atheists not willing to believe

Discuss arguments for existence of God and faith in general. Any aspect of any orientation toward religion/spirituality, as long as it is based upon a positive open to other people attitude.

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tinythinker
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by tinythinker » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:45 pm

Most atheists I have known base their views on what theists claim about God or the supernatural. The fact that so many of these claims have been disproved or seriously disputed (Young Earth Creationism, cases of faith healing fraud, etc), along with examples of selfish, hateful, and judgmental behavior by people claiming to be following God, is a large factor in convincing them that there is nothing of substance to theism. In other words, a lot of it has to do with the bad advertising of theists. The fact that not everyone who believes in God makes outrageous claims or is morally repugnant is often overshadowed by the witness of the highly vocal and visible ones who do/are.

As for making belief (intellectual assent) the primary concern - it's overrated. People believe all sorts of stupid shit. If the Divine isn't a conscious part of your lived experience, all the beliefs in the world won't do jack. And many "atheists" have some awareness of the Divine, even if they don't comprehend/express it through the lens of a particular religion. To whit...
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man...

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Antimatter
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by Antimatter » Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:21 pm

ufcarazy wrote:I am a theist, and I believe that atheists should be held to their own standard. The measure with which they measure should be measured out to them, to paraphrase Jesus. Atheists demand that we produce scientific evidence for our important claims about reality. Atheists make the claim that they are willing to believe in God. This is a very important claim because if the claim is false, these debates are pointless. The participation in this debate about God is based on the assumption that they are willing to change their minds, but they have no scientific evidence to support this claim. Yet, they believe it anyway. They argue that belief in something without sufficient evidence is a sign of delusion and idiocy. Where is there scientific evidence for their important claim about something in the natural world (them) that they are willing to believe in God?
Why are the debates pointless when the opposing side is unwilling to change their mind? Shouldn't the debate remain entirely worthwhile if only for the intellectual exercise and sake of the audience, whose minds may not be as determined? And who can completely resist changing their mind? It's rare to quickly change the mind of someone deeply entrenched in a particular position. Your arguments, if valid and correct, are unlikely to impact your opponent until they've had time, perhaps even years, to dwell on your conclusions. Shouldn't you focus instead on planting the right "seeds," so to speak?

As an aside, I would be much obliged if you would refrain from using atheist stereotypes. For instance, I don't think religion is a trait of idiocy, nor would I demand proof for anyone's religious beliefs (unless the situation involved forcing religious views upon others, which occurs regularly in politics). Atheists who are guilty of fitting these stereotypes annoy me as much as they annoy you.

But I do think I could substantiate the proposition, "I am willing to change my mind." For instance, here are some topics on which I was once deeply entrenched but have since changed my mind, partly as a result of debate and argumentation, within the past decade:
  • Whether 1 equals 0.(9)
  • Apple computers
  • Perl, the programming language
  • Political party affiliation
  • The war on drugs
  • Gay marriage and homosexuality in general
  • Premarital sex
  • The 9/11 conspiracy
  • The age of the earth
  • The Theory of Evolution
  • The inerrancy of Scripture
  • Substitutional atonement
  • The divinity of Christ (and the Trinity)
  • The existence of god

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fleetmouse
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by fleetmouse » Fri Apr 25, 2008 6:03 am

Isn't apologetics littered with the testimony of Christians who claim to have formerly been atheists? I've seen a lot of that on the web. Either atheists are willing to believe, or the Christian apologists are lying about their past.

Wasn't Metacrock formerly an atheist?

Wyrdsmyth
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by Wyrdsmyth » Sat Apr 26, 2008 1:53 pm

I'm willing to believe. In fact, I'd prefer to be a theist -- or, rather, I'd prefer that some form of theism were true. But no one has closed the deal yet. If I ask for evidence, I get a lot of indignant sputtering instead. I'm not trying to be insulting, or intellectually superior, when I ask for evidence. It's just from my point of view, a deity doesn't appear to be very plausible.

