Friday, December 21, 2007

Illogical Atheists

Our local atheists must be getting spooked by Christmas. Mike Ursu has a letter to the editor today arguing, among other things, that "mindless indoctrination in religious fantasies" is dangerous and that "The church can't offer proof to support their claims so they have to resort to indoctrinating children before they gain the ability to think critically." Now these are legitimate concerns that religions should have an answer for.

But Mike seems to want to exempt his own atheism from scrutiny when he writes "Atheism isn't detrimental to children." Mike assails religions for their lack of proof. Very well, but I don't recall his proof of the non-existence of God. Wouldn't then the teaching of atheism to children also involve the dangerous indoctrination of unproven assertions?


Pariah Jeep said...

Damn you - there is no evidence against global warming either !

The fact is that a child could submit a perfectly logical argument against the existence of God. That is where faith (to believers) and fairytale (to non-believers) meet fact.

The indoctrination into religion is certainly true in some cases as well, yet I also see instances of indoctrination against religion, or at least certain religions. If one argues that religion is harmful then this becomes acceptable if not desirable.

Caledonication said...

I guess you'll have to allow global warming alarmists to practice their religion freely as well.

Since that is the case, I would use "their" argument and insist that they need to keep their religion out of my government.

Peter said...

Global warming and environmentalism is a religion. With High Priest Algore. Many of the practitioners are Earth worshippers. Ever hear them talk about "Mother Earth"? Idiotic DUMBper stickers with a picture of the Earth and "Love your mother"? Sorry, but the Earth isn't my mother.

That said, the letter writer mentioned is yet another local atheist crank that writes the same stuff over and over and over and always gets published. That, while the Journal Times turns away conservative letters because "that viewpoint has been expressed already."

Nemo said...

Caledonication said...

"I guess you'll have to allow global warming alarmists to practice their religion freely as well."

I will take not offense if the global warming cultists celebrate now, as long as I don’t have to pay for it, but I think that April 1st would be a more appropriate day for them.

Denis Navratil said...

Regarding global warmists, Christians, atheists etc... feel free to believe what you want. But if you wish to influence public policy, well then then that is another matter. Like Nemo said.

Michael Gibson said...

I'm with you on this one (regarding the original post). But why is everyone still bringing up global warming? They have no correlation. Please, lay off. There is no reason to bring science into a religious topic.

smallgovsam said...

“proof of the non-existence of God”

Prove to me, in our entire universe that there are no unicorns. Because no one has ever been out of our solar system, I could simply say that unicorns exist independently of time or space or that unicorns are invisible. A unicorn must exist, because there is no proof that a unicorn does not exist.

The burden of proof lies upon the advocate. With ABSENCE of proof from a particular viewpoint, one must infer that the claim is false.

When I agree with Mike when he says “Atheism isn't detrimental to children.” What I take from that statement is NOT teaching about a God, rather than teaching that IS or ISN’T a God, is not harmful to impressionable progeny.

Denis Navratil said...

Sam, atheism is the belief that God does not exist. It is a belief that has not been proven true or false. In this regard, it is similar to all religions. Yet Mike is advocating one standard for religions, requiring proof of the belief, and another for atheism, where proof is not required. To me this is illogical or simply a bias in favor of atheism. Now you suggest that Mike might have meant something else. Perhaps so but we won't know that unless he joins in here. By the way, I invited him to do so.

The burden of proof lies upon the advocate, you say. Yes, I agree. In this case Mike is advocating one standard for unproven religious beliefs and another for unproven beliefs in the absence of God. He ought to prove why the burden of proof standard is waived for his particular belief.

Moving on. True, I can't prove the non-existence of unicorns or anything else for that matter. You could say that unicorns exist because of this lack of proof, that would be your call. But just to be clear, I am not suggesting that God exists because it has not been disproven.

As a matter of education, I think it would be foolish to only teach that which can be proven. This would effectively end the search for truth in all acedemic fields.

smallgovsam said...

Atheism isn’t a set of unproven religious beliefs. It’s a scientific judgment of reality that stems from the lack of empirical evidence for a God.

If I were to say the talking Pop-Tart on my shoulder loves your blog, you would be skeptical of the existence of the loquacious pastry. It is not a belief, but rather a rational skepticism you identify based on the verifiability and falsifiability of the flattering food product.

