Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Does atheism mean “a lack of belief in God”?

First, let’s see check with the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Excerpt:

‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.

Stanford University is one of the top 5 universities in the United States, so that’s a solid definition. To be an atheist is to be a person who makes the claim that, as a matter of FACT, there is no intelligent agent who created the universe. Atheists think that there is no God, and theists think that there is a God. Both claims are objective claims about the way the world is out there, and so both sides must furnish forth arguments and evidence as to how they are able to know what they are each claiming.

Philosopher William Lane Craig has some thoughts on atheism, atheists and lacking belief in God in this reply to a questioner.

Question:

In my discussions with atheists, they  are using the term that they “lack belief in God”. They claim that this is different from not believing in God or from saying that God does not exist. I’m not sure how to respond to this. It seems to me that its a silly word-play and is logically the same as saying that you do not believe in God.
What would be a good response to this?
Thank you for your time,

Steven

And here is Dr. Craig’s full response:

Your atheist friends are right that there is an important logical difference between believing that there is no God and not believing that there is a God.  Compare my saying, “I believe that there is no gold on Mars” with my saying “I do not believe that there is gold on Mars.”   If I have no opinion on the matter, then I do not believe that there is gold on Mars, and I do not believe that there is no gold on Mars.  There’s a difference between saying, “I do not believe (p)” and “I believe (not-p).”   Logically where you place the negation makes a world of difference.

But where your atheist friends err is in claiming that atheism involves only not believing that there is a God rather than believing that there is no God.

There’s a history behind this.  Certain atheists in the mid-twentieth century were promoting the so-called “presumption of atheism.” At face value, this would appear to be the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist.  Atheism is a sort of default position, and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.

So understood, such an alleged presumption is clearly mistaken.  For the assertion that “There is no God” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “There is a God.”  Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does.  It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence.  He confesses that he doesn’t know whether there is a God or whether there is no God.

But when you look more closely at how protagonists of the presumption of atheism used the term “atheist,” you discover that they were defining the word in a non-standard way, synonymous with “non-theist.”  So understood the term would encompass agnostics and traditional atheists, along with those who think the question meaningless (verificationists).  As Antony Flew confesses,

the word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way.  Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist. (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford:  Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)

Such a re-definition of the word “atheist” trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view.  It is merely a psychological state which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all.  On this re-definition, even babies, who hold no opinion at all on the matter, count as atheists!  In fact, our cat Muff counts as an atheist on this definition, since she has (to my knowledge) no belief in God.

One would still require justification in order to know either that God exists or that He does not exist, which is the question we’re really interested in.

So why, you might wonder, would atheists be anxious to so trivialize their position?  Here I agree with you that a deceptive game is being played by many atheists.  If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view.  But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof.  So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions.  They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.

This is disingenuous and still leaves us asking, “So is there a God or not?”

So there you have it. We are interested in what both sides know and what reasons and evidence they have to justify their claim to know. We are interested in talking to people who make claims about objective reality, not about themselves, and who then go on to give reasons and evidence to support their claims about objective reality. There are atheists out there that do make an objective claim that God does not exist, and then support that claim with arguments and evidence. Those are good atheists, and we should engage in rational conversations with them. But clearly there are some atheists who are not like that. How should we deal with these “subjective atheists”?

Dealing with subjective atheists

How should theists respond to people who just want to talk about their psychological state? Well, my advice is to avoid them. They are approaching religion irrationally and non-cognitively – like the person who enters a physics class and says “I lack a belief in the gravitational force!”.  When you engage in serious discussions with people about God’s existence, you only care about what people know and what they can show to be true. We don’t care about a person’s psychology.

Dealing with persistent subjective atheists

What happens when you explain all of that to a subjective atheist who continues to insist that you listen to them repeat over and over “I lack a belief in God, I lack a belief in God”? What if you tell them to make the claim that God does not exist, and then support it with arguments and evidence, but instead they keep leaving comments on your blog telling you again and again about their subjective state of mind: “I lack a belief in cupcakes! I lack a belief in icebergs!” What if they keep e-mailing you and threatening to expose you on Twitter for refusing to listen to them, or denounce you via skywriting: “Wintery Knight won’t listen to me! I lack a belief in crickets!”. I think at this point you have to give up and stop talking to such a person.

