My “Ask An Atheist” Day Q&A.

I recently posted an “ask an atheist day” blog (because it was apparently ask-an-atheist day) and I thought the questions and answers were blog-worthy.  So I’m posting a handful of the questions and answers here if anyone wants to read them:

Several questions from maniacsicko:

“what’s with the profile picture?”

It’s a non-human fossil of the species homo heidelbergensis and dates back around 125,000 years or so.

“wait, does the question have to be related with atheist in any way?

hmmm…”

Don’t care really.

“do you put value in marriage?  (considering, i’m guessing, it is traditionally, or originally (?) a religion thingy)”

I put value in a committed relationship, inside or outside of traditional marriage.  I think someone having your back and you having theirs is a profound part of being human and can be very beautiful, and I don’t think you need a marriage certificate or a church ceremony for it to be meaningful.  But ultimately any marriage only means what the two (or more) people put into it.  And of course marriage has intrinsic value in our society since it grants tax benefits and over a thousand legal rights (visitation, child support rights, insurance benefits, the right to decide where or if your partner is buried and countless other things).

“how
would an atheist react if one of the kids want to be a christian,
another want to be a muslim, and another want to join the KKK…  which
kid will disappoint you the most?”

The KKK one definitely.  As far as the other two, I would only insist they learn about all world views.  Though I would hope that I would have taught them critical thinking and to stand on their own two feet to the point that they would not be easily sucked into a religion.  If they believed in one anyway, I would disagree with them but would not hate them or treat them poorly.  I don’t hate or treat poorly christians or muslims as it is.  Though of course being christian or muslim does not prevent one from being an asshole, and I’m not fond of assholes.

I’d rather my kid be christian, muslim etc than an asshole.

“is it possible for an atheist to fall in love with a staunch staunch christian/(insert whatever else religion here)”

Of course.  Though for any skeptic (atheist or not) the other person would have to be at least reasonable or they would not get along.

“yeah, that’ll do for the time being”

That’s fine, good questions.  Thanks : )


From TheThinkingPerson:

“Describe your transition from Christian to atheist.”

I was not a born-again, I was raised christian.  I did believe though, I have prayed in earnest in my life.  But it was always a sort of agnostic’s “if anyone’s listening” sort of prayer.  I was never hardcore.  But I was sure there was a god and a heaven and all that.  I took me years to realize I had never concluded any of these things were true, they were sort of built into my brain’s operating system from youth.  As I questioned these assumptions I recall the feeling like a fog lifting from my mind, though some of that was no doubt also due to the changes in brain development from adolescence to adulthood, as this took place around the age of 14-17 or so.  I found out I was an atheist when I came across the term atheism for the first time and looked it up, I realized it applied to me.  What first made me question was the concept of hell.  I thought that god was supposed to be basically the best person imaginable, kinder, wiser, greater in every way than us.  One day it occurred to me that if I were god I wouldn’t send anyone to hell, not even hitler.  Why torture someone when I could just blink them out of existence?  Surely oblivion would be kinder, more forgiving, less cruel etc than torture, let alone infinite torture.  It dawned on me that I was more forgiving and less vengeful than I had been told god was.  It wasn’t too long after that that I lost faith in religion, but not god.  I was still convinced (though for no reason other than my upbringing I realize now) that there was a god, and that for some reason it had to be the christian god.  But I figured we humans had just screwed up the bible somehow, gotten the message wrong.  It was later that I realized there was no reason to assume a creator at all, and I called myself an atheist.

From bluepillorredpill:

I’ve heard(read) you say that almost all atheist are agnostic.  By looking at your username I assume it means

(agno)stic (philo)sopher, correct?  I always assume that an agnostic is the in between person of the belief spectrum of theist to atheist which in my belief means:

God/god/creator/supreme being?

theist:  Yep  +  ๐Ÿ™‚

agnostic:  I don’t know.  ?  =/

atheist:  Nope  –  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Despite all of the gods of religions and their beliefs, doctrines and teachings out there which you seem to reject (most I guess…well I know Christianity for sure and I can see good reasons why) ultimately at the end of the day where do you stand?  Do you say…”I don’t know”?

Yes that is what it stands for.  Agnosticism is a position not on the existence of god, but whether we can know (as opposed to believe) there is a god.  I acknowledge that you cannot disprove the existence of a deity (any more than you can prove unicorns do not exist).  I still though do not believe in them.  We do not believe something exists until it is disproven, or we would believe in the existence of everything.

To give a reverse example, I believe in the existence of life on other planets, but I am agnostic with regards to it since I acknowledge it cannot be proven – I just think it’s very likely to exist.

To quote Robert Ingersoll : “There is no difference. The Agnostic is an Atheist. The Atheist is an
Agnostic. The Agnostic says: ‘I do not know, but I do not believe there
is a God.’ The Atheist says the same.”

From Crono09:

“What is your attitude towards religious people? Do you think that religion can be beneficial, or does it do more harm than good?”

