The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Dust to?

July 13, 2006 | 121 Comments

Atheists often reject the notion of an afterlife because of the concept’s perceived dependence on the existence of God. Only supernatural intervention, it is thought, could possibly sustain the consciousness after the death of the body. We do not come back from the nothingness which ensues from our corporeal annihilation. It is an impossibility. Science, and the evidence of billions of corpses, tells us that when it’s over, it’s over. That is the cold, hard fact.

It is also a cold, hard fact that you were nothing a thousand years ago. Yet, here you are. And you may even consider your existence to have been preordained from the time lighting first struck the primordial soup. An inevitability rather than impossibility.

Why is it that so many consider the idea of consciousness arising after the nothingness of death so much more improbable that its emergence from nothingness before birth? Plainly it cannot be the difficulty of deriving something from nothing, for nothing is the starting point in each case. What people have trouble with, I think, is the repetition of the self-aware “I” — that it is as difficult imagining oneself existing again in the future as it is imagining oneself now being simultaneously conscious in a different body on another planet. It’s easy to think of billions of future selves coming into being out of nothing — we know they will — but the idea of any of them being “you” is troublesome. Even if some distant year every molecule, atom and subparticle now composing your body suddenly swirled back into its exact present configuration, you might not expect it to perceive things as the “you” that is so self-consciously reading this page. You’d think of it as someone else, no more “you” than the stranger you see reading a newspaper a few seats down on the bus.

Or would you?

Comments

121 Responses to “Dust to?”

  1. Thorngod
    July 13th, 2006 @ 9:50 am

    There is no emergence from nothing. There is only reconfiguration. Eternal recurrence is a definite possibility, but every occurrence will be the first time. The notion that your individual self may re-emerge in a heaven, and you will be able to cuddle the three-year-old baby you lost, is absurd. So are all other such schemes. All our knowledge and experience refute it.

  2. noah nywno
    July 13th, 2006 @ 9:54 am

    Have you ever considered that this thing you call “I” doesn’t really exist, at least not in the way you seem to think.

    Moderen neuroscience has shown that everything about our personality is directly connected to the brain. A little more seratonin here and you have a happier person. Enough damage there and a person is no longer able to feel compassion. We know we can control a persons emotions and lpersonality with drugs. As yet, there is NO evidence that our personalities come from anything other than the physical structure of our brains and the interplay of our synapses with chemical neurotransmitters.

    So this “I” may be nothing more than a construct of the brain for the purpose of survival of the entire organism. In that case, there is no reason to think that the “I” would exist before or after the the existence of biological processes.

    Just something to consider.

  3. benjamin
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:12 am

    Because Noah already hit most of the points I was going to bring up, I’ll just point out that RA has gone from maligning theists to maligning atheists. He claims that “Atheists often reject the notion of an afterlife because of the concept’s perceived dependence on the existence of God.” As if we can’t separate one aspect of belief from another. As if we simply arrange our beliefs to be diametrically opposed to those of theists. Thus, since they have a commandment against murder, we would have to condone it. This is what he should have said:
    “Atheists are often just as skeptical toward the idea of an afterlife as they are toward the idea of God(s).”

  4. ocmpoma
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:20 am

    There is a huge difference between an afterlife and “…every molecule, atom and subparticle now composing your body suddenly swirl[ing] back into its exact present configuration…”

    While the latter is at least conceivably possible (although so unlikely as to be a moot point), the former is, in every description which I have encountered, patently absurd.

  5. benjamin
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    Another point that RA got wrong in his worst post ever:
    “Why is it that so many consider the idea of consciousness arising after the nothingness of death so much more improbable that its emergence from nothingness before birth”
    People aren’t conscious before birth. Consciousness develops as the brain develops. We don’t come “from nothing”. Our consciousness is dependent on our brains, which are physical. Our brains are made of matter. Our bodies develop and maintain themselves through the utilization of the foods we eat and fluids we drink. We are just a particular re-arrangement of matter/energy that has existed at least since the big bang, and will continue to exist in another form after we die. There cannot be “another me” because it is impossible for an identical arrangement of matter to occupy the exact same space at the exact same time as the matter that is me.

  6. Idea
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:39 am

    Noah: You completely smashed the nail on the head.

    Benjamin: You point out something interesting…

    Maybe RA should reorganize the letters in his name and website to turn Ravingatheist into – A Raving Theist.

    What a disapointment this site has become.

  7. Lurker
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:47 am

    So this “I” may be nothing more than a construct of the brain for the purpose of survival of the entire organism. In that case, there is no reason to think that the “I” would exist before or after the the existence of biological processes.

    Let’s take this one step further….

    Every thought you have is part of the same process that tells you this “I” exists. If you can’t trust the thought that tells you “I” exists then why trust the thought that tells you it doesn’t exist?

    Just something to consider.

  8. Forrest Cavalier
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:50 am

    Self-awareness is the perception that we must make choices that are NOT predestined.

    This perception is “True” in the sense that we cannot deny it, it is part of us, some would say the essence of us.

    The perception that we make choices remains present even if human beings are observed _scientifically_ to be nothing more special than a collection of chemicals following the laws of physics.

    And if this free will, the ability to make choices, is undeniably true, and is our most dear and important characteristic, but cannot be observed scientifically, then science has a ridiculous and hopelessly limited definition of “truth.”

    Now, consider the meanings of this:

    The Truth will set you free.

    and this

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

    Science is very useful, but limited. If something leads you to a smaller, more constrained, less joyful view of a world full of abundant choices, it is not Truth worth pursuing, it is a thief, trying to pillage the greatest gift you have been given.

  9. Forrest Cavalier
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:54 am

    Thorngod said:

    There is no emergence from nothing.

    Hey, look out everyone, I think theism is spreading!

  10. SteveG
    July 13th, 2006 @ 10:57 am

    I am curious if anyone here has run accross Frank Tipler’s book The Physics of Immortality based on his Omega Point Theory?.

    I am particularly interested in seeing what those far more proficient in physics think of it?

    I’ve not read the book, but have read the outline of his proof, along with a slew of accompanying articles both in support and opposition to his theory. Frankly, it’s beyond me to handle in any serious manner, so I am wondering what someone qualified to at least think seriously about it (Choobus?) makes of it.

    For the record, Tipler is a professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University.

  11. June
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:00 am

    As a teenager, nothing scared me more than the idea of having to mingle with billions of other souls, adoring God, adoring God, adoring God in some huge stadium, adoring God endlessly, adoring God with singsong chanting, adoring God forever, adoring God eternally, adoring God for being God, adoring God in spite of what he put humanity through, adoring God even though he sent your sister to Hell for having an illegitimate baby, adoring God even though he saved the serial killer sitting next yo you, adoring God, adoring God without the slightest hope of an end to this sniveling, driveling existence.

  12. SteveG
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:07 am

    What a disapointment this site has become.

    Yet you are all still here, discussing, commenting, and critiquing. The comment boxes are filling out at a rate I haven’t seen since late 2005.

    As A Different Tim pointed out, despite the fact that most are decrying the change, there is obviously something compelling here (or ‘just boring enough’ as RA put it a few posts back) that keeps people reading and commenting.

    Amazing!

  13. benjamin
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    A wrecked train draws more attention than one that is operating normally, and you’ll notice a lot of people around just after a train wrecks. They all leave eventually though.

  14. SteveG
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:13 am

    Dang! There are two broken links in my post #10.

    There was suppossed to be a link in the first sentence to Tipler’s book….The Physics of Immortality

    And in the third paragraph there is suppossed to be a link to Tipler’s…outline of his theory.

  15. noah nywno
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:18 am

    Lurker said:

    Let’s take this one step further….

    “Every thought you have is part of the same process that tells you this “I” exists. If you can’t trust the thought that tells you “I” exists then why trust the thought that tells you it doesn’t exist?

    Just something to consider.”

    I think your absolutly right. “WE” can’t. But that’s irrelevant to the reality of the situation (whatever that may be.)

    The best we can do is base our opinion on the best evidence available (Since we are dealing with “what if”s, I wont define what the best evidence may be.)

    If it is true that our personalities or “I” are dependent solely on natural processes, there is no reason to believe those processes would work perfectly, as most biological processes do not. Hence the “I” could keep on decieving itself as to it’s external existence on one level even if it realized on another that it didn’t exist externally.

    (For the purposes of this discussion I define external as “apart from biological processes.”)

  16. a different tim
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:19 am

    That’s true. RA’s new stance does seem to be generating debate – just not from him. The comments have become interesting again and I’m posting on the front page for the first time in ages. Of course, laying off the abortion debate – which I’m not especially interested in – may have something to do with that. I’m thankful, I guess, that he’s not “maligning” pro choicers any more, but the same caveat applies – copping out of the debate so as not to offend is a blow to free speech in the same way that copping out of atheism/theism is.

    Not convinved about Omega point. It’s all a bit Teillhard de Chardin for me. I’ve been told (but haven’t seen the proof) that the maths depends on some dodgy assumptions. You can also mathematically “show” that the Human race is going to die out real soon with presumably no more future personalities – that depends on some dodgy assumptions as well.

