Thursday, July 26, 2007

Answering questions about atheism

   Yesterday, I posted a series of questions I found at the blog The Friendly Atheist. Below are my answers to those questions, as well as some response to the discussions in the comments thread of that entry.

Why do you not believe in God?

   I recognised very early on that all of the Bible stories were no different than any other myths, legends and fairy tales we were told as children. Just as I knew that there really wasn't ever a witch with a house made of gingerbread, I knew that there really wasn't ever a seven hundred year old man sailing a boat containing two of every animal in the entire world.

Where do your morals come from?

   Exactly the same place yours do. You just don't recognise where that is. Morals are a construct of society. They evolve over time and are based entirely on empathic understanding of ourselves and those around us. How many times did your mother say to you, "how would like it if...?" She was imparting moral lessons to you. Did you learn them? I did. Weren't no god involved.

What is the meaning of life?

   Why do you feel life must have a meaning? What is the meaning of potato? What is the meaning of happy? On a more serious note, life holds what meaning you give it. You don't need any outside agency to give your life meaning. You can do it for yourself.

Is atheism a religion?

   No. Is sobriety an addiction? Atheism is a freedom from religion. It is a casting off the psychological bonds of oppression religious thought imposes upon us. It is a sudden revelation (sorry) that one is a good person in and of oneself, not out of fear of divine retribution. It feels good.

If you don’t pray, what do you do during troubling times?

   Just because I don't pray doesn't I mean I don't hope. I just don't rely on a magic man in the sky to solve my problems for me. I rely on myself, and I rely on my loved ones and my friends and family for support. If I need help, I ask for it. From real people.

Should atheists be trying to convince others to stop believing in God?

   Should religious people be trying to convince others to start believing in God? Goose, meet Gander. As an atheist, I believe I am doing good by attempting to help spread the "word" that God doesn't exist. I believe that if people are able to let go of the illusion of God's existence, they will be happier and healthier. Isn't that an admirable goal?

Weren’t some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists?

   All of the worst atrocities of the past thousand years were committed by human beings. Do you want to play 'Top That Atrocity'? You name one committed by an atheist, then I'll name one committed by a believer. Who would run out first? I don't know, but I think we'd both be at it for a good long time.

How could billions of people be wrong when it comes to belief in God?

   The same way billions of people could be wrong when it came to belief that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Many years ago it was supposed that the Sun, the stars, and each of the planets were affixed to the surfaces of immense crystal spheres surrounding the Earth. There was never any evidence that this was so, yet the idea was dreamed up, and presented, and many people believed it for a long time. Why did they believe it? Simply because they were told it was so by someone they looked up to as an authority. However, there are no crystal spheres holding up the stars and planets, and never were. The belief of millions of people did nothing to change that fact. The fact that no one believes that today is due entirely to the workings of science, in spite of the resistance of religion to abandon the idea.

Why does the universe exist?

   Because it does. See answer to meaning of life question above. I mean, really, why is it so important to you?

How did life originate?

   I don't know, and neither do you. It is possible that I might one day find out, but as long as you accept the fictionalized account presented in The Bible, you never will.

Is all religion harmful?

   At its most benign, religion is still asking people to believe in an imaginary, invisible, magic being. We are taught from an early age to stop asking the tough questions and just accept what we are told. "Yes, I know you can't see him dearie, just take my word for it, OK?"
   At its widest demographic, it exists to entitle a ruling class, and subjugate others - foreigners, women, scientists...
   At its worst, it allows acts of terrorism, like shooting doctors, just because one disagrees with how they practice medicine. (You thought I was going to say something else, didn't you?)

What’s so bad about religious moderates?

   See above. By their very existence, they allow religious extremists to exist. Usama Bin Laden (however the hell you spell his name) could not have convinced all those people to give up their own lives in the destruction of others if they didn't believe in Allah. They were religious moderates before they became religious extremists.

Is there anything redeeming about religion?

   I can't think of a single thing religion offers that we cannot have without it.

What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?

   Which one?
Maybe they all exist. What if you're wrong about whichever God you worship, and some other God is going to shit on you for all eternity because of it? Why do you think there are only two alternatives?
   I have to say that I was amused by Barbara's comment about Pascal's wager in the comments of my previous entry. She said that if she was wrong about the existence of God, she'd be disappointed. That statement shows that she is incapable of truly comprehending my point of view. Barbara, if you are wrong, you will never know it. The other part of Pascal's wager that is a problem is the suggestion that it's Ok to believe just to "hedge one's bets." Anyone who is conversant with Christian theology will recognise the fallacy in that statement. If there is a God, there's no way he's going to accept that kind of provisional belief.


Shouldnt all religious beliefs be respected?

   Do you respect other religions' beliefs? Why should I respect yours? Should I respect a teacher who tells my son that 2+2=5? Should I respect a doctor who refuses to treat me unless I admit that the world is flat? I respect other people - individuals - unless, and until they give me reason to withdraw that respect. That's all.

Are atheists smarter than theists? 

