Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tagged

A tagging by The Barefoot Bum

Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

I remember the day I first contemplated the horrific thought there might not be a god. I looked in the mirror, drew in a breath and said out loud, “There is no god.” My next immediate reaction was the slight fear of lightening coming out of the socket! No joke.

I went to work, and over the next few weeks I realized I no longer thought of god as an entity, but more as a project. I don’t remember the exact day. Some time in July-September of 2004

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

Never really thought about it. I remember listing my belief as “agnostic” when I posted on Christianforums, but that was more out of a sense of being slightly stunned there couldn’t be a god. Was it really that possible?

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

Hmmm…long ago. Few years? I have spoken to god when believers tell me, “Just say the following prayer…” more to humor the notion. But think someone is listening? Nah…

Curiously, perhaps, the few times I have had spiritual moments or God-moments since becoming an atheist, the last thing I wanted to do was talk or pray or do anything other than revel in the moment.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

No. Why would it? I could not get my mind to process the thought, “There is a god” without evidence crowding the thought out.

If I felt anything about God or religion on my journey to atheism it would be disappointment. I asked god a lot to answer my search for him and heard nothing. Who wouldn’t be disappointed in such an event?

Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

I was a-ghostic (as in “there are no ghosts”) prior to being an atheist and still am today. I see a similar lack of proof for ghosts—why would I be agnostic toward them, but atheistic toward a god?

Do you want to be wrong?

No. Who “wants” to be wrong? Don’t we “want” to have correct information and act upon it in a correct manner? My chief desire is to know what actually is, and act rationally upon it. However, I recognize, having been wrong in the past, I am certainly wrong about something now.

Tagging Roman, Jon, and He Is Sailing (if he is even around anymore)

21 comments:

  1. “My chief desire is to know what actually is, and act rationally upon it.”

    Don’t we all want that? I know I do.

    But what if you can’t “actually” know? What if you can only partially know? What then is the rational action to be taken? It seems to me that atheists and Christians take pretty much the same information / evidence, which takes each group part of the way toward their chosen conclusion and then both group travels the rest of the way on roughly equal amounts of faith.

    “I could not get my mind to process the thought, “There is a god” without evidence crowding the thought out.”

    I’m curious. What evidence do you have that God doesn’t exist, that crowed out the thought that He might actually be there?

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  2. Makarios: But what if you can’t “actually” know? What if you can only partially know? What then is the rational action to be taken?

    Then you do the best you can with what you have. Sure, there may be ghosts. There may be Bigfoot. But at some point one takes all the evidence they know and make a decision. The question is how open is the person to changing upon new evidence? Find me a real Bigfoot, and I will happily change my opinion on its existence.

    Makarios: What evidence do you have that God doesn’t exist, that crowed out the thought that He might actually be there?

    Every god takes on the reflection of the human promulgating it. To use the phrase, “If a fish could make a god; it would look like a fish.” To ancient civilizations without scientific knowledge, gods made earthquakes, rode flaming chariots across a firm sky to form the sun, and lived on high mountains. As science and discovery changed, and people learned more—lo and behold the gods changed with them.

    Instead of a god who made earthquakes, we have a god who uses plate tectonics for the most part. (Unless there is a gay convention in town.) What science discovers, 10 years later becomes the theist’s god’s activities. We go from YEC to OEC to theistic evolution. All on the back of new discoveries by science. We go from a geocentric god to a heliocentric god in the blink of a telescope.

    No god ever appears. Only humans claiming a god who did this, or a god who says that. The fact individuals have varied so vastly over time and locale about what a “god” is, should raise the question in one’s mind as to its existence. Why are the African gods darker than the European gods?

    God is placed conveniently out of verifiable range (in the supernatural) and then the theist tells me what their god is like, despite the fact neither of us can test it! And amazingly, every time, the theist manages to promote positive features about the unverifiable god, and distance themselves from negative features about the unverifiable god—with no consistent methodology!

    Have we not seen claims the unverifiable god is an intelligent designer (good for the theist) but cannot commit sins (bad for the theist.)? Why couldn’t I claim god is NOT an intelligent designer, just lucky? And god sins all the time with wanton goddesses? Either prospect is equally provable!