    I have to take issue with RA’s statement that if atoms and molecules came back into the exact same configuration as they are now in my body that the result would not be “me”. I don’t see why not, but then uncertainty principle seems to render this an impossibility anyway as far as I can see.

  17. noah nywno
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:26 am

    SteveG said:

    “As A Different Tim pointed out, despite the fact that most are decrying the change, there is obviously something compelling here (or ‘just boring enough’ as RA put it a few posts back) that keeps people reading and commenting.”

    I agree. Maybe I’ve got a different opinion then many because I’ve only been posting here a short time, but I kind of appreciate the challenges. In a way, it’s also made it a more ballanced site.

    There’s still PLENTY of raving in the forums (which I equally appreciate).

  18. bendictus
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:50 am

    “As A Different Tim pointed out, despite the fact that most are decrying the change, there is obviously something compelling here ”

    Yes, but no for the “content” or the “discussion”, but for the greek drama RA is playing. His last comment is nonsense in its purest form. And I know how this drama will ends. But I wont tell you how it ends. And I won’t tell you why I will not.

  19. Los Pepes
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:53 am

    Man, RA, you are really losing it.

    Forrest Cavalier – Atheism NEVER claimed that the universe “came from nothing” – that line of banter is the same old tired propaganda pushed by you jesus-freak nutjobs.

    And we can sit here and argue all day about specious topics like what “I” really means, but one thing is for sure: no matter what “I” means, it’s not going to change the fact that the bible is fiction, and the christian god is just another pathetic attempt to implement a control structure on people. To make them feel gulty about existing, so that they’ll cough up the dough, and the idiots that run churches can shore-up their failing self-esteem and feel like they know something when they simply do not.

    RA, if you want to convert or if you’re going through some period of doubt, that’s fine by me. But I am not in a period of doubt, and I will proced will my maligning. These fundies on here can accuse me of being a name-caller all they like, but they are lying to themselves (as usual) by thinking that my maligning amounts to more than 1% of the amount of maligning the religious have pushed on atheists. How many christian websites have I been on where there were entire pages dedicated to how fucked up atheists are? A lot, that’s how many. And then a few of these twerps come on here and act pious, as if that’s really the way their lives are…

    Christians are hypocrits from the second their feet touch the ground in the morning to the second their ass hits the mattress at night. It just so happens that for now they have strength in numbers, but that will change. More and more people are beginning to speak about how tired they are of this jedi-mind trick, and I look forward to the day when this self-inflicted mental illness comes to an end.

  20. "Q" the Enchanter
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

    To the extent I am, I am this body.

  21. "Q" the Enchanter
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

    To the extent I am, I am this body.

  22. "Q" the Enchanter
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

    To the extent I am, I am this body.

  23. idea
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

    SteveG,

    Actually the site is a disapointment, i am only still here for the forum. Thanks

  24. SteveG
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

    Actually the site is a disapointment, i am only still here for the forum. Thanks

    Yet you’ve so far made 2 comments, apparently read the main post, read every comment in this discussion, just checked back to see if I responded, and are reading that response (come on, you know you are reading this and so do I). :-P

    Strange behavior for someone to take that much interest in the front page when they are ‘only still here for the forums.’

    Something does not compute. ;-)

  25. Choobus
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:29 pm

    Sorry Steve G, I more or less gave up on Tipler after reading the cosmological anthropic “principle”. Him and Barrow are a couple of religious apologists in disguise and I find their dishonesty unappealing. So I have not read the physics of immorality. However, I am not sure if the subject matter is something that is withing the purview of Physics. Obviously physicists are the absolute pinnacle of inteligonce and should always be treated as gods, but that doesn’t mean that the tools of physics are appropriate for all jobs. You wouldn’t use wire wool to wipe your arse now would you? I fear this is what Prof. Tipler is trying to do to his readers, and it will probably leave a rash.

  26. NOAH NYWNO
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

    Doesn’t evreyone use wire wool to wipe their ass?
    YOU MEAN I’M THE ONLY ONE?

  27. noah nywno
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

    sorry about the double post.

  28. SteveG
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

    No need to apologize. I have no dog in that fight. Like I said, I’ve read both sides, and frankly come away scratching my head because it’s just beyond me. I just thought it fascinating that an apparently credentialed mathematical physicist was arguing this, and that he could at least ‘imagine’ the possibility within the constructs of physics.

    I really do appreciate your thoughts on it as from all appearances you take your physics seriously, but are relentlessly honest about its limitations. It’s why I asked you specifically.

    Anyway, what I appreciate equally is the analogy of wiping one’s arse with steel wool. Dude, I am still laughing over that! :-D Can I have your permission to use that if the occasion ever arises?

  29. Erik
    July 13th, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

    Actually, I reject the afterlife the way it is normally described by True Believers not because it is dependent on god, but rather for the same reason I reject the existence of god: there ain’t no evidence for it, and some pretty damn good evidence agin it.

    Most people who believe in reincarnation think it is not some random process, so trying to tie the possibility of atoms reconfiguring as me thousands of years in the future to the possible truth of belief in reincarnation does injustice to both points of view.

  30. Choobus
    July 13th, 2006 @ 1:18 pm

    Steve, I’m sure many situations will arise in which the steel wool analogy will be apropos (family get togethers, meetings with your Church choir, etc) so you may use it at will.

    People who try to claim that physics can answer questions it can’t diminish those which it does, and are therefore arseholes.

  31. Thorngod
    July 13th, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    FOREST C, your “theism is spreading” comment reveals a diametrical misinterpreting of my comment on nothingness–not atypical for a “believer.”

    And stay tuned for a refutation of your “undeniably true” assessment of “free will.”

    STEVE G, I’ve not read Tipler’s “Physics of Immortality,” but I would reccomend he re-title it “Metaphysics of….” But having read de Chardin, the Omega Point concept is familiar, and de Chardin’s efforts to put a bit of divinity into every bud of protolife that sprouted in the primeval sea, and then track the growing soulstuff through the human adventure and eventually to reunion with you-know-who, was very entertaining fiction. But at one point in his discourse, Pere Teilhard reveals in a single paragraph the impetus of his faith. You can almost see the tears falling as he pleads that the yearnings and aspirations of human beings cannot possibly all be for nothing. He obviously could not bear the prospect of ceasing to be.

    LOS PEPES, a delightful post 19.

  32. benjamin
    July 13th, 2006 @ 2:23 pm

    Let’s pretend for a second that science can predict the big crunch, and that entropy will increase and the omega point will occur. Where is the evidence that links this occurrence with the God of Moses? How did the Omega point communicate with moses across time? Are we sure that there is any historical truth to the story of moses? Predictions work by being sufficiently vague, and the same can be said about religion. Someone wrote something vague down, and attributed it to God via moses. Now it can be construed as fitting in with a scientific theory, and thus it must be true? I don’t think so!

  33. benjamin
    July 13th, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

    Upon re-reading my post #31, I find my closing to be unclear. I mean to imply that a vague nugget of truth amid non-sensical and often contradictory gibberish does not convince me that the story as a whole is true.

  34. CycloneRanger
    July 13th, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

    Well, if my present components were disassembled and reassembled in precisely the same configuration (a proposition that brings new meaning to “improbable”), then yes, it would indeed be “me”. In fact, I will go so far as to say that even if someone else’s constituents were reassembled in exactly the pattern now formed by mine (synapse configurations, stored memories, etc.) then it would still be “me”. I will even say that small errors wouldn’t be enough to prevent the new someone from being “me”–the “me” of right now is different from the “me” of twenty seconds from now by a significant margin; billions upon billions of particles have changed position, location, and even their compositions.

    So… yes, it would be “me”. The trouble with an “afterlife” is that the odds of something like this happening are incomprehensibly low–this is why the supernatural is traditionally invoked to justify such beliefs. The fact that the creation of “me” has already occurred once (an enormously low-probability event) does not change anything about the probability of it occurring in the future.

  35. Andrea
    July 13th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    Why is it that so many consider the idea of consciousness arising after the nothingness of death so much more improbable that its emergence from nothingness before birth?

    You’re begging the question that consciousness can be separated from the physical body. It hasn’t happened to anyone yet. If it can, fine. Hey, I don’t know what I don’t know.

    It’s easy to think of billions of future selves coming into being out of nothing — we know they will — but the idea of any of them being “you” is troublesome.

    It doesn’t bother me to think that the same “me” could be reconfigured. Not sure if my status as atheist makes me comfortable with the absence of an explanation for human consciousness – maybe I’m just that way.

    But what about non-humans? Animals’ lesser developed “I’s” don’t mean they are excluded from this molecule business, does it? My cats’ sense of an internal self may be much less aware than my sense of self, but they would be just as satisfied irritating me in the afterlife as they clearly are right now.