   No. However, I do think that in general - though there are always exceptions - religious people have willingly handicapped their critical thinking processes. They've put blinders on to cover one little area of doubt, and many of them don't notice that those blinders are prone to slowly grow over time.
   It's like a man who claims there is no moon, then steadfastly refuses to look at the sky at night. Eventually, he stops looking at the sky during the day as well. At some point, he fails to notice the sun, the clouds, an occasional rainbow...
   The other thing that occurs to me here does so because I am reading the Harry Potter book right now. My sister is very religious, and there was much discussion, thought, and concern in her household over whether her children would be allowed to read these books. Some of her friends were appalled that she was even considering it, and I don't understand why. For me, it's easy. I simply sit down with my child, and explain to him that these are works of fiction, and that magic, and witches and wizards don't actually exist in the real world. But if one believes in a God, one - almost by definition - must believe in magic. It's silly, really.

How do you deal with the historical Jesus if you don’t believe in his divinity?

   There was this guy named Jesus. He pissed off a lot of people. They nailed him to a tree. He died. Life's a bitch. Why must there be a problem there? I have no doubt that a man named Jesus rallied a great number of people behind him, and completely changed the world. I see no reason to assign him divinity.

Would the world be better off without any religion?

   Would the world be better off if religion had never existed? No, I don't think so. Would the world be a better place today if the majority of the religious came around to reality? I do believe that to be the case.

What happens when we die?

   People grieve for us. (Actually, they grieve for themselves, don't they?) We don't notice.


   I touched on Barbara's comments above, in my reply to the whole Pascal's wager question. She also asked, "why try so hard to convince others there is no God, if indeed there is no God?  Why fight something imaginary?"
   Well, Barbara, you are right that it would be silly to fight against something imaginary. However, we are not fighting against "God," because we do believe him to be imaginary. What we are fighting against is belief in God. The God is imaginary, but the belief is real. Just as I fight against belief in Homeopathic medicine, which is imaginary, or belief in psychic phenomena, which are imaginary, because I believe them to be harmful to people.

   Jennyp51 asked a few questions as well. First, she asked, "Why do athiests say that science and the bible are incompatable?"
   Jenny, I can't pretend to speak for all atheists here, but this is my take on the subject. I don't claim that science and The Bible are incompatible. I claim that they are unrelated. It doesn't make any sense to talk about them in the same discussion, just as it wouldn't make any sense to talk about dessert recipes and toenail cleaning strategies in the same discussion. The two have no impact upon one another.

   "How do you explain archeological finds that consistently go along with what the bible says?"
   Jenny, I am unfamiliar with any such finds. Perhaps if you pointed to a specific example we could discuss it.

   "Lawyers have studied the evidence of Christ's trial, death and resurrection and said it would stand up in court as true.  How would you answer them?"

  
Jenny, on this question I must claim stupefaction. I have no idea what you mean by it. Can you point me to a website that describes this particular claim, so I may better understand it?

   There you have my answers to the questions provided by Hemant Metha, as well as others asked by commenters. I look forward to further discussing these topics, as well as answering any other questions you may come up with. This entry is now thrown open for comments.

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67 comments:

stillh20z said...

I love it when you go THERE.


(assface)


xoxoxo,

dpoem said...

I answered these questions when you first put them up.  However, I was waiting until you posted them since the natural order of things dictates that I steal things from you, and it should not be the other way around.  

Anyway, Paul, your answers seem considerably more kind than mine.  I suppose that has something to do with the fact that you have considerably more experience talking to children than I.  

Aside from that though, I'll post my answers when I can.  Great job on these, though.    I particularly love the answer "Is sobriety an addiction."  I've never heard that before, and it's absolutely brilliant.  So, get a lawyer because I am totally going to steal that from you.  

One thing, though:  could you possibly expand a little on that "Would the world be better off without religion" answer?  I personally feel that had humanity not been fettered by religion, we would be a considerably more intellectually advanced species.  However, from your answer, I get the notion that you are saying that early on, religion may have served a good purpose by removing some sort of bogeyman or hobgoblin by replacing the irrationally scary with an even more irrationally scary myth or fable.  

-Dan
http://thewisdomofadistractedmind.blogspot.com/

simianfarmer said...

I think I'm going to wait to read the inevitable defensive posturings you're going to get in response to this, Paul.  I think it'll be fun.

I still claim a belief in something greater than myself - something more, - but nothing that has ever been captured by anything so incommodious as Man's organised religions.  I think, currently, that Spinoza best captures most of my line of thinking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinoza#Overview_of_his_philosophy

Also, one question I didnt' think to ask earlier this week, and that fits with those posed, was your take on what happens after corporeal death.  Or rather, what doesn't happen.  I was going to elaborate a little more, but I'll leave it open like that.

Simon
http://simianfarmer.com

princesssaurora said...

Paul, you know I don't agree completely with you.  I do agree about religion.  

I don't agree that because I believe in 'something else' that hasn't been proven yet, that means I believe in magic.  

But, the world be a boring place if we all were the same.  Bottom line it is about respect and morals.  And, being atheist doesn't mean that you cannot do or have those things for others.  

be well,
Dawn

jennyp51 said...

Thanx for sharing your beliefs, and being as you want comments here it comes.
You say that ALL of the bible stories are no different than other myths etc.  just to take one thing 'crucifixions a myth'?  I thought the Romans crucifying people was history?
You seem to state things that you believe as if they are fact. i.e. 'you don't need any outside agency'.  you may not have that need but you cannot speak for my needs: 'bonds of oppression', i am not oppressed: 'if people are able to let go of the illusion of God's existence...', i became a christian as an adult, i most certainly wasn't 'happier and healthier' as a non-christian.
I became a christian after looking long and hard at the evidence and the balance weighed on the side of it being true.  There never was an invisable magic being and still isn't, and i have never been told to just accept what i was told, either as a child or adult.  I believe i have met the living Jesus and he has spoken to me, led, me, taught me, shown me a far better life than i had before.  You may disbelieve this but you cannot say for a fact that it is not true because i believe you just don't know for a fact that it is not.  As we both know there is a big difference between believing something to be true and knowing as a fact it is true.
Jenny <><

princesssaurora said...

