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    Thread: The Myth of Atheism

    1. #1
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      The Myth of Atheism

      The label "atheism" is a powerful bit of rhetoric. It allows atheists to continuously fall back on the insistence that they are making no positive claims, while forcing others into either a posture of rational proof or an admission that the failure to adopt such a posture is itself a form of atheism.

      Behind this seemingly insubstantial banner, however, march row upon row of positive claims and assumptions which go entirely unexamined so long as everyone keeps feinting at the flag:

      1. Materialism
      2. Existential Nihilism
      3. Determinism
      4. Rationalism
      5. Scientific Positivism

      The above array of beliefs is known in the arts as Modernism, a paradigm going on four generations out of date. To sum it up, it's the assertion that we live in a strictly physical, rigidly determined universe with no purpose or meaning, and that society should be organized according to rational principles arrived at by experimentation without regard for tradition.

      Literal atheism, the lack of belief in any deity, is a minor corollary of the above beliefs--minor, but rhetorically useful for selling the underlying worldview as some kind of default position or null hypothesis, rather than an outmoded belief system in and of itself.
      If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems. With this strength, your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.Dalai Lama



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      I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at. Would you rather people be enslaved by the dogmas of organized religion and discouraged from ideas such as free will? If anything, religious belief is outmoded (it's been around forever and has the most primitive ideas about the world that a child could come up with) because the vast majority of those who are irrational, bigoted and violent are the most religious.

      Also, humanity being nice to each other as a default makes perfect evolutionary sense, otherwise we would have not cooperated and not have survived to this day.
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      Terminally Out of Phase Descensus's Avatar
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      I don't follow you. You don't like that some people are atheists while holding certain worldviews? And how does the title relate?

      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
      I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves. - Christopher Hitchens
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      Yes! Thank you Taosaur.

      Atheism originally meant the lack of belief in God/gods. That was it, and nothing more.

      It had nothing to do with adopting a materialistic, random chanced view of reality where only that which is purely objective is real. (science does not define what is real).

      Now people are promoting this materialistic world view as atheism, and act as if they are a cult. They even congregate together, they have their key leaders, and attack any and all groups promoting the beauty and meaning of the subjective reality (holding back the noetic sciences like the church held back astronomy). Like age old Christians lost in the world view that you are either christian or heathen, they seem to think that the world is divided into only two types of people, the intelligent and enlightened atheists and the backwards religious folk. And becuase they blame the religious folk for all atrocities (rather than the human condition that will manifest itself and use religion as the scapegoat) and fear the subjective experience (because it means they no longer have a hold on reality), they need to increase their numbers and wage mental war against all differentiating views.

      They can't see that they've fallen into the same mental traps as any religious folk. Those religious folk also feared the subjective experience, which was why they relied on a book to tell them what was real.

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      Quote Originally Posted by DeeryTheDeer View Post
      I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at. Would you rather people be enslaved by the dogmas of organized religion and discouraged from ideas such as free will?
      ...free will is a religious doctrine, and that's not the only thing wrong with what you just said, but regardless, I wasn't framing the debate in terms of atheism vs. religion. Indeed, I was saying that framing the debate in those terms is a rhetorical Trojan Horse, by means of which a very specific, not simply "atheist," ideology is promoted. Is it the worst ideology ever? Did not say that. There are, however, many, many alternative ideologies besides the most naive iterations of theism. Atheism, or Modernism in the guise of atheism, avoids confronting more sophisticated paradigms and refuses to examine its own beliefs--indeed, denies it has any--in favor of grazing on the low-hanging fruit of religious fundamentalism.

      Quote Originally Posted by DeeryTheDeer View Post
      Also, humanity being nice to each other as a default makes perfect evolutionary sense, otherwise we would have not cooperated and not have survived to this day.
      The Dalai Lama says the same thing all the time, and I tend to agree.

      Quote Originally Posted by BLUELINE976 View Post
      I don't follow you. You don't like that some people are atheists while holding certain worldviews? And how does the title relate?

      I find it hypocritical and/or disingenuous (depending on how well one understands one's own beliefs) that purported atheists so often dance around and hide behind the semantics of what constitutes an atheist, when in fact they share and are advancing a much more detailed narrative and body of beliefs, only tangentially concerned with the presence or absence of deities. The question of deities is a smokescreen concealing the much more fundamental assertions I listed in the OP, particularly philosophical Materialism.
      If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems. With this strength, your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.Dalai Lama



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      Excellent thread Tausaur!! I hadn't even considered this, but I see the truth behind it at least in principle. I can't say I'm familiar enough with the various beliefs you listed to be sure, but I'll start looking into them more fully. I suspect you're absolutely right.