And that’s why I moderate and filter comments on this blog. There are uneducated people out there with access to the Internet who want attention, but I am not obligated to give it to them. And neither are you. We are not obligated to listen to abusive people who don’t know what they are talking about. I do post comments from objective atheists who make factual claims about the objective world, and who support those claims with arguments and evidence. I am not obligated to post comments from people who refuse to make objective claims or who refuse to support objective claims with arguments and evidence. And I’m not obligated to engage in discussions with them, either.

UPDATE: I noticed that Reasons for God has a post up about this.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

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27 Responses

  1. WorldGoneCrazy says:

    Well put, Wintery. I once debated a relatively well-known statewide atheist leader in an informal environment. He (why is it almost always a ‘he?’ where are the women atheists? are they the same as the feminazis?) told me that he was an agnostic non-theist. Yet, his organization has the word ‘atheist’ in it. Well, which one is it?

    • Andrew Ryan says:

      “where are the women atheists?”

      Greta Christina, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Jessica Ahlquist, Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson…

      As far as I’m aware, none of them are Nazis, ‘Femi’ or otherwise.

      • WorldGoneCrazy says:

        Never heard of them, but I’ll bet they are really ‘smart.’ :-) I did look up the first one, and she seems VERY angry (is she angry at the God she doesn’t believe in?), so the feminazi comment stands.

        • Andrew Ryan says:

          “Never heard of them”
          Really? They all speak pretty highly of you! Seriously though, Jessica Ahlquist is pretty high profile, and you really SHOULD be aware of what happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. You might not give a monkeys for Time magazine, but it’s not like she’s exactly an obscure figure. And if campaigning against female genital mutilation makes her a feminist, then I’d call myself a feminist too.

          That aside, anyone who is angry is a Nazi? I normally keep that insult back for people who’ve committed genocide, but there you go. But yes, Greta Christina wrote a book called “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?”, so I guess the the ‘angry’ word may apply, but Jesus got pretty angry with the money-lenders and Pharisees so if it’s good enough for him…

          “is she angry at the God she doesn’t believe in?”
          Her book lists at least 99 reasons why she’s angry, and I’m pretty sure you can find bits of the book online if you’re genuinely interested. But I’m guessing you’re not, so I’ll save you time and answer: No. She doesn’t believe in God, so obviously God is not the target of her anger.

          • WorldGoneCrazy says:

            Andrew, feminazi is a cultural term – not synonymous with Nazi. It is used to describe a radical feminist who spews a lot of venom, Nazi-like, at anyone who disagrees with her. It was coined in the early 90’s – Hillary Clinton was kind of the founder of the movement. :-) I just asked the question, because I have never met a female atheist who is out of the closet. I’m wondering what they are like, since the species seems really hard to find – your kindness in offering 5 examples notwithstanding.

            It is nice to hear one has campaigned against female genital mutilation, but on what materialistic basis is that act wrong, if there is no God? Aren’t right and wrong just cultural and relative from the atheist perspective. If one tribe were to mutilate female genitals, who are you to judge them? Are you a mutilophobe or a mutilation bigot? :-) (Another attempt at humor.)

            On the question of “where are the female atheists,” I wasn’t looking for a list, but an understanding of why atheist meetings are so man-centric. All of the atheists I have talked openly with are male, and they generally lament their inability to get an opposite sex date at a freethinker meeting. So, let me rephrase the question this way: why do Christian churches seem to be so full of women and atheist “churches” seem to be so short on them? (You do agree that atheism is a religion, with its own culture, narrative, doctrine, experiences, ethics, rituals, etc, don’t you?)

