Monthly Archives: June 2012
God on Trial is a 2008 movie (based on true events) that, despite overwhelmingly positive reviews, did not get a lot of attention from a lot of people other than maybe some history teachers.
It’s an amazingly moving piece of film about Jews in the Auschwitz Nazi Concentration Camp who decided to “put God on trial,” because they believed that God had forgotten about them and broken the covenant he had made with the Jewish people.
It gives multiple perspectives from many different people on the idea of suffering and evil in a world with a supposedly loving and omnipotent God. Most atheists may only know the last thirty minutes of the film when the rabbi who was silent the entire time finally speaks.
I finally found a full version of the movie on YouTube, which has been embedded down below. Watch it, please. Not only is it historical, it is powerful.
As well, it gives excellent arguments against the idea that the Judeo-Christian god is a good god, which is a most ludicrous statement to make to anyone who has ever experienced anything similar to what these people did.
There is a website called boundless.org, which is a website (including a blog and podcast) about young adults (by adults) and how they should live their lives according to Jesus. Their About Us section goes like this:
The transition through young adulthood is a time of adventure, discovery and excitement; but also loneliness, longing and uncertainty.
With encouragement and advice for navigating relationships, career, culture, faith and more, Boundless helps you mature in Christ as a foundation for marriage and family. That requires living intentionally with purpose by bringing your gifts, talents and Christian worldview to bear on your whole life.
The host for the Boundless podcast, Lisa Anderson, is also the “program director for young adults at Focus on the Family.” Now we can see what kind of angle they are getting, trying to brainwash confused and desperate teenagers and the like into thinking everything will be okay as long as they follow Jesus. This is not a dissection of the entire website. Just some background information which puts this all into context.
A blog post that came out Monday by the name of “Why We Fight” by Andres Hess, who works on the “broadcast production, content development and research teams at Focus on the Family. He teaches Bible and psychology classes at Colorado Christian University…”
The post starts off by talking about the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, which “tells the powerful story of a group of paratroopers who fought in World War II.” Hess talks about the shock the soldiers received when they stumbled across one of the Nazi Concentration Camps. When I first read this article, I had no prior knowledge of what the post was about or the site it was hosted on. I was not sure what to expect, until I read this part (emphasis mine):
Watching this scene, two things struck me. First, these soldiers endured extraordinary hardships fighting in World War II, and second, their sacrifices were worth the lives of the many they were able to save. The world saw the terrible carnage that results when God’s commands are disregarded.
My initial response:
Yes, the world is a terrible place when God’s commands are disregarded, even though Adolph Hitler believed he was doing the work of God by exterminating the Jews. This is directly from Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography (emphasis mine):
I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.
The Bible commands that believers kill nonbelievers and those of other faiths, among many more people for many more reasons. Before anyone says it does not, please read this. God’s commandments were not being ignored, quite the opposite, they were being carried out by a faithful follower. I wonder if Hess thinks that Hitler was an atheist. He probably does, and then if pointed out all of the evidence for Hitler’s Christianity, he would probably use the classic “No True Scotsman Fallacy” that Hitler “wasn’t a true Christian.”
Hess goes on to say, “Sometimes people ask why we engage on controversial family issues like cohabitation, homosexuality and abortion.” He goes from Holocaust to homosexuality. I cannot wait to see how this one turns out.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just let everyone do what they want? Why can’t we just do our own thing and leave others to do theirs? Well, yes, that would definitely be easier. It would be much simpler to tolerate and to avoid the seemingly endless debates. So why not just leave it alone?
Yes. It would be easier, so please, as a bisexual, pro-choice atheist that is currently in a “cohabitation” with someone I care for very deeply, leave us alone and stop trying to take away our rights.
We can’t and won’t disengage on these issues because we love people and hate things that destroy people.
That old “hate the sin, love the sinner” nonsense. His entire blog post seems to be an elongated version of that overdone message, mixed in with some “we’re going to keep doing this, even if the world hates us for it, because we love Jesus and Jesus loved people, so we love people.”