Well stated, Jenny.  Paul does get a bit presumptuous in what he thinks 'believers' are and must be, and you called him on it.

be well,
Dawn

jennyp51 said...

Here is a site for you to look at about archeological evidence for the bible.
http://faithfacts.gospelcom.net/maps_a.html
You are certainly making me think and work hard Paul, i had to have a coffee to give myself a caffiene boost to get my brain working.
Jenny <><

jennyp51 said...

One more site and i suggest you go on to read the science bit too.http://www.bibleevidences.com/archeology.htm
Jenny <><

jennyp51 said...

Just adding that again so you can go straight to it.
Jenny <><
http://www.bibleevidences.com/archeology.htm

dpoem said...

So, Jenny, you readily admit that you met a man who died almost two-thousand years ago?  And, somehow, this manages to make sense to you?  

What if I said that I met Aristotle?  Would you think that I was crazy?  

-Dan
http://thewisdomofadistractedmind.blogspot.com/


frankandmary said...

Whether or not I feel I can determine for sure the existence of a Creator God, I do know & love some people that are SURE of one, & they seem pretty damn happy, smart too. Now, I am not saying all the God loving people I know are happy & smart, but the few closest to me are. I don't trust anyone that REALLY wants me to believe in God any more than I trust someone that REALLY doesn't want me to believe, huge turnoff either way. Go your own way.

I do like your answers because they seem well thought out & honest.  I hate having someone just basically write something that amounts to: You don't believe what I believe so you are a moron.  ~ Mary

aleclynch said...

Jenny, I certainly don't agree with Paul in all areas, but to be fair, I don't think he’s implying everything the bible says (your example of people being crucified) are myths.  Remember, Paul doesn't dispute that there was someone named Jesus, etc. Romans are mentioned in the bible too, and I'm mostly certain Paul believes that Rome exists...unless his vacation there was part of the hoax...

I think Paul was mostly talking about the stories of the bible where something miraculous occurs (Adam & Eve, Noah's Arc, etc).

Also, the websites you suggest aren't exactly the most...unbiased or scientific (I'll admit I only spent a lot of time on the first one). I mean, one at least spends a huge section claiming evolution is false (no scientist that is a specialist in that field would agree with that) and it's archeological evidence seems to be a list of things which *could* be matched up to *something* in the bible:
"Harvard researchers unearthed a silver-plated bronze calf figurine reminiscent of the huge golden calf mentioned in the book of Exodus" isn't exactly a telling link. Again, I don't think many people would argue that the bible is an extremely useful historical document in a number of ways. I suspect, however, that archeological evidence of the miraculous aspects of the bible are harder to come by.  
---
There's a couple points I might try to argue with later on (I actually think religion has/does/can offer a lot of good), but for now I’ll just say that I loved your response to the "I believe because I have nothing to lose and all to gain" argument. That, along with the "why are you moral?" questions are the two that get to me the most.

My quick advice, to any who have trouble understanding atheists: When it comes to Zeus, Thor, and Cthula, and countless other gods, you're an atheist too, right?  That's just like us except we've added one more god to our list. :)

-Alec

dpoem said...

I honestly don't care what people believe one way or another.  However, I am confident in the fact that all religion, and every belief in the superstitious, encourages people to lead delusional, and sometimes, very precarious lives.  And when reality is cast to the wayside as a result of these delusions, does humanity stand any chance of advancing intellectually as a species?  

Right now, there is a strong demand to teach mythology in our schools under the auspicious notion that it is a verifiable, empirically-based, legitimate science, and if you believe this is not a hazard to the educational development of our children, as well as the legitimacy of our institutions, then you are part of the problem that is the ever-growing intellectual decline of this nation's people.

-Dan
http://thewisdomofadistractedmind.blogspot.com/

tenyearnap said...

Maybe looking for a "meaning" to life just makes life smaller, meaner, especially when The Meaning comes prepackaged through a religious organization/school of thought. Yummy McMeaning. --Cin

jennyp51 said...

Alec, i just did a quick google as i get most of my info from books.  To find an unbiased site from either stance though is hard.  I think the point the sites are trying to make is that people have said the names of kings, places etc. written about in the bible didn't exist or were wrong, therefore the  bible was false.  But archeological findings have since found evidence of these kings and towns etc. exactly in the time and palce that the bible speaks of.
Jenny <><

aleclynch said...

Fair enough Jenny, and I think I take your point. I would agree that just as the fact that at least *some* things the bible says are historically true doesn't make *everything* the bible says automatically true, pointing out aspects of the bible that are false doesn't automatically mean everything in it is false (though it would suggest that everything the bible says should not, perhaps, be taken as literal truth, but that's a whole other issue).

I'd also agree with you that there are certainly sites out there on both sides of the issue that are biased and unscientific. However, where you were the one to make the claim that archeological evidence exists supporting the bible as truth, that puts the onus on you to provide a valid source of the claim. That said, I'm wondering if we're talking at cross-purposes here. If you want to simply say there is evidence that at least some of what happens in the bible is historically true, that's one thing; if you mean to say archeology supports the bible in terms of what it has to say regarding miracles, faith, tenets, etc., then that's a much larger claim.

