The Raving Theist

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Voices of Theism: Steve G.

September 20, 2005 | 264 Comments

The Raving Atheist welcomes frequent commenter Steve G. — faithful Catholic, husband, and father of three — as TRA’s first Voice of Theism.

I ask that my readers exercise tolerance when responding. Before commenting, please read the definition of “tolerance” set forth in Dawn Eden’s New York Daily News column regarding this site. Compliance will be strictly enforced.


WHEN I CONSIDERED ATHEISM, it seemed immediately obvious to me that the end result would have to include an admission that indeed there was no overarching purpose to life. I’ve seen this frank admission from many atheists, along with the admission that this is indeed a hard truth. It is described in a recent Question of the Day as the ‘. . . soul-crushing realization that human existence is meaningless . . . .’ In a recent comment discussion, commentator Vernichten described it as

Comments

264 Responses to “Voices of Theism: Steve G.”

  1. Sean
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:25 am

    But a belief that true purpose does exists necessitates an explanation that I have yet to see atheism offer.

    I do believe that there is a true purpose to our existence, vessels in which DNA replicates. Divine in nature? No. Purposeful? Yes. So, with regards to life on earth, we have a purpose, you are right. When the sun balloons into a red giant the size of the orbit of Mars, our purpose comes to an end. Actually, life will probably be eliminated before this as tectonic activity stops, and the carbon cycle comes to an end. Either way, our purpose is will short lived.

    There is nothing about having a sense of purpose from an evolutionary stand point that says that purpose need be divine in nature. The will to live is purpose enough for me.

  2. kmisho
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:26 am

    I don’t understand the whole emphasis on purpose. It’s such a vague word when used all by itself a reminds me of religious uses of the term ‘higher power.’ An eagle is a higher power than myself in terms of eyesight. A cheetah is a higher power than myself in terms of speed. Etc…

    What always seems to be missing in these discussions, from the religious side, is perspecive of this sort: What aspects of my humanity are for what express purposes and why?

    I find myself wanting a convincing list of purposes. This should be followed by an explanation of why these purposes cannot have a naturalistic cause.

  3. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:37 am

    I would agree that humans nature desires ultimate purpose. My pet belief is that humans have evolved, for whatever reason, to “need” a God to help them fulfill thie purpose — as part of that nature. Hence, the proliferation of religions, and gods among huge majorities of populations in every culture on the planet.

    But, there are light years between needing something and that something actually existing.

    I can need many things (time travel, telekenisis, the ability to put working spells on other people, a big fat guy to crawl down my chimney and give me things one day a year). But that doesn’t make those things real. No matter how real the emotional yearnings may be.

  4. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:39 am

    There is nothing about having a sense of purpose from an evolutionary stand point that says that purpose need be divine in nature. The will to live is purpose enough for me.
    Let me start at the beginning by trying to be clear what is meant by purpose. In the sense we are talking about, the purpose needs to be transcendent. Any other transitory purpose such as you describe won

  5. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:47 am

    Steve G.

    You have just made my point.

    Perhaps the best answer to: “What’s the best way to distract oneself from the soul-crushing realization that human existence is meaningless and one’s entire life has been wasted?” is to get religion.

    That’s why people invented God.

  6. jahrta
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:48 am

    a note on “purpose”:

    My purpose in life, as I choose to define it at this juncture is to do well at my job while a build a career so that I can make more money, buy a house and raise a family. I will pass on my knowledge and whatever else I deem worthy to my children so that when I die, a piece of what made me what I am will survive in them. Divine? Hardly. Little more than the persistent will to live and survive which operates at the core of any culture or society in nature.

    What if you came across someone who was completely possessed of the notion that the true purpose of the universe was to cultivate ingredients to prepare the ultimate salsa? You’d probably think he was out of his flippin’ mind, but that’s exactly how atheists view those who devote their whole lives to worshipping a god who is intangible, invisible, operates completely outside of the disciplines of science, and is never held accountable by logic or reason.

    As near as I can figure, if there is one universal purpose held in regard by all atheists, it is to be able to one day rid ourselves of the influence of religion – the most destructive and hampering force ever concocted by mankind.

    Failing that, a nice salsa doesn’t sound too bad right about now.

  7. AK
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:52 am

    Even the claim that there is no purpose to life is subjective itself. Furthermore, the claim that life is purposeless applies just as much to the theistic worldveiw as the atheistic one. I of course reject the notion that life is purposeless. I believe that life is simply the universe trying to get to know itself and have some control over itself. Is that subjective? No more so than the theists claim that the purpose of life is to please God.

    The theist does not adequately answer the question to the meaning of life. They merely push the question back one level, and I pointed this out to Gene Cook on my Sunday appearance on The Atheist Hour (visit my blog to get the link for the MP3).

    What reason does the theist have for obeying God? Because he says so? Because of punishment? Well, why does the theist care if he follows Gods word? Why does the theist care if he gets punished? And whats the point if God already knows whats gonna happen anyway? Sure you have free will, but why do you care about it?

    The theist thinks that fear of God or fear of Hell is an objective purpose to life. They are most assuredly incorrect. It is as subjective as it can be.

    The atheist actually has MORE of a claim to objective purpose in life than the theist does. For an atheist can recognize that he/she is one with the universe, and an atheist can recognize that they were biologically programmed to desire life, to spread, to thrive. And finally, an atheist can recognize that they are the instrument of the universe attempting to discover itself. Are these things subjective? Possibly, but the theistic worldview does a worse job of answering the question; the theists worldview is even more subjective.

  8. jahrta
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

    …and what of my salsa theory?

    maybe god is like a big festive bowl filled with thick ‘n crunchy tortilla chips, and the only way we can get closer to Him is to prepare the holy salsa of truth?

    It sounds a little less ridiculous if you pause to consider that when christians munch on a cracker and drink some wine they believe they’re chowing down on their lord and saviour.

  9. benjamin
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:10 pm

    This is even less convincing than Pascal’s wager. Even if you convince me that my biology desires an “overarching purpose”, I can’t forgo logic and pretend I see one. The purpose of my life has changed as I have changed. This life is about whatever we decide it’s about. Perhaps that’s one of the BEST things about atheism; the freedom of purpose.

  10. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:17 pm

    jahrta and AKA:
    I can accept the notion that any purpose we define is subjective. But here

  11. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:22 pm

    Perhaps that’s one of the BEST things about atheism; the freedom of purpose.

    A purpose that has no value. When the universe winks out of existence, your purpose will be proven to be for naught.

    As for this being less convincing than Pascals wager, I never intended to convince anyone here. I am relaying my own understanding and using this to highlight what I see as a fundamental flaw in the atheistic view (see above post).

    I am not going to try to convince anyone here that my subjective claims should be accepted. What I am trying to do is hold your feet to the fire for not recognize the same fault in yourselves that you regularly take the theist to task for.

  12. jahrta
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

    SteveG

    “The atheist actually has MORE of a claim to objective purpose in life than the theist does. For an atheist can recognize that he/she is one with the universe

  13. vince
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    There is a difference between purpose and Purpose. To a religious person purpose is something static that is defined by someone else beforehand with some particular goal in mind. To a non-religious person Purpose is something that is found after the fact but which has no more significance in the scheme of things as water raining, wind blowing, or lightning striking. In just a blink of your eyes you missed seeing and have already begun to put parts of yourself into everything. That is the Genesis. Selfish act of perceiving. The tree of knowledge, sucks the weak who cannot fathom, that however woderful the words, they’re nothing but…

  14. Erik
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    It isn’t atheism that falters here; it is atheists. As was pointed out above, the human desire to find purpose in life is no evidence that there is consequently a supreme being.

    Rejecting the cosmic purpose of life is useful to establishing purpose on the basis of observable facts and realistic human goals. Believing in such a purpose in my view can lead the believer into unsupportable conclusions, e.g., that there is a benevolent supreme being, that there is a special purpose for mankind, that therefore mankind cannot be the product of evolution, etc.

    The process of rejection of a special place for man in the universe began a long time ago, and the acceptance of it slow and begrudging. The research demonstrating that there is no meaningful mind-body dichotomy is extremely recent, so its ultimate effect of precluding any notion of soul will take a long time to sink in.

    As far as fighting against our own nature goes, we do it all the time. We can observe competition in other species and could easily conclude that having multiple partners or stealing food is in our nature (or maybe eating our offspring), but I don’t recommend that you actually do these things. In fact, it is one of the central issues for evolutionary biologists who write popular commentaries. To understand how best to deal with our nature to the extent it is harmful, we first have to know what that nature is.

  15. Cheeto
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

    “Human nature desires ultimate purpose.
    My subjective experience appears purposeful.

    . . . I can come to no other conclusion then that there indeed is purpose.”

    oo, oo, oo – I have another conclusion!! How about you imagine the appearance, and therefore your conclusion is flawed? Or maybe humans don’t inherently need purpose, but it is actually a social construct? Or even we want to have a purpose, it looks like there is one – but there really isn’t one, it just looks that way?

    Lets see what I can conclude here: Steve hasn’t really given this idea that much thought if he cannot come up with any other conclusion, and I came up with 3 in about 30 seconds.

    FYI: I never struggled with the lack of purpose, I still don’t and I think the idea of purpose is silly. (Does that mean that since I disprove your first statement, that you are incorrect?)

  16. jahrta
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:39 pm

    Atheists feel as they do about there being no god or higher “purpose” as you choose to define it because we have evolved beyond the need to feel special. For the atheist, the age-old question “why am I here?” has an answer: because my parents had sex and I was the end result. I do take it a step further however, and try to lead a good life. By “good” i only mean that I try to treat people with respect and kindness, be a positive force in the community and make myself available to help out when others need me. I will strive to instill the same sense of morality in my children when that day dawns. I value life because I see it as all that we truly possess, although i defend a woman’s right to have an abortion.
    Morally, I don’t see how I’m lacking in any way simply because of my atheistic world view. Even though I don’t believe in god, the devil or an afterlife, I still obey the laws of the land and work hard. I don’t live in fear of my own mortality because I have become accustomed to the fact that this is all we’ve got. I’ve felt this way since I was a child, and have simply come to accept that we’re nothing more than organisms that have developed to the point where we are able to question the very nature of our existence. When we don’t want to acknowledge the truth, we make up stories to pacify ourselves so that we can go on with our lives.

    Running with this notion, what could be more terrifying than someone whose worldview and adherence to logic and reason threatens to rip away that blanket you’ve pulled up over your senses? Sometimes the truth really sucks but it’s better than devoting your life to a lie, even if you think it’s a nice one.

  17. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

    Yeah, this does sound ill-defined to say the least. I wasn’t sure what the hell he was talking about either, but simply because all the atheists didn’t swoop down upon him and carry out some sort of mental beating doesn’t mean that we endorse his choice of words. For all you know it could simply mean that we’re at work and can’t blog right this minute.

    But in probably 90% of the discussion (at least on this site), this is precisely the kind of language that’s used. Rocketman (in the comments on the question of the day) told me that life was a painting, and art. OK? That’s just one example. Most atheist seem willing to fight tooth and nail to prove to me that ther really IS purpose, even though they admit that there ultimately is no point. And it’s the rare atheist here who is willing to counter them (with a few notable exceptions). I realize that this is a generalization, but it nonetheless is my experience in discussions (both online and in person) over a long period of time.

    Again, it’s the continual call to rationality, followed up with Rocketman and AKA’s kind of language that I am taking issue with. With the atheist who says…

    1. ‘There is simply no meaning, and I will not pretend there is.’ And accepts that soul-crushing reality
    or
    2. I know there is no ultimate meaning to life, but I am simply satisfied with the transitory meaning I can find (though it be in truth irrational), and I understand the theist is only doing the same.

    …I have no issue. It’s the one who rejects my claims of meaning, and then tries to jam down my throat their form of irrational meaning that I have problems with. And as far rationality goes, atheist number 1 has it all over everyone. But since rationality is not valued by me as supreme, but is by athesist number 2, I am in a far more consistent position than atheist number 2 (who does claim rationality as the highest virtue).

  18. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

    It isn’t atheism that falters here; it is atheists. As was pointed out above, the human desire to find purpose in life is no evidence that there is consequently a supreme being.

    Fair enough. Sounds a lot like me saying that

  19. Rob
    September 20th, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

    Steve G, if the point of your religion is to have an absolute purpose, why choose a Christian god? I would think that the qualities of a Christian god, particularly the omnipotence, would clash with a need or even desire for such a god to give you a purpose. What can you give to a god who has everything, so to speak.
    Why can’t a different religion, say Taoism, fulfill your need to have meaning or purpose in your life?

  20. Mijae
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:01 pm

    As has been pointed out, we already have plenty of purposes in our lives that we create ourselves. We can even find our own purposes to look to in death. Such as, “I’m going to die soon, but I know my organs will be used to save someone else’s life, so at least there is some purpose.”

    But theists insist that this isn’t good enough. They want some “transcendent” purpose. The grateful organ recipient’s going to live on after you, but they’ll still die someday too. So even though your life gave someone else longer life and more experiences, even though your life affected the world and changed some of it for the better… that’s still not good enough. To the theist insisting on Purpose, it’s never good enough unless someone immortal is watching it to remember for all eternity everything you did and how great you were at fulfilling your purpose.

    Hell, I’m a fan of Ayn Rand novels and even I can say “lose the ego” to this.

    On a different angle, what if, just for example, our capital-P purpose ordained by God was to simply be born, live, have fun for a while, and then die, and fade away into nothingness just as we atheists believe happens anyway? We’d still be as eternally gone, but God would still be around having fun with HIS Purpose, so would that make everything better?

  21. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

    >As Catholic, I am free to believe the evolution is the mechanism by which man bilogically developed. Also as a Catholic, I am enjoined to reject the Gnostic tendency to view life as a duality of body and spirit as being something separate in the human being.

    Just curious Steve, are you saying that the creatures we evolved from are equally spiritual? And thus, equally needy of purpose?

    I ask this sincerely. I guess I don’t understand Catholicism all that well.

  22. wjt
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:06 pm

    Why must there be a purpose to life? Just because somebody wants to be told that there is one doesn’t mean that there has to be one. Why is the fact that there is no pre-ordained (pardon the pun) meaning of life something that is soul crushing?? Is it too much to ask of human stupidity to accept the truth?? Is it that we can give up the tooth fairy, santa claus and imaginary friends when we grow up but still need some crutch that there is a god and life has some kind of meaning???

    The fact that we are some happy accident (or maybe something common, time will tell when we can explore more of space) leads me to put extra effort in making sure that I live my life as I see fit doing what I want. I do not need god or religion for my ethics which boils down to the golden rule of doing to others as you want them to do to you (this rule works great in bed with your partner(s) by the way) and I do not need some reassuance that there is some meaning to life.

  23. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:09 pm

    How about you imagine the appearance, and therefore your conclusion is flawed?

    Could be, but since I already said that I accepted the premises, the conclusion is not flawed. The premises may be, that

  24. matt
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

    But is not what

  25. benjamin
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

    A meaningful moment of comedy:
    Steve, all your purpose are belong to Him.

  26. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

    Running with this notion, what could be more terrifying than someone whose worldview and adherence to logic and reason threatens to rip away that blanket you’ve pulled up over your senses?

    That

  27. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

    Steve G, if the point of your religion is to have an absolute purpose, why choose a Christian god? I would think that the qualities of a Christian god, particularly the omnipotence, would clash with a need or even desire for such a god to give you a purpose. What can you give to a god who has everything, so to speak.

    There is simply no way for me to answer this without sounding trite and begin an avalanche of derision being heaped on my head. The only other alternative would be to try to explain in book form, which nobody here would be interested in reading. If you are seriously interested in why I came to my conclusions regarding Christianity, and in understanding the true nature of Christianity, I suggest reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and some works by G.K. Chesterton (to start).

    Why can’t a different religion, say Taoism, fulfill your need to have meaning or purpose in your life?

    Again, I can

  28. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

    To the theist insisting on Purpose, it’s never good enough unless someone immortal is watching it to remember for all eternity everything you did and how great you were at fulfilling your purpose.

    As with so many here, you avoid the true issue. It

  29. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

    fiatlux said:
    Just curious Steve, are you saying that the creatures we evolved from are equally spiritual? And thus, equally needy of purpose?

    No. The Catholic understanding is that however we biologically came into existence, at some point we were different from all other animals. We

  30. a different tim
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t understand how you get from “people want a purpose” to “there must be a purpose”. What people would like has no effect whatsoever on what’s true. I personally would like a Ferrari. And a helicopter. And a blow job. But it’s not necessarily true that I’m going to get them.

  31. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

    fiatlux said:
    Just curious Steve, are you saying that the creatures we evolved from are equally spiritual? And thus, equally needy of purpose?

    No. The Catholic understanding is that however we biologically came into existence, at some point we were different from all other animals. We

  32. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:47 pm

    I am very confused. If the body and the spirit are not separate in the human being, how does an afterlife occur at all? Are you talking about a resurrection of the flesh or something?

  33. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 1:56 pm

    Like myself, the vast majority of atheists that I know and have heard express themselves on this issue, have said that they embrace the opportunity to create their own purpose, to feel like free human beings.

    Again, this illustrates the true point of my post. This is what atheism offers me. Get rid of you irrational God, and accept my irrational idea of

  34. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t understand how you get from “people want a purpose” to “there must be a purpose”. What people would like has no effect whatsoever on what’s true. I personally would like a Ferrari. And a helicopter. And a blow job. But it’s not necessarily true that I’m going to get them.

    True, but your want is based on a real thing. A Ferrari, a helicopter and a blow job all exist, otherwise you couldn

  35. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

    I am very confused. If the body and the spirit are not separate in the human being, how does an afterlife occur at all? Are you talking about a resurrection of the flesh or something?

    Yes. The resurrection of the body is absolutely fundamental to orthodox Christianity (and Judaism I might add).

  36. kmisho
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

    “In the sense we are talking about, the purpose needs to be transcendent. Any other transitory purpose such as you describe won

  37. a different tim
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    Clearly.
    I can imagine lots of stuff that doesn’t exist. I also, for example, want a giant robot. These do not yet exist.
    You may claim that giant robots are based on things that clearly do exist, being humanoid etc. But then you could also claim that God is also based on stuff that does exist, being a sublimated father figure.