My attitude toward religious people depends on the religious person, they are not all clones – despite an enormous and centuries-long push for conformity.  I think the elements common to western religion are extremely harmful, dogma, superstition, suppressing critical thinking etc.  I think that faith can give people comfort and make them feel good on a personal level, but it always has drawbacks which cancel it out.  A christian has a ready-made sense of purpose and direction for instance, but on the other hand they might miss out on the benefits of being “lost” for awhile which forces you to really learn about the world.  They might feel happier when things are going well, perceiving the good things that come their way as not just being fortunate, but a gift, “blessing” etc, but then when things are not going well they feel abandoned and forsaken and all of that, which an atheist doesn’t have to go through etc.  Overall if there is a positive net effect I just don’t see it.  Or at least it’s heavily counter-balanced by bad effects.  But maybe it could be better – or maybe it’s just the yin-yang nature of things.

From musterion99:

Do you ever have doubts that you might be wrong about God not existing?

Does it bother you that you won’t exist anymore after you die?

The first question is odd since I became an atheist by questioning the existence of god, which I had previously accepted without skepticism, lol.  If you mean do I feel anxiety about the possibility that there may be a god in a “what if you’re wrong” sense, I don’t.  Remember I’m not claiming there is no god, I’m simply saying I’ve got no reason to think there is one that makes sense.  I am not averse to the idea that a god exists, and would want to know if one did.  As far as the second question, I’m not bothered by my own mortality.  I don’t want to die tomorrow or anything, but non-existence would literally be a non-experience, so it doesn’t frighten me.  And it’s also nothing new, I have not existed for a lot longer than I’ve existed – it didn’t hurt or anything.  Death is a part of life.  If death is simply ceasing to be what we once were, then I have died many times throughout my life – my five year old self is long gone.  So is my ten year old self, 15 year old self etc.  They’re not going to exist in heaven, right?  I’ve died many times, you cannot live or learn or change or grow without letting go of your former self, and that is death.  It is also life.  They’re the same process.  Physical death is just more sudden.  I do not wish my mind to be the same forever, or my body to live forever.  That would be hell.

And I am not so narcissistic as to think life is meaningless if I die.  To quote the beatles “life flows on within you… and without you.”

(continued from musterion99):

[“As far as the second question, I’m not bothered by my own mortality.  I don’t want to die tomorrow or anything, but non-existence would literally be a non-experience, so it doesn’t frighten me.”]
That wasn’t really the crux of my question. It wasn’t about being afraid, it was about caring that you will no longer exist. You mention that you won’t know about it then, but right now you are aware of it. You’re aware that that you will never ever experience any more happiness or experiences of what’s happening in the world. Those are important, otherwise you would just kill yourself right now. So in that sense, does it bother you that you will never have any more experiences? Even though my 10 year old self no longer exists, I still have happy memories from it.

I would like to go on existing for the time being, but not forever.  I am a participant in life, not it’s central architect.  I suppose the difference in attitude is whether one is concerned primarily with their own ego and it’s continual existence or has a sense of the grandeur outside of themselves.  If life was less meaningful because I was no longer here, by the same extension my life would mean nothing because the people who died in the civil war era are no longer here.  If I were tempted to feel sorry for myself for not living forever I would simply examine the alternative.  Living a billion years would be torture.  Imagine having done everything, seen everything, experienced everything over and over and over again, and having an infinity of it ahead of you.  Life is analogous to a story, it is more meaningful, not less meaningful, because it has a beginning, a middle and an end.  A life without ending would be like a movie without an ending.  Would you want to watch it?

I should mention I’m philosophically influenced by philosophies like zen and taoism that de-accentuate both free will and the ego in terms of being important to meaning.  You may enjoy this.  Worth listening to a few times.

Also, you told about your Christian upbringing. Are your parents or siblings Christian?

One parent is catholic, the other agnostic.  I assumed she was christian and found out she wasn’t when I was 20.  That’s how un-indoctrinated I was on that side.  Went to a catholic school growing up.

[Then it goes on to be basically a discussion, will leave the rest out for space, but you can read it in the comments if you wish.]

From FB:

Do you belong to any Atheist groups?  Do you antagonize other atheists just for the sake of argument or do you help each other by sharing information?

Don’t belong to any atheist groups.  I’ve also never read a book about atheism or religion written by an atheist.  As far as antagonizing atheists, I don’t get the question – I try not to antagonize people in general.  Did I say something on your blog to offend you or something? [Turns out I hadn’t btw]

Etc.

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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40 Responses to My “Ask An Atheist” Day Q&A.

  1. maniacsicko says:

    i think i should do a “ask a caveman day” post or something…  hmmm…

  2. Why do you believe God’s existence is unknowable? Is it because you believe we cannot directly observe God’s existence?

  3. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – Depends what you mean by god.  If you mean any kind of god, it is because there is no (good) evidence and because we cannot prove a universal negative.  If you mean yahweh it is because the concept is so ill-defined that even if a god-like being showed up and said “prove which god of which religion I am” and submitted itself to experimentation we could still not prove that being was or wasn’t yahweh.

  4. agnophilo says:

    @maniacsicko – Well, not a day.  But a blog would be fine.  People do those.