These next bits are just… I really do not know how to describe it. Just read (emphasis mine):
Some may not see the connection between the evil of the Nazi war machine and the evil of abortion and sexual sin, but biblically, they are analogous. It’s sobering to consider all sin is a serious offense against a holy God and reaps punishment from Him. The Bible is clear. All sin offends God and deserves eternal punishment away from His presence.
Yes, he is comparing the Holocaust, one of the worst tragedies in history that killed ten million innocent men, women, and children, to gays and people living together who are not married.
How do Christians reconcile the idea that murder is just as bad as homosexuality? I have always wondered how they manage to think that loving someone deserves the same kind of punishment as murdering someone. “All sin offends God and deserves eternal punishment” is how they seem to do it. The punishment given to gay people who love each other is the same punishment as murderers. How is that “holy”? How is that moral?
Hitler’s sin and my sin both evoke God’s righteous wrath. The holocaust was one of the worst eruptions of evil in the history of the world, but what awaits those who reject God is worse, far worse.
Not only are homosexuality and cohabitation just as bad, according to Hess’ god, as the Holocaust, but rejecting his god, being an atheist like myself, is “worse, far worse” than systematically slaughtering entire races of people. Seriously?! How is it moral to think that not worshipping something, which has no evidence for its existence, is worse than killing countless numbers of people?
This is the kind of religious garbage that is passed off as just and fair morality to children who do not know any better. The website itself is aimed at teenagers who will grasp onto anything that will throw them a raft when they feel that they are drowning. These are taught as good and moral values to have. How are these things considered good? How is it moral to think like this? These thoughts and beliefs are immoral and dangerous.
If anyone who was not religious thought these things and expressed them on a daily basis, everyone would believe they are disgusting people who need to be locked away before they hurt anyone. However, once we tack on “God told me to,” wrapped in a bundle of nicely worded bigotry, then they are moral, righteous people, and we should respect their viewpoints, even if their viewpoints say that many people should have their rights taken away.
Check out this shocking video that came out last week from Al Jazeera about how much of our tax money goes to funding the US war machine.
Yes. More than half of the money that we pay in our taxes goes towards paying for this. “Obamacare” would cost $1 trillion over the span of ten years. More than $1.6 trillion is spent in one year on our military.
President Obama is being heavily criticised for the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” scandal that came to light following the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry by gun traffickers who were being sold guns by the ATF. The operation began when the Tuscon, Arizona branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) planned on selling guns to Mexican gun traffickers. These guns would then be tracked back to the Mexican drug cartels as part of a sting operation in hopes of finally breaking the drug cartels that have been wreaking havoc on the Mexican-American border.
The president is being criticised for asserting his executive privilege to withhold certain documents concerning the operation. Congressional Republicans, the Republican National Committee, and the Romney campaign all jumped on President Obama for this action, saying that he is going back on his promise for having a transparent government and that him and Attorney General Eric Holder, who recommended the president use his executive privilege, are trying to coverup a flubbed operation that resulted in the murder of a federal agent. They either fail to remember or simply ignore the fact that President Bush invoked his executive privilege six times. This is President Obama’s first.
The Republican controlled House of Representatives voted along party lines to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress and linking him to the failed operation and its supposed coverup. This could land Holder in prison or at least with a hefty fine, but more than likely not.
The other criticism of trying to coverup the operation, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is chairing the Congressional probe into the matter, that the Justice Department releasing 7600 documents concerning Operation Fast and Furious should have been ample evidence that no coverup is trying to be made. The Californian Representative seemed to ignore that bit of information, and the attorney general was still voted in contempt.
President Obama and his administration are claiming that Republicans and the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are doing nothing more than politically motivated attacks to make him look bad in an election year instead of doing what they promised when they won the House in the 2010 midterms, which was creating jobs and helping the economy, seeing as they have killed almost any bill put forth by the Democrats of the Democratic president that would do such a thing.
