Conflicting Methods of Thought

 
callinshumen
 
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callinshumen
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27 July 2011 15:39
 

Lately I have taken to watching religious debates between theists and atheists on Youtube; mostly of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins arguing with various Rabbis and notable Christians over such things as creationism, evolution and the big bang. Now, I realize what I am about to say is probably nothing new to most of the people here, but it is a fairly new idea to me, and I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

There seems to be a real gap between theists and atheists with respect to their methods of thought. On the one hand you have the atheist who tends to appeal to reason, logic and observable, repeatable evidence in order to understand and explain the natural world. And on the other hand you have the theist who tends to believe that these things are not just unnecessary because god provides us with all the information we need, but are in fact evidence of some supernatural being that can not be seen nor observed. Or worse yet, these evidences are setup by either god or the devil (depending on the denomination) to intentionally tempt and mislead us so we can prove our commitment to god.

This brings us to “blind faith,” which is held as a virtue by many theists I know. My theist friends define faith as a “belief in things, which are not seen;” or rather, to have faith is to believe in something despite any evidence that may exist against it. How do you argue with that? It is the idea that no matter what is said, observed, or proven, if it is contrary to your belief system, you have to reject it. This closes the door on debate, and opens the door to willful ignorance and stubborn self-deception. Could anything be more close-minded than this?

Something else I have noticed in these debates is the theistic view that if you can show a hypothetical philosophical need for a god or similar figure, then it proves—or at the very least suggests—that such a being must exist. This fallacy has really started to irritate me as it comes up more and more. This is like attempting to prove the law of gravity by pointing out that it must exist, because how else are we to walk around? A similar argument could be made for the existence of teleportation devices; which we all know would be quite convenient. How logical is it to say that cars must exist because I need one for my morning commute? Creating a need for god is not the same thing as proving his existence.

In light of these apparent conundrums, I ask: is there any way for these two methods of thought to ever have a legitimate debate or see eye to eye?

 
robbrownsyd
 
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robbrownsyd
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06 September 2011 08:29
 
callinshumen - 27 July 2011 01:39 PM

Lately I have taken to watching religious debates between theists and atheists on Youtube; mostly of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins arguing with various Rabbis and notable Christians over such things as creationism, evolution and the big bang. Now, I realize what I am about to say is probably nothing new to most of the people here, but it is a fairly new idea to me, and I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

There seems to be a real gap between theists and atheists with respect to their methods of thought. On the one hand you have the atheist who tends to appeal to reason, logic and observable, repeatable evidence in order to understand and explain the natural world. And on the other hand you have the theist who tends to believe that these things are not just unnecessary because god provides us with all the information we need, but are in fact evidence of some supernatural being that can not be seen nor observed. Or worse yet, these evidences are setup by either god or the devil (depending on the denomination) to intentionally tempt and mislead us so we can prove our commitment to god.

This brings us to “blind faith,” which is held as a virtue by many theists I know. My theist friends define faith as a “belief in things, which are not seen;” or rather, to have faith is to believe in something despite any evidence that may exist against it. How do you argue with that? It is the idea that no matter what is said, observed, or proven, if it is contrary to your belief system, you have to reject it. This closes the door on debate, and opens the door to willful ignorance and stubborn self-deception. Could anything be more close-minded than this?

Something else I have noticed in these debates is the theistic view that if you can show a hypothetical philosophical need for a god or similar figure, then it proves—or at the very least suggests—that such a being must exist. This fallacy has really started to irritate me as it comes up more and more. This is like attempting to prove the law of gravity by pointing out that it must exist, because how else are we to walk around? A similar argument could be made for the existence of teleportation devices; which we all know would be quite convenient. How logical is it to say that cars must exist because I need one for my morning commute? Creating a need for god is not the same thing as proving his existence.

In light of these apparent conundrums, I ask: is there any way for these two methods of thought to ever have a legitimate debate or see eye to eye?

Not really, Callinshumen. All we can do is point out to them that their arguments don’t make sense. We are making inroads. Sam Harris et al have done a lot to get the problem of irrational thinking out there for debate. But, In the end, you can lead a theist to evidence but you can’t make him/her think. If they refuse there’s nothing can be done for them and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.

 
burt
 
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burt
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06 September 2011 15:02
 

We need to bring Ecurb into this discussion.  Therefore Ecurb exists and we must call out to him.

 
goodgraydrab
 
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goodgraydrab
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06 September 2011 16:39
 
callinshumen - 27 July 2011 01:39 PM

In light of these apparent conundrums, I ask: is there any way for these two methods of thought to ever have a legitimate debate or see eye to eye?

I agree with Rob ... No! They’re not on the same plane, but unfortunately, they wind up in the same brain space, and come out of the same orifice.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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06 September 2011 16:48
 

Every position is close minded in its own way. Although not equally so. To be utterly open minded, to act on no presumption whatsoever is probably impossible. Except perhaps in the instance of such severe dementia that one cannot even hold a coherent presumption in mind. Even then there are causative necessities to do with basic survival. Even lower animals possess a sort of presumption- about the character of the world around them- and are sometimes wrong.

Every science, philosophy and mode of inquiry starts with an underlying assumption(s) that it cannot prove. Philosophy assumes that there is truth awaiting discovery. Natural sciences assume an objective external reality to which all successful theories must eventually converge. Religion assumes god. Now any one of these disciplines can fall prey to human weakness. Any person studying any subject can commit logical fallacies.

