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Thread: Anti-theism & The Great Accomodationist Debate

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    Default Anti-theism & The Great Accomodationist Debate

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    The last thread on religion didn't have as good of a start as it could have, and also seems to have largely run its course. With that said, I'm going to try and take a crack at breathing some new life into the debate. I'm going to be writing from the perspective of anti-theism, which is the proposition that belief in God(s) is harmful to society, in contrast to just atheism which is the belief that no such beings exist. I also consider myself anti-religion, anti-superstition, and anti-pseudo science, but to include all of those would make this debate a bit too broad. So, forgive me in advance if you catch me using the term anti-theism interchangeably with those things. I hope to avoid debate centering around whether or not God exists, because I believe that most of us, theists included, understand that there is no evidence for such beings and that it is purely a matter of personal belief. If you're dead set on arguing over the existence aspect and believe you have evidence that deities do in fact exist, I encourage you to make your own thread. I intend for this debate to be focused on two questions.

    - Is religious belief good for humanity?
    - Is religion compatible with science?

    Before I tackle the first question, the second question within the secular community is referred to as The Great Accommodationist Debate. It is one of the biggest, and perhaps even the biggest debate going on within the secular community.

    The most succinct and useful description of accomodationism I found is on RationalWiki's website.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Accommodationism

    Atheist accommodationists maintain that those who have religious or magical ideas which are closer to scientific reality should not be subject to the same level of rational criticism as that which is leveled at believers in creationism and others who utterly reject scientific evidence. Accomodationists will usually favour discussion, engagement, and pragmatic unity with religious groups who appear to condemn or combat extremism, even if doing so requires the pragmatic suspension of criticism towards those groups for their faith-based beliefs. Most accommodationists do not actively promote religion though, a few like, Chris Stedman, do.[1]
    Accomodationists argue that an individual's religious belief or lack thereof is irrelevant, unless that belief becomes disruptive to others. Individuals like Karen Armstrong who believe that God is wholly transcendent are generally regarded as harmless or potential allies, since their theology largely renders God irrelevant anyways. Accommodationists may find common ground with others who are less critical of atheism than Karen Armstrong. By contrast those whose beliefs are actively disruptive pose a much greater threat.
    The position of the atheist accommodationists can be contrasted with that of some of the New Atheists who maintain that all faith-based ideas are counter to scientific thought and should be criticized. Well-known New Atheists include Richard Dawkins and Paul Zachary Myers.
    If you've read any of my posts here, you're probably aware that in contrast to accomodationists, I'd be considered an exclusivist. I believe that all efforts to reconcile science and religion are futile. I think this because all attempts to reconcile religion and science have failed.

    Neil Degrasse Tyson explains this eloquently in his interview with Moyers & Company

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PEKppz5cgw

    However, it's not just this fact that makes me firmly of the opinion that science and religion are not reconcilable. I believe that they are conceptually at odds with one another. Let's say that you interpret Genesis as allegory, for example, to make the bible compatible with evolution and an old universe. Fact of the matter is, you still aren't out of the woods yet. You still are left with the remaining claims that a supernatural creator(s) fashioned the universe and all of existence. This is something that I've observed that all religions share in common. The details can very obviously, like the espoused capabilities or personalities of the supernatural entities in question. Whether they're all powerful, benevolent, capricious, war like, mischievous, narcissistic, what have you. The fundamentals that always stay the same are that A) supernatural entities exist and B) They are responsible in whole or in part for creation as we know it. To make these claims is inherently dishonest. To do so is to say that you have knowledge that you do not have. The only way to circumvent this, as far as I'm aware, is to make the definition of religion so nebulous that it rejects claims of the supernatural. It's my hope that we can agree on this very basic definition, otherwise I have the hunch we're going to be here for a very long time. With that said, I maintain that science and religion are irreconcilable because science works in the exact opposite way. The scientific method has honesty and skepticism built into it. It does not make assertions without rigorously testing them and subjecting them to scrutiny. In essence, it's the complete antithesis to religion.

    The middle ground to reconciling religion and science is called non overlapping magisteria, (NOMA) which was first coined by famous biologist Stephen Jay Gould. It states that science and religion are two completely separate schools of thought and are valid within their own domains, though they cannot intersect. In other words, all it really says is "We leave you alone, you leave us alone. Nobody steps on eachothers toes and everyone's happy."

    Clearly, just because it occupies the goldy locks "middle ground" doesn't mean it's true, and many non believers have criticized NOMA saying that that science and religion are not non overlapping magisteria, but rather irreconcilable magisteria, which I hoped to have done justice explaining above.

    Steering away from the subject of religions compatibility with science for a moment, we're still left with the question of whether or not religion is good for humanity. Personally, and some may see this as bold, but I am more convinced of anti-theism than I am of my atheism. Meaning that, even if supernatural orchestrators of creation exist, it would be unfavorable if it were true and that belief in them, regardless of whether they exist, is harmful. Now, why would I say that the existence of supernatural beings that had a hand in creating the universe, and by extension us, is an awful thing? For one, I think this robs us of crucial aspects of our humanity, especially in regards to morality and purpose. If we humans only have morality, or a reason for existence, through the agency of a supernatural being then it follows that you're a tool fashioned for someone else's amusement. Meaning and self determination are, I believe, utterly cheapened if the prerequisite for having them is through the permission of someone else. Empathy, compassion, mercy, the longing for justice and love for your fellow man come from within you. Not any invisible, disembodied intelligence. In addition, since meaning is a completely human construct, you have the power to give yourself whatever meaning that you want. Your meaning in life could be to spend all your years making the world a better place for abused animals, becoming the ultimate pokemon master, or being batman. Really! It's all you baby. To claim that purpose and meaning come through the agency of a supernatural being is an intrinsically authoritarian thing to believe, and as a logical consequence of that, harmful as well.

    Assuming these beings do in fact exist, they would also have a lot to answer for. If you've taken a good look at the world lately, you'll notice a lot of things seem horribly, horribly wrong. War, genocide, slavery, widespread destruction of the environment, natural disasters, disease, famine, etc. These beings would have to be held morally accountable for either knowingly creating a world with so much misery, injustice, and pain or doing nothing about it.

    Stephen Fry has a beautiful way of explaining this perspective in his interview with Gary Byrne:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo

    Now ofcourse, I disagree with his kinder view point on Greek Gods. The existence of capricious Gods would be an awful reality, regardless of whether they were honest about their personality problems.

