The atheist’s dilemma

I have been an atheist for almost fifty years, however I’m far from being one of Richard Dawkins’ admirers. Politics is the problem for me.

It would be foolish in the extreme to deny that atheist regimes have been a raging disaster of epic proportions. Tens of millions of deaths and rising – try to brush that aside without leaving a vast moral hole in your personal philosophy. It’s like trying to lick the Augean stables clean – leaves a bad taste and gets you nowhere.

So where does that leave an atheist who feels inclined to enter the God debate? With an extremely serious dilemma I’d say, especially now the scientific method is such a crock. We can’t worship at that alter any longer, not without a cauterized sense of smell and some very large and ungainly blinkers.

Science a crock? Well maybe such a sweeping statement deserves a modicum of elaboration, but no more. I’ll drop climate change, passive smoking and peer review into that modicum – just to spice up the flavour of the debate you understand. Because I certainly don’t see how we can separate science from the antics of scientists.

Most of where we are today was achieved by a process we could just as easily call engineering as science – we must not be misled by names. Practical trial and error if you like. The kind of thing Josiah Wedgwood was so brilliant at – and was he not a scientist by any practical criterion? After all, his meticulous trials of pottery bodies and glazes were in effect chemical experiments – or early experiments in material science if you prefer.

The idea that science has been some pristine mode of human thought guiding our progress since the days of Galileo is just far too naive and idealistic – at least for me.

I spent all of my working life as a professional scientist and it there isn’t anything noble about it. Science is merely a job – it pays the mortgage. It can be interesting, frustrating and rewarding just like any other job, but rarely moral in any important sense. Science certainly isn’t a viable personal philosophy.

So back to the question of God. My philosophy is that if that’s how people view the cosmos then who am I to argue? I don’t see the cosmos through God, but seeking to impose my personal philosophy on others isn’t part of my personal philosophy.

Why? Partly personal inclination and partly because atheism has no moral dimension. It’s a negative, something you don’t have rather than something you do. So my own atheism has never been a big deal for me. There are more tractable problems which need moral alignment between rational people.

How to define rational people though? In my view, not via their religious beliefs or their lack of belief because that’s too divisive. More likely through their grasp of moral imperatives, their unwillingness to seek control over others, their adherence the most fundamental moral law.

Do as you would be done by.

We waste an enormous amount of time pursuing unwinnable arguments. And yes – these pursuits can be compulsive in a kind of competitive, must have the last word kind of way, but argument is almost entirely futile. It doesn’t help nurture worthwhile moral alignments. Because if you believe in liberty, in do as you would be done by, then moral alignment is the goal to be pursued and in no sense whatever is it an atheist goal.

Other differences in personal philosophy, though important, are not necessarily those to be pursued in tackling more immediate threats to our well-being. And of course I mean our moral well-being which in the end is what liberty is all about – the freedom to be a moral agent.

110 comments for “The atheist’s dilemma

  1. April 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

    For the most part, I choose not to bother. If someone decides to preach, then I ask them to provide verifiable evidence to substantiate their claims, otherwise, don’t waste my time.

    • April 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

      And I ask for verifiable evidence of denial, otherwise I don’t waste my time.

      • April 10, 2012 at 11:52 am

        Now you are just being silly. The believer is the one making the claim. The non believer may reasonably ask for evidence to substantiate that claim.

        Do you believe in Ahmun Ra? If not, where is your evidence that he does not exist? See? Daft.

        • David A. Evans
          April 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

          Not silly at all. The correct stance for a non-believer is agnostic.

          Once you take the step to atheism, you’ve moved from non-belief in God to belief in the non-existence of God. That also requires faith.

          It’s a different faith but still a faith.

          • Voice of Reason
            April 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm

            Most religions make specific statements about the physical world. Many of those same statements have been shown to be false, based on the available evidence. Thus, atheism is a perfectly logical and consistent stance.

          • April 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

            Not entirely true. Although there are certainly some whose atheism is characterised by a positive belief in the absence of gods there are also those whose atheism is characterised very simply by not being a theist. Most dictionaries will mention that the word has a Greek root meaning very simply ‘without god’, but I think it’s has been hijacked by the first kind who, as you point out, need as much faith in their belief in the non-existence of gods in much the same way as ‘liberal’ has been hijacked to mean ‘self righteous prick who tells you how to live your life and won’t let you do anything he doesn’t approve of’.

            I believe (heh, believe may not be the right word) that Longrider is that kind of atheist, it sounds like AK Haart might be too, and I’ve been describing myself as such for years. There may or may not be any gods, though I see no reason to believe that there are, but whether they exist or not I don’t make there possible existence part of my life. I’m an atheist in the most literal sense. I’m not ruling out the existence of gods, I’m just rejecting the practice of theism. If you want to insist that I’m still an agnostic you can if you like since I have no more belief in gnosticism and its practices than I do theism 😉 but joking aside shouldn’t the fact that I regard a theist kind of god as being rather unlikely put me more in the atheist category anyway? That agnostic uncertainty you’re thinking of is probably an accurate way to describe my attitude to deism as I can’t imagine any way of even quantifying the likelihood of an entity which created the universe and has never since involved itself in any way. There’s just no way of knowing if we’re in an incomprehensibly vast version of a petri dish. Theism, however, I’m comfortable in rejecting. Some theists might be right (all of them certainly cannot be) but I don’t see a convincing reason to join in.

          • April 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

            Oh, my, that old canard. Atheism is not a non-beleif, it is a lack of one – it is not nor ever was a faith, much as the religious would like us to think that it is. I’m disappointed that I have to keep reiterating that. A lack of belief is the default position and one we all adopt with regard to various deities worshipped by our ancestors. I do not believe in any of the other gods man has invented and for exactly the same reason – there is no evidence that they exist. Yahweh is no different.

            James is suggesting proving a negative. You cannot prove a negative and to suggest that we should is very silly indeed.

            I’m relaxed about what people believe. Worship pink unicorns if you will, I don’t care and would actively defend your right to do so. However, when believers tell me that what they believe is “The Truth” I’ll respond with the “evidence please?” line. Because, the truth is verifiable, belief isn’t.

            • graham wood
              April 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

              Longrider: You say:
              “However, when believers tell me that what they believe is “The Truth” I’ll respond with the “evidence please?” line. Because, the truth is verifiable, belief isn’t.

              OK. Let’s take a simple example of a verifiable truth. There are countless others, but here is one.
              The Christian claims that all of the physical universe is due to God’s creation of it – hence the book or origins (Genesis) in the Bible.
              Further, God himself claims that natural phenomena such as the reproductive systems of all vegetation found on earth – trees, fruit, plants, flowers, etc will all naturally reproduce without any human intervention, and will continue to do so until the end of time for the sustenance of the human race (and for their pleasure).
              Thus Genesis states “I (God) have given you every herb bearing seed…… and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food”
              Evidence of claim?