            The quote about her being mad at a God she doesn’t believe in is a variation of a quote I have heard many times over the years to describe the (alleged) atheist motto: “There is no God, and I hate Him!” It is a bit of humor about why atheists seem so defensive and angry all the time – including with their own fellow believers, as a troll through some of their sites exhibits. It also shows the inconsistency in their thinking when they say, as the one I debated did, “If God is like the one in the Bible, I will form a rebellion and rise up and fight him!” My reply to that was that he needn’t bother: God wouldn’t be there. But, isn’t it funny that this atheist went from trying to convince me that there was no God to already imagining the form of his rebellion against Him in Hell? At least he’s open-minded! :-)

            Finally, when will I get to meet these female intellectual giants on the next mission for the poor? Where can I visit the nearest Freedom from Religion hospital? And, when will I see them volunteering at the local Free “Thinker” homeless shelter? God Bless You, Andrew!

    • Andrew Ryan says:

      “I’m wondering what they are like, since the species seems really hard to find”

      I don’t think you’ve been looking very hard. The fact you’ve not heard of someone doesn’t mean they’re not well known or in the public eye. I might as well say I don’t know any female Christian apologists – Frank Turek, Bill Pratt, Ray Comfort, Erik Hovind… all men. And the people commenting on their sites are mostly men too. Certainly you get a lot more women commenting on PZ Myer’s blog.

      “You do agree that atheism is a religion, with its own culture, narrative, doctrine, experiences, ethics, rituals, etc, don’t you?”

      Atheism just means you’re not a theist. A dozen atheists could disagree on every subject except their non belief in the existence of God. So, in answer to your question: No, for all that you mention there.

      “It is used to describe a radical feminist who spews a lot of venom, Nazi-like”

      OK, I’ll start calling any right-winger who talks angrily a Nazi then, if that’s just a ‘cultural term’ now. And personally I think people who cut off women’s private parts deserve a bit of venom, but that’s just me.

      ““If God is like the one in the Bible, I will form a rebellion and rise up and fight him!” My reply to that was that he needn’t bother: God wouldn’t be there.”

      I guess the key term there is ‘IF’. It’s hypothetical.

      “If one tribe were to mutilate female genitals, who are you to judge them?”
      And if that tribe is doing it for their religion, how can it be wrong? If God wants it, it must be definition be moral, right? Two can play that game.

      “And, when will I see them volunteering at the local Free “Thinker” homeless shelter?”

      In the UK at least, secular non-profits run almost half of all homeless assistance programs administering the majority of housing programs and almost 40 percent of all health programs. I just did a Google for ‘atheist blood drive’ and got loads of results. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett – both atheists who’ve donated hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions to causes such as eradicating malaria. Then there’s Foundation Beyond Belief, the Todd Stiefel Foundation. And unlike the Christian homeless shelter, you don’t have to listen to an ‘atheist preacher’ talking for an hour before you get a handout. Try googling for secular charities if you’re still interested.

      In short, perhaps you’re only seeing what you want to see, Mr WorldGoneCrazy.

      Thanks for the conversation. If you have more questions for me, and don’t get a reply, it’s probably because I figure you can find the answers yourself online.

      • WorldGoneCrazy says:

        Wow, Andrew, you are kinda proving my point about atheists being defensive, aren’t you? Was it the “God bless you?” :-) That was sincere. Really. 100%. No joke – I’ll give you snarky warnings below.

        Again, I meet Christian women all the time, but I’ve never met a woman who described herself as an atheist – you know, someone who was proud to stand on that “solid” ground of non-theism. But, I’ve met a lot of men that identify with that label. Why do Christian women stand firm in their faith, but the ‘legions’ of atheist women do not?

        I am surprised you don’t think that atheism is a religion. When I was an atheist, I worshipped Carl Sagan. Now, THERE was a name everyone knew – I didn’t have to do a Google search for him! I’m wondering what you think of his famous quote, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” ?

        BTW, I didn’t ask your personal opinion on cutting off female parts, I asked you to ground that belief on the atheistic worldview. What doctrine of atheism allows you to say that’s wrong? As for your “two can play that game” comment, no one in Christianity is proposing female genital mutilation, so two are NOT playing that game.

