-30 votes

To Christians and atheists on the DP

The primary purpose of this article is to show that many people on the DP are using the same words in their arguments, but are thinking of different meanings when using them.

Clarifying what meanings are intended will help to make discussion more civil. If you aren't sure that someone is thinking of the same meaning as you are, asking them about their definition could prevent a lot of hostility.

The secondary purpose is to lay out reasoning that leads to one conclusion: Personal beliefs change only in the long-term, and are not likely to be strongly influenced by what most people have the time and space to say in a few comments.

As such, we should recognize that fighting in the comments does a lot of harm, while very little else changes. It is better to hold long discussions about beliefs over private messages or email.

    A few of the things that I address below:
  • Meanings for "Evidence"
  • Meanings for "Faith"
  • Meanings for "Proof"
  • Meanings for "Science"
  • Illustration: Explanation of my beliefs
  • Requests that I make of the members of DP


Evidence

The moment the word "evidence" is mentioned, a big problem can occur. That's because there isn't one meaning of "evidence" that everyone uses.

Colloquially, people say "evidence" and mean "anything that leads a person to think that something is true", which includes things like feelings, personal experiences, and so on - which is how many theists often use it.

Some people also colloquially mean "scientific proof" - which is how many atheists often use it.

Formally, "evidence" means a proposition that has been demonstrated to be right. That is, it isn't reliant on consensus by the community of academic researchers, but it also isn't simply up to one's personal feelings or experiences. It has to be something that has been carefully scrutinized.

The difference between scientific evidence and colloquial evidence seems to be one of the reasons why there is so much fighting going on. Several people feel that only positive scientific proof constitutes a reason to believe something, while others feel that feelings, intuitions, and personal perceptions of events can constitute evidence.

It's beyond the scope of this letter to get into philosophy of science and philosophy of epistemology to show that no one has beliefs that are based solely on verifiable scientific facts, but I encourage all of you to look both subjects up on the internet. There are plenty of online encyclopedias of philosophy and theses written by great philosophers and theologians that are available for free.


Faith

It must also be understood that the colloquial meaning of evidence and the meaning of faith are not necessarily the same. This is another mistake that people make.

Faith has one definition, but can mean three things colloquially:

The definition: confidence (or belief) in the truth or rightness of some proposition or person's character

The colloquial meanings:

(1) adherence to a proposition as true in light of a great preponderance of evidence that is not necessarily conclusive

(2) adherence to a proposition as true despite there being no confirming scientific evidence

(3) adherence to a proposition as true due to colloquial evidence

When a person follows meaning #2 and adheres to a belief in the face of disconfirming scientific evidence, or to #3 in the face of disconfirming colloquial evidence they are given a clinical diagnosis.

That clinical diagnosis may be that the person has an "overvalued idea" - such as the belief that evolution is a set of scientific propositions that are lies pushed by public and private researchers in every discipline. This is demonstrably false (there is disconfirming evidence).

When the amount of disconfirming evidence is great and the adherence to a proposition is great, a diagnosis such as "delusional disorder" may be given. This applies to people who think that they are Jesus, Hitler, the Devil, and so on.


Proof

Some people also equate "evidence" with "proof". It's beyond the scope of my letter to get into philosophical discussion about topics like "degrees of certainty", but I'll address this quickly.

Though many people use the word "proof" in daily conversation, very few philosophers would ever say that there are universally agreed-upon conditions that, when met, would allow someone to say that they have "proven" something.

In other words, almost everything that people believe is always subject to being shown to be wrong in the future due to new developments - or can never be shown to be "objectively right" because we are limited by things like our reliance on inductive reasoning.

Some people use the word "proof" to mean "confident without a doubt" about something. But not leaving any room for doubt is a really foolish idea. We don't have to be certain without doubt in order to believe something - we can be more confident in our beliefs as we get more evidence for them, and less certain of them (or more certain of alternatives) as our supporting beliefs/evidential propositions fall apart or evidence for alternatives arises.

