Why I changed my mind


(Mark Moore) #21

My “blanket statement” about atheists is that when they say “there is no evidence for God” that they are disputing the validity of all claims to the contrary. And they are. If my brother-in-law says that God healed his crippled leg after a prayer service, they dispute that. If the Apostle Paul claims Christ talked to him on the Road to Damascus, they dispute that, and every other such claim, as well as the validity of all of the other arguments for God. That is what it means to be an atheist. That is the atheist position.

You are right, I don’t see what the reason for offense here is. OK, its a blanket statement. That “blanket statement” is 100% accurate so far as I can tell. You could Venn Diagram it. So are any absolute truth claims I make. How can we move forward if we are not willing to face up to the most basic implications of our chosen positions?


(RiderOnTheClouds) #22

How so?[quote=“Reggie_O_Donoghue, post:1, topic:37604”]
I feel as though eventually, as western countries lose their foundational values through secularism, we will inevitably turn to chaos.
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Didn’t you just get done saying that Liberty, Dignity, and Equality come from Christianity? Now you are arguing against those things?
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John Locke, usually held to be the father of liberalism, gained his ideas largely through biblical interpretation.

If by secularism you mean separation of church and state then I still support secularism in that regard, I’m not talking about political secularism, which is still the best system.


(Mark Moore) #23

Then you are more properly an agnostic.


#24

.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:21, topic:37604”]
My “blanket statement” about atheists is that when they say “there is no evidence for God” that they are disputing the validity of all claims to the contrary. And they are. If my brother-in-law says that God healed his crippled leg after a prayer service, they dispute that. If the Apostle Paul claims Christ talked to him on the Road to Damascus, they dispute that, and every other such claim, as well as the validity of all of the other arguments for God. That is what it means to be an atheist. That is the atheist position.
[/quote]

Atheists do tend to challenge all bare assertions since we are skeptics at heart. We also tend to challenge things like homeopathy and the claimed links between vaccines and autism. When we say that we doubt something is true we are not saying that someone is liar. We are asking for evidence.

The problem is when you tell other people what their position is, and that isn’t their position You might want to check out the American Atheists website which has a description of what atheists are (and I give it my personal seal of approval).


(Stephen Matheson) #25

These kinds of statements are just epic arrogance, made worse by inaccuracy. I guess you are comfortable telling other people what they believe. Own that.


#26

No. I am an atheist. Atheism and agnosticism are two different things, not rungs on the disbelief ladder.

"Agnostic isn’t just a “weaker” version of being an atheist. It answers a different question. Atheism is about what you believe. Agnosticism is about what you know."
reference


#27

Other people in other ages interpreted the Bible and came up with things like theocracies and Inquisitions. Divine Right is a Christian concept used by royalty for ages. People read in the Bible that you are not to worship other gods or idols, so they outlawed other religions. In Christian society there were centuries of religious tests and official government religions, both of which run counter to liberalism.


(Mark Moore) #28

But isn’t that what is happening to Reggie’s statements on this thread? Isn’t that how it all got started here? People were trying to tell him what he meant by his saying something.

Words mean things. No matter how they try to crab-walk away from it, the atheist position is that there is no valid evidence for God. Of course that is a tough position to defend rationally, so they are moving the goal posts to a definition which does not distinguish between atheism and agnosticism. If they are actually agnostics then they should own that. If they say there is no evidence for God, they should own that.


(Mark Moore) #29

Enlighten me as to how that definition does not also 100% apply to an agnostic.


#30

Agnosticism is a statement about what we know or can know. Atheism is a statement about what you believe or don’t believe. There is a tradition of Christian Agnosticism:

“They hold that it is difficult or impossible to be sure of anything beyond the basic tenets of the Christian faith. They believe that God exists, that Jesus has a special relationship with God and is in some way divine, and that God should be worshipped.”

Agnosticism attempts to answer the question of what we can know about gods or the supernatural. Atheism is about a person believes or doesn’t believe about gods. Two different but often interrelated things.


