6 votes

Free Thought and Atheist Gurus

I know all about free thought. I am free thought.

I don't remember ever having strong belief in God, even as a child. As soon as I reached the age of thinking, 12 for me, I felt absolutely no restraint from a religious direction and devoured whatever information I could get my hands on regarding the ultimate questions.

At first that meant just finding whatever encyclopedia entries on physics, relativity, etc. Whatever was at arm's length in those pre internet days that seemed to hold the promise of truth.

I spent a lot of time in mall book stores in the science section, looking for ultimate truths if there were any to be had. There was not even a hint in my upbringing that would point me toward religion or God for answers, and so I gravitated toward Physics, hoping to find answers.

I don't claim any special aptitude or deep understanding of the popular level physics I read, but I was well on my way to adopting the atheist position as my default simply because God was not mentioned as anything intellectually serious anywhere in my searching. To me God was just a made up person, and had no explanatory value.

I never heard of any logical or intellectual arguments for God's existence, and never knew such a thing existed. There is just no information on that kind of thing available to a regular, non religious child. Public education, popular media, television, science books, all more or less assume atheism.

I was a comfortable atheist for over 15 years, not giving it much thought as a controversial matter, and simply enriching and coloring in my atheism with reading on biology, evolution, and science.

I spent my time and mental energy exploring every other area of contention and controversy -- my true passion -- and especially political and historical controversy, with a free open mind and the strongest stomach for unpalatable Truth I've ever come across.

I have a contrarian bent that delights in discovering and embracing unutterable truths, and so if I ignored the debate over theism, it was because I didn't know it existed.

I accepted naturalistic atheism and all that it implied about human beings, about biological and cosmic evolution, the subjectivity of human morality, the frailty of human intellect, and took them all to their logical conclusions. I still had no conception whatsoever that intellectual arguments for and against theism existed and have raged for millenia. The age old question of the primacy of mind or matter was outside my secular radar.

When I finally discovered that such arguments existed, it was a long time before I accorded them any respect or attention as worthy of my time. When I entertained them, it was just for my entertainment, and to get my fix of intellectual bloodsport, watching people debate.

I had already adopted a more or less neutral view of religion by this time, realizing that it played its role in social and cultural life, and while it wasn't for me, I considered that to be my privilege as a free thinker. I realized that the big questions are really beyond answering, and at some point you have to opt either for skepticism or faith. That millions of people less endowed than me should opt for a comforting faith and community of belief was no offense to me.

You can never know, so you have to either accept God as the ultimate answer, or else maintain a posture of permanent skepticism, and bear all the heavy weight of that skepticism your whole life, holding off all the temptations and comforts offered by a final answer, and the peace it brings.

I accepted that some people throw in the towel earlier than others and that atheism was a privilege of the few, requiring intellectual strength and hardiness.

But finally I actually started listening the the strongest proponents of theism and their strongest arguments, and realized that the matter is far from settled, and that there are powerful philosophical arguments for God, and also powerful defeaters for belief in naturalism, not least of which was the requirement that you adopt a total skepticism of all our reasoning and thinking faculties on a belief system where the mind is formed haphazardly for survival.

Anyway, the matter is far, far from settled and there are powerful arguments and evidences on both sides.

What strikes me now as interesting and strange is how people in the supposed free thought circles like Kokesh or Molyneux don't even seem to realize or acknowledge that this biggest of all questions is not even remotely answered and maybe can't be answered.

To try to steal from the individual this deepest of all questions, the answer to which changes everything else, is shameful. For people who claim to champion freedom, free thought and free conscience to try to impose their conclusions on the biggest question of all betrays a total lack of respect for their followers as free and equal minds. Their need for their followers to adopt their atheism also reveals a monumental intellectual insecurity (quite justified) in their rickety faith in atheism.

Their assumption that free thought means believing there is no God is completely unjustified and narrow minded.

Its almost as if they don't realize that there is a world -- a universe and a reality, time and space, and living minds -- that has absolutely no explanation, is mind boggling in its existence, and just cries out with its absurdity.

Even with all the best modern science, and all its success in describing the physical world in mathematical terms, there still not even a ghost of an understanding of why and how anything at all exists. Physics does not even touch this question and can't. It can't go beyond the physical world, and doesn't attempt to. There is no ultimate scientific explanation for anything. All science terminates and must terminate with a giant question mark.

While we should all engage in the search for answers with the scientific method and its best tools, we need not abandon the inner search for answers in our own minds, with our own reason, our own mental and spiritual resources. Test tubes and laboratories are not the only possible source of truth, and to claim they are is to make a claim that cannot be proven logically, scientifically or otherwise.