      I know as soon as I finished reading some Carl Sagan and then Richard Dawkins I sure went on a fundie-bashing spree in here for a little while, until a few more thoughtful posts like this one brought me to my senses.

      I gotta say though, I still think I'd prefer to have rationalists in office making important decisions as opposed to fundamentalists with a finger on the doomsday button. But take fundamentalism out of the picture and I don't have a problem.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 07-26-2011 at 04:04 AM.
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      Hungry Dannon Oneironaut's Avatar
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      While not believing in God is rather sophisticated, modernism is an outmoded simplistic and rather juvenile belief system based on unquestioned assumptions. Taosaur, you are so clear, I admire your sober reflections.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      While not believing in God is rather sophisticated, modernism is an outmoded simplistic and rather juvenile belief system based on unquestioned assumptions. Taosaur, you are so clear, I admire your sober reflections.
      This is true, but unfortunately, modernism was possibly the last time a current prevailing worldview made sense. Postmodernism offers only a vast and confusing array of alternatives with no coherency as far as I'm aware. Maybe it's the transition from the superstitious old world ways to something better, and we're in a chaotic period of confusion and doubt right now. And most likely we'll never emerge from that... maybe what we've learned in emerging from Modernism is that no worldview - however comforting - can explain everything. Maybe the human race is entering its adolescence and realizing that reality is much more complex and less comforting than the fables we made up in childhood.

      I still maintain that while they are outdated, the precepts of modernism have at least blasted clear a lot of far more outdated ideas, and hopefully cleared the way for new thinking to emerge. Well, I suppose it already is, but isn't very well understood by most yet. A few of you on this board definitely seem to have a pretty good handle on it.

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      Very good input, and true. I eagerly await the post-post-modern worldview and then the transcending of that.

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      Taosaur, I made a topic here and included what you posted. It's late and I have a lot on my plate for later today, so I would appreciate it if you joined the discussion over there. There's already a person who seems to agree with you. I'm doing this mainly because I'm interested in what you said, and because I'm still not solid on what you're saying. I don't think an in-depth discussion would occur here, frankly.
      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
      I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves. - Christopher Hitchens
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      Antagonist Invader's Avatar
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      The entire point of atheism is to make no positive claim without the appropriate evidence, specifically with respect to the belief in God/deities. If this rationale is to be carried further, it applies to all things (as opposed to only God/dieties). That which lacks evidence should have no positive claims made about it. Toasaur is trying to illustrate the irony that comes with plenty of modern atheists not carrying this rationale further, limiting it to the lack of belief in God/dieties and forming other materialistic beliefs about the universe that haven't been demonstrated to be necessarily true, and flying said beliefs under the banner of atheism.

      I like what this fellow said,
      Quote Originally Posted by jef
      wrong on every count except for one, which is itself a logical consequence of atheism.
      except that he has it backwards. Atheism, in his case, is a logical consequence of existential nihilism. To believe that there is no purpose or reason for being, for both the individual and the universe, naturally also leads to the belief that there is no God/deities. The atheist stance can be reached either from the idea, "we can't know," or from other beliefs that don't allow for the existence of God/deities. If instead he believes that we certainly cannot know if there is God/deities, no further conclusion would follow. In the other narrow interpretation of atheism, where the atheist believes against the notion of a God, then certainly existential nihilism can follow. If that's the case for jef up here, he'd have to have to first have evidence that no god exists, when the more popular view is, again (and I'll beat this to death), that we simply cannot know one way or the other. He'd be in error without evidence. It can only be one of these three options. If I'm wrong, I'd like to hear the alternatives.

      So the problem here really arises from folks who were, for example, existential nihilists first and atheist by consequence, who then claim that they reached atheism through the "we can't know," rationale, when the reality is that atheism only came out of their present beliefs. That would make them hypocritical. Taosaur is hilighting these particular people and illustrating that the modern atheist will more or less subtly suggest a more "material" (for lack of a broader term) explanation for the universe. This obviously is not the case with ALL atheists (or even the majority, obviously we can only observe those vocalizing their worldview) but happens to be quite popular.

