Atheists Can Be As Bad As Christians

As I said yesterday, I’ve recently started to study philosophy (among other things) at NUIM. The lecture this morning touched upon a subject that I’ve discussed at length with DTE (he of the guest posts) in the past.

Most people hold beliefs that they’re unwilling or reluctant to critically examine. Call them what you will – presuppositions, assumptions, cherished – but most people have them. I certainly do, although I like to find them and question them quite rigorously whenever I can. Theists are frequently charged with holding an undue amount of these beliefs, usually in regard to their entire religion. While I think this is generally true (there’s an odd but widespread phenomenom where intelligent people become completely irrational when their religion is criticised), it’s something that atheists certainly aren’t immune to.

I think that religious emotion, the things people feel when they pray or visit a church, are universal. How people express or trigger those emotions obviously varies widely, but I doubt many people would claim to have never experienced them. Just as ‘religious emotion’ doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with religion, so ‘religious thinking’ (credit to DTE for that one) doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with religion.

What do I mean by ‘religious thinking’? Consider what I’ve seen described as the ‘single issue wonk’. These are people who latch onto a particular issue, usually a political one, and defend it rabidly. Any criticism will incite a torrent of rage and counter-arguments, usually of the hysterical variety. Ardent Obama or McCain fans seem to fall into this category a lot, as do many so-called ‘values voters’ (pro-life or pro-choice proponents are particularly bad). When I say that these people think religiously, I mean that they hold beliefs about certain issues in a way very reminiscent of how religious people hold beliefs about their faith. Reason generally doesn’t have much to do with it, and they’re likely to defend their beliefs on emotional grounds.

When I first started to communicate with other atheists, I was overjoyed to find a community that appeared to treat nothing as sacred, where everything at all was open to question and close scrutiny. As time went on, I discovered that there were a numer of taboo subjects and opinions. I didn’t agree with most of these, but I was quite shocked at the harsh reaction to those who did. Atheists will claim that they’re capable of and willing to examine any belief, any proposition, as objectively as they possibly can, but this isn’t really true. Ironically, some atheists become religious about their atheism, reacting to the merest suggesting that they’re wrong with explosive animosity.

The reason why my philosophy lecture brought all of this to mind is that the lecturer suggested that we lay aside our presuppositions for the time being, in hopes of either returning to them on a firmer foundation or of abandoning them and changing ourselves entirely. That willingness to change is what differentiates those who think religiously from those who don’t; if an atheist is really as capable of objective consideration as he or she claims, they shouldn’t be afraid of abandoning their atheism and becoming a theist if it seems like a reasonable thing to do. Yet I’m convinced that many atheists would be appalled at the mere suggestion.

One reason could be that so many atheists are deconverts from various religions; they’ve already gone through a momentous change, and probably do not like the idea of doing it again. Another is that anyone who defines themselves partially or in whole by a belief is going to be very reluctant to give it up. (This is a bit of a problem, as both DTE and I think that atheism needs to become more community-oriented if it’s to spread and survive – more on that some other time.)

On the other side of the coin we have theists who either refuse outright to critically consider their beliefs or who concoct elaborate delusions to convince themselves that their beliefs are not irrational (Creationists, I’m looking at you). Which of the two is ‘worse’? Most atheists would say that the religious-religious is the worst for society, but that may simply be their own prejudices (unexamined and uncriticised) speaking again. Personally, I don’t think that one is any worse than the other; they’re both a threat to a democratic society.

(NOTE: Substitute ‘Christian’ in the title either for whatever religion you belong to or, if you’re an atheist, whatever religion you’d least likely to be compared to a member of.)

45 Responses to Atheists Can Be As Bad As Christians

  1. hang2gether says:

    I definitely agree. I often make the argument that the one thing everyone should “believe” in is the truth. If both atheists (like ourselves) and theists claim to value truth then they should have no problem shedding their former understandings of the world in favor of new, well evidenced understandings. I touched very lightly on that in my latest post: how theists grant themselves immunity to criticism not because they are truly offended but more because they fear losing faith. It’s a blatant affront to the pursuit for honesty in our society.

  2. DTE says:

    Goog point, hang. I’m fond of saying that: Consideration + Intelligence + Courage = Deconversion, which I cleverly call “The Deconversion Formula.” It seems an obvious thing to me both that it’s true and that far more Christians lack the courage than the intelligence to consider what they believe.

  3. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    I’m really appreciative of a lot of the openness and honesty here.
    There’s a bit of question begging and circular logic, though, around the terminology “religious thinking”.
    (I hope I’m not condescending to explain that begging a question is when a conclusion is smuggled into a premise and then “proven” to be true.)
    In this particular case, I submit that somebody started with the premise that to be religious is to be pig-headed and out of touch with the facts. They’ve then generalized it to say that everybody can be pig-headed, just like those religious folks. We all have the right to name things however we see fit. I’d like to point out that this assertion doesn’t prove the initial claim, that religion is somehow pig-headed and out of touch.

    It’s my experience that there are theists who believe that thier own world view should count as the default and the burden lies with somebody else to disprove that. But at the same time there are atheists who want secular humanism to count as the default and feel that the burden lies with somebody else to disprove this.

    Niether Christianity, other traditional religions, OR secular humanism are in fact default positions. I’d suggest in humility that the burden lies equally among whatever world view a person chooses.

    Finally, I think that probably most of us, on all sides of the divide, waste a good deal of time constructing straw men and beating them down and responding to loud-mouthed extremists on the other side. There are Christian’s who bare little resemblance to me, just as their atheists who bare little resemblance to you. There is a world of difference between saying “Many theists” and “theists” When the qualifier “Many” isn’t present, the impication is that what follows is true of all theists.
    Example “… in my latest post: how theists grant themselves immunity to criticism”
    I know that on my side we do the same thing; respond to the loudest mouthed knuckleheads while ignoring the reasonable moderates who might have something to offer us, painting in wide generalizations, etc.

  4. hang2gether says:

    I agree Jeff and I didn’t mean to exclude the “many.” It’s one of those little details that are harder to catch when it doesn’t directly affect you (well, me in this case). I don’t necessarily believe that the burden falls on theists to prove secular humanism wrong. Rather, the burden falls on the positive end of the spectrum. The burden is on Christians to prove that they are correct the same way the burden falls upon atheists to prove that atheism is correct. Neither group, in my opinion, is obligated to prove that the other is false in order to justify their own claims.

  5. Lottie says:

    The burden is on Christians to prove that they are correct the same way the burden falls upon atheists to prove that atheism is correct.

    I don’t understand this. Burden of proof falls on the party making a positive claim. As an atheist, I make no positive claim. I simply do not believe in the existence of any deities because I have yet to see any evidence to support the claims that any of them exist. I don’t know how I could prove that this is “correct” or if it could even be defined as such, but it certainly seems the most reasonable position. If there comes a time when Christians (or other theists) can prove their positive claims, then I will adjust my thinking and change my position. But as an atheist, I claim nothing and, therefore, have nothing to prove.