  5. @agnophilo – I mean the Christian/Jewish/Islam definition of God. So yeah, yahweh. The reason the concept seems ill-defined is because this notion of God is that he is outside the laws of our universe, which are what we use to define and prove everything. So, you believe we cannot definitively prove God’s existence using direct observation or experimentation. This is fair, but do you believe that one could provide enough evidence for or against God’s existence for you to believe that God does or does not exist, making you an atheist or theist rather than a nontheist?

  6. Incidentally, your playlist is awesome. I greatly enjoy your taste in music.

  7. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – “I mean the Christian/Jewish/Islam definition of God. So yeah, yahweh. The reason the concept seems ill-defined is because this notion of God is that he is outside the laws of our universe, which are what we use to define and prove everything.” Setting aside that the bible doesn’t say this “outside of the laws of the universe” stuff, christian apologists invented that rhetoric very recently.  Ignoring that nothing can be “outside” of the laws of physics in the modern sense of the universe since they have no boundaries, are not absolute and just describe behavior – ignoring all of that, you just described a reason why the concept of god is not adequately defined, you did not give a definition.  So what I said is still true and it is impossible to support the claim that “???” exists.”So, you believe we cannot definitively prove God’s existence using direct observation or experimentation.” Or indirect observation or anything else.  We can’t prove something exists when we don’t know what it’s supposed to be to begin with.  If you think you can, go prove the existence of blorg.  Don’t know what it is?  I’m not telling.  Go find some.”This is fair, but do you believe that one could provide enough evidence for or against God’s existence for you to believe that God does or does not exist, making you an atheist or theist rather than a nontheist?”I think it’s conceivable someone could give evidence for deism someday as we understand the more extreme physics of what could cause a big bang etc, maybe we could find evidence it can only be artificially induced or something.  But even if someone showed me some super-powerful being I would have no means to establish if it was yahweh, allah, vishnu, a thousand other deities, the non-descript god of the deist or just some advanced alien fucking with us.  Of course zillions of religious people would leap to their knees and worship it as their deity, but they would have no foundation for this action and it would be more based on personal desire, confirmation bias etc.  If some super-powerful god-like being showed up and started doling out punishments and rewards, I wouldn’t rush to call it a “god” or “yahweh”, but would certainly admit the phenomenon.  As it stands, deities are non-phenomenon. And yeah, I enjoy my taste in music too : )  Always nice to see someone enjoy it.  I’ve only had like 3 people ever be crab-asses and complain about it.

  8. musterion99 says:

    You didn’t post the rest of our discussion.Agno – Living a billion years would be torture.  Imagine having done everything, seen everything, experienced everything over and over and over again, and having an infinity of it ahead of you.Musterion – You don’t know that because you’ve never done it. And maybe the life after this one would be completely different than here or anything that you could try to imagine and you would always be experiencing new and joyful things. I also don’t think we’d be aware of time like we are here.Agno – How would that be different than taking a drug and blissing out?  I don’t find that meaningful.  If you look forward to heaven I’m not trying to rain on your parade.Musterion – The point I was making is that you don’t know it would be boring like you said because you haven’t experienced it.

  9. @agnophilo – We do know what God is supposed to be. Each religion has its own descriptions of what their God is. Christianity, although there isn’t one section that explicitly says “the official definition of God is….” there are verses throughout the bible describing God. The goal would then be to find evidence as to whether that was true or false.

  10. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – That isn’t the rest of our discussion, it’s your next response.  And I know I didn’t post it.  I didn’t post every response, and a few convos would take up half the blog.@TheBlueNinjaTiger – Scriptures give secondary characteristics, not primary ones.  It’s like the police looking for a perpetrator without even knowing what species it belonged to, just knowing it was big and strong or how fast it ran or something that could apply to anything.  Imagine I told you to find me a car – but you didn’t know what a car was.  If I told you a car is something that lets you travel from one place to another quickly (a secondary description) and sent you out looking for a car, you might find a plane, a train, a bus, a truck, a rocket, a bicycle or any of a million other things and think “Look, I’ve found a car!”The definitions are simply not specific enough.  Religions are notoriously vague and mystical, especially when it comes to predicting the future.  X thing will happen… some day.  Predictions tend to be like this because they can only be disproved if they are specific enough to be proven false.

  11. @agnophilo – and what would be the primary description of the car?

  12. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – Seriously?  Four wheels, a seat, x dimensions, y weight, a photograph etc.  Work it out.

  13. Why is that the defining line? At what point is it considered a primary description, and how specific does it have to be? A primary description would be when the description leaves only the option of the concerned object and not an alternative, i.e. your first description leaves alternatives and the second is specific enough that only what we have identified as a car has these features.In other words, if the descriptions of God that are described to you leave no alternatives, then you would have a primary description. Do you agree with this?

  14. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – Yes.  A primary description of humans might include a sample of DNA or a list of our unique characteristics.  A primary description of a person might include a picture of their face or a fingerprint.  When the police search a crime scene for clues they can do so mainly because they know the perpetrator was human, so they know the kinds of things human beings leave behind, hair, fibers, fingerprints, dna etc.  We cannot examine the universe in the same fashion looking for evidence that yahweh built it.  Someone could suppose some kind of intelligence is at play in the universe, and I could form many a good argument against it, but ultimately to make the leap from deism to theism you need a lot more than “I don’t think nature could make this on it’s own”.  Which is of course an argument from ignorance anyway.