      However, If the materialist-atheist explains that their atheist stance came out of their materialist beliefs (eg: believe in material universe only, ergo no divine beings), the conclusion is rational. The other atheists who use the "we can't know," approach and have no other beliefs, materialistic or otherwise, are in the clear. The rationale is consistent with their worldview.

      [edit] The part in blue is what I think Tao was saying, anyways.
      Last edited by Invader; 07-26-2011 at 11:26 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by BLUELINE976 View Post
      I'm doing this mainly because I'm interested in what you said, and because I'm still not solid on what you're saying. I don't think an in-depth discussion would occur here, frankly.


      Reading the 'discussion' you have linked to, I get the impression that no in-depth discussions, other than the circle jerk and the same old rhetorics, seem to be occurring over there...
      Last edited by dajo; 07-26-2011 at 01:10 PM.
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      Good threat with a good view, and nice to see atheism defined as it should be.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Klikko View Post
      Good threat with a good view, and nice to see atheism defined as it should be.
      You are stating that you have a better definition than Webster?
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      Quote Originally Posted by Invader View Post
      The entire point of atheism is to make no positive claim without the appropriate evidence,
      Well, you're talking about skepticism, which is the foundation of some, but not all, atheism. You're correct that I'm saying many self-described atheists pay lip-service to skepticism without applying it to the foundations of their own worldview.

      I'm not saying that literal atheism--the simple absence of belief, independent of a Modernist stance--does not exist. What I'm saying is that the movement which engages in debate under the rhetorical banner of atheism is promoting considerably more than simple, literal atheism (or skepticism, for that matter), but is quick to fall back on semantics rather than examine the underlying positions of which their atheism is a secondary or tertiary symptom.

      I've framed the approach as rhetoric, implying intentionality, but in many cases it looks more like a defense mechanism: the same lack of self-knowledge or consistency the atheists decry in the narrow range of 'believers' they are able to draw into their debate.

      Quote Originally Posted by dajo View Post


      Reading the 'discussion' you have linked to, I get the impression that no in-depth discussions, other than the circle jerk and the same old rhetorics, seem to be occurring over there...
      There is definitely some soggy toast on the ground over there.
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      If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems. With this strength, your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.Dalai Lama



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      Xei
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      Absolute bullshit OP. A new low. I'm not sure if this is because of very poor communication or genuinely held absurd prejudices. Atheism means 'without God'. It is not a piece of rhetoric. It makes no assertions about other world views. It means 'no belief in God'. What's the issue with a word identifying oneself as a non-believer? This seems to be an extraordinary misfire.

      In my case I am an atheist but certainly not a materialist or a nihilist. Determinism is apparently wrong on small scales (as discovered by scientific positivism...), and I'm not a rationalist either, not technically. There are plenty of atheist Buddhists; does this ridiculous stigma apply to them too? Are Buddhists materialist? Hmm.

      I'm sure there are plenty of atheists with dogmatic beliefs, but so the fuck what? This has nothing to do with atheism itself.

      If you want to take issue with the five things you listed then I suggest you make a new post doing so, and this time with some substance behind the assertions, and without the whole 'these dogmas lead to atheism thus the atheist banner means these dogmas' conflation.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur View Post
      the underlying positions of which their atheism is a secondary or tertiary symptom.
      Right, that's what I was trying to illustrate with the examples to supplement your OP. Not that your OP needed any clarification in the first place, but judging from the responses on the other board... I suppose further explanation couldn't hurt.


      BTW, Xei, your post doesn't disagree with Tao. Not sure you're understanding what he's trying to say. He's not claiming that literal atheism is anything but what it's defined as. He's talking about a movement by a lot of modern atheists in which they subtly hint at other explanations for the material world under the crux of atheism, when speaking to believers. So before you jump the gun you might want to reserve the ad hominems. "Bullshit OP," and "a new low," doesn't help anyone here.
      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur
      I'm not saying that literal atheism--the simple absence of belief, independent of a Modernist stance--does not exist.
      Last edited by Invader; 07-26-2011 at 07:23 PM.
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      Xei
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      I thought that you yourself had no firm idea about what Taosaur was trying to say? I did say that the issue could just be a very unclear OP. I can't read the first two paragraphs though as anything other than a conflation between the "insubstantial banner" of atheism as a whole and the actions of various dogmatists.