-Alec

bpslider45 said...

Oooh... where to start?!?
Let's try this in 2 parts and I'll TRY to be brief.

Paul you're 1st.
1)"all of the Bible stories were no different than any other myths."
ALL??
Pot stirring!! And I'm a callin' ya on it.
Not all the Bible stories are myths. Problem is no church has a definitive line on which ones are analogies and which ones are supposed to be literal truths.
Hence it becomes very difficult to take any of it seriously.
2)Should Group A be trying to convince Group B that the other is wrong. Personally I think if everyone would simply work on staying within their own faith/beliefs/ideals and forget about trying to "recruit" others to their "path," we'd all be a lot better off. Some religious people would undoubtedly be much worse off without their beliefs. They are also the worst for recruiting.
3)All religion harmfull? No way. Again, some people do not have the ability to take your absolute stance of "this is all there is." For some it is not enough. Religion fills the hole they believe is there.
4)Religious moderates "allow religious extremists to exist?"
Only if they take no action when the religion is abused. Your statement is akin to stating all immigrants are bad because some immigrants import crime from their originating country. It's unfair to classify them all due to the actions of a minority.
I will admit though, too many moderates look the other way when extemists run amok. Too many examples to even bother.
5)"I can't think of a single thing religion offers that we cannot have without it."
Change that "we" to yourself and OK. While you may function well without the embrace of a divinity to help you through troubled times, many cannot and would not survive without belief and prayer. Just because it works for you does not make it an answer for all.

Ok. Done with you.
On to the others. HEE HEE, this is fun.
Brent

princesssaurora said...

Cin and Dan... I agree with Mary.  There are many people out there who are smart and happy, who don't think only 'their' way is the only way, who respect, love are tolerant and non judgemental and are religious.  

Unfortunately, it is the extremists on either side of anything, religion or politics that get all the press.  

Cin... I feel bad for you because you are living in a Mormon fundie hell right now, however, to be fair, I know a mormon family here in NJ and they are very normal.

So, it goes with anything... there is good, there is bad.  It is about your personal choices for the way you want to live your life.  And, all should be choosing what is best for them and all at the same time.  If that makes sense... that is what I try my damndest to do.

be well,
Dawn

toonguykc said...

You can't hear it, but I'm applauding this entry. For real.  I am.  

Russ

plittle said...

Just as long as you're not standing, Russ.
-Paul

princesssaurora said...

So long as I am here... I loved your final point to Paul, Brent, you can't speak for all, Paul.  Brent... waiting for more...

be well,
Dawn

bpslider45 said...

Part 2.
Hello Jenny,
Please don't take offence that this is directed at you.
You just happen to be the only one taking up the banner for religion so far.
These points are applicable for any of the religious viewpoint.

1)Your issue with Paul about 'crucifixions a myth?' is awfully selective. (I've already called him on the "pot stirring.") The Bible is full of examples of stories which use information and events of the time to try to establish credibility for the "myth" aspects. Sure, there where crucifixions, but was there a resurrection?
There was probably flooding around the time of Noah, but was there an ark carrying them two-by-two?? There are way too many examples in the Bible of things that cannot be supported by fact and physics. So much so that some churches now openly preach them as analogies.
2)You claim there is evidence to support the Bible, but as pointed out by others this proof is biased and not based on empirical data. A good example is the difference between the established dating of this planet as opposed to the Biblical age. I have heard many religious claims that the scientific based age is flawed and unreliable, but never an explanation as to the methods used to find these flaws or more importantly an alternative dating method which backs the Bibles dates.
Science is always fact checking itself. One can make a world wide reputation by finding a credible flaw in an established theorum. Why have no scientists found these flaws? Please don't quote conspiracy. You can't even maintain consensus about global warming let alone hide world-wide fraud.
Cont'd

bpslider45 said...

Cont'd (sorry)
3)For me all religions have one major flaw.
"OUR WAY OR OFF TO PURGATORY YOU GO!" (Anyone know how to insert flames?)
Based on your comments I'm guessing you are Catholic. Do you honestly believe that you are more deserving of Heaven than a Tibetan monk who has devoted his entire life to "that other God?" For that matter do you believe that your God will refuse Paul because he chose to go with facts over beliefs. If he has lived his life in a way that pleases God, why should he be refused?
You see, all religion is exclusionary. It's always telling others what they are lacking.
And they don't stop with Atheists. Even if you pray, but not the right way, you're excluded.
God must be inclusive to be of value to this world.
My 2 cents,
Brent

bpslider45 said...

I think I have Dawn figured out.
Poke Paul with a sharp stick and she's happy.
Me too!
Brent

princesssaurora said...

LOL... Yes, that covers it Brent!  he he he  

Also, I TOTALLY agree with you that God/Supreme Being etc, must be inclusive of all who live a good life.  That is what I believe.  If there is an 'after' Paul will be there.  And, I will smack him on the arm (the way I do to my hubby it is proven over time that...) and say 'HA I was right!'  LOL

be well,
Dawn

jennyp51 said...

Be gentle with me, i am taxing my brain to its limits here. LOL!

Ok.  The crucifixion was the first thing i thought of, i couldn't select all.  the resurrection happened and Jesus was seen by over 500 people.  If made up by his followers i am sure the authorities would have produced the body.  If he really died, dead, finito, wouldn't his followers just have slinked off as it would have prooved he wasn't who he said he was.  After all why risk your life for nothing.

