Fellow atheists do you think that the majority of theists online tend to be quite predictable, when it comes to debating religion's effect on society and the lack of proof in their gods?
Have we heard all the arguments at this stage? Have all the scenes been played out like a soap opera with no originality and bad writing?
@Thom, I have no desire or intention of proselytizing here, and I respect the notion that this site is "a secure place for atheists to bitch". I wandered here by accident some weeks ago and volunteered to leave whenever anyone felt that my comments weren't welcome. I have no intention of making anyone uncomfortable.
The Bible, or at least some of the bible, can be a hard read, I will certainly grant you. Like reading any ancient text in translation, you need a fair bit of background to get all the nuance. Religion is much bigger than just that one anthology, though. It's a whole intellectual discipline, with hundreds of thousands of works any many sub-specialties and schools of thought. Trying to reduce religion to just the bible would be like trying to reduce science just to the writings of Newton. Seminal, to be sure, but nowhere near the whole of the discipline.
It's a whole intellectual discipline, with hundreds of thousands of works any many sub-specialties and schools of thought.
Could you recommend some that don’t discuss the Bible or characters in it? I would be willing to read some of them.
Hi @Thom. I'm a layman, not a religious, and definitely not a Jesuit priest. I did attend a Jesuit undergraduate institution (they run a lot of them.. Georgetown, Fairfield, Boston College, etc.) , but that's the limit of my experience with the order.
I think the problem might be our language. I would not say that I "don't believe in the bible". I do. Catholics aren't fundamentalists, though. The Bible is an anthology of various Catholic and Jewish writers that we compiled and preserved because we thought it made for a good anthology. It's not the sum and total of God's revelation, it's a text that helps people find some of God's revelation through a historical/cultural/philosophical lens. There are other texts, writings, commentaries, lives of good people to learn from. There is also science, God's revelation through nature and natural law to consider.
It might be worth considering that it is atheists who are limiting the range of discussion to the very narrow and boring...
Atheism, in this context*, largely represents a counterposition. Even if atheists are as trite as can be, theists can still advance new arguments. We, on the other hand, cannot counter arguments not made (and if we do, it's a straw man of sorts). Even if atheists bore the brunt of the blame for boring dialogue, it seems unlikely we are responsible for any stagnation in theists' arguments. That stagnation is the gripe of this thread.
*Context is important here.
Fair enough, @KrisFeenstra.
Doesn't it become tiresome, though, to always be a "counterposition"? Yes, one can do intellectual deconstruction on almost any topic or school of thought, but beyond feeling temporary superiority over others, does such constant deconstruction ever amount to anything useful? Does it ever advance human thought and understanding?
To me it seems like trying to do science without ever proposing a hypothesis of your own. It can be fun to poke holes in others' ideas, and even helpful, but in the end humanity is advanced by people who propose ideas.
Doesn't it become tiresome, though, to always be a "counterposition"?
I don't know. I don't chase down theists for debate. Perhaps that means my personal answer is 'yes' for the most part.
Does it ever advance human thought and understanding?
Yes. Deconstruction and critical analysis are necessary practices, and countering religion is one venue for this. In some cases the process likely even strengthens the faith of some as they are forced to reevaluate their own positions and strengthen them.
If you want to build a new building where one currently exists, you have to tear down the old to make way for the new. In doing so, you can assess what was good and bad about the old design before proceeding with the new design. Obviously there are limitations to the analogy -- the religious and nonreligious are not always in competing space in which one has to collapse to make way for the other --, but the general principle should be valid. We can learn from what we deconstruct.
To me it seems like trying to do science without ever proposing a hypothesis of your own.
That is only true if atheism is the entire extent of an individual's philosophy or world view. Even on this forum, not everything we talk about is criticisms of religion.
We can learn from what we deconstruct.
Certainly. My point is only that it's not enough. You also have to build something better.
Science proceeds not by deconstructing previous notions, but by building alternate theories which do a better job of explaining all the available observations of phenomena.
It's the building part that seems to me to be missing.
You also have to build something better.
To gain knowledge? Not really. Learning what doesn't work requires no replacement hypothesis and is knowledge in itself. In some cases, deconstruction alone is preferable to leaving the existing structure intact.
In practical terms, sure, things need to be built as well, but the point of my last two lines could be rephrased thusly: even if atheism (or rather the thought processes which produce and reenforce atheism) is not the best building tool, nothing prevents atheists from employing other tools for the job. Atheists, as people, are not missing any such thing.
The arguments here for the most part epitomize old, stale, and predictable. It might be worth considering that it is atheists who are limiting the range of discussion to the very narrow and boring "debating religion's effect on society and the lack of proof in ... gods".
I think this is a chicken-or-egg question, but it seems pretty clear to me that religious claims came prior to atheist responses. Do atheists need fresh, unpredictable arguments against the eternal religious claims? Maybe we can spruce them up a bit every few decades to keep up with the culture, but I think we do that.
I'm curious about your wanting to move beyond the lack of proof of gods to a broader focus. Without the gods, isn't the rest of it baseless? Isn't the actual existence of the supernatural the crux of the entire enterprise? Why would I care what God says about tithing if he doesn't exist?
@Stutz, you're coming at this from within your worldview. That's understandable, but it's not the way any theists approach things. It's probably not the way any of us who do science approach things either, come to think about it.
We don't begin with a notion of trying to prove the existence of quarks, or a Higgs boson. We begin by observing the world and noting interactions and patterns of interactions. That leads us to theories and ideas, and then to other predictions. That might eventually lead us to look for the Higgs or to describe a model of particles which interact with the strong nuclear force, but it's not where we start or how we think about things.
It's the same with religion. No theist begins with some notion of proof of deity, or the "supernatural". We begin with stories that describe human activities and actions; rules and guidance that lead to healthy human relationships and communities, ideas or approaches that help people make good choices. That leads us to theories and ideas and experience with divinity, and then to deeper understanding and other predictions.
Theism , atheism, agnosticism and critical thinking, all fall under the general heading of philosophy. Philosophy deals with the mind view of the universe and the premises that follow suit. Science can be described as falling under two subheadings; critical thinking and naturalism. This world view contends that all things have a natural explanation. It formulates postulates and uses natural means to test them. Since there still lingers mysteries that have not yet been explained by science and/ or people refuse to accept scientific explanations in their world view, alternative world views are entertained. Other world view notwithstanding, the scientific world view is popular since it has cataloged physical proof of it's postulates. However, Theist may claim that there are physical miracles in plain sight that heretofore no postulate has confirmed by physical testing: How do we maintain entity consistency despite our cells being replaced after less than every ten years. how does the human eye deliver color consistency to the brain in the world that has scientifically been tested to be not color consistent. How does our mind's eye turn two images into a single 3-D image in the brain and yet outside the body not even a hologram is a 3-D image without a human mind processing it. Thoughts and ideas do not exist outside the human mind and are abstractions that have no physical trace that they exist, yet they can move and destroy worlds. In the holographic explanation of the universe how exactly is the information of human thought stored on the two dimensional surface of the event horizon of the universe?
The sort of evangelicals that want to proselytize online I would expect to be relatively shallow.
From what exactly do you form this opinion Professor Robert? I am really interested to know.