#31

I think I’ve mentioned the militant agnostic bumper sticker: “I don’t know, and neither do you!”


#32

Agnosticism and Atheism are not cures for psychological projection. :wink:


(Mark Moore) #33

From that website:
“To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”

It is not at all clear. At least to me. You either believe or you don’t believe. A “lack of belief” is disbelief. This smacks of rhetorical word games which I for one don’t have time for. Especially when they also distinguish it from Agnosticism which rules out the only other available position - you are not sure whether or not you know enough to believe one way or the other. It is hardly a different category for rational people because what they believe is connected to what they know. They are not divorced categories.

And of course they admit that they are foisting a new definition for the word. Which is not wrong in itself- they have every right to define themselves and not submit to definitions of others- unless they are going to play these kind of word games with definitions. In that case, if they won’t define what they believe in a way that is logical and consistent then the rest of us are within our rights to point out what a logical consequence of their position is. If they don’t like it, they need to be more forthright when defining themselves.

Ironically, the site encouraged people to own the label, which is kind of what I am saying here with the implications of what is attached to the label. Let’s just be radically honest and own the obvious inferences of our label. They want to own the label, but then make the meaning attached to the label as squishy as jello. Weak.


(Mark Moore) #34

It didn’t used to mean that. Why is it that atheists are in charge of redefining words now? It used to mean that one did not know if any God or gods existed. Now as @beaglelady pointed out in her bumper-sticker remark there is a class of agnostic which attempts to tell other people what they can or can’t know. That category of agnostic would fit your definition, but it is only a subset of the larger category of people who don’t know whether or not God exists. So there are ordinary agnostics who say “I don’t know” and ornery agnostics who say “I don’t know and neither do you” but they are both classes of agnostics and neither is atheists except by this crab-walking definition which makes things _less clea_r rather than more clear as honest definitions are supposed to.


#35

The best analogy I have found is a court of law. At least in modern western democracies, you have to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that someone is guilty. You don’t have to prove that you are innocent when there is no evidence demonstrating that you are guilty. It is up to the prosecution to present evidence, and lacking such evidence the defendant is found not guilty.

At the same time, if a jury finds the defendant not guilty they are not necessarily saying that they are innocent. They are simply saying that the prosecution has not met the burden of guilt. The same applies to atheism. It is up to those who claim that gods exist to demonstrate that this is true. In fact, it applies to all positive statements about what is true, that the person making the positive claim has the burden of proof to support the claim. At the same time, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, just like someone found not guilty is not necessarily innocent.

To use another example, I don’t believe that there is currently a purple Dodge parked next to my car in the parking lot. I don’t necessarily disbelieve it either since there really could be a purple Dodge parked next to my car in the parking lot. Not believing and disbelieving are not necessarily the same thing.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:33, topic:37604”]
And of course they admit that they are foisting a new definition for the word. Which is not wrong in itself- they have every right to define themselves and not submit to definitions of others- unless they are going to play these kind of word games with definitions. In that case, if they won’t define what they believe in a way that is logical and consistent then the rest of us are within our rights to point out what a logical consequence of their position is. If they don’t like it, they need to be more forthright when defining themselves.
[/quote]

"The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.

Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ* community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation."
American Atheists

The only thing that makes us atheists is that we lack a belief in. Atheism isn’t defined by what people do believe in.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:33, topic:37604”]
Ironically, the site encouraged people to own the label, which is kind of what I am saying here with the implications of what is attached to the label. Let’s just be radically honest and own the obvious inferences of our label. They want to own the label, but then make the meaning attached to the label as squishy as jello. Weak.
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They don’t want people to shy away from identifying as Atheist because of the false notions and false claims that people make about atheists, such as those you are pushing. They want atheists to engage with other people who have wrong ideas about atheists and atheism, which is what I am doing.