  15. I’d like to recommend the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.I have a question of a different nature now. If you were on your deathbed, and you suddenly saw the “light at the end of the tunnel” how do you think you would react? I once heard someone say they would rather be an atheist but not an agnostic, because the atheist would see the light and realize they were wrong, but the agnostic would see the light and question whether it really as Jesus, or just a hallucination caused by your brain being deprived of oxygen as your heart stopped beating, and would not accept Jesus and die without Christ. They guy was a comedian, but it’s an interesting thought. What do you think?On a related note, I’m thinking about where people draw the line for evidence to be sufficient enough for belief. You seem draw the line at having enough evidence to completely disprove any other possibility. Some people draw the line at having almost no evidence. A reasonable person who uses science and logic to support his beliefs will usually draw the line where you draw it, and where there is very good but not absolute evidence, will tentatively put forth their theory but seek that final bit of proof. Now, I consider the question of God’s existence and Christianity being truth. If I am right about God, things will be all good for me. If I am wrong, it will either be all bad or completely pointless. For the atheist, if right, it will be pointless, if wrong, will be all bad. Now I am not making this an argument for belief in God, for its not much of an argument for that. But it does seem to me that on a personal level, this would provide good reason to believe/draw the line at the theory/good evidence point, rather than the absolute proof point. Just a thought.

  16. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – “I’d like to recommend the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.”I’ve heard arguments from the book, and never found one that was impressive.  The title itself is just blatant sophistry.”I have a question of a different nature now. If you were on your deathbed, and you suddenly saw the “light at the end of the tunnel” how do you think you would react? I once heard someone say they would rather be an atheist but not an agnostic, because the atheist would see the light and realize they were wrong, but the agnostic would see the light and question whether it really as Jesus, or just a hallucination caused by your brain being deprived of oxygen as your heart stopped beating, and would not accept Jesus and die without Christ. They guy was a comedian, but it’s an interesting thought. What do you think?”He doesn’t sound very funny.  I would react as you say the agnostic would – but why would an atheist leap to the assumption that it wasn’t a hallucination?  And as we have established, agnosticism doesn’t make one not an atheist.As far as god punishing me for skepticism, why would a god punish me for wanting evidence?  It is after all, the same thing which prevents me from worshipping all those other false gods.  I have a counter-question for you.  If you had a child and you were somehow separated from them – they were given up for adoption or something.  Years later when your child is an adult you track them down, but they are under the impression that you died in a car crash years ago.  Do you seek vengeance on your child for not believing you exist?  Do you stop caring about them because they made an honest mistake?  Do you harbor any resentment whatsoever?  Would you write them out of your will because they honestly didn’t believe you existed?  Would you refuse to show your existence to them and punish them for not thinking you exist?And if I did any of these things to a long-lost child, what would you think of my character?  Or my level of rationality?”On a related note, I’m thinking about where people draw the line for evidence to be sufficient enough for belief. You seem draw the line at having enough evidence to completely disprove any other possibility.” No, that was an explanation of how the existence of a particular god is not provable because it is not defined to begin with, not my standard of evidence for proving yahweh’s existence.”Some people draw the line at having almost no evidence.” And do so hypocritically, since they generally require extreme or even irrational amounts of evidence in support of evolution, other religions etc, while having lax or non-existent standards of evidence for their own beliefs.  Religious people tend not to try to be objective at all when it comes to their religious views.”A reasonable person who uses science and logic to support his beliefs will usually draw the line where you draw it, and where there is very good but not absolute evidence, will tentatively put forth their theory but seek that final bit of proof.” That’s reasonable.  My point before was that yahweh is not even a hypothesis.”Now, I consider the question of God’s existence and Christianity being truth. If I am right about God, things will be all good for me. If I am wrong, it will either be all bad or completely pointless. For the atheist, if right, it will be pointless, if wrong, will be all bad.” There are so many problems with pascal’s wager.  One is that it is a false dichotomy, assuming only two possibilities, no god or the traditional fundamentalist christian theology.  When in reality there are thousands of religions and infinite possibilities beyond those.  Second, it assumes things which have no supporting evidence in order to establish something which has no supporting evidence.  You cannot support a claim by piling more unsupported claims onto it.Third, and I know I should have said this earlier but I didn’t want to alarm you – I’ve just received word that russia has launched hundreds of nuclear warheads toward the united states, and they will hit our major cities in about thirty minutes.  So if you don’t run out of your house or apartment right now and find a nuclear fallout shelter, you will die of radiation poisoning which is extremely painful.  Now I know I have no evidence of this assertion, but by your own reasoning if I’m wrong you’ve just wasted half an hour but if I’m right you’ve saved yourself from an excruciating death.  Maybe you could even save a few family members.  How can you take the chance?  How can you risk the lives of your family?Still there?  Not running for your life?  Then you don’t even believe in your own reasoning.  Unless it’s applied to something you already believe or want to believe, that is.  Bad arguments make passable rationalizations if the desire to believe is strong enough, and every apologetic argument I’ve heard is very bad, and almost every one can be just as easily applied to any of a hundred other religions.  Or do you think christianity is the only religion with a heaven and hell?  In the days of norse mythology people believed that those who died in battle would go to valhalla.  Should the military use this as a recruiting tool?  Think it would convince a lot of people to sign up?  Of course not.  But it would (and did) work in ancient greece, for the same reason pascal’s wager works today.Here is a good (short) video about pascal’s wager that touches on some other points.”Now I am not making this an argument for belief in God, for its not much of an argument for that. But it does seem to me that on a personal level, this would provide good reason to believe/draw the line at the theory/good evidence point, rather than the absolute proof point. Just a thought.”It’s emotional blackmail.  An attempt to fill the need for evidence with fear of the unknown.  You may as well argue that I shouldn’t live in my house because what if there’s an invisible, un-detectable monster in the closet waiting to eat me.  This isn’t a valid form of reasoning, and you would not accept it in the case of any other claim no matter how dire the “what if you’re wrong” consequences are.  Yes, a monster in my closet would be bad if it existed.  Show me it exists and I’ll worry about it.  But if I wanted to be afraid of things for which there is no evidence “in case” it’s true, I would fear the hell of every religion (in which case not worshipping any god would actually be the safest bet since I would not be committing heresy against any deity and pissing them off) and subscribe to every depressing conspiracy theory there is.  Shouldn’t I believe the illuminati, the jews and the secret muslim president are trying to subvert the constitution too?  Because if I’m wrong there the results would also be dire.I think I’ve debunked this line of reasoning about as well as you can debunk anything.  Feel free to throw other arguments at me though.  I downloaded the book you recommended, I will skim through a chapter or two and let you know what I think.