      And as it stands, the OP is still totally insubstantial. The claims that modernism has been redundant for four generations and such; there is nothing to work with, no actual argument.
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      Antagonist Invader's Avatar
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      I think I got the gist of what he was going for. Maybe there's more to it. And I think it was Blueline who said he wasn't solid on what was being said. Tao tried to specify with,
      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur
      the underlying positions of which their atheism is a secondary or tertiary symptom.
      So he clarified that he's talking about people who had inclinations towards "materialist" beliefs first and were then atheist by consequence, but who use the atheist stance in arguments to argue believers and deliver their own separate beliefs also. Anyways, I'm sure you two can have a civil discussion for once. Embrace your fellow human and try to understand where he's coming from, and I'm sure he'll return the favor.
      Last edited by Invader; 07-26-2011 at 07:49 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Absolute bullshit OP. A new low. I'm not sure if this is because of very poor communication or genuinely held absurd prejudices. Atheism means 'without God'. It is not a piece of rhetoric. It makes no assertions about other world views. It means 'no belief in God'. What's the issue with a word identifying oneself as a non-believer? This seems to be an extraordinary misfire.
      Apply a local anesthetic to your bottom and read my posts again.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      In my case I am an atheist but certainly not a materialist or a nihilist. Determinism is apparently wrong on small scales (as discovered by scientific positivism...), and I'm not a rationalist either, not technically. There are plenty of atheist Buddhists; does this ridiculous stigma apply to them too? Are Buddhists materialist? Hmm.
      Again, the post is not addressed to everyone to whom the narrow, literal meaning of "atheist" applies, but to those who hide behind the term claiming to be making no positive claims when in fact they are advancing a fairly comprehensive shared worldview.

      I really don't expect many self-identified atheists to object to any tenet of Materialism or Existential Nihilism, even if they're not deeply familiar with the philosophies or have negative connotations with the words. If you are not a Materialist and Existential Nihilist, what immaterial and/or purposeful aspects of existence do you recognize? I recall you putting forward a vague theory of consciousness as a force of nature a few years back, but was under the impression you'd set it aside some time ago for a more Rational Materialist approach.

      I was back and forth on including Determinism--it was once a near-mandatory feature of Materialism, certainly to the original Moderns, and many Materialists still swear by it, but many now see quantum mechanics as giving them a pass, too. In hindsight, I could have left it out.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I'm sure there are plenty of atheists with dogmatic beliefs, but so the fuck what? This has nothing to do with atheism itself.
      "Atheism itself" is rarely the real content of the debate. How many of the broadsides leveled at religion in this forum have solely or primarily to do with the presence or absence of deities? How many, on the other hand, revolve around religious persons being insufficiently rational and accepting beliefs without material foundation; religious institutions being insufficiently modern; religion impeding scientific progress; or religious belief being motivated by a wish for comfort and order?

      Those who take up the banner of atheism in debate rarely simply lack belief in a deity. They are generally opposed to religion in all or nearly all forms, aspects and details, and rarely on the grounds that religions feature deities, but because religions conflict with a Rational Materialist worldview.

      ETA:
      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      there is nothing to work with, no actual argument.
      That's an awfully Rationalist position
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    21. #21
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      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur View Post
      The label "atheism" is a powerful bit of rhetoric. It allows atheists to continuously fall back on the insistence that they are making no positive claims, while forcing others into either a posture of rational proof or an admission that the failure to adopt such a posture is itself a form of atheism.
      If someone believes in no gods, what inferences can we draw from this without rehearsing our own prejudices? If someone does not believe in fairies, what inferences can we draw about this persons worldview given the evidence derived from the skeptical position on the existence of fairies? If someone says fairies exist and provide no evidence suggesting such existence what reason do we have for believing them? The "bully" atheist is not shoving them in a corner, they do that to themselves by making ontological claims without evidence.

      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur View Post
      Behind this seemingly insubstantial banner, however, march row upon row of positive claims and assumptions which go entirely unexamined so long as everyone keeps feinting at the flag:

      1. Materialism
      2. Existential Nihilism
      3. Determinism
      4. Rationalism
      5. Scientific Positivism
      1. Materialism is a positive ontological position stating that the universe is composed of entirely physical entities and the interactions between them. Many materialist believe that knowledge can only be derived empirically from the physical world to our senses while rejecting the idea that we can obtain knowledge from reason alone. Skepticism is applied to materialism just as much as any other philosophical position, what is the difference between an invisible, incorporeal dragon that is immune to all physical tests and a non-existent dragon?