In science, any claim is considered false unless proven otherwise. God, the creation of the universe in a week, ghosts, tarot cards and Michael Bolton talent all must be assumed untrue until science has found proof.

However, you are correct in identifying strong atheism a religion. “There is no God” is different from “With current evidence, there is no God.”

Should truth only be taught in our schools? Epistemology is difficult. What should be taught in our schools is science, facts and rational hypotheses. Teaching only the “truth” would be impossible given man’s limited sensory perceptions and imperfect tools. No one has really decided upon a definition of “truth” yet. (But I’m sure academics are holding meetings.)

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to see Christians actually living as Christians - very FEW do.

Nice words - very FEW live by them.

Right Wing hypocrisy.

Denis Navratil said...

Sam, I am probably not the one to take up the case for believers, but I do have to wonder what it is that you might accept as empirical evidence. For example, there are millions, even billions of people that have faith in God. Some no doubt have had experiences that lead them to that conclusion. I know this is not slam dunk empirical evidence, not by a long shot, but it does call into question your claim of no evidence.

You write "With current evidence, there is no God.” This suggests to me that you are more agnostic than atheist. But the statement is rather silly to me because the actual existence or lack of existence of God either is or is not. The question of the existence of God is independent of the evidence. Now proof of God would require evidence. In other words, something (God, unicorns, talking Pop-Tarts) could exist even if there was no evidence yet found. But to prove its existence would require evidence.

On a personal note, I think you might be in danger of needlessly limiting your learning. I don't suggest that you limit your inquiry only to those things that can be proven, like science, math, etc.. Forget about God for a moment and think about such things as beauty, truth, goodness etc...these notions can't be proven so far as I know, but I doubt anyone would say that beauty, truth and goodness do not exist. What about good literature? What would be the point of reading fiction? Just some food for thought that I am offering in good faith, if there is such a thing.

Anonymous said...

Proof is not required for belief in atheism because atheism is not so much a belief as a non-belief. Proof is required for religion, though, because it is a belief.

Anonymous said...

The people who have had experiences leading the to believe in their religion are called crazy people. Sane people do not hear burning bushes talk.

Anonymous said...

Forget about God for a moment and think about such things as beauty, truth, goodness etc...these notions can't be proven so far as I know, but I doubt anyone would say that beauty, truth and goodness do not exist.

I suggest that you read Hans Urs von Balthasar regarding beauty, good, and the other...

Denis Navratil said...

Anon 12:13,atheism is the belief that God does not exist. Hence it is a belief and should be subject to the same scrutiny that you would require of other beliefs.

Anon 12:17, my anecdotal evidence, ie my own experience, suggests that the average person who believes in God is less crazy than the average person that does not. Now this is not true across the board of course, I am speaking generally.

Anon 7:18, tell me more. What does Hans have to say about beauty etc..., in a nutshell?

Anonymous said...

What is your evidence for your belief on crazy people other than you not wanting to admit you are crazy yourself?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:18, tell me more. What does Hans have to say about beauty etc..., in a nutshell?

6:34 AM

"Hans Urs von Balthasar and beauty
“Balthasar’s theological aesthetics begins with ‘beauty’…. That which appears in the beauty of natural and created forms is the glory of being, der Glanz des Seins. It speaks of the mystery of that which transcends and yet inheres in all existents. Consequently, aesthetics is not just one department of knowledge, which in relative independence of others constitutes a relatively autonomous discipline. When one sees the beauty of a person, a work of art, or a sunset, one is confronted at the same time with the mystery of its otherness. This sense of the wonder of beauty, Balthasar believes, is at the root of all serious metaphysical endeavor.”

—Louis Roberts, The Theological Aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1987), 122.

smallgovsam said...

No, popularity in a religion doesn’t translate into truth. That’s argumentum ad populum. Truth by vote. (That’s sounds like…democracy.)

Was Jesus the Messiah when he was born? When he had 12 apostles? When Constantine I made it official? Truth is not dependent upon man’s spiritual perceptions or augments itself to the notions of a particular day. It is something external.

There is a great deal of circular reasoning in faith because one must assume that there is a God.

1. There is a God
2. If I had faith, good things will happen


If I have faith and something good happens, there is a God.