        Also, since you don’t like female genital mutilation, how do you feel about baby torture, dismemberment, and murder – in the womb? Are you man enough to say that’s wrong too? I hope so! But, again, what makes it wrong under atheism?

        That’s great that your Google search found a few atheists that care about other people, but are you seriously saying that it compares in any manner whatsoever with the record of Christian compassion? I don’t have to drive very far at all to the nearest Christian hospital, but, in my 52 years, I’ve never seen an atheist one. (Why don’t Bill and Melinda Gates build the Gates Atheist Medical Center – they have the money – don’t they have enough faith in their atheism?)

        (Single Paragraph Snarky Warning – Beware!) I guess I just wasn’t looking hard enough – every time I drove past those atheist hospitals, I must have shut my eyes – seeing only what I wanted to see – even when I was an atheist. :-) I’ll be on the lookout for them from now on. :-)

        I agree with you that one of us is seeing only what he wants to see. Is it possible that, in ignoring all of the design in the universe, you might be missing the Designer? (I know, I know, the universe created itself.)

        I enjoyed the conversation too, Andrew – thanks for hanging in there with me and my many questions! In ALL sincerity, may many wonderful blessings come your way in life – courtesy of the One True God!

  2. I’ve talked to plenty of self-proclaimed atheists who want to use the term atheist, but don’t want to have to defend their position with evidence. They not only don’t believe in God, but they don’t want to either. Thus, they like the name atheist, as it implies being against God. That’s the side they want to be on. Yet they don’t want to actually provide evidence for the proposition that there is no God. They want to claim ignorance and skepticism (while somehow feeling superior for being ignorant) to avoid any responsibility to defend an actual position. Providing evidence that there is no God would be too much work – not to mention that they really don’t think they can prove that. But they like to identify themselves as being anti-God anyway.

    For some of them, they’re a little too scared to deal with the evidence as well. They don’t want there to be a God, and thus don’t want to actually dig into the issue to find out if there is one. It’s like a little kid wondering if there is a monster under the bed, but too scared to get up and look – just in case there is one. They don’t really want to know because they’re afraid of what they’ll find.

    • Larry says:

      In my interactions with those who are influenced by the “New Atheists” I have noticed an attitude that that I frame as “there is no God and I hate him.” It seems odd to me that if one truly believes there is no God why they would spend so much time hating that which does not exist.

      • In a lot of cases, it’s a hatred of anything that attempts to tell them what to do or regulate their behavior (especially sexual behavior). They hate authority figures in general, and God in particular. In a lot, if not most, of these, they had an absent or bad father figure and are taking out their emotions on God as sort of a surrogate for their fathers. After all, God is supposed to be the heavenly Father. They get themselves in quite a conundrum as they hate the authority that God has and yet wish to deny His existence so as not to be accountable to Him.

        • WorldGoneCrazy says:

          Is that, then, why most New Atheists are male? Also, is there a higher proportion of homosexuality amongst New Atheists than the population in general (due to the lack of, or poor, father figure)?

          • That could be why more of them are male. Perhaps they feel more rebellion against authority having not had a good male role model. I would expect that to affect males more than females.

            I have no idea on homosexuality stats for new atheists. That would be interesting to find out (although there are multiple reasons for homosexuality, not just the lack of a good father figure).

  3. stewart says:

    “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” Thomas Nagel

    I love this quote and feel that it pretty much sums up the attitude of the majority of athiests.

  4. WorldGoneCrazy says:

    Nagel is an intellectually honest atheist. Note his unreasonable faith in atheism. Reminds me of the title of the great book by Geisler and Turek, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.”

