Friday, December 19, 2008

Formation of Theistic / Atheistic Thought

I. Evolution
 a. Stimulus/Response
  1. Homeostasis
   One of the elements that define living organisms it that of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the property of a system whereas its internal environment is regulated to remain stable. Since the environment outside an organism is not necessarily in an equilibrium compatible with that of the organism (or in equilibrium at all) it is necessary for the organism to be able to respond to changes in its external environment in order to maintain its internal environment. This is called stimulus-response, another qualification for life.


Most often people think of stimulus-response in animalisitc terms: An event occurs in the environment that acts as a stimulus, this stimulus is percieved by the animal, the brain processes the event and formulates a response, and then organism acts out the response. While this indeed is stimulus-response it need not be this complicated. Any change in an organism in response to changes in the environment is classified as stimulus-response. While one can certainly imagine response to be random, only organisms that respond in a manner conducive to their survival would indeed survive. Stimulus-response can be as simple as the mere laws of physics, such as osmosis, which would allow a single cell to maintain its internal pressure and consistency of the chemical composition of its interior. It can be more complex even without a nervous system, as in plants where sunlight causes stems to grow asymetrically, resulting in the stem turning toward the sunlight.


Eventually, and for the purposes here, we come to animals, with nervous systems that specialize in recognizing stimuli and responding to them. Animals do utilize the more basic stimulus-response mechanisms (such as for breathing where oxygen is absorbed by the blood) but have the novel system of nerves and the brain to aid in this matter (at least most animals do). Another novelty (most) animals possess is the response of motion. To this end animals have developed special cells designed to respond to specific stimuli.


  2. Receptors
   In addition to other features that separate them from other organisms, most animals have nervous systems. Nervous systems are generally divided into two parts: 1) The Peripherial nervous system which collects information about the environment and sends signals to 2) the Central nervous system, which processes these signals and sends responses to muscles and glands affecting a response in the organism that either alters its internal functioning (through hormones) or causes the animal to move (through muscles).


   The structures by which an animal receives input about its environment are known as sensory receptors. Sensory receptors are very specialized and different ones are needed to react to different types of stimulus. Some examples of these are:


Electroreceptors (electric fields), baroreceptors (pressure), chemoreceptors (chemicals), mechanoreceptors (mechanical stress), nociceptors (cellular damage), osmoreceptors (osmolarity), photoreceptors (light), proprioceptors (position), thermoreceptors (hot and cold).


How these receptors detect the appropriate stimuli varies from receptor to receptor but all produce eletrochemical impulses that travel to the central nervous system for processing. While many (if not most) of the functions performed are done so invountarily and independent of outside influences (such as circulation or digestion) any voluntary responses an animal is to make must be done in response to detected stimuli. Since the detection of these stimuli requires the aforementioned receptors, an animal without these receptors (or an animal with nonfunctioning receptors) would not survive long. Almost all animals must actively seek food and evade predators and this requires motion, a voluntary act. Thus an animal's survival is directly related to its ability to collect information about its environment.
  3. Stimulation
   The stimulus-response process can be referred to as stimulation. The amount of stimulation an animal receives is almost as important as the type of stimulation. The factors affecting the amount of stimuluation are the number of receptors for a given stimulus and their sensitivity in detecting that stimulus.


Stimulation management is an important factor in the survival of a species. If an animal perceives too little (under stimulation) it will respond less to its environment. This means it will obtain less food and avoid fewer dangers. In short, it will stagnate and die. However, if it is too sensitive (over stimulation) the animal will be under constant stress and will be responding in situations it doesn't need to and its responses will likely be stronger than they have to. In short, the animal will work itself to death.


With under and over stimulated animals dying out, this leaves animals configured to receive an amount of stimulation conducive (or at least not deterimental) to their survival. This calibration is varies among different animals. Sponges, lacking a nervous system and the ability to move, embody stagnation. But this is fine given how they obtain food (filtering moving water) and defend against predators (passive defenses). However, other organisms with more complex nervous systems, such as humans, require more stimulation. It's a balancing act. The more receptors an animal has, the more information (stimulation) it can collect about its environment. However it must have the faciliaties to cope with the amount and type of stimulation or it will get little use from it.


 b. Abstract thought and memory
  1. Memory
   Once an animal exists in a manner where it receives adequate stimulation, it must have mechanisms by which it can respond to such stimulation. For many animals, this involves the central nervous system, or brain. The various receptors collect information from the environment and send it through nerves using electrochemical impulses to the brain. The brain processes this information, formulates a response, and sends impulses down to various parts of the body to enact an appropriate response.


The response for each set of stimuli is dictated by the programming of the brain. By far the simplest way to enact a response is reflexively and involuntarily. This can be represented by mere "IF THEN" statements. IF a certain set of stimuli are detected THEN a specific response is carried out. For example, if a fly detects a large object moving toward it (as detected by light changes in its compound eyes, and changes in air pressure on its hairs) its brain calculates the appropriate escape vector and sends signals to its legs and wings to push off and fly away.


Such reflexes and instincts represent hard coded programming in the organism's central nervous system. While efficient and reliable, these relationships cannot be altered. As such they are only useful for a finite set of stimuli. In order for an animal to survive, it must be able to respond to as many different combinations of stimuli as possible. This means it must have a large set of hard coded responses or be able to alter its programming in response to new stimuli. Hard coding is efficient in action, but becomes bulky and unwieldy when one attempts to hard code responses for all possible situations. As such, some animals evolved the ability to alter their own programming, or learn things and use that learning to formulate new responses for new situations.


To this end, animals capable of learning must possess a function where information stored so that it can be used as input for future responses. This storing of information is known as memory. There are three general types of memory animals possess: Sensory Memory, Short Term Memory, and Long Term Memory. Sensory Memory lasts for a few milliseconds after something is perceived. It is short in duration and has limits on the capacity of information "remembered". Short Term memory lasts from a view seconds up to a minute and has a higher capacity. Finally we have Long Term memory which has potentially unlimited duration and has a large capacity.


When an animal records an event in memory and that event is recalled (as in response to some familiar stimulus) it can then use the memory of that event in the formulation of a response to a given stimulus. This allows it to use experience to refine its responses to be more appropriate and to factor in the context of a stimulus as well as its content.


Memory and learning allow animals to discover threats that may not appear to be threats via other means or opportunities that may not appear to be opportunities through other means. Thus an animal with memory has the ability to exploit more opportunties and avoid more threats than organisms that do not possess memory. Memory comes at a price, however, and requires a more complex nervous system, including a brain and a cerebrum for more advance memory storage and processing.