    Let’s say I have a friend who I haven’t spoken to in years and would like to know how she’s doing. Just as I’m saying this to my roommate, that friend calls me. I could take this event at face value and call it a coincidence, my roommate might view this as an “event” and deem it a sign from god, and my cats would just yawn and give me dirty looks for waking them up.

    Change the event all you want – death, afterlife, another “you” – but it all boils down to individual perceptions of what is significant in the first place. The very idea of terming this “I” reproduction stuff as “troublesome” is human-centric, and kind of unatheist-like. Just because humans have the capability to judge does not mean that human judgements are correct or are even warranted in the first place.

  36. Choobus
    July 13th, 2006 @ 4:58 pm

    All this talk of the afterlife is hilarious. It’s so painfully obvious where such ideas come from. IT’s like everyone is waiting in line to be vapourized after KAng and Kodos takeover the planet, but they only brought one zapping machine so you have to wait in line for 5 years, and by the time you get to the fornt of the line you firmly believe that the machine is going to transport you to planet luxury for a super fun time. I feel sorry for people who waste their lives based on the prospect of going to planet luxury. The irony is too much.

  37. maledictus
    July 13th, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

    “In fact, I will go so far as to say that even if someone else’s constituents were reassembled in exactly the pattern now formed by mine (synapse configurations, stored memories, etc.) then it would still be “me”. ”

    Cyclone

    There are more problems than you listed.

    Some one have been reassembled in a way that he is identical to you, and what hapened with you? Since you are the “model” you exists. Since the “matter” used is not yours, where is your “matter”? Now we have more Cyclones than in Florida…. and some man, different from Cyclone, disappeared..and new twins: Cyclone old and Cyclone brand new. But as your mother had not twins, we must reassemble daddy and mom, but this leads to reassemble…………..ALL.

  38. PhalsePhrophet
    July 13th, 2006 @ 6:49 pm

    Afterlife? Not in the Judeo, Islamic, Abraham religions. How do I know? TRA said so.
    He said it, I believe it, and therefore it is.

  39. June
    July 13th, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

    The most interesting part of this post is the mention of the self-aware “I”. Not only does everyone have this, everyone is convinced that they are the one and only “I”, and all others are simply background figures.

    This may be the side effect of consciousness that originates the belief that one is special and was somehow specially selected, that one cannot die, that therefore an eternal place must have been prepared.

    And so we arrive at God, the maker of that place for our “I”. A common illusion, an emergent property of the consciousness in each of us. It grows as a community grows, and feeds on itself. yes Yes YES we shout, I feel it, I was specially made and will be specially saved for eternity.

    And that explains why we don’t argue about politics, sports, or physics nearly as ferociously and as personally as about religion and God. We feel that God represents our “I”, and whoever does not believe in him is denying our own existence.

  40. Christ D
    July 13th, 2006 @ 8:22 pm

    June said:

    …adoring God endlessly, adoring God with singsong chanting, adoring God forever, adoring God eternally, adoring God for being God, adoring God in spite of what he put humanity through…

    over and above any arguments about the mechanics of how life began or how it will- if it will- finally ebb, this is the crux of the matter for me. I love horror movies, I have done idiotic, daredevil things that took my breath away to have survived, but your short paragraph, June, is the most horrifying prospect that I can imagine. Thanks for the fright!

  41. Nokot
    July 13th, 2006 @ 8:34 pm

    I agree with comments #2 and #3 in response to RA’s post.

    Lurker wrote, “Every thought you have is part of the same process that tells you this “I” exists. If you can’t trust the thought that tells you “I” exists then why trust the thought that tells you it doesn’t exist?”

    This makes no sense to me. It seems you mean by the word “I” an indentity of some sort separate from the physical body, a soul perhaps. I don’t think of myself like that at all, so I don’t have two contradictory thoughts. I don’t think of my conscious as something that is independent of my brain or body.

  42. CycloneRanger
    July 13th, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

    maledictus said:
    “Cyclone

    There are more problems than you listed.

    Some one have been reassembled in a way that he is identical to you, and what hapened with you? Since you are the “model” you exists. Since the “matter” used is not yours, where is your “matter”? Now we have more Cyclones than in Florida…. and some man, different from Cyclone, disappeared..and new twins: Cyclone old and Cyclone brand new. But as your mother had not twins, we must reassemble daddy and mom, but this leads to reassemble…………..ALL.”

    I’m not sure I follow you… the location of my matter is irrelevent. If someone assembled my body from scratch (out of raw materials found anywhere, or even out of another person) and the result was a perfect (or even near-perfect) duplicate, then that person would be “me”. It doesn’t matter what happened to my matter. Maybe the first “me” is still around; that doesn’t preclude the existence of a second “me”.

    I have no idea what you are talking about with the rest of that; what do my parents and the issue of whether or not I have a twin have to do with anything? Perhaps you are hung up on the idea of someone else’s matter being reassembled into me. that was just an example; the “matter” in question can come from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s dirt. My point is that “me” is a set of patterns and sequences, and not a set of molecules and atoms. Duplicate the pattern, and you have duplicated me.

  43. reaper
    July 13th, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

    This is what I see regardless……….

    Let’s assume there is eternal life in some form or another. Wouldn’t you get bored (in the sense that we get bored, not the philisophical concept) if we went on forever? After you did and experienced all things, wouldn’t you become bored of it? Is there anything you could do forever? So to avoid that you could always just start over, like reincarnation, with a new slate. But then everything from your old life would be pointless because you couldn’t remember it. It would be like restoring you comp to its factory condition. You also have to look at the limits of the human in that if it carries so much memory, wouldn’t it eventually become to much unless it becomes more developed with more space? The only thing I could do forever is sleep and dream, because those things are in the unconcious where you could only object if you realized you were sleeping forever.

    As someone once said on a Tv show I believe,

    “The it should not be we who envy the Gods for their immortality, the Gods envy us because we can die.”

  44. Nokot
    July 13th, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

    Forrest Cavalier writes, [quote]Self-awareness is the perception that we must make choices that are NOT predestined.

    This perception is “True” in the sense that we cannot deny it, it is part of us, some would say the essence of us.

    The perception that we make choices remains present even if human beings are observed _scientifically_ to be nothing more special than a collection of chemicals following the laws of physics.

    And if this free will, the ability to make choices, is undeniably true, and is our most dear and important characteristic, but cannot be observed scientifically, then science has a ridiculous and hopelessly limited definition of “truth.”[/quote]

    Whoa whoa whoa there! I was with you most of the way, but you jumped from the decidedly undeniable existence of a perception of free will to the existence of free will itself without any explicit argument. Why do you assert that the perception of free will necessarily implies that free will exists?

  45. Chris Treborn
    July 14th, 2006 @ 12:14 am

    I agree with reaper: Eternal life would get boring. NOT! Basking in the eternal love of our Lord is the opposite of Boring. However, I suspect endless torture in hell will start to wear thin after a few thousand years. Maybe you atheists should think about that.

  46. Forrest Cavalier
    July 14th, 2006 @ 12:54 am

    Nokot (in #43) wrote:

    Why do you assert that the perception of free will necessarily implies that free will exists?

    Let’s be careful with these words used at the limits of metaphysical realities. I tend to not write too rigourously and I never used your phrase “free will itself.” So your point is a strawman when read one way, but I think I understand you well enough to reply.

    Am I correct to understand your phrase “free will itself” to mean “absence of deterministic processes” ?

    If so, I would ask….
    1. What implies that “a perception of making choices” CANNOT arise from an observably deterministic process?

    2. Why would the observation take priority over the perception in the case of confirming the existence of the perception of free will?

    And this leads back to my point….How much confidence do you place in Science when it cannot easily confirm the Truth of neither “pursuit” (i.e. free will) nor “happiness.”

    OK, that sounds like a set up. Knock down Science and Reason as untrustworthy so that I can then ask you to admit unicorns and fairies.

    Sorry, that won’t be my argument.

    Science and Reason are good. I am arguing that they are ridicuously limited. (Well, I haven’t mentioned Reason yet, but that is pretty obvious that there are practical problems. Human beings can’t implement perfect Reason, due to all sorts of practical limitations.)

    But Science is limited in another way. Science can merely tell us what “is”, “was”, and predict what “will be.” Those are very, very useful to be sure, but Science cannot indicate what “should be.” Pursuit of happiness is all about “should be.”

    Nature abhors a big vacuum, and especially abhors that particular vacuum. If Science and Reason only get us so far, we are compelled to fill that vacuum with some process, belief, system, guidance to what “should be.”

    Why we should be so compelled? Why aren’t we satisfied with coin tosses instead of striving towards what “should be?”

  47. maledictus
    July 14th, 2006 @ 1:03 am

    Cyclone

    A duplicate is a duplicate of “someone” otherwise how can it be a “duplicate”?, but someone has a DNA “unique” and the probabilities of an identical DNA, excluding identical twins, exceeds manifold the present population of the world. Of course God can duplicate you from scracht. A more realistic alternative is that this be made by your parents. Can Catch?