              It is all around us. Every time you open an orange or tomato, apple etc there is the seed with all its potential to reproduce ‘after its kind’. Indeed, such seed cannot be artificially substituted by anything else – only God’s original seed will do. (notwithstanding GM crops etc)
              On the absolute certainty of this evidence and its application hangs the practice of all farming and horticulture through the centuries up to today. Withhout that certainty these could not exist for a single year.
              What you read then in Genesis is in fact what you get in reality.
              How does an atheist explain this evidence ❓

              • April 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm

                None of that is evidence of gods. Genesis was written by primitive bronze age goat herders in an attempt to explain the physical world about them – much as other ancients did with their invented gods. We have a greater understanding of it than they did – hence “god did it” doesn’t wash any more. Nowhere have you provided any verifiable evidence to substantiate your claim, merely that those ancient people were able to observe the nature of the world about them and sought to explain it. Quoting the Bible isn’t evidence as it is just a series of fairy tales, parables and a few vague historic records, sorry. As for evidence of god, your argument is a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc.

              • Voice of Reason
                April 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

                This would be the same Genesis which has the flat Earth on pillars surrounded by water, with a dome with holes that God opens to make it rain?

        • April 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm

          No, you are the one making the denial – the onus us clearly on you to explain on what evidence you base that.

          You can’t and you try to turn it around. I’ve run a series of seven posts on this topic and gave the evidence and the way the evidence needed to be interpreted. What’s the reaction?

          Sweeping in and saying there is no evidence, straight after it’s been laid out. That’s not debate – that’s auto-denial. As you say – it’s silly.

          • April 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm

            There are fairies at the bottom of my garden. I know it is true – I’ve seen them. If you don’t believe me, you are in denial.

            You cannot prove a negative and your persistence in attempting to do so merely undermines your argument.

            You are the one making the claim, not me. I am claiming nothing, merely expressing a disbelief of yours; just as you, sensibly, would express disbelief in my fairies. The onus is on you, making the claim to prove its veracity, not the recipient of the claim.

            This is as tired as the hills frankly and I’m disappointed that you continue to engage in logical fallacy.

            No one here has laid out any evidence that demonstrates the existence of gods – they have merely reiterated the same tired assertions the religious always make and indulged in the same weak logical fallacies and twisted arguments they always make. Been there, done that, tired of it now.

            If there is a god,you will be able to prove it. So, prove it. Show him to me.

            • Voice of Reason
              April 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm

              “You cannot prove a negative and your persistence in attempting to do so merely undermines your argument.”

              There is no real number whose square is negative.

      • April 11, 2012 at 3:58 am

        I note LR is now speaking of fairies at the bottom of the garden [;-)], so perhaps no further words are necessary about his contention he’s singularly failed to establish. However, as I happened to see this, I thought it might add to the debate. It’s a small fragment from a longer argument illustrating why the Rationalist position is, in fact, irrational:

        “There is no evidence for God, therefore I’m an atheist.” That’s the claim of the majority of (English-speaking, at any rate) “public” atheists, that is, atheists who argue publicly for their position. They do not claim to have a disproof of God. Although a small minority of atheists do claim such a disproof, most atheists simply claim an absence of evidence for God and think themselves justified in unbelief.

        But there is much evidence for God, and (assuming he’s not grossly ignorant or dishonest) the atheist’s claim of no evidence is based on a defect in his mode of thinking rather than an absence of evidence. This defect is commonly called “materialism,” “naturalism,” or sometimes “physicalism[1],” and it is the error of assuming a priori that only matter exists, along with its events and properties. When the atheist finds fault with the various theistic proofs it is usually because he implicitly assumes materialism and then judges the evidence and arguments by this standard. Since “materialism” is pretty much a synonym for “atheism” (few people take seriously the idea of a god made of matter), the atheist assumes atheism before he looks at the evidence. Looking at life through atheism-colored glasses, he naturally sees only atheism.

        The atheist may not be aware that he is making this assumption. But when we judge atheists by their public words we see that they are indeed assuming materialism. Atheists commonly make such statements as “all evidence must be empirical,” or “only science can discover objective truth,” or “only objective, repeatable evidence can be accepted.” [To the atheist, objective = empirical = sense-based = materialistic.] All of these statements assume materialism, because they contain the words “all” and “only.” Theists, of course, acknowledge that empirical, scientific and repeatable evidence can be valid. But the materialist goes beyond this, saying that all valid evidence must be of these forms. This is why it is the materialist who bears the burden of proof.

        The atheist may not be aware that his materialism is not automatically true, but must be subjected to some form of testing to see whether it is a valid philosophical system. When the suggestion is made that the atheist must give rational support for his materialist assumptions he often responds with incredulity or anger, as if the falsehood of materialism is literally unthinkable.

        As a result, the atheist’s thinking is circular. He rejects the evidence for God by assuming that all evidence must be interpreted atheistically, that is, materialistically. He assumes the result that he thinks he is validating.

        We can sympathize with the atheist to a certain extent. Empirical, material reality is easier to understand than transcendent reality. Much nonsense is said about God and other transcendent matters. And the supernatural is potentially a threat, as it may contain elements that are both hostile and dimly understood, and against which man may lack adequate defenses. It feels safer to deny the supernatural altogether, and only believe in the tangible.

        But it is not reasonable to deny the supernatural. Since man is not omniscient, he cannot assume the supernatural to be nonexistent. He must examine the evidence without assuming atheism.

        • April 11, 2012 at 4:08 am

          That last one goes part of the way to showing the fallacy of LR’s position.

          He brought the post into existence, therefore he needs to:

          1. provide evidence for his contention, which he has not done – he’s provided contention and assertion without proof

          2. show that the narrow range of criteria he uses is sufficient to be able to establish his contention.

          As he’s done neither, his contention remains unproven. Therefore, one is left with the base position that the odds are overwhelmingly that G-d exists, on so many grounds, from the first cause through to experiential.

          LR is trying to straitjacket an argument which is not argued in that fashion in the first place.

          • April 11, 2012 at 8:37 am

            Er, no. Once again, logical fallacy and circular arguments abound. I am saying nothing. You are. You claim that something exists. I claim nothing.

            • April 11, 2012 at 8:52 am

              No but I didn’t – you made the post, you made the assertion. I was saying nothing and haven’t run any posts at OoL on the existence of G-d because, as Jefferson would say, it’s self-evident.