In fact, this is how humans operate. It's called the "web of beliefs".

On a side note, some people say "objective" colloquially to mean "something that no one can deny". Formally speaking, objectivity is impossible for reasons stated above (re: degrees of confidence and our limited ability to experience things in the universe).

What people should focus on are "inter-subjective" facts - things that everyone who has had roughly the same amount of in-depth experience (research, personal application, etc) agree on.


Science

Some people also get mixed up when speaking of "science".

Colloquially, people say "science" when they mean "generally the institutions that are regarded as scientific, and what the people in this institutions believe is true or is most important in determining what is true".

Others, when speaking colloquially, say "science" and mean "formal beliefs about what constitutes proper scientific processes" such as positivism.

Still others say "science" and mean "what most academics believe".

Formally, "science" means "the scientific method and disciplinary studies that employ it".

Science is not a thing that can be worshiped, just as atheism is not a belief about the world. Neither are a religion. A person who has dogmatic views about what science is or what atheists should do with their lives are simply dogmatists of their own intellectual or moral code.


Conclusion

Given all of the above noted possibilities of meaning, it makes little practical sense to say something like, "He is 'irrational' for having 'faith' when there is 'no evidence' for (or even 'evidence against') his belief." or "Only 'science' can provide 'objective' 'proof' about the things in our universe."

Rather, a good discussion must start with an agreement on the meaning of terms to be used.


My background

I am an atheist. More specifically, I identify as an agnostic atheist. I am also a philosopher, a psychologist, and a communication specialist - by saying which I mean that I have done academic research and presented professional work in all of those disciplines. I also was once a Christian and intended to be a minister. I studied with religious officials and scholars from several Christian denominations as I tried to find what I called "the true path to a moral and pious life".

I have also studied anthropology and world religions including Buddhism, Shintoism, Islam, and others.

I bring this up because I'm often asked "Why is this any of your business?". The answer is: I know the issues in great detail from personal experience, and want the conversations to be civil.


Illustration: Explanation of my beliefs

I believe that the universe has always been present in some form, that cosmological and biological evolution got the universe to this point, that there is no residual experience of life after the particles that compose one's body are separated, and that there only the material things exist.

Simply put, I am a naturalist and a materialist. I don't believe that spirits, ghosts, etc are words that reference things that actually exist - I think that they are words for things that people have created through storytelling.

However, other atheists may believe completely different things. They may believe in ghosts, reincarnation, a universal consciousness, and so on.

Being an atheist doesn't mean believing in some specific replacement belief, or that one doesn't believe in other specific things. If you tell me a ball is filled with mercury and I see no good reason to think that (and probably some reason to doubt it), it doesn't mean that I do or don't specifically believe that it is filled with sand, water, a combination of sand and water, lemonade, or nothing at all.

My views on these things are kind of like my views on having a roommate: I can't say that there is no possible way that I would find someone that I would like to room with, but I don't have sufficient reason to believe that there is someone - especially given what I know of my incompatibilities with the way other people like to live.

Said another way, I have a lot of "colloquial evidence" that suggests that I'm not likely to ever choose to have a roommate. I don't have "scientific proof" that I won't choose to have one under any circumstances, and I wouldn't claim to have it. I'm agnostic about the idea in the epistemological sense, but I really don't believe that it's going to happen.


Q&A and Requests

I'll end by answering two questions and making two requests.

Question #1: What would convince you to become a spiritualist - whether a deist, theist, or otherwise? (I get asked this all the time, either by people who are genuinely curious, or by people who are trying to make me say something stupid, like "There's nothing that could ever convince me.")

Answer: For me, it could only be a personal experience with something that I could not explain. Any retelling of the experience to people who can't relate would make me sound 'out of my mind', and I would be ascribed a mental disorder or something of the like by nonbelievers. This is similar to the answer given by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard.

Given that, I cannot look down upon anyone who says that they are a theist because of their personal experience.

