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Why Atheism is NOT a Religion

As those of you who read the ‘Kog regularly know, I am an avowed atheist. Some of my compatriots, including our Fearless Leader, are also of an atheistic bent. As such, and in the spirit of enlightenment that hangs over my writings like stale cigarette smoke, I would like to explain something to you.

I read constantly about people who assert that atheism is a religion or belief system that can be equated with any other – this view has been particularly prevalent of late, what with the recent kerfuffle about Metro Transit’s refusal to allow atheist-related signage on their bus fleet here in Halifax.  Some assert that the link is clear between atheism and other belief systems, and that it is considered a religion under U.S. law.  Well, the law can be, and often is, wrong. As interpreted by human beings, a lack of a full understanding as to the nature of a given subject can result in oversimplification and error of conclusion, for example:

Some Atheists, for their own political reasons, assert that Atheism is not a religion but instead is the total absence of religion. This allows them to spread their Atheistic beliefs freely in societies which insist on “separation of church and state.”

But this is like saying that “black,” (which physicists define as the total absence of color) is not a color. A few years ago, the car I drove was a big, old Chevrolet, whose color was black. In common practice throughout the world, “black” is understood to be a color, despite the technical definition of the physicists. Likewise, “Atheism” is a religion, despite any technical definitions to the contrary.

If black is a color, then Atheism is a religion.

In addition to such religion/atheism associations, there are more disturbing associations, such as  the association of atheism with the mass murders of historical record. Again, an emphatic no – a misunderstanding, willful or otherwise, results in this conclusion. I’m here to attempt to set the record straight.

I would define religion as a system of beliefs that depend on revealed wisdom from a supernatural source. Often, rituals are built that reinforce the shared approach to and understanding of the revealed wisdom. The beliefs are shared through adherence to these rituals and common belief in the accuracy or ‘truth’ of a particular supernaturally-based worldview. Adherents of a particular religious tradition ‘know’ that what they believe is the truth because it has been presented by a deity and reinforced through the deity’s representatives.

Conversely, an atheist believes what he knows to be the truth because there is ample evidence to support the belief, and that’s the key issue – not belief, but the reason for that belief, which is evidence. An atheist does not succumb to the intellectual trap of believing solely based on authority, and certainly would not adhere to a system of beliefs based on the word of earthly representatives of a supernatural force. I wouldn’t assert that atheists don’t believe in anything – I for one am optimistic about the ability of my fellow humans to be charitable and kind to one another, and I see evidence of that every day. They don’t believe in a doctrine that demands supplication and obedience in exchange for a reward after death. The promise of post-life reward is meaningless – I’ll be dead, and so will the individual who promised me this signing bonus.

The key concept is faith, not belief. Faith allows a person to accept revealed wisdom as truth without the necessity of evidence. Evidence (or science, if you will) is the antithesis of faith, the proof that nature works in a certain way that does not require supernatural intervention. Any assertion that a congregant can make for evidence of revealed religious truth can be countered by alternative explanations that are consistent with the applications of the laws of physics as mankind knows and understands it. If given the choice between ‘trust me’ and ‘here’s the proof’, I will always choose the latter. Atheism does not require faith, it requires only consideration of a series of interlocking theories and postulates about how the universe works that explains the operations of said universe elegantly, efficiently and logically. No ghosts required. The addition of the concept of divinity to everyday events complicates them needlessly. The simplest explanation is what’s right in front of you. Atheism is the absence of faith – a refusal to believe without evidence.

I absolutely do not know what happens to a person after death beyond the biological process of decay, nor do I expect we will have an answer to that – you can’t exactly ask. What I do know with some certainty is that, based on my understanding of physics, biology, chemistry, and so on, I will not have an immortal part of me represented by an indefinable energy source relocate to a place where all the good folk (or bad folk) before me have also gone, where I would ‘live’ for eternity. No proof, no faith, no chance. To me, that is a fantasy created by someone who is squeamish about dying and likes to think they’ll be up and around playing tennis among the clouds rather than nourishing the soil. My truth works better for me. Sure, I’d rather not die, but I recognize it as inevitable, and that makes me more aware of how important it is to leave a legacy, be it children, a work of art, fond memories of close friends, what have you. I cherish each and every one of my close friends and my family because I know that someday they, and I, will be gone.

Which brings us (sort of) to morality – the moral code, if you will. I absolutely resent that someone thinks I am morally lacking because I refuse to prostrate myself before a god or goddess and act according to received doctrine. I would consider myself to have a very strong morality, in fact. I have volunteered extensively, I have friends for whom I would do pretty much anything and for whom I would give everything to protect – and all without the promise of a grand prize behind door #2.

The linking of historic genocides to atheism reflects an ignorance of history, or atheism, or both. Just as an example, Hitler had no intention of creating a state without religion – in fact, he wanted to replace established European religions with re-treaded versions of Norse mythology that ‘proved’ that Germany was home to the Master Race. The German Volk would not be religion-free, but would bow to the religion imposed by the state. In all other cases of historic genocides, and in cases of smaller conflicts, the problem is not an immorality bred by a lack of religion, but an immorality bred by the desires of some to be the object, or the benefactor, or the representative of the people’s religion. Morality is not the exclusive possession of the pious, it exists in all of us, and in all of us it can be twisted into greed and hatred.

I am not in need of ‘saving’ from my happy, contented life. I do not need a do-over by being ‘born again’. I own my mistakes and have learned from most of them. If I can be confident, secure and happy in my life, and enjoy the fellowship of others based on what I can see and feel rather than building layer upon layer of doctrine to explain it based on the existence of a supernatural force, who can say I’m wrong?

‘There is probably no god’ is as accurate a statement from my perspective as ‘the sky will be blue tomorrow’ (depending on the weather forecast, of course). There is no evidence to support the existence of a deity, and I don’t need to set aside some karma for when I die. I want to be remembered for who I was, what kind of a man I am, rather than how closely I stuck to the ‘script’, how well I could ignore proof that contradicted my beliefs, or how many ways I could sing the praises of an apparently insecure deity.

Atheism is not a religion, and not a measure of faith. It is a confidence that things are what they seem to be, and a resolve to avoid falling victim to superstition. It is a commitment to influence the here and now rather than a desire to ensure a place in a mythical afterlife. It is a respect for others, not a lens through which to judge others and find them wanting – in fact, it is a way to find the true potential in others, if they would only take off the philosophical training wheels.

It may be a worldview that is unpopular, and sometimes intellectually demanding, but it is ultimately more rewarding, because it recognizes the importance, or the primacy, of life, of friendship, of kindness and of love – for one another, not for structures, official representatives of a higher power or for scriptures.

Keep your gods, I’m good. Or at least, I try to be.


79 thoughts on “Why Atheism is NOT a Religion

  1. Really well. We all appreciate the desire that people have to find truth. Few remarks though. (These remarks come from a genuine desire to know what truth is)

    1) It seems that the problem becomes a problem of definition. At the end of your post, you do mention that atheism is a “worldview.” Well, I am curious to know, how is that different than when someone say: A Christian worldview, a pagan worldview, a scientific worldview, a atheist worldview… isn’t that just other ways to look at reality?

    2)Another problem of defintion. You say, “Atheism is the absence of faith – a refusal to believe without evidence.” Well, it seems to me that some religion actually tries to find evidence to validate their beliefs. Examples in Christianity are: the search of the historical Jesus, the search of evidences for the empty tomb, the search of historical evidence in the ancient writings about Jesus (in and outside the Bible)… I think that a lot of religious people actually believe in God, because of “evidences.” Then, how can we measure those evidences is another question.

    3) You seem to base your evidence on what science say. It is rather ironical that the measure for truth and evidences becomes only science, knowing that modern science itself came out of a Christian worldview. (See Michael Foster’s thesis on the rise of science).


  2. At risk of having a shoe thrown at me:

    Testify Brother Flash! Right On! Hallelujah!!