  17. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – I’m reading his book, and it’s not very impressive.  Most of it is very unoriginal, and his arguments tend to stem from simply misrepresenting the atheist’s position.  Claiming that atheists believe that “no one created the universe out of nothing” (when we don’t) , claiming that there is no evidence that natural forces can produce complexity, when there is ample evidence, misrepresenting the concepts of laws in science and logic to equate them with absolute truth claims when they are based on observation and are only in principle universally accurate, and so on.  He is also fond of giving likely ficitonal accounts between anonymous christians and atheists, which is a common and sleazy tactic used in propaganda and is a blatant strawman.  The claim that atheists have no sense of purpose or meaning is also BS, and would not even logically support his views if it were true.  This book really does not impress me to be honest.  Well, not positively.

  18. Well the book clearly does not represent all atheists, there isn’t a book I’m aware of that is a catch-all. His book only refutes the specific arguments presented, and I have come across numerous arguments that are not addressed in their book, including some from you. Originality isn’t that important, what’s important is the argument and evidence, which as I said, they only address certain arguments.”I have a counter-question for you.  If you had a child and you were somehow separated from them – they were given up for adoption or something.  Years later when your child is an adult you track them down, but they are under the impression that you died in a car crash years ago.  Do you seek vengeance on your child for not believing you exist?  Do you stop caring about them because they made an honest mistake?  Do you harbor any resentment whatsoever?  Would you write them out of your will because they honestly didn’t believe you existed?  Would you refuse to show your existence to them and punish them for not thinking you exist?And if I did any of these things to a long-lost child, what would you think of my character?  Or my level of rationality?”This is a question on my mind as well. What of our current tribal civilizations deep in the jungles of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere? They don’t know Christianity. What happens to them when they die? I don’t know the answer to this.”I think I’ve debunked this line of reasoning about as well as you can debunk anything.”That is fair.Concerning the beginning of the universe. My understanding is that the universe exploded from an infinitely dense singularity. Using calculus, we know as something infinitely approaches zero, the limit is zero. (I’m only cal 1, just fyi). This means that mathematically the universe exploded from nothing. If you can disprove this, please do so.Now, to consider the argument presented in the book:Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe has a beginning. Therefore, the universe must have a cause.I see no fault in this argument. If you do, please say so. If not, then please address the possible causes of the universe.

  19. I hate when people say something like “how would an atheist respond to such and such”, because atheism isn’t an inclusive group with one set of answers. I’m glad you answered from your POV and not for non-believers as a whole.

