For those of you that read the Huffington Post, A rabbi has sent out a message for us. I wrote a lovely response but I guess it wasn't approve :( oh well.
A friend sent me the link and I thought I'd share it:
In my response, I told him that he was never really an atheist. Atheists cannot trick themselves back into believing in something that doesn't exist because no matter how hard I try, I can't believe in Santa anymore, neither can anyone else. So atheists that come to an intellectual conclusion that there is no god will likely never return to a belief in a god, unless they suffer some severe head trauma.
Feel free to discuss here!
You've skipped over the important part: I didn't come to this conclusion; I started at that point. I did not reject religion; I never had it.
So, you have never concluded that religion is false? Maybe we are getting tied up with semantics. I don't posit that one must first accept religion in order to reject it. But you have rejected it because you have encountered it and don't accept it, right? Is that not rejection? Or have you simply never given it any thought?
That doesn't address the question asked at all. If you were born into religious influence, by what means are you relating to those that were not? Studies? Psyche papers? First hand accounts from friends?
I think you misunderstand me. I am not trying to argue that atheists that have shed their religious beliefs are superior to those that never held it. I am arguing that people who can critically analyze information are superior to those who happen to share a truthful belief by mere happenstance. The reason is that when one presses a religious claim, the person that has considered it has a better ability to refute those claims
As for people fooling themselves or holding irrational beliefs about other things outside of religion, this brings us almost full circle from what I said near the beginning. Just because someone doesn't waste time applying critical analysis to fairy tales does not automatically mean that they do not apply critical thought to the rest of their lives and the universe around them.
Critically analyzing claims is not a waste of time. And it doesn't always take much time. If someone claimed they were a God, I can apply my critical thinking skills quickly and simply. Gods are not something I encounter and without some remarkable evidence, I don't need to consider this claim very long. However, as simple and uncritical as that may seem to sharp cookie like yourself (genuine compliment, BTW), we know that people are often susceptiple to these claims by prophets the world over. And in those cases you are correct that they do not number in the billions. But my overall point is that these are more extreme, yet common, cases. There are plenty of much more common and mundane ways to be fooled.
"So, you have never concluded that religion is false?"
In the simplest terms, no. There's no impetus. If the adherents of religion can't even manage to frame their views as reasonable hypotheses, why should I ever feel compelled to pursue religious reasoning and evidence to any conclusion (beyond what entertains me)?
"But you have rejected it because you have encountered it and don't accept it, right?"
I should have been more explicit. Reject in the following senses:
5. to cast out or eject; vomit.
Yes, I have rejected atheism in the manner you describe.
"I think you misunderstand me. I am not trying to argue that atheists that have shed their religious beliefs are superior to those that never held it."
That's not the issue. You (and PZ) posited a question about the "born atheists" and/ the atheists that characterize their atheism as nothing more than a lack of belief in deities. I happen to have direct, first-hand, personal experience with that side of the argument, both in my own life and in the experiences of many people close to me.
When you ask the question " Why WOULDN'T they be susceptible to falling for some scam like religion or astrology?", I am trying to fill the void of experience that you apparently don't have. What you espouse in your own life happens to have no bearing on the question.
Try and understand, there isn't a way to concisely distill the experience I am trying to relate. There are too many factors and variables that become relevant depending on what angle one chooses to approach the subject from. There are endless semantic issues that we can't overcome in a single thread. It can't all be addressed comprehensively and simultaneously.
My goal is not to get you to agree or disagree with what I nor anyone else does nor how we define ourselves; I am simply trying to get you to comprehend a different perspective. If you maintain an unsympathetic approach to the conversation, it isn't going to happen.
I am increasingly taking Susan Blackmore's position that I just simply cannot detect any free will. I was not programmed to receive. My cognitive machinery presents the present moment as a slice of time 3-4 seconds thick. Every cell in my body simply works on the problem of what happens next.
Try to find a rabbi that can wrangle that into a religious pretzel.
Quoting Reggie :
"But, I have argued that being "born an atheist" is pretty much a meaningless statement and if you take atheism to mean nothing but a lack in a belief of a god or gods, then it really says nothing."
*Sniff* farewell baby atheists picture :(
All joking aside, i agree with Becky that he was never an atheist in the first place.
At his age i might forgive him if he was going senile.
"The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life."
Isn't saying that he wasn't really an atheist the same as Christians using the No True Scotsman argument? If not, then how is not?
I'd agree with saying that if he was in fact an atheist, then he wasn't one for good reasons.
Hmm yes i see what you mean, that he was never brought up with religion and probably never was much in contact with it.
He never learned to think critically about it, and that after reading the bible or probably going to a church it somehow clicked in his mind that religion is a plausible answer.
Then yes i agree with you that he was an atheist for the wrong reason.
But if he used to be a religious person and became an atheist after that and then back to being religious again i still say he is probably going senile :)
Well, what if he became an atheist because his church or religious sect pissed him off? But, then he finds another church in another sect that caters to his ego? I can see that scenario as being wholly plausible, even if it is not common.
It very well could be that he never was an atheist and is using it to sell his story. That is a popular narrative for many religious folks looking to convert doubters. In fact, this tactic is used to sell all sorts of things, from religion to crap on infomercials. A token skeptic addresses doubts in a manner that persuades the consumer to accept the claims made by the salesperson.
There are so many problems with this article. I want to just point out that he first claims he used to be an atheist (probably to claim some sort of credibility?) and then declares you can't ever be a true atheist. If his conclusion is true then he never was an Atheist and shouldn't be claiming he was in the first place.
However, his conclusion is not true. You can prove a negative.
(one argument here, others exist: http://departments.bloomu.edu/philosophy/pages/content/hales/articl...)
But lets say you can't prove a negative for a moment. Because of the rule of double negation you can make any statement a negative. Any claim P is also not not P (a negative statement). If his assumption was correct that would mean you could also never prove a positive. In this case that would mean he couldn't prove theism a valid stance and that would make him a de facto agnostic as well, throwing himself into the same category he threw us into. Neither he, nor us, are agnostic and unless you are actually an agnostic (as Charles Darwin was, he was a self proclaimed agnostic, another problem with this rabbi's little letter) it would be impractical for everyone with such varied beliefs to argue from that same position.