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Atheist Community of Austin
The irrationality of atheism

Atheism, especially the brand espoused by the TAE is a position argued from ignorance. The TAE claims that they lack belief, therefore they lack an intellectual position. Philosophers/ theologians have tried to argue for the existence of a god as cosmologists for multiverses and other dimensions. When the atheists is pinned down to admit his ignorance and rationally agree with the same standards as the theist, the atheist ends up denying the possibility that a god of sorts exists. But, for some reason that must be psychological, because it is not intellectual-- dismisses this possibility. Atheists demand evidence. Well, the universe is evidence. But, the atheist immediately denies this, because regardless of the arguments or any evidence the theist has, the theist is wasting this time. Why? The atheist does not care about the Truth only their version of it.

All of the people on the Atheist Experience are happy to admit that there might be a god, just like there might be a unicorn, gremlin, ogre, or a teapot on mars. Until someone has concrete evidence for these things, it's foolish to believe in them.

When will theists take responsibility for all the harm they've done in the name of their god--a god for whom they cannot provide evidence. The gullibility that is part and parcel of Christianity has killed millions and made mental slaves of so many more.

The universe exists. So what? It's just as much "evidence" for universe-creating sky pixies as it is for the god of your bronze age mythology. Do you also assert that universe creating sky pixies therefore exist?

Don, you do realize that placing what is traditionally referred to as the Philosopher's God cannot be placed into the same category as fabulous and fantastical beings? Why do you need concrete evidence for the existence of God when you believe in a lot of things without concrete evidence or no way of knowing for sure your beliefs are true? I am not what my irresponsibility has to do with the existence of God or Christianity. Who is talking about Christianity? I am talking about the Philosopher's God. I am speaking of natural theology not mythology and by the mythology is not equal to falsity, so if you are going to argue for atheism I would expect logical arguments and not appeals to emotion. By the way, you have not addressed the irrationality of your position. Maybe Matt Dillahunty should be defending TAE since he seems better equipped for the job, but given some of the shows I have seen he seems just as likely to appeal to ignorance. A funny thing to do for anyone who does serious philosophy.

Define "Philosopher's God", please and give a reference if you think it's a common term. I've searched for it and couldn't find it. I'm sure everyone else reading this has no clue what you're talking about then.

Part of the problem with god talk is that everyone has their own definition as it's not grounded in an objective reality.

"Theism" concerns belief in gods. "Atheism," that is a-theism, ("a" for Latin not) is about the lack of belief in gods. I am an atheist, which means that I do not believe in gods. This is a statement of fact about my mental state. I don't have to defend it logically, as you claim I do. I can tell you why I don't believe. I can tell you what might be convincing. I can point out the flaws in your arguments. But I don't have to address the supposed "irrationality of my position." It's simply a fact. You have to trust that I'm not lying to you.

That said, with respect to some definitions of "god", I can prove that no such god exists. If you claim that the universe is your god or the sun is your god, then of course they exist.

The Philosopher's God is the God referred to by philosophical theism and classical theism. It has its roots with the ancient Greek philosopher and the Scholastics. What is objective reality? It is odd for an atheist to be speaking of or referring to anything as objective. No you are an agnostic, not an atheist. And when you guys decide to stop being inconsistent in your thinking you will realize that. And again, you are defending an irrational position then. I think instead of arguing from presuppositions you should learn more about what it is you are against, so you can adequately defend actual atheism and not some non-epistemic position. The people TAE are obviously ignorant in this regard concerning natural theology or philosophy in general. You guys cling to logic but all you do is say "prove it" as if that has any bearing on IT not existing or existing. Speaking of objectivity, take your obvious emotions out of the equation and start using your resin and maybe you won't be so blinded that you have no problem accepting certain things on faith. Also, I realize this is not new to you Don. I have read other posts like this and I must say you reason like an ignorant child.

How can I aspire to be as erudite and intelligent as you if you can't teach me by actually defining your god. I wonder if you really can. I did conclude that you're arguing about a rather obscure and irrelevant term: philosopher's god. If you're the person who believes in such a thing, you must be one of a dozen or so. You seem to want the world to worship your great intelligence, yet you have yet to say anything of substance.

Check out our home page: "We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods." If you have evidence for your god, I imagine you would present it, instead of blowing smoke and baiting me. I consider both to be an admission that you're a fool. That is "One who is deficient in judgment, sense, or understanding."

The person making claims has the burden of proof and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Unless you can define your god and provide evidence for it, why should anyone care what you have to say?

I'm sorry you were unable to define your term.

Your whole "argument" seems to be based on two logical fallacies, an argument from ignorance and an argument from authority. I'm supposed to be impressed by the unnamed philosophers and since I can't counter nonsense, it must be true.

Is that the best that William Lane Craig has?

It is almost sad at the level of ignorance that is displayed by atheists in this forum. I am not sure if it is a New Atheist thing or just mindless acceptance on the part of the ACA, but atheism is a proposition that must be defended when in a debate setting. It is not the lack of belief. That would be agnosticism. As a life long atheist myself, I find odd how much atheists here appeal to ignorance, then presume to argue for their brand of atheism. Not only are they ignorant of their own position but of their opponents as well. They dismiss serious theology with "Oh you haven't heard of the Courtier's Reply have you?". As if this is a good excuse not to do one's homework. There is a reason why the New Atheists are considered a joke. That is not only the opinion of serious theists, but of atheists as well. I do not agree with everything William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga have to say, but at least I know their work and can rationally defend atheism. I agree with TheistX, the TAE are irrational and appeal to ignorance too often. Instead of arguing against callers, how about you argue with a professional theologian like Criag?

"atheism is a proposition that must be defended when in a debate setting". Sure. With respect to a concrete definition of "god" that you and your other sock puppet friends have yet to provide.

I think this article: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Courtier%27s_Reply explains the Courtier's reply quite well. It seems to be your favorite tactic.

Don, I recall, you said, that atheists do have beliefs, but all atheist's beliefs are substantiated. It's the "unsubstantiated beliefs" which are harmful to humanity, lead to genocide, etc. Is this an accurate account or should I dig into exact quotes?

Well, there is a logical flaw. All beliefs cannot be substantiated. Once you are done giving reasons for all your beliefs, there will be one left without a reason. You are left with 2 options: a) admit that this last belief is unsubstantiated; b) provide a circular reason which is a logical flaw. Would you agree or is my own reasoning flawed?

So, atheists, if you admit having one unsubstantiated belief, what would that be? And if you say, you don't have unsubstantiated belief, how do you get out of the reasoning loop?

"Don, I recall, you said, that atheists do have beliefs, but all atheist's beliefs are substantiated. It's the "unsubstantiated beliefs" which are harmful to humanity, lead to genocide, etc. Is this an accurate account or should I dig into exact quotes? "

yes.

If I have an unsubstantiated belief it's that there is an objective reality. It's not something that I can prove, but without such an assumption, you can say nothing at all.

Don, I'm glad that you admit that. I have to agree with the previous posters that without an assumption of a single unsubstantiated belief, atheism revolves around nothing. However, a single "faith" statement gives it ground and power.

Would you agree that it would be extremely difficult to show any evidence that "objective reality" exists? All such evidence would be no better than the evidence of God.

Does your concept of "objective reality" include scientific knowledge, ideas, abstract concepts, etc. existing only in human mind? Does it include anything unknown to humans? I don't imply anything supernatural, however, you might agree that humans are far from knowing everything even about the physical world. How about future events? Are they included in "objective reality"? Our plans for "tomorrow" may be realistic, but will they ever come true?

Would you agree that even articulating our fundamental beliefs is extremely difficult?

Now, considering all this, is there a fundamental difference between your irrational belief in "objective reality" and my irrational belief in God defined as the only reality and the source of itself, including all that I described above and beyond?

IMHO, it would be dishonest to say "I do not have irrational beliefs." The lie is easily exposed by a single question: "Do you believe that and why?" Such position only becomes bullet-proof with a single exception for a single irrational belief. And we need to make sure that we don't find a reason for it and are forced to change it. It must be "really" irrational, "really" universal, and circular (define itself and come from itself). It also must be the only such belief to avoid ambiguity in our choices. This is why "idolatry" (worshiping anything other than the one true God) is forbidden by the second commandment.