Question #2: What caused you to become an atheist? (Also a big question, as some people really struggle with the idea that someone who is knowledgeable and was once very devout is now an atheist.)

Answer: Every core pillar of my theistic and deistic belief systems fell apart in the face of research and reflection. This includes historical texts, supernatural events, explanations of how the universe came to be and operates, divine revelation of moral laws, and - most importantly - the poor initial physical and intellectual conditions under which life originates [whether with reference to evolution or traditional creationism, and whether we're talking about the first human or a newborn].

In other words, a lot of evidence - colloquial and scientific - that many theistic and deistic claims and arguments are wrong (morally, logically, or factually) in the light of.

Request #1: Please post your responses to this article below, both so that I can edit in any oversights and so that this article can be read by others who have been caught up in arguments on these subjects.

Request #2: Please stop attacking each other in the comment sections of posts on the Daily Paul.

Those of you trying to convince others to change their beliefs aren't even going to be that successful by posting a handful of comments, anyway. Belief change is a long-term process that requires a lot of resources. It's one thing to correct a misconception about a single, simple idea (like what the word "atheist" means). It's another to try to get someone to change their whole worldview.


Thank you for your time.

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Religion is simply your belief system.

just as government is simply how we organize ourselves. as such it HAS to be based on something.
MOST people have no idea what they believe or why. I cannot tell you how many Pentecostals I have met who do not know what the Pentecost was... or Protestants who do not know what they are protesting...
and if a catholic does not know what the meaning of the word catholic is?
go ahead, try it yourself, find out the meaning of the terms, and then ask them. I bet you will be surprised.

To be fair

This site is also good for asking many atheists what "atheism" means. In some cases, it's just as bad.

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prove "us" right?

Who exactly is "us" ??? I will assume "us" would be the Atheists - in which case I must point out that the "fighting" on this thread is not between different religious faiths - it appears to be addressed to, and occurring between, Atheists and Christians. Which of course would put most of "us" (Atheists) in the heat of the fight. It takes "two" opposing views to argue.
I agree with your plea to stop the disagreement - but I find it odd that you feel it is the Christians doing all the fighting and the Atheists are simply trying to spread peace and goodwill. LOL
BOTH sides need to stop fighting and being divisive - don't you think?

Sense, Sanity, Security, & Survival.

Say,
To all SANE men and women who in-habit the Earth, that : "In this world of free thought and speech, what inhibits you from seeking, reciting, thinking, or mentioning about what your Creator-Lord has sent to you?" He sends His Messages and His Mercy to you in many ways, to your senses, and through known symbols. He even sent Messengers, sons of Adam, men like yourselves, to deliver, teach and follow the Guidance, noted carefully by scribes and friends.
Religions survive because Man has instincts, for survival, hunger, fears, also desires and inner quests, - now who can deny this vital need for Signs (of/for Guidance).
Satan, enemy of Adam's family, P'lays it$ vile tricks on these grounds.
Why do these governments with-hold The Ten Commandments for state law ? There should be no fear of His Messages, He Is The Most For-Giving, but always fear deviating from His Laws and getting in-jury from miss-takes, or incur wrath for dis'obedience.

There is nothing more dangerous than false religion.

A conflict

An atheist is a person who believes that God exist but for some reason isn't willing to give Him credit.. a conflict between the two parties.

For small appointed times the atheist can pretend that his atheism is true.. that, God doesn't exist. This simply gets the person out of the way.. the atheist is happy so the person thinks.. God is somewhat happy.. there, an agreement was made, consciously or nay, does it matter?

update - lots of fancy words (fancy written sentences) within your writing skill, even so, it's amusing.

No desire to convert you or anyone else for that matter.

Lets say that He doesn't exist

O.k., lets say that He doesn't exist.. So now, you can do what ever that you want?

The laws of nature still exist.. try cutting your hand off and see if it still causes pain.

