Monday, January 29, 2007

"We Believe in Nothing, Lebowski!"

An anonymous commenter on this blog noted,

For those that believe in nothing, then nothing is what they will receive.
This is the sort of comment that is interesting because it is somehow meant to be persuasive to the atheist or non-theist, but actually only makes sense within the religious (typically Christian) worldview. Only within that worldview do one's unfounded "beliefs" make any difference as to what one "receives" or does not "receive."

Because, only in the magical thinking world of the theist do beliefs magically affect reality. In my reality-based world, something is true or it isn't. Something exists or it doesn't. My "beliefs" on the matter don't actually affect the truth of a proposition. I lack belief in God or god(s) because, on the balance of evidence, there is no reason to think He or they exist. If God doesn't exist, whether I believe in Him or not makes no difference in whether I will get a supernatural reward for believing in Him, either here on Earth or after I die. Until and unless I am presented with convincing evidence to the contrary, I have no reason to believe anyone is going to receive a special reward for believing in a God or god(s). No matter how much I may wish it were true that I was going to live forever in some afterlife paradise, I know I won't. Wishing something were true, or choosing to believe it to be true despite the evidence, doesn't make it so.

Arguments along these lines commit the logical fallacy of arguing from consequences, where the arguer claims that X must be true because of the bad consequences of X being false (or vice-versa). "You should believe in God because if you don't, you'll miss out on eternal joy," or "You should believe in God because if you don't you'll go to Hell," say nothing about the actual truth of the claim "God exists," which is the question that is at the heart of the matter for atheists and non-theists.


At 11:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You miss my point. You apply any counter point to your view in such a manner that one could argue that the sky is blue and you would still win. If you believe in nothing, nothing is what you will receive. Whether that belief is rooted in yourself, your life, your job, your success, or your spirit. If you wish to be a bag of blood and bones and then cease to exist so be it. Surely, you must admit since your ego gives you so much of a mental advantage anyway that you are more than this crude matter. If not, why answer me? Your failure to acknowledge that which you cannot see only falters you, not me. Every Christian or theist (love your words) started life as a non-believer. Something happened to convince them otherwise. So I've walked in your shoes. Walk in mine. Your analysis is faulty because it seems you've only talked to people (family,etc.) who are worried about your soul. I could care less where you wind up, I'm trying to get you to see beyond the narrow view of your own ego-bloated blog.

How do you know you won't live on after death? Have you ever spoken with anyone who died? Do they come back to you? You don't lack belief, the sad thing is you simply lack hope. You're not an atheist, you're lost because you need proof of God's existence. No problem. Seek it out. But you won't; you're also afraid of what you might find. Please don't take my words out of context again. It only proves your own shortsightedness. You seem an intelligent fellow, but even Galileo had to admit the universe didn't revolve around him.

If God isn't real, then what is wrong with researching Him? Not just the Bible, but the Gnostics, St. Augustine, Dead Sea Scrolls, all of those things. What is there to fear from the imaginary? How sad to know that all of your intelligence, ego, and wit will be nothing but worm food in the end. At least according to your view. I wish I could show you otherwise, but you'll have to find it for yourself. Unless it finds you of course. Don't believe in God because I do, seek Him out to learn the truth. I'm not talking about magic success or eternity in paradise. Just seek God's will. Pick something in your life and truly ask God (as silly as it may sound to you) to affect it. What would you do if He answered your prayer? Ask Him about your relationship with your parents and sister who keep nagging you about Him. Ask Him to show them and you His plan for you. I dare you. If He isn't real, then no one has to know that you wasted your time. If He does move in your life, talk to me about it. You have nothing to lose.

At 5:35 AM, Blogger mooglar said...

It isn't about what I "wish to be," but rather about what actually is. It doesn't matter whether I want to live on after death or not, but rather what is likely to be true.

I don't know we don't live on after death. I also don't know that leprechauns don't really exist. But neither is likely to be true, no matter how much we would want it to be.

Once again, you make an unfounded assumption about me. I have read the Gnostic Gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas, I have read Elaine Pagels' excellent work on the Gnostic Gospels. I have both Augustine's "City of God" and his "Confessions." And the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is nothing to fear from the imaginary. I don't shy away from Bibles, Churches, or priests like a vampire shies away from garlic. There's just no evidence that any actual supernatural force lies behind it all.

And, once again, while it may or may not be sad that I will end up worm food in the end -- most likely we all will -- it doesn't change anything about whether I will or not. This is another example of the argument from consequences. Still not a sound argument, I'm afraid.

At 6:04 AM, Blogger R. Paul Wiegand said...

Regarding: "You're not an atheist, you're lost because you need proof of God's existence. No problem. Seek it out."