    I also hold religion, as a construct, to be inherently linked with oppression. Since all religions at their core center around unsubstantiated truth claims, as an institution it cannot survive on its own merits. Religion props itself up by appealing to (Or, if you ask me, exploiting) peoples ignorance, fear of the unknown, and fear of death. (Which I guess in a sense, that could be redundant with fear of the unknown.) Once it runs out of options, it has no choice but to then turn to oppressive tactics in order to survive. It is this aspect that makes me vehemently disagree with those who claim anti-theism has the same potential for violence and bigotry that theism does. You will often here religious apologists cite the millions of deaths of religious people to Stalin and Mao's anti-theism, or more recently the shootings of three Muslim teenagers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by an anti-theist. Though I'm inclined to reject both examples, I believe Stalin's persecution of religious people had less to do with his anti-theism and more to do with the fact he wanted to consolidate power, i.e. he let thousands of churches re-open once they were willing to tuck their tail between their legs and get with the program. In the case of the shootings, we'll never know for sure whether it was his outspoken views against religion or Islamaphobia motivated him to pull the trigger. The only information we know for sure is that the dispute was over a parking space. You can read more about the incident here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/12/us...lina.html?_r=0

    Anyways, assuming I grant the point and accept that both atrocities were motivated in full by radical anti-theism, drawing a moral equivalency between anti-theistic inspired violence and religiously inspired violence is dubious because anti-theism simply does not rely on oppression in the same that religion does. If I, you, or anyone harbor a distaste or dislike of religion and wish it to go away, or at least be pushed into irrelevancy and obscurity, we don't need to use oppressive tactics. The only thing we require is comprehensive education. We know that influence and pervasiveness of religion can be nerfed because there are real world examples that we can point to, like the UK and Sweden who have majority non religious populations, and even the U.S. where the fastest growing religious demographic are in fact, atheists. If we required philosophy and critical thinking skills to be mandatory subject matter in our schools, if we taught religion from an anthropological perspective, that being a long side every other religion, up to and including the religion that was created centered around U.S. planes that crashed in the South Pacific (I'm not kidding! http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/cargocult.htm) we could reasonably assume that others, over time, would naturally come to the conclusion that religion is a man made farce.

    There also seems to be this trend going on lately that I am fiercely at odds with not just from the religiously minded, but my fellow non-believers for espousing. There is this tendency to reduce unspeakable acts of violence that are motivated by religious dogma to fundamentalists, or just "bad actors" who misuse their religion. I despise this for a number of reasons. Firstly, by taking this route you make religion completely immune from any and all criticism. This mantra that "Religion isn't the problem, people are." is a worthless platitude. For example, would we say that dictatorships are not the problem, because the lust for power is the real problem? Would we say that the sexual slave trade is not the problem, but that exploitation and misogyny are the real problems? That the unlimited amount of money that's allowed to be poured into U.S. elections is not the problem, but that selfishness and greed are the real problems? I would hope not. Ofcourse people are the problem! That's not the point. The point is that we combat how human avarice manifests itself in the real, everyday world. I'm frustrated when it seems like, when any religiously motivated attack or atrocity occurs, there are those who will explain the incident through every factor that they can, except religion. Don't get me wrong, I understand that the world is a multi-faceted and complicated place and it's critically important that we don't forget nuance in our approach to explaining conflict. I understand the frustration of others when over zealous anti-theists over simplify events like 9/11 as being strictly the work of religion, or say that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is strictly the work of religion. However, it's infuriating when others insist religion is not a factor at all. Surely, we can find some balance between "Religion causes all of the worlds problems" and "Religion is never responsible for any of the worlds problems." One prime example I would like to point to here are the attacks that took place in Paris, France. When Islamic terrorists killed twelve people at Charlie Hebdo, my facebook was a flutter with people rushing to say that the attacks had nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with resources and power. The argument sort of goes sort of like this: Muslims in the Middle East are still kind of sore that they lost their empire at the hands of Western powers in WW1, so they believe that embracing a literal interpretation of the Koran is their golden ticket back to the glorious caliphate of ages past. The problem is that we do a disservice to understanding why an atrocity occurs, if every single time, we treat patently stated religious motivations as a euphemism for something else. The attackers in Paris shouted "Allah Akbar" and "The prophet is avenged", not "Down with Western expansionism" or "We want our caliphate back, please." I simply don't understand why, when people explicitly state their motivations for committing a heinous act were religiously inspired, it's become popular to not even do the courtesy of believing them.

    One common response I encounter too often is that religion is "simply interpretation." From my angle, this appears like an attempt to give religion a jail out of free card. It's my view that some passages in various religious texts are meant to be taken literally, and some are meant to be taken as allegory. It doesn't make any sense to me that you'd interpret say, the bible, 100% literally or 100% figuratively. Deciding how to interpret any religious text takes time and study. In fact, the process used to most closely identify what scriptures in the bible for example mean is called biblical criticism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_criticism

    So why go through all the trouble learning things like say, ancient Hebrew and complex reconstruction techniques if all interpretations are equally valid? It just doesn't make any sense.

    I simply cannot accept that one can weasel their way out of every single contradiction, immoral injunction, or factual innaccuracy with a little creative (Or, in my view, blatantly foolish) interpretation. How many bible scholars are there that will tell you "Thou shalt not kill" for example, is allegory? What about when Jesus states that those who don't love him more than their own family are not worthy of him? I'm not intending to go out of my way to be narrow or myopic in my approach here, but this is simply a matter of being honest. The fact of the matter is, there are passages in which there are no other alternative interpretations that make any real sense. To excuse or overlook violence that is the direct result of religious dogma as just bad actors with a bad interpretation is just ludicrous. It's ludicrous because nobody can look me in the eye and say that nobody in the history of the world would have died from an exorcism gone wrong, if people didn't believe there was a such thing as demons. I'm also frustrated by the tendency to reduce religion to identity and culture. i.e., I'm a Christian because my dad was a Christian, and his dad before him was a Christian, and so on and so forth. It's absolutely true that religion is intimately intertwined with society and culture. However, defining religion this way makes it too nebulous. If there is no claim of the supernatural involved, no dogmas, no superstitions, the things that make religion what it is, then how does one distinguish religion from philosophy? Wouldn't I be able to call myself anti-theist Christian if that were the case? Surely we have to draw a line somewhere to avoid such silliness.

    In closing, and to add a personal touch, the subject of superstition and how best to combat it is a topic that's extremely close to my heart. I was born into a really religious family. My father was a preacher and my mother was a self proclaimed prophetess. I've experienced what it's like to be immersed in an apocalyptic cult, where I was told I and everyone I ever knew was going to burn in hell. I've had demons cast out of me, been forced to speak in tongues, subjected to quack Christian therapy (that goes by the name of theophostics if you're curious), dealt with my family giving what little money they had left to religious, charlatan televangelists, isolated from people I love that were "children of the world", kicked out of the house because "God" commanded it and soon thereafter becoming homeless for a period of time, have a little half brother who's disowned by his entire Catholic family for being the "bastard" child, and the list goes on. It's my hope that none of you will use this against me to dismiss what I say by painting me as someone that simply holds a grudge against religion. I view it as no different than being inspired to fight racism because of ones personal experiences with racism, or becoming passionate about the environment because you lived near a place where mercury was constantly being dumped in the river. The point to take away is that I believe fighting for a society free of superstition is an integral part of the larger battle for social justice, and that all too often it seems as though those that don't acknowledge religion as being one of the forefronts of that battle have had the luxury, no, the privilege of having never taken the shaft from it. It's my sincerest wish that those who believe in liberal principles, who wish for a world with less madness and suffering, realize that working toward a society in which religion is largely irrelevant can only be helpful to that goal.