    God is an unnecessary hypothesis. We use medicines to cure our ills; not god. We use head-hunters to find jobs; not gods. We use banks to store our money and locks to guard our doors, and investment portfolios to protect our future; not gods. Oh, many theists may toss up a prayer or two in their god’s direction as a token notification of reliance in these regards. But they have bank accounts just in case!

    The only thing a god would be useful for is to explain the initiation of the Big Bang; but I don’t see how it is any better than “I don’t know.” Even if such a god existed, it either shows no desire for involvement in our affairs, OR is so subtle in its involvement so as to look like no involvement. A difference without distinction.

    A few of the thoughts crowding my mind…

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  3. Dagood, you should post your last comment.

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  4. I understand your position if you use traditional understandings for the idea of God(creator). The thing is, not everyone who believes in a Creator/god/driving force, take a traditional approach. As far ghosts/spiritual experiences and such, I have a simple analogy. I like to golf, and one early morning while I was playing(alone), I hit a shot on a beautiful par 4, not very long but quite challenging. I hit a very good shot that unfortunately hit a overhanging tree branch just before the green, miraculously it then hit a rock and proceeded to roll right in the hole. Now as is the custom in Golf, I am not supposed to say I got a hole in one because I was alone and there was no one to verify it. Now does that negate the fact that it is true? Nope, it just means that likely no one will believe me and I cant "prove" it to them.

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  5. @tit for tat actually people would be inclined to believe you when you explain that series of unlikely events. Such events happen relatively often to each of us so we can expect something amazing to happen to someone now and then.

    What people would not be inclined to believe is that it was really magic fairies that guided your ball to the hole and disappeared. You suddenly go from an unlikely realistic event to an extraordinary unrealistic event.

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  6. db0

    "Such events happen relatively often to each of us so we can expect something amazing to happen to someone now and then."

    So do people and the experience of seeing ghosts. Amazing as it is for the individual, it still cant be proved. Does that mean it didnt happen?

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  7. Tit for Tat,

    Yes, I often hear the explanation “My idea of God is not like other ideas for God.” Unfortunately, as I unpeel such Gods, it turns out the theist sees the same problems for God that I do, removes these characteristics of God for the same reasons I do, but then provides no explanation whatsoever for why the remaining characteristics must still be a part of God, except a general “feeling.” Honestly? There is not much difference between the traditional “feel” for God and the non-traditional “feel” for God.

    Looking at your golf example. I assume you have heard of ECREE? (“Extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence.”) I don’t like the phrase because of the indefinite term of “extra-ordinary.” Instead I use something similar, “The farther outside of our rationale experience, the more compelling evidence we need to be persuaded.”

    What if I told you “I had dinner with my sister last night.” From your own experience, you would probably require very little evidence, most likely not much more than my word—since people have dinners with sisters all the time in our experience.

    Now what if I told you “I had dinner with the President of the United States.” Since there is only one President, and this is far, far outside the normal experience, you would require more evidence. Perhaps a schedule showing the President at a fund-raiser in my area, my ticket to the fund-raiser, etc. Still provable—just a bit more evidence.

    Now what if I told you, “I had dinner with Elvis Presley.” Due to the nature of his being most likely dead, and the uniqueness of this experience—you would likely require a great deal more evidence.

    Now let’s look at your golf experience.

    First it was a par 4. Hole-in-ones occur on Par 3’s typically. Hole-in-Ones on Par 4’s are extremely rare. In fact, there has only been one in the PGA Tour, and that was a fluke by hitting off a putter on one of the players still on the green.

    Second, having hit a few trees in my day, due to the trajectory of the ball, it most likely will fly backwards—not continue forwards. Additionally, it will change the direction of the ball, but most importantly of all, it will significantly slow down the ball. If this is a Par 4, it has length. Therefore, slowing the ball would dramatically decrease the possibility it would reach the green. As far as I know—no Par 4 has been holed after striking an object due to speed issues.