Politicians and pundits alike on the right appear to be unaware of the fact that Operation Fast and Furious began during the Bush Administration in 2006 when it was known as Operation Wide Receiver. When Fox News had something to say about it, they conveniently left out these important details, or would simply ignore them when they were shown right to their faces. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly either do not care about the facts or will outright ignore them if they do not fit into their notions of President Obama being the Black Hitler and will do and saying almost anything in order to criticise him.
So why is it that President Obama is being blamed (again) for something that began during his predecessor’s administration?
An atheist blogger on the site Patheos.com by the name of Leah Libresco apparently recently converted to the Christian denomination of Catholicism. In a blog post titled “This is my last post for the Patheos atheist portal,” Libersco explains why she is converting.
Most of this post concerns her views on morality and how she has a hard explaining where it comes from when she is pressed by Christians. Libresco complains that she “didn’t think the answer was” in our evolution, and that this answer is a “radical” misunderstanding of both evolution and philosophy. I found no credentials or studies, or even enthusiasm, for biology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, or any other related field in the bio found on her blog (at least I study philosophy, and studied biology). One would think that something like that would be found somewhere on the site to make her a somewhat credible source.
She says in the post at one point that she is “confused about the Church’s teachings on homosexuality,” yet she is still converting to it, even though in another post a few days later from her now Catholic blog that she is bisexual. She says she is still searching for answers and that she will continue to blog about her journey. Good for her. Congratulations on being fooled by nonsensical questions.
The problem I have is not with her conversion, per se. It’s the media attention that it is getting. CNN Belief Blog had an article on Libresco called “Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism.” The list of featured articles at the top has a slightly different title of “Top atheist blogger goes Catholic.”
Before today, I had never heard of this person. That’s what the general reaction from most atheists, at least as far as I have seen, has been. “Who?”
The news does not seem to care about the real truth of the matter. They simply want people to pay attention to them, even if they have to be unnecessarily inflammatory and make a big deal out of nothing. “Unknown Atheist Blogger Who Never Grew Up With Religion, Converts to a Religion She Hardly Understands” is not a catchy title and not a story worth telling.
I asked a while back on my Facebook and Twitter if we could prove a god does not exist. The general response was, “We don’t need to. The burden of proof is on the theists.” A few said, “It’s an unfalsifiable hypothesis,” or that we cannot prove a negative. Some went a little further and said, “We can prove theistic gods do not exist, such as that of the Bible, but we cannot prove a deistic god does not exist.”
It is often asked of atheists to prove the nonexistence of a god, specifically the god(s) that the theist believes in. We will respond with, of course, that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the nonbeliever, and we usually leave it at that. That is a proper response. The person who makes the claim is responsible for proving such a thing. So far, nothing has been found that would even suggest the existence of a deity, whatever that actually is, so there is no reason to believe in one. However, ignoring that it is not our job to do so, could we actually disprove the existence of a god? I believe we can.
The burden of proof I will deal with first, as it will be the quickest to handle, but possibly the most important. Atheists will say that there is no reason to try to disprove a god, since it is the job of theists to provide proof for their god and the claims that surround him/her/them/it. Others say that there is no point in trying to even argue with theists or creationists, since they are just delusional people and nothing will change their minds. These people either do not remember being theists or never were them. I was a Jehovah’s Witness. I am sure all of my atheist friends of the time would have thought it utterly pointless to try to reason with me, but look where I am now. Doing nothing solves exactly that.
If we keep saying that we do not have to do anything until proof is given or because the believers will not change their minds, these false ideas will continue to spread while we twiddle our thumbs and do absolutely nothing about them. Yes, we do not have to disprove any claims, but unless the claims are disproved, people who are ignorant of the truth and how vacuous these claims really are will continue to believe in them. Even when they are proven to be absolutely false, such as Creationism, people still believe in them, because scientists and science advocates refuse to go after the sacred cow of religion.