      This chapter in his book the Demon-haunted world really outlines the skeptical outlook which is not exclusive to atheists.

      2. Existential Nihilism. I dont even know anyone over the age of 17 that even entertains this idea. Nihilism is the idea that existence is meaningless and knowledge is impossible. The idea that knowledge is impossible is contradictory to your brand of atheism which under your own admission makes a positive epistemological claim.

      3. Determinism. Determinism is rooted in Newtons (actually Copernicus before him) discoveries that the behavior of physical objects in can be explained and predicted mathematically and that the universe operates under consistent laws that we can understand. Obviously Newton was a Christian so determinism is not an exclusively atheist position. Besides that, the bible says whoevers name is not written in the book of light will be cast into a lake of fire, which implies gods foreknowledge of who will be saved or not. This caused Saint Thomas Aquinas to solve this discrepancy by trying to make room for free will. Plenty of physicists are atheists and reject determinism because of discoveries in quantum physics and chaos theory.

      4. Rationalism is the idea that knowledge can be derived from reason alone (think Plato and the forms) and that we have innate knowledge preceding experience. I am assuming that you meant to use this word as it pertains to "logical thinking" which is called rationality not rationalism. Also many biologist (many of whom are atheists) believe that we have innate knowledge preceding experience, its called instinct. This contradicts empiricism which brings me to number 5.

      5. Logical positivism is an extreme form of empiricism applied to Wittgenstein's philosophy of language. A propositions that cannot be empirically verified are meaningless (in the sense that they are incoherent). Again I don't know why this is on the list no one has advocated LP since the 30's.

      The point is that none of these "5 tenets of atheism" are exclusive beliefs to atheists. You can be an atheist and not be a materialist or a determinist, etc. No one is trying to "sell these underlying world views".

      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur View Post
      The above array of beliefs is known in the arts as Modernism, a paradigm going on four generations out of date. To sum it up, it's the assertion that we live in a strictly physical, rigidly determined universe with no purpose or meaning, and that society should be organized according to rational principles arrived at by experimentation without regard for tradition.

      Literal atheism, the lack of belief in any deity, is a minor corollary of the above beliefs--minor, but rhetorically useful for selling the underlying worldview as some kind of default position or null hypothesis, rather than an outmoded belief system in and of itself.
      Who says modernism is out of date? Avant-garde french philosophers? Modernism isnt the assertion that "we live in a strictly physical, rigidly determined universe with no purpose or meaning" you are thinking of the Enlightenment, of which modernism was a reaction against. Ya know Postmodernism is a like an old dirty hobo that rambles seemingly incoherent dribble to himself while onlooker have no idea what the hell he is talking about. This is why postmodernism has absolutely no relevance outside of France and among teenagers who read Nietzsche.

      The point is you cant assume anything about atheist based on the fact that they are skeptical about the existence of god(s).
      Last edited by stormcrow; 07-26-2011 at 10:45 PM.
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    22. #22
      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by Taosaur View Post
      Again, the post is not addressed to everyone to whom the narrow, literal meaning of "atheist" applies, but to those who hide behind the term claiming to be making no positive claims when in fact they are advancing a fairly comprehensive shared worldview.
      Okay.

      I really don't expect many self-identified atheists to object to any tenet of Materialism or Existential Nihilism, even if they're not deeply familiar with the philosophies or have negative connotations with the words. If you are not a Materialist and Existential Nihilist, what immaterial and/or purposeful aspects of existence do you recognize? I recall you putting forward a vague theory of consciousness as a force of nature a few years back, but was under the impression you'd set it aside some time ago for a more Rational Materialist approach.
      Now you're back into prejudice territory again. Perhaps it's because you're an American and so many of the small number of people who do arrive at atheism are quite reactionary, but in Europe secularism is simply the normal position. There are a whole range of things you can believe without believing in a God. You can be spiritual, or believe in a life force, for example. Do you really believe Buddhists have a 'nihilistic, materialistic' world view? And to say that most Europeans are nihilists and don't see any purpose in existence is just extraordinary. I'm sure most of us don't really consider it, but if pressed would say that enjoying life, friends and family, or discovery, or helping others, are good purposes. Pretty much the same as oh-so-enlightened theists actually. Materialism also carries various strong connotations that 'material things are the only things that matter in life', with a disregard for morals or emotions or cultures. Applying this to all, or even most atheists is totally wrong. Just absolutely wrong and prejudiced.