Having some self appointed guru tell you that you have to believe the soul or God does not exist, in order to be free, is a blatant affront to the whole endeavor of individual free search and discovery. Denying that the great questions exist or pretending they've been answered is a rip off for all the young, curious minds, most of whom have never even been allowed to realize this question exists, and led to believe by default that our "scientists" have it all worked out, when they don't.

If there is any brainwashing going on, it is the lie that science has answered and understands the deep metaphysical questions of life. That claim is a fraud, a state sponsored lie, and is a pretense to knowledge that no one has.

Aside from a few self promoters and book hawking (pun intended) popularizers, most serious and sober minded physicists realize that science does not even begin to touch on the fundamental metaphysical (beyond physics) questions, and cannot by its nature.

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Existence exists!

There is a reason why it matters what you think on the subject and what those in power or in the majority think and believe.

If you study the era in which the religionists prevailed, which is to say The Dark Ages in Europe you will find that the issue was not a simple difference of opinion.

In those days, if you did not accept and practice the religious belief system, you were considered to be a heretic.

Heretics were subjected to torture by the INQUISITION and killed in great numbers.

Our society tolerates diversity and religious toleration extends to non believers as well.

Hated societies like the Soviet Union were and still are considered to be ATHEISTIC although their GOD was THE STATE and their LEADER.

Most religious people are benevolent but THEOCRACY is dangerous to those who do not share the theology of those in power.

Our tradition of religious toleration and the FIRST AMENDMENT advocacy of freedom of religion and separation of CHURCH and STATE so far ensures the freedom of those who were once considered to be HERETICS.

Our own heroes, Ron Paul and Rand Paul, are religious men who advocate that fertilized microscopic ova be considered to be PERSONS with all the rights of citizens. I hasten to add that in my view such ova are potential human beings not actual human beings and do not possess rights as long as they remain within their mother's womb.

I just want to point out that religions are dangerous despite whatever comforts on derives from a belief that one's dead loved one's continue to exist in an imagined afterlife where one will someday be with them again.

Who wouldn't want to believe that?

It doesn't make it so!

It is known as wishful thinking, a fairy tale for adults.

For those still searching for the truth I recommend:

Goerge H. Smith's Atheism:The Case Against God

Zsolt De Harsanyi: The Star Gazer
Thomas Paine: Common Sense: The Age Of Reason;
Richard Dawkins: The Blind Watchmaker; The God Delusion;
Christopher Hitchens: God Is Not Great
Sam Harris: The End Of Faith
Andrew Dickson White: History of the Warfare Between Science and Theology
in Christiandom, Fiat Money Inflation In France
David R. Montgomery: The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood
Paul Blanshard: Classics of Free Thought

The fact that intelligent life arose naturally within a universe devoid of a supernatural omnipotent Creator(s) makes the universe awesome and one's own life precious.

No Man's need constitutes an obligation on the part of another man to fulfill that need.

good post

Though I don't Think Stephan or Adam would want to stifle anyone's search of meaning. At least I haven't heard either one of the say anything like that.

I am a huge fan of open discourse, search for meaning, self-reflection, and open debate. I would just advise not to get bogged down in an obsessed search for certainty or theological mental masturbation. And remember, whatever you find is a result of the search, not necessarily the object of the search.

I have always though that if we are going to be open to the possibility of a God, why limit ourselves to monotheistic existentialism? I can imagine many other possibilities. Let's explore them all.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Yes. And now back to the

Yes. And now back to the things that really matter. Good food, books, drinks, music, people, and let's not forget laughs.... golden laughs.

Well Done Bill

It needed to be said.

Thanks my man, that it did.

Thanks my man, that it did.

I should go to bed...

BILL3 said something and it made sense.....

: ) ::Pours HVAC a drink::

: ) ::Pours HVAC a drink::

A living mystery

"...this biggest of all questions is not even remotely answered and maybe can't be answered."

I agree that it is presumptuous for one to think they know the absolute truth about such a thing. Both sides of the argument get defensive and discourse suffers.

Practicers of shamanism seem to agree that the world is a living mystery and cannot be fully understood. Personal experience seems to support this theory. I don't even think the Scooby-Doo crew can solve this mystery.

I always enjoy reading your thoughts!