    I hope you didn't roll your eyes too much at the bit of hardcore monologuing at the end, but I really hope to see some really awesome posts! There's also a lot more common responses that I wanted to pre-emptively address, but this was already a big enough wall of text. Anyways, happy debating.

    Additional resources:

    This video will take some time to get through, it's almost two hours long. It's a conversation between four of the most prominent speakers for New Atheism (New Atheism refers to anti-theism as a movement and not simply the position) It's a fantastic discussion that explores a lot of typical grievances with the movement.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7IHU28aR2E
    Last edited by Baba Yaga; 18th February 2015 at 11:06 PM.

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    The fact of the matter is, there are passages in which there are no other alternative interpretations that make any real sense.
    Many of those passages just aren't true.

    How many bible scholars are there that will tell you "Thou shalt not kill" for example, is allegory?
    Loads, because many Christians are pretty sure it didn't happen. For some, the tale of Moses is a fantastic myth (the plagues and God-given tablets, anyway) that probably helps convey a bunch of fundamental truths about God (His power, the kind of rules that help lead a Christian life etc.) but it most certainly isn't, ironically enough, gospel. That's the whole point of biblical criticism - identifying which texts are the most likely to be historically accurate and thus drawing the greatest inspiration from them, whilst determining which are least likely to reflect actual events (but possibly still drawing value from them). It's about figuring out the who, when and why of these texts and structuring your faith accordingly, paying attention to the core lessons whilst not putting too much stock in the myths and poetry. The two creation myths presented in many Bibles (try finding the division between the two!) simply aren't true or important for many Christians, so there's absolutely scope for reconciliation with evolution, just as an example.
    Last edited by Scammel; 15th February 2015 at 8:36 AM.

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    I answered every point in the previous thread but maybe a short answer:
    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    - Is religious belief good for humanity?
    No. Whatever a religious person can do, an atheist can do at least equally well. If you value empirical truth, it's even more obvious.
    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    - Is religion compatible with science?
    Not if you want to maintain consistent epistemology. It is special pleading to demand evidence for some things but not for others.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    Loads, because many Christians are pretty sure it didn't happen. For some, the tale of Moses is a fantastic myth (the plagues and God-given tablets, anyway) that probably helps convey a bunch of fundamental truths about God (His power, the kind of rules that help lead a Christian life etc.) but it most certainly isn't, ironically enough, gospel. That's the whole point of biblical criticism - identifying which texts are the most likely to be historically accurate and thus drawing the greatest inspiration from them, whilst determining which are least likely to reflect actual events (but possibly still drawing value from them). It's about figuring out the who, when and why of these texts and structuring your faith accordingly, paying attention to the core lessons whilst not putting too much stock in the myths and poetry.
    Hang on a second. To maintain some sanity in this "interpretation" business, we have to separate two points:

    1) What did the original authors mean with their statement?
    2) Is this statement, understood in the way it was intended, true?

    Point 1) is interpretation, point 2) is determining the truth value of a well-defined statement. Even if the tale of Moses isn't historically accurate, that by itself doesn't prove that the authors intended it to be a metaphor or an allegory. Maybe they wrote it as a historical fact but simply got it wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aegiscalibur View Post
    Point 1) is interpretation, point 2) is determining the truth value of a well-defined statement. Even if the tale of Moses isn't historically accurate, that by itself doesn't prove that the authors intended it to be a metaphor or an allegory. Maybe they wrote it as a historical fact but simply got it wrong.
    I'm not sure I get your point? If we know it isn't historically accurate, it has little place in the canon of the faith itself. Discerning the authorial intent might garner some additional insight into the history of the faith (which personalities were trying to spread it/provide their own take and why they did so), but if it's inaccurate, it's inaccurate.
    Last edited by Scammel; 15th February 2015 at 7:54 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    I'm not sure I get your point? If we know it isn't historically accurate, it has little place in the canon of the faith itself. Discerning the authorial intent might garner some additional insight into the history of the faith (which personalities were trying to spread it/provide their own take and why they did so), but if it's inaccurate, it's inaccurate.
    The topic was whether certain parts of the Bible are allegories. And if we're going to determine whether something is accurate, we first need to figure out what it's trying to say.

    But if you are only interested in whether the literal interpretation of the Bible is true and your post was solely about that, it makes your reasoning pretty inconsistent. Why do you give "core beliefs" and "fundamental truths about God" a free pass even though you call Genesis and the tale of Moses inaccurate due to a lack of evidence supporting them?

    It sounds like your religion is of the "God of the gaps" variety where you assume its teachings are true and only retreat when faced with heavy evidence. I'm sure there is an infinite number of religions that can be reconciled with e.g. evolution (with varying degrees of creativity), but this does not imply that any of them are true even in their core beliefs.
    Last edited by Aegiscalibur; 15th February 2015 at 10:14 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aegiscalibur View Post
    But if you are only interested in whether the literal interpretation of the Bible is true and your post was solely about that, it makes your reasoning pretty inconsistent. Why do you give "core beliefs" and "fundamental truths about God" a free pass even though you call Genesis and the tale of Moses inaccurate due to a lack of evidence supporting them?

    It sounds like your religion is of the "God of the gaps" variety where you assume its teachings are true and only retreat when faced with heavy evidence. I'm sure there is an infinite number of religions that can be reconciled with e.g. evolution (with varying degrees of creativity), but this does not imply that any of them are true even in their core beliefs.
    It's not a case of giving anything a 'free pass' - it's a case of first and foremost determining the extent to which a given text is an accurate reflection of history based on what we know of the author, their intents and what other sources tell us of the events they're describing. We know one of the Genesis myths was effectively commissioned by James I, so it's almost valueless. In contrast, we know the Gospels are composed of accounts of the life of a man we know existed, by people who lived at the time, so we can be pretty sure they're historically accurate - hence why it's these texts that form the basis of the faith. The core beliefs are the core beliefs because they're from the most reliable accounts of events.

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    Not addressing anything else here at the moment, but I just have to respond to this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    We know one of the Genesis myths was effectively commissioned by James I, so it's almost valueless.
    Oh, wow, did you just actually say that? And are you talking about the guy who commissioned the version of the Bible commonly known as the King James Version?

    Because I can tell you for certain there are English translations of the Scriptures that go back before King James lived, and they contain that portion of Genesis in a form most people today would recognize. Even the scholars who hold that the Torah was compiled out of various sources hold that it reached approximately the form we know it in before the Christian Era.