    Despite the silly parallel that arguement early on was trying to draw, black is, in fact, not a colour. We may use the word “black” as a substitute for “no colour” but it still is not a colour.

    Atheism is marked by a lack of a system of belief – many atheists belief totally different things.

    I was at my wife’s church on Sunday and caught myself getting upset as some old coger tried to spread the whole atheism is responsible for the death of millions, Hilter was an atheist etc and he kept going on about “Charles Hitchens” taking part in some debate on TV (I suspect he was lying).

    My blood was starting to boil until I realized that this frightened old goat was so scared of the myth he had surrounded himself with, about what would happen after he died (which won;t be ling by the looks of him) that he had started to make stuff up in order to make himself feel better. And doing it so badly he told everyone that “Charles Hitchens” had written a “Letter to a Christian Nation”.

    Then I realized this poor man was simply a pathetic little coward. Then I just pitied him.


  3. Tide Waters: Sorry, was referring to Kevvyd, the Father of the Blog – May the Flying Spaghetti Monster Touch Him with his Noodly Appendage…

    Mike: Thanks, man. Got on a roll and just kept on going. I feel better not having fear rule my life.


  4. I’m flattered, Flash.

    Excellent post, and one that touches on a lot of topics. The whole “good without God” issue is an interesting one, and one that is put to bed nicely (at least in my mind) by Richard Dawkins. Ask a Christian whether it’s okay to stone their children the next time they act up in the line at the grocery store and you’ll see whether or not morality comes from the Bible. Cherry-picking which bits of the Jewish Book of Folktales to believe in and which to ignore read figuratively demonstrates that the only morality that comes out of it is that which we choose to take. You can equally rightfully claim Dickens or Penthouse as your moral guideposts. Personally, and for reasons I can’t quite explain, I choose Camus’ The Plague, but that’s just me.

    As for whether or not atheism is a religion, well that’s not a properly posed question. An atheist by definition means not a theist, so how can atheism possibly be a religion? This question can only be trotted out by theists trying to net atheists in some kind of weird logic twist. You might as well call me an aturtleist because I don’t believe the world is built on the top of an infinite stack of turtles – the logic is the same.

    Well done, my friend, well done indeed.


  5. jantoine – Sorry for not approving your comment immediately – I only usually get online at lunchtime and in the evening and it fell somewhere in between. Your comments are most welcome here, and now that you’ve been accepted once, at least for the next while you’ll be accepted immediately. So goes the ways of the WordPress spam filter.

    I’m sure Flash will attend to your questions in his own inimitable way, but I would like to jump into the discussion, because you make interesting points.

    First, as for the atheist versus theistic worldview, you’re right, it’s merely a way of interpreting reality. I don’t think that Flash meant in any way to deny the existence of a theistic worldview, rather to express atheism in a way that didn’t use the term “religion”. Worldview is nice and generic.

    Second, yes, theists have tried many ways to prove their faith, from the historical existence of religious figures through to exceptions to scientific laws. There is a problem with the latter of these, however, in that they get themselves fenced into a “God of the gaps” argument, where the gaps steadily get knocked away one by one. As for historical evidence, while it can be proven that a person did or did not exist, it’s a wee bit more difficult methinks to prove they were divine. For this, I await (without baited breath).

    I’m not sure why you say that science comes from Christian tradition. Broadly speaking, science is a way of asking questions of the universe in a way that can produce answers. We’ve been doing that for millions of years. Less broadly, the scientific method is a way of producing and testing hypotheses using experimention, and there is historical evidence of the Egyptians doing that. In every likelihood, it even predates them. It is true that Christian scientists advanced science along, but so did the Chinese and Arabs. That Christians owned large chunks of the planet for a millenia provided some additional leverage and influence, one can only assume.


    1. even less broadly, one would note that the Socratic Method aka the scientific method/worldview was invented in ancient Greece 1000 years before the catholic church(starting with Augustine in the year ~400) co-opted everything pagan and “reinvented” it as Christian.

      its also worth noting that every major society in history from Solomon(yes that one) to ancient china to feudal japan to Native Americans, the Norse, the Egyptians, Mayans and the Aztecs all had “science”. anyone who wants to argue that astronomy benefited from a “christian” interpretation of things, please do, i love talking about Nostradamus… its pretty funny stuff


  6. Meh. Atheism isn’t a religion in the sense of deities, prior truths, and metaphysical heirarchies, but really that is only a straw man of what religion is in the first place. Atheism makes a truth functional statement “God does not exist” for which there is insufficient evidence. As of now, the only basis of a purely physicalist worldview is “future” evidence. But if you presume evidence, that’s rationalism, which is the very antithesis of skepticism. Heidegger made a good point of saying that a philosopher cannot be religious because religion gives answers for “ultimate” questions; Atheism does the same exact thing. Granted, Atheism may well be ahead of religion in that sense, but not very far…


    1. Actually atheism makes the statement “God does not exist” based on the total lack of any evidence and by that I mean not a single shred to support a single deity, let alone the many humans have made up over the ages. Of course if you assume that all “other” gods are imaginary, we might as well include your god, just to be fair.


  7. A well thought out post! I do agree with you and I think it can be put simply that atheism is just not believing in a god or gods. You can be an athiest and still have religion ask those who follow Buddhism and Jainism. Those religions apparently do not have personal gods to follow but rather attain some sort of enlightenment.

    My two pennies!


  8. On a side note, Physicists say that black is an absence of colour, but what do painters say? To a painter black is the culination of all colour. Just a thought 😉


  9. Jesse,
    From a scientific point, the onus is on proving the existence of something, not on proving it’s nonexistence. Why does the atheist have to prove the non-existence of God? As Christopher Hitchens’ says “that which can be asserted without evidence can be rejected without evicence”.


  10. They have to prove the non-existence of God because they have made an affirmative statement that he *necessarily* does not (ie, it cannot be otherwise). The claim that you can elude justification by calling the universal claim that God doesn’t exist a “non-claim” isn’t at all true–the burden of proof is on both theists AND atheists. And when people begin asserting notions of scientific reduction as the means to concluding God’s non-existence, they’re using science for “other than its intended purposes”: making a universal statement, not a contingent or limited one. As for Hitchens, hmmm… let’s see… does he believe in gravity? We’ve no final proof of its mechanisms or origins, but lots of peripheral evidence of its existence. I used to err toward Atheism, but then I realized they’re all stuck in a “common sense” Newtonian universe.


    1. Wrong. The burden of proof lies ONLY on the claimant of the existence of invisible supernatural beings floating around the sky. Nice try, it was worth a shot. If I claim there is a planet “Derp”, that is inhabited by purple dinosaurs, the burden of proof lies only with me to prove that it exists. Not being able to provide evidence to disprove my claim, doesn’t automatically make the planet “Derp” a debatable phenomenon.

      Claiming the existence of one god, by default automatically claims the existence of all man made mythological beings. You can’t pick and choose when you’re arguing for magic and superstition.

      Simple fact is, people have been creating gods, long before they created your personal god.


  11. Jesse:
    Nope, missed it by that much. “There is no god” is a negative statement, not a positive one, so the burden of proof lies with someone who makes the positive claim that there is a god.
    I would assert that we do in fact have proof of gravity, in a very simple sense, as none of us is flying off the planet (before or after death, inidentally). Otherwise, the assumption (a positive one) that gravity does exist is consistent with the results of experimentation, and is the most logical and physically consistent explanation for the set of phenomena associated with it. It takes many types of straw to make straw men.