  2. Abstract Thought
   In addition to memory, animals with complex brains possess the ability to peform abstraction. Abstraction is where a concept is

simplified, generalized, and removed from an actual tangible object. The general concept of a ball, for example, is an abstraction of actual spherical objects we encounter in real life. We can think about a ball without being required to think of a specific type of ball and without being required to be looking at an actual ball at the moment we are thinking about it.


Abstract thought is the basis for higher reasoning. Combining abstraction with memories allows an animal to perform thought experiments and imagine likely conclusions for a given set of possibilities. Abstraction is also required for communication. With abstraction, ideas can be conveyed independently of the objects they represent.


Abstraction helps in recognizing new things. Through experience we acquire a store of memories about our environment, including the things in it. Through this method we form abstractions about the objects we encounter. For example, if I live in a forest, I will acquire a collection of memories about specific trees. Through this I will form an abstraction about the concept of a tree. This abstraction will contain elements that are common to all the specific trees I have encountered in the past. Because of this, if I come across a new tree that I've never encountered before, I can still recognize it as a tree  if it matches with my abstraction of what a tree is. This is known as pattern recognition.


 c. Pattern recognition
  Pattern recognition is the process by which the content and context of a set of objects currently being experienced is compared to the content and context of the sets of objects in our memory. If a match is made, then it is said that we "recognize" the pattern. Alternatively recognition could be made through comparisons against patterns that are hardcoded, rather than learned.


  1. Template matching
   One type of pattern recognition is template matching. Template matching is basically a 1:1 matching with little abstraction involved. The pattern to recognize is searched against the exact templates that exist in memory until one or more matches are found.


  2. Prototype matching
   By adding a little abstraction we can perform prototype matching. This is where a concept is generalized and defined by its

attributes. This type of recognition allows us to classify quickly objects we see based upon appearance. An object with four legs and a back that people sit on is a chair. This recognition can be made independently of other specific features (such as the material it is made out of, the existence of arms, whether it reclines, swivels, etc).


While there are more types of pattern recognition, they are more or less variations on the previous themes: The object as a whole is broken down into a series of features. The content and relative context of the features forms a general abstraction which is compared to our memory. How abstract and general an association is made depends on how specifically we can recognize and classify the object. Often times we can make multiple classifications. I can recognize something as an object (most general), as a piece of furniture (less general), as a chair (specific), and as a metal folding chair (more specific).


The ability to classify things at various levels of generality is useful for truly novel objects for which we are unable to find a more specific match. For example, the ability to recognize something as a tree, but not knowing what kind of tree it is. Once we classify something, even generaly, it gives us the ability to formulate a response based upon that classification. If I classify something as a tree, and I know that trees offer protection from some predators, I can then attempt to climb the tree for safety. If I do not recognize it as, at the very least, a tree, then I will be unable to make that association.


  3. Pattern recognition Errors
   While useful, the nature of pattern recognition allows room for errors, especially when confronted with new patterns. For example, if we form the abstraction that "things with wings are birds" Then we will commit an error when we are presented with a bat. Once we become aware of, and familiar with, bats, and form a more specific template to represent bats, we will no longer make this error.


Errors can be avoided, however. By restricting the ability to make more general recognitions (such as "things with wings are birds"), then the errors that come with making them are eliminated. Under this more strict way of thinking we cannot have a general rule as "things with wings are birds" and must have something more specific, like "things with feathers, beaks, talons, wings and that lay eggs are birds". If we are forbidden from making an association more general than this, we will not commit an error when confronted with a bat. So what happens when we are confronted with a bat? Such a scenario is hard to imagine given that we are wired to attempt automatically to recognize and classify anything we can sense. We can deduce what happens, though, when we realize that in order to respond to something we must recognize it (either in memory or in hard coding). If we do not recognize it, we cannot respond to it. This highlights the price that would come with such strict pattern recognition rules.


So which is better? Over recognition, or under recognition? Since the environments in which we find ourselves are dynamic, we can expect to be constantly confronted with new patterns of stimuli. Since these patterns can represent threats or opportunities, failure to recognize them would be failure to avoid a threat or failure to exploit an opportunity. In both cases our ability to survive is less than if we have the capability to recognize (even erroneously) new patterns. If we fail to respond to a threat, our very lives are put on stake. If we fail to respond to an opportunity, we are at disadvantage against those that do recognize it.


An additional benefit to this type of error is in "filling the blanks". When we are presented with a pattern and we get a partial match our brain, using fuzzy logic, can fill in the blanks with what is most likely based upon the memories and experience of that specific organism. In this manner we can make decisions and formulate responses when presented with incomplete data (which we often are).


This error is not without its own price as it can result in attempting to exploit opportunities that aren't really there or avoiding threats that aren't really there. However, when we compare the price of errors of over recognition (wasted energy) and under recognition (death), the choice is clear. While over recognition certainly *can* lead to death, it is not as likely a result as with under recognition. This means that, typically, the animal will survive and learn. Now knowing more about the pattern that made it falsely think there was an opportunity or threat it will be less likely to make that mistake in the future, if it is capable of this level of reasoning as humans are.


There is another price associated with over recognition, and that is the creation of superstitions. Superstition, technically is any irrational belief. In common usage, however, beliefs identified as superstitions are generally beliefs that certain actions can influence or portend the future without any obvious causal link. It is not known exactly how superstitions form (at least to the degree that we could predict what would cause a specific superstition to form) but this type of behavior is evident even in non-human animals, such as pidgeons. For whatever reason, a causal association is formed in the animal's mind between two events. Despite no other reason to accept this relationship. Once such a causal link is suspected the animal is already in a frame of mind sensitive to evidence to support that causal link. Evidence against the causal link is likely to be ignored or dismissed. Through this erroneous pattern of reasoning, all new information either reinforces the superstition or is ignored.