    You should have done more research.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFightingPikachu View Post
    Oh, wow, did you just actually say that? And are you talking about the guy who commissioned the version of the Bible commonly known as the King James Version?

    Because I can tell you for certain there are English translations of the Scriptures that go back before King James lived, and they contain that portion of Genesis in a form most people today would recognize. Even the scholars who hold that the Torah was compiled out of various sources hold that it reached approximately the form we know it in before the Christian Era.

    You should have done more research.
    Which of the Genesis stories are you referring to? They're well-hidden, but there's two - the original (that provides the location of Eden), and the nice, tidied-up version written, I am informed by a member of the clergy, under James.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    In contrast, we know the Gospels are composed of accounts of the life of a man we know existed, by people who lived at the time, so we can be pretty sure they're historically accurate - hence why it's these texts that form the basis of the faith. The core beliefs are the core beliefs because they're from the most reliable accounts of events.
    Just because there was probably some guy called Jesus doesn't mean the accounts of his miracles or divine heritage are accurate, nor does it prove his moral teachings, God's nature, or any of the other central dogmas. And those are what's important for the core beliefs of Christianity.

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    I believe that religion is not compatible with science and I’m someone who used to believe in theistic evolution when I was a Christian.

    I think that it seems reasonable on the surface, but when you really scrutinize it, it falls apart. Occam’s Razor can be applied, I think modern humans being perfect at first in the context of evolution is a non-sequitor, and you have to cherry-pick the beginning of the Old Testament to make it work. Not just the creation story but subsequent stories, too.

    One of the reasons I started losing my faith was I began asking myself how much things were most likely actually metaphors and allegories and not some interpretation someone came up with to keep Christianity going. Case in point: I think you have to do mental gymnastics to make the Bible not say homosexuality is wrong, but that’s the latest case where people are trying to say people have been misinterpreting scripture. I think that Bible loses credibility as the word of the creator in the universe the more people re-interpret it based on a new discovery.

    I also think trying to fill in the gaps about the origins of the universe with the supernatural impedes scientific curiosity to a least a tiny degree. If you come to that conclusion, you’re possibly not motivated to keep looking for answers as vigorously as you possibly could since you’ve already got a short-hand answer you’ve decided on. It also seems, at a least in many cases, like the more that’s discovered, the more God is made smaller because it’s more that you don’t need him to explain something.

    The use of Satan to explain the origins of evil quickly became something that bothered me and made me question Christianity. It seems like an ancient attempt at the issue. We have the social sciences and evolutionary biology now, which all offer insight into what drives our behavior and to some extent our morality (although I think you also have to cross into philosophy when talking about morality from a non-religious standpoint-science isn’t enough).

    That all said - I think I may be an Accomodationist. I’m not big fan of people setting out and declaring their goal is to eradicate religion. Knowing the other side has a agenda just makes people more resistant to listening to what is being said and therefore I think your efforts would be counterproductive. Unlike racism, good things can and do come out of religion, too. I’m sure people could get on board with that comparison when you’re talking about extremism, but religion as a whole is a stretch. On a societal level, the answers made by TFP and Polecat at the end of the last thread are decent arguments, I think.
    Last edited by Nyami; 22nd February 2015 at 10:14 PM.

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    Unlike racism, good things can and do come out of religion, too. I’m sure people could get on board with that comparison when you’re talking about extremism, but religion as a whole is a stretch. On a societal level, the answers made by TFP and Polecat at the end of the last thread are decent arguments, I think.

    I think the focus should just be ensuring quality scientific education as much as possible.
    Well, it's a good thing I didn't directly compare religion to racism, then. I only cited racism to show that being pro-active against religion is no different than being passionate about any cause that affects the personal lives of other people. I did not mean to say that religion is on the same level as racism. Though, the comparison is tempting. If I can play devils advocate here without sounding too much like a douche bag, do we know for sure racism hasn't done good things? My white privilege is pretty bomb. I don't have to worry about being discriminated against or shot for carrying toy guns most of the time. I could also argue that the West wouldn't be what it is today or enjoy it's relative cushiness and luxury in comparison to the rest of the world if it weren't for it's empires being built on the backs of black slaves. Racism seems to do plenty of good stuff, just not for those on the receiving end of it.

    I am willing to accept the argument you made that the approach New Atheists take may just be strategically stupid. Though, only time will tell on that one.
    Last edited by Baba Yaga; 16th February 2015 at 5:49 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    Which of the Genesis stories are you referring to? They're well-hidden, but there's two - the original (that provides the location of Eden), and the nice, tidied-up version written, I am informed by a member of the clergy, under James.
    It occurs to me that my previous post could have stood to have more detail in it, so for that I apologize. It also occurs to me that it may have come off as unnecessarily harsh, especially since I'd agree with you in holding that the Gospels have value as historical sources, and I suspect if we both stick around in this debate we'll be basically on the same side against people who think the value is "approximately zero."

    So I want to say this as nicely as I can, but the idea that either of the two sections of Genesis commonly regarded as separate creation stories were written anywhere near that late, or that anything widely considered Scripture by Judaism or Christianity was originally composed in English, is solidly in the category of misinformation.

    Like I mentioned, the whole of Genesis chapter 1 is found in translations into English made before James I was even born. Just for two examples, consider the Miles Coverdale Bible of 1535, and the the Wycliffe Bible of 1395 (the dates of which may be approximate). The English of those passages should be at least somewhat recognizable, despite being quite old. (Also, since I'm pretty sure at least some of the second chapter is relevant, I'll provide the respective links here and here.)

    Additionally, I know that creation accounts factor into the documentary hypothesis, the idea that the Torah was composed out of multiple sources long after the time assigned to Moses. I know that the higher critics would surely have pointed out that one of these accounts was originally composed in English if they could, but none of them have said that. All of the higher critics who defined the field have argued that there were two creation accounts that were both written in Hebrew and incorporated into Genesis in ancient (pre-Christian) times. I can also tell you that I'm not sure any scholarly consensus exists for the idea that either account is necessarily older than the other.

    I'd love to tell you I can point to a web page showing some Hebrew manuscript to prove what I've said, but I don't know how to find that online, I know almost zero Hebrew, etc. I wish I knew whether the Dead Sea Scrolls contained a relatively complete manuscript of Genesis.

    Anyway, I think both the religious and the non-religious in this debate should be able to agree that "something a member of the clergy said" is not really an evidentially strong foundation, and that significantly more research is fundamentally wise.



    EDIT:

    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    I could also argue that the West wouldn't be what it is today or enjoy it's relative cushiness and luxury in comparison to the rest of the world if it weren't for it's empires being built on the backs of black slaves.
    This might belong in another thread, but I seriously doubt that American imperialism can be blamed on slavery to the degree you suggest. I recall hearing that there were debates about whether slavery should be allowed in America during the earliest times when Colonists started conquering the native Americans. And after slavery was outlawed in America, there were presidents who were described as imperialistic (which helps explain why we have some of those territories).