      "Atheism itself" is rarely the real content of the debate. How many of the broadsides leveled at religion in this forum have solely or primarily to do with the presence or absence of deities? How many, on the other hand, revolve around religious persons being insufficiently rational and accepting beliefs without material foundation; religious institutions being insufficiently modern; religion impeding scientific progress; or religious belief being motivated by a wish for comfort and order?

      Those who take up the banner of atheism in debate rarely simply lack belief in a deity. They are generally opposed to religion in all or nearly all forms, aspects and details, and rarely on the grounds that religions feature deities, but because religions conflict with a Rational Materialist worldview.
      I think there are two reasons. One is truth. They see religious people being totally intellectually dishonest with themselves, and that is disturbing. If somebody says 'I have a belief in God because I hear him speak to me / I had an ineffable spiritual experience which convinced me' then that is fine and there is nothing more that can be said. But when atheists in your sense see somebody obstinately saying 'I believe in God because evolution has been shown to be a lie' or some other factual inaccuracy or fallacy, in other words trying to use reason but clearly having been lied to by propaganda/themselves, the the atheists will try to show that these reasons are flawed.

      The second reason is humanism. Many atheists see dogma as the chief cause of all human suffering. Whether it's oppression of a group of people or a line of thought, or partisanship, jingoism, and war; atheists see the Enlightenment as a great event in the potential betterment of humanity, and will do battle with its antithesis, dogma.

      That's an awfully Rationalist position
      Oh don't be ridiculous. What do you think it is that you're doing exactly? You're saying that people giving reasons for things, and trying to make people see other points of view through discourse, is a dogmatic approach? Then what is this thread here for? What exactly do you propose we do?

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      4. Rationalism is the idea that knowledge can be derived from reason alone (think Plato and the forms) and that we have innate knowledge preceding experience. I am assuming that you meant to use this word as it pertains to "logical thinking" which is called rationality not rationalism. Also many biologist (many of whom are atheists) believe that we have innate knowledge preceding experience, its called instinct. This contradicts empiricism which brings me to number 5.
      Slight deviation but I don't think that genetic components to knowledge, which are pretty incontrovertible, contradict empiricism. Where did the knowledge come from? It wasn't a priori; it didn't enter our genes through some special intuitive gift for universal truth. The things we know from our genes is stuff that the environment, experience, shaped into being. It's not even true, necessarily. It's just a result of a pattern in nature, which makes it functionally useful, just like non-genetic knowledge. For instance, animals which have a fear of red foods. This knowledge is shaped by patterns in experience due to environments: those which don't fear red eat some poisonous berries and die; those which fear red don't eat the berries and live. Is a fear of red really a priori knowledge? Another example would be a (speculative) genetic component to our visual cortex which gives us an intuitive knowledge of how to deal with Euclidean space. But space isn't actually Euclidean. That 'knowledge' is objectively wrong as a universal truth. It's just useful for organisms because that how effectively is for them.
      Last edited by Xei; 07-27-2011 at 12:16 AM.
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    23. #23
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Now you're back into prejudice territory again. Perhaps it's because you're an American and so many of the small number of people who do arrive at atheism are quite reactionary, but in Europe secularism is simply the normal position. There are a whole range of things you can believe without believing in a God. You can be spiritual, or believe in a life force, for example. Do you really believe Buddhists have a 'nihilistic, materialistic' world view?
      I covered this, and me covering it was the first thing you quoted in your reply. Here's another version, lifted from the RatSkep thread Blueline made on my behalf:

      I'm not saying that atheism, defined narrowly and literally, constitutes an ideology. What I'm saying is that those who argue on behalf of atheism, and particularly those most inclined to fall back on semantics when it is suggested that they believe in anything, do in fact share a comprehensive and identifiable worldview, of which atheism itself is a minor component, but a convenient flag to rally around. No, not all atheists (defined literally) are Materialists, nor, even if they have some rationale for their atheism, are all thoroughgoing Rationalists. Those atheists, however, are largely shut out of the debate in the same way that religious persons who are not scriptural literalists (i.e. most religious persons) are shut out of the debate, because it is framed a priori with the following Rational Materialist assumptions (among others):

      • All religious beliefs are truth-claims about objective reality.
      • All of these claims compete with each other and with Materialism for exclusive veracity.
      • Only fixed, objective qualities of reality exist.
      • Reality has fixed, objective qualities.
      • The accuracy of one's worldview is determinable by the number of correct facts in one's possession.
      • Non-rational modes of thought do not yield useful knowledge.