  5. As is it just as foolish to entertain a subjective atheist in philosophical debate about religion, it is just as foolish to entertain a subjective theist in a similar conversation. From personal experience, it is simply impossible to discuss the existence of god with someone who simply squanders to the same answer over and over again “I just BELIEVE it.”
    Unfortunately, this is why I don’t experience many positive conversations with theists when trying to acquire firm understanding from your average Christian. The majority of them simply don’t understand or study their own faith enough themselves. It disturbs me that people simply accept what others tell them, without trying to find answer themselves. All too often, a theist places themselves on the immediate defense in such discussions because they subconsciously are aware that they don’t have the firepower to entertain the debate. What they often fail to understand is that I am “OK” with them telling me that they don’t know, but that it’s a good question worth investigating further with a mentor. Instead, I am often attacked because they feel as though I am attacking the faith in general. This is not the case.
    I’ve been forced to put my search for God on hold in my life, and have instead focused on understanding what I see for myself. I would entertain any conversation on the matter, but I’ve decided to pursue ideas that make sense from my current stance. That stance being that it doesn’t really matter if there is a God, and that if I’m going to try to make any rational sense of the events and challenges in my life, It’s much simpler to accept that there is no God. I cannot continue to cling to an idea that I simply do not have faith in. I have turned to the alternative, as it is much easier for me to justify getting up in the morning. I’ve recently identified myself as an Absurdist. It’s a much simpler concept to live with, as I don’t have to fight with why everything is so chaotic and undefined in reality. It just is that way.
    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I’ve studied the concept of agnostic theists/atheists, and I suppose I could be labeled as the latter of the two. I see myself as objective on the matter. I see great value in faith and religion, as it motivates many people to do great things. I also recognize that it motivates others to do vastly destructive things. You cannot have one without the other. I truly hope the good prevails, if not only for the simple fact that the world is a much better when it does.

    • “I truly hope the good prevails”

      What is “good” if there is no God?

      “…it doesn’t really matter if there is a God…”

      There might be some conceptions of God that really don’t matter. However, it DOES matter if the Christian God exists or not. Because if He does exist, then life means something entirely different than it does otherwise. And if He exists, then your eternity will depend on whether or not you serve Him.

  6. WorldGoneCrazy says:

    Suspended, have you come up with personally satisfying, non-theistic, answers to 3 critical questions: 1) Why is there something rather than nothing? 2) Why do things in my life – major accomplishments, a great movie or book, money, etc – that seem so important at the time that I am initially enjoying them wear off so incredibly fast? 3) Why are there things in my life that I want to change so badly that are so difficult or seemingly impossible for me to change, even with the help of others? [I was wildly successful, in a worldly sense, but these three questions continued to haunt me until, at the age of 42, my heart, soul and well-educated mind convinced me that theism must be true. At that point, I began my search within the confines of the major theistic worldviews of Judaism and Christianity (although I later, after becoming a Christian, did investigate Islam as well).]

    • Okay, I’ll bite.
      1. There is no “reason” why there is something, rather than nothing. There just is.
      2. I can’t speak for everyone, but its because happiness is a temporary thing. Even in moments of great accomplishment. Eventually you start to question why any of it is that important. The harsh truth is, none of it is. There is no “grand scheme”.
      3. For me, it is ultimately because there is no ultimate reason to change anything about myself. If I have a passion or love for anything that could motivate me enough to change, I’ll change. That’s all there really is in life for me, the passion and love I find for certain aspects of my life. It’s not always easy for me, sometimes the change never comes. The change doesn’t come because it doesn’t matter enough.

      I understand that these answers might not do much for you, but they seem to be the way things are at this moment in my life. They’ve been this way for most of it, but I’m not closed to the idea that it could change. I have to find a good enough passion to make that change. :)

      • WorldGoneCrazy says:

        1. Suspended, does the answer “there just is” satisfy you? It doesn’t satisfy me.

        Also, how do you KNOW that “there is no reason?” (I’m not trying to be harsh here – so please forgive any unintended but perceived tone.) Finally, have you considered the Kalam Cosmological argument as an alternative to “there just is”?

        2. Again, on this question, how do you KNOW that “none of it is,” i.e., that all happiness is fleeting? Is it possible that there is a joy out there that never wears off, that never leaves you, that is even independent of personality type, but you just haven’t found it yet?

        3. I came to a point some years ago where deep down, when I objectively considered my own behavior, that there were things “not right” with me – cursing in front of my wife and children, flirting with other women, anger issues, being pretty narcissistic (OK, WAY narcissistic!), etc. I came to the point where I had to admit that these were not victimless issues I had, but I also knew I couldn’t change them in myself. You sound like you are a better person than I was, Suspended, but, really, isn’t there something that you do that harms others, even when you don’t intend it?