    Third—it hit a rock. I would question where this rock is. Having been on a few golf courses, there are not many large rocks (not enough to change speed/trajectory of a golf ball) at or near a green. Sand, yes. Small pebbles, sure. But a large rock? Worse, according to our tale, the tree branch was “just before the green,” placing this rock either right at the green or on the green itself!

    Regardless of your story, I would be curious to view this particular hole to see where they put this rock!

    Now if you came back from your golf experience and said you hit a hole-in-one on the Par 3—I would typically accept it on your word alone. (Be jealous, of course, but accept it.) I have seen it happen.

    Add a Par 4, a tree and a rock? Alone? No—this is too much to believe. See, the problem with your example is this—it didn’t happen. You made this up, and then declared, “If this was true, just because I can’t prove it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” Being me, I would want to see this Par 4, this branch, this rock. And see you drive off a few golf balls.

    But we don’t even get this with God—no grass, no green, no tree, no rock. No ball, no hole.

    As for people’s experience with ghosts. Does it mean it didn’t happen? No, but people shouldn’t be at all surprised when no one believes ‘em. Just like our Par 4 golfer would expect people to not believe him/her.

    If that is the best proof we have; why are people so surprised we don’t believe there is a god?

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  8. Dagoods

    I agree, can you imagine if my golf story was the one who hit the putter but no one saw it go in except me? The reason I even use a term like God or Creator is because I have no language to describe the essence that I consider to be a starting point. Scientists seem to like the "big bang". I find it completely reasonable and logical to assume that the universe as I see it must have had some starting force/energy/creator/god to it. And tell me is it unreasonable to believe that there is some sort of intelligence behind that beginning. My challenge with most people who come from a place of complete faith in a religion to one of no belief in anything(for the most part), is that it seems they throw the baby out with the bathwater. There could easily be a creator/driving/force without it having to be thought of from a purely religious standpoint. I dont claim to know what it may be or what its all about, I just find it absurd to say that there is no way for it to exist. Isnt one of the things you dont like about "Fundies" is there claim to being absolutely right? Whether or not an experience is probable or provable has nothing to do with whether the event actually happened, all it means is you wont believe it.

    By the way, if you could see my golf swing and my balls trajectory, you may believe I could hit a tree and then a rock and still go in the hole, lmao.

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  9. Tit for Tat,

    I was once golfing with my brother and brother-in-law. On the first tee, a dog-leg around a pond, my brother-in-law said, “This is a pretty tricky hole. Try to hit it like I do.” He then completely mis-hit the ball, directly toward the water. It skipped across the water, drove into the hill below the green, and popped up on the fringe.

    My brother and I cried out, “We have to hit it like THAT!?”

    Anyway,

    Tit for Tat: And tell me is it unreasonable to believe that there is some sort of intelligence behind that beginning.

    Er…O.K. “It is unreasonable to believe there is some sort of intelligence behind that beginning.” (Thank you, Airplane.) Seriously, I would wonder what we mean by “intelligence.” By reviewing cosmology, it seems much more cobbled together than any particular pattern. First we have the Big Bang which results in quarks flitting about, eventually coming together to form neutrons and protons. After these mill about a bit for 300,000 years they form Hydrogen, allowing the first stars to come into being. Then stars form clusters (galaxies.) Some blew up. Eventually some stars attracted dust particles which, by virtue of gravity, formed planets orbiting the star.

    13-14 Billion years ago we have big bang. 4-5 billion years ago, the Earth forms. It all appears very unorganized. Evolution does not follow some organized straight path. Species come and go, becoming extinct. All this to eventually come to where we are today? It is hard for me to see the intelligence in it, frankly. But I can understand why others do.

    Tit for Tat: My challenge with most people who come from a place of complete faith in a religion to one of no belief in anything(for the most part), is that it seems they throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    See, the thing is—bathwater is always eventually thrown out. We don’t keep it forever, just in case there might be a baby in there.

    We searched through the water, we asked others to search through the water, we inspected it with an X-ray, we researched what happened to other babies and bathwaters. Our room is full of bathwaters with alien babies, bathwaters with ghost babies, bathwaters with Big Foot babies, bathwaters with Aztec god babies, bathwaters with astrology babies, and eventually we reached a point of saying, “Enough!” Some of this bathwater had to go.