Ideas are dangerous, especially when they are wrong ideas. Just because they do not have evidence does not mean anything to the people who seriously believe in them, because they believe they are right, and they are going to cause change that will affect the rest of us, such is clear with the Intelligent Design movement of the United States. Chapman Cohen, a British secular activist and atheist from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries, had this to say on the subject in his 1921 book Theism or Atheism: The Great Alternative (emphasis mine):
It is not, then, because I believe the question of the existence of God to be of intrinsic importance that an examination of its validity is here undertaken. Its importance to-day is of a purely contingent character. The valid ground for now discussing its truth is that it is at present allowed to obstruct the practical conduct of life. And under similar circumstances it would be important to investigate the historical accuracy of Old Mother Hubbard or Jack and the Beanstalk. Any belief, no matter what its nature, must be dealt with as a fact of some social importance, so long as it is believed by large numbers to be essential to the right ordering of life. Whether true or false, beliefs are facts mental and social facts, and the scheme of things which leaves them out of account is making a blunder of the most serious kind.
Yes, the burden of proof is still on the believers, but the burden of the believers, and the consequences thereof, are on the nonbelievers and the people who think they do not have to do anything.
Many people simply give up on the existence or nonexistence of a god and say that it is an unfalsifiable hypothesis and unscientific. The same is said of Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot and a whole host of other claims and imaginary things. People say that it is not science, therefore there is no reason to even consider it, but that we cannot prove or disprove the claim (even if they claim to not believe, such is the case with “agnostic atheists”).
Calling something not science in order to avoid having to answer or think about difficult questions is intellectual laziness. Like it or not, things like Creationism, homeopathy, aliens, Leprechauns, etc. are scientific questions that must be solved, not simply disregarded because the question might be hard to answer for some or we find the notion to be idiotic. Richard Dawkins in his famous book The God Delusion said, “…the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. Even if hard to test in practice, it belongs in the same TAP or temporary agnosticism box as the controversies over the Permian and Cretaceous extinctions.”
However, people will continue to say that it is an unfalsifiable hypothesis, therefore we cannot test it, therefore it cannot be proven either way, true or false. The interesting thing is that the very idea of falsifiability may be a mistaken. Karl Popper, the philosopher of science who popularised falsifiability, said in 1976 that evolution “is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme.”
He did recant this statement a few years later, but this makes one question falsifiability itself. If the man who got falsifiability off the ground once applied his most notable philosophy to the scientific theory that has over 200,000 scientific papers concerning its validity, saying that it is not science, can it really be applied to a god or anything at all? Is it nothing more than a shaky philosophy that simply happened to get popular with some people?
The next most common thing that people say is that we cannot prove a negative. Philosopher Steven Hales argues that we can indeed do such a thing. I suggest reading his entire work on the subject to get a better grasp of what he is saying, as I only give tiny excerpts from it here:
…any claim can be expressed as a negative, thanks to the rule of double negation. This rule states that any proposition P is logically equivalent to not-not-P. So pick anything you think you can prove. Think you can prove your own existence? At least to your own satisfaction? Then, using the exact same reasoning, plus the little step of double negation, you can prove that you aren’t nonexistent. Congratulations, you’ve just proven a negative. The beautiful part is that you can do this trick with absolutely any proposition whatsoever. Prove P is true and you can prove that P is not false.
We prove negatives all the time. By proving that I am on a Macintosh, I am also proving that I am not on a Dell, HP, Acer, or any other kind of PC. We can prove that Creationism is not true by proving evolution true. In fact, we do not even need to prove that evolution is true in order to prove Creationism false. If the claim is made that the Earth is 10,000 years old, which is a key aspect of Young-Earth Creationism, with radiometric dating on certain things such as meteors, fossils, or even man-made artifacts, we can prove that the Earth is actually more around 4.5 billion years old. This does not prove evolution necessarily, but it most certainly proves that Creationism is false.