Humans have taken all of this to new and bizarre levels. Something as simple and vital as pattern recognition has resulted in believing things like: breaking a reflective surface will result in bad things happeneing for the next seven orbits around the sun. Hanging a u-shaped piece of metal worn by a horse over the entrway to a house will bring make good things happen. By clasping your hands and kneeling and thinking thoughts in your head, you are establishing a communication with an immensely powerful being who will do your bidding. By all criteria that matter, belief in miracles or the power of prayer are superstitions. Only "evidence" in support of these beliefs are ever reported on, and evidence against are ignored, dismissed or arbitrarily attributed to other causes.


 c. Conclusion

 In conclusion of this part we see that superstition is the result of an error inherent in the pattern recognition abilities of animals that allow us to survive. It is unfortunate, but unavoidable. As humans we can use rationality to explain them away, but we cannot prevent their creation. The next part will show how humans, with their innate pattern recognition abilities and high levels of abstraction form superstitions that lay the foundation for religion.

by Drafterman of AvC

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sword Of Truth

I've been reading Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series recently. Good fun, for the most part. A lot of interesting philosophy hidden in there, but that's not really what I want to focus on here.

Instead, I want to focus on the existence of "supernatural" versus "natural" phenomena. Those are loaded words, so let's instead talk about things that exist inside of one reality (the super-reality), but impact another (the sub-reality). That is, the rules of the sub-reality do not define those of the super-reality, but are in some sense, a subset.

- Ghosts (or disembodied minds) are a part of the super-reality.
- Embodied minds are a part of the sub-reality.
- God would be part of the super-reality.
- Humans would be part of the sub-reality.

The "Sword of Truth" series is about magic, and wizards, and spirits, and ancestors living on in an afterlife similarly to Greek mythology. There is a "Creator" who is supposedly manifestly creative, or good (kind of a mix between the Titans in Greek mythology, and Yahweh... but not Jesus), and a "Keeper of the underworld" who is supposedly manifestly destructive, or evil (kind of like Hades). Even the labels "good" and "bad" are not very good labels, since Goodkind makes the point that death is not manifestly evil, since it is a necessary part of life, but just "is". But I digress.

What does this have to do with the super- and sub-realities?

The point is, in Goodkind's universe, the "super-reality" continually manifests itself in various ways in the "sub-reality". They are constantly making observable consequences (including the Keeper itself attempting to enter the sub-reality). Magic is part of the super-reality that impacts the sub-reality. "Life forces" within people (think "The Force" in George Lucas's mythology of Star Wards, which Goodkind calls "Han") routinely can affect the laws of nature. One can start a fire by rubbing sticks together, or one can start a fire by thinking about "fire" and having the "Han" light it for you.

There are basically no people in Goodkind's world that do not believe in this "super-reality". There are no "naturalists". There are no "atheists", for the most part. Why is that? It's because there are manifestations of the "super-reality" that regularly impinge upon the "sub-reality", over and over again, with marked clarity and an abundance of evidence. There is no need for "faith" or "belief" that there is a super-reality... in fact, in Goodkind's world, you'd have to be insane NOT to believe in the super-reality.

But what does this tell us about OUR reality?

It tells us that there is nowhere near as much evidence for any "super-reality" that exists outside of our own "sub-reality". In our "sub-reality", all convincing evidence points to the fact that the "sub-reality" is just "reality", and there is no "super-reality". I can say with certainty that should I have been born into Goodkind's reality, I would be a firm believer in "Han" and the "super-reality", and would hope to study it myself as a wizard or something. However, I'm not part of that reality. I'm part of this reality. Instead of pretending that there IS evidence for "super-reality", I've opened my eyes and given myself the opportunity to honestly look back at the things that used to convince me that there WAS a "super-reality", and examine them in an unbiased way.

As soon as I did this, I realized that, without a single exception, there was no real true evidence for any "super-reality" whatsoever. No feelings that could not be explained by ordinary brain chemistry. No happenstances that could not be explained by coincidence, or luck (good or bad). No indications that I could communicate with "The Creator" or "The Keeper" via any means. No indications that prayer is effective. No indications that there is a benevolent "plan" for my life, or the lives of those around me.

All I see evidence for is the universe existing, without any super-reality impacting it.

Now, I have told you that should there BE some true evidence for a "super-reality" as per the case of Goodkind's universe, I'd be the first to admit that such a "super-reality" exists and we should take great care in finding out about it. As it is, in our reality, the only reality that is apparent to me, I have no reason to pretend that there IS a super-reality, nor that even if there WAS some hypothetical super-reality, that it impacts us or guides us in any way.

Therefore, I am an atheist in this reality. Specifically, since it doesn't seem to make a difference one way or another, I am an apatheist in this reality. People can talk all they want about "evidence for creation being everywhere", but the bottom line is, it isn't. It's not that it CAN'T be everywhere. Even a mere mortal human being (Terry Goodkind) can describe a universe in which it would be everywhere.

It's just that it ISN'T everywhere, in this reality. There is no evidence for a super-reality. There's only this reality. Deal with it, and move on.

by Rapp of AvC

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Biggles vs Allah

In one of the Biggles books, Biggles pulls a Muslim out of a pit.

Hearing the Muslim thank Allah, Biggles said "Allah pushed you in; I pulled you out." 

The Muslim didn't get the point; it still didn't occur to him to thank Biggles.

by ranjit of AvC

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What evidence would it take for an atheist to believe in a god?

What evidence would it take for an atheist to believe in a god?

This question comes up often enough to be worth a lengthy response, and, in short, my reply is that such evidence is impossible. I claim that any event that should ever occur to be observed by man that could suggest the existence of a deity will always, in every case, and indefinitely never amount to sufficient evidence for such an existence through no obstinance or arrogance of the atheist, but through mere logic and reason. My argument is as follows.

First, I'd like to draw attention, yet again, to the heroic (arguable) David Hume. Concerning miracles, Hume stipulated that in order for a miracle to be accepted as having occurred, the falsehood of the testimony would have to be more miraculous than the miracle itself. After all, the lesser 'miracle' would be more likely to have occurred, just as it is more likely that I am typing this text rather than it just appearing without any direct or indirect user input. To quote Hume: "When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion." This fairly accurate worded phrasing puts the nail in the coffin concerning that which would be required for a testimony of a miracle to be accepted as factual. We then have to ask ourselves how such a falsehood of testimony could ever be more miraculous than the miracle itself.