  48. woody
    July 14th, 2006 @ 5:48 am

    Fear of death seems to be fact that most living creatures have. Watch a mouse run from a cat or a cat from a dog ( or a dog from a cat as was the case with my last feline friend) and this, is a fear of death in action, it’s what keeps us all alive to breed.
    Now I have never seen any other animal exhibit the need for worshiping a deity, a magical friend that will care for them if one day the cat next door gets lucky… This is because the fear of death and the concept of death are different. The mouse fears death but does not know that it will in fact eventually die. We as humans do. The moment we developed the ability to be consciously aware of this fact we were in trouble. To live in continuous fear of the inevitable would have been a terrifying existence and so to pacify this, the after life concept was born.
    If this afterlife thing in what ever form comforts you, that great, I as an atheist have no problem with you believing this, but it doesn’t really work for me. I am comforted by the fact that my life will in one day end, and I truly hope that my last thoughts will be ‘fuck it was fun while it lasted’
    People like Lurker however, who have to constantly pass judgement on others with their nasty scary fairy stories of hell (be it burning in fire or endlessly worshiping a child killing deity) are unable to accept their own mortality and need to lash out at anyone who challenges their security blanket, how sad.

  49. Holopupenko
    July 14th, 2006 @ 6:10 am

    Woody:
         Maybe it’s the possibility of your own potential immortality that frightens you the most. In any event, since we’re speaking of ashes to ashes, and dust to dust…
         “This site has become a disappointment”?!? No! On the contrary, by merely being true to his conviction to seek the truth—to follow the evidence to where it leads—RA has succeeded in exposing for everyone to see the worst personal and ideological characteristics of atheism and its adherents. You can’t beat this stuff with a stick! The comments have become an encyclopedic point of reference for anyone interested in the nature of atheism: insecurity, hate, categorical assertions, depravity… did I mention hate—that is justified by hypocrites who decry “hate speech” in others? Don’t you atheists realize what RA has succeeded in doing—simply by letting you spew your stuff? Step back, read some of this stuff, and ask yourself honestly—really honestly—whether you’d be proud in real life (with no Internet to protect you) to be associated with the position you defend. Have rebellion and revolution become traditional, conventional, unquestionable wisdom… while tradition become revolutionary? Why not have the honesty of your convictions and really try standing out from the crowd?
         One of the things almost impossible to talk about in the public square—openly or in the printed and broadcast word, without eliciting ad hominem condemnation—is damnation. Unbelievers are afraid of death: don’t believe a single word of any atheist who claims otherwise. It is not mainly fear of pain (although not all death is painful), and it is not even because atheists (at least some of the non-self-loathing ones) love life and stand in awe at the beauty of the universe so much—knowing they’re slowly but surely losing it and they don’t believe they’ll ever get it back (which is a serious consideration). No, those aren’t at the core of the fear. Deep down, atheists know they just don’t know what comes after: they pretend to be certain… and that tiniest yet absolute fear is terrifying. Science, mathematics, logic won’t help them. Not because they aren’t brilliant tools… they’re just not the tools for the job at hand.
         Memo to atheists: Hell is not simply about physical pain. Consider the following. You know and must admit to that all during your lives you’ve been seeking what is really good—something which you can’t put your fingers on, something just beyond the conscious level… but you know that “something” is there. Just imagine, when it’s too late, that—because of the choices expressed so clearly in these comments—you’ve lost the chance to have that “something”… forever. (Which is a long time… especially toward the end!) It’s not the physical anguish that will be the worst. In fact, a far more frightening interpretation of what Hell is, is the mental anguish in knowing that you made the wrong choice, but nevertheless acceding to that choice even in Hell (e.g., June: “… nothing scared me more than the idea of having to mingle with billions of other souls, adoring God…”), and knowing for certain that you will never have that “something”… never, ever. When people experience terrible, beyond-words grief or mental anguish here on earth, what do they do? They bang their heads against a wall, they tear their hair out, they drink themselves into oblivion i.e., they do something physically painful or harmful—anything to distract them for just a moment from that mental anguish. From such a perspective, Hell will probably be a place where one would give everything—unto their own soul (which can’t be bartered)—to experience for just a fleeting moment terrible physical pain in order to momentarily forget the mental anguish of the wrong choice.
         I recently had an atheist define atheism for me as REFUSAL TO CHOOSE (capital letters his). How foolish! First, he HAS already chosen… but not correctly. Second, he may hold out to the end for more “evidence” (accepting only what he personally validates as “evidence”), but when he dies—whether he likes it or not—the choice WILL have been made for him: by virtue of not choosing in this life, in the next there will be no turning back. “Refusal to choose”?!? Man, and I thought atheists were “bright”…

  50. woody
    July 14th, 2006 @ 6:46 am

    Holopupenko-
    I don’t recall saying i was frighten of anything, however i do think life is to long to read whatever self sanctimonious pill of crap you’ve probably written. No doubt your another who personally KNOW’S the WILL of GOD and has the personal permission of GOD to cast judgement on us poor uneducated atheists.
    Please tell me what attracts you to an atheist blog site.??? hope to get a few heaven points by preaching to heathens? so how many do you need to get heaven these days? I understand according to some Jehovah Witnesses the other day that space up there is limited… ha ha

  51. Holopupenko
    July 14th, 2006 @ 7:30 am

    Woody:
         What attracts me to this website? A scientific (psychological and philosophical) understanding of the irrationality of atheism, and (on a personal note) to provide a reference to inquiring minds what atheism is really all about.

  52. June
    July 14th, 2006 @ 9:23 am

    Holo
    Am I afraid of pain when I go to the dentist? You bet your ass.
    Do I rely on God to save me from pain?
    No, I find anaesthetic works much better.

  53. Los Pepes
    July 14th, 2006 @ 9:27 am

    So Holopupenko is going to “provide a reference to inquiring minds what atheism is really all about?” You’ve got an invisible friend that tells you about the “irrationality of atheism?” And now you are a spokesman for atheists, telling me what I’m afraid of?

    Holopupenko, your post illustrates my point perfectly. It makes you feel really important to preach to people about what their life “really” means, doesn’t it? Again, you are another one that’s privy to information that no one else is privy to, and you’re qualified to come here and point out to us about your goofy concepts of heaven and hell.

    How dare you tell me what I, as an atheist, feel “deep down inside.” Atheism is about hatred and self-loathing? Man, you’re a regular Dr. Phil, aren’t you? I hate something alright, I hate stupid people that constantly try to inject their guilt-fueled, death-based cult into the lives of otherwise happy, productive people.

    You said:

    “You know and must admit to that all during your lives you’ve been seeking what is really good—something which you can’t put your fingers on, something just beyond the conscious level… but you know that “something” is there.”

    What the hell does this mean? Again, SPECIOUS. You must really feel like you know something speciel by telling me what I seek. You sound so holy… it’s just dreamy. Man, and to think that I thought I was a perfectly happy man, with a perfectly happy family, living a perfectly happy, guilt-free (and productive) life until you came along and reminded me of otherwise! Toolbox. No offense, but you’re projecting what YOU are seeking onto everyone else, because, sorry to say, that statement of your above isn’t really ringing any bells with me.

    Can’t you see that all you’re doing is using guilt-trips to try and control other people or to feel important? There is a “something” all right, and that something is called “reality.” Instead of making one up and trying to force everyone around to accept it, try opening your eyes and living in the real one, and you’ll find that “something” you keep refering to.

  54. Some Guy
    July 14th, 2006 @ 9:49 am

    That which came from the sea returns to the sea? I forget how the saying goes.

  55. Brian Macker
    July 14th, 2006 @ 11:38 am

    RA,
    Have you had a stroke or something? If you need help. I’m here on Long Island. Drop me an email.

  56. Nokot
    July 14th, 2006 @ 5:45 pm

    Forrest Cavalier, thanks for the answer. I don’t think it would be best for me to respond to your comments here as it seems a bit noisy and we would end up with a lengthy discussion I think. If you were looking forward to a dialog I would be happy to take it to email (nokots@gmail.com), and if not that’s cool too.

  57. Thorngod
    July 14th, 2006 @ 8:44 pm

    “Irrationality,” Holopupenko? You spewed out about five hundred words of irrationality, like a demented preacher screeching and foaming at the mouth. A “scientific” understanding? What, has James Prague or some other charlatan necrophiliac put you in touch with the boatman on the river Styx, or with some fallen soul who’s already roasting in Hell? What “evidence,” Hollopupenko? The only “evidence” you can put forth is the testimony of priests and shamans from an age even more superstitious than ours, a pre-scientific age–PRE-scientific, Holopupenko!

  58. Choobus
    July 14th, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

    holopinko, Shitlord, don’t even mention science you polegreaser. You are to science what rape is to love. I shit turds that could score better on a thermodynamics mid term than you simply by cooling down.

  59. reaper
    July 14th, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

    It all makes sense now!