Maybe when people say, “You can’t prove a negative,” they are saying that we cannot prove that something does not exist, such as a god or Santa Clause, as James Randi likes to use as an example. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” as Carl Sagan put it. Not only would Steven Hales disagree, but so would particle physicist and philosopher Victor J. Stenger, author of such books as The New Atheism: Taking a Stand For Science and Reason and God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist.
The example that Hales gives is alien abductions:
So why is it that people insist that you can’t prove a negative? I think it is the result of two things. (1) an acknowledgement that induction is not bulletproof, airtight, and infallible, and (2) a desperate desire to keep believing whatever one believes, even if all the evidence is against it. That’s why people keep believing in alien abductions, even when flying saucers always turn out to be weather balloons, stealth jets, comets, or too much alcohol. You can’t prove a negative! You can’t prove that there are no alien abductions! Meaning: your argument against aliens is inductive, therefore not incontrovertible, and since I want to believe in aliens, I’m going to dismiss the argument no matter how overwhelming the evidence against aliens, and no matter how vanishingly small the chance of extraterrestrial abduction.
The example that Stenger uses often to show that we can prove negatives is a favourite of mine, which is elephants in Yellowstone:
Elephants have never been seen roaming Yellowstone National Park. If they were, they would not have escaped notice. No matter how secretive, the presence of such huge animals would have been marked by ample physical signs — droppings, crushed vegetation, bones of dead elephants. So we can safely conclude from the absence of evidence that elephants are absent from the park.
If there were evidence for elephants in Yellowstone, then some kind, any kind, of evidence would have been found. The person claiming that there are elephants in Yellowstone may try to make excuses and add on ad hoc hypotheses like, “There is evidence; it just hasn’t been found. They’re in the places you didn’t look. They’re hiding. They’re invisible. They’re very complex and are not able to be detected by human or animal senses or technology.” Does anyone see a similarity between this and theists when they push the goal post further and further back to avoid having their deities proven false as science pushes forward?
We can reasonably say that there are no elephants in Yellowstone, that we know there are no elephants in Yellowstone, and that we have proven that there are no elephants in Yellowstone, even with the unnecessary, unreasonable, and unintelligible ad hoc hypotheses that try to avoid the axe of disproof for as long as possible. The absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
Can this be applied to a god though? Some might say, “Yellowstone is far different from the Universe. Maybe somewhere there is a god. We do not have full knowledge of the entire Universe, so you cannot say definitively that there is no god. You might as well say definitively that alien life does not exist, when it most probably does.” The idea that we need knowledge of everything in order to know one thing is ridiculous, and the equivocation of a god to alien life is just as ridiculous. The problem is that life does most certainly exist in the Universe. It’s here on our planet Earth, and with that we can predict that life similar to what we may define as alien probably does exist somewhere else in this vast Universe. The same cannot be said for a “god.”
I digress though. If a criteria of existence is set, we do not need to know everything of the Universe in order to know something about it. Looking at the criteria for the claim, it can be answered. Some of the gods may be answered by simple logic. The second law of thought is the law of non-contradiction. Aristotle put it as, “[One] cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.” Most gods, by their own criteria, are self-refuting. Some are said to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, among other things, and these characteristics simply do not work together.
If the criteria for a god is that they made the Earth 10,000 years ago, we can test that as we did earlier to prove Creationism false, thereby proving false this specific god. If the criteria for a god is that they made the Universe, which is the criteria set for the deistic god that people say is unfalsifiable, that one might be a little trickier to answer for some. This is why people will say that while we can prove that Jehovah, Vishnu, Ra, etc. do not exist, we cannot prove that a deistic god does not exist. The problem with this line of reasoning, other than the fallacy within it which I will get to soon, is that it is not up to date with contemporary thought.
Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss recently came out with a book called A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, where in it he uses modern cosmology and physics to show that things do just come into and out of existence, apparently from nothing, all the time and that the Universe came from a structureless void that he dubs, just that, “Nothing,” which he admits is difficult to define in it of itself. Despite the semantic complications, there are reasonable explanations for the existence of the Universe that do not require a god or designer or “unmoved mover.” If falsifiability is correct, then these are the tests and observations that can be made in order to falsify gods, even if certain ones may seem like they cannot be tested, which many people state.
I said earlier that there was a fallacy contained within stating that we can prove theistic gods do not exist, but we cannot prove a deistic god does not exist. Another way it is worded is, “We know the theistic gods do not exist, such as those of the world’s holy books. The origins of the Universe are still unexplained though, so we, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘you’ too, do not know that a deistic god does not exist,” which I just showed how they are not unexplained. Anyone catch the fallacy? Anyone see how this is similar to what theists say? It’s the God of the Gaps Fallacy, only it is atheists who are using it now. X is unexplained, therefore it could be a god. Am I supposed to take anyone who says this anymore seriously than I would a theist who asks how the tides go in and out, then claims in their ignorance that it could be a god (specifically the god that they believe in)?
Everything about human history and progress dictates that what once was the field of religion, superstition, and ignorance will one day be the realm of science and knowledge. In Theism or Atheism, Chapman Cohen said something very similar, “…one may safely predict that just as the advance of scientific knowledge has taken over one department after another that was formerly regarded as within the province of religion, so one day it will be borne in upon all that an hypothesis such as that of theism, which does nothing and explains nothing, may be profitably dispensed with.”
What is left now of “god”? We know that the gods of theism most certainly do not exist, and we now have reasonable certainty that the god(s) of deism, which are merely theistic gods watered down by philosophy and science, also do not exist. So what is left of the claims made by believers? Richard Dawkins said it best in the afterword to Krauss’ book, “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages.” The very concept of “god” at this point is a meaningless word, an “unintelligible proposition,” as Chapman Cohen put it.
For some this may not be satisfactory. This is not enough for some people to say that a god does not exist. Chapman Cohen, who I have mentioned and quoted multiple times now, said this following his comment about the importance of examining all claims that affect people’s lives in Theism or Atheism (emphasis mine):
Certainly, conditions were never before so favourable for the delivery of a considered judgment on the question of the belief in God. On the one side we have from natural science an account of the universe which rules the operations of deity out of court. And on the other side we have a knowledge of the mode of origin of the belief which should leave us in no doubt as to its real value. We hope to show later that the question of origin is really decisive; that in reaching conclusions concerning the origin of the god-idea we are passing judgment as to its value. That the masters of this form of investigation have not usually, and in so many words, pushed their researches to their logical conclusions is no reason why we should refrain from doing so. Facts are in themselves of no great value. It is the conclusions to which they point that are the important things.
If the conclusions to which we refer are sound, then the whole basis of theism crumbles away. If we are to regard the god-idea as an evolution which began in misunderstandings of nature that were rooted in the ignorance of primitive man, it would seem clear that no matter how refined or developed the idea may become, it can rest on no other or sounder basis than that which is presented to us in the psychology of primitive man. Each stage of theistic belief grows out of the preceding stage, and if it can be shown that the beginning of this evolution arose in a huge blunder I quite fail to see how any subsequent development can convert this unmistakable blunder into a demonstrable truth. To take a case in point. When it was shown that so far as witchcraft rested on observed facts these could be explained on grounds other than those of the malevolent activities of certain old women, the belief in witchcraft was not “purified,” neither did it advance to any so-called higher stage; it was simply abandoned as a useless and mischievous explanation of facts that could be otherwise accounted for. Are we logically justified in dealing with the belief in God on any other principle? We cannot logically discard the world of the savage and still retain his interpretation of it. If the grounds upon which the savage constructed his theory of the world, and from which grew all the ghosts and gods with which he believed himself to be surrounded, if these grounds are false, how can we still keep in substance to conclusions that are admittedly based on false premises? We can say with tolerable certainty that had primitive man known what we know about nature the gods would never have been born. Civilised man does not discover gods, he discards them. It was a profound remark of Feurbach’s, that religion is ultimately anthropology, and it is anthropology that gives to all forms of theism the death blow.