    Also, this is no irrevocable tossing. If someone was able to come along and demonstrate we threw out some bathwater with a baby in it, we can hop outside and get that baby and that bathwater and bring it back in.

    Tit for Tat: Isnt one of the things you dont like about "Fundies" is there claim to being absolutely right?

    Oh my no. It is an extremely human trait to believe oneself to be right. Even “absolutely” right. Fundamentalists are no different in this regard than…say…alien believers or sports fanatics or golfers.

    If there is anything I don’t like about fundamentalists is how some of them misrepresent what I say, not to mention a proclivity to dishonesty. Curious—wouldn’t expect those who hold to Truth with a capital “T” to engage in so much lying—yet there it is.

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  10. Dagoods.........I see why you have the goods.

    "It all appears very unorganized. Evolution does not follow some organized straight path. Species come and go, becoming extinct."

    When I look down on an ant hill, it all looks so unorganized also. Though we do now have the insight into what is going on, I wonder, is it not possible that we are the same as the ant hill, but we havnt had enough time to see how the disorganization actually organizes?


    Hmmm. Bathwater....bad analogy... I just wonder how a wonderful intellect such as yours remained a committed Christian as long as you did, Only to discard it and have no belief whatsoever??

    Im not sure whether or not I am right in my belief all I know is that I believe something created me, and my mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, cells, dna, atoms, quarks, etc..... Why, who the fu.. knows. I cant prove what I believe, but the thing is you cant prove it wrong either. Religion is easy to prove right or wrong, it leaves itself open for that. Once you quantify your beliefs, you automatically leave your ideas open for scrutiny. I just have a sense, a feeling, hmmmmmm.....an intuition that something more is going on than we can see, touch, taste, or even measure. Lol, but then again, who knows maybe Im Bi polar.

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  11. Tit for Tat: There are a lot of problems with your attitude towards epistemology.

    Granted: it is not absolutely certain that it's completely impossible for any being to exist that even remotely resembles every different conceivable interpretation of "God".

    Therefore God exists.

    Or, at least, belief in God is not totally, completely, absolutely, utterly, hopelessly stupid without any conceivable hope of intellectual redemption.

    That's not a very high bar. Is that the best you aspire to?

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  12. barefoot bum

    Wow... all I could think of was Holy fuck batman?? Where did I ever say my idea of creator/energy/god was a being??

    Talk about putting words in my mouth(other than fuck you for insinuating Im stupid). You may have a gift for being much more literate than I do, but please dont insult me for no apparent reason, other than your not liking my view on this world.

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  13. T4T: I apologize for making unwarranted assumptions regarding the fine details of your ontological account, whatever that might happen to be. I was focused on your epistemic errors, and I used "being" in a loose, generic sense.

    Let me amend my statement:

    Granted: it is not absolutely certain that it's completely impossible for any statement to be true that even remotely describes every different conceivable interpretation of "God".

    Happy now?

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  14. other than fuck you for insinuating Im stupid

    This is Dagood's blog. If you want more than insinuations, you'll have to comment on my blog.

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  15. Tit for Tat: I just have a sense, a feeling, hmmmmmm.....an intuition that something more is going on than we can see, touch, taste, or even measure.

    I cannot improve on Carl Sagan (when asked “But what is your gut feeling?”):”But I try not to think with my gut. If I'm serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble.”

    As for anthills--we look at clouds and see dragons, ships and two-headed sheep. Does that make them designed? Of course not! As humans we attempt to make rationale sense of the world about us, and part of doing that includes looking for repetitions. We look for things observed before so reiterate and repeat that “thing”—thereby allowing us to obtain consistency. (Think of items such as language, how we repeatedly recognize “A” or “lol.”)

    In doing so, we cannot help but look for a process of repetition. That process results in what our mind considers “design.”

    Remember learning photosynthesis? And the cute little charts we made with CO2 going in and O2 coming out? Does the plant cells really have a little conveyor belt with the molecules moving along, sunlight and water doing their part at the appropriate stations, and then, as night falls, the conveyors come to rest with the molecules waiting their turn to be processed the next day?