*On a quick side note, I can foresee the argument that my terminology only suggests that I will accept the more probable event, and that while winning the lotto is less likely than not winning the lotto, both are possible outcomes, and thus I erroneously equivocate the less likely (or improbable) with impossible. However, before you can suggest something to be possible it has to have been given evidence to support the claim. Miracles have yet to be shown possible and thus I do not run into the obstacle just described. Winning the lottery is indeed possible and has been proven so. Moreover, the analogy is a descriptor of what happened before the lottery numbers were picked, not after. After the lottery numbers are known, it's either impossible that I've won if I haven't, or impossible that I haven't won if I did. One merely needs to look at the numbers and submit it to the lottery board to find out. The claimed miracles in question have already occurred and their validity of being called a miracle is in question, not the perception that it has occurred.*

When David Copperfield, the magician, made the statue of liberty disappear, no reasonable person thought that he actually made the statue disappear. To the viewer, however, the statue did indeed disappear. Similarly, we've probably all seen women cut in half with a saw and rabbits being pulled out of hats by many self-proclaimed
magicians. While we do enjoy these illusions greatly, very few, if any, people actually think that the event was anything more than an illusion. Ask yourself why you don't believe the magician actually suspended the laws of nature; why you believe it's a trick of mirrors or the likes; why the idea that what you just witnessed was a miracle does not enter your stockpile of possible explanations. You'd probably answer because we know that people can be deceived. We've seen these tricks before, and some guy wearing a mask explained how a lot of them were done on FOX. But magicians aren't the only people or objects which are capable of deceiving.

Lyre birds are capable of mimicking the most unusual sounds, including the sound of a chainsaw cutting through a trunk of a tree. We constantly deceive children into thinking there's a Santa Claus. Mirages occur to people travelling through a desert. Derren Brown can use his powers of deception to convert an entire room to believe there might be a deity, or to convince people that a losing race ticket is a winning one.

Hallucinations will form to those who are mentally ill or extremely physically sick.

People actually believe that Barak Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist, and the Saddam Hussein actually had WMD's. Hell, you've probably even thought that it was your left hand that was shaving your beard, looking in the mirror.

Pick up any psychology book and you're bound to find numerous instances defining some sort of mental disorder which creates illusions. Are aliens really infiltrating our minds? Is the government wire-tapping my phone line? Am I the next Messiah? Why do the pink elephants steal my pillow at night? When will Nessy wakeup? Who is Bigfoot? We are in constant reminder of the ability of people to be deceived, and yet we never give them any credit to their illusions/delusions.

On all levels, and in every corner of the globe, people are deceived, have been deceived, and will continue to be deceived. But what we have never witnessed anywhere near as much is the laws of nature to be suspended. Even if the miracles claimed by the various religions were indeed to have occurred, they are far outweighed by the instances of deception that is continually being put to use for bad and good intentions, and sometimes unintentionally.

Thus it is always vastly more probable should you witness or be told by a witness of a miracle to occur that you and/or said person was deceived, and your first
inclinations should be as such.

But let us assume, for the moment, that by some 'miracle' the likelihood of deception was actually outweighed by the miracle itself. That what we saw really did happen and what happened went against the grain or was unknown of our current knowledge of the natural laws of the universe.

Do we really attribute it to miraculous circumstances?

When scientists discovered that light bent around a planet, did we think it was a miracle that it went against Newton's law of gravity? When the animist of old witnessed lightning, something they certainly didn't understand the physics of, did it command miracle status? Is birth still considered a miracle after biologists have dissected the process of specie fertilization; that of sperm and egg, meiosis, and mitosis?


In any instance in history where there has been a verifiable observed seeming suspension of natural laws, it is not the event that is deemed miraculous; it is our ignorance of the natural laws. Never do we (or ought we) assume that which we don't understand a miracle. Especially since the introduction of quantum mechanics, even some of the most improbable and counter-intuitive events could conceivably occur by no suspension of what is natural. It will always be more likely that we will yet discover what happened by the natural order of the universe than for such an event to actually have ignored the true natural order.

Lightning, medicine, gravity, stars, chemistry, etc were all once thought miraculous or magical and since then there has been substantial proof that deeming such things as miraculous is to admit our ignorance of natural laws, not of such events being actually miraculous. And since all of our current knowledge of the universe has been preceded by our ignorance of it, it will always undeniably be far, far more likely that we as of yet do not understand how such an event has occurred than for such an event to be truly miraculous.

That is why no evidence will ever suffice for the proof that miracles happen. That is why the falsehood of the testimony and our ignorance of the natural world will always be far less miraculous than the miracle itself, and thus not command our belief..

And that is why I, as a rational human being, will always be an atheist.

by Watts of AvC

Sunday, August 24, 2008

AvC : A Case Study

“Generally, delusional does not apply to personal experiences.” –Vaarsuvius

Over three out of four Americans have access to the Internet. This group has posters from all over the world, and is listed as one of the most popular groups on Google. The fact that there is a correlation between affluence (and therefore, presumably, Internet access) and secularity is obviously not enough to account for the high atheistic population of this group, so we can safely assume that atheists are much more likely to want to participate in a debate about the value and validity of religious faith than theists are. This is consistent with the view that theists are deliberately ignorant, and know that there is information out there that challenges their faith and they wish to avoid.

Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to step back and examine what we see when we consider this group as a microcosm. Reading books about this revitalized debate between atheists and theists, I don't entirely recognize the discussion of the "debate" as the actual "debate" we have on this group. The atheists are constantly accused of attacking a "caricature" of faith and believers by the opposition, who always make arguments just as stupid or more stupid than the ones being attacked (if not the ones they just got through refuting), but I find that the hypothetical theists addressed by authors like Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett in their books seem to be much more rational and intelligent than any of the theistic posters I've seen here. I think the problem's pretty obvious (and it becomes more obvious, reading their critics): the "Horsemen", if they don't overestimate their theistic audiences, at least have to give the impression of overestimating them to maintain the veneer of a respectful, adult conversation. I think this group is evidence that any kind of a dialogue is beneficial to atheists (and therefore the human race): put AvC on live TV, and the next generation of humans could only be less theistic.

“Unlike all that claim to be Christians you can only tell a real 100% Christian by the FACT....









- A real true christian will act like Jesus as if him even if it take many or plenty to do it.”

– Stonethatbleeds

Consider Stonethatbleeds. I'll admit I haven't put too much effort into piecing together Stonethatbleeds' worldview (as obvious as it's apparently supposed to be to me), but it evidently has something to do with God wanting us all to segregate by race, age, and sexuality into cities and gain immortality through audio-recordings that will contain our souls. We naturally form a mental picture of what someone is like in real life, reading their words, and Stonethatbleeds probably invokes only the kind of person you see on public transportation sometimes. If Stonethatbleeds started expressing his ideas to someone on the bus, they would probably ring the bell for the next stop, politely excuse themselves from the bus, and then wait for the next bus to get to their actual stop or else suffer through it. If he were arrested for pissing on the subway, he would probably get some kind of psychiatric evaluation. We have to wonder about his job, whether he screams into tape recorders and a large collection of his own recordings, if he has friends, how crazy they are or if they're worried about him, etc.