              That fragment I posted said it quite well about the logical fallacies of Rationalists. Doesn’t mean they can’t be nice guys though.

              The onus is on the asserter to prove his case or at least give evidence to support it. If the assertion is that there is no G-d, then I await the evidence and/or proof.


              • April 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

                Okay, last time. You are positing the existence of god(s). I am not. In my comment to the post, I simply made that statement – I do not believe in gods and if someone preaches at me, I will ask for evidence to substantiate their claims.

                I made no assertions whatsoever – simply that I do not believe in gods. That is not an assertion, it is a statement of fact. Nothing more, nothing less.

                Simply trying to turn the point around and repeating it ad nauseum won’t wash. It’s a logical fallacy.

                The onus will always remain on the believer to demonstrate his case. I don’t expect you to disprove the existence of my fairies, because you cannot prove a negative and are under no obligation to do so. Likewise with me and gods.

              • April 11, 2012 at 9:55 am

                This is amazing. I’m not putting any argument at all but you have, multiple times. Here’s one of yours:

                Atheism is not a non-beleif, it is a lack of one – it is not nor ever was a faith, much as the religious would like us to think that it is.

                Now you need to prove what you say there. Where’s your evidence? It’s simply an unsupported assertion. I did provide support in my long comment. So far, you haven’t done so.

                The onus is on you to do so.

              • April 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

                Now you need to prove what you say there.

                No, I don’t. Atheism is clearly defined in the dictionary. I made no assertion.

        • Voice of Reason
          April 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm

          “But there is much evidence for God…”

          Really? If that were the case, and such evidence withstood scrutiny, then we wouldn’t have all of these religions arguing, nor the 25,000 sects of Christianity, would we?

      • April 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm

        Here’s another one while we wait for the Rationalists to come up with some evidence, let’s play fair and mention evidence “for”:

        There are many lines of evidence for God, but to disprove the atheist’s claim of no evidence it is more than enough to demonstrate that two common lines of evidence, say the cosmological and the teleological are generally valid. The basic approach in both cases is to show that these lines of reasoning provide commonsense evidence for God and that the most common responses from atheists assume materialism without giving any proof, and are therefore invalid rebuttals of the evidence.

        This is part of a long work which then goes into those. The opening is:

        Atheists also often appeal to the speculative theories of advanced physics. According String Theory, the universe we know, with its three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, might be “embedded” within a larger domain that contains many additional dimensions of both space and time. According to String Theory, the universe we know could have been created by some aspect of the larger domain in which it is embedded. There would thus be no need to resort to a non-physical, non-spatial supernatural realm.

        Three points, though, effectively parry the atheist’s thrust. First, there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for the actual existence of this larger domain. It is hypothesized entirely on the basis of abstract mathematical theorizing based on extensions of theories that are known experimentally to be valid for the ordinary world with which we are familiar. True, this does not prove that the wider domain does not exist. But the consistent materialist, for whom only empirical evidence counts, will have to reject the existence of the realms postulated by String Theory.

        It goes into all the commonly trotted out rationalizations of the Rationalists who are, of course, playing with only half a deck, restricting or “straitjacketing” their arguments to narrow physical hypotheses they have no way of establishing, given the constraints, both in sensory perception and in reasoning, of the human being.

        The estimable TNL charges “splendid arrogance” but of course, excepting him naturally, a most humble chap, Rationalists in general are guilty of precisely that – elevating frail and limited Man above the Cosmos. This is pure Tower of Babel. LOL. This is tin god stuff.

        The anti-atheist though is a person of humility, reasoning that he doesn’t know all the answers but is capable of sufficient reason and perception to recognize what is about him, which the blinkered Rationalist simply cannot do through the fog of his own prejudice. The anti-atheist says that almost all phenomena, though each one is hardly a proof in itself, tend towards the existence of some sort of non-physical force or being.

        The Big Bang, for example, is splendid evidence for G-d.

      • Furor Teutonicus
        April 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

        XX James Higham on April 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

        And I ask for verifiable evidence of denial, XX

        How about “I could not give a shit WHAT it sais in some book, pass the beer!”?

        I do not need to prove I am anti Nazi, to tell you “Mein Kampf” is full of shit. You just have to observe the antics of those that live by it’s word.

        (And aye! I have read both Mein Kampf AND the other handbook of supression, the “bible”.)

  2. richard
    April 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Atheism a negative? My tyres are therefore in a negative state because they don’t have nails, and so forth.

    • April 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      The nails are a negative, so yes, correct.

    • April 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      That’s a good metaphor – but it’s just a metaphor. We could trade them forever. 😉

      • April 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm

        Not sure it is a good metaphor. The presence of nails in a tyre is something that can be tested.

  3. graham wood
    April 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Mr Haart. Thank you for your honest and thoughtful approach to the moral and philosophic dilemmas which you pose, which I found interesting – especially the thought: “The idea that science has been some pristine mode of human thought guiding our progress since the days of Galileo is just far too naive and idealistic – at least for me.
    As I suspect you will be well aware, the Christian apologist C. S. Lewis had much to say about these things and was always very provocative in urging atheists and agnostics to think through the central issue of the challenge of a Christian world view and the claims of Christ. In his little book ‘God in the Dock’ he issues just such a challenge on those wishing to live a “moral” life without Christianity. He assumes the man who asks this question has heard of Christianity, but who generally evades its connection with with morality with the charge: “need I bother about it?” and continues: “He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is ture or false because he sees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true…….”
    “Intellectual honour has sunk very low in our age – I hear someone whimpering on with his questions, ‘will it (Christianity) help me? Will it make me happy? Well if you must have it my answer is is ‘yes’, but I don’t like giving an answer at all at this stage.
    Here is a door behind which according to some people the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then what that door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal ‘sell’ on record.
    Isn’t it the job of every man to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret, or to expose and destroying this gigantic humbug?
    Faced with such an issue, can you remain wholly absorbed in your blessed ‘moral development’? ”
    Finally another question relevant at this Easter time: Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – or was this a ‘non-event’ or gigantic fraud also? As a Christian I would assert that is the key that unlocks the door into Lewis’ “secret”

    • April 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – or was this a ‘non-event’ or gigantic fraud also?

      Biologically impossible, so a nice story, a parable, perhaps, but that is all. Either you believe it to be true or you do not. Sorry, I cannot. Never could, I suspect, which is why at the age of seven, I declared that I did not believe in God. Despite an attempt a few years later, that disbelief has remained intact.

      When someone can come up with evidence that they had a cure for necrosis in 1st Century Judea, I’ll take the resurrection story with more than a pinch of salt.

    • April 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

      I find this comment difficult to answer, thoughtful though it is.