  38. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    Steve G.: The overwhelming majority of humanity (even it seems to me among atheist) wishes for and desires something more.

    a different tim: I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t understand how you get from “people want a purpose” to “there must be a purpose”. What people would like has no effect whatsoever on what’s true.

    Tim’s take is mine also. Steve G., did you address this point somewhere? I couldn’t find a response.

  39. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    Steve G.: The overwhelming majority of humanity (even it seems to me among atheist) wishes for and desires something more.

    a different tim: I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t understand how you get from “people want a purpose” to “there must be a purpose”. What people would like has no effect whatsoever on what’s true.

    Tim’s take is mine also. Steve G., did you address this point somewhere? I couldn’t find a response.

  40. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    Steve G.: The overwhelming majority of humanity (even it seems to me among atheist) wishes for and desires something more.

    a different tim: I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t understand how you get from “people want a purpose” to “there must be a purpose”. What people would like has no effect whatsoever on what’s true.

    Tim’s take is mine also. Steve G., did you address this point somewhere? I couldn’t find a response.

  41. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    Steve G.: The overwhelming majority of humanity (even it seems to me among atheist) wishes for and desires something more.

    a different tim: I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t understand how you get from “people want a purpose” to “there must be a purpose”. What people would like has no effect whatsoever on what’s true.

    Tim’s take is mine also. Steve G., did you address this point somewhere? I couldn’t find a response.

  42. a different tim
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:09 pm

    My comment 37 referred to Steve’s comment 34. Will have to start quoting…..

  43. musashi
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

    See, the problem is that when we talk about our lives as having ‘purpose’ we forget that the present and the future are both products of the past. There is no predetermined ‘purpose’ or ‘reason’ for anything… but there most definitely is a cause.
    Remember that the past and future do not exist, we are infinitely living in the ‘now’ and the choices we make and our reactions towards the choices of others determine everything that happens next. Our personalitiy, character, temperment, constitution, values, environment, etc. all determine what that next choice will be.
    We never know what’s going to happen next, we may be able to ‘predict’ with some level of accuracy by knowing the ‘probability’ of something but ultimately we do not know. Most people are afraid of the unknown. Very few can actually embrace the chaotic order that there is to life. To remedy this they are constantly searching for a ‘purpose’ or ‘reason’ as if there were some predetermined outcome. A good example of something that was ‘meant to happen’ could be something like missing your flight only to find out that the plane you were supposed to be on crashed. Trust me, god would have had nothing to do with it. It’s all about probability, 300 people all on the same flight, how many of which routinely misplace their car keys? What are the chances of them misplacing plane tickets? It’s bound to happen every now and again, it was just your turn this time. Change your prespective, stop thinking in terms of ‘Supposed to…’ instead think in terms of ‘Because of…’.
    Our purpose in life isn’t determined by anyone other than ourselves.

  44. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:11 pm

    If you think you have a purpose, what is it?
    To learn to love each person I encounter as selflessly as I possibly can. To give myself away as a gift of love.

  45. wjt
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:13 pm

    OK, to sum this all up, Steve G is a theist and knows that his belief is irrational. Now that that is out of the way, let the bashing begin, not because he is a theist, but for the absolute meaninglessness of this conversation. Maybe I’m too stupid but I don’t understand his response in comment 34. “Can you desire something that doesn’t exist????” What does that have to do with the price of gas? Isn’t purpose or PURPOSE a real thing??? You have a purpose when you do something. Just because you do something because of what the bearded man in the sky said to do, doesn’t mean that the purpose is unreal, just the reasoning for doing it is baseless.

  46. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

    To learn to love each person I encounter as selflessly as I possibly can. To give myself away as a gift of love.

    That has nothing to do with godbeings, really. An atheist could embrace such a notion.

  47. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

    To learn to love each person I encounter as selflessly as I possibly can. To give myself away as a gift of love.

    That has nothing to do with godbeings, really. An atheist could embrace such a notion.

  48. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

    To learn to love each person I encounter as selflessly as I possibly can. To give myself away as a gift of love.

    That has nothing to do with godbeings, really. An atheist could embrace such a notion.

  49. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

    To learn to love each person I encounter as selflessly as I possibly can. To give myself away as a gift of love.

    That has nothing to do with godbeings, really. An atheist could embrace such a notion.

  50. Trevor Blake
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:15 pm

    Does the fluffy cloud I see outside my window have a purpose in being that shape and not another? Does the iron that makes up the magnets that stick to my refrigerator meet its purpose by being magnetic? Things being what they are, A equaling A, is not at all the same as saying they have a purpose. And if we do have a purpose, we have no free will – we are little pupose-robots. If we have no free will, morality is impossible.

    I’m not convinced by Steve G.’s argument but I welcome his being here and hope for more guest editors. Hats off to TRA for welcoming genuine debate.

  51. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

    I can imagine lots of stuff that doesn’t exist. I also, for example, want a giant robot. These do not yet exist.
    You may claim that giant robots are based on things that clearly do exist, being humanoid etc.

    That could be true. Nonetheless, your giant robot indeed is based on something(s) real that you actually know exist.

    But then you could also claim that God is also based on stuff that does exist, being a sublimated father figure

    But we weren’t talking about God, we were talking about purpose. What’s that based on?

  52. a different tim
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:18 pm

    Musashi.
    If “The past and the future do not exist” I’m not sure you can reconcile this with “The present and the future are both products of the past”. Good luck though – the worlds of physics and theology would love to know the outcome of that one.

    Steve, thanks for your gift of love, but I’d still rather have a giant robot (I’ll pass on the blow job on this occasion). And a clear answer to my question.

  53. a different tim
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:21 pm

    we are too talking about God

    “But a belief that true purpose does exists necessitates an explanation that I have yet to see atheism offer. That coupled with the fact that a belief in some transcendent power being the only reasonable explanation offered thus far, I feel compelled by the evidence to accept that as a reality.”

  54. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:22 pm

    >Yes. The resurrection of the body is absolutely fundamental to orthodox Christianity (and Judaism I might add).

    This brings to mind a couple of other questions.

    1. Which set of beliefs offers true purpose? Orthodox Christianity? Or Judaism?

    2. According to your beliefs, is it possible for someone whose non-separate body/spirit duality is vaporized in a nuclear explosion to have an afterlife?

    3. If yes to 2, what is the physical agency by which all the atoms of the flesh back together to make this physical resurrection happen?

  55. a different tim
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:25 pm

    More interestingly, what happens to the fairly large number of atoms that have been recycled?
    It is a well known fct that some of the air I breathe was one part of, say, Julius Caesar. A few of those atoms will be incorporated into my body (to say nothing about atoms which get in via food etc). Who has prior claim? Will I have to give up some of my atoms?
    Also, what about heart transplant patients?

  56. Fernando G. Toledo
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:26 pm

    Sorry, I just want to invite you to visit my blog about atheism, agnosticism and skepticism (in spanish):

    http://www.razonatea.blogspot.com

  57. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    1. I, and a lot of other people, want true purpose to exist.
    2. Therefore, true purpose exists.
    3. There must be an explanation why true purpose exists.
    4. One possible explanation that comes to mind is god.
    5. Therefore, god exists.

  58. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    1. I, and a lot of other people, want true purpose to exist.
    2. Therefore, true purpose exists.
    3. There must be an explanation why true purpose exists.
    4. One possible explanation that comes to mind is god.
    5. Therefore, god exists.

  59. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    1. I, and a lot of other people, want true purpose to exist.
    2. Therefore, true purpose exists.
    3. There must be an explanation why true purpose exists.
    4. One possible explanation that comes to mind is god.
    5. Therefore, god exists.

  60. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    1. I, and a lot of other people, want true purpose to exist.
    2. Therefore, true purpose exists.
    3. There must be an explanation why true purpose exists.
    4. One possible explanation that comes to mind is god.
    5. Therefore, god exists.

  61. musashi
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

    If we accept that life has no meaning we must also accept that all ethics and morality spring from our perception of events and not an intrinsic

  62. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

    OK, to sum this all up, Steve G is a theist and knows that his belief is irrational.

    By your standards, yes. But since I don’t hold rationality as the highest good (though it is a great good), I am not being inconsistent.

    but for the absolute meaninglessness of this conversation.

    And the point of the converstaion is that atheist continually hold equally irrational beliefs, in violation of their own first principle (rationality) and bash me for mine. They then ask me to trade my irrational beleifs for theirs. It’s a rather stupid proposition being offered by them

    Maybe I’m too stupid but I don’t understand his response in comment 34. “Can you desire something that doesn’t exist????”

    One of my premises (right or wrong) is that most people desire transcendent purpose, not just purpose to

  63. Turing Test
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:33 pm

    First, thanks to Steve G. for discussing this here.

    Steve G. wrote “But a belief that true purpose does exists necessitates an explanation that I have yet to see atheism offer.” And this goes back to what is “true purpose”.

    It is highly relevent to compere “true purpose” to this argument
    “No true Scotsman” before debating this.

    Quote from above comment:

    Let me start at the beginning by trying to be clear what is meant by purpose. In the sense we are talking about, the purpose needs to be transcendent. Any other transitory purpose such as you describe won

  64. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

    Continuing the train of thought, Steve and Tim,

    And what if you’re an Orthodox Jew and your atoms end up as part of a pig? Or, worse yet, the foreskin of an uncircumcized gentile? Does God booted you to Sheol?

  65. jahrta
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:41 pm

    Hey Steve

    I wrote a MUCH better post a little while ago, but hit the wrong button and somehow deleted about 30-minutes-worth of thought-provoking prose. That being the case, i’m a little pissed.

    My general thoughts on “purpose” is that it’s a totally crafted and tranasplanted notion. It is bourne of the concept that life is short and brutal, and we want to assign meaning where there is none because the alternative is too horrible for some of us to grasp and accept. There is no purpose other than what we choose to pursue in our own lives, and as such is a highly personal and subjective issue. For some it is a primal scream in the darkness intended to leave some lasting mark on the universe so that once we’re dead and gone, others will hear of us and know our deeds. On a purely animalistic level, that purpose is merely to carry on the species.

  66. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:43 pm

    That has nothing to do with godbeings, really. An atheist could embrace such a notion.

    I was purposely trying to keep it purely

  67. PUPOSELESS
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

    STEVE G said: To love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and as a consequence, to show that love in the world by learning to love each person I encounter as selflessly as I possibly can. To give myself away as a gift of love.

    How convenient – my purpose in life is the exact opposite. Therefore we cancel each other out.
    Ergo – you effectively have no pupose in life.

  68. benjamin
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:55 pm

    Steve, is this consistent and rational enough for you?
    Abandon faith for reason, and abandon your transcendent overarching purpose as well. I don’t offer a substitute transcendent purpose. I offer the opportunity to decide your own non-transcendent purpose, and change it at will in the future. I also offer the opportunity to decide your own morals. I offer you the opportunity to give the gift of your love to everyone you meet becuase it makes you happy, not because you think you are fulfilling your obligation to god’s purpose. I give you the ability to decide to stop giving your love to everyone you meet without feeling guilty, or fearing hell. I give you the gift of liberation from the rail-road like tracks you imagine you are stuck to, and I wont replace them with another set. But by all means, feel free to stay the course you were on.

  69. Sid
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:57 pm

    If it is “soul crushing” to realize there is no purpose in life, then it is only the ego that makes it so. Our ego leads us to think we are special (and I suppose there are evolutionary explanations as to why we have the desire to think we are special) and, therefore, we are crushed when we realize we aren’t.

    Once we get over ourselves, then we can get down to the business of enjoying our one chance at life.

  70. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

    we are too talking about God

    Nice try, but you left the first sentence of the paragraph out.

    The existence of purpose doesn

  71. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:07 pm

    3. If yes to 2, what is the physical agency by which all the atoms of the flesh back together to make this physical resurrection happen?

    You asked me a direct question, I answered directly but without specifying a million underlying assumptions. The most succinct answer is that I do not know the physical agency. However, you have to remember that I am working from the assumption that God created the known physical universe from nothing. If that is true, the rest (how the resurrection occurs) is unknown to me, but certainly possible for such an entity. I understand that you all don

  72. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

    Sportin

  73. Turing Test
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

    Once you have a transcendant purpose and a God and an afterlife, then you quickly have the very mainstream idea that “God has a plan”. This is a horrible, terrible, destructive thing for a society to believe. It makes large scale planning in the real world a difficult exercise. There a lots and lots of people here in America that think too much about their cartoon of the Rapture, and therefore see long range, large scale planning as irrelevant and tantamount to blasphemy. Being Raptured is a very transcendent purpose, but it is a very toxic idea for the maintenance of society and the planet.

    If you trust God to make a happy ending, then you do not have to truly worry about long range and large scale problems. You merely need to have faith that God’s plan will be done. How does this relate to Purpose? Well my external Purpose and yours must not cancel each other out, so I can deduce the external Plan of God, just like Steve deduces Purpose and God itself. And this idea of a Plan of God is one thing that made me realize that the organized religions are really bad for society in the large, since their members are not taught to think: “God want me to save endanged species” or “God wants me to plan for the next large meteor strike” or “God wants me to have a sustainable number of children”. They either don’t teach these things, or they teach the opposite.

    Steve G. fells love toward God and want to share this by loving his neighbor. That is a commendable thing, and must feel truly…transcendently…wonderful. But this is not itself any kind of meaningful Purpose. It is by rejecting an external, coordinated Plan and Purpose, that lets me see what really is important in the long run. Of course, if you need your purpose to survive the end of physical universe, then there is literally nothing you need to do to make the physical universe better. The physical may all go away, so Steve’s idea of a true Purpose leads you to neglect any purpose that is about improving anything physical.

    There have been religions that have even rejected procreation, and tried to grow via conversion. These seem to have died out, but it is an extreme case of transcendent Purpose overriding physical purpose. Catholic Priests and other celibate sects are very close to that position. That the only important Purposes are non-physical. This can again be very toxic and dangerous for a society to embrace.

    My purpose…is mainly to discover new knowledge and try to see to it that this knowledge is never lost. It beats suppressing new knowledge or destroying old knowledge, which is what Intelligent Design is trying very very hard to accomplish, and the President is for Intelligent Design. People who try that hard to spread stupidity qualify as evil from my point of view.

  74. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:24 pm

    I can describe a purpose, such as to learn as much about the universe as possible, which requires us to survive such things as the sun burning out, and includes understanding ourselves (such as how cognitive science can grow to explain how we think). In short, one can take a large view of science as a purpose.

    I understand that this kind of purpose exists, and I never denied it, or it

  75. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

    My general thoughts on “purpose” is that it’s a totally crafted and tranasplanted notion. It is bourne of the concept that life is short and brutal, and we want to assign meaning where there is none because the alternative is too horrible for some of us to grasp and accept. There is no purpose other than what we choose to pursue in our own lives, and as such is a highly personal and subjective issue. For some it is a primal scream in the darkness intended to leave some lasting mark on the universe so that once we’re dead and gone, others will hear of us and know our deeds. On a purely animalistic level, that purpose is merely to carry on the species.

    Fair enough. That

  76. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:32 pm

    >I understand that you all don

  77. kmisho
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:42 pm

    Atheism is not a panacea. It is not something offered in place of religion or god. There is no competition here. It bothers me when religious people seem to imply that they select their relgion based on a good sales pitch. To do so is to abandon intellectual integrity.

    I do not chose to be an atheist, especially not based on the idea that atheism offers something I want that other worldviews do not offer. Everything in my experience requires it. The principle of honesty requires that I accept a truth wherever I find it no matter how painful and reject a falsehood no matter how seductive.

    It just may be that one painful truth is that there is no Purpose to life. It sure seems like there is no Purpose. The only thing I need to see from those who disagree with this is an admission that they could be wrong.

  78. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

  79. benjamin
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:50 pm

    Steve, I don’t think the transcendent pupose seeking atheist is as common as you like to pretend when you tell yourself the whole of atheists are no more rational than theists. Why do you care about the rationality of atheism anyway?

  80. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

    #68 kmisho

    Yes, brilliantly said.

  81. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

    #68 kmisho

    Yes, brilliantly said.

  82. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

    #68 kmisho

    Yes, brilliantly said.

  83. Sportin' Life
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

    #68 kmisho

    Yes, brilliantly said.

  84. musashi
    September 20th, 2005 @ 3:58 pm

    Many you are taking me to task for bringing this up, and turning it to my beliefs. The point is that Atheism itself has not worked this out, and has not offered an answer other than nihilism, or transient purpose …

    But what if nihilism or transient purpose really is the answer? What if there is no answer?
    Why does there have to be an answer? Believers are always trying to jump the gun, they need an answer right now, they have a hard time accepting the fact that there are things that they just do not have the answer to, and that they will most likely go the grave without the answer. Nobody has all the answers. Nobody ever will. The more we discover, the more there is to be discovered. And besides, as a man of faith, what are you doing searching for answers anyway?

  85. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:01 pm

    It bothers me when religious people seem to imply that they select their relgion based on a good sales pitch.

    If you can believe it, I actually believe what I do because I think it

  86. Andrew
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:03 pm

    I just don’t understand.

    A: I really wish life had a purpose
    B: If life has a purpose, atheism is false
    C: Therefore, atheism is false

    Am I missing something?

  87. Joe
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:04 pm

    So many thoughts………running through my head………….must organize them………….

    For the record, neither I nor any of 4 ‘atheist’ friends felt any pain or sorrow over not having a PURPOSE (I took a quick poll via email). Secondly, there are no absolute moral truths. There are only actions which a given society decides for itself whether to label ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ This is just as true in the animal kingdom as it is with us bipeds. All social creatures create rules of behavior and assign punishment for failing to follow those rules. Third, the belief in a PURPOSE, I believe, is linked to the human need to connect dots, find cause and effects, etc. The same evolutionary mechanism that led us to believe in god and purpose, also led us to science (I believe). We are hard wired to question the causes and effects in our lives because developing this trait enabled more and more of our ancestors to survive. The overly simplistic method is to assign everything to a non-entity. While on the other side of the spectrum, people use the scientific method to discover the materialistic (and thus only) reason things happen………..