Do you find such theistic world view substantially different from yours? If yes, then how?

AG,

You seem to be off to the races. I'm merely saying that I have an assumption/belief that is opposed to solipsism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism), meaning that I believe there's more going on than just a theater in my mind. I'm pretty sure you have the same belief--that I am more than a figment of your imagination.

Not being in the matrix really has nothing to do with god beliefs.

In general, though beliefs that lack evidence are liabilities that should be actively pruned.

From: AG

<!talking to Don>

"Now, considering all this, is there a fundamental difference between your irrational belief in "objective reality" and my irrational belief in God defined as the only reality and the source of itself, including all that I described above and beyond?"

Don said that his only *unsubstantiated* belief was in an objective reality because it was absolutely necessary for any further discourse. You then equated unsubstantiated with irrational which is not in evidence and is not an accurate representation. Don's belief in an objective reality is not irrational, it is the default position else nothing else follow, and is in fact the only rational position to hold.

Don's disbelief in any god or gods is also a default position and is, again, the only rational position to hold since there is no convincing argument for the proposition that a god or gods exist. Your belief in a god is irrational given there is no evidence for the god proposition.

Believing in an objective reality is imperative else we all wallow in our subjective prisons. Believing in a god does not follow from belief in an objective reality.

Mark,

I may have misused the word "irrational". I can stick with "unsubstantiated". It does not change what is said. Namely,

1. We need, at least, one unsubstantiated belief, because it is "absolutely necessary for any further discourse" and to avoid circular reasoning. This seems to be agreed. This is the most important point I was trying to make. Faith is a necessary precursor for all knowledge.

2. Unsubstantiated beliefs must be actively avoided (rephrasing Don). Agreed as well. Combined with #1, we need one and only one unsubstantiated belief. All other beliefs must be based on and follow from it. This seems to be consistent with Don's view.

We differ only in the choice of our starting point, the one and only "unsubstantiated belief" to which we are entitled, the "default position". Objective reality exists. I agree, there is no other option. I'm not defending solipsism. But I have a few problems putting my absolute trust in objective reality for a few reasons. a) It changes all the time, b) what I know about it changes all the time, c) I am not sure if my thoughts and beliefs belong to objective reality. By "faith" I mean "unconditional trust", "absolute golden standard", not just the statement of existence. I can only absolutely trust an absolute idea, which is God to me.

What drives us as humans is not objective reality. It's ideas in our head, starting with faith.

I think you mean "axiom".

I don't think god belief falls in that category because the (supposedly powerful) god and his (often billions of) followers can simply pony up the evidence that the god exists.

The non-believer can look at the lack of evidence, the fact that prayer doesn't work (as claimed), the fact that things ascribed to god (like lightning bolts and coincidences) have nothing to do with this claimed god, the fact that there are thousands of sects claiming to worship the same god that all disagree on key assertions (all unprovable) about the god. I can go on.,

Given this state of affairs, the only reasonable thing to conclude is that such god doesn't exist.

Tell me, would you believe in the Christian god,, if you thought he couldn't harm you and he couldn't aid you in escaping death? That is, if this god didn't appeal to your sense of hedonism and self preservation, would you have any interest?

Yes, "axiom" or "postulate", a statement accepted without proof, "on faith". No scientific theory is possible without one. Except, we are not talking about scientific theories, but a philosophical world view.

I think, analogy is quite appropriate. Suppose, I try to explain the concept of an infinite flat plane to someone unfamiliar with the concept. I would point to a flat floor, flat table, flat wall, flat sheet of paper, etc. as examples. It is always fair to say "but those are not infinite, and the surface is not perfectly smooth or perfectly flat, I don't think your infinite flat plane exists. Your 'evidence' is not good." And that will be absolutely true. Does it make the abstract concept useless? Do you think, this analogy is too far-fetched?

By the way, the person denying these examples is, obviously, a liar, because he should have a good idea of what an infinite flat surface is to point out the differences with real examples.

How about the concept of absolute truth? Sure, there is no such thing in reality, but there are statements good enough for all practical purposes. Unless we understand the concept of "100% true", how could we tell what is "not 100% true"?

You are giving examples of imperfect evidence, imperfect faith, and disagreement between people on their imperfect definitions of "absolute perfection" and proceed to conclude that "absolute perfection" does not exist. Which is a true statement. So, how does it make it "irrational" to believe in "absolute perfection"?

Why would anybody reject the concept of "absolute perfection" unless to avoid comparison with it to discover imperfections inside and outside ourselves? But then, wouldn't we "confine ourselves to the prison" of our imperfect "objective reality" (internal and external)?

If I understand Christianity correctly, the main message is that there are no rituals or sacrifices which would make people "perfect". Perfection can only come through faith in the idea and cotinuous comparison of self (not others) to "absolute perfection" understood as giving one's own life for the good of others. Moral judgement in Christianity is always self-directed. I don't see anything wrong with such belief. Do you?

DB: "Tell me, would you believe in the Christian god, if you thought he couldn't harm you and he couldn't aid you in escaping death? That is, if this god didn't appeal to your sense of hedonism and self preservation, would you have any interest?"

First of all, when you say "Christian god", you seem to imply that there are other gods. I don't believe there are any gods except the one and only. Just as when you say "objective reality", you seem to set it apart from some other reality. I don't believe there is other reality, except the one we have. It comes from rejecting absolute concepts. We end up with unclear relative definitions and fuzzy thinking.

Second, I don't think, God has any intention to harm me or make me suffer for disobeying some rules. The rules are set. We may use them to our advantage or "disobey". Try disobeying the law of gravity.

Third, I don't know of any human, including Jesus, who escaped death. And I don't think, "God's kingdom" is about fun and hedonism.

I have interest in God, because I have interest in myself and I need some reference to make my judgement about who I am. Fear comes from doubt and uncertainty which come from lack of faith. I cannot have faith and fear at the same time.

Again, my point is that faith and internal sense of absolute perfection, absolute truth, absolute reliability etc. are absolutely necessary to humans to make any judgement. We may argue about rationality of certain religious practices, but, quite honestly, I don't think, I have an option not to believe in God. Believing that "objective reality exists" is a trivial belief in obvious.

AG,

I think that abstract concepts, including perfect abstract concepts are useful to help us better understand our concrete messy world. Ideals are fine, if they don't become obsessions or a substitute for the real world. Additionally, I don't have any problem at all with "god" as some sort of concept.

Christianity sets up impossible standards so that it can imbue people with guilt when they don't live up to those standards. The only way (within the religion) to get rid of the guilt is to take in more religion. Say the Rosary, confess the sin, pay a tithe, etc. If there are victims involved, the victim is to forgive the transgression, but the Church gets the effective compensation. It's a scam.

You say that moral judgment of Christianity is always self-directed. I guess you don't notice that God who's going to torture you forever if you don't do the right thing. Ministers NEVER make judgmental statements, right? And the Religious Right doesn't spend any money trying to screw over gays, women, Muslims, and atheists.

I strive for my own ideals and nobody is conning me, as far as I know. I don't need to buy anything for that.

Maybe we should compare secular morality to Christian morality and see which one is better.

"I don't believe there are any gods except the one and only." How does it feel to be an atheist? Perhaps you can understand just how unconvincing I find Christianity is when you answer the question of why you don't believe in Zeus. I'm curious whether you believe in the Ugaritic storm god. Because that's historically where Yahweh came from.

"Just as when you say "objective reality", you seem to set it apart from some other reality". I'm talking about our shared experience, like the sun coming up, the conversation we're sharing, gravity, light, etc. I think you're trying to read too much into this.

"I don't think, God has any intention to harm me or make me suffer for disobeying some rules." Until there is evidence for your god, this is a statement without basis. Christians have been convinced for 1400 years that their god wanted them to persecute and kill Jews. Now, without any change from their absent god, they do the opposite. Putting words in god's mouth is the realm of demagogues and the gullible fools that follow them. At least you made your statement clear that it was your opinion. If only religious leaders were so honest.