Does he cease to exist because you say, "there is no God"? Or, does He change form.. what once you thought of God has changed into what now you think of God. Does this mitigate God's existence? As of nature: He is true to Himself and cannot deny Himself. Where does that leave you.. more intelligent than God?

As nature, facts are facts.. in simplicity, because you say that you do not believe these facts but insist of making your own, can it be done? As nature, some things are impossible.

It's OK

God doesn't believe in atheists either. ;-)

Freedom is my Worship Word!

No has taken it upon

No has taken it upon themselves to answer my list of questions I posted. I challenged anyone who believes in atheism and agnosticism to explain any of these questions: how nothing created everything;how the first living organism or amoeba evolved;if it did how it reproduced;who put the sun at the perfect distance from Earth; how the human eye and DNA evolved; where are the missing links?

Most of your arguments rely

Most of your arguments rely on "Can't explain it, therefore a supernatural entity that is omnipotent is the most logical explanation". This way of thinking goes further back than you think. Guess what? With every new development in the scientific community, this line of thinking grew smaller and smaller. Many things that were accredited to a supernatural entity were in time perfectly explainable by science. Your questions do have answers which you can look up.

Your first argument is really the most intriguing. What caused the Big Bang? How could nothing exist, and then suddenly everything? Well, one thing many people make the mistake of assuming, is that nothing existed at all before the big bang. There was nothing, not even complete, isolated darkness. Nothing. We cannot accurately tell whether this is true or not, because every observable moment of existence begins at the big bang. Time was birthed at this moment. The laws of physics were birthed at this moment. We don't know for sure that anything exists, ever existed before it, or even abides by our rules. Perhaps it is something we will never be able to explain, such as a supernatural entity. But the mere fact that it is seemingly impossible to tell should mean there really is no point arguing until we can accurately tell. Just because we don't know doesn't make a supernatural entity the most likely cause of existence. It is certainly a possibility, but you can't provide evidence to support it since it is literally impossible, and therefore can't be used as a plausible theory. Now, if we were to find out that a supernatural entity does exist, what makes you think we can know its characteristics? Why would it care about us? Why would it want to be friends, or care that we want to have homosexual sex? There is literally no way to tell that even if it is a conscious creator, what it's characteristics are, or if it even has any.

The human eye argument is a bit silly, if we are God's main creation, why was the eye so poorly created? And why is the horned owls's eye far more developed and complex than ours? Wouldn't God give his main creation a better set of eyes than a meaningless owl?

Atheists don't 'believe' in Atheism. Atheists are just skeptical of Theistic claims of which have no sufficient evidence to support.

I don't know where you posted, but

If you posted in the comments here, then I've already answered you. If you posted on another article, then I simply haven't seen it before.

1) I don't believe that "something came from nothing". I agree with the view that the universe has always existed in some form, just as energy and mass are always conserved. There is no true "nothing" and there never has been (to say that there has is to negate what is, which doesn't make sense).

2 & 3) You need to do some serious research on contemporary research on abiogensis.

4) No one put anything anywhere. Life evolved on Earth under the conditions of our planet just as other life has evolved elsewhere under other conditions. If stars didn't exist but there was a similar replacement that created the same conditions, we'd have evolved just the same. Our existence is coincidental. Your question presupposes that humans were somehow fated to exist.

5) Again, go do some research in biology.

6) This shows your lack of understanding of science and evolution. Do some research in biology, chemistry, and anthropology. The science that backs up evolution is also what we use to solve murders and missing persons cases.

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please stop feeding the trolls

pretty please

Official Daily Paul BTC address: 16oZXSGAcDrSbZeBnSu84w5UWwbLtZsBms
#standwithrand

Academics?

How can anyone consider the prospect that they are objective for the most part?

I.E. They are recruited and get paid by corporate universities lol

donvino

Study THIS!

http://www.godchannel.com

Have Fun!

Freedom is my Worship Word!

sharkhearted's picture

I agree. This is a good post.

All of the downvotes must be bleets....but in this time and day...what can you expect?