    I probably have a lot more to say but after reading 50+ posts my head is swimming

  88. Andy
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

    Okay, so I have to ask:

    1) What is a purpose?
    2) What is a transcendant purpose?
    3) By purpose, do you mean what I’m after in life, or my place in the Universe?

    It seems to me that the ‘overarching purpose’ to my existence is for my genes to make more copies of themselves. There seems to be little that can’t be explained by that, and that is why I think that human existence appears purposeful.

    That is emotionally unfulfilling answer, though. For that, I guess I have to look for an internal purpose, one that I choose. And in that, there’s the answer – it’s what you make of it. For some people, that purpose might be the pursuit of knowledge/truth/wealth/power/fame. But it is what you choose.

    I find that liberating, rather than crushing.

  89. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

    Steve, I don’t think the transcendent purpose seeking atheist is as common as you like to pretend when you tell yourself the whole of atheists are no more rational than theists.

    These are two separate things. I have no problem with the purpose seeking atheist who simply and honestly rejects any such notion. I have a problem with the irrational atheist who lectures me for being irrational, but falls into the same trap.

    Why do you care about the rationality of atheism anyway?

    Because I have a messiah complex and think I can convert everyone here with my amazing debate skills. ;-)

    Seriouly, because it

  90. fiatlux
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:14 pm

    Steve,

    Thanks for your civility, and long-suffering, as well.

    As I leave this discussion, I would say that I could not disagree more with your conclusion that there must be purpose because our nature desires it.

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. And for further re-affirming and fortifying my nihilistic view of things.

  91. Robert Spies
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:14 pm

    Interesting.

    A personal view…

    I was struck by the phrase “soul-crushing realization that human existence is meaningless”.

    If you have a ‘soul’ you are not really an athiest, right?

    —————

    The examples of ‘purpose’ you used are straightforward, it seems to me.

    You used “whenever we ____ . . . . Fill in the blank” as an example.

    What we seem to lack is a ‘meta-definition’ of ‘purpose’.

    Put another way– ‘purpose’ without purpose seems to be nothing at all.

    —————–

    I though a sunset look ‘beautiful’ to us because we evolved along with the
    environment of our planet. I think this hold true with much of what we perceive
    as ‘beauty’ in the ecosystem.

    Whatever ‘wiring’ is built into our minds to perceive such beauty, may also
    be ‘triggered’ by stimili never seen in the ecosystem. What we call ‘art’ is
    in this category, I think,

    A similar line of reasoning works well for sound and music.

    We seem to be wired in many respects. We also seem to be able to modify
    and override the wiring, at least to the extent of the concious. Almost all
    living things are able to do this, so the ability must have ‘survival value’

    To paraphrase William of Occam — why look for elaborate explanations
    when simple ones will do?

  92. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:18 pm

    Andrew:
    I didn’t say Atheism must be false. I said it hasn’t really adaquetely addressed the issue.

    Andy:
    I have no problem with your position. It’s totally consistent an logical. I’ve consistently been focused on something else. And…You think your head is swimming. Try dealing with 25+ people all coming at you from different directions with no one to help. My head went way past swimming to hurin’ about 3 hours ago. Ugh! I am just about spent.

  93. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

    fiatlux said:,
    Thanks for your civility, and long-suffering, as well.

    Thanks for yours and most of the other postere as well. It’s been a much better experience than I had hoped for.

  94. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:26 pm

    that should be posters, not posteres. *sigh* I am tired.

  95. benjamin
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

    Steve, for me atheism has adequately addressed the non-issue of Purpose. Which is to say there was no issue to address, which is perfect, since atheism neither addresses issues nor answers questions. I have no emotional void to fill where Purpose once stood in my life. I let go of Purpose quite easily when I let go of faith in other things that lacked evidence. BTW, I have no problem with your motivations.

  96. Mookie
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

    I have to agree with much of what previous posters said regarding purpose. “Purpose” is a human word for a human idea.

    My dog Penny does not care about such things. She has no word for purpose, and probably does not ponder her “purpose” in life. Why does Penny eat? Because she is hungry, her stomach signals the brain that its time to eat, so she eats. Why does she eat in general? Why does she eat her whole life? What is her purpose? Well, as far as I can tell, her purpose in life is to live life. She does not need gods or some higher meaning. She is perfectly content to simply exist, and enjoy her life moment by moment. (Which usually involves eating).

    Along come slightly smarter, slightly less furry monkeys that use all sorts of nifty tools to deal with their environment. They invent a system of communication that actually allows them to perceive the world in abstractions. One day they invent a word that suggests that an event or entity has a purpose, or some specific will to do a certain thing. They then think that their lives must or should have a purpose.

    All animals desire to survive and procreate. This is an inherent “purpose” to all life. But this is not good enough for monkeys. Some monkeys want a loving, caring, all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent monkeyoverlord to assign them meaning and purpose in their lives. At the heart of the matter is a disdain for life. These monkeys see something vulgar and ugly about molecules self-organizing and exhibiting complex behavior. They cannot accept that this is a beautiful result of the conditions and natural limitations surrounding their creation. Being an organism, desiring to live and procreate just seems so hollow and lackluster. But creating a powerful abstraction, fooling everyone into accepting its existence (without a shred of evidence, mind you), and having this “entity” give monkeys meaning is somehow glorious and worth believing.

    Steve G, I like that you want to help people out, etc, but you don’t need a god to do that. You yourself have decided what your purpose in life is to be. You may have based this decision on your erroneous conclusion that there is a god, but this does not change your decision. You can change your belief that there is a monkeyoverlord, and still keep your “purpose” in life. One does not need to happen for the other to be possible.

    Personally, I assign my own meaning and purpose to my life. Why? Because its my existence. I try to embrace the monkey in me: the desire to eat and procreate (practice procreation), the enjoyment of sunshine and plants and being picked clean of lice. For the more “important” things, like career goals, and social interactions, again, I make my own purpose. If I can make my own purpose without a deity, so can you. You already have, actually, you just believe that the deity did all the work, when, in fact, you did.

    My purpose on this and other blogs is to encourage beneficial memes and to deconstruct the illogic of detrimental ones. Religion is, to me and many others, THE worst meme ever developed by humans.

  97. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 4:50 pm

    You can change your belief that there is a monkeyoverlord, and still keep your “purpose” in life. One does not need to happen for the other to be possible.

    It

  98. Joe
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

    Alright, that sent me over the edge. The ‘only’ thing keeping you and other theists from taking drugs, having sex, raping, killing, etc. is fear of a punishment from god? You bunch of degenerates. This goes to the whole problem of theists believing they have free will. If you do not do something because you fear an enternity in hell then how is that free will? If someone holds a gun to my head and forces me to do something horrible, I am not responsible in a court of law. So wouldn’t the opposite be true? Acting ‘right’ after being threatened does nothing to show your morality. While atheists reject the reality of a god or afterlife and yet we all live ‘moral’ lives without having to be threatened into submission. Following this logic, wouldn’t atheists be the moral individuals and the theists be the true hedonists (they just hide it for fear of damnation)?

  99. benjamin
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

    Steve, I believe everything everyone ever did in life they did for themselves, but I think the result of this is much different than you would expect. Helping others allows people to tell themselves what a good person they are, which is a pleasurable feeling to most. Let’s not forget that seeing others in need of help and not helping often invokes unpleasant feelings, such as guilt. When someone gives to charity, they are buying a pleasurable feeling, and/or avoiding unpleasant feelings. All pleasure is not derived from the most basic and obvious acts. Even abstaining from these acts can bring some more pleasure than indulging. So don’t write atheist steve off as a hedonist yet. He might be a wonderful person.

  100. kmisho
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:16 pm

    If you can believe it, I actually believe what I do because I think it

  101. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

    Joe,
    I said nothing about fear of hell. If you read my earlier posts, I indicated that I became a beleiver before I ever became a beleiver in the afterlife. I do what I do because I think it is good, true and beautiful, not becuase I am trying to pile up goodie two shoes points or avoid hell.

    For me, the removal of real objective morality with a God driven source would mean that I could logically define my own morality because each truth is equally subjective. And any atheist should agree with me on that. I never said I personally would resort to murder, rape, etc. My own view when I was a non-beleiver was more libertarian. As long I wasn’t harming anyone else, everything was fair game. I’ve been there Joe, so no need to lecture me that I am buying my beleifs because somone is holding a gun to my head. My proposition that I’d become a hedonist may not be the only conclusion for an atheist, but it’s certainl a logical one, and the one I chose when I didn’t believe, and the one I know I’d choose again.

    bengamin:
    So don’t write atheist steve off as a hedonist yet. He might be a wonderful person.

    I met him, many years ago. He lived with me for many, many more years. Trust me, he’s not a wonderful person. That much I know.

  102. Joe
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:29 pm

    No. Logically you would do what makes you feel fulfilled with your life and happy. As someone mentioned earlier, 10-15% of the population is atheist/agnostic and yet 98% of the person population is theistic. Shouldn’t the numbers be vastly different if atheism logically led to hedonism? Not that I’m against hedonistic behavior. I’ve endulged (and still do) in a certain amount of hedonism, but, as a rational person, I have deduced that unchecked hedonism has a negative effect both physically and socially. I’m sorry that it took an imaginary being to get you to stop acting in a self-destructive manner, but rational thought was all you need.

    Belief in god did nothing to change your behavior. You decided to change your behavior just as you decided to believe in am imaginary entity.

  103. Joe
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:31 pm

    that should have read ‘prison population’

  104. rob
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:55 pm

    “For me, the removal of real objective morality with a God driven source would mean that I could logically define my own morality because each truth is equally subjective.”

    Subjective? yes. equally subjective? No, I don’t think so. You said it yourself. For all your hedonism, you never broke the golden rule. So even under your atheism, there seemed to be some form of objective morality left in you.

    And while you declined to explain why you chose the Catholic Church, your choice seems to me to be subjective why you chose the Catholic set of morals for your objective moral rule-set. A great mathematician who I admire, named Martin Gardner, is a theist, much for the same reason you are, but he rejects Judeochristian doctrine in his religion.

  105. Paul
    September 20th, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

    In reply to the original blog post, the philosophy that embraces the purposelessness of life is called existentialism.

  106. Debbie
    September 20th, 2005 @ 6:03 pm

    Steve,

    This really doesn’t seem very hard. For an atheist, there is no such thing as Purpose – ordained by some god or another. Purpose is a goal, no more and no less. If fulfilling whatever goals a person sets for themselves makes them extremely happy they may even have some ‘transcendent’ warm feeling. But that’s just a chemical/biological ‘trick’ that makes them feel good. And as anyone grows through life, what makes them happy and gives them a sense of purpose will likely change.

    An atheist who talks about the Purpose of Life has crossed the line toward a variant of Buddhism.

  107. Mookie
    September 20th, 2005 @ 7:12 pm

    “It

  108. leon
    September 20th, 2005 @ 7:50 pm

    Steve G. said: There has to be a purpose for our life…therefore there is a god.
    ha ha ha ha……
    ha ha ha ha

  109. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

    Joe
    No. Logically you would do what makes you feel fulfilled with your life and happy. Shouldn’t the numbers be vastly different if atheism logically led to hedonism?

    I think you have a faulty definition of hedonism. Hedonism is pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses. This is not necessarily criminal behavior. The relationship you

  110. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 9:42 pm

    Leon:
    Steve G. said: There has to be a purpose for our life…therefore there is a god.
    ha ha ha ha……
    ha ha ha ha

    I am sure you are very proud of the deep and profound response. But I guess you missed the part where I said that I ‘believed’ the evidence that ther is purpose, not that there ‘has to be’ a purpose

  111. Mookie
    September 20th, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

    “Oh really? So no atheist become hedonist? Dude, you need to go cruise the forums on this site, and you

  112. musashi
    September 20th, 2005 @ 10:44 pm

    a different tim:If “The past and the future do not exist” I’m not sure you can reconcile this with “The present and the future are both products of the past”. Good luck though – the worlds of physics and theology would love to know the outcome of that one.

    The past “existed” and the future remains to be seen. What happens in the present and future is influenced by the events of past. But the past is no longer here, it’s gone. Like I said, we are infinitely suspended in the present. What is so hard to understand about this?

  113. LJK
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:08 pm

    Hey Steve,

    Damn, you

  114. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:10 pm

    Mookie,
    I stand corrected. I did indeed misread your comments.

    Nonetheless, my contention stands. I am not fooling myself. My rejection in atheism IS the only thing that keeps me (Steve G.) from hedonism. Not because it’s the only thing that can, but because for me, hedonism seems by far the most reasonable and logical conclusion for the atheistic view of life. I realize that’s not a requirement. It is nonetheless my view, and was my view when I was a non-believer.

  115. Sean
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:12 pm

    it is a

  116. AK
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

    Its 100 posts later so it hardly matters, but Steve G said:

  117. Steve G.
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:38 pm

    I

  118. Mookie
    September 20th, 2005 @ 11:38 pm

    Steve G,

    Here is a basic overview of my moral code. I read Sartre

  119. ebonmuse
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:44 am

    Perhaps I’ve missed something here, seeing as how large this discussion has grown, but I have to say I have no idea why Steve G. would find an atheist’s life purposeless. The resolution is simple: we choose for ourselves what purpose we want our lives to have. Self-chosen purpose is just as real as any other kind. Even theists do the same thing: Steve, I’m sure, chose to follow the tenets of his religion and make it his own, and from that choice he finds his purpose in life.

    Some more thoughts on the topic:
    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/accident.html

  120. Sportin' Life
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:21 am

    It felt quite awful in fact, and was going to be asking that hedonist in me to give up quite a lot.

    I’m fascinated by this idea of theism preventing hedonism. I hear it and similar things so often from believers. But it really doesn’t resonate with me at all. I believed in a god when I was a kid, went to sunday school, etc. But when I grew up and out of that idea I didn’t change my moral/ethical beliefs at all. Or at least, whether or not I thought gods existed turned out to be completely irrelevant to my understanding of right and wrong.

    This might be prying, but when you talk about hedonism, do you have in mind mainly sex? That’s about the only area I can think of where there is a significant variety of opinion in our society that is correlated with religious belief.

    And not to beat a dead horse, but it seems worth saying again that even if you (or all of us, though some of us deny it) NEED belief in god to keep you behaving well, that still doesn’t amount to evidence for god’s existence.

    Thanks Steve, for your post and all your responses to the comments.

  121. Sportin' Life
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:21 am

    It felt quite awful in fact, and was going to be asking that hedonist in me to give up quite a lot.

    I’m fascinated by this idea of theism preventing hedonism. I hear it and similar things so often from believers. But it really doesn’t resonate with me at all. I believed in a god when I was a kid, went to sunday school, etc. But when I grew up and out of that idea I didn’t change my moral/ethical beliefs at all. Or at least, whether or not I thought gods existed turned out to be completely irrelevant to my understanding of right and wrong.

    This might be prying, but when you talk about hedonism, do you have in mind mainly sex? That’s about the only area I can think of where there is a significant variety of opinion in our society that is correlated with religious belief.

    And not to beat a dead horse, but it seems worth saying again that even if you (or all of us, though some of us deny it) NEED belief in god to keep you behaving well, that still doesn’t amount to evidence for god’s existence.

    Thanks Steve, for your post and all your responses to the comments.

  122. Sportin' Life
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:21 am

    It felt quite awful in fact, and was going to be asking that hedonist in me to give up quite a lot.

    I’m fascinated by this idea of theism preventing hedonism. I hear it and similar things so often from believers. But it really doesn’t resonate with me at all. I believed in a god when I was a kid, went to sunday school, etc. But when I grew up and out of that idea I didn’t change my moral/ethical beliefs at all. Or at least, whether or not I thought gods existed turned out to be completely irrelevant to my understanding of right and wrong.

    This might be prying, but when you talk about hedonism, do you have in mind mainly sex? That’s about the only area I can think of where there is a significant variety of opinion in our society that is correlated with religious belief.

    And not to beat a dead horse, but it seems worth saying again that even if you (or all of us, though some of us deny it) NEED belief in god to keep you behaving well, that still doesn’t amount to evidence for god’s existence.

    Thanks Steve, for your post and all your responses to the comments.

  123. Sportin' Life
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:21 am

    It felt quite awful in fact, and was going to be asking that hedonist in me to give up quite a lot.

    I’m fascinated by this idea of theism preventing hedonism. I hear it and similar things so often from believers. But it really doesn’t resonate with me at all. I believed in a god when I was a kid, went to sunday school, etc. But when I grew up and out of that idea I didn’t change my moral/ethical beliefs at all. Or at least, whether or not I thought gods existed turned out to be completely irrelevant to my understanding of right and wrong.

    This might be prying, but when you talk about hedonism, do you have in mind mainly sex? That’s about the only area I can think of where there is a significant variety of opinion in our society that is correlated with religious belief.

    And not to beat a dead horse, but it seems worth saying again that even if you (or all of us, though some of us deny it) NEED belief in god to keep you behaving well, that still doesn’t amount to evidence for god’s existence.

    Thanks Steve, for your post and all your responses to the comments.

  124. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 7:19 am

    Theism promotes hedonism. Once everything is forgiven, anything goes.

  125. kmisho
    September 21st, 2005 @ 8:32 am

    I don’t want to (and can’t) change the subject. Perhaps the following could be taken up in a different thread:

    The idea of god being the source of morals does not solve the moral subjectivity problem, from a rational perspective. This is a common error of theists. But even previous to this, the idea that there are rigid morals and therefore there is a god handing them down does not follow.

  126. wyote
    September 21st, 2005 @ 8:41 am

    Hi. Sorry I’m late.

    Life feels meaningful. We nearly all agree about that. Either way, we all seem to agree that it’s a feeling, a subjective issue rather than an objective one.

    The question is, what do our feelings mean? I think they are not clues to the way the universe is in itself, but they are our responses to the universe.

    So I won’t base any conclusion on my feelings.