      I’m more concerned here with admitting the moral problems of atheism. Where that leads isn’t an easy question for atheists and I think far too many tend to gloss over it. Essentially I see it as a problem of moral imperatives which atheism itself does not supply.

      • April 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm

        A much wiser tactic, AKH.

  4. Voice of Reason
    April 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    In terms of your first paragraph, I would argue that most of the deaths under ‘atheist’ regimes (actually quasi-religious, given our nature)were not because of atheism. By contrast, rather a lot of death has been in the name of specific sects of Christianity and Islam.

  5. Peter MacFarlane
    April 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    The heaps of corpses were not caused by the fact that the various regimes were atheist, but because they were socialist.

    Socialism always leads to heaps of corpses in the end.

    They were atheist because they were also absolutist, and couldn’t countenance any challenge to their power – which religion does, because it is itself a power system.

    More traditional polities (the Russian Tsars, for instance) would happily incorporate religious power as part and parcel of their regime, but socialism is jealous and will not share, hence the atheism.

    • April 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      I tend to agree with you, the common factor is absolutism. However, I also think atheism has no moral dimension where the religion it displaces usually has, even if corrupted by human failings.

    • April 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Good point, Peter.

  6. April 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I’d agree with Voice of Reason in pointing out that the atheism of the murderous regimes was not the problem; in fact, they tended to be secular regimes with a penchant for creating cults of personality; effectively creating an infallible “god” on earth to further suppress criticism of their regimes. And yeah, Christian and Islamic regimes have been responsible for more than their fair share of bloodshed over the centuries.

    However, my main point is that it isn’t the type of belief that is the problem; rather, it is when any belief becomes beyond question in any way and all alternative beliefs have to be subsumed to a person’s preferred outlook. Thus, the problam isn’t Christianity, or Islam, or socialism, but rather when those beliefs become so absolute that all concepts such as tolerance disappear into the ether. It is probably true that certain belief systems are more likely to end in this sort of thinking than others (certain forms of religion, for example, or more extreme forms of socialism such as Marxism) but it is possible to become a dogmatic zealot with pretty much any belief you hold. So it isn’t belief, or faith, but dogma that leads to inquisitions, gulags and the death camps. Which is, as an aside, why I have real problems with Dawkins. He’s just as dogmatic as many of the religious types he takes issue with; the irony is he probably has more in common with the Pope than either realise as both are utterly dogmatic about their beliefs.

    And yeah, I’m an atheist – in part for the reasons Longrider alludes to, but I’m perfectly happy to be tolerant of tolerant holders of religious beliefs.

    • April 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      “but it is possible to become a dogmatic zealot with pretty much any belief you hold”

      Good point.

  7. April 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    “atheist regimes have been a raging disaster of epic proportions”

    Woah! Hold it right there!

    People like Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung and that Austrian bloke did not follow any established religions like Christianity or that other famous one, but Soviet Communism, Chinese Communism and whatever political movements the other two belonged to were certainly “religions” or “cults” to the outside observer. They had their flags, symbols, ceremonies and mythology, their provably wrong but unshakeable core beliefs, a Messiah figure, blindly devoted followers etc etc.

    Calling these regimes “atheist” is just so much Christian-Islamic propaganda, simple fact is, they weren’t atheist, not by any stretch.

    And unlike what Peter M says, it’s not as simple as slagging off Socialists for co-opting religious imagery. Christianity and Islamism are quite similar to Socialism or Communism anyway – think about stuff like the Temperance Movement etc.

    • April 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      I don’t think the Soviets or Chinese ever thought of Lenin, Marx, Stalin or Mao as deities. They were atheist regimes.

      To say they were religious is a complicating metaphor in my view. Atheist doesn’t mean not religious – Buddhism is an atheist religion. I simply prefer to admit that there have been actual atheist regimes which were human disasters and move on from there.

      • April 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm

        They may have been regimes that rejected the idea of gods but they adopted many of the practices of religions. Rituals, personal sacrifice, veneration of personalities and/or bodies, special days of the year on which certain things happen. You swap a people’s belief in a god and its wisdom, that their purpose is to serve and that in exchange their god will care for them for, say, a belief in the Party and its wisdom, that their purpose is to serve the state and that their reward shall be that the Party and state will care for them. Much the same thing as far as I can see, it’s just replaced anything supernatural with a secular version. In either case what’s damaging is when that belief becomes so damned important that believers are willing to kill non-believers over it.

    • Greg Tingey
      April 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Communism is a classic religion.
      Sects? Tick
      Holy books? Tick
      Kills millions in the name of the holy cause? Tick
      Proposes to bring the millenium, whilst torturing opponents? Tick
      Persecutes all the competing religions? Tick?
      etc …..

  8. April 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Its quite straight forward technically. Intellectual science is not required. Neither is religion. Its all a false dichotomy. The common thread running through all religions at inception (Granted they all get corrupted too) is:

    “Rob each other and your society will decline, fall and be buried out of site. do stuff fairly to each other and as if by magic enormous abundance will be available to all”

    The former is true of all past civilisations. None has managed to hang together, always for the same primary reason. Systemic theft. Its likely we too are now on the verge of burial. But its totally unessential.

    This is what all religion starts out saying. Yeah it gets corrupted in the end. Have we got the good sense to stop the same happening this time?

    Good post but no need to get intellectual or fret about being religious. This is the natural law. Its simple.

    • April 10, 2012 at 10:39 am

      “Have we got the good sense to stop the same happening this time?”

      I suspect not.

      • April 10, 2012 at 10:49 am

        You maybe right. I’m kinda hopeful though. Because…

        All it needs is for people to start to think. To stop paying respect to corrupt authority until they have thought for themselves. And then to vote on that with integrity once they are more certain.

        The sort of thing these blogs are helping people to do. Independent thought shared equally in a social environment.

        Our group are looking for others to join us and find a way, the magic, to build this all up into a mass popular movement for reform that will be difficult to stop. All ideas are welcome within reason.

        Any takers?

        • April 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm

          “The sort of thing these blogs are helping people to do. Independent thought shared equally in a social environment.”

          Yes and I suspect we don’t yet know how it will turn out in terms of the effect it has on social trends.

  9. graham wood
    April 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    “think about stuff like the Temperance Movement etc.”

    I was’nt aware that the Temperance Movement was responsible for the deaths of millions of fellow human beings ! 🙄

    • April 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      Neither was I 😀

  10. David A. Evans
    April 10, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.

    • April 10, 2012 at 8:51 am

      None is required.

  11. nemesis
    April 10, 2012 at 12:13 am

    If Dawkins is not to your taste (and he is certainly not to mine), then may be Roger Scruton is:
    From the gist of your post you want to replace God and science doesnt quite cut it ?
    BTW Very thoughtful comment from graham wood on April 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    • April 10, 2012 at 11:18 am

      Scruton’s a Christian. A humanist and a Christian.