    As far as Britain is concerned, I'm almost certain slavery was abolished before their major period of imperialism.

    I'd even go so far as to say your emphasis is rather insulting to the people who were conquered, primarily native Americans in America, and Indians by Britain, though Britain certainly did conquer some African nations as well.
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    Anyway, I think both the religious and the non-religious in this debate should be able to agree that "something a member of the clergy said" is not really an evidentially strong foundation, and that significantly more research is fundamentally wise.
    Ah, I stand corrected then - I suspect I was mis-remembering. The Vicar in question was himself a firm subscriber to biblical criticism with a full theological degree, so I probably mind-blurred a point about the two myths with the fact that the distinction is quite apparent in the King James version, or a titbit about the Jacobean amendments to the language, or something to that effect.

    As far as Britain is concerned, I'm almost certain slavery was abolished before their major period of imperialism.
    It was certainly the case that Britain's heyday saw zealous persecution of the international slave trade.
    Last edited by Scammel; 16th February 2015 at 6:38 PM.

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    This debate seems a little one sided, so allow me to try and help out the religion side. Please forgive my inability to review any video resources provided (I will gladly read transcripts if you have access to them).

    It is hard to address this with out considering if God exists, as I'm sure you've already noticed in your own writings, but I will also do my best to stay on topic.

    On the topic of Biblical interpretation, we must remember that the bible was written over many years by many authors, and later collected, pruned, and consolidated at a large clerical meeting. Therefore the bible was written to many people, from many points of view, and in many styles. For that reason in it quite probable that there are parts intended to be figurative, as well as parts intended to be literal. With the example of Moses, having a vision of the creation of the Earth and everything else up to that point, he had to convey all this to what is compared to us, a very primitive society.

    - Is religious belief good for humanity?

    Yes, it can be. Regardless of the existence of any deities promoted by the various religions of the world, there are some benefits to religious belief. I will conceded that there have been some very negative impacts as well, especially where religious extremism and cults are concerned. Therefore, I agree that neither of these statements is true:
    "Religion causes all of the worlds problems"
    "Religion is never responsible for any of the worlds problems."

    The gathering together with other who share your beliefs; strengthens your resolve and provides moral support, encouraging you to act on your moral beliefs.

    While it is perfectly possible to be a good and moral person without religious beliefs, religion tends to keep societies on the same page (less so in this day in age when missionaries are moving around the globe like never before). In tribal societies without proper law, this effect is even more important.

    - Is religion compatible with science?

    Yes. At it's origin science was a way to understand how God did what he did. Many people seem to believe that science pushed away from the church as they learned more, but the Catholic church actually pushed the scientists away, as questioning God was considered a sin.

    Fact is many of the problems with reconciling religion and science come from theologies that exist outside the scared texts of that given religion. Let's take evolution and the bible for example, the bible states:
    God created man from dust, in his image
    Animals give birth to animals like themselves

    But it does not state:
    The man has not changes in form since this initial creation, and retains 'perfect' form
    That those animals did not slowly change over time

    Again this was written by Moses to a primitive society, so if we accept Adam and Eve are allegory for early society, and Cain and Able to the development of agriculture, farming and law.

    To sum up my science teacher put it nicely, 'I'm not allowed to state my religious opinions, but it seems to me that if there is a intelligent creator, he would be intelligent enough to implement some device [DNA] by which his creation could adapt.'

    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga
    If we required philosophy and critical thinking skills to be mandatory subject matter in our schools, if we taught religion from an anthropological perspective, that being a long side every other religion, up to and including the religion that was created centered around U.S. planes that crashed in the South Pacific (I'm not kidding! http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/cargocult.htm) we could reasonably assume that others, over time, would naturally come to the conclusion that religion is a man made farce.
    You would only succeed in proving certain religions to be false, such as the mentioned crashed plane religion, and Scientology, through the witnessing of the creation of such a religion. Delving into the past, many religions go back much further and start in ways we have not witnessed, or with visions, that like God, cannot be proven or disproven. A video of one fake designer handbag being made, does not prove that all designer handbags are fake.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nyami
    Case in point: I think you have to do mental gymnastics to make the Bible not say homosexuality is wrong, but that’s the latest case where people are trying to say people have been misinterpreting scripture.
    Because the Bible very clearly says it's wrong, however the Bible also instructs you to obey the laws of the land first, therefore the laws concerning the church not discriminating based on sexuality, take priority. However the proper course of action should not be questionable mental gymnastics, but rather exclusion of said verses from sermons. (To my gay friends: I love you guys.)
    Last edited by VampirateMace; 16th February 2015 at 6:54 PM.
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    This might belong in another thread, but I seriously doubt that American imperialism can be blamed on slavery to the degree you suggest. I recall hearing that there were debates about whether slavery should be allowed in America during the earliest times when Colonists started conquering the native Americans. And after slavery was outlawed in America, there were presidents who were described as imperialistic (which helps explain why we have some of those territories).

    As far as Britain is concerned, I'm almost certain slavery was abolished before their major period of imperialism.

    I'd even go so far as to say your emphasis is rather insulting to the people who were conquered, primarily native Americans in America, and Indians by Britain, though Britain certainly did conquer some African nations as well.
    It might. It is related, but if we focus on this too long it's going to get easy to become sidetracked. So, maybe a post or two more on this and move on? Anyways, my claim was that the West benefited from slavery and would probably look very different today if it weren't for that fact. To which degree that is the case is largely irrelevant to the validity of the original claim that racism is capable of producing good things and almost appears like splitting hairs. If slavery strikes a particular cord with you, at any time you may substitute it with "The subjugation and exploitation of free peoples." Though, maybe racism wasn't the issue at all, it was just people using racism to their own advantage. People are the real problem, here.

    Just because there was probably some guy called Jesus doesn't mean the accounts of his miracles or divine heritage are accurate, nor does it prove his moral teachings, God's nature, or any of the other central dogmas. And those are what's important for the core beliefs of Christianity.
    Just to add to this, I think it can be seriously argued that the core message around Christianity is immoral. Believing that your sins or wrong doings can be erased or "washed clean" by the ghastly execution of someone who did not do anything wrong, in order to be spared by the wrath of an angry God, is completely twisted and terrifying. It's hard to see the difference between many of the Mesoamerican religions that required blood sacrifices.

    Yes, it can be. Regardless of the existence of any deities promoted by the various religions of the world, there are some benefits to religious belief. I will conceded that there have been some very negative impacts as well, especially where religious extremism and cults are concerned. Therefore, I agree that neither of these statements is true:
    "Religion causes all of the worlds problems"
    "Religion is never responsible for any of the worlds problems."
    Is there a meaningful difference between a cult and a religion?