    BUT ACTUALLY, life feels meaningful to me when I think I’m affecting people in generally positive ways, and enjoying my experiences. So I’d say that’s the meaning of life. I can’t imagine what’s missing, or what needs to be added.

    If someone says, but what are you living for? I’d say, for myself and the people around me. Having an invisible man in the sky watch me would be interesting perhaps, but my life is just as meaningful without that, and fortunately I don’t have to worry about offending him! So I can follow my conscience peacefully.

    If someone says, but doesn’t it depress you to know that the earth will burn up and the universe will end? Living forever in utopia would probably be nice, but the present is meaningful in itself, regardless of the future. In fact, the finitude of life seems to make the moments even more precious.

    I see nothing irrational about being nice or enjoying my experiences. They are just feelings, not reasons to be atheist. But they leave me quite comfortable with atheism.

    The bottom line is: atheists enjoy all the “meaningful” things just as much as theists, even if we avoid using religious vocabulary to describe them. So this whole discussion seems irrelevant to the question of whether God exists.

  127. Matt
    September 21st, 2005 @ 8:54 am

    Atheists and skeptics prefer to deal with observations about the world. If the world is as it seems, then there really is no purpose, no God, etc. Any purpose the theist believes he has as a result of God is actually not a real purpose. The atheist would do as well as the theist by simply making up their own purpose. The problem for many atheists seems to be that this is a little unsatisfying. Well, tough luck because there really is no God and there really is no purpose, so you either make one up or live without one. My advice to anyone who feels that they don’t have a purpose in life and can’t decide which one to make for themselves is to throw themselves wholly into something. If nothing seems important, just pick something randomly and see if it fits. If it doesn’t, just change it.
    It seems to me that the reason atheists have this problem is that there aren’t a great number of atheists and skeptics in modern culture from whom we can learn. This will change with time as religiosity diminishes.

  128. Matt
    September 21st, 2005 @ 8:57 am

    Atheists and skeptics prefer to deal with observations about the world. If the world is as it seems, then there really is no purpose, no God, etc. Any purpose the theist believes he has as a result of God is actually not a real purpose. The atheist would do as well as the theist by simply making up their own purpose. The problem for many atheists seems to be that this is a little unsatisfying. Well, tough luck because there really is no God and there really is no purpose, so you either make one up or live without one. My advice to anyone who feels that they don’t have a purpose in life and can’t decide which one to make for themselves is to throw themselves wholly into something. If nothing seems important, just pick something randomly and see if it fits. If it doesn’t, just change it.
    It seems to me that the reason atheists have this problem is that there aren’t a great number of atheists and skeptics in modern culture from whom we can learn. This will change with time as religiosity diminishes.
    This comment appears as a post in http://www.memesandexperience.com

  129. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:05 am

    Sportin’ Life:
    I’m fascinated by this idea of theism preventing hedonism. I hear it and similar things so often from believers. But it really doesn’t resonate with me at all. I believed in a god when I was a kid, went to sunday school, etc. But when I grew up and out of that idea I didn’t change my moral/ethical beliefs at all. Or at least, whether or not I thought gods existed turned out to be completely irrelevant to my understanding of right and wrong.

    I wouldn

  130. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:19 am

    Steve G. said:
    “we are on a constant journey of trying to eliminate immoral acts from our life, not free to commit them always knowing we can just pop into the confessional for a hose down”

    If the forgiven were truly penitent, wouldn’t he only need the one trip to the confessional?

  131. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:34 am

    Matt,
    The problem for many atheists seems to be that this is a little unsatisfying. Well, tough luck because there really is no God and there really is no purpose, so you either make one up or live without one.

    This is exactly right. And this has been what I am trying to drive home. In retrospect I regret the way that I framed my original post. It was never intended to try to prove to the good people here that God exists. It was meant as a jumping off point for what you address here. I regret that I didn

  132. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:41 am

    If the forgiven were truly penitent, wouldn’t he only need the one trip to the confessional?

    That

  133. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:46 am

    dunno why that link doesn’t work. For anyone interested, the article can be found here…
    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0SOR/is_3_60/ai_57533381

  134. ocmpoma
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:52 am

    First off, I apologize if anything I bring up was already addressed – I’m pressed on time and want to get a comment in before the thread is closed.

    Steve, there are a few things in your essay that I disagree with:
    First, I think your premises are correct: Humans, generally, long for a purpose, and our lives seem, to many of us, to have one.
    However, your conclusion puzzles me. How is it that you can (must?) conclude that we must have a purpose merely from our desires and perceptions?
    Second, I understand your issue with those who tell you to abandon an irrational purpose in favor of another – that doesn’t make sense to me, either. I must admit, you’re the first theist I’ve encountered who accepts your supposed purpose as irrational – but do you realize that it is completely arbitrary, as well? I would advise abandoning theism not because of its irrational purpose-assignment aspect, but because of its completely dehumanizing nature.
    Lastly, since atheism is not a philosophy and does not offer any teachings or principles, the lack of addressing a purpose is in no way related to atheism. Atheism itself does not speak of purposes or lack thereof; it speaks only of a lack of gods. Thus there are two reasons that atheism does not offer an explanation for the existence of a “true purpose” – atheism doesn’t offer explanations for anything, and is not required to, as it is not a philosophy; and, as far as what is commonly bandied about as atheism in the West (which is really a type of materialistic humanism) is concerned, there is no “true purpose”.

  135. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 10:10 am

    However, your conclusion puzzles me. How is it that you can (must?) conclude that we must have a purpose merely from our desires and perceptions?

    Another point I wish I

  136. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 10:18 am

    Well I finally caught up on the progression of the discussion that has taken place since end of work yesterday…………

    I just wanted to address one thing real quick:

    Steve G. said:

    This is flat out incorrect. I came to a belief in God based mainly on the two issues that have come up here. The belief that an overarching purpose did exist, and equally or more importantly the belief that moral truth was not a wholly subjective endeavor. Based on those two premises, I came to a belief in a

  137. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 10:25 am

    Joe,
    So your belief in god did not come with any moral implications that required a change of your behavior? And this is the Christian god? That doesn’t seem to make sense.

    I meant that initially my belief in God was very vague. I came to believe a god existed first before I had any idea of what the moral implications were. I suspected there would indeed be implications, but there were no immediate practical ones. The change in morals and behavior came later. That

  138. Peter Sattler
    September 21st, 2005 @ 10:43 am

    Steve,

    After reading your post, I intended to reply about the various and important types of “purpose” there is in the world — even if none of them is “overarching” (or as I would put it, “inhuman”). What makes a “human” purpose meaningless? Does something have to be perfectly useful for it be useful? Does a person have to know everything to be wonderfully and admirably smart? My life has many meanings, many purposes — all of them circumscribed, all of them human.

    Next, I was planning to note that having an “overarching purpose” does not make one’s existence any more noble or happy or morally interesting. Computers and hammers and genetically modified rice are, arguably, all entities created with an overarching purpose. Where’s the benefit?

    But I see that many commentators have already written about these two topics at great length.

    So, instead, let me write about the moment in the original post that made me the saddest:

    When we hear our children laugh, when we enjoy the beautiful sunset, when we spend a joyful time with a loved one, … our very being fairly cries out that

  139. Jahrta
    September 21st, 2005 @ 10:47 am

    Pete

    you need to comment more frequently

    that was awesome

  140. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 11:07 am

    Steve G., I’d be happy to give you the chapter and verse of the passage where Jesus states that all those that do believe should be brought before him and killed, but your gonna have wait till I get home from work. Or you can go to:

    http://www.samharris.org/index.php/samharris/television/

    It is a 20 min. presentation and Sam Harris reference the chapter and verse. I’m searching online also……………

  141. Stephen
    September 21st, 2005 @ 11:13 am

    I’d like to throw my two cents into the pot, although I don’t have time to participate in the discussion. I think that, just because we precieve meaning does not necessarily mean that it actually exists. I accept that Atheist doesn’t solve the meaning to life question, but given that meaning isn’t part of the atheism game doesn’t mean that it doesn’t play a core role in my other beliefs which have nothing to do with atheism. Meaning isn’t a religious question, it’s a human question, and everyone has to find meaning in their own lives.

  142. ocmpoma
    September 21st, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    “Another point I wish I

  143. AK
    September 21st, 2005 @ 11:49 am

    I think you may be disappointed if you are waiting for religiosity to go away. You might be interested in this article from Prof. Rodney Stark on the myth of declining religiosity. It

  144. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 11:57 am

    Please think for a moment about what this implies. Think about what this says about your attitude towards your children, your friends. Without a supernatural, trans-human purpose, you find that they are ultimately meaningless and without value. Without a divine foundation, you feel that their beauty is not real beauty, their love is not real love. They have no value in and of themselves; their importance is only secondary and derivative. How could you listen to their laughter — how could you share their love — and possible believe this?

    I am sorry to point this out, but the pure logic of atheism requires it. More consistent atheist than yourself agree with me here. Simply read the discussion here to verify that fact. Any meaning such as you describe is illusory. Under pure rationalism, beauty, love, value are all illusory. Matt summarize above quite well…

    If the world is as it seems, then there really is no purpose, no God, etc. … The atheist would do as well as the theist by simply making up their own purpose. The problem for many atheists seems to be that this is a little unsatisfying. Well, tough luck because there really is no God and there really is no purpose, so you either make one up or live without one.

    …Your appeals that your purpose is somehow more ‘real’ or ‘human’, and that mine are to pitied are utter gibberish under pure logic. Admit that you’ve simply made your purpose up out of thin air as you accuse me of, and accept mine as equally valid/invalid.

    And that’s what I find so heartbreakingly sad about religion, in all its forms: it asks its believers ultimately to hate the fact that they are human.

    Quite the contrary. I appreciate the gift of life and humanity all the more because I understand it actually is a gift as opposed to an accident.

    I could just about cry.

    I understand why. The fact that you are left in this position that I’ve simply pointed out is quite horrific and is worthy of tears. I’d even go so far as to agree with the original question of the day proposition that it’s soul crushing. But after all, it’s the position you are in, not I. So shed no tears for me.

  145. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 12:00 pm

    Answer to Steve G’s question of where Jesus says that apostates should be killed:

    Cruelty of Jesus towards apostates:

    Luke 19:22-27; this section ends with the words of Jesus: “bring them [those who preferred not to be ruled by him] hither, and slay them before me.”

    So both the old and new testaments clearly state that apostate should be killed and yet we do not kill apostates in the west any more………….morality changes the bible doesn’t

  146. jahrta
    September 21st, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

    Steve G

    I think you missed the whole point. Peter was saying, based upon what you yourself wrote, that you are not content to enjoy the natural beauty of the world around you, or even the love and attention of your family without there being some invisible force that guides your every waking action and lends some sort of transcendental meaning to your life.

    If you have a loving family, live in a good area, enjoy what it is you do for a living, make decent money, and it isn’t enough for you simply to enjoy your life as it is without an outside affirmation that there is “meaning” in it then yes, that is sad. What it really boils down to is your definition of meaning/purpose, and your reluctance to accept that atheists find it without god. you seem ill-equipped to simply accept that god and religion are unecessary for us to realize that our lives DO have meaning, even if the doctrine under which we live denotes the belief that that existence is not bourne of supernatural origins, and ends when we do.

    What you’re really saying is that our definition of “purpose” isn’t good enough for you because it operates outside your religious spectrum. whether or not it’s your desired intention, you come off sounding like an elitist. you can accuse atheists of doing the same thing when they ridicule a theist blogger’s beliefs, yet you almost never find an atheist posting on a religious website. Theists, however, seem to come here in droves. We don’t mind carrying on civil debates, but they never stay civil for long, and i question the very appropriateness of using the word “debate” in a forum like this because in a debate, both sides are required to back up their positions with hard facts. Most atheists realize the futility of attempting to reason with the irrational: for us, any god-belief is irrational and any debate with those who fervently cling to a belief in god or the bible is ultimately pointless (at least that’s my view on these things). the reason it’s pointless is because after all is said and done, the theist invariably resorts to saying that god exists but we’re not qualified to understand him, or that we’re all going to burn in hell for doubting the pressence of this entity whose love knows no boundaries. The god delusion is self-sustaining, like the most intricate delusions of people with clinical mental maladies like paranoid schizophrenia, but seems to effect people from all walks of life. The only cure for it is to take a long hard look at why it is you believe what it is that you do, and ask yourself if you can prove any of it to anyone who doesn’t share your background. If the answer is no, then you are suffering from a delusion.

    There, that’s a nice and proper rambling session for you to peruse :)

    And just so we’re all clear on this, Steve, I think you’re a good person, if not misguided in your world view.

  147. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

    Joe,
    You have taken the statement entirely out of context. The statement comes as part of a parable Jesus is telling. The context is of a king administering justice over his subjects. Jesus did not literally anywhere there say that apostates should be killed. No one to my knowledge has every used this passage as justification for murdering apostates. In addition, you have to put any statement in a parable of this nature in a larger context of the rabbinic teaching methods of the time (which were commonly given to extreme exaggeration to make an underlying point), as well as the context of the vast majority of Jesus

  148. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

    Ocmpoma:
    I wish you had been clearer, too – since your entire argument rests upon that conclusion.

    I actually thought I was. I am not sure what part of

  149. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:08 pm

    dang! last paragraph got truncated. Should read…

    And what I am trying to point out is that indeed, for many atheists, their philosophy is contradictory. And still, I am met with resistance to this obvious fact. I am told that tears are nearly shed because I don

  150. simbol
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

    AK

    That second link was very interesting. It seem to be there is a strong direct correlation between nonreligiousness and social development. The only notable exceptions were Vietnam and USA, even when social development is not the same that economic development.

  151. severalspecies
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

    Whoa!

    Please forgive me if I prattle on too much. I’m new to this as I’ve just become an athiest, and my debating tools are dull. But here goes…

    Steve, what is the purpose of “Purpose”? As AK puts it well, positing a purpose on a god, is only pushing the question back. I also fail to see why it is encumbent upon the atheist to posit an answer, since atheism should only deal with the ‘god’ issue. It is the theist who pulls in purpose to ‘prove’ god, and erroneously assumes that ‘no god’ equals ‘no purpose’. And yes, I know that you said that the existence of purpose doesn’t automatically take one from atheism to theism. Seems like ‘purpose’ here has become a strawman of sorts.
    One more thing, why is god ‘purpose’ driven?

  152. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

    jahrta
    I don

  153. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

    AK:
    Lemme try again with the linkie…

    Secularization R.I.P

  154. Ixian Heretic
    September 21st, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

    Steve G. said: “It

  155. a different tim
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

    Woah. missed a lot here. That’s what happens when you go to sleep…..

    musahi – wasn’t really arguing with you, just wanted to point out that time is a rather deeper problem than perhaps you painted it. The present, according to you, is the product of something that doesn’t exist, but in fact depends upon that present.
    It may be easy if we could agree on a common past, and indeed on a clear definition of “present”. Relativity theory suggests that this will not happen in any more than an approximate way.

    Steve – I know we’ve moved on, and will again, but even conceding we are arguing about purpose rather that god, my (and others’) point still stands – paraphrasing here but
    “My life feels purposeful, I would like there to be a purpose, therefore there is a cosmic purpose “(non sequitur – you could just be wrong. feelings aren’t reliable, nor are wishes)

    “Atheism is as irarational as theism”
    Not really, I thought we settled this in those huge posts about origins of the universe etc. Hypothetico-deductivism (rational) + Ockham’s Razor (rational and sanctioned by theology) = atheism (I could explain why but it would be very very dull unless you’re deeply into epistemology, which I am, plus I’ve been through it all at great length in other posts on this site). The only act of irrationality is in choosing to accept reason in the first place. If you reject that we are back to the “duh, faith” argument, which I may as wel counter with “duh, reason”.

    As far as accepting other values (the “illusions” you talk about with jahrta) there is a difference – with a proposal that there is a God you are making a concrete statement about the nature of the external world. We atheists are saying that statement is untrue, and are prepared to give our reasons why. By accepting natural beauty, for example, you are not making a statement about the external world (“it is beautiful”) so much as a statement about how you see it (“I see beauty in the world”). This is legitimate as a statement of personal feeling, and would be accepted by all except possibly a genuine nihilist like Vernichten of fond memory.

    You could even accept a purpose (I have decided that the purpose of my life is to spread love to all) and that is a personal decision that we can respect. What we don’t see, we really don’t, is the leap from “I have decided to take x as the purpose of my life” (a human decision about human purpose) to “x is a cosmic purpose”.

    P.s. Where’s my giant robot then?

  156. jahrta
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:22 pm

    Hey again Steve

    “I didn

  157. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:25 pm

    “Atheism is as irarational as theism”
    Did I say that? If so, sorry. I am talking explicitly about the atheist who denies the consequences I

  158. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

    I think it’s possible that the universe is being pushed, not pulled.

  159. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:41 pm

    So because Jesus is usually a nice guy, we should ignore the cruelty inherent in a belief that unbaptised people go to hell and that breaking a certain number of aribtuary rules leads to the same…………

    Anyway back to the original subject, kinda. What is the difference between a PURPOSE and purpose (I know…we covered this, but hear me out). From the beginning of recorded history there have been thousand of different theistic belief systems, each and everyone giving different reasons for existence or pupose. Now currently there are innummerable subcatagories to the three main monotheistic religions. If each person can choose their religion, and each religion gives a slightly different PURPOSE, or individuals interpret a different PURPOSE (such as your reading of the parable in the book of john, I’m sure some evangilicals and fundamentalists would disagree with YOUR interpretation). Basically all these theists are choosing their own PURPOSE and subscribing it to god. If each and every theist picks their own PUPOSE, and every atheist picks their own purpose, then there is no discernable difference between the two. Theist often subscribe to their PURPOSE from an interpretation of a book, some athiests subscribe to their purpose from reading philosophy. The only difference is the theists happen to incredibly believe that thier books where written by god. Even though these books written by god are contradictory, cruel, and open to innumerable interpretations………….

    Explain to me why your PURPOSE is any different from my purpose…..