    Except not really because even if I did go to some eternal hell no matter how you describe it (pain, seperation from god anxiety, whatever the hell you want to say it is), I can deal with it. If your god is against my beliefs and ideals and wishes to harm because of them, he is my enemy and I will fight him. If I get sent to a hell, I will walk in with my head held high.

    And is you want to see how eternity in heaven is boring, read comment #11 I believe byu june.

  60. Michael Bains
    July 15th, 2006 @ 4:49 am

    Without having any background on you or your recent “stuff”, all I’d say is Great post RA! We only get the one lifetime to be precisely and uniquely whomever we are within it.

    Yah. I’ll leave the commentary at that.

  61. Lily
    July 15th, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

    Reaper: That is a singularly ill-thought out position. It makes no sense at all. When worms shake their puny fists at us, do we even notice? That is about all that can be said about a scenario in which you march into hell with your “head held high”.

    As for June’s description of heaven, well what can one say? She hasn’t been there, so her picture is conjectural. Basing it on highly allegorical statements in scripture, doesn’t give her much to go on.

    Her assumptions about who populates hell are also quite faulty and based on little more than her prejudices. Since her description of heaven is also unappealing, I rather imagine that it is wrong.

  62. maledictus
    July 15th, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

    “As for June’s description of heaven, well what can one say? She hasn’t been there”

    You neither.

    It seems to be the only person who has been there and come back to tell the story has been Christ.

    I suppose it couldn’t possibly be a better witness than Christ.

    Could you please, direct me to the words of Christ where He describes Heaven and Hell?

    I’m not exactly an expert in the Bible as you can imagine.

  63. June
    July 15th, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

    Lily, come on, there are hundreds of such descriptions to be found in the Christian literature. The basic idea is typically that Heaven is “the joy of basking in the love of God” and Hell is “the pain of being separated from God” for eternity. And writers such as Dante embellished it to the nth degree.

    As to having been there — of course — all religion is anecdotal or conjectural, based on “the unfounded fancies of a man’s own brain” to quote John Locke, or the “undiscovered country” of Shakespeare.

    I find it very hard to imagine anything that would be fun to do for eternity. I totally prefer the same oblivion that we experienced before we were born.

  64. Thorngod
    July 15th, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

    “Do not tell me you have seen
    Heaven in a blade of grass;
    I’ve seen hell in blades of steel,
    And I show scars for that….”
    –a bit from an unpublished poem.
    Surely June is right in questioning anyone’s picture of “Heaven.” I can testify to a very physical situation that was so incredible that I wanted to stay there forever, and which I am convinced is how Paradise must feel if there were such a place. But the feeling was enabled by my physicality, and I cannot conceive of it being duplicated sans body and emotion.

  65. Mark
    July 15th, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

    TRA seems to be playing with irrationality in his latest post and he’s losing his argument.

    It is an interesting philosophical topic to discuss at a party- but it’s nonesnse.

    Reducing “beginnings” back, back, back, back eventually becomes logical nonsense. At some point you reach what some would term the Big Bang or string theory’s corollary or the cracked egg begetting all life…any and all theories are left with “deriving something from nothing,” and that is a quite illogical and nonsensical to explain. By the very definition of existence, you cannot.

    Existentence…well…exists! Pondering “existence before existence” may keep doctoral students awash in ideas, but there is nothing that a human brain can logically bring to the discussion.

    Continuing on, yes, the idividual is reducible to parental biological renderings, but this is not “something from nothing” either. These are well understood scientific processes.

    As for consciousness, RA seems to send up the flagpole the notion that the soul, as defined by religious types- not me, can exist outside of the body, simply waiting to fill an empty vessel, whether to accomodate one’s birth or afterlife. As an Objectivist I have to reject this mind-body dichotomy out of hand. Once again, it may be nice to think about, but it is very nonsensical, to me anyway.

    A human being gains consciousness and identity from his perceptions, i.e. senses. By being able to interact with its world it gains knowledge and slowly pieces its relationship in it together. For a baby, waving its arm in front of its face, early on at least, must not be a connection of any type. The arm could be his own, it may be its own entity, or it could be a dream, I suppose. In actuality, the arm and attached hand could be anything to the child- at first. But slowly the hand touches the nose, another sense is perceived and the child begins to add another piece together. By being touched by the hand it learns that “it,” the child, is something in relation to that other “something,” the hand. It has learned identity. “I am not the hand,” it could say, if language were present, “therefore I am that was touched by the hand. I felt the hand upon ME.” Consciousness and identity are achieved.

    All in all, interesting stuff to ponder I guess. I just wonder if the RA is turning to the dark side by trying to point out such irrationalities, somehow believing that atheists have no solid rejoinder to offer. Well, I just did, I think.

  66. Thorngod
    July 15th, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    The mechanism of consciousness is still unknown, but the purpose of it is clear enough: It is the servant of the body, and is as much an organ as arm or stomach. The body’s brain shuts down the consciousness (the self, or “soul”) every night, so it can do its housekeeping chores without aggrivations and distractions. When it needs, it resurrects it again. The body can live a fair lifetime with no “I” inside. There is no “soul” when the body sleeps. When the body dies, there is no longer even a possibility of one.

  67. Lily
    July 15th, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

    Thorn, you are making my point. The scenario painted by June in #11 is quite unappealing to most anyone, theist and non-theist alike.

    I don’t see it as questioning anyone’s picture of heaven because I don’t know of anyone who envisions it that way. Just a couple of posts ago, June says quite accurately that Christian literature is full of descriptions:The basic idea is typically that Heaven is “the joy of basking in the love of God” and Hell is “the pain of being separated from God” for eternity. And writers such as Dante embellished it to the nth degree.

    This is indeed so. They are trying to envision what heaven (and hell) will be like. They did not have any better information than we to go on and their descriptions can only start with the hints in scripture and imaginatively go on from there.

    June, you say, I find it very hard to imagine anything that would be fun to do for eternity. I totally prefer the same oblivion that we experienced before we were born. I am pretty sure that you won’t be forced into heaven against your will. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when the time comes you may feel differently.

    Nobody can imagine what the experience of eternity is like. But if the Bible proves to be totally true about everything else, why not assume that the perfect joy, which is what we are being promised, will fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts beyond anything we could ever have imagined, much less expressed?

    Thorn, you wrote about an incredible experience you had that caused you to want to stay there forever. Then you wrote: But the feeling was enabled by my physicality, and I cannot conceive of it being duplicated sans body and emotion.

    The Bible promises that we will be resurrected as bodies and souls not disembodied souls floating around ethereally “out there”. It is hard to say much about that which is why I haven’t wanted to weigh in on this thread before. The resurrected Jesus had a physical body but it was different than the one he had before. He could appear suddenly, wasn’t always immediately recognized by his followers, etc… But the body is so intimately connected to what it is to be human that we will have one. And it will be perfect (and we will all be 30 years old, the age of perfection :-) )

    A few years ago I saw a full page Hobby Lobby (a chain of craft stores) newspaper ad that depicted this nicely– an elderly man lies dead in his bed and from his corpse rises a beautiful young man reaching for the hand of Jesus who is welcoming him into the kingdom. Even though I have a low tolerance for kitsch, I do have a soft spot in my heart for this ad.

  68. Drusilla
    July 15th, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

    HERESY ALERT!

    “If your god is against my beliefs and ideals and wishes to harm because of them, he is my enemy and I will fight him. If I get sent to a hell, I will walk in with my head held high.”

    The writer of that statement is not an atheist*. This writer not only believes in God but knows God exists, just as Lucifer knows**.

    Be warned! Be aware! Don’t be fooled by anti-theists wearing atheist clothing.

    *The same is true of many other commentors on this site and on other atheist sites.

    **see “Paradise Lost” (John Milton)

  69. Thorngod
    July 15th, 2006 @ 7:39 pm

    Well, Lily, I guess you need to believe. Be happy in your quest.
    DRUSILLA, you’re a peach! I’m sure if I were to use the ejaculation “My God!” you’d swear I must be a believer. Drusilla, you have to assume that people mean what they say, unless they have some reason for lying. If June were a “believer,” would she not be tempting your God by pretending she was an atheist? I’ve seen many Christians try to impute belief to an atheist (me, for one) on that same sort of “evidence.” Many believers seem threatened by the possibility that not everyone believes in their gods. How could we possibly not! How, indeed?

  70. Freya
    July 15th, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

    But the body is so intimately connected to what it is to be human that we will have one. And it will be perfect (and we will all be 30 years old, the age of perfection :-) )

    A human body? No way to escape Thermodynamics and…..aging.

  71. Gathercole
    July 15th, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

    If humans will have physical bodies then heaven has to be a physical place. Any suggestions as to where it is?

  72. Gathercole
    July 15th, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

    Lily, will my doggie be with me in heaven?

  73. Nokot
    July 15th, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

    Lily writes, “Nobody can imagine what the experience of eternity is like. But if the Bible proves to be totally true about everything else, why not assume that the perfect joy, which is what we are being promised, will fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts beyond anything we could ever have imagined, much less expressed?”

