Hello Bob, I wonder would you mind elucidating these points a little further which you made here:

Similarly, for me, God is a useful idea.  There are communities of people who study and talk about God.  Just like with energy, there's a whole, vast literature about God, some of it pretty firm, some of it more speculative, a lot of it hard for outsiders to understand without extensive study.

We had recently mentioned opening a separate discussion on what your understanding of God is. I am an ex-Catholic and having grown up in Ireland and lived here for over 40 years I thought I knew all about what a Catholic believed. However I have no understanding of what your definition of God is. I have no problem understanding what you mean when discussing Physics but I am lost when it comes to figuring out what you mean by “God”. Anytime we have asked you to explain you appear to avoid the question by the use of analogies as to how Science works. That might not be as you see it but it does appear that way to me.

 “God is a useful idea” is the same (to my ears) as saying “God is a concept”. An idea is abstract and subjective. The idea of God is an idea. The concept of God is a concept. To me, it does not seem that you belief in a “real” God but rather in the idea of one. This also seems strange to me as you have a very clear understanding of scientific concepts and I cannot “get” how you can and also maintain that “God” is still useful to answer the bigger questions.

I understand all the ontological arguments from Anselm to WL Craig on one hand and Big Bang Cosmology to Quantum Mechanics (which nobody understands :-)) on the other but I don’t want to go down the road of Science vs. Religion until we get to grips with what your actual beliefs are, if that's ok with you.

So would you mind defining what (or who) God is to you and what your basic beliefs are?

Note: anyone can join this discussion but let’s aim to stay focused on the nature of belief.

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 I "believe" there is a God because that assumption forms the foundation of an elaborate, complex, highly nuanced system of human thought which has been profoundly successful, and socially and personally useful as a framework for growth, understanding and decision-making.

Well, there you have it, any great god (real or imaginary) will do. God is a convenience.

Thanks, you answered my question more clearly than I was anticipating, and that's great.

I never undervalue the contributions of our members, and sometimes they post the most wonderful thoughts.

Now you're asking me what my thoughts are on the same question, if I understand you correctly. I'm happy to share.

Firstly, to what is a god. Or, let's be fair, God. The monotheistic God of the current Abrahamic religions. This would have to be an entity so contradictory, that I wouldn't be able to fathom its existence.

It seems to be attributed with great power. It seems to have direct concern as to an individual's behaviour. It seems to be benevolent, and it seems to be in the position of judging an individual's life performance and hand out positive or negative sentences (heaven/hell, etc). It appears to be the entity that desires, needs, fears and other concerns are directed to. It also seems to be attributed with creating the universe, and lastly, it seems it is credited with omniscience.

This nice gigantic fuzzy comfort blanket entity is not depicted as such in any of the scriptures, where it seems to spend a lot of time smiting, and killing off swathes of people; I'd find that a bit daunting if I were a believer.

Here's the thing, though, Bob. I can't see the point of a god, I can't see the benefit, and I don't like the idea of fobbing off personal responsibility to an external, non contributory entity.

Simply put, I can't really see the benefit of conceiving its existence.

To turn to your question regarding atheist guidelines. What the heck are those? I honestly live by simple principles of society, helping those I can who are less fortunate, being kind, trying not to hurt, etc. but they are probably manifestations of my upbringing and personality. It's not like I constantly battle with a deep desire to be nasty.

I don't decry people having a cuddly viewpoint on their chosen god, but to me, Gods a bit like Santa, sounds all very cosy when you're little, but not really relevant once you grow up.

I could probably go on, but as you so kindly pointed out, this discussion is entitled "the doctor and the farmer" and I'm neither :)

I finally agree with Dr. Bob.

 I find it [atheism] shallow

Atheism is one of the shallowest statements you can make: "There is no Christian-Judaic God". And then that's it. That is extremely shallow.

 What are your own "guidelines" or worldview?   Atheism?

How could Atheism be a world view? It's an extremely basic shallow simple statement : "God doesn't exist". There is no world view there.

And what persuades you that you've got hold of the right set of "guidelines".

That's a separate discussion. To be an atheist isn't to claim that they have the right set of guidelines. It is the claim that one set of guidelines is childishly absurd.

everyone says atheism does not offer guidelines?

You're finally getting this through your thick skull!

Do you indeed have any rational "guidelines"

Some atheists have clear ones...some don't. Many are secular humanists...other's aren't, some have a well worked out morality, other's don't, some are monsters, some atheists are extremely gentle and kind. Different conversation though as the only thing that binds atheists together is their rejection of God.

I am largely uninterested in atheism because it is none of those things.

Of course Atheism is none of the previously mentioned. It's a shallow statement. I don't know why you keep expecting a mountain out of a molehill. Dr. Bob. I suppose I could keep looking for a 1,000 page novel on a business card but I won't find it no matter how deeply I try to penetrate the surface of the cardboard. There is simply no 1,000 page novel beyond the simple statements on a business card.

[Atheism is] not useful as a framework for anything.

Of course it isn't. You seem to have an unhealthy obsession with deep penetrating frameworks existing in the simplest of shallow statements.