    Nope. But in order for us, as humans, to understand it—we chart it out in such a manner so that it looks like such a conveyor belt. Is it designed—or is it our way of describing what happens?

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  16. Dagoods

    "But I try not to think with my gut. If I'm serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble.”

    Now now, I used the word intuition, not gut. Intuition I clearly know originates in my brain.

    I see you didnt touch on my anthill idea. As far as clouds go, I am actually somewhat aware of the different types there are and how they affect our weather. They do seem haphazard at times but there is a pattern to them. Usually if Im imagining something in them, it would be ice cream.
    All Im trying to point out is that when I look at the world I see many things fit, I also see many that dont, but is that because they actually dont fit or is it because I am not aware or learned enough on the purpose of everything. I truly believe its all inter connected and we will continue to evolve and learn about how, but it all comes back to the same thing for me. In my mind something started it, and my view of that something is that it has intelligence. This belief I feel is totally reasonable and logical. And for lack of a better word I will just call it, Creator.

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  17. Sorry, Tit for Tat, I thought you were using the anthill as a demonstration of looking for design in the universe.

    So if I am reading you correctly, you are saying the universe does NOT look designed (much like an anthill looks disorganized) but we haven’t had enough time to see that it really IS designed? Do I have that correct?

    Then why would it be absurd (your word) to say no designer exists? If that is what it looks like?

    What is the difference between a “gut feeling” (as we poetically understand it) and “intuition”?

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  18. Dagoods

    Not sure where I used the word absurd, but hey sometimes I do ramble.
    As far as design goes, on an intial look much of the Universe seems to be disorganized. When we dig a little deeper though it seems much more cohesive than what we would first believe.

    Gut feeling and Intuition are pretty much synonymous. I believe we are hardwired with intuition. The challenge is(in my opinion) it doesnt come with 100% clarity. Again, my opinion, I think the Universe is very organized, I just think we havnt figured out(with absolute clarity) its organization yet.

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  19. Intuition and scientific thought: "When taken out of its original context, it is misleading to rely solely on an intuition; we must employ the more rigorous methods of conscious science."

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  20. Specifically: Of all the things with directly known provenance, we see certain characteristics that arise only from human planning and execution. The only time we see stones in a circle, when we saw how they got there, a human being put them there for a teleological, intentional reason.

    It is therefore intuitive when we see many of those same characteristics in things — i.e. living organisms — without a directly known provenance that we hypothesize a human-like teleological, intentional purpose.

    And let's be blunt and explicit: We do in fact see characteristics in living organisms (i.e. things whose provenance is not directly known) that, in things whose provenance is known, we see only in human artifice.

    But we are taking our intuition out of its original context. Our intuition applies to things with known provenance, and we're applying our intuition to things with unknown — radcially unknown — provenance. Therefore we cannot at all rely on our intuition to be veridical, i.e. to have truthful content.

    And what we see when we apply the scientific method, a conscious, rigorous mode of thought, is that not only is there a simpler explanation than human-like teleological intention for the appearance of living organisms (nonteleological evolution), but that even without a simpler alternative, the telelogical hypothesis fails of its own weight.

    David Hume — preceding Darwin by a century — offered the decisive argument: there are features of living organisms that a supposedly "intelligent" designer would have to be radically, fundamentally, preternaturally un>intelligent to have created.

    The only ways to "rescue" the intelligence hypothesis are to ignore the evidence; retreat into mystery (and a mystery is, by definition, the opposite of an explanation); or c) hypothesize an "intelligence" so unhuman, so unlike our only concrete instance of intelligence we have yet observed, that it becomes impossible to understand what we actually mean by "intelligent".

    Is there a "creative force" in the universe? Of course: non-teleological randomness. Randomness is nothing but creative force. Is there a "destructive force" in the universe? Again, yes: non-teleological physical law. Does the interplay, the dialectic, between between these creative and destructive forces account for what we actually observe? The efforts of thousands of scientists over fifteen decades shows that this account fits incredibly well.

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