    Jantoine: my apologies for being so long in replying – a combination of attempting to keep rasonably fit by starting an exercise program and new puppy ownership – busy, busy, busy.
    I would argue that perhaps the problems of definition are in your questions rather than in my text – it is probably my fault for not fully explaining my thesis more clearly.
    I agree, as Kevvy does, with the concept of worldview, or Weltanschauung, as you define it. Assigning that label does not address the origins or motivations, however – it just indicates that one has an organized, internally consistent way of approaching the world and assigning meaning to it. Mine lacks supernatural explanations or value judgments. Yours, presumably, does not.
    A search for evidence, while admirable, does not in itself constitute evidence – it is the search, motivated by whatever beliefs are in question or need of confirmation. I could decide to search for unicorns later today – that does not prove that they exist, merely that I have too much time on my hands.
    I would argue that the christian ethos at one time valued curiosity and a search for truth far more than it does now, and only intermittently, if history is accurate. Christians, and perhaps more significantly, muslims, contributed greatly to all types of thought and endeavour, including science. No denial there. What I would aver now, however, is that the vast majority of christians, particularly fundamentalists, have no interest in advancing a scientific view of the world, rather they will only accept information and explanations that are consistent with doctrine. The era of questioning is over, and has been replaced by the new age of blind obedience and denial.


  12. Oh, and by the way, just for the record, proving the absence of something can be easy if you do it right.

    Not there? Good.
    Done and done.


  13. Jesee,
    I see that this is going to the agnostic stance – there is no possible proof to either the theist or the atheist stance. It’s a good argument and one that I struggled with for a long time The fact of the matter is, the theist made the inital assertion of God’s existence, and while I can’t disprove outright His existence, we can pen Him in by eliminating Him one area at a time. The God of the Gaps will unfortunately remain, but the gaps will get smaller.

    Also, keeping in ming Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot – anyone can suppose the existence of something, but it is not incumbent upon me, or anyone, to believe it without proof.


  14. “There is no God is a negative statement,” ie, absence. Typical. Unfortunately, as soon as you make that into a universal, “There is no God and we can know it is such and cannot be otherwise,” you have made it into a more affirmative statement than any theist claim, because you cloak it in mistaken notions of scientific reduction and positivism. I’m not going into the logical proofs for or against God–neither it provable.


    “…while I can’t prove his inexistence outright…we can eliminate him one area at a time…but the gaps will get smaller.” That’s hilarious! Smell those assumptions? It’s the residual funk of quasi-religious, pesudo-scientific teleology.


    1. Using your reasoning Bigfoot, Allah, Aphrodite, the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, etc, etc must be real too. As you cannot disprove the existence of a fictional mythological being, it is just accepted.

      Just bear in mind that arguing for one god, by default means arguing for ALL gods.


  15. Let me try Kev. You two are rehashing an argument you and I had a year ago.

    Jesse – I agree with you in respect to the statement “There is no God” being a definitive one, albeit I don’t see any assertion of the corrolary: ‘that it cannot be otherwise’ here. It is an unproven, and unprovable assertion – as is the assertion of God’s existence, incidentally. To my mind also, definitive statements should carry the burden of proof when one is challenged on them.

    I think the more proper assertion for most modern ‘atheists’ is that they don’t believe that there is a God; or more formally, that they see no evidence for the existence of a God – instead of an absolute assertion that God does not exist. The second point is admitted to be, ultimately, an unprovable statement.

    Reversing the onus of proof is semantic slight of hand that does not work on someone who is genuinely asking the atheist to support their assertion of non-existence and not asserting the counter position: That God does, in fact, exist. Therefore putting the onus on the challenger to prove the existence of a God is only tenable when faced with someone who is actively trying to disprove the atheist position.

    fancy philosophical jargon aside, this particular argument always devolves into the same stalemate:

    “God does exist.”
    “No, he doesn’t”
    “Yes he does.”
    “No, he doesn’t”
    “You can’t prove he does.”
    “You can’t prove he doesn’t”
    “Yeah, well, prove it.”
    “No, YOU prove it”

    KevvyD made the best counterpoint to your argument with the quote from Dr. Hitchens – If something can be asserted without evidence, it can be dismissed wihout evidence. It doesn’t get any simpler, or more straightforward.

    just my 2.5 cents.



  16. No stalemate, I’m just tired of “new” Atheist bullying when so few of them have taken a single philosophy course. To say affirmatively that there is no God and that you can know it is a statement of necessity. The philosophical/logical definition of necessity is something that you can know is such and cannot be otherwise. The reason people back away from admitting the strength of necessary stmt.’s is 1) because they know they cannot argue them 2) they don’t understand the logical strength of such universal statements 3) because they set up an intimidating facade. That’s when everything goes into useless analogies and teapot/spaghetti anecdotes, which just confuses and distracts from the fact that Atheists don’t stand on the sturdy ground that they claim. Being “opposed to religion” or other such grandstanding certainly deceives people into thinking they do, but they don’t. Strong Atheism doesn’t last five minutes in any post-highschool context.

    When you say there is no God the strongest argument is a physicalist/materialist one–but unfortunately physicalists/materialists still rely on “future evidence.” And there are many other problems in philosophy of the mind, pragmatism, the limits of reduction, and so on. And yet Atheists are stuck with this perception of universalism (physicalism) which is really just a quasi-religious worldview. There is no physical “theory of everything” but most Atheists argue as if they have such knowledge. Even if we eventually found one, that would not distract from the fact that such apparatuses are purely contingent, descriptive, and paralyzingly local.

    “new” Atheism = statements of universality
    “new” Atheism = bad philosophy, quasi-religion

    Note the “new,” however. Very different from classical Atheists; and probably irreconcilably so. They’ve stepped into the same Rationalist-Universalist trap that has been going on for centuries; but the trap is their own and its time they just admit it and have a nice trip!


    1. When you say there is no God the strongest argument is a physicalist/materialist one–but unfortunately physicalists/materialists still rely on “future evidence.”

      As a card carrying Atheist, I feel that I can disagree vigorously. Someone going off on Atheists for not taking philosophy classes, you sure aren’t showing any traits of a philosopher. In fact, you are acting more like a politician.

      Atheists by and large don’t cling to science. If the science changes, it will change in a predictable way that makes our knowledge more complete. So to say we are relying on “future evidence” is utterly false. The con that you are trying to pull off here is pretty common in general. lack of evidence is in fact evidence. Or to put it bluntly that if science today fails to demonstrate definitively, say the big bang, that failure invalidates all of science. it doesn’t. It doesn’t change the measurable things like gravity, friction, refrigeration, the internal combustion engine, or sliced bread. These things are still quite real. I can and do believe in them. even if you told me today that all science ends here, i would still say the “limited” scientific/materialist explanation is a better explanation than a biblical account that has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese.

      to make myself clear, because i can already hear your objections, this is NOT faith in science. this is NOT-FAITH-AT-ALL. this is apathy. the world is the way it is. If we cant know everything about it, that’s fine. That’s no reason not to try though.
      And yet Atheists are stuck with this perception of universalism (physical-ism) which is really just a quasi-religious worldview.

      Again, you are putting words in my mouth. Some things aren’t physical. The Bible is Physical, religion is social, motives are psychological. There is no “greed particle,” these words aren’t burned into my mind in some kind of mental file-cabinet that functions like the SSD on a computer. physical-ism is quasi-religious because it is exclusionary(there is nothing but the physical). Atheists(not atheism) are inclusive. there is no metaphorical axe to grind(except perhaps knee-jerk reactions towards blanket essentializations). The lack of faith, on the grounds of lack of evidence is not the exclusion of god, it is the lack of his inclusion. most atheists are willing to say, that it would be possible for god to convince me of his existence. causing the earth to stop mid orbit and spin the other way might do it, but even then i would want him to tell me that half of the BS that pastors say about worshiping him was actually what he wanted and after that, it probably would be a lot more of an oppressive leadership than anything


    2. Actually this isn’t even a debate that requires any philosophy course or debate, just being older than 7.

      The questions are simple:
      Are you a grown-up and do you still believe in Santa?
      Are you a grown-up and you still believe in magic and fairies?
      Are you a grown-up and you still believe in unicorns?