The ark: I am told that the dimensions given in the bible would build an ark that would float and hold all the animal groups.  2 by 2?  Read the bible.

Who goes to heaven:  Basically its your choice.  God offers it to you as a gift, all you have to do is accept it.  Obviously you cannot accept something from someone who you believe doesn't exist.  Or you may say, i know you are real, but no thank you.
You accept eternal life with God by believing in Jesus and following him, not by being good, because no one can come up to God's perfect standard.  Why would anyone who doesn't believe in God want to spend eternity with him anyway?  So you choose hell when you turn down God's gift.

princesssaurora said...

What you described in your last paragraph Jenny is the version of 'heaven' and 'what God does with non-beleivers' preached by YOUR particular church.

I don't believe that at all.  I believe that all good people, who lived the best moral life that they could, regardless of their man-made prepackaged religious beliefs or non-beliefs, will NOT be denied God.  

My God is all inclusive in that way.  In a very Unitarian kind of way... if you will.

However, I do not subscribe to their man-made constructs either.

be well,
Dawn
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/

bpslider45 said...

Hi Jenny,
I'll pass on debating the ark issue with you.
I have a funny feeling you would go with what that other source told you about it being possible, no matter how many engineers I line up who say otherwise.

More important to me is that you did not answer the question regarding a Tibetan Monk.
Do you honestly believe that God as you know him would deny these men the afterlife you call heaven simply because they pray to Budha as opposed to Jesus?
These people are probably more devout and dedicated to God than all of us put together and yet according to your church they are excluded!
Are you okay with that?

Which raises another question.
Why would God create a species (humans) in so many various forms but only allow one saviour who presented himself in one form?
Why not have several messengers for the various races to allow as much of the species to find God as possible?

Left with a choice between your God's exclusion of a significant part of the populace and Paul's disbelief, I'd have to join Paul.

Brent

princesssaurora said...

Well said Brent... I would have to join you with Paul before excluding... but I won't!  I'll just include everyone!  And, give them lots of hugs!!!  Because that is the kind of optimist I am.  

I think you have to be a bit of a pessimist to be an atheist.  At least it seems that way... hmmm... another topic to debate!

be well,
Dawn
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/


cacklinrosie101 said...

Just a question, Paul.....is it offensive to you if you sneeze, and someone utters a "God bless you?"  I work with an antheist, and he is ballistic with the God bless yous.   Now if I could spell it properly, I would but we utter the German phrase for David.  Chris

plittle said...

  Actually, Chris, I touched on that in a previous entry (which I am far too lazy to go looking for right now.) If someone sneezes near me, I'm just as likely to say, "bless you," as anything else. Do I literally mean, "may God bless you and prevent evil demons from posessing you in your moment of weakness?" No. It's just what you say when someone sneezes. And when someone who believes in God says, "bless you," to me after I sneeze, I say, "thank you." Because they didn't mean it literally any more than I do. It's just one of those polite responses our mothers drilled into us when we were young.
-Paul

princesssaurora said...

Paul... no comment on why it seems that most atheists seem to be pessimists?

be well,
Dawn

aleclynch said...

I'll take you up on it Dawn. :)

And of course, to make it fun, I have to disagree with you.  

Whether one is an atheist, agnostic, or theist, this isn't a glass half-full / glass half-empty question.

Belief or disbelief in things don't come down to optimism or pessimism. After all, there are all kinds of things that you've thought and reasoned about, examined the evidence for, etc, and in the end decided that in all likelihood the given thing doesn't exist, right?  Do you believe in Zeus or Thor?  The Easter Bunny? That Windex can cure disease? Probably not.  And that doesn't make you any more or less pessimistic than an atheist who has come to the same conclusion about all gods.  The fact that, when it comes to a particular god/afterlife, we've come to different conclusions after looking at the evidence and examining our reason and feelings, does not have to do with how optimistic we are.

It's certainly not like atheists don't enjoy life, look forward to things, and often expect good things to happen.  Just as there's countless theists that get depressed, always predict the worst, and so on.

Finally, let me turn this around a bit. Consider how many people there are out there like Jenny who think so many of us are going to spend an eternity suffering in hell.  You tell me what's more pessimistic: believing that there is simply nothing after this life, or believing that there is--but for many it's an eternity of suffering and pain? Heck, not only is the glass half-empty, but it tastes like burning.

-Alec

bpslider45 said...

Well put Alec,
That's as good an explanation as I've heard.

Dawn, trust me, Paul is not a pessimist. At least no more than the rest of us.
We all have those moments.

He does often play the scat disturber here on the blog but he would claim that was to stimulate discussion.

Come to think of it he sometimes does that off the blog as well.
There are other names we may call him but pessimist? Nope.
Brent

princesssaurora said...

Well, guys, Alex and Brent, I said 'why does it seem most atheists are pessimists'.  I didn't say Paul is one of those.  I know several other onliners that are atheists, some have a pessimistic life view, which I do NOT confuse with their atheism, it was just an observation.  I also know some in real life, and more than not, they are pretty much half glass empty type of people.  

It was just an observation from my own personal experience, and I wondered if anyone noticed the same, and wanted to discuss that.  

I also don't find Paul to be the 'typical' atheist.  More typically I have encountered people like Chris mentioned in her comment, that go off about saying 'bless you' when you sneeze.  Not all, but most.

be well,
Dawn
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/

princesssaurora said...