  160. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:50 pm

    Explain to me why your PURPOSE is any different from my purpose…

    From a purely rationalist vantage, they are not. That’s my point. BUT, many atheist make a distinction. They call mine irrational, but give a free pass to their own made up purpose as if it’s more rational, which it’s not.

    To the extent that an atheist doesn’t do that, I have no problem. To the extent they do, I’ll point it out to them.

  161. jahrta
    September 21st, 2005 @ 2:57 pm

    you want a purpose? make me a sandwich.

    you want a higher purpose? convince ten friends to give me a dollar and have each one of them get ten of THEIR friends to do the same.

    Tell them to give me a dollar or I won’t be their friend.

    Now, substitute “brain” for “a dollar” “I’ll send them to hell for all eternity” for “I won’t be their friend” and viola, you’ve created the foundation for organized religion.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    This is how many atheists view organized religion. The only thing organized about it is the way it demands your time and allegiance (often in the form of money and control over your mind).

    If this subjugation is what gives you purpose, then I sincerely pity you.

  162. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

    Here’s a question I’ve not seen addressed (not that it hasn’t, I haven’t seen it specifically).

    Steve G., what does it mean to be Catholic? Not just to you, but overall.
    A practicing Catholic is/does/tries to: (fill in the blank)

  163. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:08 pm

    The only thing irrational to your PURPOSE is that you subscribe it to a character you read about in a fictional book, but that you truly believe exists without any proof what so ever. That is irrational.

  164. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:08 pm

    jahrta,
    I understand that this is the veiw many atheists have. I even understand why. I can only say that having spent time as both a non-believer (and having held that view), and time in the ‘organization’, that your perceptons are incorrect as far as my experience goes. It’s ultimately not at all about subjugation.

  165. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

    Joe,
    I do have proof. It’s not the kind you’d accept, and surely you can claim it’s subjective, but it’s real enough for me to be convinced. It’s as real as your feelings that you see something wholly intangible such as beauty, and based on those subjective feelings indeed call that something beautiful.

  166. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

    We can disagree if a painting is beautiful, but we cannot disagree on whether or not the painting exists. It either exists or it does not. There is nothing subjective in if something exists or not.

  167. Nick the Dick
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:20 pm

    Desire for a purpose inherent? Your proof is sunsets, children and rainbows? You are so full of shit it stinks.
    You have a belief in a

  168. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:26 pm

    Steve G., what does it mean to be Catholic? Not just to you, but overall.
    A practicing Catholic is/does/tries to: (fill in the blank)

    We did go through this earlier, but I’ll answer again…

    I shall love the Lord my God with my whole heart, and with my whole soul, and with my whole mind, and with my whole strength; I shall love my neighbor as myself.

    ..If you’d like that expanded upon, you’ll have to read the 2000 pages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which goes into quite a bit more detail…;-)

    Catechism

  169. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

    Nick, have you bothered to read any of the discussion? Just curious.

  170. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:34 pm

    We can disagree if a painting is beautiful, but we cannot disagree on whether or not the painting exists. It either exists or it does not. There is nothing subjective in if something exists or not.

    Joe,
    We are talking about two different things, purpose and God. You and others have posited that you can find meaning and purpose in beauty, love, etc. Not in the painting simply existing. Your claims to have meaning in the subjective values you place on the painting (beauty) are as subjective as my claims to purpose in God. You

  171. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

    I see.
    Does loving god include obeying him, and if it does, how do you know what he wants?
    If you are a practicing Catholic, have you read all the Catholic rules including the Catechism, and if the Catholic rules have changed since the Church’s creation, how do you account for that?
    If it’s a continual process of refinement, what if they are wrong now?
    Since the definition you give could be applied to several religions, is there a good, definitive reason why Catholicism is the best?
    What makes Catholicism different from similar religions?

  172. wyote
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

    I still haven’t seen anything here to make me think that my life has no meaning. Or to think that I should consider it.

    What’s all this talk about “purpose?” It’s strange to me to think that I would be excited about having a function.

    But I can understand why people want their lives to be meaningful. Being good and enjoying life are meaningful projects. I’m satisfied. My life is meaningful. What could theism add?

    I don’t understand why either theists or atheists would disagree with this.

  173. ocmpoma
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:54 pm

    Steve:
    “I am not sure what part of

  174. jahrta
    September 21st, 2005 @ 3:57 pm

    My mother-in-law is a good woman, and she is a theist. She considers herself more of a spiritual person than a religious one, and since I have known her I have noticed her deconstructing and criticizing the tennets upon which her faith is based. Her mother was an evangelical christian fundamentalist so I consider it a miraculous turn of events that she is as open-minded as she is. Her brothers and sisters didn’t seem to fare as well as she did, but the one’s I’ve met are good people in their own right. My whole point in bringing this up? There was a series of events which took place to her youngest daughter that had us all extremely worried for her health and her future. We’ve since been told that she’ll make a complete recovery – it’s just a matter of time – but her mother and I had a lot of time to philosophize upon the nature of the universe and perverse twists of fate while traveling back and forth to the hospital nearly every day for over a month. She’s not someone to try to cram her beliefs down anyone’s throat, but there has always been something about my atheism that hasn’t sat right with her. We get along but I know it bugs her that I’m not religious. I think she’d prefer that I practiced judaism instead of dropping all religion period. She’s probably fearful on some level for the future of the grandchildren she doesn’t have yet. even though she’s easy-going, i’m sure she’d like for us to raise grandchildren with some sort of “education” in god. sadly for her I severely doubt this will happen. At one point she jokingly asked me what i had against god and i told her in all honesty “nothing at all.” I then followed it up with “it’s his fan club I can’t stomach.” I also put forth that it is impossible to hate what you do not even believe exists. At the end of the series of conversations I told her I would love to be proven wrong. She thought I was being a smartass but I meant it. She thought for a while for what would pass as “evidence,” but after a few minutes of silence she changed the subject.

  175. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:00 pm

    I am leary of opening a new can of worms as I suspect that this could get ugly. Without the underlying understanding of why I became Catholic (which is simply too much to go into here) almost anything I can say will bring scorn upon me. Nonetheless, I

  176. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:12 pm

    No scorn here. You did, however, leave out the obeisance to a living human when you described what a practicing Catholic does. How is that different from other Christian sects that follow a leader who interprets the bible for them?
    Also, if the Catholic Church has endorsed horrible things in the past, are those things simply “cultural preferences”, or is there another way to dismiss them?

    I couldn’t let this thread go by without tossing some softballs.

  177. Anonymous
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:13 pm

    One more thing: Don’t you work? :)

  178. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:21 pm

    But. Your entire argument rests upon the assertion that the is indeed a higher Purpose. Without this, it falls apart.

    I want to officially strip away any argument I made that there IS a purpose. I do believe there is, but it

  179. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

    No scorn here. You did, however, leave out the obeisance to a living human when you described what a practicing Catholic does. How is that different from other Christian sects that follow a leader who interprets the bible for them?

    With out going into great detail. The fundamental difference is the historical continuity from the apostles to succeeding bishops, and so on, and so on, and so on. Also, practically speaking, the Protestant can simply pick up stakes and create a new denomination if they disagree with their leader. There’s actually no obedience to any leadership. For the Catholic, it’s certainly true that they can also leave and form their own denomination, at that point, they are no longer Catholic. Fundamentally, it’s that obedience to the papacy that is lacking in all other religions.

    Also, if the Catholic Church has endorsed horrible things in the past, are those things simply “cultural preferences”, or is there another way to dismiss them?

    I am not trying to dismiss them, but I will note the difference between individual Catholics who’ve endorsed such things vs. the Church officially teaching that such horrible things are OK.

    One more thing: Don’t you work? :)

    I try, but if I keep this up, I am gonna be out of a job. ;-)

    Seriously, I am good at multitasking and I type reasonably fast, plus things are a bit slow this week (must be all part of God’s plan). ;-)

  180. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:39 pm

    I think I am going to let this dry up at this point unless someone adds something new. I think everyone has said what can be said, and I feel like I am just repeating myself now (besides, I am mentally exhausted at this point and feel like what I am writing is getting sloppier and sloppier). I want to sincerely thank all the very charitable commentors for their patience and generosity for entertaining this discussion in such a civil manner. I am going to go lick my wounds and take a break from commenting for a couple days. ;-) Regards!

  181. jahrta
    September 21st, 2005 @ 4:54 pm

    hmm…i know you meant it as a little quip, but do you believe that god really has a plan?

    I know this is off-topic, but…

    Do you believe god has the power to prevent horrible things from happening to people? Do you think that when horrible things happen it’s god’s fault? It would follow theistic reason that if your god is all powerful and all knowing, and can make anything happen (or not happen) that anything and everything that happens is either directly or indirectly his will. that being the case, then what part of his plan was served by the holocaust, 9/11, the tsunami, katrina, the black plague, aids, et al?

    actually, I’d rather not hear an answer to this because we’ve been carrying on a civil conversation up to this point and I think we should keep it that way. I’ve heard some theists posit that even the holocaust was part of god’s plan, and i’ve torn them fresh ones. I’ll put forth the following: Any being who could rightfully carry the title of “god” and wield the power which that title implies, yet still allow any of those things to have happened either through direct action or through an apathetic disinterest in preventing them from happening is completely unworthy of praise or worship. If god existed he would be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

    Here’s the acid test, Steve. If god existed, one need only sift casually through the history of mankind, even using the bible itself to create the following hypothesis – namely, that he is either 1.) incapable of addressing the physical needs of mankind to keep them safe from just a few of the horrors listed above (making him less than omnipotent, and thus, not truly “god”), 2.) disinterested in helping us in the first place (making him anything but compassionate and loving, in stark contrast to everything xians tell us he is supposed to be), or 3.)wants us to suffer (which carries the same connotation as point number 2, only with a more sinister implication). I suppose there’s a 4th option, but it operates outside of the above proposal – and that would be that god simply doesn’t exist.

    It’s a good thing god doesn’t exist – if he did he’d have a LOT to answer for.

  182. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 5:00 pm

    jahrta
    I want to answer this, but I literally can’t. I tried reading through your post and my eyes began glazing. Not because of what you wrote, but because I a simply too exhausted after two days of this. Pose this too me another day, and I’ll respond then, but I simply can’t do it right now. Apologies, and I hope you can understand and not take this as a total cop out.

  183. Joe
    September 21st, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

    I find my puposed in: my work, reading and learning, friends, and family………….all of which exist.

    You find your purpose throught god.

    I’ll show you and introduce you to all the things I find purpose in……………you cannot do the same with god. You describing god as the source of your purpose is the same as someone describing Gatsby as the source of their purpose. God and Gatsby are fictional characters in a book.

    My work, books, friends, and family actually exist…………

    See the difference?

  184. benjamin
    September 21st, 2005 @ 5:26 pm

    Thanks Steve. I still believe the irrational, Purpose-seeking atheist is less common than you think, but I admire your committment to providing quick and honest replies to so many people. Next time try to find a problem with an atheistic philosophy without Purpose.

  185. Percy
    September 21st, 2005 @ 5:42 pm

    Mookie,

    “I think, therefore I am.”

    Did you hear about when the Descartes disciple went to Denny’s for breakfast? The waitress asked him if he wanted coffee, and he replied, “I think not”, and vanished.

    Just thought that would amuse you.

  186. Mookie
    September 21st, 2005 @ 6:37 pm

    Percy,

    Yes, quite amusing.

    Steve G,

    You have been most patient with us here, and have tried to answer the questions we have posed you to the best of your ability. You are to be commended for this. However, much of the debate has been going around and around in circles. I think the atheists caught you in a few places, and you caught one or two of us in a few places. On the whole, though, it seems to me that those of us that have defined our views properly have demonstrated that there is no need for some inherent purpose, and no need for a deity to back up this purpose. We have also shown that atheists can be moral citizens without a universal purpose or deity. The rationale behind our atheism seems a bit more stable than your rationale for believing in the monkeyoverlord. Hence we see the theistic worldview to be a bit irrational, and, as we have stated several times, a bit demeaning to humanity, existence, and morality.

    It is not really fair of me to proclaim the “victor” in this discussion, but I would have to say that it is the atheists that have come out ahead. Not necessarily because there are more of us here, but because our arguments were (for the most part) more clearly constructed, more potent and in-line with “reality” than yours.

    I also still insist (as do others here) that you have created or otherwise agreed to adopt your own code of ethics, and that you have just convinced yourself that there is a deity behind it, or the Form of Purpose or some such. The difference between a moral atheist and a moral theist is the atheist does not need to lie to herself to follow her own personal code of ethics.

    Just because you believe there is a god, and that there must be a purpose, does not mean that there is. God (or Purpose) has not been proven to not exist, therefore, he (or they) must exist.

  187. Paul
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:15 pm

    I haven’t read all the previous posts (so many), so forgive me if I repeat someone else.

    When Steve G. says “Natural beauty, love, attention, these are all illusory,” this is absolutely false.

    1. We are programmed by evoution as pattern-seeking animals, and we will interpret patterns that suit our minds as being beautiful.

    2. We are programmed by evolution as social animals, and we will interpret mating and bonding behavior as love.

  188. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:22 pm

    On the whole, though, it seems to me that those of us that have defined our views properly have demonstrated that there is no need for some inherent purpose, and no need for a deity to back up this purpose.

    I think that if one looks at this with the idea that I was trying to prove the existence of a deity, then I did a horrible job. But this was simply never my intent. I never had a hope of proving any such thing. I realized going in that I have no evidence that any self-respecting atheist would accept.

    But despite my poorly framed initial post, my point was only to draw out the fact that many atheist fall into the some type of subjective thinking that theists do (while many atheist do not). In that regard, I think that the discussion here indeed demonstrates that very fact. Some of the atheists responding quite flatly agree that nihilism is the logical conclusion of atheism, and that ANY meaning is illusory. Others try to convince me that the meaning they find in the here and now is somehow superior (more human a few called it) than my own despite the fact that it is quite as subjective as my own. I come away from this discussion more convinced than ever of that. In my eyes, there are fundamentally two choices.

    1. The person who accepts atheism along the logical nihilistic consequences of the view.
    2. The person who finds a purpose or meaning to life.

  189. Steve G.
    September 21st, 2005 @ 9:26 pm

    Paul,
    When Steve G. says “Natural beauty, love, attention, these are all illusory,” this is absolutely false.

    1. We are programmed by evoution as pattern-seeking animals, and we will interpret patterns that suit our minds as being beautiful.

    2. We are programmed by evolution as social animals, and we will interpret mating and bonding behavior as love.

    I worded that very poorly indeed. I was trying to contest the idea that these things have some intrinsic value beyond being simply observations or statements of fact. The assignment of some deeper meaning to beauty, or love beyond the simple biological facts you lay out is what I was contesting as illusory.

  190. Lurker
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:50 am

    Steve G. said:
    “[atheists say] Get rid of you irrational God, and accept my irrational idea of

  191. Mookie
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 2:17 am

    Steve G.,

    What we have shown is that there is no overarching purpose, none whatsoever, but that this is not a bad thing. You base your belief in god on the need for an overarching purpose. We have stated several times there is only purpose or meaning where we as humans find it.

    Your main points:

    – [Atheists] wish there actually was an overarching purpose as much as the theist.

    Some atheists may desire an overarching purpose, but this does not mean there is one, universal purpose. Personally, I have never believed in god, even when I was the most gullible and vulnerable. I have never had problems with purpose, or meaning, because I can make it day-by-day if I want to, or create a more durable, external purpose that I can carry my whole life. The creating of purpose, “overarching” or not, is not reserved to theists, nor does it imply the belief in, or confirmation of, a deity.

    – This desire for an overarching purpose seems fairly universal to me.

    Each person has their own purpose and meaning they assign to their lives (because its their existence). This is what you meant by the subjectiveness of purpose. The objective, or “not point-of-view-based”, aspect of this is that everyone finds their own meaning. This is real, but the worldview we choose to adopt may not be consistent with reality. So saying that this is all subjective anyway is a bit of a cop out, and won’t work in
    this argument. (And yes, this is an argument.)

    -I can come to no other conclusion then that there indeed is purpose.

    We all have an instinct to survive, its part of being alive. You may be confusing this instinct with purpose.

    Lurker,

    “They admit there is no right and wrong and as such they know it makes no difference if they feed the poor person or steal everything they have.”

    Please read my earlier post regarding morality and the golden rule. And please refrain from making such silly, ignorant statements in future posts. We may not believe in absolute morality, but this does not mean we have no ethical code, or that we do not value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  192. 00h00m
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 3:07 am

    I have not read the entire thread of comments, but I wanted to respond to what I have seen so far:

    If we accept that life has no meaning we must also accept that all ethics and morality spring from our perception of events and not an intrinsic

  193. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 8:58 am

    What we have shown is that there is no overarching purpose, none whatsoever, but that this is not a bad thing.

    You

  194. ElDiablo
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 9:06 am

    Aside from the natural purpose we serve in the grand scheme of nature, we serve ourselves (survival of the fittest) and the procreation of the species. Quite frankly I’ve never been happier than I am now, as an atheist, more so than I ever was as a theist, AND I find life far more enjoyable. Individuals create their OWN LIFE PURPOSE. The true reward is in setting your own goals and then acheiving them.

    My .02 worth.

  195. ocmpoma
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 9:40 am

    One of my main issues with the arguments in this thread (and in many other arguments) is that an idea or concept is attributed to atheism, and then used to decry atheism. But atheists are not all materialists. Atheists are not all moral relativists. Steve, what would you say if I made the following argument?
    Theists assert that gods live on top of a mountain in Greece. However, it is obvious that there aren’t any gods on the mountaintop; so theism is false.
    This is the equivalent to claiming that atheists are moral relativists. Go find an Objectivist, and ask them if morality is relative.

    However, there are two problems with the latest assertions about atheistic philosophies and their relation to purpose, gods, and morality.