    While it is perfectly possible to be a good and moral person without religious beliefs, religion tends to keep societies on the same page (less so in this day in age when missionaries are moving around the globe like never before). In tribal societies without proper law, this effect is even more important.
    You're hitting on something pretty important here I think, in that one of the perceived advantages religion is seen as having is the ability to foster some sense of community. I agree with this, but is religion unique in the culture, community, or social binding that it's capable of producing? We are hairless apes with a built in and wired tendency toward group mentality. We make communities with a common sense of self identity centered around all sorts of things, including motorcycles, dungeons & dragons, super smash brothers, what have you.

    Yes. At it's origin science was a way to understand how God did what he did. Many people seem to believe that science pushed away from the church as they learned more, but the Catholic church actually pushed the scientists away, as questioning God was considered a sin.

    Fact is many of the problems with reconciling religion and science come from theologies that exist outside the scared texts of that given religion. Let's take evolution and the bible for example, the bible states:
    God created man from dust, in his image
    Animals give birth to animals like themselves

    But it does not state:
    The man has not changes in form since this initial creation, and retains 'perfect' form
    That those animals did not slowly change over time

    Again this was written by Moses to a primitive society, so if we accept Adam and Eve are allegory for early society, and Cain and Able to the development of agriculture, farming and law.

    To sum up my science teacher put it nicely, 'I'm not allowed to state my religious opinions, but it seems to me that if there is a intelligent creator, he would be intelligent enough to implement some device [DNA] by which his creation could adapt.'
    It's true that religion was a precursor to science, but that doesn't mean they're compatible. Much in the same way alchemy was a precursor to chemistry, no one seriously maintains that they are compatible.

    You would only succeed in proving certain religions to be false, such as the mentioned crashed plane religion, and Scientology, through the witnessing of the creation of such a religion. Delving into the past, many religions go back much further and start in ways we have not witnessed, or with visions, that like God, cannot be proven or disproven. A video of one fake designer handbag being made, does not prove that all designer handbags are fake.
    Why is it necessary to show that all religions are false? The fact that none of them have any conclusive evidence would certainly be enough to sow seeds of doubt, I think. Also, unfalsifiability is a testament to a theories weakness and not it's strength. I would also say that absence of evidence is absolutely evidence of absence.

    And not to be pushy, but I feel like there were some points that you may have glossed over in my original post. One in particular that I'd wish for you to comment on if you can is the claim that religion and science are conceptually at odds with one another.
    Last edited by Baba Yaga; 16th February 2015 at 10:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    Just to add to this, I think it can be seriously argued that the core message around Christianity is immoral. Believing that your sins or wrong doings can be erased or "washed clean" by the ghastly execution of someone who did not do anything wrong, in order to be spared by the wrath of an angry God, is completely twisted and terrifying. It's hard to see the difference between many of the Mesoamerican religions that required blood sacrifices.
    Who ever said that the story of Christ wasn't strange, mysterious and potentially downright terrifying? (*Every time I look at you I don't understand, Why you let the things you did get so out of hand*) That said, I think it's a little disingenuous to present the core message as immoral, considering that, regardless of gory detail, the only thing it truly dictates is to live a life of peace, love and faith in Christ.
    Last edited by Scammel; 16th February 2015 at 9:23 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    Who ever said that the story of Christ wasn't strange, mysterious and potentially downright terrifying? (*Every time I look at you I don't understand, Why you let the things you did get so out of hand*) That said, I think it's a little disingenuous to present the core message as immoral, considering that, regardless of gory detail, the only thing it truly dictates is to live a life of peace, love and faith in Christ.
    So, if I was your father for example and you had stolen from the cookie jar, and I explained to you that the only way to atone for this wrong doing is by torturing and killing the completely innocent neighbor kid next door, you wouldn't have any moral objections?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    Who ever said that the story of Christ wasn't strange, mysterious and potentially downright terrifying? (*Every time I look at you I don't understand, Why you let the things you did get so out of hand*) That said, I think it's a little disingenuous to present the core message as immoral, considering that, regardless of gory detail, the only thing it truly dictates is to live a life of peace, love and faith in Christ.
    Is it not slightly... odd, to say the least, though, that the act that (if I remember how Christianity works) opened the gates of Heaven to humanity, was (reductively) a heathen breaking a commandment?

    Again, reductive, and probably incorrect, but weird nonetheless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    So, if I was your father for example and you had stolen from the cookie jar, and I explained to you that the only way to atone for this wrong doing is by torturing and killing the completely innocent neighbor kid next door, you wouldn't have any moral objections?
    That's just not remotely the same situation. According to Christianity's actual teachings, the father in the situation (who is also the kid next door) has responded to the theft by buying cookies for all children across the globe out of his own pocket, has forgiven all cookie theft until the end of time, and in return expects that all children finish their homework, do their chores and eat cookies as part of a balanced diet. Christianity does not advocate killing Christ.

    Is it not slightly... odd, to say the least, though, that the act that (if I remember how Christianity works) opened the gates of Heaven to humanity, was (reductively) a heathen breaking a commandment?

    Again, reductive, and probably incorrect, but weird nonetheless.
    The heathen in question is ostensibly God himself.
    Last edited by Scammel; 16th February 2015 at 9:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VampirateMace View Post
    Yes, it can be. Regardless of the existence of any deities promoted by the various religions of the world, there are some benefits to religious belief. I will conceded that there have been some very negative impacts as well, especially where religious extremism and cults are concerned. Therefore, I agree that neither of these statements is true:
    "Religion causes all of the worlds problems"
    "Religion is never responsible for any of the worlds problems."

    The gathering together with other who share your beliefs; strengthens your resolve and provides moral support, encouraging you to act on your moral beliefs.
    You can say the same about just about anything. For example, you could say:
    There are some benefits to totalitarianism. I will conceded that there have been some very negative impacts as well, especially where totalitarian extremism is concerned. Therefore, I agree that neither of these statements is true:
    "Totalitarianism causes all of the worlds problems"
    "Totalitarianism is never responsible for any of the worlds problems."

    The gathering together with other who share your beliefs; strengthens your resolve and provides moral support, encouraging you to act on your moral beliefs.
    It all checks out. Every statement is true.

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    That's just not remotely the same situation. According to Christianity's actual teachings, the father in the situation (who is also the kid next door) has responded to the theft by buying cookies for all children across the globe out of his own pocket, has forgiven all cookie theft until the end of time, and in return expects that all children finish their homework, do their chores and eat cookies as part of a balanced diet. Christianity does not advocate killing Christ.
    Well, it's not exactly easy coming up with a perfectly analogous situation especially when you factor in the trinity, but nixing the analogy for a moment, here are the big questions:

    Why was such gruesome torture necessary for the redemption of mankind?
    Why is human sacrifice necessary for forgiveness?
    By what authority does God presume to judge or forgive your misdeeds in the first place?