"And I don't think, "God's kingdom" is about fun and hedonism. " It's not eternal bliss? It's not about escaping death?

"I have interest in God, because I have interest in myself and I need some reference to make my judgement about who I am." I think that's great. I can't imagine why you would pick a "malign thug" (as Mark Twain referred to the Christian god) as your ideal. If you believe the Bible, he's a sadistic, temperamental murder, as any storm god should be. Jesus is worse, in my option as he seems to be the one to deal out infinite punishment for finite crimes. I don't see why you can't have ideals without supernatural belief. Think for yourself. The god of each believer is nothing more than a sock puppet--a reflection of their own desires and biases. I talk to a lot of god believers and they all have very different concepts of god. Take the next step and admit that you can do all of that on your own without the prop.

"Believing that "objective reality exists" is a trivial belief in obvious." That's how I meant it. Beliefs without evidence are liabilities. I ascribe to Clifford's Credo: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

Don,

Thanks. Finally, it seems we have found some common ground.

I noticed an interesting thing about circular and universal concepts (God seems to fall into this category). When we start spinning them in our head, they tend to reflect our thoughts while staying "self-contained".

Write on a card "This statement is always true" (it's a statement of absolute about itself). If it's true, then it's true, then it's true, etc. And if it's false, then it's false, then it's false, etc. It echoes our own words while remaining consistent with itself, going in circles and reaffirming itself. It seems to be saying "I am who I am" and "It is as you say". I find it interesting that these are the words used by Yahweh and Jesus when they were inquired on their identity. This is not a proof of anything - just an interesting observation. It also brings to mind an analogy with a self-sustained cycle, stable and feeding on itself. It is also interesting that such cycles are at the core of biological life, economy, history, etc. Analogies are endless.

Now, write "This statement is always false" (absolute lie speaking about itself). If it's true, then it's false, then it's true, etc. And if it's false, then it's true, then it's false, etc. It contradicts itself and has no stable state, similar to an electronic logical circuit called "ring oscillator". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_oscillator. It seems to symbolize absolute doubt, unreliability, instability, self-destruction, disagreement, etc. It is empty at the core, having nothing to sustain itself.

Analogies can be projected on almost everything. One example is conversation between two people. Agreement on one issue builds agreement on the other. When there is a disagreement, people have to agree on, at least, one thing. If nothing else, they must agree on the rules of accepting a statement (tossing a coin, scientific evidence, testimony of witnesses, etc., depending on the circumstances). When arguments become circular, simply contradicting each other, it is clear that discussion leads to nothing. It resembles the second statement.

Long ago, you quoted an article about the research showing that people identify their own opinions about "right" and "wrong" with God's opinions. Now, thinking of it in the light of what I said, I believe that it is exactly true. It seems to me that what we think about God is nothing else than what we think about ourselves as humans. God's identity always seems to be self-contained and undiscoverable ("I am who I am"). When people ask God, "what shall we do with the man who collected sticks on a Sabbath", God seems to answer "What do you think I would do?" "Stone him!" "It is as you say.", etc. This how things seem to be settled in the OT where people seem to view God as external to themselves. Why is it surprising that it's full of atrocities?

Now, when Jesus (a human) was asked, what to do with the woman who was caught in adultery, he turned the question back on those who asked in a different way: "If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." The message seems to be, "focus on your own identity first, discover 'who I am' inside and then you will be able to make a better judgment of other people's identity". "Judge not...", "...plank in your own eye", "do unto others..." have, essentially, same reciprocal message. It seems to say that our moral judgment must be based on deep understanding of our own identity.

"Christianity sets up impossible standards so that it can imbue people with guilt when they don't live up to those standards. The only way (within the religion) to get rid of the guilt is to take in more religion. Say the Rosary, confess the sin, pay a tithe, etc. If there are victims involved, the victim is to forgive the transgression, but the Church gets the effective compensation. It's a scam."

Weirdly, what you say is true. Again, "it is as you say". I have to agree that saying the Rosary and paying a tithe without faith is no better than sprinkling bull's blood onto the four corners of the altar. Same analogy. If we focus on empty rituals, religious beliefs will revolve around themselves, contradicting themselves, just like the "absolute lie" in my example above. The only people who benefit are the people who try to spin the lie - the priests. But they cannot spin it for too long. Your web site is the proof. And, weirdly, this seems to confirm my point too - you need true faith to be at the core.

There is no guilt when people discover their true identity and accept it as-is. The guilt comes into play when people want to be different from their identity, "do not like themselves". This is a form of a lie. Denial of the truth. Personality starts to revolve around an off-center axle bringing instability and possible destruction of solid judgment.

"You say that moral judgment of Christianity is always self-directed. I guess you don't notice that God who's going to torture you forever if you don't do the right thing." -- I guess, this is what people would wish to me if I my identity "does not spin around their axle". I don't think, God really cares. As I said, the rules are set. Proceed at your own peril.

"Ministers NEVER make judgmental statements, right?" -- honestly, ministers do make general judgemental statements of "if... then..." nature, quoting Bible, but I have not seen a pastor picking on a specific parishioner. And if I see one, it would me my last time I see him.

"And the Religious Right doesn't spend any money trying to screw over gays, women, Muslims, and atheists." -- Again, you talk about the actions of people. You can't seriously mean that these are dictated by God without admitting there is one. And what people say and do is what they say and do. It speaks about their personality rather than the identity of God. Fighting other religions is like fighting yourself. (Same applies to atheism). On other issues, the truth comes out when statements are turned onto themselves. The best bumper sticker on abortion I've seen is "Protect the rights of unborn women!". You make the judgment whether it is pro-choice or pro-life. Based on what I said at the beginning, I don't think that the choice of death is ever the right choice, except death for the good of others. Death of others for my own good is most immoral. Next comes my own death for my own good. Or death of others "for their own good". You know what I'm talking about. I don't mean to pass judgment or to sparkle discussion on these issues, but to show how I can use the concept of "absolute truth" to form my opinions.

"I strive for my own ideals and nobody is conning me, as far as I know. I don't need to buy anything for that." -- Well, what do they "spin around?"

"Maybe we should compare secular morality to Christian morality and see which one is better." -- That would be comparing self to self. We will never reach a conclusion.

"How does it feel to be an atheist? Perhaps you can understand just how unconvincing I find Christianity is when you answer the question of why you don't believe in Zeus. I'm curious whether you believe in the Ugaritic storm god. Because that's historically where Yahweh came from." -- By my analogy, I'm trying to align the axle of my own identity with the absolute axle around which, I believe, spins the Universe. You keep sticking axles into this system and see if it can spin and stay consistent. Again, there is one universal axle. Otherwise, the whole thing will fall apart. You have your own axle - that's fine with me as long as you have one. If you take out your convictions and I take out mine, our worldview systems may still spin. But what good will it be? A weel without an axle can only roll down the hill. Again, we can only "spin" together if we align our axles, "adjust our clocks".

DB: "And I don't think, "God's kingdom" is about fun and hedonism. " It's not eternal bliss? It's not about escaping death?

Let's talk about it after we die. I am not an expert on God's kingdom. I have no evidence at this time.

DB: "[...]Think for yourself. The god of each believer is nothing more than a sock puppet--a reflection of their own desires and biases."

Ditto. We are in full agreement here. As long as you say this. If you got my point of circular statements, "it is as you say" *for you*. Didn't you just say what YOU think of God by your own theory? What does it say about God's true identity? Not much.

DB: "I talk to a lot of god believers and they all have very different concepts of god. Take the next step and admit that you can do all of that on your own without the prop." -- may be I will. So far, I have not discovered inconsistency in my beliefs.

Beliefs without evidence are liabilities. I ascribe to Clifford's Credo: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Do you ask for evidence when someone shouts "Fire!" or do you rush out of the building? Do you ask for technical paperwork each time you board an airplane?

You've written a long post and I'm not going to be able to respond to all of it.

"circular and universal concepts" Huh? Perhaps if a concept is "circular", it's not well defined.