    1. Forgoing an irrational belief in some god-concept is not directly related to irrational purposes. If an atheist admonishes a theist to abandon their irrational belief in a god, purpose is not involved – unless it is specifically brought up. Saying that assigning oneself a purpose such as the pursuit of liberty is equally valid as believing in god is fallacious – because theism involves much more than simple purpose-assignment. If I asked someone to abandon an irrational belief that they were Spider Man and that comic books were real, should they reply: “Well, why should I replace it with your own irrational purpose?” Theism is not a simple irrational purpose-assignment; it is an entire worldview that is founded in unreality. The connection has only been made because many theists connect their purpose with their god. In that case, a proper perspective would be: If you want to have as your purpose serving a being that you acknowledge as fantasy, that’s well and good, all other things being equal. It’s your purpose, after all. Saying that assigning oneself a purpose such as the pursuit of liberty is equally valid as believing in god is fallacious – because theism involves much more than simple purpose-assignment.

    2. Contrary to the common assertion that a personal, self-assigned purpose destroys morality, this is not the case. There have been many arguments made over the years (millenia?) against this. First off, do theists such as lurker do good deeds only because they feel that some other being tells them to, instead of because the deeds are good? Are you, Steve, a moral person only because the Bible instructs you to be moral? Obviously, the answer is yes if taking away said directive renders all actions morally meaningless. Secondly, does the fact that I personally feel that stealing is wrong, but don’t feel that this is something objective, mean that my opinion about borscht tasting good is also invalid? The moral relativist doesn’t say that right and wrong don’t exist; the relativist says that an absolute right and wrong don’t exist. Also, since the common argument runs (as lurker’s did) directly into “it doesn’t matter in the end,” it certainly follows to ask the theist or absolutist: “Even if there were absolute morality or purposes, why would it matter?” I have yet to encounter a valid answer.

  196. benjamin
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 9:46 am

    Let’s not trivialize personal, transitory purpose. We don’t need to please the gods with our actions, only ourselves.

  197. Rocketman
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:20 am

    Tsk tsk Steve, Catholic father of three…bad form to partially quote a person in forum without knowldge or consent without at least letting them know.

    You don’t like my “fuzzy” irrationality. Stating that your big illogical purpose is no more illogical than my small temporary one.

    In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that you are just too stupid to understand the essential point.

    Yes there is no overarching meaning or objective purpose to life.

    That’s your bag. It’s your requirement to need one. It isn’t mine. The concept of purpose is obviously so intrinsically tied to your concepts of dimension anything less that a complete unified purpose is somehow irrational.

    Any attempt to point out that a) my subjective purpose matters to me and hopefully to those closest to me is actually perceptible. b) that the act of being alive will alter certain outcomes for better or worse, you probably aren’t going to know anyway c) it is then rational to assume that the one meaning I can percieve and that is not poked full of logical holes is my subjective one. d) Guess what. It’s the only one I know.

    Here’s the essential difference in rationality dear dear stupid steve-my idea, my subjective purpose is in my head and I know it. it exists as an abstract idea in the chemicals in my brain and I make no claim that it is anything more than that.

    Your god exists too–in your pointy little noggin.

    I don’t make the claim that my meaning is of any importance because it really isn’t to any one else but myself. I don’t claim that my meaning made the universe, but that it made a smaller , self contained reality. And by my reckoning huiman beings and their paltry little personal meanings are the only meanings that perceivably exist in the universe. Get that. Since my experieince demonstrates that I am a part of the universe, come from the basic matter of the universe and do not believe in any extra universal end point, then by my interpretation I am part of this universe. I am an expression of the complexity and possibility of the universe.

    Therefore what come of me is part of the universe. The same way the light from a star is part of the universe, the same way that a bird, or a rock, or a gluon or a molybdenum atom is part of the universe.

    What I perceive as myself is simply an exceptionally complex expression of the universe.

    And in that complexity, through the simple process of evolution, i possess the capacity to create an abstract universe, a shadow universe if you will, inside my mind. A place where thoughts that have no objective reality can have a subjective reality. But that is still an expression of the universe. There is nothing supernatural about it.

    But there is something that I can identify as meaning. From the universe, to me, to the abstract, to a conception of meaning.

    Therefore that meaning, being the only meanings that we are aware of –well steve they take first place. If that is the only meaning that exists then guess what Steve?-that’s meaning.

    Subjective, flawed, temporary, perhaps even impotent, but meaning nonetheless.

    What you have been saying, is because there is no overall meaning behind the universe there is no meaning. I’m saying you’re wrong. I can demonstrate that things in this world have meaning to you over the overarching meaning that you need to have.

    Temporary but still effective.

    Fact is maybe there is an overall meaning that I am unaware of. Can’t say for a certainty there isn’t. But i doubt it.

    I doubt there will be one. Unless we make one. Unless we actually survive long enough, expand our knoweldge enough, develop our morality enough, to end up creating a meaning.

    And should that extreme unlikeliness occur I’m willing to bet it will be a work of art, and not a code of rules.

    So tell me Steve, what is the purpose of the Mona Lisa?

    To make Leo some cash?

    Did’t it end up meaning something more than that?

    So perhaps the meaning right now, be the development of the ability to perceive meaning. It’s a pretty precarious experiment right now. Perceiving meaning without an actual meaning.

    So you take a substitute for the time being. Call it god. It isn’t real, but it serves the purpose. Fits the hole for now.

    Your god, who by the way exists only in your head has exactly the same properties as my subjective meaning.

    The difference is that I don’t walk around thinking my meaning made the earth and the seas and the skies and all the beasts of the earth.

    I don’t believe my meaning is required to last forever or postulated a life beyond death.

    But go ahead Steve, just because your personal meaning does not allow you accept that a human cannot exist without a giant universal purpose–just because you are too limited to grasp that–please don’t make the arrogant assumption that your arguement is worth the tp its excreted on.

    To see a world in a grain of sand
    And heaven in a wild flower
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
    And eternity in an hour.

    Perhaps if my thoughts make little sense to you you can jump all over william blake here.

    Let me paraphrase-

    All meaning that exists, exists in a single life.

    But it’s only art.

  198. Rocketman
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:20 am

    Tsk tsk Steve, Catholic father of three…bad form to partially quote a person in forum without knowldge or consent without at least letting them know.

    You don’t like my “fuzzy” irrationality. Stating that your big illogical purpose is no more illogical than my small temporary one.

    In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that you are just too stupid to understand the essential point.

    Yes there is no overarching meaning or objective purpose to life.

    That’s your bag. It’s your requirement to need one. It isn’t mine. The concept of purpose is obviously so intrinsically tied to your concepts of dimension anything less that a complete unified purpose is somehow irrational.

    Any attempt to point out that a) my subjective purpose matters to me and hopefully to those closest to me is actually perceptible. b) that the act of being alive will alter certain outcomes for better or worse, you probably aren’t going to know anyway c) it is then rational to assume that the one meaning I can percieve and that is not poked full of logical holes is my subjective one. d) Guess what. It’s the only one I know.

    Here’s the essential difference in rationality dear dear stupid steve-my idea, my subjective purpose is in my head and I know it. it exists as an abstract idea in the chemicals in my brain and I make no claim that it is anything more than that.

    Your god exists too–in your pointy little noggin.

    I don’t make the claim that my meaning is of any importance because it really isn’t to any one else but myself. I don’t claim that my meaning made the universe, but that it made a smaller , self contained reality. And by my reckoning huiman beings and their paltry little personal meanings are the only meanings that perceivably exist in the universe. Get that. Since my experieince demonstrates that I am a part of the universe, come from the basic matter of the universe and do not believe in any extra universal end point, then by my interpretation I am part of this universe. I am an expression of the complexity and possibility of the universe.

    Therefore what come of me is part of the universe. The same way the light from a star is part of the universe, the same way that a bird, or a rock, or a gluon or a molybdenum atom is part of the universe.

    What I perceive as myself is simply an exceptionally complex expression of the universe.

    And in that complexity, through the simple process of evolution, i possess the capacity to create an abstract universe, a shadow universe if you will, inside my mind. A place where thoughts that have no objective reality can have a subjective reality. But that is still an expression of the universe. There is nothing supernatural about it.

    But there is something that I can identify as meaning. From the universe, to me, to the abstract, to a conception of meaning.

    Therefore that meaning, being the only meanings that we are aware of –well steve they take first place. If that is the only meaning that exists then guess what Steve?-that’s meaning.

    Subjective, flawed, temporary, perhaps even impotent, but meaning nonetheless.

    What you have been saying, is because there is no overall meaning behind the universe there is no meaning. I’m saying you’re wrong. I can demonstrate that things in this world have meaning to you over the overarching meaning that you need to have.

    Temporary but still effective.

    Fact is maybe there is an overall meaning that I am unaware of. Can’t say for a certainty there isn’t. But i doubt it.

    I doubt there will be one. Unless we make one. Unless we actually survive long enough, expand our knoweldge enough, develop our morality enough, to end up creating a meaning.

    And should that extreme unlikeliness occur I’m willing to bet it will be a work of art, and not a code of rules.

    So tell me Steve, what is the purpose of the Mona Lisa?

    To make Leo some cash?

    Did’t it end up meaning something more than that?

    So perhaps the meaning right now, be the development of the ability to perceive meaning. It’s a pretty precarious experiment right now. Perceiving meaning without an actual meaning.

    So you take a substitute for the time being. Call it god. It isn’t real, but it serves the purpose. Fits the hole for now.

    Your god, who by the way exists only in your head has exactly the same properties as my subjective meaning.

    The difference is that I don’t walk around thinking my meaning made the earth and the seas and the skies and all the beasts of the earth.

    I don’t believe my meaning is required to last forever or postulated a life beyond death.

    But go ahead Steve, just because your personal meaning does not allow you accept that a human cannot exist without a giant universal purpose–just because you are too limited to grasp that–please don’t make the arrogant assumption that your arguement is worth the tp its excreted on.

    To see a world in a grain of sand
    And heaven in a wild flower
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
    And eternity in an hour.

    Perhaps if my thoughts make little sense to you you can jump all over william blake here.

    Let me paraphrase-

    All meaning that exists, exists in a single life.

    But it’s only art.

  199. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:26 am

    Ocmpoma:
    One of my main issues with the arguments in this thread (and in many other arguments) is that an idea or concept is attributed to atheism, and then used to decry atheism.
    I agree with this, and have taken pains to delineate atheism from the individual atheists who I think are guilty of what I am charging. I

  200. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:41 am

    Your god, who by the way exists only in your head has exactly the same properties as my subjective meaning.
    Thank you Rocketman, you finally get my actual point and admit that I am 100% right. They are the same from a rational standpoint. Now explain to me why I should trade my

  201. wyote
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    Ok, so if my (as an atheist) experience of meaning is irrational, and Steve’s (as a theist) experience of meaning is equally irrational, then they’re on equal footing.

    We agree about this, and we can now consider whether God actually exists.

  202. severalspecies
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:44 am

    Steve G.

    This is in response to post #173.

    Since when does atheism logically come to the conclusion of nihilism? Atheism is the idea that god does not exist, nothing more. Are you talking about nihilism in this sense: that nothing can be known, that everything is meaningless? If that is the case it must be known that nihilism is an untenable position. It contradicts itself.

  203. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    wyote said:
    Ok, so if my (as an atheist) experience of meaning is irrational, and Steve’s (as a theist) experience of meaning is equally irrational, then they’re on equal footing.
    We agree about this,

    Thanks Wyote. The issue I am trying to point it is that many, many atheist don

  204. Lurker
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    wyote said:
    Ok, so if my (as an atheist) experience of meaning is irrational, and Steve’s (as a theist) experience of meaning is equally irrational, then they’re on equal footing. We agree about this, and we can now consider whether God actually exists.

    I give you credit for understanding. The question of God is a separate and complex matter that can’t be done on a message board.

    Personally speaking, if more atheists understood how irrational they really are by assuming life has meaning, that we should do good to others, etc. they wouldn’t be so quick to mock the ‘irrational’ behavior of theists. As Steve G. put it so well – why should I abandon my belief that I am Spider Man for your belief that you are Super Man?

  205. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 11:39 am

    Lurker:
    Welcome and THANK YOU! It’s about time somebody showed up here to help! ;-)

  206. Lurker
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 11:48 am

    Two people are lost in the desert and dying of thirst. Each one sees two objects in the distance – one object to the left and one to the right. Who is behaving more rationally?

    1) The person (theist) who believes the object on the left is real and the object on the right is a mirage (not real) and thus starts walking toward the object on the left.

    2) The person (atheist) who believes the object on the left is real and the object on the right is a mirage (not real) and thus starts walking toward the object on the right.

  207. Marph
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

    Steve G said: Why is my little shadow universe worthy of derision, but your shadow universe with (you admitted) the same properties, so much more worthy of admiration?

    The theist universe is worthy of derision because it has several properties that my universe does not:
    – It has infrastructure in place that evangelizes itself as the one true universe.
    – It makes threats (eternal damnation, etc) to those who do not believe in the theist universe.
    – It shapes policy in the US and elsewhere that threatens freedom of conscience of the atheist.
    All of this it based on nonsense….my universe is based on nonsense too, apparently, but at least it’s MY nonsense and is not forced onto others. Everybody finds their own meaning in life. I am still pretty unclear about how believing in gods gives life any kind of meaning…but if that’s what works for you, fine… For the above reasons, you will always be worthy of derision.

  208. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:12 pm

    Any one who likes… may call my belief in God merely mystical; the phrase is not worth fighting about. But my belief that miracles have happened in human history is not a mystical belief at all; I believe in them upon human evidences as I do in the discovery of America. Upon this point there is a simple logical fact that only requires to be stated and cleared up. Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder. The plain, popular course is to trust the peasant’s word about the ghost exactly as far as you trust the peasant’s word about the landlord. Being a peasant he will probably have a great deal of healthy agnosticism about both. Still you could fill the British Museum with evidence uttered by the peasant, and given in favour of the ghost. If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural. If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things. You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story. That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism — the abstract impossibility of miracle. You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist. It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence — it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed. But I am not constrained by any creed in the matter, and looking impartially into certain miracles of mediaeval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred. All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle. If I say, “Mediaeval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles,” they answer, “But mediaevals were superstitious”; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in the miracles. If I say “a peasant saw a ghost,” I am told, “But peasants are so credulous.” If I ask, “Why credulous?” the only answer is — that they see ghosts. Iceland is impossible because only stupid sailors have seen it; and the sailors are only stupid because they say they have seen Iceland. – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

  209. Marph
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

    I saw bigfoot once….

  210. Anonymous
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

    severalspecies said:
    “If that is the case it must be known that nihilism is an untenable position. It contradicts itself.”

    It’s true, but most people can’t be only one thing. It’s more of a tendency to something that most people have.
    Since nihilism sees that everything is equally valueless, including all goals and gods, it would naturally follow that any goal the nihilist sets would be valueless. That won’t stop him from making goals, it just allows him to see the goals as being valueless. Some nihilists believe that the destruction of all worthless goals and values is the only goal that makes sense. It makes them a sort of “serious man”, as Simone de Beauvois would say. But this is only a subterfuge that allows for furthering of the nihilist’s only real goal, annihilation. Throw in solipsism and it means complete annihilation of all sentients.

    Steve G. said:
    “ANY assignment of purpose, meaning, or value is arbitrary and subjective.”

    Not arbitrary, just worthless.

    I might not say (here) that a nihilist’s beliefs are more rational than unprovable, faith-founded beliefs, but most nihilists don’t choose their beliefs and many of the “faithful” seem to.

  211. Lurker
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

    Marph said:
    All of this it based on nonsense….my universe is based on nonsense too, apparently, but at least it’s MY nonsense and is not forced onto others.

    Here you are stating a belief that says your nonsense is better (or more good) than my nonsense. That is your illusion. You made it up just as you think theists make up their version of right and wrong (or good/bad).

    Tell my how your belief is true and mine is not? If there is no TRUE right or wrong there can be no TRUE better or worse. If you really hold the atheist view that there is no transcendent right or wrong then you must conclude that your ‘nonsense’ is on equal footing as my ‘nonsense’ – yet you don’t. Why?

  212. Anonymous
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:38 pm

    Lurker said:
    “If you really hold the atheist view that there is no transcendent right or wrong then you must conclude that your ‘nonsense’ is on equal footing as my ‘nonsense’ – yet you don’t. Why?”

    Your nonsense gets in my way, mine doesn’t get in your way. Unless, like most theists, your “way” includes making me do something I don’t want to.

  213. Hannah
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

    “Lurker:
    Welcome and THANK YOU! It’s about time somebody showed up here to help! ;-)”

    Dear Steve, I’m rooting for you. You’re doing a fine job of debating your position. Your summary of catholicism to anonymous was beautiful.

  214. Marph
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

    c’mon, Lurker…you are just hearing what you want to hear! Typical of the retarded theist… Please re-read, then join me below…I would make the print bigger if I knew how…I know that would help you:

    The theist universe is worthy of derision because it has several properties that my universe does not:
    – It has infrastructure in place that evangelizes itself as the one true universe.
    – It makes threats (eternal damnation, etc) to those who do not believe in the theist universe.
    – It shapes policy in the US and elsewhere that threatens freedom of conscience of the atheist.

    See, the reason my universe is better than yours is MINE DOES NOT DO ANY OF THE ABOVE THINGS! This is no illusion! It is true and you know it to be true! As long as you continue to attempt to impose your ridiculous beliefs on me, you will be derided like the fool you and Steve so obviously are.

    Good day sir!

  215. Lurker
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:00 pm

    Anonymous said:
    Your nonsense gets in my way, mine doesn’t get in your way. Unless, like most theists, your “way” includes making me do something I don’t want to.

    So you think your actions are better than my actions. You can believe that if you want, but consider this….

    My subjective view of ‘better’ is based on a belief that a transcendent or REAL ‘better’ exists. Your subjective view of ‘better’ is based on the belief that a transcendent or REAL ‘better’ does NOT exist yet you act like there is one. Who’s acting more rationally here?

  216. Lurker
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:06 pm

    Marph,
    Like Anonymous, you think your ways are better than mine. Do you believe in a transcendent or REAL ‘better’? If so, your beliefs are closer to the theist than the atheist. If not, then why all the fuss – it’s all relative – and thus your argument carries no weight.