Thanks, and same to you. I

Thanks, and same to you. I tend to agree the whole thing is a mystery, I remain on the fence and haven't yet cracked the nut... As I said in the post, the alternatives seem to be a continuous effort of skepticism or the "surrender" to faith. I'm not sure which is more difficult or more tragic, and who knows where any of us will end up before we take a dirt nap.

It is those who claim a definite knowledge either way who I find obnoxious... the religious who lack the courage of their faith, and so pretend there is some literal proof that doesn't require faith... and those who claim they know there is nothing besides physical reality, and pretend with vulgar cocksure bravado that there is nothing mysterious, and everything can be parsed with their god "Science." Not sure which group is more obnoxious, and I thank god or non-God I belong to neither.

Who gives a crap??

In the absence of a state you would be free to live amongst other like-minded atheists and leave the believers in God alone to believe as they do. This is only an issue in statist "democratic" places where mob rules...or appears to. Why must everyone believe the same things???

You believe that without

You believe that without government there would be no arguments?? Wow... Just wow.

Freedom in our lifetime! - fiol.us

Wow? Just Wow?

You are easily "wowed. I did not post yur ridiculous oversimplification. Arguments are no problem...until the force of the state makes one side or the other compulsory poicy. This crap is only on the DP to divide.

What?

Dude, you came into a thread where someone was sharing their opinions and attempting to have a reasonable discussion. You shat all over it, saying that nobody should give a crap, and that without government, it wouldn't a topic of discussion. You have nothing to add to the conversation, you're just saying the conversation shouldn't take place.

And then you brought violence and coercion into it. People like you are the ones who use violence and coercion to get what they want. The OP was having a conversation. He was using his words. Violence and coercion were specifically excluded from the discussion until YOU chose to initiate them.

Freedom in our lifetime! - fiol.us

Even supposing no one was

Even supposing no one was forced to believe anything, as is actually the present state of affairs, many of us would still be interested in discussing the ideas involved. So the answer to your objection "Who gives a crap" would be "Those of us interested in discussing the subject."

It is

NOT "the present state of affairs" at all.People are indoctrinated into state worship in the govschools. Today even Christians accept the supremacy of the state over the law of God.John Dewey asserted the need for a "civil religion" to be taught in "schools" to replace Christianity and a dumbed down population to serve the state as an educated, literate populace would not. IT IS ALL "RELIGION", whether you see it or not.
Continue trying to divide DPers and insult religious people, troll.

It is obvious to all that

It is obvious to all that you're the troll here. You come into a thread you have no interest in discussing and literally get mad at us for just having a conversation about it... there's no sanity in that.

Freedom in our lifetime! - fiol.us

The most satisfactory answers

concerning multitudinous questions about God, Creation and beyond, to me have been proffered by those who apparently have actually been there : http://nderf.org

When you spend your whole life without seeing evidence...

Bill, first of all, this was a very well-written essay. I enjoyed it, and it made me think. So compliments to you.

Now to the point of my post.

I think it is wrong to assume, presume, or conclude that some people "have their conclusions told to them by a guru" or from the words or mouth of another person; this is not correct.

Most people formulate their own conclusions, and do not depend on an author or source of conclusions. Our conclusions are internally reached, not ACCEPTED from an outside source.

----

Consider the topic of ghosts. (You could choose any "existence" topic you like; bigfoot, leprechauns, spirits, demons...)

If you spend your WHOLE LIFE never once seeing, feeling, experiencing ghosts. You are in THE ABSENCE of any reason to conclude there are ghosts surrounding you. You have gone your whole life not considering these things, ghosts.

So the "disbeliever" is not actually actively DENYING some conclusion; ie that ghosts are all around. He has actually just never once had a reason to consider "ghosts." Other than "ghost tales" told by others.

So the disbeliever does not "seek advice on denying ghosts;" he does not "credit the author that told him why ghosts don't exist."

So it is severely misleading, incorrect, and presumptive to say that "people credit an author for their conclusion."

----

On the other hand, when the disbeliever thinks "since everyone is telling these ghost tales, maybe I am missing out on the ghost party...." But then we see several old, and respectable people, that we have otherwise agreed with on most occasions. So that does have an influence on "understanding others have shared your experience, and have lived their long life of thought WITHOUT seeing a ghost."

----

Anyways, interesting post; I imagine this thread will be stormed with atheist/theist debate soon.

Your arguments here are valid

Your arguments here are valid for an experiential basis for belief in God.

But God is not an experiential conclusion only, but also a conclusion from deductive and inductive arguments. Did you not know that people had other reasons for belief in God than experience?