While I don’t personally LIKE religion I do grudgingly admit that it is possible, however uncommon, to hold a religious worldview without egregious self contradiction. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who qualifies in this regard but I can envision its possibility. This is inconvenient because it means that religion is not inherently fallacious- it just so happens that the majority of its visible practice in my country is that way.

The notion that god must exist is not as vacuous as it sounds at first pass. I understand why many dismiss it out of hand but argumentation over this issue bookends a great deal of our most important dialectics. If you’ve done any extensive reading on existentialism you might have a bit more regard for the idea. It’s not something I agree with by the way- but I don’t throw it in the same basket with fraudulent nonsense like Intelligent Design.

I think the most important challenge to evaluate ideas separately from any evaluation of the character who presents them. It’s very easy to identify a person who doesn’t share your values or method and dismiss anything and everything they have to say on that basis. (No accusations mind you) If you really have an interest in atheism-versus-theism I think its probably more useful to go back and read some classic greek dialogues on the subject. This is useful because it subtracts all the cultural christianity from the equation.

I like atheism but I like fully informed atheism better. So I’m reading all that I can. Good luck to you.

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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06 September 2011 21:28
 

Callinshumen: There seems to be a real gap between theists and atheists with respect to their methods of thought. On the one hand you have the atheist who tends to appeal to reason, logic and observable, repeatable evidence in order to understand and explain the natural world. And on the other hand you have the theist who tends to believe that these things are not just unnecessary because god provides us with all the information we need, but are in fact evidence of some supernatural being that can not be seen nor observed. Or worse yet, these evidences are setup by either god or the devil (depending on the denomination) to intentionally tempt and mislead us so we can prove our commitment to god.

Brick B. The notion that god must exist is not as vacuous as it sounds at first pass. I understand why many dismiss it out of hand but argumentation over this issue bookends a great deal of our most important dialectics. If you’ve done any extensive reading on existentialism you might have a bit more regard for the idea. It’s not something I agree with by the way- but I don’t throw it in the same basket with fraudulent nonsense like Intelligent Design.
I think the most important challenge to evaluate ideas separately from any evaluation of the character who presents them. It’s very easy to identify a person who doesn’t share your values or method and dismiss anything and everything they have to say on that basis. (No accusations mind you) If you really have an interest in atheism-versus-theism I think its probably more useful to go back and read some classic greek dialogues on the subject. This is useful because it subtracts all the cultural christianity from the equation.
I like atheism but I like fully informed atheism better. So I’m reading all that I can. Good luck to you.

Thank you for pointing out, BB, that not all theists are dullards.  Socrates might have been a pain in the ass as he badgered his fellow citizens with endless questions,, but he wasn’t stupid.  I might add that many:.esp the existentialists: were also quite critical of orthodox churchgoers.  In many ways, Kierkegaard was as scornful of religion as Nietzsche, and Dostoevesky’s own beliefs were not of the “comfortable “ variety. 

Sometimes I get tired of atheists who portray theists as people who are incapable of logical reasoning or serious thought.  It is simply not true.
IMO,  the majority of theists choose to consider subjective forms of evidence to support their belief in God and atheists don’t.  That’s the main dispute. 

Fundamentalists are another matter.  They are knuckleheads and cause a great deal of harm. It’s exasperating debating with them, but, I think it is useful and perhaps even obligatory to do so. Not in the hope of changing their minds, which is almost an impossibility, but to motivate onlookers to question their own beliefs.

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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06 September 2011 22:32
 

While I completely understand the frustration, I don’t think the atheist/theist debate is that unique.  Any social issues trigger the logical versus emotional thinking controversy.

I would only press someone if he was open to debate, like folks on this forum.  And I’ve written an occasional letter to the editor re specific situations. 

On Sundays, I see hundreds of cars parked outside the local mega-church.  I think, I’m out here enjoying the sunshine, riding my bike on the beautiful nature trail, while all these people sing songs to a pretend God and listen to a sermon about pretend stuff.  I’m the lucky one.

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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06 September 2011 23:19
 

Hannahfriend: On Sundays, I see hundreds of cars parked outside the local mega-church.  I think, I’m out here enjoying the sunshine, riding my bike on the beautiful nature trail, while all these people sing songs to a pretend God and listen to a sermon about pretend stuff.  I’m the lucky one.

Those mega-churches are awful.  I don’t understand why anyone would want to go to one.  Maybe the emotional high is similar to the one you get at huge rock concerts.

The family of one of my students goes to a huge mega-church in Queens, but it is primarily a black church and they have a rollicking good time.  They showed me a video of their choir and I believe they should go on tour because they were fantastic. 

As for sermons, some ministers are inspiring, but most are a big yawn.  It depends on the intelligence and skills of the orator.  A gifted speaker is a wonderful thing.  I used to go to a local Unitarian Church…oops Fellowship…because their minister was thought provoking and humorous.  His Irish brogue didn’t hurt, either. 

So, different strokes for different folks.  Sometimes, when I am feeling maudlin, I go to mass, but no modern guitar-strumming place.  I prefer a dark cavernous building with flickering candles and giant stained glass windows and the Virgin Mary with her beatific smile and, of course, Jesus suffering with his anguished upward gaze and his blood stained palms.  But, ya gotta be in the mood….