    It all checks out. Every statement is true.
    Expounding on this for a moment and going back to my earlier point, I cannot prove that things like rape squads, being sentenced to death without a trial, and suppression of free speech are inherent to dictatorship. It's not unthinkable to conceive of a such thing as a benevolent dictatorship. It's the intimate relationship that dictatorship has with those things that warrant its opposition. Collectively, humanity made the decision that dictatorship, and more broadly totalitarianism was more trouble than it was worth, not that they are intrinsically "bad" or "evil" Likewise with religion, it is its intimate relationship with patriarchy, genocide, suppression of free thought, genital mutilation, witch burnings, brain washing, evolution denial, vaccine denial, global warming denial, retardation of scientific progress, etc, etc, that rightly warrant it's opposition. Collectively, humanity has not made the decision whether religion is "more trouble than it is worth" but I argue that it should because the benefits are not worth the costs, since none of the benefits religion offers are exclusive to religion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    Ah, I stand corrected then - I suspect I was mis-remembering. The Vicar in question was himself a firm subscriber to biblical criticism with a full theological degree, so I probably mind-blurred a point about the two myths with the fact that the distinction is quite apparent in the King James version, or a titbit about the Jacobean amendments to the language, or something to that effect.
    No problem, and I understand that completely! Sometimes my memory is great, other times not. This morning, my mom and I were trying to figure out how long Joshua's lifespan was according to a few biblical books, and if we'd remembered a few things sooner, we'd have had an easier time finding it. It is interesting that my mom is about as conservative as it gets, and after finding out how long Joshua lived, she was convinced that Deuteronomy 34:9 ("Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face") suggests it was written after a significant time had passed since Moses. I'm one who would still hold that it may be possible to hold that Moses wrote much of the Torah, but some of the arguments I've heard are not quite as good as I'd like.


    Quote Originally Posted by Scammel View Post
    It was certainly the case that Britain's heyday saw zealous persecution of the international slave trade.
    Thanks for the added corroboration on that point! It helps a bunch!


    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    It might. It is related, but if we focus on this too long it's going to get easy to become sidetracked. So, maybe a post or two more on this and move on? Anyways, my claim was that the West benefited from slavery and would probably look very different today if it weren't for that fact. To which degree that is the case is largely irrelevant to the validity of the original claim that racism is capable of producing good things and almost appears like splitting hairs. If slavery strikes a particular cord with you, at any time you may substitute it with "The subjugation and exploitation of free peoples." Though, maybe racism wasn't the issue at all, it was just people using racism to their own advantage. People are the real problem, here.
    Hmm. Not really sure what to say here, except that I agree with much of that, but I think it is mostly that certain segments of Western civilization would be significantly different if slavery (particularly black slavery) had never happened. I'm thinking mostly of the American South.

    (On the particular point of oppression benefiting the oppressors, I desperately wanted to make a joke I've made to some people I know, that Communism is great...when you get to be the leader of the Communist country!)


    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    You're hitting on something pretty important here I think, in that one of the perceived advantages religion is seen as having is the ability to foster some sense of community. I agree with this, but is religion unique in the culture, community, or social binding that it's capable of producing? We are hairless apes with a built in and wired tendency toward group mentality. We make communities with a common sense of self identity centered around all sorts of things, including motorcycles, dungeons & dragons, super smash brothers, what have you.
    I would argue that you are pretty much correct here. The community aspect is much more secondary, except, I guess, in the odd case of somebody who makes a religion based on practice or something like that. That's definitely a questionable category.




    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    Just to add to this, I think it can be seriously argued that the core message around Christianity is immoral. Believing that your sins or wrong doings can be erased or "washed clean" by the ghastly execution of someone who did not do anything wrong, in order to be spared by the wrath of an angry God, is completely twisted and terrifying. It's hard to see the difference between many of the Mesoamerican religions that required blood sacrifices.
    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    Well, it's not exactly easy coming up with a perfectly analogous situation especially when you factor in the trinity, but nixing the analogy for a moment, here are the big questions:

    Why was such gruesome torture necessary for the redemption of mankind?
    Why is human sacrifice necessary for forgiveness?
    By what authority does God presume to judge or forgive your misdeeds in the first place?
    The first two questions, along with the segment I've quoted above, are answered in a rather striking way:

    The Problem of Evil is a genuine problem, and in fact a serious problem.

    Some Christians today compare the death of Jesus to child abuse, and thus have revived a view common among groups like the Unitarians of the late 1800s and early 1900s (who are now merged with Universalism to form the Unitarian Universalist Church, which is so watered down that the Unitarian Universalist Church in my town recently advertized in the religion section of the local newspaper that they were scheduled to preach a sermon with a Jedi theme--I kid you not!). This approach is fundamentally a departure and a dismissal of the core of Christianity, and it was likely one significant reason Unitarianism dwindled as atheists impressed with the Problem of Evil grew in number during the mid 1900s.

    And that suggests a personal note. Any atheist must pick one: Is evil a serious problem for God, or is it not?



    (The second question is directly related to the issue of whether God exists, and in particular, whether He is our Creator. It's straightforward, but I'll leave it to you whether you want to talk about it in this thread.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    Why is it necessary to show that all religions are false?
    That would be because you said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    I believe that most of us, theists included, understand that there is no evidence for such beings and that it is purely a matter of personal belief.
    Some religions make claims to the effect that this or that is evidence for the existence of God, gods, or spirits.

    (Just as a side note, but you can read a bit of the Serebii Paranormal and Crypto-zoological Society, which VampirateMace leads, and you will find people who believe there is evidence of a variety of things, some of which certainly fall under the category of religion. There are plenty of people who do not hold that it is a matter of personal belief. And, hypothetically speaking, the fact that these things have not been offered to you personally as evidence is irrelevant to the question of whether they do, in fact, provide evidence of the existence of the entities in question.)


    To say that these claims are false, you will almost definitely use one of the following:

    1. 1. Actual data that what these people believe is evidence is definitely explained in some other way. (Like, "I thought that thing in my closet was a monster but it turns out it was my jacket." Or, "That statue didn't wave to you, it's that stupid hallucinogenic drug that you refuse to stop using even though I've told you like a million times!")
    2. 2. Some argument proposed by Hume or one of his followers
    3. 3. Something proposed by a modern atheist like Dawkins, shockingly inconsistent with some of Hume's major anti-supernatural arguments.



    I'll wait for any atheists here to answer that. Good luck, and, just so you know, it is definitely a trap!









    Oh, this debate is getting good now!



    And as if that wasn't coming out swinging hard enough:

    Quote Originally Posted by Baba Yaga View Post
    The scientific method has honesty and skepticism built into it. It does not make assertions without rigorously testing them and subjecting them to scrutiny. In essence, it's the complete antithesis to religion.