Ghosts, bigfoot, and leprechauns are different from God in an important sense. One of the most powerful reasons people have for deciding that God exists is because God is one of two possible explanations for the existence of anything at all.

Bigfoot or the tooth fairy does not hold a comparable position as being one of two possible answers to why anything exists. If there was no question why anything at all exists, then there would indeed be no need for a hypothesis of God. But there is such a question, and God is one of the two possible answers. The other answer is "Nothing," with a capital N, which is the atheist answer.

And of course "I don't know."

The atheist who says God does not exist is affirming a positive claim to knowledge, and is has affirmed that "Nothing" is the correct answer or explanation for existence.

I challenge that "God is an explanation."

A complicated topic; that has been hashed out thoroughly.

But I disagree with "god as an explanation."

Honestly, saying "Yahweh did it" is REDEFINING the LACK OF AN EXPLANATION!

I say: "I don't know, and will not claim to know!"
You say: "I don't know, therefore there exists an explanatory element, me and my friends call it Yahweh... Um therefore I DO KNOW, I have an answer to questions of origin; Yahweh!"

----

It is REDEFINING the phrase "I have no answer" as "Yahweh."

And then somehow feeling satisfied.

First of all, I don't say

First of all, I don't say that God did anything, or "Yaweh" as you flippantly call it. You seem to be adopting agnosticism, "I don't know," and then trying to defend atheism, "There is no god." Pick one, as the confusion is getting tiresome.

Second, calling God "yaweh" as an attempt to create a ludicrous connotation to the concept with the use of a personalized name from another language, rather than the standard "God," is a cheap debating tactic. If you don't believe in God, argue against god, don't resort to rhetorical devices like Yaweh or Zeus or whatnot.

Third, the fact that we don't know the answer doesn't mean we can't identify the possible answers. There are 3 possible affirmative answers and a fourth answer that is not affirmative, namely "I don't know."

The first possible answer is there is no explanation for existence, it just IS, it is a brute fact the details of which may require working out, but which ultimately will have no satisfying "Ahhh" moment where it all makes sense. This is atheism or naturalism; physical reality and existence just IS and has no explanation.

The second possible answer is that all reality and existence is rooted in a thing we call God which is a mind or being that is the source of everything else. I agree this still leaves lots of confusion about what this thing is or how it could exist in accord with our modern demands for material explanations. But since there has to be some ultimate answer, on any logical construct of reality, God is one of the possible answers. God is thus defined as a metaphysical necessity, something that is the ground for all existence and is the final answer to why anything exists rather than nothing. This may not be satisfying and may feel like mumbo jumbo, but it is no worse than the alternative 'Nothing.'

The third option is that all of these philosophical musings and demands are just the expressions of tired, strained and addled brains that evolved for survival and not for "truth," and therefore spazz out and glitch when "ultimate" questions are asked. That would be the third option: total skepticism of human cognitive faculties. The belief that our cognitive faculties are unreliable instruments and aren't meant to provide ultimate explanations, and that the reason these things don't make sense to us is because we are working with mental software that isn't equipped to understand ultimate realities.

The fourth answer is "I don't know."

So your contention that God is not a valid explanation is only true if you affirm position three. If our cognitive faculties are incapable of affirming any explanation of the mystery of existence, then God too would be incoherent. But to affirm three is to render all the previous thoughts and arguments moot, as they all derive from those unreliable cognitive faculties.

If you know of any other possibility besides these four, please share. And let us know which you believe.

Saying "GOD" explains it...

Is like saying "IDK" explains it.

It is renaming the confusion. It just pushes the question back another step.

What is the "origin of the universe."
It is "God."
What is "God?"
God is "The answer - to the origin of the universe."

----

Carl Sagan touched on this "pushing the question one step back."
Calling "god" the answer to a difficult question for which no answer will likely be soon readily available.

And when we ask. "What is the origin of god?"

Christians pull a trump card. They say "God is the thing that does not need explaining or questioning. HE JUST IS; PERIOD."

That is not honest.

----

If we say "Is it possible the universe JUST WAS forever, with no such thing as a beginning?"

Theists say "That is impossible, everything needs a beginning."
Atheists ask "Then did god have a beginning?
Theists say (trump) "God just is, he has no beginning." or
Theists say "God is the beginning."

In which case it is a semantic switch. Replacing the word "beginning with the word god."

----

Any number of questions posed by atheists fit this same bill:

"Who created god?"
"Where did god come from?"
"What is the origin of god?"

----

So while theists find it uncomfortable not to have a solid answer on "where did the universe come from."
Theists are not equally uncomfortable with the question "where did this god guy come from?"