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KR Wordgazer
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by KR Wordgazer » Sat May 10, 2008 4:50 pm

My experience is that many times, people who say they want evidence are very limited as to the kind of evidence they will accept. Mostly only incontrovertible scientific certainty.

Most of the things we base our everyday lives on do not have incontrovertible scientific certainty-- can you scientifically prove your wife loves you? That your job is worth doing? That your leisure time activities are good for you?

But only this will satisfy when it comes to religion. Religion, however, as I understand it, is a relationship with one's Creator, not a mental reliance on a list of facts.

Further, a person saying they would prefer to believe some form of theism, usually means it would be nice if there were Someone watching over us, but not that this Someone would dislike the areas of selfishness and greed in us, or think He/She/It has any say over our lives.

So far, it has also appeared to me that those who do experience God and thus come to believe, start out with the attitude that if they were to become convinced that there's a God, they would be willing to surrender their lives to this God: to let God fix those wrong areas in them. Those who just want to experience God for a lark, or for curiosity's sake, don't.
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ZAROVE
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by ZAROVE » Sun May 11, 2008 10:18 am

I'd have to disagree with Tiny. Most of the Atheists Ive met online who are hostile to Christians, or those offline, often claim that Christians are ever-so-horrible as people, and may use as an excuse those loudly spoken of minority groups that they necer met, but surly they'd know bettr by the methodists or pesbytrians down the street.


I've met in person a raher aerdent athest who used the ame old lione that is parroted these days about all the atheists he knows being more moral than any of he Chrisyians he knows. Being int he Bible Belt I know los of Christians and find his claim to lakc credibility, and asked him to elaborate. He couldn't. He couldn't mrolaly falt several mutual aquaintences I mentioned, and could't relaly explain how he atheists he knew where usperuor to them morlaly.

then I wen tonline and on Yahoo Answers alone a lot fo the queasitosn ae ahtist repatign the smae claim . "Why are the Ahtietss I know alwya smro emroal than the CHirstians?"


well, they usually arne't. It just makes htem feel beter to think Ahtiests are mroe moral.


The same si true of their reliance on Sicnetific evidence, that Wordgazer just mentioend. I don't relaly beelive them when they say they demand scientific proof. Most fo them don't knwo science that well, and none seem to be overly scinetific in their critism fo Christianity.


In fact, recently I was spekaign to a Secualrist who told me that he had seen studies that indicated that Christians compose a greater share of the Prison population than Ahtiests, and thst their is an inverse correlatin between Social health and religiosity.

I had heard both claism before, the Prison STudy tends to be base don manipulated figures to create a desired result and is eaisly debuynke dby cvisitn ng the Census Beureu. THe idea htat deeply rleigiosu societies ar ealso those sufferign greager soial pathologies came form the "Scientific study" that as release din 2005 by Gregory S. Paul. The Study was actually not done accoridng ot any Statisticl methodology and was just Gregory Paul, an artist and speaker for the COusnil for Seuclar Humanism, supportign his pre-determined beelifs with scientifically soudnign words and numbers which he deliberaltey culled from select spruces to paint a picture he already had in his head.


The reason the study was used, and is stil use bdy some, is not becuase it is real scientific proof that religion is harmful to society, but because it sores up the Ahtiestic clims they make.


When I hear them prattle on about using Logic and reaosn and relhign on Sicnece to give us the answers, I no longe rpay much heed. How can I? They use those wors to presntthemselvs as more raitonal and their ahtiesm as intellctually more soudn than theism, but sicnece and reaosn arne't relaly used, only their appearance.


That said, I don't think all Ahtuests ar liek this, but those thsat aruge the points usually are.

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tinythinker
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by tinythinker » Sun May 11, 2008 7:13 pm

ZAROVE wrote:I'd have to disagree with Tiny. Most of the Atheists Ive met online who are hostile to Christians, or those offline, often claim that Christians are ever-so-horrible as people, and may use as an excuse those loudly spoken of minority groups that they necer met, but surly they'd know bettr by the methodists or pesbytrians down the street.