Here is another observation... Most atheists I have encountered are men.  I have come across two women online, one is, one is 98% atheist (waving), and I have met one in real life.  The rest have all been men.  

Just coincidence?  Or can we extrapolate from my experience, and even comments on this blog and people Paul links to, that there does seem to be more men who are atheistic than women?

Opinions?

be well,
Dawn
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/

jennyp51 said...

I agree with you about ark debating.  What i wonder more is do you really already have engineers to say otherwise or - and forgive me if i'm wrong - you automatically believe anyone, even if they be an expert engineer themself, must be wrong if they say anything pro-bible.  Why assume that my source must be the wrong one and there is someone out there to prove me wrong.
Tibetan monk:
Firstly Budha didn't believe in God and is dead, so i am not sure about the praying to him bit.  I agree they may be devout and dedicated but not to God because they do not believe in God.  Read this extract from the Dalai Lama's book on his official web site.
http://www.tibet.com/Buddhism/nechung_hh.html
No my God does not deny anybody eternal life, but he will not force anyone to have something they do not want.  He offers it to you and everyone and Jesus came to tell you about it and he said follow me if you want it, but he won't make you.
Just accept for the moment that God is everything he says he is.  Wouldn't you just accept that he knows what is best for you and deserves to be followed.  He says i made you and love you and have provided an eternal home for you.  All i ask is that you have faith in me and follow me.  God excludes nobody, you exclude yourself, and i ask again, if God is so bad or doesn't exist why would you want to live with him forever?

penniepooh said...

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. If you guys want to debate, go right ahead. But the Bible does warn about the consequences of mocking God.
Be open to accepting Jesus into your life and you just might be surprised what happens! He comes to the world as light so that no one who believes in Him should stay in darkness.
Penny
http://journals.aol.com/penniepooh/pennys-pieces-of-ohio/

gehi6 said...

I find your responses to these questions very lucid and logical, so I enjoyed them.  The only time I don't enjoy your reasoning is when I think you are so intent on making your point you get irritated.  My belief is that once emotion takes over the fine light of reason fades.  I have noted this irritation in your responses to others occasionally, too, like to astrologers and the like and reacted.  I thought you ceased to act like a gentleman in your zeal to fight beliefs you regard as false.  I didn't detect any of that here in these answers, but when anybody get too disgusted with me, I tend to get reactive, whether they call themselves believers or skeptics.  I think skeptics can be mean and that is not right anymore than it is right for believers to proclaim their superiority over the unsaved.  I am used to being rejected by believers, but when skeptics reject my thinking, too, I think well, I can't please anybody!  And go my way.  Gerry  http://journals.aol.com/gehi6/daughters-of-the-shadow-men/    

bpslider45 said...

Umm... Jenny,
I don't think you are reading this quote the way I am.
"my God does not deny anybody eternal life"
"Just accept for the moment that God is everything he says he is."
" God excludes nobody"
All of these staements tell me that they do inded believe in God.
Furthermore, "He offers it to you and everyone and Jesus came to tell you about it," tells me he accepts Jesus as one of God's messengers not the only one.

Why is it so hard for you to accept that there might be another path to God besides Jesus?

As I asked before, why would God send only one messenger/mesiah/whatever to spread his word to all mankind?
It takes very little rational though and a quick at history to see that this is doomed to failure.

Besides, you have used my one example of a religious man who will fail to go to heaven because he is not Catholic. This same argument applies to all religions.
Are you going to tell me that Catholics are the only ones who beleive in God?
Will Protestants be denied? Muslims? Jews?
All these people in Purgatory, not because they don't believe in God but because they don't say the right kind of prayers?

That doesn't sound like a choice the God I believe in would make.

It does however sound like the kind of half-baked notion a human could come up with.
Brent
PS - I have not ever heard one mechanical engineer ever support the ark story. Let me know if you have.

bpslider45 said...

Opps, forgot to check my typing there. Sorry for for all the typos.
Brent

bpslider45 said...

Penny,
That was exactly the kind of comment that adds nothing to the debate.
If we wanted to be preach to, we would go to church and debate it with the Minister.
If you wish to point out a flaw in my logic, please go ahead.
If you're going to use a child's answer of "because!", you're not helping anyone.
Brent

jennyp51 said...

Brent,
I think we may be arguing at cross purposes.
firstly i am not a Catholic.
Why is it so hard for me to accept.... because God doesn't lie.  if the Christian God says something totally contradictory from say, the muslim Allah, they cannot both be right or God is playing games with us all.  i.e. God says he has a son Jesus, Allah says he has no son.  Now why would the same God say two opposite things?  Jesus said, 'i am the way, the truth, the life, nobody can come to the Father except through me, also, 'Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name (Jesus) under heaven given to men by which we must be saved'.  Your way makes God out to be a liar and capricious.  It is not that i don't accept there are other paths, it is God who says there isn't and i believe him.
Jenny <><

jennyp51 said...

Brent,
It was not the 'who has heard of an engineer i was querying (ark) but the assumption that my sources always have to be wrong.
Jenny <><

bpslider45 said...

Jenny,
I'm not assuming your sources are wrong.
I'm asking what or who they are?

I have a good friend (my best man at my wedding) who is a mechanical engineer.
We have discussed the infeasibility of the ark.