"Long ago, you quoted an article about the research showing that people identify their own opinions about "right" and "wrong" with God's opinions. Now, thinking of it in the light of what I said, I believe that it is exactly true. It seems to me that what we think about God is nothing else than what we think about ourselves as humans." My point in bringing that up was to show it as evidence against an all-knowing deity that people are using as their reference point. It seems that with religion, the more people in a room, the less agreement there is. The same is true of any nonsensical concept.

"And the Religious Right doesn't spend any money trying to screw over gays, women, Muslims, and atheists." -- Again, you talk about the actions of people. You can't seriously mean that these are dictated by God without admitting there is one. I'm judging the collective behavior of those driven by a belief system. Belief in God exists. Their behaviors are good indicators of the morality they follow. There is a claim that there's an easy way for followers of God to communicate with the Author of morality. If they're getting the wrong answer, who's fault is it, really? By their fruits ye shall know them.

"I don't think that the choice of death is ever the right choice, except death for the good of others" I think that's a morally consistent opinion. Did you know that abortion laws, as a rule, don't change the number of abortions, but they do make it more likely that a woman will die in childbirth or trying to get an abortion? I did a show not too long ago on the failure of christian-based abortion policy. You might be surprised at how broken it is, if it's supposedly based on "God's absolute morality". Many secular countries are light years beyond our backward religious country in this area.

"Didn't you just say what YOU think of God by your own theory?" I try not to have sock puppets. In this forum, for example, I use my own name for every post and stand by my posts. I make mistakes sometimes, but I try to own them.

"Do you ask for evidence when someone shouts "Fire!" or do you rush out of the building? Do you ask for technical paperwork each time you board an airplane?" Reasoning is expensive and slow, relative to life's pace. I do try to stay away from cons and I do try to examine my beliefs. I think that making a consistent effort pays a lot of dividends.

DB: "circular and universal concepts" Huh? Perhaps if a concept is "circular", it's not well defined." -- True again. There is no way to think of God without circular reasoning. When people do not realize that, they enter long debates leading nowhere. With definitions, as with reasons, we would finally come to the last one that needs to define itself or to create a larger and more obscure loop of definitions. In my book, this is the only circular definition allowed.

"I don't think that the choice of death is ever the right choice, except death for the good of others" I think that's a morally consistent opinion. -- Thanks. Surprisingly enough, it comes from my Christian beliefs.

"Did you know that abortion laws, as a rule, don't change the number of abortions, but they do make it more likely that a woman will die in childbirth or trying to get an abortion?"

I know. Anti-abortion laws will not stop people from having abortions, but will create an uncontrolled underground criminal market, without professional supervision. Much like anti-drug laws or prohibition of the 1920s. Forcing moral choices on others never works. These choices must come from inside.

Pro-life/pro-choice is a false dichotomy. One can be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. When put the right way, the absurdity of this "choice" sticks out: "pro-life/pro-death" or "pro-choice/pro-force". It's a political trick to pit people against each other. Do you remember how Bush raised the gay marriage issue just when the war in Iraq went sour? I remember listening to his statement on the radio and thinking "Where did that come from? And why is it a huge issue now?" Sure enough, this was the main topic of the next state elections nationwide.

"You might be surprised at how broken it is, if it's supposedly based on "God's absolute morality". -- I know. It's based on politics. The moral choice is very clear. The political choice is all messed up. Forcing moral choices on others is never right. They must come from inside, same as faith.

DB: "I do try to stay away from cons and I do try to examine my beliefs. I think that making a consistent effort pays a lot of dividends." -- So do I.

This was a nice chat. I believe, it was my first meaningful discussion in an atheist forum with some sort of understanding between two sides. Sorry for the long posts. I hope, they weren't empty.

From AG:

"We differ only in the choice of our starting point, the one and only "unsubstantiated belief" to which we are entitled, the "default position". Objective reality exists. I agree, there is no other option. I'm not defending solipsism. But I have a few problems putting my absolute trust in objective reality for a few reasons. a) It changes all the time, b) what I know about it changes all the time, c) I am not sure if my thoughts and beliefs belong to objective reality. By "faith" I mean "unconditional trust", "absolute golden standard", not just the statement of existence. I can only absolutely trust an absolute idea, which is God to me."

In another part of this thread you declare that you are a Christian therefore your god is the god of judaism, christianity, and islam--three different messages purported to be from the same god. How is this god in any way representative of an absolute? Could you do us all a favor by providing a definition of your god, one that explains the contradictions while providing a foundation for basing all of reality upon its existence?

I mean to me, an atheist, all god claims have fallen short of providing evidence for me to accept them. Just accepting one of the god claims as a foundational construct would seem to lack any utility above the objective reality position. Keep It Simple Stupid...Occam's Razor...etc., etc. Objective reality works and is the basis for all of our scientific advances and is the foundation upon all understanding of human perception. God isn't a consistent construct and is therefore, at best, subjectively flawed. We can't all use it because there isn't one objective definition with any utility whatsoever. The only way you and I on this forum can discuss this issue at all is to utilize objective reality. Why should we attempt to replace this concept with an additional factor? "What drives us as humans is not objective reality. It's ideas in our head, starting with faith."

Faith is often painted with a really broad stroke, as you seem to be doing, as if it is the end all and be all and is the same in any context. The thing is, religious faith has no foundation at all, nor does it have any utility. Faith based upon logical reasoning and science, while addressing the concept of an absolute objective reality as not being substantiated, does have some utility--it is the only methodology by which science and reason can consistently progress. Does faith based upon pseudo-scientific principles offer anything close?

Yes, I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow--science provides the foundation for my belief. But I don't have faith that god is shoving it up the sky--for which religion would provide the foundation. You would seem to be saying that all faiths are equal and that choosing one over another is a toss-up and no person can argue on the superiority of their foundational beliefs against another. I would argue that this is rather preposterous a position to hold as it isn't useful. Sure, it (christianity) might feel good and it might allow you to think you are in a position of equality with secular beliefs but the fact that it doesn't add anything to the discussion other than "everybody has unsubstantiated beliefs and ours is just as valid/invalid as yours" certainly seems rather a hollow and unfulfilling. And all of the god questions will invariably lead to questions about god, itself. How did it come into being? Why did it decide to create? And these will lead to mere speculation--but speculation based upon no support whatsoever. How can something that, in the final analysis, comes down to we don't know and we can't know ever be considered a superior foundational construct to the observational advantages of looking at the universe as objectively existing?

There is an objective reality and the laws of physics are consistent everywhere in the universe. Can't prove either of these but they sure are damned helpful.

ML: "Could you do us all a favor by providing a definition of your god, one that explains the contradictions while providing a foundation for basing all of reality upon its existence?"

Mark, speaking for myself, "God" to me is an idea of absolute truth, absolute perfection, absolute power, absolute authority, etc. I tried to explain above that as we try to understand these concepts, we invariably end up with our own definitions reflecting our own identity. While the concepts themselves remain self-contained and unknowable. "God does not exist" is a true statement. However, it reflects your disbelief, nothing else. Although absolute truth does not exist in reality, the concept is, certainly useful and is the basis of our *understanding* of reality.

ML: "God isn't a consistent construct and is therefore, at best, subjectively flawed. We can't all use it because there isn't one objective definition with any utility whatsoever."

I think, all people have their subjective ideals. Atheists are no exception. And all people use them. It's a paradox.

ML: "The only way you and I on this forum can discuss this issue at all is to utilize objective reality."

The basis of any conversation is mutual agreement. It does not have to be based on reality. As I mentioned before, all science is based on abstract concepts mutually accepted as axioms, without proof. Why can't people discuss abstract concepts not based on reality?

ML: "Why should we attempt to replace this concept with an additional factor?"

Often "additional" abstract concepts significantly simplify our understanding of reality. E.g. complex numbers in math significantly simplify many equations dealing with periodic functions and calculation of some line integrals. Same equations using *real* numbers are possible, but are much more complicated. Replacing flat plane with curved surfaces in geometry leads to a different, but consistent set of theorems simplifying many calculations in some cases. I wouldn't rush to use Occam's razor on God. I may cut myself.