      All of the above are philosophical stances, not evidentiary findings or known facts, and they limit the number of possibilities one can consider. Many more current philosophies are less skittish about acknowledging the role of subjectivity in constructing even the seemingly most evident and concrete aspects of our experience, and less bent on the notion that there is one "correct" viewpoint that should be inflicted upon all of humanity.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      And to say that most Europeans are nihilists and don't see any purpose in existence is just extraordinary. I'm sure most of us don't really consider it, but if pressed would say that enjoying life, friends and family, or discovery, or helping others, are good purposes. Pretty much the same as oh-so-enlightened theists actually. Materialism also carries various strong connotations that 'material things are the only things that matter in life', with a disregard for morals or emotions or cultures. Applying this to all, or even most atheists is totally wrong. Just absolutely wrong and prejudiced.
      You're arguing against the connotations accrued to the terms in idiomatic usage, not the philosophical positions themselves. Stormcrow summed up Materialism well enough:
      1. Materialism is a positive ontological position stating that the universe is composed of entirely physical entities and the interactions between them.
      Is this your position, Xei, or is it not? Stormcrow seems to be affirming that it is his.

      He biffed Existential Nihilism a bit:
      2. Existential Nihilism. I dont even know anyone over the age of 17 that even entertains this idea. Nihilism is the idea that existence is meaningless and knowledge is impossible.
      Existential Nihilism asserts that existence lacks inherent meaning or purpose, which has nothing to say regarding whether it can (or should) be made meaningful or purposeful. I'm over 17 and subscribe to some degree of both Existential and Ontological Nihilism. That knowledge is impossible is Epistemological Nihilism, which I did not introduce to the discussion.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I think there are two reasons. One is truth. They see religious people being totally intellectually dishonest with themselves, and that is disturbing. If somebody says 'I have a belief in God because I hear him speak to me / I had an ineffable spiritual experience which convinced me' then that is fine and there is nothing more that can be said. But when atheists in your sense see somebody obstinately saying 'I believe in God because evolution has been shown to be a lie' or some other factual inaccuracy or fallacy, in other words trying to use reason but clearly having been lied to by propaganda/themselves, the the atheists will try to show that these reasons are flawed.

      The second reason is humanism. Many atheists see dogma as the chief cause of all human suffering. Whether it's oppression of a group of people or a line of thought, or partisanship, jingoism, and war; atheists see the Enlightenment as a great event in the potential betterment of humanity, and will do battle with its antithesis, dogma.
      You're saying yourself that such "atheists" are advancing a considerably broader agenda than literal atheism, including many more shared, specific positions than lack of belief in deities. Isn't it intellectually dishonest to then fall back on the semantics surrounding the term "atheism" when confronted with that fact?

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      If someone believes in no gods, what inferences can we draw from this without rehearsing our own prejudices?
      This thread has nothing to do with drawing inferences from lack of belief in deities. Discussions in which people assert their identity as atheists often have little, if anything to do with deities specifically, yet avowed atheists in these discussions still fall back upon the literal definition of "atheism" to claim they believe nothing, rather than subject their actual positions to scrutiny.

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      Rationalism
      Admittedly, I was using the term loosely. Maybe my meaning would be better conveyed by "Pro-Rational"--elevating rational (or rationalized) thought and expression above all other means (or even to the exclusion of all other means) of acquiring, holding or sharing knowledge.

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      5. Logical positivism...
      ...Again I don't know why this is on the list no one has advocated LP since the 30's.
      Perhaps that's why it wasn't? The term I used was "Scientific Positivism," but in fact it's more often termed "Science Positivism," simply "Positivism," or "scientism" in a critical sense, which is probably most relevant here. It is the position that science and the scientific method are the only credible or authoritative approach to reality or the human experience.

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      The point is that none of these "5 tenets of atheism" are exclusive beliefs to atheists. You can be an atheist and not be a materialist or a determinist, etc. No one is trying to "sell these underlying world views".
      As I told Xei, I'll table Determinism--some adherents are quite insistent that it's part and parcel with Materialism, but that's an internal schism, as it is in theology. Regardless, I hope you can see by now that neither the exclusivity nor universality of these positions to atheism are relevant to the discussion. They are not presented as "tenets of atheism," but as a body of more fundamental beliefs shared and promoted by those who present themselves in discussion as atheists.