  17. I understand your argument, although I disagree. I am puzzled by the reference to ‘future evidence’. What does that mean? It doesn’t fit into any definition of science I’m familiar with.
    Regardless of your opinion, I don’t consider myself a bully – I’m just asserting my thesis, the same as you are.
    I don’t need a theory of everything, I have seen enough and heard enough that this is where I ended up – no hedging, no lack of conviction. If I don’t stand on sturdy ground, at least I own fully the ground I do stand on. Isn’t the assertion of the existence of an omnipotent being somewhat of a statement of universality as well?
    And just to be clear, I have a Master’s degree with a specialty in Epistemology. If you claim to have knowledge of the existence of god, the onus is on you to explain how this manifests itself in a sufficiently tangible way as to preclude alternative explanations. Clearly you can’t, nor can I conclusively prove my assertions to be true. Nevertheless, they are functional for me on a daily basis, with no additions or revisions required. I’ll be just as happy tomorrow god-free as I am today.
    For me, that’s ultimately what matters, and whatever works for you is your own business.


  18. And the original purpose of this post, as described in the title, seems to have been left behind – my intention was to point out what I considered to be a fallacious association that many people make.


  19. Well, like I said–Atheism may not be a religion with a church and some guys who gesticulate up on pulpits, but it is the cultural reverse image of religion and somewhat a quasi-religion itself when it comes to how Atheists view science as a totality, a teleology, and an all-encompassing mechanism for explaining reality. So yeah. That’s worse than religion however, because at least religions identify themselves as such, identify their limits, compensate for them (or attempt to do so), and don’t put on the same false pretenses.

    “I don’t need a theory of everything, I’ve seen enough and heard enough…” That’s exactly the hubris I’m talking about. You’ve just admitted outright–without pigeonholing ya er nuthin–that you have foregone philosophical inquiry in favor of assuming to know well beyond the power of knowing or even the power of evidence.

    Future evidence is many specific things: the failure of the physicalist model of the mind to explain immaterial thoughts (don’t try the mental state, biochemical stuff, or any of that other junk–none of it fully explains the mind), physical models of the universe, a lot of stuff. Hell–every “total” physical model of the universe in the last hundred years rose as each the next, “inevitable,” all-explaining model (i.e., the core basis for a Puritanical Physicalist view)–each one also crashed back to Earth faster than Icarus himself.

    And I’m not being snarky, but I hardly believe you have a masters in epistemology. It would be in philosophy general, not epistemology. I’ve never even heard of an epistemology degree–that would be like majoring in algebra. In the last sixty years most of philosophy lost interest in epistemology in favor of ontology–something a person with experience in the field would know.

    Frankly, I feel for “new” Atheists because I think they come from a kind of “common sense realist/physicalist” worldview that has been thoroughly conditioned into people by modernity (over-reliance on technology, a belief in the unlimited application of science, futurism, identities leverage by ressentiment, etc.) But few, if any, of them are philosophers, and it reflects very poorly on them. Plus their cultural context speaks to their origins far more strongly than any of their shoddy, equivocal philosophical positions.

    And no, I am not religious by default of disagreeing with you; and yes, that assumption is my case in point. I actually have absolutely no problem with the physicalist worldview and their assertion of future evidence–if I were a betting man. The world continues to exist as it always has, regardless of how we describe and interpret it. But physicalism itself has nothing to do with Atheism, nor does it necessitate it.


    1. Ah, the tired old christian argument that atheism is a religion. Sadly, nope, it isn’t.

      Furthermore just because things are complex and we don’t yet understand them, and might never do so, doesn’t mean that you can claim Dumbledore did any of it. Grow up. No god has ever in billions of years made any claim, no matter how small. All claims to any god’s superpowers has been made by superstitious mortals.

      You’re clearly educated, but simply gobble up the same nonsense your parents force fed you and in turn their parents force fed them.

      Honestly, an invisible alien wizard? No amount of philosophical reasoning gets away from the fact that you are plainly superstitious.


  20. It’s a degree in Sociology, with my theoretical concentration in Epistemology. I don’t have a degre in philosophy, as I wanted to acquire actual skills.
    Making generalities about people you disagree with isn’t exactly the height of philosophical maturity – you may find some of us quite reasonable, if given the chance. In any case, I don’t seem to be tying myself in knots to defend my views. I stand by what I write.
    Good night and good luck.


  21. Hmm…not so fast. You haven’t answered either of my arguments per the topic of your post:

    1) Necessity
    2) Evidence
    3) The purely cultural context of “new” Atheism

    “…wanted to acquire actual skills.” Only folks with very little experience with philosophy say such utilitarian things. Want actual skills? Stay in trucker school. Questioning someone’s credentials or qualifications isn’t some kind of personal attack if you vindicate the question. From what institution, department, and year did you acquire this “epistemology” masters?


  22. Why should Flash have to prove anything to you, Jesse? You’re the one who made a negative statement – namely that you can’t get a degree in epistemology – offer concrete proof. Otherwise you’re holding Flash to a standard you yourself aren’t willing to live up to.


  23. First of all – why do you assume it’s difficult for Flash to answer? It’s been 6 hours since you asked that question, and contrary to what you might believe, none of us are waiting anxiously for your latest missive – we have lives, families, etc – especially on weekends. You, little boy, have a overly high opinion of your own importance. Nonetheless, in Flash’s absence, I shall endeavour – let’s see – 5 second Google Search turns up this from the University of Michican:

    And look what’s available as a minor: Epistemology and Philosophy of Science

    You’re right, not that difficult at all – Flash is right, and you, my friend, had best lose the attitude and work on your research skills.


  24. I could never be an Atheist. I believe in creationism by God . Evolution can not even produce an eye. Let me explain. The human brain consists of approximately 12 billion cells, forming
    120 trillion interconnections. The light sensitive retina of the eye
    (which is really part of the brain) contains over 10 million
    photo receptor cells. These cells capture the light pattern formed by
    the lens and convert it into complex electrical signals, which are then
    sent to a special area of the brain where they are transformed into the
    sensation we call vision.

    In an article in _Byte_ magazine (April 1985), John Stevens compares
    the signal processing ability of the cells in the retina with that of
    the most sophisticated computer designed by man, the Cray supercomputer:

    “While today’s digital hardware is extremely impressive, it is
    clear that the human retina’s real-time performance goes
    unchallenged. Actually, to simulate 10 milliseconds (one
    hundredth of a second) of the complete processing of even a
    single nerve cell from the retina would require the solution of
    about 500 simultaneous nonlinear differential equations 100 times
    and would take at least several minutes of processing time on a
    Cray supercomputer. Keeping in mind that there are 10 million or
    more such cells interacting with each other in complex ways, it
    would take a minimum of 100 years of Cray time to simulate what
    takes place in your eye many times every second.”

    If a supercomputer is obviously the product of intelligent design,
    how much more obviously is the eye a product of intelligent design? And
    yet, evolutionists are dead certain that the human eye (and everything
    else in nature) came into being by pure chance and the intrinsic
    properties of nature! Evolutionists occasionally admit that it is
    difficult for even them to believe such a thing. Ernst Mayr, for
    example, has conceded that:

    “…it is a considerable strain on one’s credulity to assume that
    finely balanced systems such as certain sense organs (the eye of
    vertebrates, or the bird’s feather) could be improved by random
    mutations.” (_Systematics and the Origin of Species_, p. 296).

    Evolutionists rarely attempt to calculate the probability of chance
    occurrence in their imagined evolutionary scenarios. While there is no
    way to measure the probability of chance occurrence of something as
    complex as the eye, there are ways to calculate the probability of the
    chance occurrence of individual protein molecules that are essential to
    life. Over a thousand different kinds of proteins have been identified
    in the human body, and each has a unique chemical composition necessary
    for its own particular function.