ML: "Faith based upon logical reasoning and science, while addressing the concept of an absolute objective reality as not being substantiated, does have some utility--it is the only methodology by which science and reason can consistently progress. Does faith based upon pseudo-scientific principles offer anything close?"

To begin with, we must have faith that logic and science are the only way to learn about subjective reality. This cannot be proven by logic and science. Why do atheists always want to base faith on something? What is the ultimate foundation, if not faith itself? It's the circular reasoning that I mentioned above. The ultimate foundation must be self-based.

ML: "You would seem to be saying that all faiths are equal and that choosing one over another is a toss-up and no person can argue on the superiority of their foundational beliefs against another. I would argue that this is rather preposterous a position to hold as it isn't useful."

We must strive for consistency in our world view. When we discover internal contradictions, it's time to review the foundations of our theories. So far, I do not see contradictions in my beliefs, so I'm yet to be convinced to change them. So far, I have agreed to almost everything you say as atheists, without contradiction with my beliefs. Not all faiths are equally self-consistent. I'm sure, atheists can build consistent world view without using the concept of God, but they do need to use some other fundamental beliefs which must be self-consistent.

What I find not useful is requiring material evidence for fundamental beliefs of others while denying having such fundamental beliefs.

ML: "And all of the god questions will invariably lead to questions about god, itself. How did it come into being? Why did it decide to create?"

As I said above, this is where we would enter circular reasoning. Loop it on itself, tie a knot and call it "fundamental belief".

ML: "How can something that, in the final analysis, comes down to we don't know and we can't know ever be considered a superior foundational construct to the observational advantages of looking at the universe as objectively existing?"

Everything comes down to "we don't know" in the final analysis. And there is always "we can know" for every specific thing, but not for everything. There is no limit to knowledge. Ultimately, all knowledge leads to God or to nothing, depending on where we want to go.

From: AG ML: "Could you do us all a favor by providing a definition of your god, one that explains the contradictions while providing a foundation for basing all of reality upon its existence?"

Mark, speaking for myself, "God" to me is an idea of absolute truth, absolute perfection, absolute power, absolute authority, etc. I tried to explain above that as we try to understand these concepts, we invariably end up with our own definitions reflecting our own identity. While the concepts themselves remain self-contained and unknowable. "God does not exist" is a true statement. However, it reflects your disbelief, nothing else. Although absolute truth does not exist in reality, the concept is, certainly useful and is the basis of our *understanding* of reality.

God as an idea of certain attributes that are, in the final analysis, unknowable would seem to be almost completely unchristian and more of a deist viewpoint. Perfection, from a deist perspective might be defensible as long as said deity was defined to conform to a very strict and explicit idea of perfection but for perfection to be applied to the christian god, given that all we know about him/it is provided in the christian bible, would seem to be the height of hubris. I could name a hundred imperfect actions and attributes for the biblical god simply relying upon the definition of perfect as being beyond reproach. So the question is, perfect how? And if you have to come up with such a non-standard definition of perfect so as to make the term not need a metric to base it upon like "perfect because he's god" then, again, what possible good is it? It's like the argument that God is good and everything he does is good because he's god and is therefor immune to scrutiny. This is the god presented in the book of Job. Job did nothing wrong yet god tortured him and when Job complained, asked why, god said because I can. That's your definition of perfection?

ML: "Faith based upon logical reasoning and science, while addressing the concept of an absolute objective reality as not being substantiated, does have some utility--it is the only methodology by which science and reason can consistently progress. Does faith based upon pseudo-scientific principles offer anything close?"

To begin with, we must have faith that logic and science are the only way to learn about subjective reality. This cannot be proven by logic and science. Why do atheists always want to base faith on something? What is the ultimate foundation, if not faith itself? It's the circular reasoning that I mentioned above. The ultimate foundation must be self-based.

Faith based upon no foundation is called "blind faith." Faith that science and logic are the best way to learn about subjective reality is not blind, at all but has a significant track record of successful interpretation to back it up. In other words it is useful and absolutely reliable. Feel free to ask god to tell you why and how and anything else you have a question about but since there has never been a confirmed case of god actually communicating info in this way, don't get upset if, when you then rely upon science and logic to get results, I don't call you a rather silly person for trying magic at all.

"It's like the argument that God is good and everything he does is good because he's god and is therefor immune to scrutiny. This is the god presented in the book of Job. Job did nothing wrong yet god tortured him and when Job complained, asked why, god said because I can. That's your definition of perfection?"

Marc,

The "argument" you mention is not an argument at all. It's a statement of faith showing that the person simply does not want to discuss this matter and is not open to listen to any arguments on this issue whatsoever.

Such attitude is not as irrational as it seems. A man can say exact same thing about his wife: "My wife is good and everything she does is good, because she's my wife and therefore immune to scrutiny". Is it irrational to say so? Would it be wise for someone who does not share this man's conviction to point out his wife's imperfections and ask "That's your definition of perfection?"

As it was pointed out, people see in the Bible (and God) what they want to see. It's a mirror of humanity. If I understand the book of Job correctly, it is about our attitude, the words we say and the thoughts we think when something like this happens to us or to others. For me, faith is about my personal attitude towards the world and others. It's not about God's attitude towards me. A lot of people expect God to do them favors and they get disappointed, angry, and frustrated when he does not ("prayers don't work as expected"). Same applies to marriage, by the way. Faith can help to avoid disappointment, anger, and frustration in many areas of life by changing us inside. But of course, if you don't have one, it does absolutely nothing.

"It's like the argument that God is good and everything he does is good because he's god and is therefor immune to scrutiny. This is the god presented in the book of Job. Job did nothing wrong yet god tortured him and when Job complained, asked why, god said because I can. That's your definition of perfection?"

Marc,

The "argument" you mention is not an argument at all. It's a statement of faith showing that the person simply does not want to discuss this matter and is not open to listen to any arguments on this issue whatsoever.

The ostrich position, you mean. You have faith that god is perfect because, of course he's perfect else he wouldn't be god, duh. And you will stick your head in the dirt if anyone brings up any criticisms of this illogical position else you might have to actually examine your beliefs.

From AG:

Such attitude is not as irrational as it seems. A man can say exact same thing about his wife: "My wife is good and everything she does is good, because she's my wife and therefore immune to scrutiny". Is it irrational to say so? Would it be wise for someone who does not share this man's conviction to point out his wife's imperfections and ask "That's your definition of perfection?"

If a person believes that their wife is perfect and expresses that opinion to someone else then it would seem only fair to ask what their definition of perfect is. Let me be clear, a god is rarely a wife. A definition of perfect that would allow for subjective reasoning while stating that it is all-encompassing would seem to be as impractical as a definition could be.

My point was that some people believe that god can't do anything imperfect because he's god. Period. This means that god can kill every living thing on earth and this is a good thing. God can require human sacrifice for payment of debts and this is okay. God can torture you and kill your entire family for no reason, at all, and that is perfectly acceptable. If that's a definition of perfection whence need we satan?

AG:

As it was pointed out, people see in the Bible (and God) what they want to see. It's a mirror of humanity. If I understand the book of Job correctly, it is about our attitude, the words we say and the thoughts we think when something like this happens to us or to others.

You do not understand Job correctly. God and the devil make a bet where god allows horrible things to happen to one of his best creations and when Job asks "why? he says, "Because I can. You can object when you've done what I've done." In other words, might makes right and you underlings can go piss yourselves. Please watch Prof MPH on YouTube for a longer, much more thorough examination of the text.

The point is that perfection without clearly stating your criteria for the standards/definition is utterly futile. I can define my wife as perfect but if you ask me why then I'd then have to defend my position--and I might or might not be able to do so. You seem to be saying that it is alright for you to state that something is perfect and no one has the right to even broach the subject as to how you come up with that determination. Wise to ask, bullshit. If you make the proclamation openly then you're making the argument that perfection applies and any argument has to be supported else it's just farting in the wind.

To understand your fundamental belief better, do you consider objective reality as something outside your own mind or do you consider your mind a part of the objective reality? This point is extremely important to clarify. Once you clarify this for yourself, you might consider getting rid of "objective" and leaving just "reality" in your faith statement.