This next part comes from the next chapter in his book:
Finally, the suspicious feature must be pointed out that the belief in God owes its existence, not to the trained and educated observation of civilised times, but to the uncritical reflection of the primitive mind. It has its origin there, and it would indeed be remarkable if, while in almost every other direction the primitive mind showed itself to be hopelessly wrong, in its interpretation of the world in this particular respect it has proved itself to be altogether right. As a matter of fact, this primitive assumption is going the way of the others, the only difference being that it is passing through more phases than some. But the decay is plain to all save those who refuse to see. The process of refinement cannot go on for ever. In other matters knowledge passes from a nebulous and indefinite stage to a precise and definite one. In the case of theism it pursues an opposite course. From the very definite god, or gods, of primitive mankind we advance to the vague and indefinite god of the modern theist a God who, apparently, means nothing and does nothing, and at most stands as a symbol for our irremovable ignorance. Clearly this process cannot go on for ever. The work of attenuation must stop at some point. And one may safely predict that just as the advance of scientific knowledge has taken over one department after another that was formerly regarded as within the province of religion, so one day it will be borne in upon all that an hypothesis such as that of theism, which does nothing and explains nothing, may be profitably dispensed with.
The first part I really wish to point out is in the second paragraph of the first excerpt. “If we are to regard the god-idea as an evolution which began in misunderstandings of nature that were rooted in the ignorance of primitive man, it would seem clear that no matter how refined or developed the idea may become, it can rest on no other or sounder basis than that which is presented to us in the psychology of primitive man. Each stage of theistic belief grows out of the preceding stage, and if it can be shown that the beginning of this evolution arose in a huge blunder I quite fail to see how any subsequent development can convert this unmistakable blunder into a demonstrable truth.”
The next part I want to bring further attention to is from the second excerpt given, “In other matters knowledge passes from a nebulous and indefinite stage to a precise and definite one. In the case of theism it pursues an opposite course. From the very definite god, or gods, of primitive mankind we advance to the vague and indefinite god of the modern theist a God who, apparently, means nothing and does nothing, and at most stands as a symbol for our irremovable ignorance.”
I recently discovered this book, and its author, only a few days prior to publishing this post, but I have been saying the exact same thing for months now! Apparently, Cohen has been saying it for a nearly a century, and his works go unnoticed by most atheists.
If it were not for these primitive peoples and their fears and misunderstandings of the world, no one on Earth would even understand the word “god,” and the labels that divide us and that some people kill over like Christian, Muslim, Hindu, theist, atheist, agnostic, and all others would not even exist (sure, we would still kill each other over other things). There would be no one fighting over who has the best god or if there is a god or not, because the word “god” would mean absolutely nothing to us.
It does not matter what definitions or criteria or ad hoc excuses are given to a god. It does not matter how vague and nonsensical the definitions of “god” become as science progresses, whether they be Odin, Jehovah, or a deistic god. The simple fact of the matter remains that the very concept of “god” originated from primitive men who knew absolutely nothing of the world and tacked on a meaningless word to explain the things around them that they could not at the time that we now can. All claims of a god that stem from this “huge blunder” are just as blundering and just as primitive in thought.
With this, the question must be asked again: can we disprove god?
Yes. We just did.
In response to people who call agnosticism “cowardly atheism,” I’m going to start calling agnostic atheism “retarded atheism.”
Now, many people will be offended by that remark.
How dare I call them such! Who am I, the arbiter of labels? Is it up to me to redefine what people call themselves and mock them repeatedly just because I do not agree with their position? No!
This is going to be a very informal post. Any horrible grammar I chalk up to not having any food in my stomach when I wrote this.