----

I don't know if you value intellectual consistency.

But I do. And intellectual consistency is what I consider to be "integrity and honesty" in our thinking.

----

We cannot just create semantic switches to satisfy difficult questions.
We cannot create "special exemptions" in our rationality upon questioning.

That is dishonest.
That is what it means to lack integrity.

Disagree.

There is literally no possible way to determine a physical origin of the universe, because it's impossible to see or in any way, shape, or form replicate. It makes NO sense at all, and is a blatant violation of all reason, common sense, logic, and reality itself. The origin of the universe is -the- single most inexplicable event in the history of ever. Frankly, the only explanation that makes any kind of coherent sense is that [insert deity here] did it, because NOTHING ELSE fits the bill, and by logical necessity nothing else *can* fit. Thus, we're stuck with choosing between "I've got no idea and never will" and "[deity] did it."

In addition, Sagan apparently never spoke to anyone besides simpletons. True enough, God Is. But why do we say that? Because He is outside of time itself. You're attempting to apply physical rules to the Being that created physics and time itself.

Asserting that it's a semantic trick is dishonest, given that it's made abundantly clear that being outside of time itself is a fundamental aspect of God. Jesus spelled it out on a ridiculously easy level when He said, "Before Abraham ever was, I Am." God doesn't need a beginning because the concept of "beginning" is something that He created.

TL;DR - the beginning of the universe requires by logical necessity SOMETHING that is completely outside of the laws of physics and time itself. God is completely outside the laws of physics and time itself. Ergo, God did it.

Outside of time, outside of physics, outside of the universe

Try that with even a child:

Happy birthday, open your hand, here is your present.
What is it?
It is a $100 bill, happy bday.
I don't see anything.
This $100 bill is outside your vision.
I don't feel it or smell it.
This $100 bill is outside all of your senses.
In fact, this $100 is so special it is outside of time and even outside of reality. Happy bday.

----

If we were to DEFINE NON EXISTENCE:

Non-Existance: "That which is not within time, space, and reality."

Basically, god IS THE DEFINITION of "non-existance."

I am aware of this, but most people don't think it through that far.

I never said

outside of reality. Reality as we perceive it, sure, but God is real. So you've already sunk to putting words in my mouth.

Also, congratulations on literally making up a definition out of NOWHERE to suit your argument. That is not the definition of nonexistence. This is:

non·ex·is·tence (nŏn′ĭg-zĭs′təns)
n.
1. The condition of not existing.
2. Something that does not exist.

Which, incidentally, means you're also intellectually lazy. It took me all of thirteen seconds to look it up.

The real kicker? Us theists always get accused of being narrow-minded, but look what we have here! You refuse to even consider the idea of something beyond our understanding of science even when it's a logical necessity.

The videos are getting kind

The videos are getting kind of obnoxious. If you can't hang with your own arguments don't spam plz.

I plead the 1st

So you watched them? Good.

You may celebrate your annoyance however you like.

Hey now. You are a real

Hey now. You are a real person with a real name. I buy you a drink in spirit. As I said, I was 15 years an atheist, and still am highly doubtful. But I've come to realize the whole thing is so ridiculous and mysterious, that nothing is out of bounds. You must realize on some level that there isn't any neat, rational answer to the mystery of existence. You have to be open and ready to any craziness, even God.

Think about it with me. Rule God out entirely. If you really think it all the way through, you must agree that whatever the ultimate answer, it isn't any less crazy than God. Once you accept God is actually a possibility, the whole religion business seems less absurd.

Keep an open mind, but not so open that you lose sight of the fact that any answer is going to be a crazy answer. And in all likelihood, no answer is going to seem intuitively rational. Suppose God does exist. What are you going to do, argue with him? No, no..

I accept god as a possibility

In fact when I was younger I DESPERATELY WANTED to see what others saw. I was just waiting for that good reason, that good evidence. I thought there was something wrong with me, maybe something wrong with my vision or wrong with my way of thinking. So I searched, so I studied. And I heard every argument. Heard every apologist.

And all I found were unconvincing arguments; apologists trying to "create god merely through argument," apologists and priests appealing to wishful thinking, feelings of "hope," apologists and preachers appealing to "personal experiences," apologists and priests that praise "faith as a virtue..."

So I found myself even more entrenched in the "unconvinced" camp. But that does not mean "I have found my answer." I am probably looking for the answer more rigorously than people raised in the church.

But I have never denied some deity as a possibility. Neither have any atheists I have listened to. We are open to convincing.