  20. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – This is a question on my mind as well. What of our current tribal civilizations deep in the jungles of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere? They don’t know Christianity. What happens to them when they die? I don’t know the answer to this.”Well the book clearly does not represent all atheists, there isn’t a book I’m aware of that is a catch-all. His book only refutes the specific arguments presented, and I have come across numerous arguments that are not addressed in their book, including some from you. Originality isn’t that important, what’s important is the argument and evidence, which as I said, they only address certain arguments.”The originality thing was more a literary critique.  And the point is that his arguments don’t really represent hardly any atheists, and are not valid arguments against atheism.  It would be like me attacking christians who, due to their interpretation of scripture believe that the earth is flat, and upon debunking their position about the shape of the earth, declared that I have disproven christianity.  This would be a dishonest form of argument, would it not?  It is one of the most common logical fallacies/bs debate tactics, a strawman argument.  I’ve never met someone yet who argues against science or atheism for a living who did not do so primarily by misrepresenting both.  These “according to atheists, the universe came from nothing exploding!” arguments are strawmen.  Atheism does not in any way imply acceptance of the big bang theory, and even if it did the big bang theory does not say that.”I have a counter-question for you.  If you had a child and you were somehow separated from them – they were given up for adoption or something.  Years later when your child is an adult you track them down, but they are under the impression that you died in a car crash years ago.  Do you seek vengeance on your child for not believing you exist?  Do you stop caring about them because they made an honest mistake?  Do you harbor any resentment whatsoever?  Would you write them out of your will because they honestly didn’t believe you existed?  Would you refuse to show your existence to them and punish them for not thinking you exist?  And if I did any of these things to a long-lost child, what would you think of my character?  Or my level of rationality?”I’m leaving this in because you didn’t answer any of the questions.”Concerning the beginning of the universe. My understanding is that the universe exploded from an infinitely dense singularity.” Expanded, not exploded.  The term “big bang” was used to mock the theory after it was proposed, and it’s originator eventually accepted the theory.  And the big bang is not a claim about the origins of the universe, it is an extrapolation of an earlier period of existence based on it’s current expansion and properties.  The big bang theory has nothing to do with the beginning of the universe or the origin of matter and has even less to do with atheism.”Using calculus, we know as something infinitely approaches zero, the limit is zero. (I’m only cal 1, just fyi). This means that mathematically the universe exploded from nothing. If you can disprove this, please do so.”The concept of infinity as used in mathematics does not necessarily mean infinity in the common sense of the word.  I’m no mathematician, but just because something is mathematically stated a certain way that doesn’t mean it is that way in the everyday sense of the word.  For instance it’s child’s play to make a “mathematically impossible” thing happen.  That isn’t what the concept of mathematical impossibility actually means, otherwise they would simply say impossible.  Similarly you can calculate the speed at which an object will fall to earth if falling from an infinite distance, but that object will not fall at an infinitely increasing speed.I don’t pretend to understand the math, but I know enough as a layman to know that the concepts of infinity and impossible are not meant to be completely literal.”Now, to consider the argument presented in the book:  Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe has a beginning. Therefore, the universe must have a cause.”I see no fault in this argument. If you do, please say so. If not, then please address the possible causes of the universe.”Setting aside that that even if I accepted the argument right now (which I don’t, but I will get to that), it would not mean that the “cause” would necessarily be conscious, intelligent, benevolent, or even know we exist, let alone the god of one particular religion out of ten thousand or so.  The argument does not support deism, theism or christianity.On top of that it’s a bad argument.  Actually it’s a modified version of an earlier bad argument.  The original one was “Anything that exists must be created, the universe exists, therefore the universe must have been created”.  This was debunked because (among other problems) it causes an infinite regression, because if nothing can exist without being created then god must have a creator, who must have a creator, who must have a creator etc and it leads to infinite regression and does not solve the problem.So they just said “okay, anything that begins to exist needs to be created, and god didn’t begin to exist”.But like the other arguments above, if this were in a court of law I would stand up and say “facts not in evidence”.An argument is good or bad because it’s premises are true or false and it’s logic is consistent.  For instance if I argue that my mailman is gay by the following logic:Major premise: All men with brown hair are gay.Minor premise: My mailman has brown hair.Conclusion: My mailman is gay.This argument can be debunked by showing that all men with brown hair are not gay, or by showing that this has not been established, or by showing that my mailman doesn’t have brown hair, etc.  Or by showing that one or more premises do not logically necessitate the conclusion.Therefore the argument:Major premise: Nothing that begins to exist can exist without being created.Minor premise: The universe began to exist.Conclusion: Yahweh created the universe.is flawed because neither the major nor minor premises can be established, nor can the silent assertion that yahweh did not “begin” to exist, and so the argument is built not on facts, but on empty assertions and is therefore logically invalid.  But even if the major and minor premises were proven correct, it would not follow that yahweh specifically created the universe.  The argument logically fails on all counts.I recommend googling “common logical fallacies” and reading up on them, they will help you in all walks of life.  That, and they’re very interesting to think about.But yeah, if you have any more arguments, feel free to fling em’ my way.

  21. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – This got accidentally deleted I think in editing, I will respond here:”This is a question on my mind as well. What of our current tribal civilizations deep in the jungles of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere? They don’t know Christianity. What happens to them when they die? I don’t know the answer to this.”The typical christian response is that they won’t be judged harshly for it if they have never heard of jesus.  Which reminds me of this exchange:Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to Hell?”Priest: “Not if you did not know.”Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

  22. agnophilo says:

    @GodlessLiberal – Thanks : )  Yeah, atheists tend to be very individual.