This is, as far as I am concerned, the most insulting thing Anon has said so far (assuming Anon is one person). It is arrogance at its height. I shouldn't rise to the bait, but I will.

You cannot convince Mark that there is a God, so you insult him by suggesting that it is obvious if he would only look. Bravo ... that gets you out of the hot-seat and requires no real effort on your part.

If Mark believes there is no God, he is an atheist ... by definition. You don't get to control the language of his beliefs ... sorry.

I can't speak for Mark, but I can say: I've saught ... in earnest ... and come up empty.

Moreover and again, if proof exists, what is Faith?

BTW: We choose the word "theist" because not all people who believe in the supernatural are Christian. I use the word "non-theist" because not all people who do not believe in God are atheist. These words are actually more accomodating of different views.

Again, I challenge your assumption that an earnest seeker will find God. Statistically speaking, I attend church more regularly than most Christians, I tithe more than most Christians, I involve myself in church activities more than most Christians, I guess I've read more of the bible and theological texts than most Christians, I've probably spoken with more people of differing views than most Christians, I am confident I know more about other religions than most Christians, I surround myself with believers, and I've made many attempts to actively understand them.

I have prayed for Faith, and I've prayed for insight. I've looked inwardly at my own views and externally at the lives of very spiritual people. I've tried very, very hard to remain as respectful and tolerant of other people's views, in spite of the constant and unfaltering disrespect that theists heap upon me (such as your response).

Still, I do not believe.

Regarding: "You don't lack belief, the sad thing is you simply lack hope."

Pity is a pitiful tactic. I prefer logic to emotional manipulation.

Where is this false dichotomy coming from? What has hope to do with it? Many people believe and lack hope ... I am neither hopeful nor hopeless regarding the afterlife; it is simply irrelevant to me. I do not and cannot know.

I know my beliefs very well. I've come to them with a great deal of effort, thought, and introspection. Moreover, I am very comfortable with what I believe (and don't). I know Mark very well, and I know he has gone through a different, though similarly rigorous process ... and I believe he is similarly comfortable in his beliefs.

You may not like what Mark believes, you may not even respect what he believes ... you may even be justifiably irritated with how he expresses himself regarding your beliefs ... but grant us this, at the very least: We know our beliefs much better than you know them.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger mooglar said...

Theists, Christians generally in my experience, often frame the non-theist's lack of belief in terms of their own religious worldview. For instance, they often accuse atheists of "hating God," "rejecting God," or "rebelling against God" because, in their worldview, it just isn't possible to not know, truly know that God exists. As such, the atheist can't truly think there's no God, but rather must have a problem with God.

Which is, of course, bullshit. The atheist is not "rebelling" against God any more than the Christian is "rebelling" against Zeus. To "rebel" against an entity that one has belief in makes no sense. In order to truly "hate", "rebel against," or "reject" God, I would first have to think there is something to hate, rebel against, or reject. And I don't. But Christians refuse to accept this, as it conflicts with their theology. Following this through logically, they then claim that there are no atheists, as Anon did, because their worldview does not permit them.

Which demonstrates one of the reasons I have decided that it is necessary to oppose theism: theists, believing their unfounded irrational beliefs to be True, despite lack of evidence, cannot keep themselves from applying their beliefs to everyone else, including those of other religions and non-believers, not only in terms of wanting to legislate their religion into law, but even in small ways like this, where their worldview so pervades their thinking that they cannot imagine that a person who does not share it truly exists!

Theists truly do what Adam on Mythbusters says: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." Only theists don't just apply their reality to themselves, but to everyone else as well. While I deny that there is any reason to accept that the God of Christianity actually exists, I at least don't deny that Christians exist! This is one of the fundamental differences between atheists and theists.

In the same way, Christians place great emotional value on the "hope" they feel the "Good News" gives them, and in an example of a false dichotomy, they assume that if belief brings hope, then non-belief must bring hopelessness. They make the same argument regarding what they call "meaning." If belief gives a Christian's life "meaning," then non-belief must leave us with "meaningless" lives.

But, as I noted, the dichotomy is false. For instance, philately (stamp-collecting) may make a person happy, but that does therefore mean that a-philately (non-stamp collecting) must therefore make people unhappy.

For another thing, to say that the non-theist "lacks hope" isn't entirely sensical outside the theistic context. The atheist "lacks hope" in what, exactly? There's some kind of weird assumption that hope springs forth only from belief in God, and also that the existence of (the theist's particular) God is actually something to be hoped for!

(It also assumes that hope is a good or necessary thing, which is also an unproven assertion, but I don't think I want to delve into that right now).


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