I've met in person a raher aerdent athest who used the ame old lione that is parroted these days about all the atheists he knows being more moral than any of he Chrisyians he knows. Being int he Bible Belt I know los of Christians and find his claim to lakc credibility, and asked him to elaborate. He couldn't. He couldn't mrolaly falt several mutual aquaintences I mentioned, and could't relaly explain how he atheists he knew where usperuor to them morlaly...

When I hear them prattle on about using Logic and reaosn and relhign on Sicnece to give us the answers, I no longe rpay much heed. How can I? They use those wors to presntthemselvs as more raitonal and their ahtiesm as intellctually more soudn than theism, but sicnece and reaosn arne't relaly used, only their appearance.

That said, I don't think all Ahtuests ar liek this, but those thsat aruge the points usually are.
Humans as a rule tend to form an image first and then find whatever support they feel is "strong" (religious, scientific, etc) and selectively argue their case to justify their opinion. I don't deny this is true, and in fact, it's one reason why I grew really weary of talking to people on most message boards about religion and spirituality. I don't think this is incompatible with your obervations. Putting aside the morality argument, my premise is that most atheists who debate this kind of thing online base their critiques (fair or unfair, friendly or hostile, sensible or foolish) on the image presented by the more outspoken theists. That is, their ideas of the nature of God, of the use or meaning of sacred texts or sacraments, of the political and moral implications of the aforementioned areas, are rooted in what the more outrageous theists say and do. Hence much of what the "snooty" atheist you describe claims is idiotic or harmful about religion stems from an impression gleaned from the fanatics with an ideological agenda and a superficial spirituality. That is not to say that some (I repeat, some) of these types of atheists don't then come up with other specious arguments, but these still feed off of and add-on to the original proto-image of the theists as uneducated, biggoted troglodytes at worst or soft-skulled, well-intentioned but duped simpletons at best. While it isn't depicted as such in most venues for conversation, in some places this out in the open. Of course, the most charitable reading of the strongest variety of atheist, the anti-theists, is that most religious folks are just innocent but naive victims to the more predatory pastors, priest, clerics, and other clergy-folk. And again, this comes from magnifying and exaggerating the worst examples from billions of theists worldwide -a intentionally skewed sampling. Hence I am not suggesting such caricatures and strawmen are justified. But there is always some small kernel of truth being distorted and abused in every harmful stereotype. But that doesn't limit polemic theists or atheists from making such stereotypes, nor does it keep them from attempting to take their half-assed and antagonizing tunnel vision and applying it in news and amazingly stupid ways. Here are two examples taken from callers to the Allen Colmes radio program this past Friday night:

One caller complained about religion in politics (I am a fan of separating church and state myself) and then cited a verse where Jesus says he is not here to abolish the old Jewish law (Matthew 5:17-20). Hence, in the context of the conversation, which was about politicians caught in adultry, the caller surmises that even Jesus (and presumably then his self-identified followers) would be in agreement with the Old Testament passage the advocates stoning adulterers. Apparently the caller must have missed John 8:3-11 in his "selective reading"...
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Apparently this caller never wondered how Jesus viewed "the Law" and hence also missed the whole bit about how in the eyes of many rabbis as well as Jesus, all of the various laws and rules concerning purity and obedience were subordinate to the commandment to love God and others above all, as expressed in Mark 12:28-34....
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Which is of course, what frustrated Jesus about the Pharisees. They were so concerned with being pure and holy that they couldn't be bothered with compassion. Which is in turn why the Pharisees were so threatened and annoyed by Jesus, because he would rather identify and eat with sinners and heal the poor than keep to their narrow and judgmental interpretation of their precious rules. I mean, this isn't a very deep exegesis, and you don't have to believe in it to grasp it, but there you go, the caller affirmed his view that Jesus would support a theocratic state which executes people for things such as adultry.

Then a few minutes later another "Biblical scholar" called in to imply perversity in the Eucharist and suggesting that (paraphrasing) "Jesus wanted to be eaten by people who were stronger than him."

'nuff said.
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Metacrock
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by Metacrock » Thu May 15, 2008 8:32 pm

KR Wordgazer wrote:My experience is that many times, people who say they want evidence are very limited as to the kind of evidence they will accept. Mostly only incontrovertible scientific certainty.