  6. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    If there was a pot boiling in my kitchen and I claimed that somebody put the pot on and you claimed that nobody put the pot on, would the burden of proof still fall on me and not you?
    If there is a pot there, boiling away, it seems to me you’d owe me an account for how it got there, especially if you’re denying that a person put it there.
    I recognize that you might debate my description of the cook, but debating the very existence of the cook seems a violation of rules of parsimony/Occham’s razor.
    It seems to me if the more obvious and simple explanation for a phenemon is that it is caused, the principle that the person making the positive claim bares the burden ought to take a back seat.
    I’m a bit skeptical of this claim, as a whole… Are there logical rules/precendents for the idea that the person making the positive claim bares the argumentative burden?

    On this arugment, wouldn’t people who believe we actually landed on the moon bare the burden (as they are making the positive claim) while people who think the whole thing as a hoax, shouldn’t they get the default position? After all, it’s the people who believe we landed on the moon who are making the positive claim.

    Finally, it seems to me a word game to say that you are claiming nothing and have nothing to prove. You are claiming that there is no God. This claim is indeed something. And you are attempting to prove this through debate.

  7. Lottie says:

    If there was a pot boiling in my kitchen and I claimed that somebody put the pot on and you claimed that nobody put the pot on, would the burden of proof still fall on me and not you?

    No. If I were to claim that no-one put it there, which implies that it got there by itself, I would have some explaining to do as well.

    If there is a pot there, boiling away, it seems to me you’d owe me an account for how it got there, especially if you’re denying that a person put it there.

    Agreed. But we are talking about a boiling teapot which we already know requires that someone put it there. You have created a false analogy because you are trying to compare it to life and the universe which has not been shown to require that someone put it here. This is also begging the question and circular reasoning because your argument/analogy assumes what you are attempting to prove, which is that someone did it.

    I recognize that you might debate my description of the cook, but debating the very existence of the cook seems a violation of rules of parsimony/Occham’s razor.

    Yes, to argue the existence of the cook in your analogy would certainly violate Ockham’s Razor, because to do so is to make assumptions beyond what is necessary. But again, we already know that boiling teapots require a “cook”. The same principle does not apply, however, to claims of the existence of god(s), because we do not know that they are required for anything.

    It seems to me if the more obvious and simple explanation for a phenemon is that it is caused, the principle that the person making the positive claim bares the burden ought to take a back seat.

    I agree. If the more obvious and simple explanation is that something is caused. But let’s take something we both agree on, for instance: the boiling teapot has to be put there (caused). Is the next more obvious and simple explanation that it was caused/put there by a six foot mutant cat with thumbs?

    I’m a bit skeptical of this claim, as a whole… Are there logical rules/precendents for the idea that the person making the positive claim bares the argumentative burden?

    Yes. That propositions must be supported is the basic foundation of logic.

    I find your question more than a bit puzzling, to be honest. At the risk of sounding terribly arrogant or condescending (I truly don’t want to), it’s along the same lines as asking if there are rules or precedents to support the idea that if I throw a ball into the air, it will come back down. Supporting propositions is as basic to the rules of logic as the falling ball is to the laws of gravity.

    On this arugment, wouldn’t people who believe we actually landed on the moon bare the burden (as they are making the positive claim) while people who think the whole thing as a hoax, shouldn’t they get the default position? After all, it’s the people who believe we landed on the moon who are making the positive claim.

    Actually, they are both positive claims. One group claims they or others have been on the moon, another claims there was a hoax. They both bear the burden of proof.

    I will say that, incidentally, there is an enormous amount of evidence to support the claims that the astronauts landed on the moon, so any evidence that it was a hoax had better be good and plentiful if the conspiracy theorists want to convince me.

    Finally, it seems to me a word game to say that you are claiming nothing and have nothing to prove. You are claiming that there is no God. This claim is indeed something. And you are attempting to prove this through debate.

    It’s not a word game. It’s a very simple fact: I have never claimed there are no gods. I have said, uncountable times, that as of right now, I see no reason to believe in the existence of any gods and therefore choose not to believe. I have further stated that if compelling evidence is ever discovered, I will adjust my thinking and change my position. That is hardly the same thing as claiming there is no god.

    Your version of my statement/position goes beyond building a straw man; it is a ridiculous, laugh out loud parody of what I have said. But I can’t say that I’m even a bit surprised; I could count on one hand the number of god-botherers who address what I actually say, rather than their own warped version of it.

  8. Lottie says:

    Hi, Jeff!

    Just wanted to let you know that I replied to you this morning, but my comment is held up in moderation. I’m sure it’s because it contains several links and the admins just haven’t been able to get to it yet.

    Just wanted to let you know I wasn’t ignoring you.🙂

  9. Jeff says:

    Thanks. I’ll look foreward to it.

  10. forknowledge says:

    Lottie:

    Your comment is up now. Sorry about the delay, but I have quite limited time at the moment, and didn’t have access to a computer yesterday evening and most of this morning. Do you know if there’s a way to have an ‘approved commentor’ option, so that I could set the comments of people I trust to appear instantly, even if they contain links?

  11. Lottie says:

    Oh, don’t worry about it. I knew it was because of the links since that had happened once before, and I figured you were busy. No worries…

    Do you know if there’s a way to have an ‘approved commentor’ option, so that I could set the comments of people I trust to appear instantly, even if they contain links?

    I really don’t think so. I’ve looked around for something like that for my blog and couldn’t find it. I’ll ask around and if I learn anything new I’ll get back to you.

  12. Lottie says:

    Oh, by the way…

    Jeff,

    I’ve just been given a ton of extra work to do, so I’m really bogged down at the moment. If you reply to my comment, I may not be able to get back to you until the weekend. Just wanted to let you know ahead of time.

    Thanks for your time.

  13. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    Lottie:
    Thanks for your replies. Let’s see:

    The point I was trying to make with the tea pot analogy is that we all (presumably) agree that there is in fact a universe. Stuff is here. We know that the ordinary stuff we see in our every day lives can not create itself.
    So the question for me that an atheist or agnostic answers is this:
    Where did it all come from? Isn’t the suggestion that it was just always here rather self-contradictory? Doesn’t the suggestion that it’s a mystery we won’t understand undercut the faith in human rationality that you would like to place in science?
    I’ll agree (and stated in the post) that this does not necessarily imply anyhting about the nature of God, but it does imply that something started the whole thing.

    My question’s about who has the burden of proof were based on your own statement that you’re an atheist. In the way that the word is ordinarily used, an atheist actively denies the existence of God. An agnostic is someone who does not think that their is enough evidence in either direction.
    (I suppose that we can go through a dictionary-war at this point, and you can cite this source’s definition of atheistm and I can cite that source, but I’ll wait for you to dispute this distinction before I progress in that direction)
    Based on your response, I will assume that you are in fact agnostic. (At least in the sense of the term “agnostic” that is being used here)
    This changes the discussion some, for me. A few things I’d like to point out about agnosticism:

    In terms of argumentation, it’s fairly easy to poke holes in others arguments when we don’t have an actually opinion of our own to justify. It’s a bit like being a geurilla fighter: if the fighters come out of nowhere and then disapear to nowhere, the traditional fighting force is always on the defensive.

