility of evidence, mind you, I just don't think we can count on the supernatural interacting with the natural world in such a way as to demonstrate its existence. Needless to say, I deny that miracles (as commonly conceived) are required for faith. In fact, I would assert the opposite. And I can also offer a possible reason why God would not permit such a demonstration of his existence -- it would discourage the human quest to understand the natural world. Why do I think God wants us to pursue such knowledge? Because one of the innate characteristics of human nature is curiosity about our world.Anyone care to play? FiskePS: Oh, one ground rule for the game. It's okay to argue either position -- atheism or theism, but you should start by stating your actual orientation. I think it would be more interesting for atheists to argue the theistic position and theists to argue the atheist position, but I'll leave that up to each participant.
MadArchitect

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Re: Arguing for Theism

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FiskeMiles: I don't think MadArchitect has made a strong argument for theism, in point of fact.Nor would I try. Ultimately, I don't think rational argument can get us to a satisfactory answer either way. I think the only good reasons to sway one way rather than another, theist or atheist, are all personal.
Saint Gasoline

Re: Arguing for Theism

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Quote:I see no problem with the lack of empirical evidence of God's existence. As beings of the natural world, why should we expect to perceive evidence of the supernatural?This is exactly why you should disbelieve in God. The fact that we have no reason, and COULD have no reason, to believe in him!If we examine how we acquire knowledge, it becomes clear that it is a type of foundationalism that ultimately rules--although coherence among beliefs is also important in a sense. The foundation for any truth claims we are going to be making is an empirical one. If we could not sense the world around us--if we were rocks, for instance--then we certainly couldn't make any remarks about "truth", about what is "out there" in the world. Because of this fact, I don't think it makes any sense to talk about non-empirical truth (in the sense that it is true but cannot possibly be known about with our sensory organs). All claims of knowledge and truth ultimately boil down to the evidence of our senses, and if something could not possibly have such evidence in support of it, then we have no reason to suppose it true, nor could we ever do so.Is it possible that we are like rocks, incapable of sensing certain things that are real? Of course. But this gives us no reason to believe that there is something insensible out there. And, owing to the fact that our conceptions of truth and reality are bound up with the fact that we are empirical creatures, it would seem absurd to talk about the "truth" of a supernatural realm. We wouldn't even know what such a realm could possibly be like, nor could we coherently explain what a supernatural something is!This is sort of a positivist objection, but I think it is ultimately a very good one against belief in God and in support of naturalism.
FiskeMiles

Re: Arguing for Theism

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Dear Mad:For someone who thinks rational argument cannot provide a satisfactory answer, you sure spend a lot of time arguing.Merry Christmas! Fiske
FiskeMiles

Re: Arguing for Theism

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Dear Saint:Thank you for contributing to this topic. You make a strong argument, but not an insurmountable one in my opinion. It is certainly an issue thoughtful Christians must carefully consider.The holiday festivities don't leave time, at present, for a proper response. I'll post a detailed response to your argument when time permits.Happy Holidays! Fiske
MaesterAuron151

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Quote:It scares the hell out of me. First the god-belief and then the belief that aliens are ordering you to murder your parents. Neither is supported by reason or empirical evidence, but what the hell, who needs those anyway?When that happens I'll be scared. Mostly though it seems to be orders to give to charity and attend church picnics. Hardly frightening to me. A few of them seem to be trying to stop people from having sex but they're more irritiating then frightening. Of course there are the actual frightening ones but they live half way across the world and they haven't been up to much in years.I find there's a bit of evidence behind you're alien killer analogy.What happens if a person desides there's aliens who want him to kill people. He gets thrown in jail or a sanitarium. What happens if a person desides there's some intelegent force telling that wants him to be compassionate to others. Nothing he's just like everyone else.Quote:What else do you believe in just for the hell of itUmm well I have no reason right now to believe that anyone besides myself actually exists. I have senses but thats hardly evidence and they've been proven faulty again and again.Personally I find you're fears paranoid and irrational. The number of people who actually make such violent faith based decisions are quite few. Even if you factor in religeous violence scattered accross the world you still have a very small percentage. You have no basis to decide that such occurances are likely to happen to you. Statistics clearly show that your chances of being killed by a religeous fanatic or a person who believes they're under alien control are quite slim. To back this up a bit further anyone who kills you in the manner you described for the same motives would be considered a serial killer. You're more likely to be struck by lightning twice then to be killed by a serial killer.Are you afraid of being struck by lighting twice?So I submit to you that your fear of being killed for no reason because of a person's faith is a phobia and thus irrational. Edited by: MaesterAuron151 at: 12/25/06 3:16 pm
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Re: Arguing for Theism