(Mark Moore) #36

You are describing agnosticism as it was defined in every dictionary I ever read through the years. You don’t know.

So they don’t necessarily believe the suspect was innocent but they do have an opinion on whether evidence exists to establish their guilt: They disbelieve that the standard has been met. Or to put it another way, they lack the belief that the evidence is convincing. Again, the question of ‘well maybe they did the crime but there is no evidence to establish that’ fits better with agnosticism as it has been defined for my whole lifetime (until very recently it seems). On the question of whether or not the evidence is sufficient there is not agnosticsm, there is atheism- they lack the belief that it is sufficient, IOW they disbelieve.

I again protest that these new definitions make things less clear whereas proper definitions are supposed to make things more clear, unless they are a rhetorical device rather than a tool to find truth.


(John Dalton) #37

[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:34, topic:37604”]
It didn’t used to mean that. Why is it that atheists are in charge of redefining words now? It used to mean that one did not know if any God or gods existed. [/quote]

That’s what it still means, but what’s the difference from what Taq said? From the Greek roots, it means not knowing more or less. One could be agnostic with regards to any issue (it’s in the dictionary). But the most common meaning is indeed “not knowing if God or gods exist.”

Now as @beaglelady pointed out in her bumper-sticker remark there is a class of agnostic which attempts to tell other people what they can or can’t know. That category of agnostic would fit your definition, but it is only a subset of the larger category of people who don’t know whether or not God exists. So there are ordinary agnostics who say “I don’t know” and ornery agnostics who say “I don’t know and neither do you”

I believe the intent of the bumper sticker and beaglelady’s comment were tongue-in-cheek.

but they are both classes of agnostics and neither is atheists except by this crab-walking definition which makes things less clear rather than more clear as honest definitions are supposed to.

A label for a person that does not accurately define their position is worse than useless. A definition in this area that did not make clear the difference between knowledge and belief would also be lacking, and would make things less clear.

To wit:

An agnostic does not know if there is a God or gods.

An atheist does not believe that there is a God or gods.

I don’t believe so, so I am an atheist. I modestly do not claim to have complete knowledge of all facets of our reality, and so I am in general agnostic as to the question of what things definitely do not exist in reality. You’ll love this I believe–that makes me an agnostic atheist:


(Stephen Matheson) #38

Agnosticism has been defined pretty clearly since at least the 1860’s. The first definition of agnostic in the OED is: “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of immaterial things, especially of the existence or nature of God. Distinguished from atheist n.” Note this usage from 1880: “Bp. Fraser in Manch. Guardian 25 Nov. The Agnostic neither denied nor affirmed God. He simply put Him on one side.”

You probably believe that you read these things in dictionaries, but you didn’t. The silly notion that agnosticism is “atheism lite” is probably a modern simplification, perhaps even invented by religious apologists seeking to disparage skepticism as you do.

To see how ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’ are getting at distinct concepts, entirely, just look again at the roots of both words. One is about knowledge. The other is about gods.

The problem is not that anyone has redefined a word. The problem is that you misunderstood a word, and somehow came to believe that your belief about agnosticism was delivered to you by a dictionary.


#39

Yeah, it did.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:34, topic:37604”]
Why is it that atheists are in charge of redefining words now? It used to mean that one did not know if any God or gods existed.
[/quote]

Why are atheists in charge of defining their own position? Because that is how language works.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:34, topic:37604”]
So there are ordinary agnostics who say “I don’t know” and ornery agnostics who say “I don’t know and neither do you” but they are both classes of agnostics and neither is atheists except by this crab-walking definition which makes things less clear rather than more clear as honest definitions are supposed to.
[/quote]

It only lacks clarity because you are unwilling to let go of false definitions instead of listening to people who are actually atheists.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #40

Absolutely, but that doesn’t change the fact that Christian ideas do form the foundation for many of our moral values.

This video is arguably the one which woke me up:

https://youtu.be/wwi9Q9apHGI