      • April 10, 2012 at 11:20 am

        And IIRC, his Desert Island book was the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ‘…because I find truth in it.’

      • Greg Tingey
        April 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm

        And a very very devious character

  12. nemesis
    April 10, 2012 at 12:23 am

    I do happen to have a very solid belief in God – perhaps not so much in organised religion. As an empty headed teenager, my father once said to me that the greatest thing I can do while Im on earth is to create happiness and the worst – to create misery. With or without God, I think that has been a fairly sound philosophy.

  13. Mustapha Bunn
    April 10, 2012 at 2:17 am

    dawkins is over here in Australia at the moment,on the telly last night actually.The usual stuff,debating with the local boss of the Catholic church.
    I’d have more tiome for him and the rest of the militant atheists if they debated with some of the more militant followers of Mo.

    • Greg Tingey
      April 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      What is this “militant” atheist?

      I suppose you mean someone who actually does not allow the religious liars and blackmailers a free pass?

      A militant christian would be Saint Dominic (what a bastard) aor Arnoud Amoury or Jean Calvin. We all know abour militant muslims, don’t we?

  14. Libertarian lost in Scotland
    April 10, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Very good article, I find militant atheism to be irritating and out of their mind. If you don’t believe in g-d, why do you insist to have other people agree with you ? Nobody is forcing you to pray anyway, and even if they does you don’t believe ?

    I wish there were more atheist at my Catholic middle school … they would be crying every day 😆 Atheist should learn from protestants who attend catholic school : Don’t care about the rituals, do what you have to, and know the truth in your hearth.

    • Voice of Reason
      April 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Try living in the US, especially in the South. There, ‘religion’ basically means which branch of the Baptists you belong to. People here regularly force their belief systems on you. There is even a current lawsuit with the Jet Propulsion Labs on this issue.

      • Libertarian lost in Scotland
        April 11, 2012 at 6:39 am

        What do you means by ”forcing” ?

        If it is just the dude trying to talk to you about religion in the street, then you are the one with issues if you can’t handle it.

        What is wrong with different branches of baptists ? I am baptist too :mrgreen:

        I know that there are ”dry counties” in the USA, but don’t exaggerate .

        • Voice of Reason
          April 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm

          It is at work, at school, and on my doorstep.

          There are cases (more often in the South), of Jewish elementary students being required to write essays about Easter and Christmas.

          In at least one city, Muslims trying to build a mosque have had the construction machinery vandalized, and the early stages of the building burnt down.

          Recently in New England and Texas, students who insisted that their local schools adhere to the first amendment received death threats and more, and were forced to move out of their towns.

          This is not the nice ‘go to church on Sundays’ religion that I experienced growing up with the Church of England.

  15. graham wood
    April 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

    The sheer illogicality of atheism does not get much better than these comments:
    “atheism is ultimately just a parasite belief system. It can’t even exist on its own. As G.K. Chesterton once rightly noted, “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Or as C.S Lewis had to remind us, “To argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it possible to argue at all.” 😳

    • David A. Evans
      April 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      As I said earlier.

      I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. To which Longrider retorts…

      “None is required.”

      I beg to disagree, atheism requires absolute faith and belief in the non-existence of a god.

      • April 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        Sigh, I require no faith not to believe in leprechauns, pink unicorns, spaghetti monsters et al. Gods are no different. It requires no effort and no faith on my part. The idea that atheism (simply “without god”) requires some sort of belief system is an absurd construct by the religious in an attempt to make us appear as they do. We do not. Sorry, try as hard as you might, I have no faith. None whatsoever. It does not exist – any more than supernatural beings do – unless you can provide some verifiable evidence to the contrary? In which case, I’m all agog.

        As I have mentioned in these comments before, Chesterton’s remarks are so much arse dribble and I treat them with the contempt they deserve, frankly.

        Just because a well known writer writes something, it doesn’t make it true and it doesn’t make him less of an arse for the saying of it.

        • David A. Evans
          April 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

          I am non-religious but I cannot categorically say “There is no God”.
          I suppose by your book I am an atheist.

          • April 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm

            I am not the one categorically saying anything. The religious are. They are saying “there is a god – that supernatural beings exist and supernatural events took place” despite there being no evidence to support such claims. I am merely saying, “I don’t believe you; prove it.” That makes me an atheist, not an agnostic – which is a weak, and vacillating position, unable to decide which side of Occam’s razor to fall and consequently is in danger of slicing off his privates.

            As for what you are, I am not applying a label to you – unlike people who are very quick to decide labels for me and to tell me what I do or do not believe.

            I will tell you, not the other way around. I simply do not believe in gods. That is all.

            • David A. Evans
              April 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm

              I choose agnostic as a label mainly to avoid being categorised alongside people like Dawkins who claim to be atheist but are religious in their views.
              Perhaps I was wrong to make the conclusions I did and lumped you in that category.
              As for vacillating, there is no shame in not knowing and admitting a lack of knowledge is not vacillation.

      • Greg Tingey
        April 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm

        Or, a gradual, and increasingly disgusted realisation that every priest, of any religion, that you have ever met or heard from is or was a blackmailing liar.

        Because all religions are blackmail, moral, and often physical as well….

    • April 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Graham, I’ve come late to this and one thing is clear from the Rationalist side – these guys are illogical and irrational. An example is one who says 1. he doesn’t believe history is relevant today 2. invents authors for Genesis 3. then says that we have to prove him wrong. LOL.

      The point has often been made that the Rationalists themselves are the most fervent zealots for their own religion as anybody:

      Sir Norman Anderson, describing himself as “an academic from another discipline who has browsed widely in the writings of contemporary theologians and biblical scholars, wrote in Lawyer Among Theologians, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1973, p15, about the quality of the criticism of the anti-Christian so-called intellectuals:

      “At times [I am] astonished by the way in which they handle their evidence, by the presuppositions and a priori convictions with which some of them clearly (and even, on occasion, on their own admission) approach the documents concerned, and by the positively staggering assurance with which they make categorical pronouncements on points which are, on any showing, open to question, and on which equally competent colleagues take a diametrically opposite view.”

      The simple fact is that the documents are there and yet documents are only one small portion of the totality of evidence. The emergent Christology soon after His death and the way it survived the persecution, the tie-in of the Torah with the mystery religions having long been studied, the attempts at suppression through history instead of letting it die a natural death, the countless counter-arguments, e.g. Pilate stole the body, the non-Christian sources, Q and so on and so on show a rich layering which has been studied by so many august minds over the millennia.