    But couldn’t we make a list of everything that would ruin perfect joy or the fulfillment of the deepest desires of our “hearts” (minds really)? Then find that at least something in that list must describe existence in heaven?

    For example, I have many loved ones who are atheists. I expect they will not be granted admittance to heaven, and I cannot experience perfect joy without sharing it with them. So, how can heaven exist?

  74. Nokot
    July 15th, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

    Gathercole, since you are hellbound, maybe your doggie would become your hellhound?

  75. reaper
    July 16th, 2006 @ 11:10 am

    When did I say I was an atheist? Or a theist? Or even agnostic? I choose what to argue about from whichever postition I want without really caring about it. Because really it is for my entertainment to argue things that shouldn’t be argued.

    I’ll tell you perfectly how to do something for eternity. Get someone to program you so you think your happy about it all the time.Get programmed where you can’t possibly lose interest in something that goes on forever. Basically, let someone rape your brain.

  76. Thorngod
    July 16th, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

    And how do you avoid having your brain raped?
    Follow Santayana’s prescription: Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect. How many of the dupes who come of age in any culture ever question the religion and other traditions in which they were reared? With half a hundred “major” religions in the world, and ten thousand if you could count every flavor, how many have one in a thousand “believers” ever inquired into, on the chance that he may have been thrust into the wrong one–and the odds are at least a thousand to one than he was! Bertrand Russell pointed out that there are two catagories of ideas, those that are informed by tradition and those that might have something going for them. But the human race is insane. It is gifted with the most magnificent computer ever evolved, yet it persists in its primitive tribal allegiences to heroes, chieftians and gods, and we murder each other because we want to live foever, and we can only live forever if we oppose God’s enemies and slay infidels. And some very nice people, a few of whom have been heard in this venue, are enslaved to this nonsense, and though they “love” everyone on “God’s earth,” and sincerely care about their fellow man, they do not seem to understand that their absolute fealty to Christianity commits them–and unfortunately the rest of us–to mortal combat against the fanatics of Islam, against the classifying, pidgeonholing, holy-holing, god-ridden hordes of Hinduism, and–if they should ever acquire the Messiah Yahweh keeps promising them–the brave, brilliant, but ever-betrayed God-Chosen Jews.

    If there really is a God (I mean one who really gives a shit–as all “believers” keep insisting He does) then he is apparently known only to a few savages in the densest jungles of the Amazon, or in a still unpenetrated mountain fastness in Borneo or New Guinea. We need a few Livingstons or such to go searching for this religion of The True God…because we sure as hell have need of him. Any volunteers? Lily? Drusilla? Holopupenko? Christ T? –Anyone?

  77. Chris Treborn
    July 16th, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

    Livingstones are not necessary. If you wish to search for God (andI highly reccomend that you do) the search begins in your heart. Do you have the stones for living with God atheists, or does it scare you too much?

  78. Lily
    July 16th, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

    I don’t think it is a matter of having the “stones”, Chris. But you are absolutely right that the search begins with one’s own heart.

    The thing is Thorn, it is finding the rest of the world wanting and approving of one’s self that blinds a person to the nature of reality. At the point that you, or anyone else, starts thinking– gee, why did I do that? or gee, what if I had done x differently? or, what if I had said x when I had the chance….

    In other words, at the point it starts to dawn on you that you might be the problem, then you can start the search for God. You will find Him, too. If you want.

  79. PanAtheist
    July 16th, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

    This blog has turned to dust in the mouth!
    If wishing had any power, I would wish it ended.

  80. Nokot
    July 16th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    But PanAtheist, were you wearing your Wishing Hat? http://www.normalbobsmith.com/hatemail195.html

  81. Thorngod
    July 16th, 2006 @ 7:03 pm

    If I were “blind to the nature of reality…” then I too might subscribe to a fantastic scheme of things that included an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator. It is one of the greatest enigmas of human psychology that an otherwise rational brain can habor convictions that are diametrically opposed to all reason.

  82. FNA
    July 16th, 2006 @ 10:35 pm

    Treborn and Lily,
    The search for God lies in our hearts?
    That maybe so, but for me as well as many people here im sure, to make the transition to believing in a super-super-super natural being (or whatever it is) we MUST have some kind of proof that this gawd exists. And proof isnt natures beauty or conciousness or the marvelous design of this world and universe. Seeing IS in fact believing. And until God shows himself to me, I am not putting faith in it only to make myself feel a little safer and more secure in this scary world where I can die in a moments notice. I do wish there was a gold covered paradise with naked ladies and as many alcoholic beverages as one could imagine but believing this STORY simply because my parents told me about it just wont work for me and many others who have finally realized how religion is the opiate of the masses.

    Sincerely,
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist

  83. Chris Treborn
    July 16th, 2006 @ 11:49 pm

    FNA, fuck you asshole

    god bless you

  84. Kreme
    July 17th, 2006 @ 5:55 am

    FNA, fuck you asshole

    These words; obviously they are from the holy spirit. If I recall right, didn’t Jesus also say something about telling your neighbor, “fuck you asshole”. Blessed peacemakers, spare us your religion.

  85. Lily
    July 17th, 2006 @ 6:50 am

    For heaven’s sake, Chris. FNA is made in the image and likeness of God, just as you are. Christ died for him just as surely as he did for you. Your “comment” is completely out of line.

  86. Christ D
    July 17th, 2006 @ 7:20 am

    Lily [TypeKey Profile Page] said:

    For heaven’s sake, Chris. FNA is made in the image and likeness of God, just as you are. Christ died for him just as surely as he did for you. Your “comment” is completely out of line.

    I’m not dead! Why do people keep saying that?

  87. June (or July)
    July 17th, 2006 @ 7:53 am

    We’ve had these expletive spasms before. Typically it’s some teenage lurker posting a comment under one of our names to stir up a little trouble. It’s the price we pay for having a global exchange of anonymous ideas.

    But we might pause to contemplate the reflective nature of our brain, which is smart enough to generate ideas not for their truth, but to foment emotion in others – including laughter.

  88. FNA
    July 17th, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    “FNA is made in the image and likeness of God, just as you are. Christ died for him just as surely as he did for you.”

    Chris: What about people born with extreme facial and body deformities? Are they made in the likeness of gawd? Would gawd give someone a cleft lip? or a birth mark covering someones face? If so than how does gawd have so many images? or why would an omnibenevolent god make someones life so hard? Oh, and if gawd is this super entity how does he even have a image? Is gawd look like a man floating somewhere in outerspace?

    Christ did no dying for my sins. IF he existed (which I highly doubt he did) how did Christ die for my sins when I didnt even live for another 2000 years and surely hadnt committed and sins yet? And IF he did die for my sins, what makes his death more important than the other mythical gods that died for my sins (dioysis, and the others)?

    Just curious?
    PS thanks for getting my back against what is probably not Chris Treborn.

  89. Lily
    July 17th, 2006 @ 9:37 am

    FNA:
    God is not a material being. Therefore being made in His image and likeness cannot mean a physical resemblance! It is worth pondering what the nature of God is as revealed in scripture, nature and in our best interactions with one another.

  90. Thorngod
    July 17th, 2006 @ 9:48 am

    Start with “nature” and you need not investigate further.

  91. FNA
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    Ok I get that we were made in his non-material likeness…well kind of. But we looking to the scriptures to find gawd is not going to prove anything. The scriptures are no more legit than someone say Choobus wrote down some words put them in a binding and called it the Chooble. Somewhere close to the lines of circular reasoning to look to the scriptures and then believe in gawd because the scriptures say he is real.

    Thorngod:
    Why would I not need to investigate farther after starting with nature. What proof of gawd is there in nature.
    Or if your taking my side…what proof of his inexistence?

    Sincerely,
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist

  92. Thorngod
    July 17th, 2006 @ 11:05 am

    FNA, if some god created this place, and is aware of what came of Earth after he flung everything out here, then he’s obviously a sadistic commedian. A close look at the jungles (whether Borneo, New York City, or the one in the grass and weeds behind your house) will verify that. And the gross misinterpretation being made of him and his handiwork by his latter-day biographers is a revisionism non pariel.

  93. R and All
    July 17th, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    Lily said “Therefore being made in His image and likeness cannot mean a physical resemblance!”

    OMG, of course not! So we don’t look like him, because he doesn’t have a physical being to look like anything, so that “image and likeness” stuff must mean, what, that our personalities are like his? Just guessing that you attribute to your god such qualities as perfection, all-powerful, all-knowing, immortal, magic, mind reading, fortune telling, etc, how does that leave us at all like him?

  94. FNA
    July 17th, 2006 @ 11:29 am

    R and All:
    Didnt even think about that. Nice point.

    To all the believers:
    If something had to have created everything…than what created gawd?