I have been writing this one particular post for weeks now. I’ve written and rewritten and revised and edited and scrapped and reused this thing so many times now, and yet it is only slightly different from what I had originally been writing. This is one of the reasons I have not posted much of anything for a while. In it I propose we can disprove a god and that we have already done so. Not just the theistic ones, but even the deistic and other vaguely defined ones.
I want to post it. I really do. I’m writing it right now. It’s in the tab next to this one on my browser. I may post it in five minutes. I may post it in five hours. I may even post it in five days. I do not know. I even posted an excerpt from the post onto my Facebook to see what the reaction might be to what I perceive as being a less controversial part of it. It is not that I hate controversy or that I am afraid of it (I’m actually more afraid that it will be unnoticed despite all the effort I put into it). Far from it. I’m a liberal atheist blogger. I crave controversy and debate. What I hate are idiots who misrepresent my arguments and/or hold onto their dogmas. What I mean by dogma in this instance is not religious beliefs, but that is one kind of dogma.
Certain atheists I’ve noticed do have a kind of dogma. Atheists have been told over and over again, not by theists but by other atheists and agnostics and “agnostic atheists,” that they cannot prove that a god does not exist, that they cannot know that a god does not exist. It has been drilled into their heads that belief and knowledge are two completely different things and that agnosticism is nothing more than an adjective put in front of atheism, that it’s either atheist or theist no agnostics (except “agnostic atheists” and “agnostic theists”), and that claiming knowledge of something is somehow bad or unreasonable.
One such example is when I argue that agnosticism is not a qualifier and that knowledge and belief are but two different areas on one scale of certainty. In my arguments and discussions, sources are given from Wikipedia and About.com and other such places, and they tell me to “take it up with Wikipedia,” or that I’m the only one who thinks this way and no one else does or that I’m young or that I’m a recently deconverted atheist or that I don’t know what I’m taking about (usually because they think I’m so young or because they think I’m a “recent inductee into atheism”), and therefore I’m wrong. No seriously. People have said this to me.
These fallacious arguments are the only things they have, ad hominems and appeals to majorities and authorities, because they do not like someone who upsets the applecart and offers new ideas that may argue with the Gods of the Internet and commit heresy in their temples of Wikipedia and the like (I tried to come up with a god-like sounding name for Wikipedia; I just gave up after a minute of trying). Atheists are supposed to be all about upsetting the established norms and committing blasphemies against them. But when another atheist dares upset their norms and dare say something contrary to what they think, that person is obviously irrational, that person is obviously foolish, that person is obviously young, wrong, and stupid.
If I were not extremely hungry at the moment I would write more, but alas. I must be off. Rant done. Woof!
The question of a god is usually asked of people like this, “Do you believe in a god?” People take from this that one can only say yes or no, that it’s a black and white question with no alternatives. From there, they think that one is either an atheist or a theist. There is no middle ground on the question.
This is why many people assert that agnostics do not exist, that they are really just atheists who are afraid of using the label because of the negative connotations with it. Most of these people say that since atheism is defined as not believing in a god, that anyone who is not a theist is automatically lumped into the label of atheist, including agnostics and anyone else who does not claim belief in a god.
Okay. Let’s start with the end of that.
First, atheism is indeed defined as the lack of belief in a god. That doesn’t matter, because an agnostic is defined as, “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.” They do not have belief or a lack of a belief, making them neither atheists or theists. This makes them the middle ground between the two.
“But but but…what about the question, ‘Do you believe in a god?’ The only possible answers are yes or no!” That is true. With that question, the only answers are that. The question is a strawman and the conclusions that come from it are the same. It doesn’t accurately represent how people feel and think. The question should be, “What are your thoughts on the existence or nonexistence of a god?” People should be able to answer the question however they like, not be forced into two false dichotomous categories, because some people cannot handle gray areas.
The god question should not be a yes or no. It should be free response. Sure, it’s harder to answer, but it gives insight into individuality and personal attitudes. Some might say they believe, they do not believe, they don’t know, they don’t care, they won’t answer until that word is better defined, or anything else they want to say or not say at all.