    I agree that those are things that should characterize the practice of science. However, consider the following:


    • Carl Sagan is famous for saying "The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be."
    • Hawking has proposed something he calls the "no boundary proposal" which, he said quite frankly is as yet untested, and even indicates obliquely that he may have proposed it for certain "aesthetic or metaphysical reasons" (A Brief History of Time, pages 136-137).
    • Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, champions a theory, initially proposed by Lee Smolin and picked up by Dawkins's fellow new atheist Daniel Dennett, that black holes are essentially the birthplace of "baby" universes that diverge from a "parent" universe in a process that could parallel natural selection.



    The best thing I can think of to say is...in what way do those statements adhere to the definition of science you've given?

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    The only thing I've ever saw religion to have an exclusive benefit for humanity, was hope in death. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of death because to them, it could mean the end of their 'self' and 'consciousness'. Religion has eased it with offerings of things like Heaven or reincarnation. Other than that, I'm pretty much on the boat where religion doesn't really provide that much benefit compared to the costs as well as the face that its incompatible with science. I've yet to see any religion whole-heartedly accept science and incorporate it to their religion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nivinxus View Post
    The only thing I've ever saw religion to have an exclusive benefit for humanity, was hope in death. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of death because to them, it could mean the end of their 'self' and 'consciousness'. Religion has eased it with offerings of things like Heaven or reincarnation. Other than that, I'm pretty much on the boat where religion doesn't really provide that much benefit compared to the costs as well as the face that its incompatible with science. I've yet to see any religion whole-heartedly accept science and incorporate it to their religion.
    Actually, that's a great launching point for something that I meant to say earlier. The hope needs to be real in order to matter. There was a great quote that I couldn't find and it directly relates to the topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by Aegiscalibur View Post
    It is better to be comforted by the truth than illusions.
    It is possible to go even further: It is better to be left without comfort than to find comfort in illusions.

    What good does it do to say people can survive death, if they can't? What good does it do to say that our actions are meaningful if all this means is that we make society, humanity, or our planet "better" up until the point when any one of these is extinguished? For that matter, what good does it do to suggest that freedom is a good thing if in fact free will is an illusion?

    I actually find that a lot of non-theists hold that morals are in some sense real without considering any of these questions.




    Now, to be sure, I hold that there really is an afterlife which is something that can provide hope and directly ties into those questions about meaning. But really, I want to make the wider point that may seem surprising for some with whom I've debated. In fact, it's a point I should have gotten around to telling Profesco a lot sooner.

    If religion is simply defined as belief in some supernatural entity or entities, then there is no inherent connection to dogma, or "a leap in the dark." Hypothetically speaking, there could be a universe with beings that all had direct contact with their creator, and interacted with him, her, it, or whatever, and thereby gained knowledge of him, her, it, etc. Maybe they know he, she, it, or whatever really enjoys french fries or something like that.

    In this thread religion is being implicitly defined as including faith in the "leap in the dark" sense. Under that definition, I join with those who seek to eradicate religion (to borrow the exact words Nyami used above). I do not advocate having faith that God exists in the sense many Christians use the "leap in the dark" paradigm. And I would even go as far as to state that when Christians do this, they are not being true to biblical principles. As it is put by the book of Hebrews, "he who comes to God must believe that he is." Relatively few atheists I've had any contact with seem aware that faith can be synonymous with trust, but plenty of people are aware that the word "faith" can be used in sentences like, "I have faith in you, Joe; I believe you will handle this money properly, as you have an excellent reputation with financial matters." The Scriptures indicate that faith in God is faith in a person who has given reason to trust Him. The exact reasons are beyond the scope of this thread (as it isn't about the positive case for God's existence), but are usually dismissed with some of the Hume or anti-Hume arguments I alluded to above.

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFightingPikachu View Post
    I agree that those are things that should characterize the practice of science. However, consider the following:[*]Carl Sagan is famous for saying "The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be."
    In a documentary/book that was aimed at communicating science to a mainstream audience. If you want to communicate to people what the series Cosmos is about and hook them, that's as a good of a line of as any. Moreover, Carl Sagan in addition to be an astrophysicists was also a science communicator; Cosmos was very much a product of him communicating science.

    [*]Hawking has proposed something he calls the "no boundary proposal" which, he said quite frankly is as yet untested, and even indicates obliquely that he may have proposed it for certain "aesthetic or metaphysical reasons" (A Brief History of Time, pages 136-137).
    Untested in physics, particularly Hawking's area of interest, is the norm. At this point, physics has no idea how general relatively and quantum mechanics can be reconciled, and as such, theoretical physicists are throwing whatever mud they can at the wall and see what sticks. The ide, one of the many educated guesses will make predictions based on new data, e.g., new data we might see when the Large Hadron Collider goes back online.

    In the case of the Hartle-Hawking state, it concerns how space and time (didn't) work before the Planck Epoch by means of a universal wavefunction. Knowing what happened during the Planck Epoch is an area that physicists want to know, and once we have a better idea of quantum gravity works, Hartle-Hawking state could be a starting point.

    Moreover, why scientists propose ideas isn't important; it's what they propose. The fact that Hawking proposed it for "aesthetic or metaphysicsal reasons" doesn't seem relevant.

    [*]Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, champions a theory, initially proposed by Lee Smolin and picked up by Dawkins's fellow new atheist Daniel Dennett, that black holes are essentially the birthplace of "baby" universes that diverge from a "parent" universe in a process that could parallel natural selection.
    Would you mine citing the page? I actually own that book, so I'd like to bring it up.

    In either case, I don't particularly care what Dawkins says on the subject. He's an evolutionary biologist, and while he might be familiar with what other physicists such as Lee Smolin are doing, I wouldn't call him an authority on cosmology. Moreover, Lee Smolin, much like Hawking above, belongs to that one branch of physics where no one *quite* knows what to do are throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks once more data comes in.


    The best thing I can think of to say is...in what way do those statements adhere to the definition of science you've given?
    First and foremost, all of the example you chose were quotes made outside of peer reviewed academic sources. For in other discipline, this might be fine; however, in science, the body of knowledge is more or else defined by what peer reviewed papers currently say.

    Secondly, both Hawking and Smolin are perfectly well aware that their hypotheses could be wrong. In fact, Hawking says so here: "If the observations disagreed with the predictions of the no boundary hypothesis, we would have to conclude the hypothesis was false." Moreover, a Scientific American blog articles says: "Smolin takes great pains to claim his hypothesis is scientific because it is falsifiable. He proposes several ways that his conjecture can be disproved." The point is, even though these statements have not been tested, the fact that authors elaborate on how it can be tested as well as the context of physics trying to figure out how quantum gravity works largely justifies the hypotheses of Hawking and Smolin on their own merits.

    Least importantly, whether or not Carl Sagan's statement defines the Cosmos as that ever was or ever will be is largely a semantically debate--the series Cosmos was clearly aimed at presenting the Cosmos (i.e. science) was we know it. There's no clear scientific definition either way.
    Last edited by Zora; 17th February 2015 at 6:25 AM.

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