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      Who says modernism is out of date? Avant-garde french philosophers? Modernism isnt the assertion that "we live in a strictly physical, rigidly determined universe with no purpose or meaning" you are thinking of the Enlightenment, of which modernism was a reaction against. Ya know Postmodernism is a like an old dirty hobo that rambles seemingly incoherent dribble to himself while onlooker have no idea what the hell he is talking about. This is why postmodernism has absolutely no relevance outside of France and among teenagers who read Nietzsche.
      So you fully accept characterization as a holdover Modernist?



      Oy, I can't believe I made that much copy-pasta
      If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems. With this strength, your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.Dalai Lama



    24. #24
      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      1. Materialism
      Not a requirement for atheism.

      2. Existential Nihilism
      Not a requirement for atheism.

      3. Determinism
      Not a requirement for atheism.

      4. Rationalism
      Not a requirement for atheism.

      5. Scientific Positivism
      Not a requirement of atheism.

      Summary of this thread: Taosaur is intellectually dishonest in tying in many separate and distinct beliefs into atheism and then labelling atheism as a myth.

      The fact that atheists have separate beliefs outside of their atheism (some of which are assumptions that can be justified but not proven) is irrelevant.

      I'm not saying that atheism, defined narrowly and literally, constitutes an ideology.
      Then don't create threads with such provocative and inaccurate titles. Though I see plenty have been quick to jump on the bandwagon.

      What I'm saying is that those who argue on behalf of atheism, and particularly those most inclined to fall back on semantics when it is suggested that they believe in anything
      Blatant lies; many atheists will happily admit to holding many different beliefs. It's also perfectly true to claim this on the subject of religion. Not to mention that it's also irrelevant when it comes to justifying one's own position. Saying "well you believe in Zeus" is not a valid reason to justify one's own belief in Christianity.

      ...do in fact share a comprehensive and identifiable worldview, of which atheism itself is a minor component, but a convenient flag to rally around.
      Yes, that's true on both counts. But that's to counter the fact that religion tends to draw in many ignorant people, who lack critical thinking skills, engage in and support anti-intellectualism, and a host of other issues. This kind of thing happens on any issue that turns political.

      All of the above are philosophical stances, not evidentiary findings or known facts, and they limit the number of possibilities one can consider.
      Lies again. I'm perfectly free to consider any number of new philosophies, it's just that some will be in conflict. Why is this such a problem? If I believe you have a red car, then that limits the possibility that your car is blue, or green, or black. So what? That doesn't mean it's a bad belief because it excludes those possibilities. This simply sounds like an attempt to throw around accusations of being closed-minded.

      This thread has nothing to do with drawing inferences from lack of belief in deities. Discussions in which people assert their identity as atheists often have little, if anything to do with deities specifically, yet avowed atheists in these discussions still fall back upon the literal definition of "atheism" to claim they believe nothing, rather than subject their actual positions to scrutiny.
      Aside from this being a blatant lie, this reeks of the insecure being unable to justify their own position, and attempt to divert the issue by attacking someone else.
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    25. #25
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      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      Not a requirement for atheism x5
      Again, whether any of the beliefs I listed are universal or exclusive to atheism--literal atheism--is irrelevant. This thread is not about, "All atheists believe <x>" or "Everyone who believes <x> is an atheist." We're not talking about the lack of belief in deities here--that's the whole point of this thread: we're rarely actually talking about a/theism as literally defined.

      The topic here is that those who actively argue against religion under the aegis of "atheism" (as opposed to those who simply lack belief and are not religious) are not arguing solely, nor primarily, from atheism itself. Instead, both their atheism and their arguments are founded upon Rational Materialism and Science Positivism, which are positive ontological and epistemological assertions.

      Do you (or any atheist active in R/S) deny holding any of the following beliefs?

      1. Materialism: the universe is composed of entirely physical entities and the interactions between them.
      2. Existential Nihilism: existence lacks inherent meaning or purpose
      3. Science Positivism: science and the scientific method are the only credible or authoritative approach to knowledge.



      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      Summary of this thread: Taosaur is intellectually dishonest in tying in many separate and distinct beliefs into atheism and then labelling atheism as a myth.
      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      Then don't create threads with such provocative and inaccurate titles. Though I see plenty have been quick to jump on the bandwagon.
      I'm sorry my thread title hurt your bottom.
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      If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems. With this strength, your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.Dalai Lama



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