Aside from that I have read several articles which explained in detail what would be required to build a vessel capable of carrying the established cargo. They also discussed how it would have been impossible in that era with the materials and skills available. All this without hitting on the task of gathering and caring for all the animals.
I have also seen the same kind of information discussed on one of those "Myth Buster" TV shows.

Of all this information, I trust my friend (who is educated in the requirements of building things) above all. He has no vested interest or reason to give me anything other than the facts.

Who are you trusting? What is their background? Do they have any education to support their ability to make these claims? Have they shown that they could design such a vessel and make it seaworthy?

Brent.
PS- I'm really more interested if you acknowledge that your faith (Catholicism) condemns millions of people to Purgatory and/or Hell simply because of "how" they believe in God.
Is this acceptable to you?

bpslider45 said...

Hi Jenny,
Skip my PS for the moment.
I didn't see your other post until after.
Back in a second.
Brent

bpslider45 said...

OK I'm back.
Jenny, I don't believe God would lie either.

However, humans have proven that they will lie about just about anything for just about any reason.
Is it not possible that the people at that point in time, wrote the gospels to best advance what they thought was the "one true" faith?
Can you not see by looking at mankind's history that this kind of historical modification has occured time and again.

I'm not trying to claim that these people were malicious.
Simply that they wrote the gospels to try to convince everyone they could as to their fervent belief that Jesus was the way to salvation.
Again, history has shown this to be a very commonplace practice amongst those enthralled with any cause.

This would all of course assume that you do not believe that the Bible was "literally" written by God.

My previous PS still applies either way.

"I'm really more interested if you acknowledge that your faith (whatever it may be) condemns millions of people to Purgatory and/or Hell simply because of "how" they believe in God.
Is this acceptable to you?"

Brent

aleclynch said...

Backing up a bit here, but you go away for a couple of hours and look what happens! :)

Dawn said:
"Well, guys, Alex and Brent, I said 'why does it seem most atheists are pessimists'.  I didn't say Paul is one of those."

Dawn, I'm not sure if you meant to include me here, but I thought my response to your question *was* addressing your general observation as opposed to Paul personally.  

"More typically I have encountered people like Chris mentioned in her comment, that go off about saying 'bless you' when you sneeze.  Not all, but most."

Dawn, I'd like to suggest that most atheists do not "go off" on such things.  Perhaps it only seems that way to you because you are more likely to remember the ones that do; they stand out more after all. Most atheists wouldn't react oddly to it, or reply to a "bless you" by saying "well thank-you, and by the way I'm an atheist", so you wouldn't even recognize the person as an atheist. :)

It would be like if I claimed all theists were intolerant fundementalists who say I'm doomed to hell.  Sure, a few are like that, but I have to remember that the bulk of them aren't (quite the opposite, in fact!); it's just easy to forget because they don't stand out as much.

-Alec

aleclynch said...

Sorry, me again. :)

Jenny said:
"if God is so bad or doesn't exist why would you want to live with him forever?"

Jenny, can you really not understand the idea of wanting something you don't believe in? Seriously???  No, I don't believe that when we die we get to spend an eternity in bliss. Why, however, would that mean I may not want it? Or at least not think that others should get it?  Do you believe in a machine that can turn toxic waste into grain, or say a type of chocolate that can cure cancer? Does this then mean you couldn't possibly think such things might be nice?  

Penny (and Jenny to an extent).  Belief is not voluntary.  A person cannot simply choose to believe in something they don't. If you don't  believe me...well, then just make yourself believe me! Or look at the colour of the nearest wall and choose to believe it's a different shade. I'm betting you can't...or if you can we have other things to discuss.  If my own path of reasoning and interpretation of all available evidence has caused me to believe there is no god/afterlife, I *cannot* just make myself believe.  I'd need evidence or reasoning to cause my belief to change.  

It is not a choice as you want to put it.  Can you really not see how, if I don't believe everything the bible says is true, simply telling me that it is because the bible says so is not going to change anything?

-Alec

bpslider45 said...

Alec - Again, well said.

Dawn - Alec is right. It was I who unfairly claimed you were calling Paul a pessimist. My apologies.
You did say "I think you have to be a bit of a pessimist to be an atheist" and I think that's where I got that impression from.
Still, my mistake.

Simon - 50!! I know that was a different entry but still, hey its 50!! Betcha thought no one was paying attention.
Brent

plittle said...

Alec,
  Remember that episode of Star Trek where Spock had to mind meld with each member of the away team to make them truly believe the bullets would not kill them? That was so cool!
-Paul

princesssaurora said...

<<No my God does not deny anybody eternal life, but he will not force anyone to have something they do not want.  He offers it to you and everyone and Jesus came to tell you about it and he said follow me if you want it, but he won't make you.
Just accept for the moment that God is everything he says he is.  Wouldn't you just accept that he knows what is best for you and deserves to be followed.  He says i made you and love you and have provided an eternal home for you.  All i ask is that you have faith in me and follow me.  God excludes nobody, you exclude yourself, and i ask again, if God is so bad or doesn't exist why would you want to live with him forever?
#37 Comment from jennyp51 - 28/07/07 4:49 PM>>

Jenny, But Jesus embraced EVERYONE.  The lepers, the prostitutes, those who in His words 'did not know God'.  I think he was making a HUGE point.  All those things you say above... Were taught by MAN.  Not God.  Not Jesus.

be well,
Dawn

princesssaurora said...

Alec,

Sorry, I default to Alex... personal reason. LOL  Yes, it was Brent who assumed you didn't sorry.  