    Proteins are polymers, whose chemical composition depends on the
    arrangement of many smaller subunits called amino acids. There are 20
    different kinds of amino acids that are used to construct the proteins
    of all living organisms, including man. These amino acids are linked
    together end-to-end (like a string of beads) to form a single protein
    macromolecule. The average protein consists of a string of 500 amino
    acids. The total number of combinations of 20 different amino acids in
    such a string is, for all practical purposes, unlimited. Each protein
    in our body, however, must contain a specific sequence of amino acids if
    it is to function properly. It is the task of the genetic system in our
    cells to organize the assembly of the amino acids into precisely the
    right sequence for each protein.

    Proteins have been called _informational_ macromolecules because
    their amino acid sequence spells out information, in much the same way
    as the letters of the alphabet can be arranged to form a sentence or
    paragraph. We can appreciate the improbability of randomly assembling
    one of the essential proteins of life by considering the probability of
    randomly assembling the letters of the alphabet to form even a simple
    phrase in English.

    Imagine if we were to try to spell out the 23 letters and spaces in
    the phrase “THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION” by using the evolutionary principle
    of _chance_. We might proceed by randomly drawing characters from a
    Scrabble set consisting of the 26 letters of the alphabet plus a space
    (for a total of 27). The probability of getting any particular letter
    or space in our phrase using this method would be one chance out of 27
    (expressed as 1/27). The probability of getting all 23 letters and
    spaces in the order required for our phrase can be calculated by
    multiplying together the probability of getting each letter and space
    (1/27 x 1/27 x 1/27 — for a total of 23 times). This calculation
    reveals that we could expect to succeed in correctly spelling our phrase
    by chance, approximately _once_ in eight hundred, million, trillion,
    trillion draws! If we were to hurry the process along and draw our
    letters at the rate of a billion per second, we could expect to spell
    our simple little phrase once in 26 thousand, trillion years! But even
    this is a “virtual certainty” compared to the probability of correctly
    assembling any one of the known biological proteins by chance!

    The 500 amino acids that make up an average-sized protein can be
    arranged in over 1 x 10^600 different ways (that’s the number ONE
    followed by 600 zeros)! This number is vastly larger than the total
    number of atomic particles that could be packed into the known universe.
    If we had a computer that could rearrange the 500 amino acids of a
    particular protein at the rate of a billion combinations a second, we
    would stand essentially no chance of hitting the correct combination
    during the 14 billion years evolutionists claim for the age of the
    universe. Even if our high-speed computer were reduced to the size of
    an electron and we had enough of them to fill a room measuring 10
    billion light years square (about 1 x 10^150 computers!), they would
    still be exceedingly unlikely to hit the right combination. Such a
    “room” full of computers could only rearrange about 1 x 10^180
    combinations in 300 billion years. In fact, even if all the proteins
    that ever existed on earth were _all different_, our “room” full of
    computers would be exceedingly unlikely to chance upon the combination
    of _any one of them_ in a mere 300 billion years!

    Evolutionists counter that the whole probability argument is
    irrelevant since evolution is utterly purposeless, and thus never tries
    to make anything in particular! They insist, more over, that “natural
    selection” makes the impossible, possible. But evolutionists were
    vigorously challenged on this claim by mathematicians in a symposium
    held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the proceedings were
    published in the book, _Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian
    Interpretation of Evolution_) Murray Eden, Professor of Engineering at
    M.I.T. said:

    “The chance emergence of man is like the probability of typing at
    random a meaningful library of one thousand volumes using the
    following procedure: Begin with a meaningful phrase, retype it
    with a few mistakes, make it longer by adding letters; then
    examine the result to see if the new phrase is meaningful.
    Repeat this process until the library is complete.”

    I will leave it to the you to consider the probability that an
    intelligent Designer and Builder can intelligently design and build an


    1. A little more research would have shown that there are many creatures with various levels of complexity when it comes to vision, some with nothing more than light sensitive cells all the way up to the human eye, which by no means is perfect.

      Even a bit of vision is better than none. You can ask anyone who has very poor vision, whether they are better off without any sight.

      The abundance of evidence we have indicates the eye did indeed evolve, ditto; heart, lungs, legs, arms, brain etc.

      If people can create supercomputers largely through trial and error, how easy do you think it is for mildly creative people to make up a set of fictional characters and to write stories and publish them in a book? Yeah, we do it all the time. Story telling is part of the human condition.


  25. Easy boys, back into your corners and put down the ad hominem attacks. There might be an outside chance that we could learn something from each other here and it would be a shame to lose it because we didn’t learn manners. There are some things I really hate about the internets…

    First off, I must beg forgiveness, for I have become an atheist without first having taken a philosophy course, let alone a degree. Not one single course. I wanted to, believe me, but I figured that all I needed to be an atheist was twenty years of paid membership in the Catholic Church and the shredded foreskin to prove it. Actually, it was the course load, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some axes to grind with the Catholics. 😉 That being said, there are a few terms being tossed around here that I don’t quite understand: physicalism, functional statement, “new” vs. “old” atheists.

    If I understand Jesse’s arguement correctly, and there is no reason to expect that I do, it is that atheists can no more prove the non-existence of a creator-god any more than a theist can prove it’s existence, therefore atheism is a religion in that it makes a statement that can’t be proven. (Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m trying to keep up.) If I understand correctly, “There is no god” is a functional statement, just like “There is a god”, and since there is no proven basis for either, they are equivalently untenable.

    If we assume that this is true, I don’t see why the Celestial Teapot example is so useless. If one were to propose that such a thing exists, and that it exists effectively without our ability to either prove it or disprove it, does the very suggestion of it’s existence require the creation of an opposite camp, a camp of apotists? Am I forced, by my doubt in the existence of the teapot, to justify my doubt by proving that which can’t be proved? If so, where does it stop? Doesn’t any non-provable statement necesitate a non-provable contrary?

    Dawkins’ uses a (probably over-) simplistic seven-point scale to describe the certainty of one’s belief or doubt in the existence of a creator god. At one end (let’s call it “one”, I can’t remember which end he started) we have absolute, unbudging certainty in the existence of God/Allah/whatever, and at the other we have a similar absolute, unbudging certainty in their nonexistence. Most people, he proposes, would not put themselves in either of these camps. Certainly I would place myself somewhere in the six range here; I don’t believe in a creator god, but if someone was somehow to demonstrate to me in incontrovertable means the existence of Thor, you know where to find me the next thunder storm.

    I may not be able to prove that Thor doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept that “Thor exists” and “Thor doesn’t exist” are equally likely statements. I would certainly put myself in the “six point something” box, if only because the world in every way appears to me to work well without Him, whereas I have seen no proof whatsoever of His righteous might or His hammer.

    I would like to continue this conversation, there is much to be gleaned, but I would appreciate it if we can keep it respectful.


  26. Rob,
    The argument of complexity is not a good one. We have evidence of life on earth, in the form of algal stromatalites (so far the earliest known fossils) dating back well over 3.5 billion years. That is a lot of time for evolution to do a lot of things. It appears that it took a long time for more complex forms of life to develop, but when it did around the end of the PreCambrian, it still leaves us with around 700 million years to develop all the complexity we see. Even eyes.

    A common misunderstanding about evolution your use of the word “chance”. Evolution is just about the opposite of chance. Evolution is the gradual accretion of incremental changes over a vast period of time. When we take a complex structure such as the eye out of its evolutionary context, sure it looks too complicated to have evolved, but when we consider all of the intermediate steps we see in animals that exist today and existed in the fossil record, its development doesn’t seem all that unlikely. Sure, the fossil record has some holes in it, but there is more than enough there to see the basic shape of evolution in all creatures.

    To paraphrase Dawkins again (twice in one day!), evolution is akin to climbing what he calls Mount Improbable – there is a very steep side and a much more gradual dipping side. Creationists propose that somehow the complex structures at the top were created right there at the top, all of a suddern, whereas evolutionists propose that they evolved a small step at a time, climbing the mountain gradually up the shallow side.

    Besides, if I had all the tools in the universe and I was to design an eye, I’d figure out a way to make it not have a blind spot.