I remember you quoted an article showing that people identify "God's opinion" with their own opinion. Would you agree that a study of what people consider "objective reality" would have similar results? Would that be any proof to you that objective reality does not exist? The most it could show is that there is no practical difference between objective and subjective reality. Is such study even necessary if everyone knows the outcome?

I'm not Don Baker but I find this discussion interesting. As an atheist I have a practical view on life and how I should live it. Can any supernatural being, I can imagine, be disproven to exist? No it can't. This is, why it is called a *super*natural being. So instead I ask myself: Does it have any practical value to believe in any supernatural beings? Well, I answered this question for me and don't think that belief in "imaginary friends" has any practical value *for me*, because I can't and won't speak for anyone else.

The monotheistic religious systems of today are "punishment & reward" ideologies at their core. They tell you: If you believe in the main deity of a religion and follow the laws it has setup, you will get a reward after your death. However most of the time the belief itself in the main deity seems to be more important than the laws it has setup. For example the first law of "the ten commandments" in christianity is to obey their main deity. For some reason the laws that prohibit harming another person come afterwards. This kind of idelogies leave many questions like what happens if a person follows a law of the main deity but doesn't believe in this deity? What happens to members of other religions, who have similar belief systems? This last question is the cause of much grief on the planet right now. And why is it that the main deity doesn't follow its own laws from time to time and kills people in natural calamities? If a malevolent supernatural entity like "satan" did it and the main deity doesn't control satan. Then either the main deity lets people suffer willingly or it isn't all-powerful and so on... What happens after death if the religion claims that you live on after death in one form or another? Take christianity as an example: What happens if you go to heaven? Will you have to stay there for all eternity without any possibilty to die? What if you get bored? What if someone commits a crime while living in heaven? Is that even possible or are the souls of those living there "modified" so that they cannot commit crimes in heaven anymore? If so doesn't that contradict the main christian deity's intention to grant everybody free will?

and so on...

In contrast to that the atheistic message is rather simple:

* there is no reason to believe in anything if it is not scientifically verifiable but even if it scientifically verifiable you have to ask yourself whether it makes sense to believe in any ideology linked to it. For example does it make sense to believe in a "sun god", because the sun exists? The answer is no, because their is no practical value in such a belief.

* in general try to be kind to other people or at least don't make life difficult for other people. Humans are social animals and it is impossible to live in a drove of other social animals without certain rules of behaviour, because the other animals will shun you and you will suffer because of that. Therefore it is better to be nice to others. You will have more profit this way. Even "love" can be explained this way: It is the "ultimate profit" for two humans: It ensures the passing on of the genes of both humans. It ensures a form of protection for the genes of this humans (I mean children) and so on. So generally do everything you can for your benefit and the society, you live in. Because the benefit of the society, you live in, will be your benefit as well.

That's all I need.

"Religious systems" can be full of garbage - that's true. However, atheistic message is not that simple either. My point above was that all of us need faith in and vision of some fundamental values. Your judgement of practical value *for you* is based on your values. Discover what they are. If they are based on "objective reality", I think, it's a shaky foundation.

Sure, everybody has some kind of internal system of values. Even instincts can be regarded as "special" values. We develop our values as a reaction to the environment, we are living in and also to a small degree because of our genetic code.

I don't know what "objective reality" really is, "objective reality" sounds like an other version of an "absolute truth" to me. But maybe someone can "enlighten" me. In my opinion there are only subjective interpretations of our reality. Therefore my fundamental rule of life is:

I either trust myself or not.

For me this is the only valid observation, one can make about oneself in life. Everything else are assumptions, we make about reality. Like an assumption that some kind of "absolute truth like an omnipotent entity" or "objective reality" exists for example.

This is, why for me the only honest way of life is to make practical assumptions about reality. In order to do that I simply examine my desires. I ask myself: What do I want?

Of course even this question wouldn't really have any meaning if I didn't make the crucial assumption that my brain hasn't been manipulated and I still have my free will and that I'm not living in a so called "Bottleworld":

http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/46100dde1b135

Only then I can say that my desires are really *my* desires.

So, what do I want? I want to eat, to sleep, to go for a walk from time to time, to communicate with other humans and so on. And so the next questions are based on these desires: How can I fulfill them? Obviously if I want to eat, I have to assume that the food in front of me is real. And maybe it is, if it makes me feel sated, because I assumed that my brain hasn't been manipulated by someone else. Of course the food itself may have been manipulated to make me feel sated but I would notice that over time, because my body would become weaker and weaker. Or maybe I wouldn't notice it and die. Nobody said that a "perfect" life is possible through assumptions. Otherwise assumptions wouldn't be assumptions but facts. Besides if I didn't make any assumptions then I wouldn't be able to live as well. If I didn't assume that my brain hasn't been manipulated, I wouldn't know how to live anymore. I would be forced to ask myself questions like: Is this food real or not? Am I really hungry or is this just an implanted feeling in order to test my reactions? And so on. The result would be that I would probably die much quicker than in the above scenario. Besides even if my brain would be in a manipulative simulated environment I would still feel satisfied if I ate the simulated food. Then why not eat it? It's a "win-win" situation: If I eat it and it's simulated I feel good and if I eat it and it's real then I feel good and actually really needed to eat it. In the first case of a simulated environment the puppetmaster controlling the simulation can already do anything, it desires to do to me anyway. This is why it doesn't really matter whether I act on my simulated feeling of hunger or not, so I can just as well act on it and make myself feel good.

This is why the following "mode of behaviour" (or crucial assumption) is useful:

Always act as if you are not inside a simulation unless you somehow know that you are inside one. ( Perhaps you are the creator of a simulated environment and decided to upload yourself into your own simulation. Therefore you know that you are inside a simulation.)

(Of course like with any rule a scenario, where this rule fails, can always be found. But most of the time this rule should be of practical value for life. Without it you wouldn't be able to do anything or decide anything in life.)

Then ... what about these assumptions? :

1.) An omnipotent being exists and controls everything. 2.) This being works and thinks in mysterious ways.

Well, these two assumptions are handled by my previous "assumption" / mode of behavior:

X) "Always act as if you are not inside a simulation unless you somehow know that you are inside one."

If I say that this "omnipotent being" is the puppetmaster from the above scenario and I forget about assumption X) then I wouldn't be able to act or do anything in my environment as well. To take my previous example: I wouldn't be able to eat, because this may make the puppetmaster angry. So it may be better to stay hungry. Maybe the puppetmaster wants to test me whether I can resist the urge to eat. [This is what happens in the bible's book genesis with adam and eve, right? They both ate the fruit and died.] Or maybe the puppetmaster actually wants me to act in defiance against him/it/her this time and I should eat something and so on .... . You can see that the assumptions 1.) and 2.) are not really useful for my existence. They even have the potential to harm me, because I don't know, how to appease the puppetmaster. In the above example I wouldn't be able to eat, instead I would be thinking about whether I should eat or not and whether it would appease the puppetmaster or not. As a result I would die. Of course if a text appeared in front of me and told me what the puppetmaster wants it would still not help me in my situation. For example: If the text says: I commmand you to eat!! Then I would still have no way to know whether this is just a test by the puppetmaster and I shouldn't really eat anything or whether the text exists at all or is just a figment of my imagination and so on. (Transfering this situation to our world: I cannot be sure that the ten commandments have really been written by the main christian deity.) Only by assuming X) I can exist and act in this world without having doubts about hurting the feelings of a "puppetmaster".

This is why in order to live I have to assume that I'm not living inside a simulated environment and therefore there is no puppetmaster controlling the simulation. You cannot be a believer or agnostic and live in this world without being a hypocrite, because your actions or inactions in this world may make the puppetmaster angry. This is why you would be torn with indecision during your existence and wouldn't be able to act at all.

"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action." -- W. Shakespeare

Onemorehuman,

If I understood your post correctly, your values are based on your desires. But how do you determine that what you want is "good" for you? A lot of people desire drugs or other things that kill them or things that belong to other people. Don't you need values and a clear way to tell "what is good" to keep your desires in check? I'm not saying that you need religion for that, but the way you put it seems backwards to me.