And, your point is well taken.  There could be many atheists that I was not aware of just accepting my bless you's.  However, I was speaking of people that I 'knew' not was casual acquaintances of.  But, yes... I concede.  

No one wants to comment on why more men than women?  Just a fluke?  I am totally willing to concede that too, in fact, I inasmuch said that in my comment asking for comments.

be well,
Dawn
ps... wow... this really woke up!

plittle said...

Dawn,
  There could be many different reasons why there appear to be fewer female atheists than male atheists. How many possbile reasons do you think we can list? I'll start.
1) There are really about equal numbers, but men are more outspoken about their beliefs.
You're up.
-Paul

bpslider45 said...

All right, I'll stick my head in the noose.

There are more men than women because men tend towards cold hard facts and logic.
They tend not to be as affected by the emotional aspects of life.

Women generally are more influenced by emotions and their feelings about things.

If ever there was a topic which could be divided into cold hard facts as opposed to emotional influences, atheism vrs. theism has to be it.

Now please, I'm not saying women cannot be logical (and cold:)) and men cannot be affected by emotion but the tendencies are there.
I'll start ducking now!
Brent

princesssaurora said...

I didn't want to list them, dear Paul.  I just wanted to know if you found that to be true!  I don't buy the women 'don't speak up' crap either.  I know very few women like that!  

be well,
Dawn

princesssaurora said...

I was hoping Paul went there Brent... but hey, I'll take you.

I do believe you are on to something there, and it may be more base, more instinctual than just emotion.

Maybe because 2 cells somehow 'become' a life within us (women), we are more 'wired' per se to feel there has to be 'something' more?  Maybe.

Interesting.  As you stated, we will never know.  Until it is time for us to know.  I don't know if you ever stopped by my blog but I did a post recently,
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/entries/2007/07/24/killing-me-softly/3381
 that says much what you said.  We won't know.  All we have for sure is THIS time here and now.  Live it.

be well,
Dawn

princesssaurora said...

he he he... you were expecting me to go off, huh?  

One of the women might... LOL

be well,
Dawn

bpslider45 said...

I'm still ready to duck!
Brent

princesssaurora said...

LOL... I tried to email you a thank you for your comment.  I appreciate that... and honestly... it is the only thing we control, right?

be well,
Dawn

bpslider45 said...

Personaly, the only thing I control is my ability to smile.
My wife has control of all the rest.
Ducking again.
Brent

jennyp51 said...

Alec, I take your point, you cannot make yourself just believe.

Alec, Brent, Paul

The problem i am having is that there is not enough room in the comments to do justice to your questions.  A lot of my views have come from 25 years of reading and studying the bible and i have taught it for the last 17.  This in no way makes me an expert, in fact it just re-inforces how much i don't know, but it is hard to convey 25 years in a few lines.  When someone says you cannot possibly believe this or that, i want to shout, 'but it is not like that'.  It would take a lot more than a comment though to explain why. One thing we have not even begun to touch on is the spiritual side of things which cannot be left out of the equation when looking at christianity.
Jenny <><

rebuketheworld said...

If someone said they were an Atheist but all that they did showed that they worshipped God and loved him, you might say he is a liar. If someone said that they were a Christian but all that they showed that they worshipped evil and hated God, you might say he is a liar.

Having watched some Youtube videos by Atheist they use the arguement that Hitler and KKK, etc., said they were Christians so with their logic, they were. I say they were liars inspite of what they said because of what they did. Very few atrocities were done by Christians but many were done by those who said they were but they were liars. They were infact, evil. ~Raven

bhbner2him said...

P, you jumped to conclusions on me.  I NEVER implied you should believe in Christ just to avoid the fires of hell.  I simply meant, if you are right and there is no God, heaven or hell....then when I pass it will be either nothing or fleeting realization that I was wrong.  No biggie.  I sencerily wanted you to imagine if I am right and you find yourself before the Judgement of God what your reaction, feelings at that moment might be.  -  BArbara

bpslider45 said...

Barbara,
If there is a God (I believe there is) and a Heaven, Paul will be there.
Why, because of how he lives his life, not because of how or which book he reads from.
Any God who would award passes to Heaven based on the requirements you talk about would not be a God I would want to join anyhow.

Let's see.
A Heaven with rapists and murderers who at the end confessed their sins and accepted Jesus or....

A Heaven where to get in, you needed to be a good person, who lived a good life and brought happiness to the lives of the people around you.

Can you honestly say that the first example is what God wants.
If so, you can have it.
I'll pass and stick with the "nothing or fleeting realization that I was wrong."

I don't want to spend eternity with your kind of crowd.

Brent

princesssaurora said...

Brent... that was an awesome answer.  I believe the same.

I am also staying the hell away from the other post... whoa!  WTF????

be well,
Dawn

justaname4me2 said...

"What if you're wrong about whichever God you worship, and some other God is going to shit on your for all eternity because of it"

Now that is classic, I laughed out loud and had to refocus on the subject.

Brilliant my friend, is my response to your answers. You've created the Atheism study guide for those who can't articulate their beliefs in a well thought out design. I suggest publication........very well written.

It does feel good, really good, to be free from religious oppression. I believe in myself, my choices, my actions and universal control of what happens around me. There is no boogyman hidden in the heavens waiting to pat my back or slash my back. It's all good...........now, I'll attempt to read some comments and my oh my, there's a bible full I see.

Rebecca