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Quote:Ultimately, I don't think rational argument can get us to a satisfactory answer either way. I think the only good reasons to sway one way rather than another, theist or atheist, are all personal.Either way? It is blatantly obvious that there isn't a thing rational about believing in gods, so I'll agree with you on this, but I do NOT agree that rational argument can't get us to a satisfactory answer "either way." When rational argument doesn't support or defend a belief that belief should be promptly discarded or held in question. Just throwing your hands up and saying, "Oh, I know it doesn't make much sense, but I'm sticking to my belief in God," is dangerous behavior. It scares the hell out of me. First the god-belief and then the belief that aliens are ordering you to murder your parents. Neither is supported by reason or empirical evidence, but what the hell, who needs those anyway?Mad, think about what you're saying. You are literally saying "My belief in God makes ZERO SENSE, but I am still going to retain this belief for "personal reasons." WTF? This doesn't scare you? You can't explain your god-belief rationally and this is ok?? How so? What other beliefs do you or others hold that cannot be explained rationally, but are acceptable or healthy to retain?If a belief makes no sense and you don't discard it you have a VERY VERY serious thinking problem. My saying so comes across as harsh and intolerant, but I just don't give a damn. Much like Dawkins I view ALL beliefs that are unsupported by evidence to be weird, scary, dangerous and unhealthy. It literally blows my mind that grown adults can look me straight in the eye and say, "I can't explain it rationally, but I just have faith." Huh? You MUST be shitting me. Surely you jest. What else do you believe in just for the hell of it? Let's cover that right now so I can comfortably turn my back before you plunge a knife into it. I'd like to know if aliens or gods or ghosts are speaking with you and ordering you to do me harm. Heck, I'd like to know if you simply have "faith" that aliens, gods or ghosts are ordering you to do me in. I already know that all three don't exist, but as long as there are people walking around that "just believe" I'm scared! I'm dead serious. What else do they "just believe" in!? My life literally depends on other people using their heads and thinking through things rationally. When I run into a person that "just believes" and for "personal reasons" I back away wondering what other crazy shit is happening in their weak minds. And who is to know? The moment reason and empirical evidence are removed from the equation we're all at the mercy of arbitrary "beliefs," but hey, faith is a good thing. We have to be tolerant of other people's beliefs, even if they haven't a thing to do with objective reality.Your above statement is plain wrong. Rejecting the god belief isn't on par with accepting the god belief. One is the default position. One of the two is the starting point, and that is the lack of belief in ANYTHING at all. And this includes the belief in a loving god. We're all born as atheists - we lack the belief in a god or gods. Changing from this default position SHOULD require evidence, but you've just said to hell with evidence. I believe for "personal reasons" and that is all I personally require. Well, what are those personal reasons? If you can't answer this question in literally 1 or 2 sentences then something is massively wrong with your critical thinking skills. And I personally have no interest in developing, fostering or harboring irrational beliefs in my head. I have much too much respect for myself and the great minds that have come before me and rendered the god hypothesis as unnecessary.
MadArchitect

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Re: Arguing for Theism

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FiskeMiles: For someone who thinks rational argument cannot provide a satisfactory answer, you sure spend a lot of time arguing.Yeah, but I haven't been arguing for theism or against atheism. I've been arguing basically what I just stated, that they're both, at root, a-rational positions. And that's fine, I just think that we're better off recognizing as much.Chris OConnor: When rational argument doesn't support or defend a belief that belief should be promptly discarded or held in question.I think you'd be pretty disappointed if you applied that principle more broadly. Rational argument can't get us to the existence of love or demonstrate that a significant other loves us. It can't produce, on its own, a justification for the existence of justice, or demonstrate that we really ought to live one way or another. Rational argument has even proven incapable of justifying our assumption that what we perceive as real is real. Maybe I've misjudged you, but I doubt that you'd be willing to throw any of those away.You are literally saying "My belief in God makes ZERO SENSE, but I am still going to retain this belief for "personal reasons." WTF? This doesn't scare you?It might scare me, if I thought it were possible to give a more rational explanation for why I shouldn't believe in god. I don't; I think I have very strong rational reasons for believing that the difference between theism and atheism is not a difference in reasoning ability, but boils down ultimately to preferences that arise mostly as the result of personal experience and disposition.It's likely that you've missed out on a lot of discussion -- I've already covered most of this ground in the Dawkins thread. And since you've missed so much, I'm going to skip the rest of your post, which looks early on to be a rant. If you're really interested in hearing me out, you can check out that other thread (starting more or less with Fiske's first post), or you can ask me directly (preferably in another thread, so that we don't hijack this one the same way Fiske, Frank and I hijacked the Dawkins thread), rather than just assume that I'd suspend all reason in order to maintain a pet belief.
MaesterAuron151

Re: Arguing for Theism

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Mad thats exactly how I feel.
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Chris OConnor

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Re: Arguing for Theism

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Atheism is NOT a-rational. Atheism is the only rational position. It is completely rational to discard the idea of gods when there is no evidence to support the idea of gods. Believing in something without evidence, knowing fully well that your belief exists despite the lack of evidence, is irrational. Theism is not a-rational unless it exists in some sort of vacuum where reason never entered the picture. Rejecting claims unsupported by evidence BECAUSE they are unsupported by evidence is the epitome of rational. Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 12/25/06 11:17 pm
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