You said, "You cannot be a believer or agnostic and live in this world without being a hypocrite, because your actions or inactions in this world may make the puppetmaster angry."

If God is a "puppetmaster" controlling every beat of my heart and every thought I think, how can I possibly make him angry? I would have no problem making decisions, because I wouldn't have to make any. Your "puppetmaster" model has some internal contradictions. The problem, I think, is with misinterpreting the concept of "full control".

It seems that when people "externalize" God, there is always this problem of "pleasing" a transcendental non-detectable entity with unknown will. I think, the puppetmaster and the sock puppet are both inside our mind. It's our conscience. The trick is to align them with some "universal" principle. Everyone have his/her own way of doing it. I do it through faith.

" If I understood your post correctly, your values are based on your desires. But how do you determine that what you want is "good" for you? A lot of people desire drugs or other things that kill them or things that belong to other people. Don't you need values and a clear way to tell "what is good" to keep your desires in check? I'm not saying that you need religion for that, but the way you put it seems backwards to me. "

All I can do is to make assumptions about the reality around me and base my decisions on these assumptions. For me most of these assumptions are based on scientific results. Of course scientists can make mistakes; Anybody can make mistakes. But making "perfect decisions" in life is impossible anyway, because you would need "total information" in order to do that. This is, why some people take drugs or steal things from others. They either don't care about the consequences or don't know about them. For exampe if I had the desire to steal something from someone I would think about the consequences (persecution by the authorities, punishment from the victim and so on). In short: As a consequence of my action I would experience pain. As a result I won't steal. Those, who don't care about the consequences experience pain and may even die as a result. You may call this a "process of social evolution". Therefore I don't know, whether I should follow certain desires until I either receive further information about the consequences of following a specific desire and *assume* that this information is correct or I simply follow my desire and experience the consequences and either won't follow my desire after that or will continue to follow my desire. This is called trial-and-error. If everyone in a society behaves like that, the society reaches some kind of "fluctuating social equilibrium", where your desires affect the desires of other people and vice versa. As a result people learn through trial-and-error what is good for them and what is not and create social mediator-structures in their midst to balance their selfish desires against each other. Any society that fails to implement efficient mediator-structures (police, jurisdiction, military ...) effentually falls apart. Once again this is "social evolution".

Notice that one could make an assumption that all the people around me are just figments of my imagination and therefore I can realize all my desires without caring about others. (This is The simulation argument from before.) However this assumption is not practical, because you will quickly experience pain from other people, if you try to realize your selfish desires without taking the selfish desires of others into account. In short: You have to be "good" in order to survive, unless you have so much power at your disposal that you don't have to take the desires of others into account. I admit that this is a case, where this system fails and can lead to atrocities (from the point of view of those, who have less power and are therefore the victims). I guess, this is why politics is a "dirty business". ;-)

" You said, "You cannot be a believer or agnostic and live in this world without being a hypocrite, because your actions or inactions in this world may make the puppetmaster angry." If God is a "puppetmaster" controlling every beat of my heart and every thought I think, how can I possibly make him angry? I would have no problem making decisions, because I wouldn't have to make any. Your "puppetmaster" model has some internal contradictions. The problem, I think, is with misinterpreting the concept of "full control". It seems that when people "externalize" God, there is always this problem of "pleasing" a transcendental non-detectable entity with unknown will. I think, the puppetmaster and the sock puppet are both inside our mind. It's our conscience. The trick is to align them with some "universal" principle. Everyone have his/her own way of doing it. I do it through faith. "

So basically what you are doing is a form of meditation and self-inspection? Well if you need faith for that and a "universal principle" ... good for you. I on the other hand don't need faith to bring order and direction to my thoughts. I do it through self-hypnosis, where I "inject" suggestions into my mind. As a result I can focus on certain tasks much better than without it. Yes, one may say that I'm my own "puppetmaster" and "puppet" at the same time. :-) And as about your idea about this "universal principle" ... I think the idea of "social evolution", I described above, is an universal principle of social behaviour. Unfortunately this mechanism fails, when an entity aquires a lot of power and doesn't have to care about anyone else as a result and also doesn't need anyone else, be it on an emotional or physical level. Or even worse actually needs someone with less power in order to fulfill some of its desires in a way that will bring pain to the one, with less power. Look at this for examples:

http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/4c1cd970e1876

Onemorehuman,

"[...]For me most of these assumptions are based on scientific results.[...]" -- although science is powerful for making technical decisions, it is largely useless for making most critical life choices. Is there a scientific theory to help people decide, "should I change career?", "should I marry?", "should I have children?", "should I have an abortion?", etc. You need an internal compass to guide you through these choices. Self-knowledge and the knowledge of human nature is more important than scientific knowledge. Studying my DNA or neurons in my brain may help, but I don't think, it's the best way to deal with these choices.

Life is too short for "trial-and-error". That's what parents and education are for - they compress the thousands years of human experience into a few years of learning and education. "Trial-and-error" is a fool's way. Some decisions simply cannot be made based on experience. E.g. how does one decide whether he should care for his aging parents with Alzheimer's or a child with a Down syndrome, with no chances for cure, or donate his kidney to save someone's life? Consequences for these decisions are often pain, suffering, or death, just as the consequences for a drug overdoze or murder. So, pain, death, or pleasure are not the decisive factors. Internal motivation is what matters. No law (external motivation) can compel people to make these choices. Faith can.

Some corrupt societies have corrupt army, police, and judicial system which don't work. Nothing can make these structures efficient without changing the mentality of those societies. I don't think, science can help with that. Faith can. It's not a scientific fact that "all humans have unaliable human rights for life, liberty, etc.". It's a belief which made American society so successful. It does not have to be associated with God or religion, but it is a faith statement nevertheless. Some other nations have similar constitutions, but they have no faith in these values. Or they have faith on paper, but they don't practice it, which is hypocricy and same as lack of faith.

By your model of "social evolution", anyone would accept a bribe given the opportunity, provided it's large enough to outweigh the risk of possible punishment. There is nothing to prevent corruption in your model if choices are made based on desires and consequences alone. Corruption is just inevitable in your model. You don't have to be "good" to survive. Immoral choices may not necessarily lead to pain or death. In corrupt societies many corrupt people live long and don't suffer, but people around them do. The quality of life of society as a whole suffers.

This is why I think that your model of "social evolution", although it sounds neat, does not work on many levels. I still think that our values are based on faith (various beliefs, not necessarily religious).

"So basically what you are doing is a form of meditation and self-inspection?" -- I, definitely, inspect my motives regularly. Religion creates a habit of doing it. Meditation and self-inspection alone don't do good. Faith must be practiced to give results.

"I on the other hand don't need faith to bring order and direction to my thoughts. I do it through self-hypnosis, where I "inject" suggestions into my mind. As a result I can focus on certain tasks much better than without it." -- and how do you choose which suggestions to "inject" if not based on your beliefs?

"And as about your idea about this "universal principle" ... I think the idea of "social evolution", I described above, is an universal principle of social behaviour. Unfortunately this mechanism fails, when an entity aquires a lot of power and doesn't have to care about anyone else as a result[...]" -- a "universal principle" cannot fail. If it fails in some cases, it's not universal. And your example is not the only one when it fails as I tried to show.

I think, the concept of "social evolution" and the "universal principle" is more simple: anything that leads to life and well-being of individuals and society as a whole is good and everything that leads to death and detriment of life is bad. That's in a nutshell. I could elaborate on that, but it will take a few pages. I think, this criterion can be safely used as an absolute for moral and personal choices. It is consistent with my religious beliefs, evolution theory, and, I hope, secular morality as well. If not, let me know.

"although science is powerful for making technical decisions, it is largely useless for making most critical life choices. Is there a scientific theory to help people decide, "should I change career?", "should I marry?", "should I have children?", "should I have an abortion?", etc. You need an internal compass to guide you through these choices. Self-knowledge and the knowledge of human nature is more important than scientific knowledge. Studying my DNA or neurons in my brain may help, but I don't think, it's the best way to deal with these choices."