Are there others that share Stonethatbleeds' perspective? Where did it come from?

But it's worth mentioning that what Stonethatbleeds seems to believe is not less rational than what any other theist believes. We can be certain of this without being entirely clear on what this is, simply by virtue of the fact that theistic beliefs are at a perfect level of irrationality. There really isn't a gradient as far as theistic rationality goes--it's more of a matter of...what? Rationalization, I guess. Or, more specifically, the effort they put into rationalization. It is interesting to see how other theists respond to Stonethatbleeds. Some of them try to make fun of him, but usually on the basis of his writing abilities. We atheists can all have a good laugh at theists having a laugh at Scientologists, because of the massive hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness that implies. Seeing a theist make fun of Stonethatbleeds' views on this group is kind of a heightened version of that. And I think some of them sort of realize that, which is why they refrain.

On what grounds, exactly, can he be called irrational by a theist? Rational grounds?

“'stupider' isn't a word, retard” – jesusfreak117

manny, SEARCHER for those who remember him and a few others who didn't stay long obviously fall into the same category. While theists, who are essentially all the same, can only be categorized on superficial levels I think we can form the basis of another category that would include Brock, omprem and Keith, among others. They don't really rationalize their points any more than Stonethatbleeds or manny do, but just seem aware that criticism is taking place. Their response is to take pride in everything that a rational person would be ashamed of being caught doing in a debate. If you point out a logical flaw in their arguments, they take this as evidence that they're above logic. If you point out a factual inaccuracy, they will repeat the lie to prove that they think they're too good to tell the truth. This category, too, is largely arbitrary because I see a lot of theists (most of them) doing this sometimes, usually when they get stuck.

“They are thinking meta-logically, an ability that is beyond the grasp of atheists. They are aware that logic is insufficient so they use other means of approaching wisdom. Your insistence that astrology is a fraud is not proof that it is so.” – omprem

Other theist posters try to argue as if they are arguing rationally, but just suck at it. There is an internal gradient here, although it's hard to quantify precisely and is probably mostly illusory. When a theist uses arguments to defend theism, they're going to be wrong, and someone here is going to rationally refute it, and then the theist is going to keep defending it anyway as their posts go from bad to worse in the course of a conversation. The relationship between theists is different than the relationship between atheists on this group. I think this can largely be attributed to the fact that, without rationality, they have no consistent grounds on which to agree or disagree. On one hand, they don't seem to be pals like many of the atheists here are pals, on the other, they don't really get into complex disagreements very often like atheists do.

"See, if you simply assert that they are delusional because they believe that Martians are communicating with them telepathically and insist that they are simply on that basis, what happens if Martians REALLY ARE communicating with them telepathically?"

– Vaarsuvius

What Vaarsuvius misses here is the whole process by which mental illnesses are diagnosed. If someone were to think they were constantly seeing unicorns, the process by which diagnosis would occur would not involve the professionals going out and looking for unicorns because that would not be pragmatic. Allan is one of those theists that tries to be on rational ground like the atheists, because he isn't as content with his beliefs as omprem or Stonethatbleeds is. It actually upsets him that he fails at it, although he would never acknowledge that it's exactly what's going on.

Anyone who looks into how psychologists deal with the problem of religion can see that the central differentiation that is made is one of commonality, which raises a whole slew of logical problems. First of all, this would imply that theism is the only disease that becomes not a disease by "virtue" of how contagious it is. If something is a sickness, it should be assumed that spreading it is a bad thing. Also, assuming a "culturally normal" belief raises the problem of how many people have to believe something or how similar the beliefs have to be--most theists have different religious views, and the act of churchgoing is largely a group of people pretending to believe the same thing to reinforce their individual delusions. Someone like Vaarsuvius or OldMan is more capable of functioning in some ways than Stonethatbleeds, but to call them more sane would be like saying an adult that believes in the Easter Bunny is more sane than a child that believes the same thing. If anything, their affliction probably runs deeper.

“Dev wrote:

> Every incidence of religious intolerance involves religion. Proven fact.

Nice try. Now, try providing a reference for your 'proven fact'. I'm not interested in your opinion.” – OldMan

“Your rant about WHY God should be considered fictional in no way answers the question of whether or not you think that God exists.” –Vaarsuvius

I tried to explain to Allan that if the "if you can't prove it false, it's rational to believe" madness he spews so proudly were allowed in the legal system, he could easily be charged with a crime he didn't commit--all that would be required would be an easily formulated accusation that couldn't be disproved. His response was something like that the standards for conviction should be higher than those of "belief". The implication, I think, is that the consequences are greater, so the standards should be greater. Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity.

"Well, as you and all the other hard atheists in this group believe in the primacy of the senses and that the senses portray a literal reality, that makes all of you delusional." – omprem

Theists are individually delusional. They support each other not because their beliefs are the same, but because of the larger support system for insane beliefs in general that theism provides. It applies a veneer of normality to beliefs that are not consistent because they are not formulated on a consistent basis.

"no one in their right mind will think 1+3 = 4 is better. it is still wrong, period." – Checkers, to Dev.

"Keepin' him in 'Check' since the beginning." – semi, in response to Checkers.

Under theism, things that are insane by every rational standard gain credibility through confirmation. Theists will kill each other for competing irrational beliefs, but they are all together in a battle against rationality in general. Thus, in a population like this group where many of the posters are atheists, they will lend a vague degree of support to each other. The ambiguity of a God allows theists to be uniquely insane, yet the nature of theism provides a unique appearance of consensus that runs the whole gamut.

“People like to float that story around these days to suggest that the bible advocates genocide. But the same book states he at one point wiped out the entire human race! I think we need to accept that” –Chris Grech

“Great points Chris !!.. Thank you !” – reply by Dillan.

Thus, theism is not really "for" anything so much as it is against intellectual and ethical standards in general. It is through this phenomenon that a fundamentalist redneck in Kansas will make an argument for God that is equally applicable to the God of Islamic terrorists on the other side of the world. If you want to justify rape, genocide, child abuse, or just plain acting like a moron in general, you will always have a friend in theism.

by thedeviliam


Since it doesn't seem that Dev actually captured what my beliefs are -- and, in fact, seemed to get them completely wrong -- this is my attempt to dispell the misinterpretations of my views.