I am largely uninterested in atheism because it is none of those things.  I find it shallow, bordering on naive fundamental positivism, and not useful as a framework for anything (other than as the basis of a community to ridicule theists).

Statements of fact don't need to be deep.

"My refrigerator is to the left of my kitchen counter" is about as shallow as a statement can be, as is "I find no undeniable evidence for the existence of a deity."

"My refrigerator is to the left of my kitchen counter"

Come on, Unseen, what naive fundamental positivism! What do you mean by "refrigerator"? What do you mean by "left"? How do you know this is "the truth"?

:-)

To answer your question, I'm not "convinced" there's a God, nor am I "persuaded" that any human ideas are existentially "right".  I "believe" there is a God because that assumption forms the foundation of an elaborate, complex, highly nuanced system of human thought which has been profoundly successful, and socially and personally useful as a framework for growth, understanding and decision-making. 

Dr. Bob, I think we may be making progress. I have no problem with someone that believes that there is a creator god. I agree with you that you can develop a narrative which allows you to construct a worldview and a value system from that assumption. It has merit and value.

Atheism does not assume anything. My worldview is not based upon a lack of belief in other people’s gods or an assumption that they are wrongly held. I will flesh that point out later.

However as you are a Catholic, and at the risk of repeating myself, you cannot just believe that there is a god. You must believe that there is one specific god, (called God). You do not believe in any other gods (just like me). You are no longer assuming that there is a god. You are creating a proposition that Yahweh is the God you believe exists. That is not an assumption. That is an assertion.

Therefore your proposition cannot be one where your God is only a notion or a concept. When you say that you can see god as a creator or as the source of the wonder in the Universe (deism) I can understand what you mean because we are dealing with a concept but as an atheist I disagree with that and I see no need for that hypothesis (to paraphrase Laplace).

I do not believe you Bob. I do not believe you when you say your God exists.

I will try to phrase it another way Bob. I am impressed with your honesty when you say that you are “not convinced that there is a God” but that becomes short-lived when you insist that you are a Catholic because you believe that Jesus is God (as in the Trinity), a point that cannot be argued without rejecting Catholicism. So you cannot believe that Yahweh is “real” (exists in actuality)…. and at the same time only assume that “a god” exist.

That Evidence thingy….

To claim that you believe God exists is to make an extraordinary claim. I find it unbelievable. Yet people tell me I am wrong for not believing what they say they believe. I ask them about their God so that I can come to know their God and that their God could become my God too. I am open to the possibility. I will no longer be an Atheist if they can help me to believe. But they cannot. They never have been able to. It is not that I am being stubborn, it is just once people tell me they believe in God, they are either unable to explain what they mean to or they clam up “under questioning”, divert the subject or dodge the questions with other questions or just get all pious about it and leave.

They are unable to explain the reasons they believe that (a) God exists because they do not know how to express it. This is because they never made a decision to believe. They never reasoned themselves to the proposition that “God exists”. They just came to believe it because most of the people around them belief the same thing. After some time passes they cannot remember not believing in their God so they come to the conclusion that at some point in the past they made an objective decision to believe what they have come to believe by their own subjective thought process.

That is not good enough for me. A proposition must at least appear credible for me to begin to take it seriously. When a man tells me that he “believes in God” all he is actually doing is telling me his subjective opinion. It may appear as a reasonable proposition to him. However for me to take it seriously I must be able to see it as a justifiable proposition. Does it seem credible that this person is telling me something that can be justified? What can he tell me of his God to make me think his extraordinary claim has merit?

So I will give that person the chance to explain what they mean and why I am wrong for not believing them. Forget about evidence Bob. I will let that one go for now. I will ask this instead.

On what basis should I believe that your God is not just your own subjective opinion? What have you found upon your journey through life that leads you to justify your belief that God exists. (I do not mean what justifies your narrative or world view). I know nothing of your God. What pointers can you give me as an unbeliever to help me consider that there is some justification to what you say you believe merits further consideration?

I have looked into all the major world’s religions and held “these types” of discussions with Catholic priests, doctors of theology, Imams in London and various cults around the world. Not once has anyone said anything to me to make me reconsider my position.

I have delved deep into the arguments for atheism and I have not found them wanting. Most theists I know will refuse to consider atheism and consider it to lack credibility. For them to even consider it they must suspend their beliefs temporarily and that allows doubt to enter the arena. Doubt and the questioning of it is something atheists respect. Doubt clings to the brain until you investigate it. We make no claims of certainty. It is the questioning of that doubt that lead those of us that were religious to atheism. It is the only conclusion that can come from serious introspection and a reasoned critical thought process. Most theists will not acknowledge that atheism has any credibility for if they do then, in that admission it must follow that “we” might be right and therefore they might be…..not right. To paraphrase Socrates, “the unexamined belief is not worth holding”.

So no evidence is required Bob. Just explain to us why you think that the proposition that God exists is justified. If it cannot be justified then it will be dismissed.

Objection, Your Honor. That question has been asked and avoided.

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