      And against this, a modern Rationalist, born maybe in 1959, says, “There’s no evidence.” Yep, and the sky doesn’t have clouds in it either.

      Just a snippet pulled out of a long work on the subject, just to set the level of the “debate”:

      The three Luxor fragments-the Jesus papyrus-came into the possession of the Reverend Charles Huleatt, the Anglican chaplain in that city, who sent them in 1901 to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he had graduated in 1888. They did not attract scholarly attention until 1953, when Colin H. Roberts examined them. He dated them as belonging to the late 2nd century. Then in 1994, they came to the notice of C. P. Thiede, who suspected that they might be much older than Roberts thought. Examining them with a confocal laser scanning microscope, and comparing them with the script in a document dated July 24, 66, he came to the conclusion that the fragments should be dated as belonging to the middle of the first century.

      I’d prefer to side with scholars of this calibre who have actually studied the subject than some Rationalist who swallows the modernist narrative and makes blanket statements, accompanied by mockery.

      • Greg Tingey
        April 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm

        I call STRAWMAN on the description of “rationalists”.

        Why cannot we “see” BigSkyFairy, when we can see down to neutrinoes and up to distant supergalaxy clusters, and ll the way in between.
        No BigSkyFairy anywhere at all in there.

        No “god” is detectable, even if that hypothetical “god” exists.
        And since undetectable, irrelevant.

        Now, disprove that, please.
        If you can, then there may be a real god……

    • April 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

      First up, the quotes “if there were no God there would be no atheists” and “to argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it possible to argue at all” are basically question begging nonsense. They can be boiled down to noting that believers in God will make statements that support the existence of God. As such, the quotes prove nothing.

      However, the claims that atheism is parasitic on theism and that it is illogical warrant further consideration. Firstly, there is nothing illogical in atheism. It is perfectly logical to adopt a position that is antithetical to an existing belief system – particularly if said belief system has been in a dominant position in a society and has consequently been responsible for much harm and damage within that society. Now, you can make the charge that atheism – as a response to and rejection of theistic belief systems which, more often than not, have strong moral content – is unable to provide a moral code suitable for living. Indeed, that seems to be what the author of the original post is (in part) trying to say. However, all that means is that an atheist will have to look somewhere other than theistic religion to find a moral code; hardly an impossible task. I find empathy works well here. But that lack of an inherent moral code in atheism does not make it illogical, merely lacking in a certain respect.

      Now, it is true that atheism needs theism to justify its existence, so the notion that it is parasitic has some merit. After all, it would take a particularly obtuse character to create atheism in the absence of theism. However, this hardly sounds the death knell for atheism. Indeed, an astute atheist should be aware of the extent to which their position is reliant on the existence of what they reject. It is interesting to note that Nietzsche, in one of his first formulations of his “God is dead” idea, went on to state that given “the human race as constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show [God’s] shadow” meaning that “we have to still to overcome [that] shadow”. In short, a realisation that God does not exist (or the softer position of “God is very unlikely to exist”) is not a denial that theism exists, or that theistic creeds have their followers. Even a (in)famous atheist such as Nietzsche seems to understand that atheism exists in opposition to its alternative; that is nothing more than self-awareness, and certainly does not damage atheism in any meaningful way and certainly does not work to prove the veracity of any theistic creed.

      • April 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

        So many errors in that – the case rests. Rationalists are irrational and illogical. This is simple contradiction, not argument.

        • April 11, 2012 at 11:57 am

          What splendid arrogance!

          No, no case rests. If you have issues, spell out what they are. Engage with the arguments.

          • April 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm

            See what I mean – lose the argument and start on the ad hominem. I point out that what you’ve essentially done is gainsay or contradict and at no time did you support your argument from outside. For concentrating on the issue itself, I get “splendid arrogance”. LOL.

            • April 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

              There was no ad hom there James. The Splendid arrogance was a pretty accurate summation of your response, frankly.

              There is no case and it most certainly does not rest. Not until you introduce us to this god chap you keep harping(sic) on about.

            • April 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

              I would say that your blanket dismissal without justifying what you say in any meaningful way is an example of splendid arrogance. So actually my response is absolutely justified. You haven’t focussed on the issue, you haven’t engaged with any of the points I have made; the very fact that you haven’t identified the arguments in my comment speaks volumes. Your sweeping dismissal looks rather like someone who does not have a counter argument…

          • April 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm

            Leaving aside his inability to argue logically, the overwhelming fallacy with the Rationalist/Atheist is summed up here:

            Atheists typically demand that evidence be empirical, a word that basically means “based on experience” or, as the atheists generally take it, “based on sense perception.” But it is a serious mistake to offer a precise definition of “evidence.” Any precise definition will mean that the definer knows reality before he examines it. To say, for example, that all valid evidence must be empirical is to assume ahead of examining the evidence that reality is only physical. But of course you don’t know that until you examine the evidence with an open mind, that is, with a mind open to the possibility that the supernatural (non-material) is real.

            The a priori argument is the hallmark of the Rationalist. Take “Genesis was written by primitive bronze age goat herders” or ““Quoting the Bible isn’t evidence as it is just a series of fairy tales, parables and a few vague historic records”. So, using the assumption as the clinching argument, again with zero evidence to support it.

            With no evidence, which I’m still, even now calling for on your parts, lads, the only way is to blanket contradict. Amazing watching it in action.

            • April 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm

              And still you are not engaging with my actual comment, instead offering criticisms of what LR has written elsewhere on this post. Starting to think that you haven’t actually read my comment…

              • April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm

                You are ignoring my challenge for evidence and have not answered any point I’ve put so far. I’ve taken all of yours and replied.

                Still waiting for your evidence.

              • April 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm

                Err, no, you have not addressed a single point I have raised. You seem to think that I am making the same arguments as Longrider. That is not the case. As you should be able to see from my comment.

            • April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm

              Obviously I’m referring to your points made in reply to me, as distinct from what you replied to others in the thread.

              Now, let’s take one of these “single points” which I have already answered but I don’t mind doing it again:

              First up, the quotes “if there were no God there would be no atheists” and “to argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it possible to argue at all” are basically question begging nonsense.

              That was covered by the cosmological argument on first cause mentioned in the texts I’ve quoted.

              Oh come on, let’s do one more again:

              However, the claims that atheism is parasitic on theism and that it is illogical warrant further consideration. Firstly, there is nothing illogical in atheism.

              That is covered by the a priori comments in reply to you.

              OK, I’ve done my bit. Now, where is your proof of no G-d, which I’ve been patiently waiting for? Who did you say was ignoring whose arguments?