Well there are scientific fields like psychology, ethics and philosophy, which deal with the problems, you have mentioned on a professional basis. Of course most of the time it may be enough to just talk to a friend about your problems. But if you don't know anyone, you can always try to talk to a psychologist or even better several different psychologists to get the most unbiased opinion about your current situation in life and "the ways out". However self-knowledge alone without a scientific basis can be disastrous. For example in certain societies people can stone other people to death for adultery, because their self-knowledge tells them that it is the right thing to do. "Life is too short for "trial-and-error". That's what parents and education are for - they compress the thousands years of human experience into a few years of learning and education. "Trial-and-error" is a fool's way. Some decisions simply cannot be made based on experience."

I agree with you. Especially because I also said in my previous article:

"people learn through trial-and-error what is good for them and what is not"

So if a human learns that something is (not) good for him/her, (s)he doesn't have to repeat the process of trial-and-error over and over again. Without this accumulation of knowledge at least highly intelligent life would be impossible. Although even unintelligent processes like evolution work like this as well to a certain extent. Evolution is basically trial-and-error combined with an accumulation of knowledge. In evolution the "accumulation of knowledge" occurs through natural selection, which is a rather slow and inefficient form of "accumulation of knowledge" but without it life wouldn't exist anywhere (not just on earth). (And yes, I'm assuming that we are not alone in the universe.)

"E.g. how does one decide whether he should care for his aging parents with Alzheimer's or a child with a Down syndrome, with no chances for cure, or donate his kidney to save someone's life? Consequences for these decisions are often pain, suffering, or death, just as the consequences for a drug overdoze or murder. So, pain, death, or pleasure are not the decisive factors. Internal motivation is what matters. No law (external motivation) can compel people to make these choices. Faith can."

When I talked about 'pain' I meant any form of pain, including psychological pain. Therefore it may be more painful to someone not to donate his or her kidney than to donate it. If this person doesn't donate his/her kidney (s)he may suffer such a harsh psychological torture that it may be better to accept the lesser physical pain and donate the kidney than to live with this psychological pain (e.g. guilt, sorrow, ...).

"Some corrupt societies have corrupt army, police, and judicial system which don't work. Nothing can make these structures efficient without changing the mentality of those societies."

Yes, I agree with you. I have written in one of my articles:

"You have to be "good" in order to survive, unless you have so much power at your disposal that you don't have to take the desires of others into account. I admit that this is a case, where this system fails and can lead to atrocities (from the point of view of those, who have less power and are therefore the victims). I guess, this is why politics is a "dirty business". ;-)"

"I don't think, science can help with that. Faith can."

Most religious institutions are corrupt as well. Or would you call the 'Islamic Republic of Iran' a model state? If not then why not? The ruling authorities have so much "faith" there after all. If you tell me now, that they don't have "true faith" then this is your personal opinion. But I think that the ruling authorities of Iran would probably disagree with you and instead call you a heretic. (This is basically the old unfalsifiable and therefore meaningless "you're-not-a-true-believer-argument") Anyway institutions based on faith are just another variant of 'social mediator structures', I talked about before. History shows us that social mediator structures based on faith are too static and detrimental, when it comes to the development or even consideration of new ideas. Search for "Galileo Galilei" as an example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei#Legacy

Or look at the so called "inquisition" and the witch hunts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquisition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt

"It's not a scientific fact that "all humans have unaliable human rights for life, liberty, etc.". It's a belief which made American society so successful. It does not have to be associated with God or religion, but it is a faith statement "

No, it is not a faith statement. I can only quote from my previous article about the emergence of "social mediator structures" in a society:

"[..] society reaches some kind of "fluctuating social equilibrium", where your desires affect the desires of other people and vice versa. As a result people *learn* through trial-and-error what is good for them and what is not and create social mediator-structures in their midst to balance their selfish desires against each other. Any society that fails to implement efficient mediator-structures (police, jurisdiction, military ...) effentually falls apart. Once again this is "social evolution". [..]"

"By your model of "social evolution", anyone would accept a bribe given the opportunity, provided it's large enough to outweigh the risk of possible punishment. There is nothing to prevent corruption in your model if choices are made based on desires and consequences alone. Corruption is just inevitable in your model. You don't have to be "good" to survive. Immoral choices may not necessarily lead to pain or death. In corrupt societies many corrupt people live long and don't suffer, but people around them do. The quality of life of society as a whole suffers."

But wouldn't you agree that this is exactly how today's societies work anyway? Your "perfect" faith-based institutions are all corrupt as well. They are all the result of "social evolution". "Faith based societies" are just one possible outcome for a "social mediator structure" among many other possible outcomes. But all these "social mediator structures" are end results of "social evolution". Faith based societies are no exception, because they are one of the many possible outcomes of "social evolution". What I'm trying to say is that humanity invented various forms of faith as a social mediator structure. The links about witch hunts and the inquisition show that faith-based social mediator structures are also "problematic" at best.

"This is why I think that your model of "social evolution", although it sounds neat, does not work on many levels. I still think that our values are based on faith (various beliefs, not necessarily religious)."

The moral values, you think, emerged through faith, emerged through the process of social evolution. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emerged after the Second World War for example. The Declaration was a direct response to the atrocities (- *pain, lots of pain* -) committed during this war. Quote from Wikipedia:

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, partly in response to the atrocities of World War II"

Pure faith by itself cannot create new moral values. Faith tends to create static societies biased in their opinions. "So basically what you are doing is a form of meditation and self-inspection?" -- I, definitely, inspect my motives regularly. Religion creates a habit of doing it. Meditation and self-inspection alone don't do good. Faith must be practiced to give results."

I do just fine with meditation, self-inspection and self-hypnosis. I don't need faith. I have self-hypnosis and self-inspection. "I on the other hand don't need faith to bring order and direction to my thoughts. I do it through self-hypnosis, where I "inject" suggestions into my mind. As a result I can focus on certain tasks much better than without it." -- and how do you choose which suggestions to "inject" if not based on your beliefs?

I examine my own desires and weight them against the experiences, I already made in my life and the desires of the people close to me and to a much lesser degree the desires of other people. This is, how I make decisions. If these decisions are against my short-term desires but good for me in the long term, I use self-hypnosis (many times if necessary) to "force myself" to do, what is good for me in the long term. This is, what I use self-hypnosis for. It is a form of reinforcement learning to train the biological neural nets, my brain is made of, to respond in a certain way. If you do self-hypnosis for a long time the brain "reconfigures" itself (- old neural connections or even whole neural nets disappear while other grow -) after a while to fulfill your wishes.

"And as about your idea about this "universal principle" ... I think the idea of "social evolution", I described above, is an universal principle of social behaviour. Unfortunately this mechanism fails, when an entity aquires a lot of power and doesn't have to care about anyone else as a result[...]" -- a "universal principle" cannot fail. If it fails in some cases, it's not universal. And your example is not the only one when it fails as I tried to show.

'Faith' is just another variant of 'social evolution', as I explained above. 'Faith' is just one of humanity's many attempts to find a "fluctuating social equilibrium" in its societies. You make it sound as if "faith" is the beginning and end of all wisdom but it is not. It is just one solution for human behaviour among many other solutions and history has shown us that "having faith" can lead to disastrous outcomes.

"I think, the concept of "social evolution" and the "universal principle" is more simple: anything that leads to life and well-being of individuals and society as a whole is good and everything that leads to death and detriment of life is bad. That's in a nutshell. I could elaborate on that, but it will take a few pages. I think, this criterion can be safely used as an absolute for moral and personal choices. It is consistent with my religious beliefs, evolution theory, and, I hope, secular morality as well. If not, let me know."

I agree with you. I'm glad that you think like that. I think that the only difference between us is that you think, that there is some kind of "absolute moral truth" called "faith" or something like that. At least this is the impression I got from your previous remarks, while I think that humanity's notions of "good" and "evil" are the "natural" result of "social evolution". In any case as long you follow this "universal principle", you formulated above, it doesn't really matter, how you came to this universal principle or how I came to it for that matter. As long as we both follow it, everything is fine and there is nothing useful to debate. ;-)

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