I will be snipping heavily to focus mainly on the misinterpretations, and less on what actual arguments there are, but I don't promise to limit myself to that either.

On Aug 15, 8:30 am, Dev <> wrote:

> "Generally, delusional does not apply to personal experiences." –

> Varsuuvius

This quote isn't addressed anywhere in this post, but is just tossed out there as, I can only presume, an example of my and therefore -- in Dev's opinion, anyway -- theism's stupidity. Even if my view, in context, was insane, stupid, ignorant, or whatever derogatory word Dev is favouring this week it wouldn't apply to theism as a whole, of course, so I will simply defend myself and not theism in general.

Ah, on that note, before I get into it I must point out this one quote that sums up my view towards who I "side" with in this debate, and what side I'm in, which will clarify why I don't pretend to defend any other theists:

"Side? I am on nobody's side, because nobody is on MY side", Treebeard in "The Lord of the Rings".

Anyway, returning to the above quote after that side-bar. My comment here was aimed at the idea that if someone had a personal experience -- by which I really meant sense or phenomenal experience -- that indicated the existence of something, that it should not and is not generally considered a "delusion". In general, it is considered a "hallucination" instead. Appeals to the dictionary supported both positions technically; while the definition did not generally include hallucinations, hallucination was considered to be a synonym for delusion. However, I stand by the claim that hallucinations and delusions are not the same thing. Take, for example, the case where someone gets completely drunk and sees the now legendary "pink elephants". Imagine as well that they are well-aware that they are drunk and that those pink elephants aren't real. Are they delusional? It seems unlikely; they seem to have a pretty good idea of what reality is actually like. However, they are still hallucinating, aren't they? If someone acknowledges that they are hallucinating, is that delusional in the sense that Dev would like it to be?

Let's take an example closer to religion. Imagine that someone who is an atheist suddenly starts seeing images of Jesus everywhere he goes. He goes to the hospital and says, "Everywhere I go, I see Jesus. He's even over there now. I'm very well-aware that he isn't really there and that I'm hallucinating, but I still keep seeing him. Can you help me?" Is he delusional in any way? Well, it seems not; he doesn't believe that his experience is indicating that religion is right -- he remains an atheist -- and instead believes that his experience is not real. But he is still hallucinating.

And it is clear that the treatments in both cases would be different. If he walked in and said, "My socks are trying to eat my feet", the first question asked would be "Why do you think that?" If his reply was "Because socks eat feet as revenge for being lost in the dryer", the doctors would immediately know that he was delusional, and would start therapy designed to eliminate the belief that socks are in any way animate. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy would have a decent chance at curing this, as well as other methods aimed at eliminating false beliefs. On the other hand, if he said "Because I can see them moving with little teeth on the inside, hear the smacking and crunching, and my feet hurt", the doctors would know that he was having hallucinations, and would move to determine what was the problem. CBT would likely NOT be successful, and it would be far more likely to be caused by a drug, chemical imbalance, or tumour.

And this is why the difference is important, even if one might be able to argue technically that they are the same: how we treat and evaluate the two are different. In the case of strict delusion, the beliefs are at fault and must be broken; in the latter, the experience is at fault, and must be correct. In addition, it is not necessarily an irrational belief being held if it must follow from the experience and the subject has no reason to believe that they are hallucinating; a delusion is an irrational belief by definition since it must include the fact that the subject has themselves enough evidence that they should know that their belief is false, if they would only acknowledge it.

Oh, and that's an important point to raise here as well: a belief can only be considered delusional if the person who believes it should, themselves, have enough evidence to consider it false (in accordance with their other beliefs, etc, etc). This is because one cannot judge someone's beliefs on the basis of information that the person does not have and be in any way just or objective. For example, if someone's wife is cheating on him and is very careful not to leave any evidence, and all of their friends know because she told them but none of them will tell him, he is not delusional for believing that she is faithful. However, if she leaves evidence around all the time and all of his trusted friends tell him that she is indeed cheating on him, then he'd be deluding himself if he still insists she isn't.

Moving on after that rather long introduction to the first thing that Dev actually seems to comment on and not just quote: "See, if you simply assert that they are delusional because they believe that Martians are communicating with them telepathically and insist that they are simply on that basis, what happens if Martians REALLY ARE communicating with them telepathically?" – Vaarsuvius

>What Allan misses here is the whole process by which mental illnesses are diagnosed. If someone were to think they were constantly seeing unicorns, the process by which diagnosis would occur would not involve the professionals going out and looking for unicorns because that would not be pragmatic.

Now, the basis of this quote was my comment that you cannot judge someone delusional simply on the basis of the content of the belief, but that you had to consider why -- ie what evidence -- they had for that belief. Dev insisted otherwise. Note that his comment here is taking a rather odd logical extension of that claim by implying that the professionals would have to go out themselves and prove that unicorns didn't exist before concluding the person insane. This is not what I claimed at all. On the contrary, my claim is more akin to the example that if the person said "I belief that unicorns exist", the doctors will reply, "And why do you say that?". His reply could be -- to keep consistent with Dev's comments -- "I see them all the time." "Really?" the doctors would reply. "Yeah, " he says, "There's one right outside the door. I rode it here and tied it up out there." Assuming that that would be accessible by something the size of a horse, wouldn't it be proper for the doctor to at least take a look, just in case? And when discovering no unicorn there, and nothing to indicate that it was, THEN concluding that the person was delusional? The doctors might not, but it would hardly seem to be ideal behaviour.

Let's return to the original quote to highlight why it wouldn't be ideal. Take our poor soul who is saying that Martians are communicating with him telepathically. He runs to a police officer and says this, in a panic. The police officer takes him to the doctors who ask -- just to humour him -- why he thinks that. He states that he has ironclad proof at home. But since they follow Dev's notion that the content of a belief is sufficient to consider it a delusion, they commit him and never check. Two days later, his family finds out where he is and brings the ironclad proof that Martians REALLY ARE communicating with him telepathically. And it's airtight; it is really, absolutely true. Can you imagine that the doctors would NOT be sued and considered to be negligent in their duties? And rightly so; while they may have been justified in locking him up "just in case" on the basis of the content of his belief, there was a responsiblity to at least TRY to ascertain that his claim wasn't correct.