Most of the things we base our everyday lives on do not have incontrovertible scientific certainty-- can you scientifically prove your wife loves you? That your job is worth doing? That your leisure time activities are good for you?

But only this will satisfy when it comes to religion. Religion, however, as I understand it, is a relationship with one's Creator, not a mental reliance on a list of facts.

Further, a person saying they would prefer to believe some form of theism, usually means it would be nice if there were Someone watching over us, but not that this Someone would dislike the areas of selfishness and greed in us, or think He/She/It has any say over our lives.

So far, it has also appeared to me that those who do experience God and thus come to believe, start out with the attitude that if they were to become convinced that there's a God, they would be willing to surrender their lives to this God: to let God fix those wrong areas in them. Those who just want to experience God for a lark, or for curiosity's sake, don't.


I think your statement about the kinds of evidence is crucial. That's one of the major distinctions. When one comes to accept God one is usually willing to accept a different standard of evidence than before. The whole issue is really one of what constitutes a valid reason.
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ZAROVE
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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by ZAROVE » Fri May 16, 2008 2:13 am

I do wonder if they relaly want Acientific evidence, though. As much as the run of the mill internet debatign ahtiests gos, the word "Science" seems to be used mroe as a mean to justify their own ideas rather than to what it acutlaly means.


They seldom to never look at Scientific evidence hat cotnradicts their established views. Just recently soemone on another mesage baord posted a link tot he long-ago discredited Gregory S. Paul study and the PRison stats that show fewer Ahtists in Prison, which of ocurse I systematicllay demonstrated as fale using the US Census beurue and Adherants.Com, and notign Gregory S. Pauls flawed survey methods and agenda as a Humanist to discredit religion.


He stil. beleifs the GRegory S. Paul study form 2005 is viable!


Then I try to get htem to read real works by real PSycologists , numerpus thousands of studies that show thay on an individual and cultural level Religiosu devoiton helps both in temr sof social stability and to reduce crime, and in transformaiton and guidance in individual lives.


Medical studies shwo this, repeateldy.

Yet, they ar eignroed. The Gregory Paul study, a flawed, biased study by a nonm-scientists with an agenda, is beelived.


I don't thinl they so much insist on only oen kind of evidnece, and rely too heaivly on Empirical evidence and Sicnece, I think that they simply use those terms ot make it sould as it they are reaosnable, then selectively read what they desire from the mess even if it is dubious, so long a it soudns sicnetific,and ignroe sicnece if t ocntradicts their percieved worldview.


THus, religion si dangerus becaus eoen study said so, even of that study isnt legitimate, and if thousands of studies suggest otherwise.

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Re: atheists not willing to believe

Post by Wyrdsmyth » Sat May 31, 2008 9:47 am

It is true that there are things I believe or accept in life without demanding a high level of evidence. The life experience is negotiated with a constant assessment of plausibility. If a co-worker tells me traffic was bad this morning, I may accept it -- 'believe it' without evidence beyond this. But with other claims, it is true, I require more evidence. To a theist, this may seem unfair, as if I am raising the bar on God to an unreasonable level. But I think, if theists are honest with themselves, they will have to admit they do this, too. For example, you and I may both demand a high level of evidence -- physical, scientific, etc. -- to believe in leprechauns, little gray men from the Andromeda galaxy, or whatever (name anything you and I both find implausible).

I'm not really concerned with or impressed by the internal emotional experiences you may have that you label 'divine.' You can argue till the cow's come home that I just "don't get it" or "don't want to get it." That's fine, because charismatic congregations just don't impress me, and never will. A bunch of people, caught up in a common emotional experience, isn't what I call evidence that "something supernatural is happening." What I mean by existence of the supernatural, is not the defining of an emotional or internal experience in a certain way, but the ontological existence of something outside of your own skull and independent of what you actually believe about it, that interacts with humanity and our world. I've found that many theists have a great deal of difficulty grasping this distinction or even allowing for it to be made.

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