    At the end of the day, though, if you’ve never defended anything but only attacked and torn other things down, you end up with… nothing.
    I’m open to the possibility that I’ve got everything all wrong. But one of the things that can get left out of these debates is that there is value in comitment, and construction. I’ve been repelling a couple times, and what I discovered was if this: if you didn’t commit to the ropes, if you don’t do the incredible counter-intuitive act of leaning back, into gravity, you are done for.
    Somersaults are quite similiar: if you are fully comitted to a roll you will be fine. If you are half-comitted you will get quite banged up.

    Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that it’s possible that the universe is set up in such a manner that those who are committed to tearing down ideas but who don’t actually comitt end up poorly.
    Numerous thinkers have commented on the abusrdity of our position, and I don’t dispute the basic absurdity of it all: We do not have sufficient rational, scientific-styled evidence to commit in any direction. Yet there are important differences in the way we progress, based on the comittments we do or don’t make. Sometimes folks in the middle want to deny that they’ve actually made a decision: but the reality is that somebody who has chosen not to comit has made that this decision.

    As for the moon landing analogy:
    Many agnostics and atheists claim that religion is a hoax. Why is it a positive claim if somebody says that we never landed on the moon, but noy a positive claim if somebody says that there is no God?

    The question of whether or not these is evidence in either of these cases (moon landing or God) strikes me as a seconday issue. Before we even begin exploring the evidence it strikes me as worthwhile to determine which party has the burden of proof.
    I would say that neither theists nor atheists get to assume the default position and both bare the burden to explain their position. Often times, people on both sides wish to assign the burden to the opposite side.

    It wasn’t my intent to create a straw man. My experience with you is quite limited. It was based on your self-description as an atheist above and you’re overall agreement with others who appear to be atheists on this blog.
    This alliance is overall indicative of something that sometimes occurs in these discussions:
    One would expect, an agnostic to be equidistant from both theists and atheists. It seems like the alliance is most often between atheists and agnostics, and on a philosophical level, it’s hard to see why an agnostic would have more in common with an atheist than a theist.

  14. forknowledge says:

    Butting in for a moment:

    My question’s about who has the burden of proof were based on your own statement that you’re an atheist. In the way that the word is ordinarily used, an atheist actively denies the existence of God. An agnostic is someone who does not think that their is enough evidence in either direction.

    It seems rather unfair to say that there are only two options – actively saying that there is no God and saying that there isn’t enough evidence to have an opinion one way or another. This is not how you’d treat someone’s belief in most other matters, I’m guessing; few people would say that the only two options for a man who thinks his wife is cheating on him is ‘I know she definitely is cheating on me’ and ‘I don’t have enough information to hold an opinion either way’. Clearly there’s a third option, and that option makes as much sense as the other two.

    Some atheists will tell you that there definitely isn’t a God (how they arrive at that conclusion is beyond me*), but I would say that the majority of atheists don’t hold a position that strong.

    * Making a claim like this might be more sensible where a particular God or god is being discussed, in which case someone could claim that a certain version of God is contradictory or otherwise impossible.

  15. Lottie says:

    The point I was trying to make with the tea pot analogy is that we all (presumably) agree that there is in fact a universe. Stuff is here. We know that the ordinary stuff we see in our every day lives can not create itself.

    This still begs the question, assuming it was, in fact, “created”. We know the boiling tea pot requires a cook. We do not know the universe required a creator.

    So the question for me that an atheist or agnostic answers is this:
    Where did it all come from?

    You are making the very common mistake of packaging atheism together with science. Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Period. Knowledge or lack thereof regarding what science teaches about the origin of life and the universe need not factor in at all. I have often found the following analogy useful in explaining this:

    Let’s say my house burned down, and the cause cannot be or has yet to be determined. Is it rational to conclude that a fire-breathing dragon started the fire? Of course not.

    Or let’s say the cause of the fire has been determined, but I have not been informed of the cause, or simply do not understand it. Would the fire-breathing dragon hypothesis make sense then? No. It would still be silly.

    So it is with science and gods:

    I do not need to know or understand the origins of life and the universe in order to rule out what is clearly irrational – in this context, any number of gods.

    Science is a very compatible companion to atheism, but scientific knowledge is not a prerequisite to atheism or necessary component of it.

    I don’t need to be a fire fighter or have the slightest understanding of what can start a house fire to reasonably rule out fire-breathing dragons; I don’t need to be a scientist or have the slightest understanding about the origins of life and the universe to reasonably rule out the supernatural.

    As to agnosticism vs. atheism, I am atheist, like it or not. Here is the URL for a post I wrote addressing this issue:

    http://lottierambleson.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/i-am-atheist-like-it-or-not/

    In terms of argumentation, it’s fairly easy to poke holes in others arguments when we don’t have an actually opinion of our own to justify.

    I do have opinions and I justify them quite well. My view in on the existence of gods that I do not believe they exist. My justification for this position is that I have seen no compelling evidence to support the claims that they do exist. It’s a simple argument, indeed. So simple, in fact, that it’s unthinkable to me that so many people don’t seem to grasp it.

    Arguments need not be complex to be valid or worthwhile.

    As for the moon landing analogy:
    Many agnostics and atheists claim that religion is a hoax. Why is it a positive claim if somebody says that we never landed on the moon, but noy a positive claim if somebody says that there is no God?

    Find me an atheist or agnostic who claims that religion is a hoax, and I will argue right beside you that religion is quite real.

    It wasn’t my intent to create a straw man.

    But you keep doing it. You don’t have to know me personally to create a straw man. Your claim that “many atheists claim religion is a hoax” seems to be another straw man. I have never heard anyone make that claim and I seriously doubt that “many atheists” believe that. You accused me of word games, and now that seems to be exactly what you’re playing. You cannot show that atheism makes any positive claims (not that individual atheists never do — ditto what forknowledge said about that) and so you are inventing claims. That’s creating a straw man.

    Thanks again for your time.

  16. Lottie says:

    I would like to share some additional thoughts that are not exactly on topic, but are still worth mentioning.

    At the end of the day, though, if you’ve never defended anything but only attacked and torn other things down, you end up with… nothing.

    I don’t believe that’s what I’m doing. I am defending the practice and exercise of rational thought. I consider that very important and worthwhile.

    Arguing against the validity of logically-flawed claims and viewpoints aids in the development and sharpening of critical thinking and reasoning skills, and promotes the ability to understand and apply logic in our everyday lives. I place a tremendous amount of value on these things, and will even go as far as saying that they are probably the most valuable skills anyone can have. So I do not believe that I end up with “nothing” at the end of a discussion in which these skills have practiced/exercised.