              • April 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm

                Well, I said you were ignoring my arguments; the point still stands. You are not addressing the fact that the quotes mentioned by Graham that I highlight are, on their own terms, question begging – that is the specific content of what I am addressing. Nothing to do with cosmological points; simply an observation that they do not do the work in his comment that Graham seems to think that they do. Secondly, if you read the rest of the comment you will see why I argue that there is nothing illogical in atheism; this is the classic James Higham trick of taking something out of context. So no, you haven’t done your bit.

                And I don’t see why I need to be offering proof as to the non-existence of god. Neither of my comments here is specifically addressing that issue; indeed, I have been careful to avoid that (in part because LR is doing such a sterling job of dealing with those arguments elsewhere on this post). So the fundamental point still stands, I’m afraid. You are ignoring the substantive content of my comment. Still.

            • Greg Tingey
              April 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm

              You are saying that the Bronze-Age goatherders’ myths OR the Dark-Ages camelherders’ myths have greater vaslidity than the findings of the sciences over the past 20/200/2000 years?
              And where is YOUR evidence for this?

              Please produce some EVIDENCE for BigSkyFairy, that will stand up in court or a laboratory.
              You are making the assertion, now justify that assertion.

              The title of the whole article is based on a false assumption.

              Like WHAT “atheists’ dilemma” please?
              Speaking as atheist.

  16. graham wood
    April 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Longwriter. You say: “Genesis was written by primitive bronze age goat herders”. Evidence please? If they were the authors of Genesis they must have been extrordinarily well educated to accurately forecast the origins of the universe, of the solar system, life, man, nations, marriage, evil, and much more besides.
    With respect I suggest to you that Jewish historians and scholars would treat your “goat herders” theory with the derision it deserves! Did these goat herders know how to write, record, and retain such sophisticated documents for centuries? Evidence please.

    What about the New Testament? It is a fact that a wide consensus of scholars, Christian and otherwise, broadly agree that the authenticity of NT documents both in content and sheer number of sources is greater than that of many secular classical authors. Its a curious fact that many historians have been inclined to trust the NT record more than many (liberal) theologians!
    You say “Nowhere have you provided any verifiable evidence to substantiate your claim, merely that those ancient people were able to observe the nature of the world about them and sought to explain it.”
    But how else do you then explain the clear evidence that what the Bible predicted in Genesis (reproduction of seeds) I quoted, is a fact of everyday life? It appears to demonstrate an uncanny accuracy as to the reality of what we touch, taste and see day by day. Not bad for mere goat herders !
    You say: “Quoting the Bible isn’t evidence as it is just a series of fairy tales, parables and a few vague historic records”
    I’m glad you concede some “historic records”. If that is the case then to what do you refer? Would you include for example the history of Jesus Christ as set out in the New Testament as historic records, or are these also “fairy tales” to be cavalierly dismissed? I suggest too that these are anything but “vague”
    But atheists such as Dawkins and others rarely address such issues, for as C.S. Lewis suggests, they fear possible personal consequences, and threat to their secular security.

    • April 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      Again, you simply repeat the same assertions. People write books, not gods. There is noting surprising about that, just as there is nothing remotely surprising that they were able to observe the natural world and start to reach some conclusions about it. People were writing similar observations of nature in other civilisations at the time. This is not evidence of supernatural beings – merely people writing books and recording their observations and thoughts. That it, nothing more nothing less.

      As for history, there is some archaeological evidence to support the story of the ark and Sodom and Gomorrah, for example. There is also some evidence to support the story of Solomon marrying the daughter of Ramses II.

      There is no contemporaneous historical record beyond the Gospels relating to the existence of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I remain sceptical.

      If you wish to believe in unverified scripture, that’s fine, go ahead, but please do not try to pass them off to me as facts as they are not unless proven and there is no proof. Simply repeating the same tired assertions I’ve heard a thousand time over before, does not convince and never will, because it ain’t evidence and it is nowhere near proof.

      But atheists such as Dawkins and others rarely address such issues, for as C.S. Lewis suggests, they fear possible personal consequences, and threat to their secular security.

      I have no such fears. The supernatural does not scare me any more than fairy tales do.

      • David. A. Evans
        April 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm

        As with many words, atheism has been stolen by the Dawkins’ of this World. Until I realised the word had been stolen, I considered myself an atheist but now an agnostic.


        • April 11, 2012 at 8:34 am

          Which is why, like the word “liberal” I insist on using the dictionary definition when referring to myself.

      • David. A. Evans
        April 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm

        Dunno who has posted immoderate stuff here but awaiting moderation was something I never expected to see!


        • April 11, 2012 at 3:59 am

          David, there are trolls about who use other people’s names and sometimes things get caught up – it happens to all of us and is a sign you’ve “arrived”. 😉

      • Voice of Reason
        April 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

        Sorry, there is no evidence that I know of which supports The Arke, or Sodom and Gomorrah, nor for the enslavement of the Jews by the Egyptians.

      • Greg Tingey
        April 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm

        L-R is correct.
        Oh, and I meant “Men” as opposed to “Women” – hint.
        Look at the misogyny and women-subjugation of all the major religions.

    • April 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      Graham, LR can’t answer this, so he projects onto you what he himself has done: “Again, you simply repeat the same assertions. ”

      Yep, no proof again, LR. Still waiting.

      • April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm

        Which part of “you cannot prove a negative” is causing you so much difficulty?

    • Voice of Reason
      April 12, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      As I hinted above, virtually nothing in Genesis or Exodus is supported by historical or scientific evidence.

      If there is the God that you apparently believe in who wrote the Bible, then this means that he lies, from beginning to end.

  17. April 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Some further reading:


    The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
    What’s so Great about Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza


    Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
    Scaling the Secular City by J. P. Moreland


    Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler
    The Last Superstition by Edward Feser


    Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
    Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
    Natural Theology by William Paley
    Pensées by Blaise Pascal

    Main source just for purposes of this post was Alan Roebuck, professor of mathematics at Chaffey College, California.

    • Greg Tingey
      April 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      ALL of which ASSERT the existence of a BigSkyFairy, with NO SUPPORTING EXPERIMENTAL or OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE.

      • Greg Tingey
        April 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm

        Oh, I forgot …”The Recital” (al-koran)
        Would that count?
        Another set of different assertions about BigSkyFairy.

  18. April 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Both of you are deliberately ignoring my question to you I’ve now put about seven times and are laughingly making out that it’s me who’s not answering. This is not debate. In debate, people engage.

    That’s why I took two TNL comments and re-answered them. Having done that, I expected you’d play your part and some evidence for your contention that G-d does not exist. You’ve simply ignored that and I suspect the reason is you have no reasoning to give. As I said, merely assertion.