GOOD POST. I up-vote it...and thank you for caring to post it in the first place.

~Chris
Norfolk, VA

~Chris
Norfolk, VA

Time to INVESTIGATE the investigators of 9/11. PROSECUTE the prosecutors. EXPOSE the cover-up.

Thanks for the recognition

The minority of us who care about civility can make a difference even here, I think, if we take things gradually and calmly, and speak to people on an individual basis.

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So.... WTF?

How did this get so many down votes? I thought he made some very valid and interesting points. +1.

Atheist or believer... bottom line who the hell cares? Lets just all get along and get Ron Paul elected!!

Thanks for the support

I had been debating about just deleting most of my posts - or at least moving them to the off-topic area where posts go to die. If there are a few people who think that these posts doing some good, I'll leave them up.

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I agree. In short, the down

I agree. In short, the down votes are from biased Christians.

I'm a Christian...for anyone thinking otherwise.

Let's be fair

There are tons of hateful atheists who object to my insistence on being specific and not attacking people for having different beliefs or being ignorant.

There are also a few deists here who for unknown reasons react really negatively to atheists - like we're somehow offending them personally.

It might be because they feel like theists lump deists in with atheists; thus they don't want atheists around. Just a guess. They also might just think we're stupid, and they're immature.

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I concur with you there is no

I concur with you there is no ANTHROPOMORPHIC God as most people misbelieve the case to be. Since that definition is bogus and unfounded what would a truer definition be? Why waste time, effort and energy on pursuing something that is not valid? So I pursued other avenues, definitions and perspective - all without being dismissive, in denial or pretending I knew anything at all. Start from scratch I said. Did I mention I originally did not in any way shape or form believe in a Creator? As I experienced life I found there were too many anomalies in my life and others that I'd heard about (such as Cayce, power of mind over matter, psychocybernetics, etc.). These anomalies HAD to be accounted for else I'd be as every other brain-dead hypocrite. I pursued my research leaving no stone unturned in my ruthless pursuit of greater understanding. I presented my case (in svpwiki.com) in fine detail with supporting data and references. If "love" and "law" make no 'sense' to you then perhaps you can endeavor to find out why they mean so much to others and why I present them to you for judicious consideration instead of dismissing them out of hand? How can you possibly expect to have a greater 'sense' if you don't get out of your own box?

Misinterpretation

I didn't say that "law" and "love" don't make sense to me, I said that the statements "God is Natural Law" and "God is Love" don't make sense to me.

You continue to use words without really defining what they mean, and without those definitions, I can't understand what you're saying or evaluate the truth value of your claims.

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How about....

How about: Free Will is God's Will?

Freedom is my Worship Word!

None Of the Founding Fathers

That I know of were atheists. Most of them were some form of Christian denomination while some where closet deists (Some more open than others).

I personally like the discussion of religion myself. I don't mind hearing different opinions on religion. One Thing We ALL Need To Agree On is NONE of Us Know All The Answers I don't claim and never will claim to know it all and am 100% open minded to others thought whether I agree or disagree.

For full disclosure I am open all religions, I think every religion has something positive and helpful you can take from it. I don't think you have to be extreme in saying if you believe in a particular religion or train of thought that you have to believe everything. Whereas I don't claim one religion I tend to lean more towards the deistic thought.

Thanks for the civil response

I don't see what the founding fathers have to do with anything. The beliefs of good men do not tell us which beliefs we must have to be good men. Theists, atheists, and deists have all done good and amazing things.

I'm with you 100% on us being unable to say that we know the answers; that's why I pointed to personal experience - something we may never be able to explain well enough to others, even if we're right.

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I was just pointing out

the founding fathers weren't atheists. I did that because I saw others comment on the founding fathers below. I wasn't trying to insinuate that we need to emulate them in any way.

I'm not sure why discussion of religion is so taboo. Religion plays such a huge roll in peoples thought process and on their daily lives that I think we all should talk about it in a civil way.