  95. Thorngod
    July 17th, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

    God was not created. He was imagined. It is also imagined that he is omniscient, but though he presumably could be, he could not be sure of that himself. He can only know what he knows. Even if that is everything there is to know, how can he know that? Can he know there is nothing beyond what he knows? Can he know that there are not perhaps other gods over still other creations? And perhaps a “God god” that created him and the others? Perhaps he even prays to her–and perhaps he wonders why she has never answered!

  96. June
    July 17th, 2006 @ 1:13 pm

    What is the question on the table? If it is whether there is a God, we cannot start by assuming one; we start with nature and physical laws. If the question is what what God looks like, that assumes there is one, so there is nothing left to prove about his existence. If the question is whether we are in his image, I say YES, because if God inspired the Bible, we are entitled to read it as the Truth, and it says so (Genesis 1:26, 27 and 9:6).

    The folks who wrote the Bible invariably assume there is a God and then spin tales about Eden, Adam and Eve, Forbidden Knowledge, Temptation, Sin, and so on. One reason for that is that not believing in God got you killed; another reason is that the books of the Bible were carefully selected so they display a belief in God.

    Since there are contradictory accounts about the Creation, it is obvious that God didn’t dictate the Bible. In addition, other charming nonsense such as God having to rest, talking Snake, global Flood, and Noah’s Ark prove that these were simply people trying to make sense out of mysteries such as the origin of human species, sex, childbirth, and why seashells can be found on the top of mountains.

    Using this kind of “assumption logic”, if the question is whether God made us in his image, and we assume there is a God and he made us like him in some respect, it is fair to ask how we are like him. Are we bisexual or asexual, supernatural, omnipotent like God? Does God have (supernatural) cancer, arthritis, and a bad back?

    Things become clearer when we realize that God is an illusion, a useful projection of our brain, using our own parents as a role model. Suddenly, the Talking Snake that seduces our Mother makes a lot more sense, eh?

  97. FNA
    July 17th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    And here I was reading the forum thinking June was a theist. Good post June

    -Friendly Neighborhood Atheist

  98. Nightfly
    July 17th, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

    OMG, of course not! So we don’t look like him, because he doesn’t have a physical being to look like anything, so that “image and likeness” stuff must mean, what, that our personalities are like his? Just guessing that you attribute to your god such qualities as perfection, all-powerful, all-knowing, immortal, magic, mind reading, fortune telling, etc, how does that leave us at all like him?

    If you read a passage of Twain, and a passage of Austen, and a passage of Faulkner, and a passage of Dickens, it would be quickly obvious who wrote which – and yet none of those things themselves are the authors. That is how we are like God. Obviously, being creatures we do not have his perfections of love, knowledge, will, and creativity, but we can love, know, choose, and create. That is the resemblance.

    Things become clearer when we realize that God is an illusion, a useful projection of our brain, using our own parents as a role model. Suddenly, the Talking Snake that seduces our Mother makes a lot more sense, eh?

    You can’t have it both ways – if God is a useful projection (or a necessary Darwinian survival tool, as per Thorngod), then why the burning desire to drive that illusion from the face of the earth? Why the need to prove that it’s an illusion for weaklings? And, given that this seems to march in step with the destruction of human free will, what is the possible benefit? Banish freedom, and the means to inspire those who would otherwise have less chance to live, and you’ve essentially condemned the entire race to nothing better than they’ve already seen. (And how is this different from condemning your illusion of God for essentially the same deed? How is his crime suddenly your virtue?)

  99. June
    July 17th, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

    God is also a deadly illusion, a drug that calms the masses at a tremendous price.
    Surely there is no need to rehash here the horrors this illusion has brought to mankind.
    We see the price the Middle East is paying for religion at this very moment.

  100. Lily
    July 17th, 2006 @ 7:37 pm

    Hmm. If God is a drug the calms the masses, how do you explain the Palestinians, Egyptians, et al. who are a seething, roiling mass of perpetually aggrieved humanity? It doesn’t look like the drug is working.

    Nightfly, thank you so much for weighing in and answering the question R and All raised and so much better than I could have!

    June, we have said over and over that God didn’t dictate the Bible. I have said, SteveG has, other past theist contributors have and I think Nightfly has (or would, if asked). This is a point of view that is broadly shared by a huge number of Christians.

    Your precis of the OT is a case in point of the utter cluelessness so many people, atheists and uninstructed Christians alike bring to the reading of the OT. I really don’t want to rewrite all that I have written, to no avail, over the last 6 or 7 months. But I will say this much:

    You need to know how to read and understand a piece of ancient literature. There are two creation accounts for a reason; just as there are two genealogical accounts in the NT– for a reason. There are literary reasons for the number of generations which even the earliest readers did not suppose accounted for all the generations of mankind back to Adam.

    Have you never read a work of imaginative literature?fiction? The Illiad? The Nibelunglied? Beowulf? I ask this seriously because any one as seemingly literal-minded as you are will have missed one of life’s greatest pleasures as well as a source of knowledge that you will not find in an encyclopedia.

    Finally, there is this: …another reason is that the books of the Bible were carefully selected so they display a belief in God. Huh? Are you talking about the Old Testament? Who selected those books? What is the source of you information?

  101. Paul
    July 17th, 2006 @ 7:55 pm

    Nightfly said:

    “if God is a useful projection (or a necessary Darwinian survival tool, as per Thorngod), then why the burning desire to drive that illusion from the face of the earth? Why the need to prove that it’s an illusion for weaklings?”

    Is can’t actually be true that you can’t imagine *any* reason why someone might have a burning desire to drive an illusion from the earth?! Can your imagination be that limited?

  102. FNA
    July 17th, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

    Religion is a drug. But after that example it seems as though it can act like different drugs Lily. Sometimes it makes people feel safe and relaxes them (kind of an opiate) other times it excites them (maybe like crack or speed).

    And people how can you use the Bible as any kind of proof that god exists? Are you just ignoring the other “holy” books such as the bhagavad gita or the koran? What makes the bible more real than those? Xianity is like 1 of 10s of 1000s of religions. That leaves a high probability against its claims.

    Something to think about.

    -FNA

  103. June
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:02 pm

    We are making progress!

    Lily agrees that the Bible is not the word of God.
    Nightfly agrees that God is an illusion.
    ChrisTreborn says FNA is an a-hole,
    — and Lily says FNA is made in the likeness of God.
    And we got ChrisTreborn to use the F word.

    Life is GOOD!

  104. Thorngod
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    Nightfly, my primary objective, regarding religion or any other matter of dispute, is the truth. And I have acquired over most of a lifetime a strong impression that I am in a minority in that respect. Self-deception, to my observation, is one of the human race’s most heavily exercised talents.
    Given the fact that at least ninety percent of the people on this planet are “believers,” it is probably true that if they were all suddenly deprived of their faith, there would be suicides on such a scale that the rest of us would be unable to dispose of the bodies. But that is not even a possibility. Instead of suicide by the billions, we can expect to continue to be entertained by genocide and starvation of mere millions.

    I never seek out victims from the starving, the diseased, the drug-bedeviled, or the otherwise wretched, in order to torture them further with my godless philosophy. A believer in misery needs his faith, and I wouldn’t knowingly try to cure him of it until he was otherwise well again. But it’s reasonable to assume that anyone visiting this site is seeking either converts or conversion or contention. So I feel free here to be honest and straightforward.

    It’s this way: Every human society known to have evolved on this planet has relied on gods and attendant self-serving myths to help it surmount the forces of nature and to stand against the threats of other human groups. Considering the paucity of understanding that protoman had about the workings of things, it is inconceivable that there could have existed any early human society that was not thoroughly superstitious. But if we conjecture such a hypothetical species, a human animal lacking the imagination necessary to create gods for himself, it is certainly questionable whether he would have survived to become homo sap.

    Now I will ask you, would that have been a tragic result? If the human race that we have become had not been realized, would anyone care? Whatever species of animal evolved from our humanoid branch would have remained savage, artless, unaspiring, and few in number. Imagine how many billions of tender human souls would then not have suffered the immeasurable and unspeakable anguish and tortures that have been the perpetual lot of a third of our species.

    I haven’t the slightest notion that my protests will help to rid the Earth of its gory gods. The poor, the miserable, and the superstitious will always be with us. The eternal efforts of well-meaning people–and the self-serving preternders who lead them–will be forever unsuccessful. It is the nature of things. I am only striving to enlighten a few, and perhaps to help extend to some slight degree the freedom and prosperity of my kith and kin. And it is my firm conviction that the best direction is toward the truth.

  105. Lily
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:23 pm

    I most emphatically do believe that the Bible is the word of God. If you want to believe otherwise, go ahead.

  106. John Ivey
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:32 pm

    I wanted to comment on something Thorngod wrote in his very first post regarding eternal recurrence. When I was first introduced to the Big Bang theory, the big question was and still is whether the universe will continue expanding or whether it will collapse back into a singularity as a result of its gravitation. If the latter should happen, and the result of the big crunch is another Big Bang, then it stands to reason as there are no outside influences acting on the universe by its very nature that the subsequent Big Bang will result in the exact same universe as existed before, and our lives as we know them will recur ad infinitum.

    Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time recalls when he was called to the Vatican with the number of other astrophysicists to discuss their models of the universe. If I recall correctly, he wrote that it wasn’t until he got ready to make his presentation that he realized that his model of the universe did not require divine intervention, a point he was glad slipped by his audience as he did not want to be branded a heretic as Galileo had.

    I apologize for all this rambling about, but the point I don’t get is why theism outweighs so heavily atheism when the latter makes so much more sense. I suppose it is the fear of death, as one poster brought up, and the lack of imagination that life in the universe can form on its own that leads so many people to believe in God and an afterlife.

  107. FNA
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:42 pm

    Lily: If you believe the bible is the word of god then please refer to my post 100. I am curious as to what you have to say

    FNA

  108. EK
    July 17th, 2006 @ 10:49 pm

    Lily, please cut the “I believe in the bible, but not if it’s proven wrong. The wrong bits are mythology” bull. God didn’t lie to us, god didn’t ask people to scribble lies, and god never fucked the virgin mary. You follow jesus yet you pick and choose your favorite bits out of the OT, the only prediction of a messiah and the origin of your god. Go ahead and claim that you know something other christians don’t understand, defend a non-literal interpretation of the book that guides your life. Keep feuling my pity.

    You refer to a “heart” that has something hidden in it that atheists should search for. Isn’t the “emotions come from the heart” crap one of the creative freedoms the OT writers used? You should know better.

  109. Thorngod
    July 17th, 2006 @ 11:19 pm

    Wait just a minute, EK! Gods always do it with virgins!

  110. Nightfly
    July 17th, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

    Thorngod – that, at least, is the best answer to the question I’ve yet gotten. I appreciate that. I agree with your aims, and I won’t even quibble with your idea of a target. Obviously, if one thinks that all religion must be unhealthy, then all religions will equally fall under the crosshairs. I think there is such a thing as healthy religion, but sadly, there is no such thing as a perfectly healthy person; the best of them are going to screw up, and most of it will be on purpose. The worst will actively sow ruin.

    As much as I enjoy contending in a search for what is real, ultimately I will not be judged solely on that. My first task is simply to do as I would be done by. A vast amount of the evil done in Christ’s name (or religion’s in general) is outside of my influence, but that doesn’t let me off living as rightly as I can. No-one’s evil should dissuade me, mine or my priest’s or my neighbor’s or my enemy’s – neither what has been done or what might be done later.

    June – you shouldn’t have jumped in quite so quickly, though no doubt you were kidding about my agreement. I only stated that your expression of God as illusory led, of necessity, to self-contradiction. Indeed, you chose to say as much in reply – a useful illusion, but also a deadly illusion.

    Paul – of course I can. Thorngod has expressed it quite well. My question was why, if He was called useful, was He unwelcome? In fact, the answer is simple – useful or not, Man was meant to live on Truth for his mind. I quite agree. And the risk of a little pain as a result of coming to the Truth is ultimately worth it. Ultimately, however, many branches of atheism throw up great barriers to that pursuit; well up in the thread you’ve seen people denying that mankind has free will at all, and that all are patterns and material causation. If that is indeed factual, then Truth has nothing to do with it at all: we are simply pips on the dice already cast, waiting only to see which side shall land face-up. Persuasion means nothing if there are no minds to sway or be swayed. Even the concept of “religion is illusion” becomes meaningless if some are fated to follow it regardless. And of course nobody really lives that way even if they say that’s the case – they “strive to enlighten a few.” (Sorry to pick on you again, Thorngod.)

    My protest wasn’t against illusion, but against the process described above: that we are nothing but stuff, trapped in a world of suffering, and that shrinking this inescapable cage is somehow liberating.

  111. Thorngod
    July 18th, 2006 @ 12:48 am

    I don’t mind “picks” in the least. I would be a sad case without them.

    I can’t agree with the concept of “healthy religion” per se, but the strictly human endeavors inspired by religion I have no real problem with. If a “believer” is soliciting donations to help the needy, I have no problem at all in contributing, even though the person soliciting is acting on behalf of his God.

    By the way,Nightfly, I had meant to add on my #102 post that although we are greatly at odds on the primary question, I always enjoy your comments and you argue your case very well.

    But I’m not sure what you meant by “a little pain” in your comment to Paul. If you’re referring to the cost of what civilization and enlightenment we have achieved, “a little pain” falls light years short. The terror and agony of that million-year ordeal cannot be justified by man or god. It is just a sad, inestimable, inexpressible, brute fact. Jesus could not have even begun to suffer on his cross what our human ancestors had already endured. He could not, for that matter, have suffered what any of a million more mortal Jews, common criminals, and barbarians suffered on Roman crosses, since he knew himself divine and immortal! We must view things in perspective! Perspective!

    “Free will” is a tasty topic. I have assaulted “The Wisp of the Will” in a piece far too lengthy for posting. I’ll try to synopsize it here eventually.

  112. Lily
    July 18th, 2006 @ 5:47 am

    FNA: We have discussed the questions you have asked (and they are certainly reasonable!) many times. I simply lack the energy to go over it again.

  113. Lily
    July 18th, 2006 @ 5:49 am

    Well, that was a first– I posted that comment accidentally! What I was going to say next was this:

    FNA, if you are interested, I can go find one or more of the threads that these topics came up on last month and point you to them.

  114. June
    July 18th, 2006 @ 8:10 am

    Like a professional negotiator, I believe in looking for some morsel of agreement between theists and atheists, something we can build on. Thorngod’s ‘useful illusion’ or Lily’s ‘metaphorical Bible’. I taught my daughter skepticism by watching TV shows that reveal how magic tricks are done.

    The Stork and Santa Claus are useful illusions, but nobody is killing in their name. And after you know something is an illusion, it loses its magic, and you can never go back. That’s why TRA has not converted and never can.

  115. FNA
    July 18th, 2006 @ 9:00 am

    If you dont mind

  116. Thorngod
    July 18th, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    John I, I think it’s unlikely that what we know as the universe is the whole of things. Just as we discovered that our solar system was not the “world,” and that the stars were suns, some thousands of times the size of ours, and then that our galaxy was one in many billions, it is reasonable to conjecture that there are probably countless other universes. It may altogether be infinite. And the question of “where” it all came “from” seems to me insensible. It “is” instead of “not,” and there is no more need to postulate a creator of the universe than to posit a creator of creators.

  117. June
    July 18th, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    I agree, Thorngod.

    I want to add only that everything seems to be cyclic.
    If we could use a microscope to peer into the smallest particle known, we might see the back of our head, peering into a microscope.

  118. Lily
    July 18th, 2006 @ 9:52 am

    FNA: On the assumption that #113 was in response to my last post, the most recent thread in which we discussed issues around the OT at some length was on June 15 in response to “Decent and Honest”.

    My magnum opus is #122. Quite a bit of interesting discussion ensued (with the usual extraneous comments). I fleshed out what I wanted to say in comments up to #139, If you have the patience, have at it and, if you like, we can go from there.

  119. FNA
    July 18th, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

    Thanks Lily

  120. Paul
    July 18th, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

    Nightfly, I don’t see why materialism or determinism requires giving up truth, or why truth relies on a mind. Your idea would seem to lead to thinking that, if there was no human in the universe, 2+2 would not equal 4. I think that a tree makes a sound if it falls in a forest without anyone to hear it, because trees falling compresses air in characteristic patterns.

  121. R and All
    July 20th, 2006 @ 10:00 am

    Nightfly, you theists are always good for a laugh, what with your tortured mental contortions to rationalize the inane. Thanks for your analogy, it cracked me up and inspired me. I borrowed your words and wrote a short scenario:

    Interviewer: We are here with God today to try to clear something up. God, in Genesis 1:26, it says “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Based on that, there has been a lot of speculation that Mankind is autobiographical. Is it?

    God: I get that question all the time. The truth is that the characters that comprise Mankind spring almost entirely from my imagination. Despite the passage you quoted, men really don’t have that much in common with Me. I don’t even have a body, for instance, and men spend most of their lives catering to their physical selves, seeking shelter, food, sex, etc.

    I: But there is some resemblance there…

    G: Oh sure. For one thing, men are all somewhat insecure, and so am I. Not that I’m not perfect, don’t get me wrong, I am perfect by definition. But all that “you shall have no other gods before Me” and “worship Me or I’ll have you tortured for eternity” stuff does come across as pretty needy, I realize. So I drew on that when I was coming up with Mankind.

    I: So I guess Mankind is created in your image and likeness rather like authors create characters, that is to say if you read a passage of Twain, and a passage of Austen, and a passage of Faulkner, and a passage of Dickens, it would be quickly obvious who wrote which – and yet none of those things themselves are the authors. That is how men are like you.

    G: Perfect analogy. When you look at Mankind, it is obvious that I am the divine author, as opposed to Astarte, or Kali, or Allah, or Zeus, and you would never mistake one of their creations for one of mine. I am glad that you understand.

    I: Thank you God for your time.

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