        • World, this is jive. I’ll keep it going, as I’m assuming Wintery doesn’t mind.

          1. Having gone back and forth on the question more times than I can count, I’ve simply learned to accept that “it just is.” I’ve come to this conclusion because the other alternatives is absurd. With consideration to the Kalam Cosmological argument, that rests on a major assumption. It assumes that the universe has a beginning, and I’m not sure that is an accurate assumption. There is great speculation, but most scientific speculation points to a singularity. A singularity doesn’t necessarily mean that there was nothing before it, it just means that it is impossible to predict what was before it or after it, depending on your reference. Assuming there was a singularity, it’s impossible from our perspective to assume that there was nothing before it. We can know that, it’s impossible to know it. I refuse to assume, therefore I simply accept what I can know. What I can know is that we simply exist. I can spend my entire existence seeking the answer of “why” ultimately only to fail, or I can accept that I cannot know, and therefore “it just is.”

          2. I have no other alternative but to accept that any cause or reason “why” I am here is beyond my ability to know. I don’t make this acceptance easily, but I have no other alternative. I will continue to entertain other possibilities that people present to me in hopes that I have exercised the human flaw of imperfection, but unfortunately for those who wish to present an alternative (much like yourself), there is no way for you to prove for a fact that you are correct. We are simply left at a standstill. Perhaps you can lie you head down peacefully at night assuming that a grand being conjured up all of this awesomeness, but I can lie my head just as peacefully knowing that it is beyond my capability to know. That being said, from my perspective, it is truly irrelevant as to what caused us to be. If am to place a value in anything that I do or accomplish in my life, I do so at the limitations of my own will and motivation. If over time, those things become simply meaningless to me (or less meaningful), that is because my judgment on the value of them has changed. If I can stand here and tell you it is all meaningless and has no value, that is because I give it no value for the sake of this conversation. The fact that I earned a degree in electrical engineering may carry great value in the job market, it plays zero value in philosophical debate. Furthermore, it will carried zero value before I was born, and will continue to carry zero value after I am dead. If it carries any value to anyone anywhere else in the universe, then it is valuable only to them, NOT to the universe as a whole. The universe doesn’t “care”.

          3. I applaud you for recognizing that some of the things you were doing were negatively impacting the others you care and love around you, and furthermore deciding to do something about it. Perhaps it required influence from others around you to recognize it, but that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it took you making the change. Many people choose to ignore one or both parts to that, and live psychologically unhealthy lives because of it. I don’t think of myself as any better than the next person when it comes to things such as this. Ultimately we make those changes because they affect our own well being. Sure they hurt other people, but it’s your love for those people that make you change yourself, not the other people being hurt. If you were hurting those other people, but it didn’t hurt you to see that, you wouldn’t likely change. I’m not trying to say that your acts were selfish. Other’s benefited from the change as well. But it wasn’t exactly selfless either, because you gained something in the end. As for me, yes of course there are things that I do that harms others, even without my intentions. I don’t do those things BECAUSE they harm others, harm to other’s is a secondary effect. I have to weigh out the two from time to time. An good example would be getting up late in the morning. I will sometimes sleep in a bit later because I’m aware that the criticality of me being in to work precisely on time isn’t so great. I’m fortunate enough to work somewhere I can do that sometimes. Does it affect my peers and coworkers in the workplace? Yes, sometimes it does. If they are just fussy because they are jealous, then I could care less. If they are fussy because they needed me and I wasn’t there, now that it is important. Important enough for me to make a change. Important enough for me to not sleep in a little bit for a while. That really depends on how big the consequences are. If my boss told me that if I can’t make it to work earlier, then I will lose my job, well I’d be far likely to make a change for the permanent if I really liked my job wouldn’t I? I could take the same logic and apply it to relationships at home, and it works as well. I’m just more likely to get up earlier in the morning if my wife nagged me than if my coworkers. Whether it’s because of a greater love for my wife, or the fact that I value the peace and quiet I have at home is irrelevant. The logic still applies.