    I believe that discussing the methods by which we reach conclusions on any subject is just as important as the subject itself, if not more so. The ability to think independently, to understand and apply reason and logic, is not what I would define as “nothing”.

  17. forknowledge says:

    Also on that quote (At the end of the day…etc.):

    This is implying that you should never attack a proposition purely because you think it’s wrong – you must always have a proposition of your own to defend in tandem with your attack. That clearly makes no sense.

  18. Lottie says:

    Absolutely, Forknowledge! And nicely stated.

  19. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    Let’s see:
    I read your post on your definitions of agonsticism and atheism. Just as I ought to be free to define terms I apply to myself, you are similarly free to define the terms you apply to yourself. It is certainly your peroogative to define the term “atheist” and “agnostic” in any manner you choose.
    Personally, I’m not familiar with the distinction you make. It seems like it could be probelmatic if it got carried out in that it seems to me that it treats “belief” and “knowledge” as entirely unrelated beasts. But there are enough topics for discussion right now with out throwing that one in.

    It seems to me that you’re vaccilating between stating that you aren’t making any positive claims and you are making positive claims. You reacted to the word “hoax” I think so let’s drop it out of the picture.
    If Group A thought we actually landed on the moon and Group B thought we did not, it seems like both groups are making a positive claim. In order to discount what counts to a theist as evidence, an atheist or agnostic offers up positive claims for why this doesn’t count as evidence, why in fact things I believe to be experiences of God are actually just random synaptic firings, etc.
    There’s lots more here to respond to but I’ll start with those points.

  20. Lottie says:

    Jeff:

    I read your post on your definitions of agonsticism and atheism. Just as I ought to be free to define terms I apply to myself, you are similarly free to define the terms you apply to yourself. It is certainly your peroogative to define the term “atheist” and “agnostic” in any manner you choose.

    They are not my chosen definitions. I didn’t make it up.

    It seems like it could be probelmatic if it got carried out in that it seems to me that it treats “belief” and “knowledge” as entirely unrelated beasts.

    In his context, they are unrelated. Belief and knowledge are not the same the thing. And I can certainly understand why you find that problematic.

    It seems to me that you’re vaccilating between stating that you aren’t making any positive claims and you are making positive claims.

    In what way? Can you give me an example?

    You reacted to the word “hoax” I think so let’s drop it out of the picture.

    I responded to your claim that “many atheists claim religion is a hoax” by asking you to lead the way to an atheist who had made that claim and offering to argue beside you. Since you have now asked to drop that point, I can only assume that you cannot make good on your claim and that it was, in fact, a straw man, just as I had suspected.

    In order to discount what counts to a theist as evidence, an atheist or agnostic offers up positive claims for why this doesn’t count as evidence, why in fact things I believe to be experiences of God are actually just random synaptic firings, etc.

    First of all, counterclaims are not positive claims or assertions. They are criticisms of assertions that have been put forth. There is a difference. I can elaborate if you want me to, but I’ll save my energy until I find out if you’re really interested.

    I also find your phrasing rather curious: “what counts to a theist as evidence”.

    Theists do not get to set their own rules regarding evidence or logic. That would be called special pleading. You haven’t shown a shred of evidence to support the existence of your god. You want your feelings to be accepted as evidence because you don’t have anything else. But I’m not the one changing the rules and moving the goals just because I’m unable to support what I’ve said. You are.

    I entered this discussion saying that I do not believe in the existence of any gods because I have never seen any evidence to support claims that they exist. I still haven’t seen any. You’re basically pointing at nothing, calling it something, and then expecting me to prove it isn’t there. It’s absurd.

    When you have something for me to examine, bring it on. Until then, “I know because I believe because I feel” is not evidence of anything in any context, regardless of how you would like to define the word.

  21. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    Hello Lottie:
    As you probably know, dictionaries attempt to list the most common definition of a word first. In the interest of space, I’ll start with first definitions. I don’t think that focusing on all listed definitions will change the tenor much of this discussion, but it will change the length of this post. We can go to the wider listing of definitions if you wish.
    Dictionary.com says an atheist is:
    a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    The same source says an agnostic is:
    a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.

    I chose dictionary.com at random as a neutral source likely to indicate the common-sense use of the two terms. They seem consistent with my claim that as the terms are ordinarily defined, one might be either an agnostic or an atheist, but not both.
    Once again, it’s within your rights to subscribe to different definitions of these terms. However, they are your definitions in so much as you have chosen them over the more common definitions of the words. And short of reading your entire blog before I responded to your comments on this blog, I’m curious how I should have known that these were the definitions you were using.

    It also seems strange to say regarding “belief” and “knowledge” that they are unrelated “in this context.” Words matter. They have definitions. Either they are related or they aren’t related.

    An example of your apparent vaccilations: In your first post in this string of comments, you state “As an atheist, I make no positive claim.” (Leaving aside the question of whether an agnostic ought to be the one making this claim) The problem is this:
    Clearly, you believe that the the universe got here somehow.
    Why doesn’t your argument work the other way.
    Why can’t I, as a theist say “If I ever saw evidence that God doesn’t exist– if I saw reason to believe that naturalistic, atheistic, or agnostic explanations were more believable than theistic ones– I would accept these.”
    Entailed in the negative claim “Theism is false” is the positve claim “Some alternative to theism is true.” Why am I, as a theist, held to the standard of defending a positive claim but you, as an agnostic/atheist, are not held to the standard of defending a positive claim?
    I am not making the argument here that my position is the right one. I am simply saying that theism and atheism ought to start off on an equal playing field, with some level of required evidence to demonstrate their truthfulness.

    As for the question of hoaxes, I dropped it because it seemed irrelevant to our current conversation. One of the most famous atheists I know of are Karl Marx. Mark stated quite famously that religion is the opiate of the masses. In the context of this statement he was partially evoking the fact that religion is a place where people illigitimately attempt to escape their suffering; but he was also evoking the idea it’s a tool quite consciously employed to supress those who use religion/drugs.

    In fact, I agree with you that I haven’t offered up any evidence. I’ve been engaged in a more fundamental discussion. I’ve been trying to set the stage for the debate in the first place.
    You’ve been interested in jumping into a conversation on terms you believe are already set. I believe your logic is circular.

    The scientific method has done some amazing things. It proceeds in a rather specific, narrow and exclusive manner. The downside to the scientific method is that it does not provide us with all the answers we need. It has generated atom bombs, for example, but not the wisdom about when and how to use (or not use) them.

    The relevance of all this is in that atheists and agnostics go about their every day lives allowing for wider evidence than simple scientific principles. You don’t subscribe to logic in selecting a birthday card for your grandmother, I hope. As you wonder if you should propose to someone, I hope you don’t turn it into predicate calculus and write the whole thing out as an argument to determine if the argument is valid.

    I am arguing that a wider net ought to be cast in this debate. Determining what counts as evidence at the outset will actually prevent special pleading. And it’s effecitvely special pleading that leads you to wish to limit the debate.