  217. leon
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

    Steve G. said:
    Any one who likes… may call my belief in God merely mystical;

    How about calling it totally and completely baseless? How about imaginary, delusive, hallucinatory, unsubstantial, fabricated, illogical, cooked-up, bogus, illusory, deceitful, figmental, phony, presupposed, unfounded, feigned…

    the phrase is not worth fighting about.

    It definitely is.

    But my belief that miracles have happened in human history is not a mystical belief at all; I believe in them upon human evidences

    Your imagination is not evidence.

    as I do in the discovery of America.

    Do you know Columbus never set foot on any United States of America soil?

  218. Anonymous
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:26 pm

    Lurker said:
    “Your subjective view of ‘better’ is based on the belief that a transcendent or REAL ‘better’ does NOT exist yet you act like there is one. Who’s acting more rationally here?”

    It’s possible that mine is ‘better’ for the reason mentioned above. I don’t get in the way of the faithful, but some of them happily band together to tell me what to do, and worse than that, they get in the way of progress that could help me.
    When have a group of atheists in the US banded together to stop you from being healthy?

    Please quote the part where I said you were acting less rational than me.
    I actually went out of my way to say that I won’t claim (here) that my belief is more rational than yours, but that most of the faithful choose their beliefs. And why the quote marks around ‘better’ in your comment? I can’t seem to locate it in my post.

    My point is that, if it’s a given that we both have irrational beliefs, mine don’t set out to make you comply with them. People filled with faith will eventually want others to recognize the object of their faith as important, or at least go along with their faith-based decisions. Is that false?

  219. Mookie
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

    This is getting annoying now.

    Steve,

    “my point was only to draw out the fact that many atheist fall into the some type of subjective thinking that theists do”

    If you admit that our respective purposes in life are “irrational” or “on equal footing” and subjective, then we can indeed say that you admit that god is all in your head. That’s why we’ve been attacking the whole god-purpose thing. Every time you squirm out of it, and now you say that all you wanted to do was point out that atheism leads to nihilism (to you). This wasn’t done very well, nor have you actually proved a point. SOME atheists go that way, but most don’t. You claim that you are not a nihilist because you have the monkeyoverlord in your head. But this sounds so horribly ridiculous, especially when compared to the atheist view. The point was made that theists that believe the monkeyoverlord assigns morals and meanings are human-hating, immoral freaks, because the only thing keeping them from raping and pillaging is this false belief. As an atheist, I can claim that I need no such threat, or no such reward, to be a moral person. This makes me, and all other similar atheists, much more moral than theists of the former type.

    The disdain for the delusional is merely our way of suggesting that folks be more true to reality. We require people be aware of the world around them, and to interpret it with as little bias as possible. While this is extremely difficult at times, the more we do it, the better we get at it. When I see a tree, I see its form and complexity, and try to understand all that went into it. When a theist looks at a tree, they might see the same thing I do, but conclude that the monkeyoverlord put it there. This bothers me. A lot. It supposes that something created it, something put it there, something made it grow. This leads to so many problems, and its all because the person was unwilling and unable to separate silly beliefs from basic observations. What makes the scientific explanation better than the theistic one? We can do more with it, it is more in-line with reality. So it is with our morality, too. We are AWARE of what’s going on, we don’t need to fool ourselves into seeing things that are not there. We rely on EVIDENCE to reach conclusions. We ask questions.

    “Mommy, why is that tree there?”
    “The great monkeyoverlord put it there, sweety, that’s why.”
    “Gee, thanks Mommy, now I’ll grow up ignorant and not bother asking questions about the world around me because ‘god did it’ is completely satisfactory”
    “No problem, deary, and remember, you’re life has no inherent purpose or meaning without the monkeyoverlod, and you are a nasty little monster if you don’t seek redemption in his eyes.”
    “YAY! I’ll be working my whole life to hate myself, nature, and every other human on the planet, ever seeking to convert all to the ways of the monkeyoverlord!”

    “Mommy, why is that tree there?”
    “Because it grew from a seed out of conditions that were amenable to its development there.”
    “How did the seed get there?”
    “The seed came from another tree of the same species, probably carried by the wind or an animal, or maybe it just fell from the parent tree.”
    “How did the parent tree get there?”
    “By a similar process, and certainly not a monkeyoverlord. Maybe you can become a botanist and study plants, or a biologist and study how organisms evolve over time.”
    “Mommy, what’s a monkeyoverlord?”
    “Some silly abstraction some humans use to belittle their own existence and the lives of others because they are afraid of reality and so need a sheen of comfort covering all the rough and unpleasant edges.”
    “That sounds silly.”
    “Yes, it does, and it is.”

  220. a different tim
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:48 pm

    Well…here we are again.

    Steve! Still comes down to this –
    Whether you talk of cosmic purpose or God, you are making a truth claim about the external universe. When I talk of human purpose, I am not. They are not the same, not equivalent, not equally rational.

    Still waiting for an answer to this, although I admit I have not actually read all 100 or so posts since my last one with the care they probably deserve, and there may be one in there somewhere.

    Thankyou for praying for my giant robot. You should perhaps be aware that I intend to use it to crush all my enemies (including theists, obviously) under its huge iron boot.

  221. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

    Mookie,
    Your idiotic caricature of the believer parent’s explanation is exactly the type of judgement and mockery that prompted the discussion in the first place. I’ll defer from addressing the rest of your diatribe as it’s so laden with assumptions of moral and value judgements as ‘better’ or ‘good’ that as an atheist you have no claim for making.

    Steve

  222. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    Whether you talk of cosmic purpose or God, you are making a truth claim about the external universe. When I talk of human purpose, I am not.

    So what? Really, what does that difference actually mean? They are both equally worthless.

    How is my imputing value/meaning onto something worthless (cosmological purpose), less rational than the atheist who imputes value on something equally worthless (self-directed purpose). You are putting a value on external verses internal claims. That value judgment itself is utterly worthless and has no objective basis.

  223. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

    Mookie,
    Apologies for using the word idiotic. I slip in charity for a moment. The way you portrayed the believing parents explanation in the most horrid light, and contrasted that with the most reasoned approach of the atheist really bothered me. I have had the conversation regarding where the tree comes from minus calling my kid a little monster. I’ve had it where I’ve explained the truth and beauty of both the fundamental creative nature of God, AND explaining the truth and beauty of how the process works from generation to generation. They simply are not mutually exclusive. Again, apologies for the name calling.

  224. a different tim
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 2:20 pm

    Nope. I’m not making a judgement that external truth claims are preferable or not preferable to claims about one’s internal state. Just saying you can’t really draw a conclusion on the external world based on nothing more than what makes you feel comfortable. “You can’t go from is to an ought” (that is from an empirical to a moral claim) but vice versa also applies.

    The point I’m trying to make is a truth claim about the external universe should really be…well…true. Or at least have some reasoning or empirical evidence behind it demonstrating why it might be true. This does not imply a moral value apart from that of considering it preferable to believe in true than untrue things.
    Now, we can argue over whether that is a moral value or a survival imperative, but I don’t think that matters here given that your post (that both are equally worthless) seems to lead you into one of two possible positions: either
    1) “There is a truth, but it doesn’t matter”, or
    2) “There is no truth, or it isn’t accessible to any of our methodologies, so we can believe what we like”.
    I’m not sure you hold either of these positions, so I’d like you to clarify exactly what it is that drives you to make truth claims about the external world based on subjective feeling.

    Human purpose, hoever, is nothing more than a claim about how you or I personally feel, with no other empirical claims that need to be backed up. Although people lie about their purposes all the time, we generally don’t think it impossible that they have one.

  225. Mookie
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

    Steve,

    I don’t mind insults, and am not offended. No need to apologize.

    Perhaps you would interested in researching cellular automata – little squares that change colour and form simple (!) patterns, all on their own. It demonstrates that patterns, order, and equilibrium can be reached all without supernatural or planned guidance. It is also a great model for understanding homeostasis in the universe, and on earth.

    If all humans suddenly ceased to exist (by natural means), would god still exist?

    I would say no, because no one believes in Zeus anymore, so he and the other olympian gods and their exploits are no more than fantastic fairy tales. In my view, the olympian gods are more worthy of belief than a monotheistic god, simply because they exhibit more human-like behaviour. They seem more accessible. But I know that they’re just as unreal as Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

  226. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 2:38 pm

    The point I’m trying to make is a truth claim about the external universe should really be…well…true.

    But even such a simple claim as this makes the assumption that something CAN be true. That truth is better than falsity. These are value judgment that can

  227. a different tim
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 3:40 pm

    Oh for fuck’s sake. An entire, closely argued post just vanished into cyberspace, never to return.

    I’ll take a copy of this one.

    Steve.
    “But even such a simple claim as this makes the assumption that something CAN be true.”
    Yes. I am making that claim.
    More accurately, I am making the claim that some of our models of the universe are more accurate than others. Since it may matter, our perceptions of the universe form internal models. They can be more or less accurate, in the same way that a model aeroplane may be a more or less accurate representaion. I am not sure it makes sense to claim a model is “true”.

    “But that

  228. Percy
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 3:42 pm

    Mookie,

    “This leads to so many problems, and its all because the person was unwilling and unable to separate silly beliefs from basic observations. What makes the scientific explanation better than the theistic one? We can do more with it, it is more in-line with reality.”

    You are drawing a false comparison, because you are making an equivocation between an atheistic observation and a scientific observation. To say (or hint) that a scienctific observation and an atheistic observation are the same is foolish – science, by its very nature, does not and cannot comment on the supernatural, whereas the atheist does (and in so doing, inherently believes that the tree cannot have been created). It is only with a naturalistic philosophy, where you believe that whatever science cannot study is not real, and that all things can (with enough time) be completely described by natural explanations, that you could make such a claim. Science in and of itself can no more prove God’s inexistence than a blind person can prove the inexistence of color.

    Because of that, you make “silly beliefs” of the same magnitude (and possible greater) if you view the tree and conclude that it cannot have been created.

    “It demonstrates that patterns, order, and equilibrium can be reached all without supernatural or planned guidance.”

    No it doesn’t. It demonstrates that *simple* patterns can be reached without *apparent* supernatural or planned guidance.

  229. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 4:27 pm

    A different tim:

    I guess I need to say something again that I

  230. wyote
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 4:29 pm

    Steve, I’ve never seen atheists argue that theists live meaningless lives. Maybe I’m missing something because I’ve only read about 3/4 of these posts. But it seems to me that you were originally arguing that atheists don’t have meaningful lives (a common argument), and you backed off.

    If your perception of meaning is as subjective as mine, then there’s nothing to be explained, and no need to consider “a belief in a transcendent power” from this point of view.

    Unless you conflate “meaning” with “purpose,” and even then, only if you take “purpose” as necessarily imposed from outside.

  231. wyote
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 4:34 pm

    So, if our lives are about as meaningful as each others, then the theist can’t claim to have any better explanation.

    You seem to agree with that.

    And then, we fall back on other matters, which, you’re right, leave me unconvinced that God exists.

    Of course, if he announced through various preachers, priests, imams and rabbis that he would hold the earth in place for a few days, or some other universally verifiable miracle, then I’d believe. Or if he announced through them that he’d cure every case of AIDS in the world, and then it happened. I’d believe.

    But “my life feels meaningful” obviously doesn’t get me anything other than, “Well, being Catholic must feel as good as being atheist.”

  232. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 4:37 pm

    Percy,
    Well said. I think (hope) you are getting what I am pointing out. Unfortunately you aren’t the one who needs to have it pointed out as you already know it. Mookie obviously doesn’t get it, and he’s the atheist (not literally) I have talking about throughout.

  233. wyote
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 4:44 pm

    To be fair, your original argument insisted on a belief in “true” purpose, which I assume means “externally imposed,” requires an explanation which atheism doesn’t offer. And you meant, an explanation in terms that verify that belief. You’re right I think. Atheism leaves us without externally imposed purpose, except as a mere feeling.

    But “meaning” is a much more vague concept, and I don’t think there’s any significant kind of meaning that an atheist necessarily lacks.

  234. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

    wyote:
    I admitted that my original post was poorly framed based on what I was really attempting to drive at. Post #173 most cleraly states what my intent was (though I had been saying basically the same thing since about post 10).

  235. wyote
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 5:11 pm

    Yeah, so there’s not much of a debate then. I’ll grant that your life feels meaningful, you’ll grant that mine does too, and we’ll go our separate ways.

  236. a different tim
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

    I’m not claiming an objective model of meaning exists. But you are. You are claiming “ultimate purpose” or “cosmic meaning” or some such. You have repeatedly (going back to the original post which started all this) claimed “true” purpose exists. I can only suppose this means extra human, transcendent purpose, otherwise why differentiate it from normal human purpose like going down the shops to buy some cheese? It is also incidentally true that if such exists, it would lead to an assumption of a transcendent consciousness, which we may as well call God, since meaning inescapably implies a conscious being for things to mean something to. I therefore hereby state that a claim about the existence of transcendent meaning is a factual truth-claim about the universe (you are, of course, free to disagree but you might have to explain what objective meaning, which if I read you right you claim theism offers, could possibly be if not a factual truth claim. It’s that word objective which is the key). Yes, I know that you are critiquing atheism rather than explicitly defending theism, but the one does rather imply the other.

    Now, you know, sorry for swearing and that, but as far as I can see you are again conflating logical with moral claims, in your statement of my position.

    Which, the record, is this:
    Premise 1) (the factual premise) There is an external universe, which we can know about (in the sense of accurate models etc). This is a factual claim with no moral content. It’s based largely on the philosophy of Popper, if you’re interested.

    Premise 2) (the moral premise) I personally have made a moral choice to prefer truth over falsehood (or if you like accurate over inaccurate models), and to attempt to persuade others that this is a worthwhile thing. This is a personal choice based on human, not divine or transcendent meaning, which I can take for whatever reason I choose, since it makes no truth claims about the outside universe. I could base it on the fact that my Mum told me not to lie, or that intellectual dishonesty really really annoys me. It doesn’t matter because it’s a personal human choice based on personal human meaning. It only needs the existence of one human, me, which I have empirical evidence for.

    Notice that what I call the moral premise is completely independent from the factual premise, and does not depend on it in any way, and vice versa.

    Working from the factual premise, Ockham’s razor, hypothetico-deductive reasoning etc etc and many places we have been so many times before, leads to a statement that atheism is an accurate, or at least the most reasonable, factual model. You must be familiar with this chain of reasoning, and although you are free to disagree with it you need to do so in factual or logical, not moral terms, since it is a factual, not a moral, argument.
    Note that at this point I still have not taken the moral decision to embrace atheism, since I am currently working from the factual premise.

    but then:

    Working from the moral premise, I have to either embrace the factual conclusion or abandon the moral premise. This choice is in fact open – there are many “don’t care” agnostics. But I think that’s a cop out. So I’m an atheist.

    So I hereby present a logically and philosophically consistent picture of atheism with a firm and non-nihilistic moral base. I have thought this one through before, as you can probably tell.

    So I (and I believe others) are NOT generally claiming that our premises are more rational than yours (although we make an exception for the “duh, faith” argument, aka God as axiom, since you can’t generally in reason take the factual proposition you are trying to justify as an axiom, and we don’t hold it to be self-evident. I believe this is also the Catholic position – if it is not, Aquinas was sure wasting his time). It would be pointless to do so, since to have a debate we must agree on premises anyway.

    Rather, we claim our CONCLUSIONS are more rational than yours.

    Must go to sleep now. Over and out.

    PS It occurs to me reading through that there is a passage which could be taken as a veiled accusation of intellectual dishonesty to you. It is not intended that way.

  237. a different tim
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

    just posted, seen your last reply…so, ok, you seem to have re-framed (or conceded) the purpose thing. So go from paragraph 2.
    And you still seem to me to be saying that our factual claims are as subjective as yours (which we don’t admit, and you need a factual argument for) as opposed to our moral claims (which, in the absence of God, is trivially true). But then I’m very tired.

  238. a different tim
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 5:44 pm

    pps Mookie is right and Percy wrong about pattern formation. It’s not just relatively simple patterns, and there is no reason to assume supernatural intervention if something can be explained without it.
    The best stuff on this is Philip Ball “The Self-Made Tapestry” and “Critical mass” one of which deals with pattern formation in nature, the other in human society. Ball makes no theological claims, positive or negative. You can read them and glory in God’s infinite subtlety if you like. They’re very interesting.

  239. leon
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 6:57 pm

    Steve G. said:
    I guess I need to say something again that I

  240. leon
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 7:31 pm

    Steve G. said:
    1. The person who accepts atheism along the logical nihilistic consequences of the view.
    2. The person who finds a purpose or meaning to life.

    The wording is enlightening. It looks as if you concluded that no atheist can find any meaning to life while all people who believe in god do find meaning to life. And your point is…? That atheists are immoral and only god-believers should rule the world? Whatever your point is you have made the wrong conclusion. I want people to enjoy life. I want to enjoy life. I want my kids to enjoy life. I wish my children and my grand-children well in their life after I am dead. I hope the world solves all the problems that make some people’s lives a living state of torture. But as long as religion dominates morality as it has for the last 20,000 years there will be misery in the world and I dare say that the world will even blow itself up fighting over whose god should be believed in.
    When I say our lives are meaningless, I am referring to the fact that the earth will be disintegrated when our sun turns into the predicted red-giant that it will become. The earth will be vaporized along with all books, art, cities, and grave stones into hydrogen fuel. I am referring to the fact the entire universe is dying from entropy and life will become impossible billions of years from now. Until the human race is erased from existence there will be some modicum of meaning, but after that I say no.
    Lets pretend there is a god, heaven, and hell and all that shit. Lets imagine you are a ‘soul’ in ‘heaven’ (as I suspect you already have) and it is 1,000,000 years later. At this point you probably reviewed your life 100,000 times and you can recall the very first word you spoke as a baby, your first tooth, your first love. Does it still have any meaning? You can look down on the planet earth and you’ve seen billions of people be born and die. You have seen every possible type of person imaginable serval times over. Does your existence still have meaning? You’ve traversed the universe 1000s of times and seen everything. Is it still meaningful? You’ve watched people you befriended when you were flesh burn in hell 10,000s of times. Is it still meaningful? And to add to your existence you are going to do all those things I mentioned above 100s of thousands of times again. Do you still find a meaning?
    You have cleverly pigeoned holed theists as being morally superior to atheists and it is because you are narrow minded and shallow. Your only talent seems to be voluminous typing skills. You may have contributed to hurricane RITA with your hot air. But you have not presented one logical argument to back up your god-belief. Nor have you or anyone else come up with a good reason why abortion should be illegal. I don’t think you are talking to the rational people here, because you know they can’t be bullshitted. You talking to those who have not yet acquired the skills of bullshit detection, the fence-sitters. Your side is desperate because you know reason will win and thats why you have to bullshit everybody. Thats why you hate science. Thats why people like you do not want people to think logically. Logic is the antithesis of fantasy. You can’t stand the thought that your life, in the end, is nothing. So enjoy it while you can.