I suppose I would be technically an agnostic atheist. I don’t believe in God, but not tenacious enough to definitively make a final judgment. But I’m pretty much a de facto atheist.

Denis Navratil said...

Sam, truth and evidence are not synonyms. I indicated that large numbers of believers is evidence, not truth. Large numbers of believers does not make something true. But it might be worth considering their claims. As I said, I am probably not the one to take up the case for believers. But there are people far smarter than you or I that do believe in God. I don't think it would be wise to dismiss them outright.

Atheists have some logic problems to sort out as well. How is the universe here? A big explosion? Where did the stuff come from that exploded? Was it just here or is there a creator? Either explanation is illogical as I see it. A leap of faith is required either way, or you can avoid the question and remain an agnostic.

Anonymous said...

There are also many great Atheists, Denis,

Anonymous said...

and it sounds much more illogical for some old guy to give an order, making everything appear. Where did he come from?

Denis Navratil said...

There may well be some great atheists anon 2:42, but none that I know of have offered a convincing theory on how matter first appeared. Not that that is an easy task.

Where did God come from? Also not an easy explanation and as I have said before, I am not the one to take up that case.

My point is that both the belief in God or the belief in the absence of a God are illogical. Or perhaps just beyond our capabilities to understand.

Anonymous said...

Great religious people have never made an argument proving that god is real. I actually agree with Sam on this one. I have a religion worshipping the square root of pi. Try to disprove that.

Anonymous said...

"Great religious people have never made an argument proving that god is real."

You must not have heard of Thomas Aquinas. Read 'Summa Theologica' and get back to me.

There are books full of logical and rational arguments for the existence of God.

Aquinas is a little high end for most people, but you could check out Lee Strobel's "The Case for Faith" or "The Case for a Creator". Both give some excellent rational arguments for the existence of a supernatural creator.

We live in an ordered universe and an incredibly complex earth filled with equally complex creatures. What makes more sense, that this was created or that it sprang from nothingness and developped over time against gigantic odds?

Just open your mind to the possibility that some observations and arguments could point to a creator.

Mike Ursu said...

>Hello Mike, I read your commentary this morning and have responded to it on
>my blog, I have asserted that the claim that you
>have made about religious indoctrination could be made about atheism just as
>easily, as you have not, to my knowledge, proven the non-existence of God. Feel
>free to join in the discussion if you like.
Hi Denis,
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Work's kept me busy. In regards to your statement, here are some books that put forth arguments for the nonexistence of God, Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith, God, The Failed Hypothesis, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The Impossibility of God edited by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier. The last book gets into symbolic logic at times. If you're like me, you probably don't know what the various symbols stand for. I went and bought an intro to logic book to help make things clearer. I figured that it would be easier just to tell you about these books than try to condense several hundred pages of text into blog posts.
Before I close this letter, it should be noted that the burden of proof lies with proving something's existence, not nonexistence. When scientists first proposed that germs were the cause of disease, they had to prove that germs existed. It wasn't up to everyone else to prove that they didn't. And for the record, I wasn't indoctrinated into atheism. I never went to church when I was young so I wasn't indoctrinated into religion either. By the time I looked at religion I was experienced enough to look at it with a critical eye and what I saw didn't make sense. Religion states that the supernatural exists and I saw no evidence to support such a claim.

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Mike Ursu said...

After reading through the various posts, I feel the need to clarify some things. First off, there are going to be questions for which we will never get a satisfactory answer. Questions like where did the matter in the universe come from for example. This is something that we humans just have to deal with. The best we can do is to come up with a theory based on the evidence at hand.
Theories like relativity, Darwinian evolution and the Big Bang have thus far stood the test of time because the evidence scientists have collected supports these theories. Other theories, like Lamarckism, failed because there was no scientific evidence to support it. I have yet to see scientific evidence supporting the theory that supernatural beings exist.
Then there's the matter of indoctrinating children. I concede that indoctrinating children into atheism is just as bad as indoctrinating them into religion. Children don't have the critical thinking capacity or the knowledge base needed to weigh the arguments for and against the existence of God. Thus they tend to adopt the beliefs of those around them. It would be better, in my opinion, to wait until they can think critically and then let the various religions and atheism make their respective cases. This would force those involved to provide evidence to support their claims. Once the arguments and counter arguments are made, a person can make a more informed decision as to what path they'll take.