    I’m not saying that my feelings, beliefs, and experiences ought to be worshipped. But if we’re only counting scientifically measureable quantities by definition we won’t find God in the argument, because He is not quantifiable in this way.

  22. Lottie says:

    Jeff:

    As part of a personal vow not to invest a lot of time spinning my wheels in discussions like this, I set a few specific rules for myself. One of those rules is that when I reach a point at which I the only way to reasonably address the comments of an opponent is to essentially repeat myself, I stop. I feel we have reached that point.

    I will point out, in closing, that your determination to define atheism according to what best suits your arguments seem to run in direct contrast to something you said at the beginning of this discussion:

    Finally, I think that probably most of us, on all sides of the divide, waste a good deal of time constructing straw men and beating them down and responding to loud-mouthed extremists on the other side. There are Christian’s who bare little resemblance to me, just as their atheists who bare little resemblance to you. There is a world of difference between saying “Many theists” and “theists” When the qualifier “Many” isn’t present, the impication is that what follows is true of all theists.
    Example “… in my latest post: how theists grant themselves immunity to criticism”
    I know that on my side we do the same thing; respond to the loudest mouthed knuckleheads while ignoring the reasonable moderates who might have something to offer us, painting in wide generalizations, etc.

    And that’s exactly what you seem to be doing.

    As to the rest, I’m not going to continue repeating myself. Merry-go-rounds make me nauseas. That’s not to say I’ll never discuss anything with you again, just that I don’t think this is going anywhere, so I choose not to continue.

    Thank you for your time. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

  23. forknowledge says:

    Actually, it’s still possible to be both an atheist and an agnostic according to the dictionary.com definitions:

    a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.

    A person who holds that human knowledge is limited to that which can be learned through experience would be an empiricist, I would have thought, not necessarily an agnostic. However, there is no reason why someone couldn’t believe that definite knowledge of God is impossible to gain (an agnostic) and therefore not believing in God based on this and/or other factors – and therefore being an atheist. I think many atheists would agree that, if some sort of God did exist, it could be very difficult or impossible to verify that. I would see the two ideas as being capable of co-existing fairly easily.

  24. Mike says:

    In fact, I agree with you that I haven’t offered up any evidence. I’ve been engaged in a more fundamental discussion. I’ve been trying to set the stage for the debate in the first place.

    Not so much setting the stage as burning down the theatre. A counter claim against a positive claim is not itself a positive claim if the substance of it is criticism of the initial claim. If you claim that a god exists, and I criticise that claim, for example, by pointing out that it is incoherent or unevidenced, I am not making a positive claim. I am criticising your claim.

    You’ve been interested in jumping into a conversation on terms you believe are already set. I believe your logic is circular.

    Believe what you like; that doesn’t make it so. Logic does not alter according to what you believe, and it is not some arbitrary set of rules. Logic is a system of applying the fruits of observations which are so common and fundamental that, in a world which behaves consistently, can be applied universally. It’s not a set of rules that people just made up.

    The scientific method has done some amazing things. It proceeds in a rather specific, narrow and exclusive manner. The downside to the scientific method is that it does not provide us with all the answers we need. It has generated atom bombs, for example, but not the wisdom about when and how to use (or not use) them.

    *sigh* That’s because all moral claims are basically statements of opinion, and wisdom is only a different variety of that. Science deals in facts, and as much as you or anyone else might claim to the contrary, moral prescriptions are not statements of fact.

  25. forknowledge says:

    Butting in with some commentary here, but saying that a downside of the scientific method is that it doesn’t provide a moral system to live by is like saying that a downside to moral philosophy is that it doesn’t lead to the creation of new technology.

  26. Lottie says:

    Excellent commentary, Forknowledge! I may have to quote you sometime.

  27. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    Lottie may be right. Perhaps this is all becoming quiet merry go round ish… Nonetheless, I have a few new things to say.
    Lottie:
    I’m not defining the terms by what best suits my arguments. I’m defining the terms in the ways I am familiar with them being used. I realize that you may or may not choose to believe that definitions I found were the first ones I went looking for. I believe them to be quite typical, run-of-the-mill definitions. As I have stated before, it’s fair enough for you to define them differently. But I pointed to a few problems with your definition (i.e. the disconnect between knowledge and belief) and observed that when you use terminology in an unusual way that onus is normally on you to explain this. Though you are talking as though your definitions are somehow set in stone I haven’t yet determined your source for them or reasons for using them.

    Forknowledge-
    You might be right. Agnosticism is effectively an epistimic position where as atheism is an ontological/metaphysical one. It’s probably possible to both. But it doesn’t seem like Lottie was taking this route or explanation in claiming that she is both.

    Mike-
    Logic might be a system that is complete and coherent. But is is a man-made construct. We didn’t find the rules of argumentation in a microscope. We inferred them. We have honed them well. But here is the circularity of the whole affair:
    Once upon a time, folks like Aristotle started to get the idea that they ought to quantify, measure, and use other sensory information to reviel information about the world. They got very good at it and did very cool things.
    Thousands of years later, here we are. And we are expecting that this method is going to reviel to us things that we are not going to quantify and measure. We’ve gotten some absorbed by the methodology that we’ve forgotten that we adopted it in the first place. By definition, the scientific method won’t tell us anything about God.
    Science deals with one variety of fact: the empirical sort.
    It seems to me that anyone who denies that there are other types of facts must give up on a wide variety of claims that most of us hold as true.
    For example, it is not an empirical and scientific fact that I love my wife. Yet I know this to be more of a fact than anything else.
    There are a wide variety of decisions we make every day which are not based on scientific facts at all: acts of kindness, acts of artisitic creation; it is not explicable, scientifically speaking why we do them.
    Forknowledge is making my point for me, I think.
    It seems like there is all this emphasis on the scientific method, on a narrow and strict definition of logic, etc, this insistence that there is no other way of knowing things, it seems like this leaves the atheist with out much ability to explain a wide variety of human behavior.

  28. Lottie says:

    I had wanted to address this before because I thought perhaps I had been unclear, and then I forgot. Sorry…

    It also seems strange to say regarding “belief” and “knowledge” that they are unrelated “in this context.” Words matter. They have definitions. Either they are related or they aren’t related.

    Yes, words have meaning. And context can have as much, if not more meaning. For example:

    I believe my husband loves me based on things I know. I do not believe in god(s) based on things I know and don’t know. In this context they are related in the sense that one leads to another. In the context of discussing how they are different; what belief and knowledge are, individually, they’re not related in the sense that they’re not the same thing. That’s what I meant when I said “in this context”. I think context always matters.

    As to your last comment, I am not using terms in an unusual way. I did not say or intentionally imply that it is written in stone. And my reasons can be summed up in two words: common usage.

    It seems like there is all this emphasis on the scientific method, on a narrow and strict definition of logic, etc, this insistence that there is no other way of knowing things, it seems like this leaves the atheist with out much ability to explain a wide variety of human behavior.