          I hope this clears a few things up for you.

  7. Man, I need to start proofing my posts more often. A few grammar mistakes there, as I was editing while typing. I hope it doesn’t keep anyone from clearly understanding my POV.

  8. WorldGoneCrazy says:

    Suspended, clearly you are assuming non-theism in making your (circular) argument for non-theism: in effect, you are saying “I can’t know.” But, how do you know you can’t know? I, on the other hand, am not assuming that the universe had a beginning – my 4 degrees in engineering and math take me where the overwhelming data lead me, to a place that the vast majority of atheists have conceded – the universe had a beginning. Yes, the singularity COULD be a purple unicorn – but it’s most likely a beginning.

    Let me try another tack. Doesn’t it bother you that if you are right, i.e., materialism / non-theism is true, then you will necessarily never know you were right? Nor will I ever know that you were right and I was wrong. On the other hand, if I am right, and Christianity is true, then we will both know that I was right and you were wrong. Doesn’t this asymmetry of ultimate knowledge concern you deeply – as an engineer, surely you enjoy being right and knowing you are right?

  9. As clarification, I stated I COULD be labeled as an agnostic theist. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I am one. I am an absurdist, and as an absurdist. If you flat out asked me whether or not I believed in God, I would reply that “I don’t know, because everything I have come to know thus far tells me that I cannot know for sure either way.”

    While I would agree that it is likely the universe had a beginning, and before that beginning there was nothing at all, I cannot say for sure. I will concede that there MIGHT be a way we could know, but as it stands there is no way we can know RIGHT NOW, and right now we are having this discussion. Not a thousand years from now. Right now it is impossible to know; therefore I choose to accept that fact and that fact alone.

    It doesn’t really bother me that if I am right, in the end neither of us will ever know. I could just as easily ask you if it bothers you that in the end if I WAS right, you potentially squandered your one shot at existence living within a set of philosophical boundaries that limited your choices in life. To put it more bluntly, would you be okay with the fact that you spent such a great deal of your time trying to maintain acceptance of an ideal based on faith alone; that you choose to live by only in the end to find that everything you thought you valued really didn’t have any universal value at all? I’m honestly okay with accepting that value is something we as human beings give to things to simply give us priority. I can honestly say that if anyone were to call me a good man at the end of days, it was because of what I did and not what the universe thinks. I choose to spend my life doing what it is I love most, while doing my best to maintain integrity at the same. If I am to be judged by God in the end, then I welcome God’s judgment. I do not fear it.

    As an engineer, I only stand behind something I know for a fact. I don’t just “believe” that this electronic component will not fail due to a manufacturing flaw which causes the death of countless innocents; I would make that judgment based on sound facts and to the best of my ability.

    The asymmetry of ultimate knowledge DOES concern me, my friend. It should concern us both. Being forced to spend our existence toiling over what the meaning of life is absurd because any answer provided thus far is based on assumption, so we are further troubled even for the remainder of our lives. You might choose to accept that God is the reason we are here. Someone else might choose to accept that there is no reason we are here. All I can truly say as that Kierkegaard was right on when he stated this:

    “I must act, but reflection has closed the road so I take one of the possibilities and say: This is what I do, I cannot do otherwise because I am brought to a standstill by my powers of reflection.”

    For the sake of philosophical debate, I refuse to take the road of embracing a belief in a higher power. I do this so that I may discover what I truly love in life, and I am willing to let that shape “what” I am. I have no desire to tell another person whether or not to believe in God. I say keep doing what works for you. I’m doing what works for me. Once one realizes the absurdity of everything, I’m not sure it’s truly possible to turn back. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

    • WorldGoneCrazy says:

      So, Suspended, you are placing your faith in absurdity? I guess I don’t have enough faith to be an absurdist. :-) The bottom line is that you are choosing to not believe in God just as strongly as I am choosing to believe in Him. The difference is that, unlike you, I have been on both sides of this debate, and I came kicking and screaming to this side for sure – being such an ‘intellectual’ sort, with all kinds of letters behind my name, and not wanting to lower my dignity to the level of believing that I might be accountable to a Higher Power. :-)