  27. Rob,
    I don’t want to sidetrack this thread with a long discussion on evolution, we’ve done that here before and doubtlessly will do it again, but, ummm, do you know *anything* about modern biology? One of the first statements, and the one that underpins the rest of the “argument” in the post you linked to is patently false, that evolution is not scientific because it can’t be proven or tested. Ever got the flu? Ever wonder why a different flu strain appears every few years? Yep, evolution.


  28. Dan,

    Ah, the “new” Atheists are in check and the rhetoric kit is empty. Panic! (I’m currently watching Chris Hitchens on CNN bloviating for lack of a valid point, using Atheism as only a colonizing weapon against autonomous, Islamic cultures. How humanist! Now gimme dat oil.)

    Go ahead and read my last post again. Your post is only a worsening of the same non-answer and a furthering of the point. It is a red-herring and a classic shifting the burden fallacy to say that I ever said epistemology was not something one could study (no, there is no epistemology major/masters in 2009). So judging by the character of this blog, I’d guess that Flash is reading, not “busy” and “away” as he shall claim, and expecting his Dan-proxy has scared off that darn Jesse feller—–which is easy, considering. But one can never run from an inward awareness of the invalidation of one’s views in the face of contrary arguments. There is no reconciliation with that. It’s a thing called conscience, that ‘ole rub.

    I know I’m copping. It’s schadenfreudey fun watching people cringe at the exposure of their lies and misrepresentations because it always boils down to a calculus apparent to all: as, in this case, you can just as well succinctly name the specifics of your credentials and qualifications, stake out your philosophical position (routine for a self-proclaimed “epistemology masters”), and move on. Not doing so and being evasive is as much confession there is with our race.

    One can answer the claims of my two posts prior and clearly state one’s credentials–—not doing so implies guilt, doing so carries the burden of demonstrating any formal experience with philosophy, and both stand witness to the validity of “new” Atheism as a whole. And… based on prior comments, both are subject to my Ace in the hole.


  29. Jesse,
    You might have missed my reply above, but I would like you to address it. Not because I’m being an asshole, I think I’m not, but because I’m interested in your response.


  30. Jesse,
    sorry, off having a life. I didn’t realize I was somehow accountable to you.
    M.A. Sociology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, September 1999. 3.45 GPA, if you’re interested.
    Subsequently, a Master’s of Education, Lifelong Learning, Mount Saint Vincent University, May 2007.

    Your arrogance is actually becoming painful to read. Is there asctually any point in answering ANYTHING at this point, assuming you will weild your sword of mental superiority and dismiss anything I say. I don’t rely on anyone to fight my battles for me, because I don’t need to.
    You have represented yourself as dismissive of my viewpoint, fine and dandy – it’s till my viewpoint – there is no part of my personal experience that requires me to add a deity as an aid to explanation. I am comfortable with my assumption.
    My knowledge of the importance of cultural rituals illustrates to me the important part religion plays in collective experience in creating and maintaining a sense of community among congregants- in fact, one of the more telling parts of what you call the ‘new’ atheism is its general lack of a cohesive message because it lacks the ritualized reinforcement of commonality. I can accept that other people believe, and I can understand the myriad reasons why. I do not accept a characterization of atheism as a worldview that equates it with a religion, as a result of the refusal to accept precepts on faith, and, I might add, the lack of the characteristic ritualized component common to most religions.
    I don’t care if you dislike me or people like me, or doubt my credentials – I consider it an honor to have moved you to the point of apparently devoting an inordinate amount of time to this discussion.
    My point was only that in my opinion, the labelling of atheism as a religion is incorrect because of a lack of certai shared characteristics that make it sufficiently distinct, and therefore different.
    The personal insults are not necessary, and I will admit to going there myself, and I’m not particularly proud of that. I don’t have your level of expertise, as mine lies elsewhere (government), so I will not attempt to confront you on what is obviously well-travelled ground for you.
    Using the knowledge I have, interpreting it through the lenses I have been given through experience and education, this is the conclusion I have reached through a process of reasoning, careful consideration, discussion with peers, and so on. I claim to speak for noone but myself. If you feel I have used an invalid line of reasoning, well, that’s your opinion, and it doesn’t change the fact that I personally believe there is no god.
    I stand by what I wrote.


  31. And if my last post seems different in tone between the beginning and the end, it is. I stepped away to feed my dog and took a bit of a breather. I’m trying to be less defensive and more objective.


  32. “Your honor… I rest my case.”

    “Very well. And so it is ruled: Nihil Dicit. Well–your Ace, counsel?”

    “The Ace? Is that there is no Ace.”


  33. Jesse, I fail to see how Flash’s view of religion is a straw man. He says “I would define religion as a system of beliefs that depend on revealed wisdom from a supernatural source.” How is that incorrect, besides the perhaps dubious use of the word “wisdom”? The typical dictionary definition is:

    a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
    b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

    It seems to me that Flash just combined a) and b) into a single sentence definition. And without the aid of sky fairies, I might add.


  34. Oh, well. That explains everything, doesn’t it?

    I’m not a fan of Marxism, particularly that derived during and after World War 2. The ‘Modernist Monolith’ approach always made me uncomfortable – too many sweeping generalizations, too many ominous portents with no exploration of meaning and ‘self’. My supposed lack of a prepared response to your arguments in the form that you demanded resulted from my disdain for an outmoded dinosaur of a philosophy that rejects the individual in favor of a pessimistic, hegemonic, overgeneralized theoretical construct.

    So, not responding to my implied inquiry re: your credentials? Does that indicate that you have not, in fact, studied philosophy and are hunched over a computer with tabs open to this blog and Wikipedia?

    Were you interested in civilized dialogue, as would befit any truly educated individual, you would be able to elevate your discourse above the level of ad hominem attacks on my character, credentials, and so on. If you were, if you’ll pardon the expression, as ‘enlightened’ as you claim, you should be able to create a logically-based argument that did not rely on personal insults. I take from this that you are insecure in your position, if not your proposed identity, and are therefore seeking to enhance your ego at the expense of mine and of others. To characterize my ideas as lies simply because you do not fully understand them is unworthy of an academic, or even of someone with a hint of a social conscience. It’s easy to purchase a degree and learn new words that make you sound smart, but if this is what you gained from your education, if this is the attitude conveyed by your professors and imposed upon you and your classmates (if any), then I wouldn’t be surprised if the suicide rate was above average for that particular group.
    Until you learn that insult is not debate, that condescension is not a badge of superiority, and that arrogance is the antithesis of respect, I will regard this conversation as closed, and my opinion and worldview unchanged. If you decide to be petty and label me as close-minded, or use this to categorize an entire social group as lacking, check your precious textbooks again: you’ve missed a few pages about knowledge expanding your mind, not narrowing it.

    Three more words, in closing: You Are Wrong.


  35. Well, it is quite arguable that there are no reductive (i.e., dictionary) definitions for what a religion is. To say that there is a pure, logical definition religion is the straw man, and bears with it a mythical telos that is as dangerous, if not more so, than even the most rabid forms of Christian Rationalism. And save the snarky, trite Atheist analogies–the assumption has already been made that I am a theist, when I am neither Atheist or Theist. What I am, is a person astounded at the total lack of philosophical literacy of so-called “new” Atheists. Those on this comment board have already demonstrated that in spite of having their views philosophically contradicted, they continue to speak–and on the behest of “belief” I might add.


    1. Well, it is quite arguable that there are no reductive (i.e., dictionary) definitions for what a religion is. To say that there is a pure, logical definition religion is the straw man, and bears with it a mythical telos that is as dangerous, if not more so, than even the most rabid forms of Christian Rationalism.