  241. Mookie
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 8:35 pm

    “pps Mookie is right and Percy wrong about pattern formation.”

    Thanks a different tim, I doubt Percy has actually researched cellular automata.

    Percy,

    “What makes the scientific explanation better than the theistic one? We can do more with it, it is more in-line with reality. So it is with our morality, too. We are AWARE of what’s going on, we don’t need to fool ourselves into seeing things that are not there. We rely on EVIDENCE to reach conclusions. We ask questions.”

    My atheism is based on a total lack of evidence for the existence of the monkeyoverlord or any such supernatural power. You are right to say that science and atheism are not the same; I never said they are. However, if one follows the doctrines of science (and understands why they do), they will arrive at the atheist viewpoint. Science does not seek to disprove something that is not known to exist because that’s a retarded waste of time. We would need to disprove that burrito stands are NOT present on Pluto, that the Lochness monster is NOT there, that there was (or still is) a “guiding” force or “supernatural” hand leading us all along. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

    God has not been proven to not exist, therefore, he must exist.

    Please oh please understand that this is shitty logic, and is, in a nutshell, how silly theists appear to atheists and/or those true to reality.

    “God is outside the realm of human understanding.”

    Its a lot easier to just discount the existence of the monkeyoverlord than to accept this useless response.

  242. Anonymous
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 8:39 pm

    adt, I write the lengthy posts in Word or a similar program and copy/paste. I have had several posts that I thought were great go *poof*, and it’s pretty annoying.

  243. Steve G.
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 9:39 pm

    Leon,
    You quoted me here

  244. Mookie
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:04 pm

    Bye bye Steve, may the monkeyoverlord treat you well.

  245. Mookie
    September 22nd, 2005 @ 10:05 pm

    Bye bye Steve, may the monkeyoverlord treat you well.

  246. PhalsePhrophet
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 2:29 am

    Steve G. said:
    Joe,
    You have taken the statement entirely out of context. The statement comes as part of a parable Jesus is telling. The context is of a king administering justice over his subjects. Jesus did not literally anywhere there say that apostates should be killed. No one to my knowledge has every used this passage as justification for murdering apostates. In addition, you have to put any statement in a parable of this nature in a larger context of the rabbinic teaching methods of the time (which were commonly given to extreme exaggeration to make an underlying point), as well as the context of the vast majority of Jesus

  247. Lucy Muff
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 4:56 am

    JESUS (LORD) says killing is wrong: he’s always saysingd to turn cheeky, and that is proofed by a lot of many bible passages (john 2.11 for one, with free wines for believers, so maybe you booze loving atheist will join!!).

    JESUS IS LORD

    I pity fool what don’t love JEsus

  248. Steve G.
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 7:53 am

    Mookie,
    No reason to say bye. I didn’t mean I was DONE, done, just done with this discussion, for now (which I guess is false since I am still posting). Self control never has been a strong point of mine.
    ————————-

    PhalsePhrophet
    Thanks!

  249. Matt
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 8:59 am

    Steve G, thanks for responding to my comment. I agree with you that there is no real reason for anything if there is no God. However, I do have some further points to make about this:
    1. Yes, we all make up our own purpose, but we base it upon what we think we know about the world. You think you know that there is a God with a plan for you and I think I know there isn’t. However, the question is whether one of them is right. Of course, there either is or isn’t a God. They cannot be equally valid viewpoints- one must be closer to reality. How do we know which one is closer to reality? We look at the evidence. In the end, it comes down to science because the only way to truly know anything about the world is to examine it in a disinterested fashion and let it speak for itself.
    2. Even if there is a God who has a purpose for you in mind, why should you make it your purpose to carry out his will?

  250. severalspecies
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 10:57 am

    I’m throwing this out to the wind…
    What is the purpose of god? God MUST have a purpose behind it’s existence. Right?

    Forgive me, but my head hurts.

  251. Steve G.
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 11:00 am

    That’s God’s problem to figure out. I have my hands full already. ;-)

  252. Rocketman
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 11:41 am

    Sigh…so much for that posting.

    Right, I apologise for the stupid crack. It was beneath me and inaccurate. How about stubborn. That would be more accurate to my meaning ( Not cosmic purpose).

    “Your god, who by the way exists only in your head has exactly the same properties as my subjective meaning.
    Thank you Rocketman, you finally get my actual point and admit that I am 100% right. They are the same from a rational standpoint. Now explain to me why I should trade my

  253. Lurker
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 12:34 pm

    Rocketman,
    Glad my metaphor was useful to you. In case the original meaning was unclear, let me explain.

    Many atheists (not all) believe/accept that life has no ultimate purpose and that right/wrong/good/bad are relative terms and thus don’t have any objective value or meaning yet they live their lives as though they do. To me that is like believing ghosts are not real yet working as a GhostBuster(tm), or believing that the mirage is not real (hence no water there) yet walking in that direction looking for water.

  254. Rocketman
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

    I believe that morality is relative. But that there are selective moralities that are necessary for the continuence of any society. Lose those basic fundamentals and you see a society begin to spin out of order.

    My comment is that the ultimate purpose is personal in one sense and cultural in another.

    There is no ready made purpose.

    We invent it. If it works we propagate. If it fails we die out.

    But there is this amazing side effect in terms of our personal life. Our individual life. We begin to share ideas and ideas can be shared with us. Shared knowledge. Testable knowledge. Knowledge that has let our species grow to the point that things that would have been unbelievable, impossible generations ago are possible.

    The science that provides common basic rules to test knowledge against. Science that works on any place on the globe. Science that works as far as we have moved into space.

    Not science as belief, but science as method.

    A chance to either grace or inflict the meanings that we have accepted in common on the world and perhaps beyond.

    You tell me that if there is no ultimate meaning, there must be no point. I’m telling you lurker that the only meaning in the universe is the meaning that we create. And what I have tried to say is that is good enough.

    That does not mean that all meanings are equally valid, or worthwhile.

    Some , like killing everyone you see- is not commonly acceptable as it will tend to prevent the free flow of your genetic material to a next generation.

    While rape might allow for the propagation of genetic material, it also presents the option that you might be raped in turn, or that the child you raise is not your own, or that the additional help and protection granted by the father are not present to help the child out, or–maybe just maybe, the empathy you feel for another human being mght tell you that it isn’t a nice thing to have doen to you–therefore it might not be a nice thing to do to someone else..and then its a very short step to Rape is bad.

    Yes you read it right. Do unto others as you would have them do to you is a great idea.

    But I know it came first. The idea came before the religion.

    This is not a religious thought. It is a thought that could only be developed by someone who can understand the fear of being raped. I submit to you that any being immune to rape cannot empathize with an individual who has been.

    It is by bringing the empathy that we develop meaning, we develop common purpose, WE develop it.

    There is no ultimate purpose but what we make.

    To me, you seem like a man who is asking questions when there is only one answer, and you believe you have it already. So why ask the questions?

    A profound sense of the mysterious my big toe. There is nothing mysterious about it for you. You already know the answer. It is undefinable, it doesn’t make logical sense, but you accept it.

    Well I don’t.

    But the difference is, I can relay on my tested observations more often than not. I can communicate mine rationally and ask for input that will actually make me consider changing my view point.

    You will not.

    To paraphrase a particularly apropos statement.

    Your god gives a sponge the gift of being a sponge and lets him be a sponge.

    Your god gives us the ability to perceive and reason and then asks that we not use them.

    If logic will not serve, use emotion, if emotion proves false, use faith. If faith proves to be not enough, there is nothing wrong with the belief, it must be you who are flawed.

    Can’t you see the trap you are in?

    Well maybe you are flawed, but you are also unique. You may be the butterfly flapping its wings that can bring a change.

    But not while you give away your birthright as a human being to falsity.

    If I had a machine right now that I could flip a switch that would remove your faith, I would not do it.

    You have the absolute right to believe what you wish and have that meaning inside of you.

    Some religious belief is tied into the finest aspects of being human. Some of it is an idea that teaches us what we can become. It shows us what we could be.

    But it comes wrapped up with a false choice and the denial of our reason.

    My philosophy says that your differences can potentially add to a culture. Yours demands that you find a way to get me to remove my reason and join you in faith.

    Some people will even use spurious evidence, lame gambits and fulty logic to change my mind. Or worse, alter my government and my laws to reflect that internal world.

    And I think it is damaging.

    So I’m resisting it.

    I think its in error.

    So I refuse to convert.

    I’m using my reason.

  255. Tom Carr
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 3:57 pm

    If I look deeply into myself, I seem to have a purpose. It has something to do with love, beauty, and expanded awareness. I do not know where that comes from. Just because I don’t know where it comes from does not mean I should jump to any conclusion about the existance of a higher power. Perhaps it is an illusion. Perhaps it has something to do with evolution. Perhaps it has something to do with some higher power. I just don’t know. Why not just say I don’t know and leave it at that?

    By the way, I am more of an agnostic than an athiest.

  256. Percy
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 8:33 pm

    different tim,

    “pps Mookie is right and Percy wrong about pattern formation. It’s not just relatively simple patterns, and there is no reason to assume supernatural intervention if something can be explained without it.”

    I haven’t really looked into this matter, but in essence what you are describing is what we perceive – it cannot be assumed as “all there is”. We do not perceive the supernatural in science (as science limits itself to natural causes), but that does not mean that the supernatural does not exist. Nor does it mean that it does exist, Mookie. But the best we can say on the subject is “I don’t know”. Anything else is motivated by faith in a philosophy.
    ——————————————————————————

    Mookie,

  257. Mookie
    September 23rd, 2005 @ 11:25 pm

    Percy,

    Aliens, dragons, and intelligent republicans are out to kidnap you! Run for your life! Look deep inside yourself and you’ll realize the truth that ALL supernatural entities are real, and that stupid science stuff only looks at (pah!) NATURE. Boy, what a waste of time to look at NATURE. Nothing significant is ever found in NATURE.

    There is more to know about the universe than we can ever know. We don’t need to waste our time making things up. The NATURAL world has plenty to occupy us.

    Say hello to the aliens for me, ride on the back of a dragon for me, and kick the republican in the nuts for me, please.

  258. a different tim
    September 24th, 2005 @ 11:20 am

    Actually, he has done something which none of the other theists have thought to do – he has pointed out that our stance is based essentially on Ockham’s razor (not TRA’s however – he thinks he has theists in a logical contradiction). By Ockham’s razor we can assume the supernatural does not exist if we don’t need it to explain anything.

    Now Ockham’s razor is a rule of inference, not an absolute principle. It is possible to question it. The trouble is that it is then incumbent on the questioner to produce a different logical system that has a different principle to choose between competing hypotheses, both of which fit the facts. You could, say, instead of choosing the simplest hypothesis, choose the one with the most instances of the letters “G”, “O”, and “D” in it. This would be logically consistent.

    The problem is it would prove the existence of Godzilla as well as God.

    You may see this copied and pasted elsewhere if it comes up again, as I rather like it and I doubt if anyone is reading this any more.

  259. Ixian Heretic
    September 28th, 2005 @ 11:49 am

    In comment 186, wyote said: “Ok, so if my (as an atheist) experience of meaning is irrational, and Steve’s (as a theist) experience of meaning is equally irrational, then they’re on equal footing. We agree about this, and we can now consider whether God actually exists.”

    I disagree with this – sort of. It was impressed upon me, long ago (by an atheist, I should mention), that we all have certain things we trust to be true without proof. No logical system I’m aware of is free of axioms. (Axioms = articles of faith, for our theist friends)

    Now, these axioms may be closely linked to experience, or they may be wishful thinking, and anywhere in between.

    Theists are justified in saying “your axioms don’t provide for any wonder or love in the universe. My axioms comfort me and make for a stable society.” It is their opinion.

    Atheists are justified in saying “your axioms aren’t close enough to observable reality and result in conflicting theorems. My axioms provide me with personal happiness, ethics, and make for a more free and interesting society.” Alternatively “…provide me with unlimited freedom” Or any number of (subjectively) desireable outcomes. Note atheism has a few more options.

    Both are opinions. From a scientific standpoint (repeatability, consistency) atheists are justified in saying their axioms are more in line with reality. From a purely human standpoint, theists are justified in saying their axioms fulfill certain human emotional needs.

    The only practical difference I see is that atheists typically use words and logic to try to convert theists. Theists typically use discrimination, torture, social ostracization, and threat of execution (historically speaking). {And before anyone gets a dumb idea – forget the Soviet Union. You could be religious, as long as you didn’t want to get ahead materialistically and didn’t want to overthrow the state.}

    So it is up to you to decide which set of axioms you prefer.

  260. Ixian Heretic
    September 28th, 2005 @ 11:50 am

    In comment 186, wyote said: “Ok, so if my (as an atheist) experience of meaning is irrational, and Steve’s (as a theist) experience of meaning is equally irrational, then they’re on equal footing. We agree about this, and we can now consider whether God actually exists.”

    I disagree with this – sort of. It was impressed upon me, long ago (by an atheist, I should mention), that we all have certain things we trust to be true without proof. No logical system I’m aware of is free of axioms. (Axioms = articles of faith, for our theist friends)

    Now, these axioms may be closely linked to experience, or they may be wishful thinking, and anywhere in between.

    Theists are justified in saying “your axioms don’t provide for any wonder or love in the universe. My axioms comfort me and make for a stable society.” It is their opinion.

    Atheists are justified in saying “your axioms aren’t close enough to observable reality and result in conflicting theorems. My axioms provide me with personal happiness, ethics, and make for a more free and interesting society.” Alternatively “…provide me with unlimited freedom” Or any number of (subjectively) desireable outcomes. Note atheism has a few more options.

    Both are opinions. From a scientific standpoint (repeatability, consistency) atheists are justified in saying their axioms are more in line with reality. From a purely human standpoint, theists are justified in saying their axioms fulfill certain human emotional needs.

    The only practical difference I see is that atheists typically use words and logic to try to convert theists. Theists typically use discrimination, torture, social ostracization, and threat of execution (historically speaking). {And before anyone gets a dumb idea – forget the Soviet Union. You could be religious, as long as you didn’t want to get ahead materialistically and didn’t want to overthrow the state.}

    So it is up to you to decide which set of axioms you prefer.

  261. Ixian Heretic
    September 28th, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

    Lurker (comment 200) said: “My subjective view of ‘better’ is based on a belief that a transcendent or REAL ‘better’ exists. Your subjective view of ‘better’ is based on the belief that a transcendent or REAL ‘better’ does NOT exist yet you act like there is one. Who’s acting more rationally here?”

    Since the term “trancendant” is problematic (at best) I’ll deal with “real.” Under the observable evidence at hand, religion has caused more harm than good. Therefore, your belief that something “better” that is “real” causes harm. Therefore, whether the existence of something better is real or not, you are causing harm by perpetuating the belief at the expense of evidence to the contrary. My belief (that there is no “real” thing that is “better” that we can’t quantify) leads me to work toward making life better. My belief doesn’t harm anyone (according to the observable evidence), since I’m not forcing anyone to believe it. Therefore, I am acting more rationally.

  262. Percy
    September 29th, 2005 @ 2:38 pm

    Mookie,

    “There is more to know about the universe than we can ever know. We don’t need to waste our time making things up. The NATURAL world has plenty to occupy us.”

    I take it, then, that you do not have the same intellectual honesty. If you cannot admit the possibility that you could be wrong, then you are the one who is living by philosophical dogma (which I find thoroughly amusing, since that’s what you accuse so many theists of).
    ————————————————————————————————————-

    different tim,

    “By Ockham’s razor we can assume the supernatural does not exist if we don’t need it to explain anything.”

    Not necessarily. Ockham’s Razor is an idea (not a proven method), and the person after whom the idea is named was a theologian who sought to eliminate perceived conflicts between religion and science by simply separating them, and accepting religion on blind faith. In matters of religion, I do not think it’s use is very rational, because in order for Ockham’s Razor to be employed, all the facts must be known. Since we do not have all the facts, I would employ Kant’s Anti-Razor, which states

  263. Ixian Heretic
    September 30th, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

    Percy, surely you see the difference between “we don’t need to waste time” and “I’m not willing to admit I’m wrong.” This is a common accusation – just because we say you’re wrong doesn’t mean we claim to be infallible. The claim of Right, Truth, and Certainty – dare I say it – is a typically theist assumption.

    As for supernaturalism, the whole atheist objection is that it doesn’t lead to further knowledge. “God did it” can be used for everything, therefore it is meaningless. The age-old questions of “what made God” or “What’s God’s purpose” can only be answered with “that isn’t a meaningful question” – and hence it is a useless path to further knowledge.

    If knowledge isn’t your thing – fine. Just don’t pretend it is, and pretend that “God” is some sort of explanation.

    I will grant that some questions like “what happened before the Big Bang” are answered by science “that isn’t meaningful.” But the explanation is that time didn’t exist. However, if you look into the situation, there are other questions like “what other realities are possible as a result of that singularity” and you can make some headway – or even give an honest “I don’t know”. OTOH, there are no questions of similar nature that you can ask about “God” without running smack into words like “heresy” and “hubris” and “faithlessness” – all of which are designed to thwart investigation.

    Cheers,
    The IH

  264. Percy
    October 5th, 2005 @ 10:08 am
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