    Right. In the same way that salt doesn’t have much ability to sweeten anything. It’s not supposed to and no one every claimed it did.

    I will continue following the discussion, but like I said before, I’m not going to answer anything that requires me to repeat things I’ve already said several times.

  29. hang2gether says:

    Scientists are actively exploring the concept of love. Some have hypothesized that love is evolutionary and is pivotal to ensuring the continuation of a species. Feelings of love allow for a couple to remain together up until and even through (and hopefully long after) procreation. We see through autism and other disorders that biological defects and effectively terminate social behavior. That being said, is it so hard to believe that emotions such as love are dictated (or at least enabled) by our biological construct? It’s presumptuous and rather capricious to think that simply because an individual does not understand something that it cannot (or has not) been understood. I couldn’t explain to you, scientifically, how gravity works but does that mean it’s beyond the realm of science?

  30. hang2gether says:

    *We see through autism and other disorders that biological defects CAN effectively terminate social behavior. Sorry.

  31. Lottie says:

    hang:

    Are you addressing me? If so, I’m not sure how your comment follows anything I said.

    I did not say or imply that love is dictated by a biological construct, or even that it could be explained scientifically. I have no idea, to be honest. I just said that I believe my husband loves me based on things I know. I’m talking about things he does, his behavior toward me, etc. This was in the context of distinguishing between knowledge and belief.

    And I have never assumed that just because I don’t understand something, it cannot be or has not been understood. I freely (and frequently) admit to not knowing or understanding a lot of things, and have actually done so in this very thread. So I’m really not sure where your comment about being presumptuous even came from.

    Sorry if I’ve misread you here. You didn’t name anyone or quote anything, and since I mentioned love in the last comment before yours, it appears as though you’re responding to me. Just didn’t want to ignore you, if that’s the case.

  32. hang2gether says:

    No no no I was addressing Jeff. Sorry about the mix-up.

    “For example, it is not an empirical and scientific fact that I love my wife. Yet I know this to be more of a fact than anything else.”

  33. hang2gether says:

    Additionally, I AM suggesting that love is enabled by a biological construct. I don’t believe that it is some supernatural or intangible emotion that isn’t in some way tied to our make up. This doesn’t demean the concept of love in any way… But even if it did, reality has no respect for our feelings or sentiments.

    I’m in agreement with basically everything you’ve said, Lottie.

  34. Lottie says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I thought there might have been some crossed wires there. It all makes sense now, though.

    Additionally, I AM suggesting that love is enabled by a biological construct.

    This may very well be true. My husband and I have discussed it as well, I just don’t know enough to discuss it coherently. It’s one of the the topics I kick back and read and then ponder. I certainly don’t believe it’s supernatural; I don’t believe anything is. But like you said (and my husband and I have discussed) the possibility of it being biologically enabled, in no way demeans the concept of love. I like the way you phrased that.

    Thanks again for the clarification.

  35. Lottie says:

    * I just don’t know enough to discuss it coherently in these forums.

  36. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    It’s great that scientists are actively exploring the concept of love. And it’s entirely possible that they will find out some very interesting facts. But first off, it’s important to notice that they haven’t yet. It seems to me that there’s a double standard here: anything that a theist doesn’t know definitely counts against him. Yet there’s lots of faith that the science is going to turn out exactly in the direction we expect it to.

    There are some flaws in the tenative understanding of love that was presented above.
    It seems to me that on the neo-darwinian account that we ought to expect several things which don’t occur, for example We ought to expect love to occur strictly along lines of heridity. If it’s all about making sure direct decendent’s genes are propogated then a more general love would be anti-evolutionary. If my act of kindness allows your offspring to survive I then love has worked against evolution, and not for it. If love was only about evolution, shouldn’t we expect that all those who take care of those outside of their families would have been wiped out of the gene pool?

    Autism and a variety of other disorders do demonstrate that biological realities can impact behavior. That’s true. But I think you’d have to be a knucklehead to deny that truth. Any account of the soul/spirit would have to account for the effectiveness of psychiatric medication and the reality of biologically based disorders. I think that this is pretty easily done.

    I think that the words “terminate” social behavior are a bit strong. Effective intervention in a variety of areas such as autism leads to more social behavior. (Education of the family also leads to an understanding of how, when, and why the child is trying to socialize. There are some experts who believe that echolalia (Spelling?)– the apparently automatic repetion of things autistics and others demonstrate is actually the best they can do in terms of interacting with the world around them.)

    Finally:
    Evolution is worthy feeling awe over. However, to suggest that it doesn’t demean the concept of love to suggest that it’s a biological side product is only true if this is all we’ve got. If there is no God, it doesn’t demean the concept at all. Because in the end, it’s all about randomness and survival of the fittest. Suggesting that it doesn’t demean things a bit of a consolation prize, really, and I’m not sure it’s particularly relevant.
    Either there is a God or there isn’t a God. Either love is completelty biological or it’s supernatural. One hypothesis is true and the other is false. (Or perhaps the truth is somewhere in between.) Whatever is true, is true. It’s hard for me to see the relevance of whether a concept is demeaned or not.

  37. Lottie says:

    It seems to me that there’s a double standard here: anything that a theist doesn’t know definitely counts against him.

    The not knowing is not what “counts against” you. The problem is in attributing what you don’t know or can’t explain to a god you don’t know and can’t explain.

    Remember the fire-breathing dragon analogy?

    Yet there’s lots of faith that the science is going to turn out exactly in the direction we expect it to.

    Really? Has anyone here made a prediction as to how the study would turn out? Because all I read was someone saying that the concept was being explored. You’ll have to fill me on how that equates to having “lots of faith” that it will turn out “exactly in the direction we expect it to”.

    However, to suggest that it doesn’t demean the concept of love to suggest that it’s a biological side product is only true if this is all we’ve got.

    This only follows if: 1.) you believe in God in the first place, 2.) you believe that the capacity to love comes solely from God and 3.) you determine the value of love based on where the capacity for it comes from.

    So, once again, you’re smuggling in your conclusions with your premise.

    Either love is completelty biological or it’s supernatural.

    False dilemma. Why couldn’t socialization be a factor?

    Whatever is true, is true.

    OK. It’s true that I love my husband. Why must that change at all, much less be demeaned by the absence of a supernatural source? It only changes for you because you are the one who attributes it to a god in the first place.

  38. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    Let’s see:
    #1) I think a number of predictions have been implied around how the study will turn out. The context, of course, was that I pointed out that love can’t be adaqueately explained by neodarwinism. Somebody else pointed out that the issue is being looked into.
    If the issue is looked into and I am right (i.e. it can’t adequately be explained) then it hurts your argument significantly. Therefore, the only way it helps your argument that science is looking into the nature of love is if the discoveries go in a specific direction. Which brings us back to the idea that you have faith that it will go in that direction.

    #2) But you also are smuggling in your premises. The concept of love is not demeaned only if you smuggle in your premises. Given that the question of God appears that it can go either way it seem like the question of whether or not love is demeaned remains open as well.