      That right there is some pretty good slight of hand, but it doesn’t fly. you cant argue that atheism is a religion because it has certain attributes (dogma, physicalistic answers to questions, etc) and then say religion is undefinable.

      of course it does, and its obvious that there is a disagreement on a definition. based on what you have written, i would argue that yours is a little more goal oriented eg: “any self-perpetuating line of thought attempting to answer metaphysical questions related to the purpose or nature of things.” in other words, its any philosophy that uses rationality as a tool, rather than a definitional necessity.

      the main conflict being a common atheist perception of theists “doing” religion (kneeling, praying, attending church) rather than (experiencing/living) religion which is a more protestant interpretation of Christianity that lacks the scholarly notoriety of the catholic church’s dogma.

      For my part, I will say that I didn’t much care for the definition provided either. Deism, Paganism, Whiccanism(or Wicca) and dozens of other religions view nature as a revealer of “wisdom” from a source that might be considered divine or sublime, but certainly not cognicient. I would qualify them as full fledged religions, while Buddhists, well most specifically Buddhists, but I think other groups like Sikhs, Jains, etc probably would be lumped in when most of them(okay Sikhs do) don’t consider themselves religious.

      nevertheless, everybody has a working definition of religion. your argument isn’t that you can’t define religion, but that it can’t be boxed in eg how do you define a “black person”? Your arguments are attempting to define religion in terms of the religious. it isn’t a collection of stories, series of rituals and a safe-haven for pedophiles, its “more.” don’t dismiss the idea of defining it though because its about the closest you have been to joining the discussion in a while.


  36. And didn’t Briguy just GIVE you the definition of religion? Were you not paying attention? And, BTW, ‘belief’ was never an issue. If you read my post in sufficient detail, ‘faith’ and its’ basis were the issue.
    If this is ‘philosophical literacy’, congratulations. You’re welcome to it.


  37. You keep leveling this claim of personal attack against me: can you quote me as such? I questioned your credentials and you only made my point. I have not given my credentials because I never misrepresented them; that burden was on you and your response reflected on “new” Atheism as a whole. There is no burden on me to do the same, for reducing this to an internet argument of credentials is a pleasant distraction from the fact that you have still not answered my questions a few posts prior. But since reification is the game, and since ideas are not separate from one’s credentials (how capitalist: buying ideas and pieces of paper to qualify them) fine: I majored in Lit-studies and philosophy at WSU. You’ll note I don’t have a grad-level degree, and you’re still cornered by an admitted lightweight when it comes to philosophy. You’ve already admitted that your position is one of belief, then use that as defense against defending it like it is essential truth. It’s a dance I don’t want to learn. It is hilarious, but you’ve already done well enough to embarrass yourself, and this is a waste of time. If you can answer the post prior, then do so. I’m not trying to insult you at all; but it is just a passive fact that if you had any philosophical experience, this would be an opportunity to flex some intellectual muscle, not an occasion to run and say you’re feelings were hurt by someone you don’t even know.


    1. i have never heard the word “new” uttered with such vitriol, so I must ask. what makes a “new” atheist a “new” atheist?

      here are my definition for clarification

      Agnostic, an Atheist who has better things to do than talk about a religion he doesn’t believe in.

      Atheistic, a lack of faith in any deity

      Anti-theistic, an Atheist who is angry with religious attitudes and dogma, actively seeking a reformation of the church and renouncement of all things theistic.


  38. Dan:

    Turning my own arguments against me? For lack of having one’s own? Flash lied; anyone who reads the comments knows this, and ought to understand the intention for doing so, as they reflect the false position of prominence upon which Atheism itself stands.


  39. Guys, calm down, this is getting noone anywhere. I have a feeling that I have a chance to learn something here, from all of you, and I’d like to use it if possible. If you can’t speak nicely, I’m going to delete your comments. All of you.

    Would you mind explaining the following statement, which I cribbed from one of your previous messages?

    “to say tht there is a pure, logical definition (of) religion is the straw man, and bears with it a mythical tel(e)os that is as dangerous, if not more so, than even the most rabid forms of Christian Rationalism”

    How does defining religion create a dangerous straw man? If this is true, then are the definitions of anything inherently dangerous, or is this relevent only to discussions of myth?

    Also, are you saying that Russell’s Celestial Teapot is a “trite atheist analogy”? Can you answer to what I said above:

    If I understand Jesse’s arguement correctly, and there is no reason to expect that I do, it is that atheists can no more prove the non-existence of a creator-god any more than a theist can prove it’s existence, therefore atheism is a religion in that it makes a statement that can’t be proven. (Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m trying to keep up.) If I understand correctly, “There is no god” is a functional statement, just like “There is a god”, and since there is no proven basis for either, they are equivalently untenable.

    If we assume that this is true, I don’t see why the Celestial Teapot example is so useless. If one were to propose that such a thing exists, and that it exists effectively without our ability to either prove it or disprove it, does the very suggestion of it’s existence require the creation of an opposite camp, a camp of apotists? Am I forced, by my doubt in the existence of the teapot, to justify my doubt by proving that which can’t be proved? If so, where does it stop? Doesn’t any non-provable statement necesitate a non-provable contrary?

    I’m really interested in understanding your point, and throwing terms that I don’t understand at me is just word salad. I’m not nine years old, but I don’t have a background in philosophy, so “Dialectic of Enlightenment”, even after a quick internet browse, isn’t doing it for me.


  40. First of all, you are imparting motives to me that I do not have or claim to have. Again, if you read the text carefully, I speak for myself only.
    Second, where did I lie? If you are judging my position to be a lie then you have made a claim to truth – do you have knowledge that contradicts anything I have said?
    If you feel I misrepresented my credentials, read the thread again – I said I had a specialty in epistemology without revealing the degree itself – an omission, but one corrected when questioned. My delay in replying may be interpreted by you to be more meaningful than it was, and that’s your problem.
    I have re-read each of your posts, and am unable to derive questions from it – you provided a short list of statements (?) as follows:

    1) Necessity
    2) Evidence
    3) The purely cultural context of “new” Atheism.
    I’m not entirely clear on what you are asking. Make the questions clearer and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

    To characterize me as a liar, unable to answer, uneducated, a coward, etc. is insulting. This example is probably the best:
    “I’d guess that Flash is reading, not “busy” and “away” as he shall claim, and expecting his Dan-proxy has scared off that darn Jesse feller—–which is easy, considering. But one can never run from an inward awareness of the invalidation of one’s views in the face of contrary arguments. There is no reconciliation with that. It’s a thing called conscience, that ‘ole rub.”

    If you can’t see that then you have a rather large blind spot. You have invalidated nothing, only asserted a different view.


  41. Kevvyd:

    Up ya nose with rubbah hose you son of #$(T&ERHFKFH%U(… just kidding. I sincerely apologize for stirring the coals; but ya gotta do it sometimes to keep the fire going. You’re asking some bigger questions than you think, related to postmodern pragmatism, relativism, indeterminism… “Dialectic of Enlightenment” doesn’t relate just to Adorno/Horkheimer’s work (good summary on stanford encyclopedia of philosophy; fifth or so google), but is a broader idea relating to Nietzsche (ie, The Geneaology of Morals), Marx, Hegel, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction…and the list keeps going again… an idea about the uses and perceived utopian effects of instrumental reason (ie, scientific reduction) but its ultimate failure to bring about foresaid utopia.

    Here may be a good synopsis told through the lens of McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” in a thesis project on McCarthy. Just the intro and the first few chapters provide a good background:

    Reading McCarthy’s works, one really begins to doubt the claimed efficacy of various ideologies to resolve social problems (“new” Atheism, Christian evangelicalism/neo-conservatism, secularism/liberalism, etc.). And that’s coming from someone who is heavily influenced by Marxism, frankly. Good stuff, and a great author.


  42. I will offer an apology as well, to you, Kevvyd, and particularly to you, Jesse. I let my anger get the better of me.
    Shoot them questions at me again and maybe I can clarify where I’m coming from. Then maybe we can put this thing to bed agreeing to disagree.