    Readers will draw their own conclusions. I’ll sign off on this thread now.

    • April 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Actually, James, you have (still!) failed to substantively address any of the content of my comment. I don’t need to offer evidence that god does not exist because that is not the point I am actually making (on this thread any way). Once again, I cannot shake the feeling that you haven’t read my comment properly and are instead trying to steamroller me into a tangential debate that you happen to be having with LR.

      And I don’t doubt that Longrider will respond that he has answered the question you keep on putting to him. In fact, he did so @ 3.18pm when he said “Which part of “you cannot prove a negative” is causing you so much difficulty?” You might not like the answer, but it is an answer nonetheless.

      Ultimately, the charge you make to be that there is “no reasoning to give” can be levelled at you in relation to my comment. You ignore it, drifting instead towards evasion and bluster. From my perspective, it is you stopping an actual debate on the points I raised in my comment.

    • April 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      TNL has already responded.

      I repeat for the umpteenth time, you cannot prove a negative.

      You have merely repeated the same rhetorical confidence tricks and shenanigans that the religious always try out when this question is addressed, yet the matter is a simple one. The onus of proof rests with the person making the claim – i.e. the believer.

      Your question was answered repeatedly. The fact is, you didn’t like the answer.

  19. nemesis
    April 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Can I just ask what sort of evidence the athiest/agnostics require please?

    • April 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      An introduction to God would be nice. More seriously, something that is verifiable – that demonstrates that supernatural beings exist. I am open about what, exactly, providing that there is more than one source of evidence (which is what I mean when I use the word verifiable). Contemporaneous records form Roman, Egyptian or Greek historians that verify accounts from the Gospels, for instance. Archaeological evidence that supports historical events would be another. In some cases, this exists and indicates that there is some truth behind some of the historical accounts. That, however, does not demonstrate the existence of gods, merely the activities of humans.

      Here’s a one for you – demonstrate to me that a man can die, be dead for three days, come back to life, having magically overcome the biological fact of necrosis that kicks in about six minutes after brain death, and rise physically into the heavens. Prove to me that this is at least possible and I’ll accept your belief. Shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?

      • nemesis
        April 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm

        Thanks LR. I interpret what you say as; ‘proof’ by way of an introduction to God would be nice, but you would be happy with more circumstantial evidence. I wonder if that is really so or whether it would ever be enough. As you say human witness is not always reliable If you want proof it wouldn’t be faith but fact that is why faith is a choice and evidence is helpful but not core to my beliefs. That leads me to question what motivates people to make a choice one way or another and indeed what motivated me. I suppose I had an innate need for resolution both personally and generally. Without God humankind is limited to what is provable and a fairly pointless existence whereas belief in God, while more arduous, makes more sense in a crazy world and offers hope.
        So should you decide to look for God dont look for physical evidence but look deep into your own heart. I hope that doesnt sound too trite.

        • Greg Tingey
          April 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm

          It sounds like preachy unautterable codswallop.
          It also sounds like “spiritual” blackmail …
          “Repent, the lord sees into your heart, give way to him (or the corrupt priestly cabal) before it is too late.”
          Etc, ad nauseam – the same set of lies that have been promulgated (in the christians case) since Nicea, if not before.

  20. April 12, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Stats show that this was one of the most read threads but not out of this world. Still, there was sufficient interest to warrant a reply and I’m preparing that now, as a post.

    This was my comment at AKH [with slight corrections]:

    My reply, AKH, is to be in a post at OoL, currently being written. It’s not the argument but the shoddy scholarship of certain persons which galls. You’re a scientists and have a certain point of view, I’m an academic and therefore demand certain standards of scholarship and formal logic in arguments. I’m far less interested in the topic [after all, G-d’s a big enough boy to look after Himself] but in the arguments, the scholarship displayed by certain people.

    It does matter in that erroneous conclusions are easily reached when, for example, a priori argument is used, rather than a posteriori. Then people go off half-cocked with entirely erroneous and wrongly formed ideas which go mainstream and then there’s no fighting it, once it’s out there like a cancer.

    Please note that both sides feel your article was first class.

    So that’s coming up. Don’t know exactly when because it’s a bit busy just now and there’s the rewriting of a lost chapter of a book to do.

  21. April 12, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I’m an academic and therefore demand certain standards of scholarship and formal logic in arguments.

    Which is why it both surprises and disappoints when you persist in demanding that I prove a negative. This is an impossibility – you should know this as it is both basic logic and fundamental scientific principle.

  22. April 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

    It is also disappointing, James, that as an academic you so spectaculary failed to address the points I made about Graham’s comment, preferring instead to stamp your feet, dismiss what I wrote without appearing to engage with it, and demand proof of something not directly related to what I was talking about. As a fellow academic, I have to say that had you done that at a conference or in a similar sort of meeting among academics your credibility would have been shredded.

  23. Greg Tingey
    April 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Given that we can detect particles down to massless (the photon, very small mass (neutrinoes), up through electrond, protons and on to planets and stars, and that we can see back in space and time to giant supergalaxy clusters, megaparsecs away …
    and where is there any direct or indirect evidence for any BigSkyFairy in all of this?
    Nix, nil, zreo, de nada.
    But the religionists STILL claim BigSky Fairy exists.
    Show, please, or SHUT UP!

  24. Greg Tingey
    April 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    A set of testable Propositions

    1. God is not detectable (even if that “god” exists)
    2. All religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
    Corollary: 2a ] Marxism is a religion.
    3. Prayer has no effect on third parties.
    Corollary: 3a ] There is no such thing as “Psi”.
    4. All religions kill, or enslave, or torture.
    Corollary: 4a ] The bigots are the true believers.
    5. All religions have been made by men.

    All the above are testable, by both observation and experiment.
    Unless and until they are shown to be false, they must be taken as true, or at least valid, statements.

    … there is a LONG essay following these propositions …
    e-mail me if you feel like risking it!

  25. Furor Teutonicus
    April 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Hay Haart, does “Billy Bunter” exist?

    Why not, I read about him in some book?

    And THAT is about as far as you will get trying to convince me, that your “bible” has any more relevance than the fact you killed half a rain forest to print it.

    THAT is what these religion freaks can not stand, or UNDERstand, that there are people out here who do not give a twopenny SHITE about what some Pothead, camel herder asked someone to write down for them a few years ago.

  26. abrupt
    May 8, 2012 at 11:54 am

    This all seems to come down to one basic premise:

    there are those who need to believe in a “God”,

    there are those who can live without that belief,

    and there are those, of which I am one, who couldn’t care less.

    I neither believe nor disbelieve but wonder what purpose is achieved by accepting either point of view

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