      Furthermore, the great and pleasant surprise from this side of the debate is that my choices aren’t limited – unless you mean that I’m no longer tempted to live only for myself and screw other people over for the narcissistic pleasure of it. Also, I’m no longer limited to a materialistic worldview – we are just matter, life has no purpose, and I can’t know anything about same. Additionally, those around me, especially my family, say I am much the better man because of it, and they are much happier for my choice, previously unmade. So, how have I lost again, if I am so wrong as to be deluding myself, and just what do I have to fear from the asymmetry of ultimate knowledge, if there is no one out there to fear and my life ends at physical death? (That’s Pascal’s Wager, plus, in a nutshell.)

      Since you are clearly so open-minded as to say “you can’t know,” you should consider this side of the fence. The grass really IS greener, but you’ll never know unless you open up, experience something new, and stop limiting your choices so severely.

  10. WorldGoneCrazy says:

    BTW, Suspended, as a former existentialist, having written a rather technical paper on the Theatre of the Absurd, I wish to share with you a Dostoyevsky quote: “If there is no God, everything is permissible.” (He wasn’t referring to ‘good’ things, either!) Now, that hits a theme that Wintery has touched on quite well numerous times – to his credit.

    It’s hard for me to read this quote and imagine a world in which my, or your, believing it, could possibly make us better men for embracing it as a personal philosophy. I have to believe that people like Hitler and Stalin acted on this quote quite effectively, don’t you?

    I wish to tell you this because a) I want you to know that I ‘feel your pain,’ (that’s not a joke, nor is it meant to be snarky – I sincerely feel this connection to you) and b) there is hope for escaping absurdity, and there is Life outside of absurdity. God bless you!

    • I must object. I think I have made it quite clear that you seem to believe that there is a God far more than I believe that there isn’t. I am open to the possibility, but I can’t believe it without more information. I choose to make the argument against the existence of God because I am more interested in being convinced that there is one.

      I must also point out that once again, you have made the assumption that I have only been on one side of the fence here. Did I ever claim that I had not believed at any point in time? I have chosen my words as carefully as I can as to state my position as clearly as possible, but some of the responsibility falls on your shoulders to ask the right questions. I believed in God at two points in my life. I was raised to believe it, so in my early childhood I simply accepted it. As I grew older, I grew away from that belief. I believed once more in my mid-20s, but from the moment I believed, I was slowly turned away from it.

      So I have considered both sides of the fence. I still consider it from time to time. I’ve considered what you have told me, and have taken the time to provide thoughtful response. I accept that you have considered my side, before or during our conversation. From my perspective, I’m not sure one can turn back once they have realized how absurd everything is. I will acknowledge that it isn’t impossible for clarification.

      On another note, I apologize if you inferred that I was actually challenging your satisfaction with your choices. The first question was a bit of rhetoric, the second being an honest question. You answered that question quite soundly by correcting any assumptions I may have made on my part. I’m asking those questions as to try to understand your perspective, not to judge them.

      On your quote from Dostoyevsky; his logic is sound in that “if there is no God, everything is permissible.” From a universal standpoint, I suppose everything is permissible. From an individual perspective, everything isn’t. We each have to maintain integrity in our decisions, if not for anyone or anything else, then ourselves at the very least. For some such as Hitler, yes to him his actions were permissible, but there were some actions that were not permissible. He had a belief, and even his twisted ideas had limitations. Giving up his ideas before death was impermissible. In his mind, he either died fighting for a cause he thought was correct, or was filled with regret at the realization that it was not.

      I do feel despair sometimes at the thought of everything. I appreciate your opinions and respect that you to have felt the despair. But my pain is temporary. It comes and it goes. There are many times I don’t think about it, and there are some times I can’t get it out of my head for weeks.

      Good luck on your endeavors to seek greater understanding and enlightenment. Peace be with you as you continue your adventure through life.

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