  43. Flash:

    1) Necessity, or the claim that something must be such and cannot be otherwise. There is no logical argument to say that God/gods/whatever could not exist. You can throw empirical evidence at it, but that commits the white swan fallacy: All swans we have seen are white, therefore there are not white swans. Black swan pops up, and boom–you cannot derive an absolute/universal statement from empirical evidence alone.

    2) Evidence, or, “future” evidence of a purely physicalist/materialist/Atheist worldview:

    3) The cultural context of “new” Atheism: subject to argument, but using Adorno’s work (or merely some of its ideas), Fredric Jameson’s work, Zizec, and many others, the argument can be made that “new” Atheism is completely distinct from any coherent Atheist philosophy (save Daniel C. Dennett, perhaps), that the cultural conditions which create it take an overwhelming precedent over any Atheist/humanist project (ie, Atheism as a means to an end, merely a political/social lever), that it assumes a telos of science (in spite of Merleau-Ponty’s points about the limits of scientific reduction, the “bad-faith” concept of the existentialists (deriding religion, funny or not = bad faith), Popper’s arguments for indeterminism and the open universe, Ilya Progogine’s arguments for indeterminism, Quantum Mechanics…).

    If someone could answer these claims, then I’ll become an Atheist again in any sort of social context. Until then, I think the gulf between skepticism/inquiry and Atheism is far greater than that between Atheism and religion (two parts of the same whole, perhaps?).


    1. okay, so just to clarify, “materialism” is not an atheist world view, it is a world view that, once expanded to include things derived from a material existence, is held by many atheists. you are stepping into your own white swan(which incidentally is refereed to as the black swan fallacy)

      PS I’m a Rhet major at WSU


    2. 1 + 2) Ah, the black swan. Problem is of course that you’re not expecting something to happen which quite conceivably can, I’d imaging that a black swan would be a wonderful anomaly. But you’re arguing that magic becomes reality, like Pinocchio coming to life.

      So we’ve had 14.5 billion years of white swans (not literally, we know how you christian nutters take things), does anyone really expect the next thing to fly by to be a 2000 year old jewish zombie on a gold plated pig? I’m not a betting man, wouldn’t take the bet on the black swan not appearing, but the flying zombie? $1mill a day I’ll bet on that not happening.

      3) Atheism really sin’t that hard to understand. Man has created many other gods, you know they are all made up, so is yours. No philosophy degree required. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.


  44. Guy rushes into a bar, bartender asks him what he’d like.

    “Three shots of your finest whiskey.”

    Bartender pours em out, and the guy slams them down, just 1-2-3-gone.

    Bartender says, “Man, that was quick.”
    Guy says, “You’d drink fast too, if you had what I had.”
    Bartender: “Really? Man that sucks. What do you have?”
    Guy: “About fifty cents.”


  45. Ok, thanks for that. I understand much more clearly now. I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer fully, but here goes:

    1) Necessity. I will agree wholeheartedly that there is no way to prove either way that a god or gods do or do not exist. Speaking purely from a personal point of view, the concept of god in particular, or the supernatural in general as part of a cause/effect relationship of any type seems unnecessary and introduces an immeasurable level of complexity to the explanations of natural phenomena. As explanations of physical phenomena (on earth, in this particular dimension) are consistent with established physical laws, I am confident that the inclusion of an outside force is not necessary. I probably wasn’t as clear as I could have been: I am by nature a skeptic, not a cynic – should additional, sufficiently convincing evidence that validates the inclusion of a supernatural force were to come to light, I would consider it fairly and (hopefully) rationally.
    I consider science to be the most reliable and consistent source of information currently available, although still subject to bias in the absence of sufficient controls. I compare the explanations provided by science to those offered by religion, and those with a religious basis include the extra participant, a god or gods. Science, to my mind, is reliable and has utility of use as a basis for formulating a meaningful understanding of events around me in a very broad sense. In pondering the ‘utility’ of a religious worldview, I don’t see the added benefit. This is, of course, mt own personal philosophy and not an attempt to dictate the shape of reality.
    To be clearer (probably not), in my negotiation with others regarding the nature and meaning of reality through interactions, I have not been sufficiently convinced that adding another layer of ‘ultimate meaning’ to my understanding of social life in particular would be beneficial – perhaps it is just a craving for simplicity.
    2) Evidence: I will plead guilty to the materialist/rationalist view on this. To my mind, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and some myths associated with religions would indeed be quite extraordinary, if true, but there is no evidence that these incidents are anything more than metaphor – in the case of christianity, metaphors written some time after the fact in some cases.
    Again, for me personally, the lack of confirmatory evidence of extraordinary claims makes religion inadequate as a worldview.
    This, and the first question, boil down for me to a question of meaning. What meaning does religion have in my life? None. I guess what I’m trying to say at the heart of my post is that god need not exist for me, as he/she serves no purpose.
    3) Cultural Context: I think I am at a disadvantage in not having read much of what you have, and therefore not having the specific knowledge in me head as recently – I’ve extensively read Popper, but not for 10 years. I suppose the only comment I have to make is that in my experience, Atheism lacks the cohesion of religion, so I wouldn’t attribute characteristics to it as a distinct ‘movement’, although there are some more strident individuals that like to present themselves as leaders of this theoretical group (who all wear the uniform of the Nonconformists’ Club). I think I am far enough removed from current theory to not be part of the New Atheism in any conscious way, although I am an Atheist, and, still somewhat ‘new’.
    I realize these answers are unsatisfactory, but it was important for me to reiterate one thing above all else: this is my personal philosophy, which has meaning and utility for me, and the decisions I make based on this philosophy are my own responsibility. I know for a fact that not all of my compatriots here agree with me, and that’s fine. They are at a different place, with different experiences, as do you. Since it is my personal code, if you will, it can be hard to disassociate myself from it and describe it fully and objectively.
    It may not seem so, but in retrospect, I do respect you and your opinions – you have obviously given this more thought than the ex-student who got pissed off at one too many references to Atheism as a religion one afternoon and decided to barf up a blog post about it. I got my back up, and for that, I am sorry.
    In any case, the lights in my office are going off – I think that’s my cue to leave. I’ll check out the URL you gave Kevvy as soon as I can. I can always try to rediscover my inner student.:)
    All the best.


  46. We don’t have to prove there is no God. Science has proved the Christian God doesn’t exist by refuting the Bible and the claims Christians make about it. Case closed.


    1. well, now. i think proved is the term that this guy is taking offense to.

      we have proven that
      1) Slaves didn’t build the pyramid, but that Egypt and Egyptians believed in the divinity of their leader and built the pyramids to appease the gods to benefit their harvests; “and that there was no exodus of 600,000 healthy men and their families, and (others)” and that the population did not decrease by 2/3ds. that if the stories of the plagues have any truth at all that they can be tied to the eruption of a volcano which would have made the exodus an economic decision and not a religious one, which fits because the decision for the Canaanites to migrate to Egypt in the first place was also economic

      2) There was never a global flood. never. no super-tidal wave, not from rain, nothing. in fact, melt the polar ice caps, remove 100% of H20 from the atmosphere, still no global flood. Wouldn’t cover a single continent(not even Antarctica). but that’s not really the issue. we can see from the geologic record that no floods ever even came close. never-mind the impossibility of fitting, what is it, 7 pairs of each animal on a boat 450’x75’x45′

      3)Jesus is not, was not the only person traveling around at that time claiming to perform those same miracles at the time, and in fact, that it is quite easy to produce a religion through this type of evangelism (take Scientology as an example)… heck, take science. what percentage of Atheists do you believe actually consider the friction coefficient on a dewy/muddy hill? not many.

      4) no whale or other sea animal alive today has a throat large enough to swallow even a small child in one bite(except maybe an anaconda). not even close, and if one did, you would be dead within minutes.

      i dont keep a list of these things, so i’m sure i am forgetting some, but the point is, the gaps are shrinking… not gone


  47. Imagine my surprise to find there are actual comments still being made on this… I don’t know whether to be flattered or scared…


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