  23. 1. “I have a counter-question for you.  If you had a child and you were somehow separated from them – they were given up for adoption or something.  Years later when your child is an adult you track them down, but they are under the impression that you died in a car crash years ago.  Do you seek vengeance on your child for not believing you exist?  Do you stop caring about them because they made an honest mistake?  Do you harbor any resentment whatsoever?  Would you write them out of your will because they honestly didn’t believe you existed?  Would you refuse to show your existence to them and punish them for not thinking you exist?  And if I did any of these things to a long-lost child, what would you think of my character?  Or my level of rationality?”I’m leaving this in because you didn’t answer any of the questions.This was my answer to that: “This is a question on my mind as well. What of our current tribal civilizations deep in the jungles of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere? They don’t know Christianity. What happens to them when they die? I don’t know the answer to this.”2. Atheism does not in any way imply acceptance of the big bang theoryDo you accept the theory?3.Expanded, not exploded.makes no difference in the argument. The universe expanded, exploded, came, formed, from nothing. Choose your verb, the argument is the same.4.  “The term “big bang” was used to mock the theory after it was proposed”Wrong. “Fred Hoyle is credited with coining the term Big Bang during a 1949 radio broadcast. It is popularly reported that Hoyle, who favored an alternative “steady state” cosmological model, intended this to be pejorative, but Hoyle explicitly denied this and said it was just a striking image meant to highlight the difference between the two models”5. Your “argument” does nothing to specifically address the logical argument I stated, you just skirt it. You say that the argument does not prove God’s existence (it doesn’t, its just one piece of evidence), but you do not provide any alternatives for the cause of the universe. You say its a bad argument because it originated from a bad argument, but this doesn’t work. I can make a bad argument, then fix it so that its a good argument. Just because the original argument is bad doesn’t make the new argument bad. Your brown-hair gay mailman statement proves that if the premises are false then the conclusion is invalid, but it does not prove that my premises are false. You did not prove either premise to be false. Your second logic statement has a different conclusion than mine, and you did not address my conclusion. You made a strawman of your own.6. Your Eskimo-priest dialogue is hilarious. Touche for the priest.

  24. agnophilo says:

    Now you’re just being obnoxious.  I asked you for an answer to my questions and you just blew me off again.  And then pretend like I didn’t address things I addressed at length.As far as an “alternate” explanation for the origin of the universe, there is no explanation.  Religion does not offer an explanation, it is an invocation of magic.  It does not explain how god supposedly did anything or where god came from and how god got the ability to do any of the things he supposedly did.Touche for the priest?  Are you kidding?

  25. @agnophilo – I did not blow you off. Here, I shall explain further.”I have a counter-question for you.  If you had a child and you were somehow separated from them – they were given up for adoption or something.  Years later when your child is an adult you track them down, but they are under the impression that you died in a car crash years ago.  Do you seek vengeance on your child for not believing you exist?  Do you stop caring about them because they made an honest mistake?  Do you harbor any resentment whatsoever?  Would you write them out of your will because they honestly didn’t believe you existed?  Would you refuse to show your existence to them and punish them for not thinking you exist?  And if I did any of these things to a long-lost child, what would you think of my character?  Or my level of rationality?”I assumed because we are talking about God that this question was not literally directed to me, but God. If you want me to answer each question as to what I myself would do, here goes:I would not seek vengeance on the child, I would not stop caring, I may feel hurt, but I don’t thin I would harbor resentment, I would not write them out of my will. Assuming your are saying that I tracked them down but did not contact them, I would not refuse to show my existence, but would contact them and certainly wouldn’t punish them. If you were to do those things I wouldn’t think very highly of your character or rationality.”As far as god punishing me for skepticism, why would a god punish me for wanting evidence?  It is after all, the same thing which prevents me from worshipping all those other false gods”I don’t ever remember saying God would punish someone for wanting evidence.

  26. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – If I am irrational or wicked for behaving that way, why would god not be?  As far as god punishing people for wanting evidence, we were talking about the whole you go to hell if you don’t believe thing.

  27. If you had a child and you were somehow separated from them – they were given up for adoption or something.  Years later when your child is an adult you track them down, but they are under the impression that you died in a car crash years ago.  Do you seek vengeance on your child for not believing you exist?  Do you stop caring about them because they made an honest mistake?  Do you harbor any resentment whatsoever?  Would you write them out of your will because they honestly didn’t believe you existed?  Would you refuse to show your existence to them and punish them for not thinking you exist?  And if I did any of these things to a long-lost child, what would you think of my character?  Or my level of rationality?”God does not do this.Romans 2:14-15″Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”Those “gentiles” who are “lost” who innocently know nothing of Christianity, and who follow the laws God wrote on all of our hearts, are saved. If their hearts are good, and they love as God wants us to love, they are saved.God does not punish us for wanting evidence. Remember the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND. God encourages us to seek evidence to know him in our minds as well as our hearts. I am a Christian, and I have questions about God, life, etc that I seek answers to and evidence for. I seek to understand my faith better. There is plenty of evidence for God’s existence. Going to hell because you flat out don’t believe is not the same thing as going to hell because you seek evidence.

  28. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – I wasn’t talking about people who have never heard of jesus, I was talking about people who have and don’t believe it.  Almost everyone has heard of christianity.  You seem to be avoiding the issue.