It baffles me why people get offended the way they do on the subject of religion whether you're a believer or not. Especially since no one on earth really knows for sure the ultimate truth.

I think religion would be better served if everyone can agree that they do not know the answers. As simple as it seems that should be it is not a simple task at all. Maybe it is our stubbornness as humans, our ego, or just a lacking of simple logic that prevents us from having the ability to do something so simple as to agree on that. If everyone agrees (that we do not know the answers) then the discussion of religion becomes 100% easier to talk about.

Sense of the Sacred.

well said, I quote your 2nd para = "I'm not sure why discussion of religion is so taboo. Religion plays such a huge role in peoples thought process and on their daily lives that I think we all should talk about it in a civil way."

Religion is associated /linked to the sacred, therefore when there is offense against it then civility is lost, in most cases. pls see "Righteous Indignation" = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righteous_indignation
Quote = [[ Righteous indignation is typically a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment, insult, or malice. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice. In some Christian doctrines, righteous indignation is considered the only form of anger which is not sinful, e.g., when Jesus drove the money lenders out of the temple. (Gospel of Matthew 21) ]]

the above instance is about place /house, it could also be about words & names, e.g. blasphemy. The caller says = "Honored be Thy Name".

Nice summary

The sentiment of your comment is a good portion of the reason why I created this article.

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There is evidence when you know what to look for

I see a continuing statement that you have never seen any evidence of a Creator. I believe that might be because you are not seeing properly and are trying to fit some definition that is not true to what is. In my opinion Cayce said it best:

"Truth is the unalterable, unchangeable law, ever. What is truth? Law! What is law? Love! What is love? God! What is God? Law and Love. These are as the cycle of truth itself. He is the same yesterday, today and forever - unalterable. I Am That I Am. That is true." Cayce (3574-2)

If we presume Cayce is correct that God is Law (natural law) then He is evident everywhere we look because everything organizes according to natural law whether we look at atoms, plants, animals, planets or galaxies. If he is correct that God is Love we would infer that everything everywhere is in intimate contact with everything else everywhere. My video presentation presented the physics of how that is and works according to well known scientific principles.

http://pondscienceinstitute.on-rev.com/svpwiki/tiki-index.ph...

Part of my life's mission has been to prove God exists. I feel I have done that but for others to see and know this they would have to let go of all preconceived notions (step out of the usual boxes) and look with discernment and clarity at a new perspective. It takes time but yields a much greater awareness of these concepts.

Defining terms

"If we presume Cayce is correct that God is Law"

I don't. That doesn't make any sense to me.

"If he is correct that God is Love"

Also doesn't make sense to me.

"God", by the most simplistic definition that a large population uses, is a self-aware actor that created the universe or its initial conditions. It's not a word that can simply be thrown onto another word or concept, and then be said to be equivalent.

If you want to make a case for "God" by some other definition than these traditional ones, you'll need to first very clearly outline what you're talking about.

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Jordan Shaw

Please stop revisiting your own post every day and responding to someone's comment as a means to revive your own post on a regular basis.
And don't bemoan that you are only "initiating intellectual exchange" when you are in fact continuously bumping your own post. Over 40 of the exchanges on this particular post were made by you - usually when the post was about to (or had) dropped off the page.
It was revived once again (this morning) by you again. It is divisive as well as an impasse between believers and non-believers. I'm not going to debate "God" with you. Let me point out one simple issue...

This is a Ron Paul site. He is considered to be one of the most brilliant minds of today. He is a Christian. Nuff said. If you support and plan on voting for a Christian, why would you attack that person's personal faith and spend valuable time "s'plaining" to people why "Ron Paul" is wrong (or apparently not as intelligent as you). Dr.Paul simply considers his (and others) faith to be a personal issue and not a "debate" issue.
So should you. Respect people's beliefs - allow them their freedom of religion - and stop trying to debate, convert, prove wrong, etc. every person who does not believe as you.