    #3) Socialization could and is a factor. But first off, nobody mentioned socialization. It seemed to muddy the waters to mention it. Chalking it up to socialization doesn’t answer the question of “Where does love come from?” Or “Why do we love?”
    Answering these questions with the word “socialization” leads to the question “O.K., why are we socialized to love?” Or “Why does love appear within currently existent human societies” And the most obvious answers come back to “Either it pops up supernatural in societies or it arises through neodarwinian forces.”

    #4) The question of whether or not love is demeaned strikes me as moot. It doesn’t actually change what love is and where love comes from. If I recieved $1000 dollars in the mail, I might wonder where that money came from. I might decide it came to me randomly, perhaps through a mistake or a lottery I joined, or I might decide that it was a gift from my grandmother.
    I’d probably feel better about this gift if it came from my grandmother. Either way I would appreciate it. But if it came from my grandmother, not only would I get to spend it but also I would take it as a sign that she loves me. (I realize that’s rather crass, but one of the things we do like about gifts as that they are a symbol of the givers of love.)
    Now, we could argue all day long about whether the gift was demeaned or not if it was a random thing. But the outcome of this argument does not at all impact the origins of the thousand dollar bill. My feelings about the gift are thoroughly disconnected from it.

    Accordingly, it strikes me as irrelevant to explore whether or not love is demeaned if it is a naturalistic event. It doesn’t change where it comes from.

  39. Lottie says:

    If the issue is looked into and I am right (i.e. it can’t adequately be explained) then it hurts your argument significantly.

    What argument of mine does it hurt? All I’ve said is that regardless of the source, my love for my husband remains the same. You seem to be reading an awful lot into what I’m saying here.

    Therefore, the only way it helps your argument that science is looking into the nature of love is if the discoveries go in a specific direction. Which brings us back to the idea that you have faith that it will go in that direction.

    You really don’t get it, do you? First of all, I didn’t even know the concept was being explored by scientists until hang mentioned it. I have never claimed to know or even care where the capacity to love comes from. All I have said about it is that I believe my husband loves me based on things I know and have experienced, such as his behavior toward me.

    You are taking some enormous leaps and building more of your straw men, attributing arguments to me that I have never even thought, much less made in this discussion.

    But you also are smuggling in your premises. The concept of love is not demeaned only if you smuggle in your premises.

    What premise? That it doesn’t matter to me? That I love my husband just the same regardless of where the capacity to love comes from? That is not a premise, Jeff.

    Besides, I said you’re smugging in conclusions within your premises.

    Given that the question of God appears that it can go either way it seem like the question of whether or not love is demeaned remains open as well.

    As I said before, this is only true if you determine the value of love based solely on where the capacity to love comes from. I do not, and you don’t get to decide that for me.

    Socialization could and is a factor. But first off, nobody mentioned socialization. It seemed to muddy the waters to mention it.

    It’s not muddying the waters if it’s relevant.

    Chalking it up to socialization doesn’t answer the question of “Where does love come from?” Or “Why do we love?”

    And therefore it’s not relevant to the discussion? You have admitted yourself that “socialization could [be] and is a factor”, and yet you scoff at introducing it into the discussion just because it might add to the complexity of the debate (which is not the same thing as muddying the waters, by the way). Not exactly the kind of thing I would expect from someone sporting a username like yours.

    I’d probably feel better about this gift if it came from my grandmother. Either way I would appreciate it. But if it came from my grandmother, not only would I get to spend it but also I would take it as a sign that she loves me.

    Right! This is what I’ve been getting at all along — it makes you feel better. You get $1000 (love) and the warm fuzzies of knowing or believing that it came from Grandma (God). In other words, you appreciate your capacity to love, but you appreciate it more if it comes from God. You are the one with a vested interest in the source of love, which is why you feel that love would be demeaned if it didn’t come from God. I, on the other hand, am not facing that dilemma.

    But the outcome of this argument does not at all impact the origins of the thousand dollar bill. My feelings about the gift are thoroughly disconnected from it.

    This is blatant contradiction of what you just said. You said that if the origin was Grandma (God) you would take it as a sign that she (he) loves you. Now you say that your feelings are “thoroughly disconnected” from the source. Are you also saying that, upon receiving a sign that Grandma (God) loves you, you don’t feel anything at all?

    Accordingly, it strikes me as irrelevant to explore whether or not love is demeaned if it is a naturalistic event. It doesn’t change where it comes from.

    You’re right, it doesn’t change where it comes from. But I value the love I feel, whether giving or receiving, so when someone suggests that it would somehow be demeaned in the absence of some invisible sky fairy as the source, I think it’s something very much worth discussing. You see, Jeff, you don’t get to determine the value of my love, which is really what this boils down to.

  40. Lottie says:

    One few additional points to consider:

    The $1000 may have added value to you if it comes from your grandmother. But if your grandmother gave me $1000 dollars, the impact would not be the same. The $1000 would still be worth $1000, though. While I wouldn’t have the same warm fuzzies you would have because of where it came from, the value of the $1000 remains the same.

    You cannot purchase more than $1000 worth of merchandise just because your grandmother gave you the money. But I can still purchase a full $1000 worth of merchandise whether I got it from your grandmother or found it on the street. So the value of the $1000 (love) has not been increased or decreased (demeaned) just because of where it came from.

    Another flaw in your grandma analogy is that you already know your grandma exists. But what if you had never met your grandmother? What if you’d never had any way of getting in touch with her and no reason to believe that she knew how to contact you? You’re not even sure she is still alive, and even if she is, you don’t know she has $1000 to give you. Would you still entertain the notion that it came from Grandma? Somehow I doubt it.

    Your grandma analogy is another example of you smuggling in conclusions (begging the question) attempting to impose your emotional attachments onto others and offering warm fuzzies (good feelings) as evidence of something.

  41. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    Lottie:
    I think you may have been right a few posts back. Perhaps this isn’t a very productive use of either your or my time. You felt like you were explaining yourself over and over again. I feel like that fruitful dialogue requires a certain level of charity (in the sense the terms used in argumentation) and good faith. Repeatedly when I misunderstand you you’re terming it straw man argumentation on my part. I’m not going to go that route, however. When you misunderstand my “grand mother” analogy I’m willing to chalk it up to a commuinication break down, for example. If I were to claim that you’re building straw men I’d be claiming that I can read your mind and know your intent. I’ve refrained from insulting your intelligence. For example, I don;t think you’d be able to find my comments peppered with statements like “You really don’t get it, do you.” ( By the way, my log in name is my blog title. It’s a reference to a Saturday night live skit, and is meant with tongue-in cheek. The famous Jack Handy was anything but deep even if he thought he was.) If we can’t fix this disparity then I don’t think either of us are spending our time fruitfully.

    In my last post I was not speaking to you specifically. It’d probably be a bit easier for you if I adressed each person. As you might have noticed, I’m a bit outnumbered in this conversation. That doesn’t bother me at all but it makes the pragmatics of taking each person individually difficult. Particularly because most of the positions at least seem compatible with each other that have occured in the last several comments.