  29. @agnophilo – Your questions do not fit with that statement. People who don’t believe.A child who believes you died in a car crash is not directly analogous to someone who has heard of God but does not believe God exists. A better analogy would be if the child believed that you were not his father.

  30. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – So the adult child in this analogy had never heard of the concept of parents?  And no, your existence (not paternity) would need to be in question for the comparison to be analogous.  You are still avoiding the issue.

  31. “I wasn’t talking about people who have never heard of Jesus, I was talking about people who have and don’t believe it.”Believe what? That Jesus is God, or that there is a God at all? I presume you are talking primarily about yourself, who has heard of Jesus and God and Christianity, but does not believe that any of it is true?

  32. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – You are just trying to sidestep the question.  If you’re going to be like that, please just don’t respond and save me the bother.

  33. @agnophilo – I am not sidestepping the question. I am unclear on exactly what it is being addressed. I want clarification on what it is because it affects how I will answer.

  34. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – Everything I said is directly analogous to someone knowing about christianity and honestly not thinking it is true.  God in the bible is depicted as a sort of father figure to humanity, “god the father” and all of that, which is why I used a father as an analogy.  If you honestly did not think your father existed, would he not be insane to hold it against you, especially if he refused to simply show you he existed?  Why would any god refuse to prove he existed while demanding you love, obey and worship him?  And why would that god reward you for believing without evidence while not rewarding or punishing those that are simply not convinced?  Clear enough for you?

  35. @agnophilo – God does show us that he exists. He provides us enough evidence to warrant belief in him. It’s up to you to accept that evidence. God does not reward or punish us with heaven and hell. We choose where we go. Heaven is being with God, hell is being without God. (Yes, there are other attributes to both heaven and hell, but this is the most important defining attribute). If someone refuses to believe, they have chosen to be without God. Take the child. It would be wrong if the father expected the child to believe without ever having given any evidence for his existence, yes. If God expected us to believe without ever having given us any evidence for his existence, yes that would be wrong. But he has given us evidence. He has shown himself to us. You can choose whether to accept that as true. You say God should prove his existence? What constitutes proof? Is proof for you proof enough for someone else? Because we have free will, we can always deny the evidence even if it slaps us in the face. People have been known to do that (i.e. Christopher Columbus believing to the death that he had landed in Asia, not the Americas).Back to punishing/rewarding for not believing/believing. Back to the child. Say the old man writes in his will a nice sum for the child. His lawyers present the child with a check, or even better, say the old man summons the child to his death bed to tell him in person of his gift. The gift represents heaven. Being in the will isn’t heaven, the gift itself is. The child can choose to accept the gift or not. God won’t ever “write us out of his will.” He knows all of us as his children, has all of us in his will, and wants all of us to accept his gift. Some of us do, some of us don’t.

  36. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – Yeah the whole “hell is just not being included in god’s fuzzy bearhug” theology is a very recent invention and it is based on one passage of scripture:”And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”Because it says “from” god’s presence they interpret it as “hell isn’t a vengeful punishment, it’s just you not wanting to be with god”, ignoring that it describes it explicitly as a vengeful flaming punishment.

  37. @agnophilo – I am aware of this. I addressed this in the parenthesis:”(Yes, there are other attributes to both heaven and hell, but this is the most important defining attribute)”Fire, pain, eternal punishment, all sorts of nastiness, comes with hell. Absolutely. But it’s still a choice. It’s still up to each of us whether we choose to follow God and accept his grace, or turn from it and walk into hell.

  38. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – Thanks for wasting my time and ignoring my point.

  39. @agnophilo – How did I ignore your point?”Yeah the whole “hell is just not being included in god’s fuzzy bearhug” theology is a very recent invention and it is based on one passage of scripture….Because it says “from” god’s presence they interpret it as “hell isn’t a vengeful punishment, it’s just you not wanting to be with god”, ignoring that it describes it explicitly as a vengeful flaming punishment.”They way I read it, your point was that hell is described as  a punishment of eternal fire, everlasting destruction, etc, as opposed to being merely separate from God. Is this not what you meant? It’s what the verse says. NIV 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9″He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destuction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power…”King James same verse:”In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;”Yes, as you say, God punishes those who do not believe. But you profess God doesn’t give you a chance. He gives you every chance you need. God can’t make you take his gift of heaven and grace, that would destroy your free will. You have to accept it. If you don’t accept it, you will become separate from God. Now, being separate from God, isn’t simply being left to your own devices, like a teenager kicked out of home, it is the definition of hell. God is everything loving and good. The further you are from God, the more hate, pain, and everything terrible you experience. When you are completely without God, when you deny him at death, and go to hell, that is what happens. You are choosing the opposite of God, hate, pain, evil, hell. God is associated with water, and hell is associated with fire. It would be wrong if God eternally damned a follower, but he never has and never will. It is only those who won’t follow that are damned. You may still complain that it isn’t right, but isn’t it? If you refuse to accept God, to accept his love, his grace, eternal life with him in heaven, what is left but to dwell in hell? You can’t go back to this world.

  40. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – You remember that whole if you were separated from your long-lost child example that you were dodging?  You’re still dodging it.Please stop wasting my time.

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