Not that the psychiatric field is all that great at it; I'm certain we've all heard the story about the doctors who committed themselves to an asylum, acted normally, and yet found their quite normal and reasonable behaviours interpreted as signs of insanity because of the predisposition of the doctors. This only highlights why objective psychology and psychiatry will not simply judge on the content of the belief, but on the reasons given with reasonable attempts to verify, to avoid letting predispositions determine the judgement instead of the facts.

> Allan is one of those theists that tries to be on rational ground like the atheists, because he isn't as content with his beliefs as omprem or Stonethatbleeds is.

Actually, I'd say I'm MORE content with my beliefs than they are, and that my experience on AvC and with the words of the Four Horsemen has only made me even more content. This is because a) I accept and have accepted for a long time now that it is just a belief, and that I will not have any hope of knowing the truth until I die and b) that I've noticed that the atheist arguments do not have sufficient funds to cash the check they write about atheism being the only rational position on the issue.

To clarify that, I believe that based on the evidence we have on the proposition, belief, belief in lack, and lack of belief are all rational positions to take -- as long as one accepts that the confidence on any belief formed is quite low, and certainly not knowledge. I admit that there are a fair number of theists who think they know God exists, and I would just say to them "You're wrong".

>"Dev wrote: Every incidence of religious intolerance involves religion. Proven fact. Nice try. Now, try providing a reference for your 'proven fact'. I'm not interested in your opinion." – OldMan

"Your rant about WHY God should be considered fictional in no way answers the question of whether or not you think that God exists." –Vaarsuvius

First, let me get into the context of THIS quote as well. I was challenging atheists to "belly up to the bar" and declare themselves as weak or strong atheists, and indicate whether or not they believed that God did not exist or merely had a lack of belief in God. This was Dev's answer:

"I have a lack of belief in Spongebob Squarepants. I have a lack of belief that he lives in a pineapple under the sea. Can I disprove Spongebob? No. If I were shown _evidence_ that Spongebob Squarepants lived in a pineapple under the sea would I rethink my position? Of course. In spite of that, I might say "Spongebob isn't real" but that's largely because despite a lack of evidence for Spongebob being real there is plenty of evidence that somebody made Him up. Now, I know, these ridiculous analogies of God to other fictional characters are getting old. I'm sick of them, too. But until you guys get the point, they are evidently necessary because they are a great tool to explain where we're coming from concerning your God.

God is fictional based on the assumption that if it cannot be differentiated from other things commonly referred to as "fictional" it is only logical to assume it is the same. I have a feeling you can't disprove most fictional characters. But fictional they remain. If you have to disprove something for it to be "fictional" you are basically redefining how the word is actually used (and I'm not interested in dictionary definitions since we all use the word "fictional"--usage defines usage--dictionaries are only useful for recording how words are used). "

My reply was: "You seem to be dodging the question. Let me make it clearer:
If someone asked "Spongebob Squarepants exists. Do you consider this proposition true, or false?" what would you answer?

If someone asked "God exists. Do you consider this proposition true, or false?" what would you answer?

Your rant about WHY God should be considered fictional in no way answers the question of whether or not you think that God exists.

And if one has a believe or even KNOWLEDGE it does not mean that one cannot also say that if more evidence came in that they'd have to re-evaluate that position. Heck, it's the basis of the scientific<>

Now, it should be clear to anyone reading this that, yes, Dev dodged the question. I was, in fact, actually being excessively FAIR to Dev, since I could have simply assumed that claiming that God or Spongebob Squarepants was fictional meant what it means to most people, which is that he believed that God and Spongebob did not exist. Which would, by definition, make him a strong atheist, and thus no longer to use the "I merely have a lack of belief so I don't have any burden of proof" since he would ACTUALLY have a belief in lack, which DOES accrue a burden of proof. So, in response to my being exceedingly fair to him, Dev takes the quote out of context, ignores the original question, ignores his attempt to DODGE that question, and then immediately after this quote accuses me -- and implies that this quote shows it -- that I am attempting to claim that "If you can't prove it false, it is rational believe" when this quote, in context, certainly implies no such thing. Well, perhaps he didn't really mean to imply that; his quotes have had a habit of not applying to his sections anyway. So perhaps I'll grant him that one.

At any rate, the quote is perfectly correct; unless I know that to Dev "fictional means non-existent", he didn't answer the question, and any attempts to show God as "fictional" in no way addressed the original context.

>I tried to explain to Allan that if the "if you can't prove it false, it's rational to believe" madness he spews so proudly were allowed in the legal system, he could easily be charged with a crime he didn't commit--all that would be required would be an easily formulated accusation that couldn't be disproved. His response was something like that the standards for conviction should be higher than those of "belief". The implication, I think, is that the consequences are greater, so the standards should be greater. Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity.

Dev has kindly provided a context for these comments in another post, so I will reproduce it here in the interests of fairness and, of course, in defense. He included the comments above, split to reference his evidence, so I will include them as well.

***** Start of Dev's quote here *****

Original post:

"I tried to explain to Allan that if the 'if you can't prove it false, it's rational to believe' madness he spews so proudly were allowed in the legal system, he could easily be charged with a crime he didn't commit--all that would be required would be an easily formulated accusation that couldn't be disproved. His response was something like that the standards for conviction should be higher than those of 'belief'."

Message in question:

"It is well known that in the U.S. and Canada, at least, that the standards of evidence required for a criminal conviction are HIGHER than those required to get a civil court decision on the matter which are HIGHER than that required for a mere belief."

"The implication, I think, is that the consequences are greater, so the standards should be greater. Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying 'amen'--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity."

Message in question:

"And you don't get to defend it on the basis of 'it's true whereas theism is false', because then you'd have to prove that theism is false, and no weak atheist can even claim that that's been done."

Let me begin with the first reproduced quote. And since Dev was so kind as to include the message link, let me restore the context first:

>Would you accept that the amount of evidence required to convict you
of a crime need only equal the amount of evidence you can produce for your God?

Well, the problem is that your question, in fact, violates the standards of evidence required for criminal convictions, civil court decisions, and beliefs in current Western society, so the question is utterly irrelevant.

It is well known that in the U.S. and Canada, at least, that the standards of evidence required for a criminal conviction are HIGHER than those required to get a civil court decision on the matter which are HIGHER than that required for a mere belief. The O.J. Simpson case is a prime example of this: almost everyone believes that he killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the civil court case held him responsible for their deaths (that decision is what bankrupted him), but the criminal trial did not convict him, and there were no grounds for appeal sufficient to get that decision overturned.

So the question has to be turned back to you: why do you think that the standards required for a mere belief in God can or should be applied to criminal cases, when the entire legal and social systems of the U.S. and Canada -- at least -- insist otherwise? "

Dev was asking -- in accordance with previous arguments that he had made -- that in some way if I have a certain set of standards for accepting beliefs -- including God beliefs -- that those standards should also apply to the legal standards, and so we should all accept that we could be tried and convicted of a crime based on the same standards. My reply, of course, was that no one in the world -- except possibly Dev -- thinks that way; even civil cases do not require the same standards of evidence as criminal cases, and we consider those judgements far more reliable than general mere beliefs. So his question, as I said, is irrelevant ... and my reply is certainly no indication that I think that if you can't prove it false it is rational to believe, since we'd have to look at what the standards actually say about beliefs.

As for my ACTUAL position on that statement, I hold that if I know that something is false, it is absolutely irrational for me to believe that it is true. Something proven false cannot be held to be true rationally, so any such proof immediately eliminates the belief proven false. Beyond that, we need to get deeper into the standards of belief, and that starts to get subjective since what the people already believe must play a role in determining whether or not to believe. So it MAY be rational, or may be irrational, based on what the standards for belief are in general and for the individual. I will not even start to get into those there.

So, onto the second part. Let me reproduce the full context yet again (it's so convenient that Dev's attempts to look fair provide the message link, allowing me easy access to the context that shows him wrong):

>Likewise, pedophilia is simply the desire to have sex with
children and racism is simply the belief that certain races are superior or inferior (Walt tries to redefine these terms, but as watts points out, even with his stupid redefinitions the point stands)--neither of these mentalities are more "inherently" harmful than theism, they are simply harmful, they do more harm than good, and anyone who perpetuates them is partially responsible for their consequences. To apply different standards to theism is to employ a double-standard, and the original post of this thread is just one of a billion examples of what this double-standard leads to.

So, since eugenics can indeed follow directly from the belief in evolution, should we consider evolution a dangerous belief as well?

And you don't get to defend it on the basis of "it's true whereas theism is false", because then you'd have to prove that theism is false, and no weak atheist can even claim that that's been done. "

My "that" here, in context, is clearly the belief in evolution. My charge was that, in order to be consistent, since it seems that eugenics can indeed follow from the belief in evolution, the belief in evolution would be just as much a dangerous belief as theism is (I hope I do not need to relate the horrors that eugenics can lead to). I then forstalled an argument by stating that Dev could NOT claim "Well, evolution is true, and theism is false, so that's why we don't need to hold evolution responsible for what evil is done by eugenics" because, as I said, that would mean that he'd have to show that the premises -- 1) Evolution is true, 2) Theism is false -- were true. That would mean proving theism false. And I then noted -- quite correctly -- that no weak atheist can claim that to be the case.

Dev could have tried to show that eugenics does not follow from evolution. Others did, but it is quite easy to get to eugenics from evolution (I really hope to have the time to get back and argue for that soon) as anyone can see. One can argue that evolution does not lead to eugenics by necessity; one can believe in evolution but not eugenics. This is quite fair, but other arguments from other people -- including Dev, of course -- argue that even though theism does not necessarily lead to killing in its name it is still responsible, so they'd run up against that argument as well. But the attempt could have been made.

That is not what Dev did. He didn't even try to argue that we don't KNOW that theism is true, and therefore evolution gets immunity that theism doesn't since it IS known to be true. This would run us into a bit of a problem if anyone ever proved theism true, so it isn't a particularly GOOD argument, but it could have worked.

Instead, you got what Dev gave.

So, my comment was never, there, about that the consequences were higher so the standards were higher with respect to the legal system at all. But I did argue about consequences around that point, but in the opposite way. I argued that all beliefs have a confidence level attached to them. That confidence level is used to determine what actions it is justifiable to take with respect to that belief. To kill someone, the highest amount of confidence is required before doing so; you have to have knowledge, which represents the highest possible confidence we can have in the truth of a proposition. I do not claim to know that God exists. I claim that NO ONE knows that God exists. So if we look at the toddler case that Dev references, my reply would be that anyone who would kill someone on the basis of the belief in God is just plain wrong. Either they think they know when they clearly don't, or they think that killing someone requires less than knowledge. They'd be wrong on both counts.

Let me bring the question down here so that we can all see what it might relate to:

>Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity.

Well, the message he quoted didn't relate that I was using that argument as a defense at all, so he's wrong there. I also state above -- as I have elsewhere, enough so that I'm certain that Dev must have seen it -- that those standards do NOT defend the actions. So where is the inconsistency and insanity? Only in Dev's head, it appears.

The only defense of theism I have ever made in relation to these sorts of incidents is, in fact, the claim that you cannot hold all theists beliefs responsible for the logical contortions that some people put them though, which is, consistently enough, my precise position on evolution vis a vis eugenics. Seems fairly consistent to me ...

>Under theism, things that are insane by every rational standard gain
credibility through confirmation. Theists will kill each other for competing irrational beliefs, but they are all together in a battle against rationality in general. Thus, in a population like this group where many of the posters are atheists, they will lend a vague degree of support to each other. The ambiguity of a God allows theists to be uniquely insane, yet the nature of theism provides a unique appearance of consensus that runs the whole gamut.

This is one comment that I don't want to pass by. It strongly implies this: that theists will fight amongst themselves unless united by a common enemy. Thus, theism does not exist as a unified entity, nor do theists consider that the beliefs of other theists with slightly different theistic beliefs buttresses them unless someone or something external attacks all of them.

This means that anti-theism's current main impact is to unite theists, if this is correct, and if the case study here really does show something. Hardly a beneficial result; can you say "self-fulfilling prophecy".

That being said, I don't think AvC is a good case study for that, taken at least personally; at best, I don't go around tell other theists off, but why should I? There are plenty of atheists around to do that and I don't have time to discuss my own beliefs, let alone engage other theists when half the board will do that as well.

Now, one final point. This is a long post. A VERY long post. I have no pretensions that I've said anything devastating here; almost all of this was merely clarifying my own points against misrepresentations by Dev. Is it any wonder that I, at least personally, have very little time to make actual posts, when simply defending what I said -- and not as true or false, but literally just what I said -- takes up so much space?

And is it worth the effort, knowing that my words will be misconstrued so terribly?

by Vaarsuvius

AvC : A Case Study - The Debate