    Some time back in this post, I observed that the scientific method isn’t very useful in determining some things about life that are quite important. Love is an example of this: an important thing that a world view based only on science can’t tell us anything about. My suggestion is that if we want to understand where things like love comes from we ought to rely on some way of knowing other than science.
    Some others in these comments have claimed that science is uncovering the root of love. To them, I ask “Do we know yet what the conclusions of that science is?” It seems to me that they are having faith that the discoveries will turn out in a way which rules out the supernatural.
    As for you, specifically, Lottie, my question is quite different. Given that you state you’re unfamiliar with what science says about love, my question would be “Shouldn’t we know a little something about what love is? How are we going to find out?” I’d suggest that we know more things than the scientific method allows for. We know that we love certain people though we could never prove it. This knowledge is fundamental in many of our lives.

    I am making two claims about the demeaning of love.
    #1) It’s not persuasive to claim that love is or is not demeaned. Whether or not it is natural or supernatural is quite independent of the question of whether or not it is demeaned. Some theists will say “It’d be better if there was a God. The universe would be a happier place. Therefore I choose to believe in God.” In some way, they are saying that the universe is demeaned by the idea that it is not created. This is a silly position. Whether or not there is a god is not impacted by whether or not we’re happy about this face.
    I am not saying it’s not an important question, to ask whether or not love is demeaned if it is entirely natural. I am simply saying that it is not connected to whether or not it is natural.
    My second statement then, is this:
    In fact, the idea of love which is a gift is more beautiful and noble than the idea of love that is an evolutionary outcome. Again, this neither proves or disproves which possibility is true. In short, there are two reasons why this claim, that love is not demeaned, is irrelevant to me.

    I’ll try again on the question of socialization. It muddies the waters because it just moves the question back a generation. If I say “Where does love come from?” Somebody could say “It’s socialized into us.” Then I would say “Why is it socialized into us” and it seems to me that the reply will be either “Love is socialized into us because societies evolved that way.” or “Love is socialized into us because God created societies that way.” It still brings us back to that same question:
    Where does love come from?

    As stated above, I don’t think your flaws for my grandma analogy are valid because I wasn’t trying to prove the things you thought I was trying to prove. My ultimate point was simply that recieving a gift is better than random luck. I’m not presuming that you’ll agree with me that it is a gift. I’m saying from the world view I’m currently operating in, I believe love to be a gift. Telling me that it doesn’t demean love to give up on the idea that it’s a gift doesn’t actually do anything. From where I’m sitting, it does demean love.
    I don’t expect that it’s going to be persuasive if I say “Love is a gift” I don’t expect you’ll agree. Saying “It doesn’t demean love” is really saying “Love isn’t a gift.” And this is a premise I’ll reject as vehemently as you’ll deny the opposite.

  42. Lottie says:

    Jeff:

    Based on your explanation of the grandma analogy, I did not misunderstand it. What you seem to be missing is that whether or not love is demeaned based on where it comes from (or not) is rather subjective.

    Finding out that it was completely biological may very well demeans it for you. I have not argued against that, in fact I have conceded that point several times. But that is based on your beliefs which I do not share, yet you seem to think that just because the concept of love is demeaned for you if it doesn’t come from God, it must be objectively demeaning, and therefore demeaning to me and everyone else as well. That simply is not true to those of us who have no vested interest in believing that love comes from God. That’s your hangup, not mine.

    So, no, I didn’t misunderstand it, I just exposed the holes in it.

    By the way, my log in name is my blog title. It’s a reference to a Saturday night live skit, and is meant with tongue-in cheek

    As was my comment about it.

  43. Lottie says:

    By the way, I’ve been in many debates where I was far more outnumbered than you are here and I’ve never had a problem addressing individuals. I honestly don’t see what’s so difficult about it; you just take one point at a time. But if you’re going to create confusion because you can’t be bothered to clarify who or what you’re responding to, please don’t act as if other people are the ones who have trouble following along.

  44. hang2gether says:

    Jeff,

    I brought up love being demeaned, not because it was essential to my argument but rather to stave off any irrational criticism in advance. You agree with me, though, that the existence of a god does not hinge on our desires one way or the other. In that respect, my preemptive defense of “natural” love was unnecessary. I did not intend it to be pivotal to my point.

    The “faith” that science will show that love is natural is not faith at all. It’s opinion based on logical and scientific precedent. Things are only “supernatural” that we cannot explain. Based on precedent, I feel that we will be able to explain love in regards to the natural world. Once we can explain it, it is no longer supernatural. Now, it may be a study that evades conventional scientific thought. You’re correct in that. That does not necessitate that it derives from some divine being. Again, once we can explain it, it is no longer supernatural.

    At first your love question bothered me. It seemed to hold relevance to the entire question of faith v. science. The thing that I failed to realize then, though, is that love does not necessarily exist. While it may be real to you and me, love is different with every individual, is it not? It’s subjective to our perceptions. It is our interpretation of a series of feelings which we perceive to be stronger than any other feelings toward any other individual. How often have we been mistaken about love? How often does hindsight show that what we thought was love was lust or convenience or habit? Love may simply be a concept. That’s the thing about science, though, Jeff: I can say “I don’t know” without conceding the point. That’s what science is.

    I don’t have to have an answer to know that another proposed answer is incorrect. I need only find demonstrable fallacies and inconsistencies in such a proposal. To say that because scientists do not have an answer, that God is equi-probable is false. It’s the same as saying: “Let’s see you do any better.” “Can you sing any better?” I don’t have to in order to identify a poor vocalist. If your argument (and I’m not sure that it is) is that love comes from god, then my counter argument are all of the arguments put forth against the positive claim that such a god exists. If you cannot “prove” (and I use that word lightly) your god, you cannot base your conclusion on the origin of love upon a presupposed existence of such a being.

  45. jemand says:

    Ugh. Imagine you lived in a country where about 50% of the people at any given time supported restrictions or bans of blood transfusions, usually though not always for explicitly religious reasons, and that it became a political football tossed about, some doctors refusing to perform or refer patients requiring surgeries to doctors who would use blood transfusions, many large hospitals backed by politically active religious groups refusing to offer blood transfusions even in trauma cases… etc.

    Wouldn’t you be irritated? Wouldn’t you feel scared, become upset when you came across someone wanting to restrict your access to medical care?

    How else am I to see the catholic hospitals refusal to offer or refer rape patients to places with the morning after pill? People who claim abortion should be illegal even in cases to save the life of the mother? That I have the burden of proof to convince that me life is being “sufficiently” endangered as to “justify” my obtaining a procedure that has been common throughout history?

    That somehow my body and my medical decisions are now up for public discussion and majority vote? Isn’t that perhaps the kind of dehumanizing, personal attack that one should be ALLOWED to be upset about?

    Ah no. You don’t get it. I’m just another “hysterical woman.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: