Posted by: sponyak | March 11, 2008

Recent CFT Ruminations

Here are some excerpts from the Cleveland Freethinkers’ recent email threads…

JOSH, on a common misinterpretation of atheism:

I think atheism (as most I know define it) is misunderstood. It’s not the belief in no god, but rather the lack of a belief in god. There is a big difference. I don’t say “there is no god”. I say “whether there is god or not, I’ve seen nothing to make think he has any effect on my life, so I choose to live as if he does not exist”. Does that make sense? I’m through and through a skeptic, so I’ll always leave open the possibility that I’m wrong, but I don’t let it affect the way I live.

RICHARD, on the value of an Atheist speaking his/her mind to a Theist:

It does much to speak words of reality to those that try to live outside of it in their own minds. It takes more work to protect their religious minds than it takes for us to simply live. The majority of religious people do not work very hard to protect their dogma… they become vulnerable to glimpses of reality.

CLOUDBERRY, on the “atheist’s burden” (the challenge to “prove” that God doesn’t exist):

The thing about the God dilemma is that it seems to be hinging on this: If I say I believe in God, and I don’t consider myself stupid enough to believe in something unless it exists, then I believe God exists… and it is an insult to me to say that God doesn’t exist. So, if I say God exists, and someone questions that, I begin to revert to the methods of childhood. I get mad, and then I say, “all right- you think I’m so wrong, prove it. I bet you can’t.”

The trouble is, there is no way I know of to prove that something does not exist- even something simple, like an apple. If I am holding an apple and I say I believe this apple exists, because I can see it and touch it and smell it and eat it, then almost everyone will agree that the apple is real. Very few people will argue the apple does not exist. They might call it by another name, but they will agree there is such a thing as an apple. But, if I have no apple, and no one has ever seen or touched or eaten an apple, and I insist that I have a vision of an apple in my head and I believe it exists, does that mean it is real?

GORDON, in response to the following statement: “Agnosticism leads to truth and investigation without limitations.”

Just for clarity, when one arrives at truth, does it have to be taken on faith?

Zinger! More to follow.

MT

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Responses

  1. Love is a concept in our minds – you can’t see it, taste it, touch it, smell it, or hear it – but nevertheless feels real. If someone tells you that love doesn’t exist (and you are in love with your wife, for example), then you will have a hard time agreeing with that conclusion. Maybe a belief in the existence of God falls into a similar category as a belief in the existence of love. Concrete evidence is hard to find for either. I think they are both “concepts.”

  2. It is heartwarming to see anonymous using as an example the love of a man for his wife, in light of the recent scandal involving the governor of New York. Of course, some people will say that being sexually unfaithful does not negate love in every case. But generally I think the wife’s reaction is to say, How could you do that? Don’t you love me any more? To get to the comparison of God and love, if we believe that God is an emotion and specifically the emotion of love, then of course God exists and is real based on our definition. God would then be a euphemism for all love everywhere. God would be a metaphor and nothing else. But if that’s not our definition, and we mean to say–prove that this being I call God did not do the loving thing that I witnessed–that’s asking someone to prove a negative, and proving a negative is impossible. I think love can be deduced from the actions that someone takes or does not take. A loving man will not just buy flowers the day after he cheats on his wife, he will avoid cheating on his wife in the first place. He might take care of her when she’s sick with the flu, he might shuttle the children back and forth to dance lessons, he might clean the bathroom, mop the kitchen floor, and cook dinner on a regular basis, not just on special occasions. He might surprise her with weekend getaways or meaningful gifts. He might be gentle and spontaneous in his affection. There are lots of ways that a man can show how much he loves his wife and these are all actions. The man who says he loves her, but really doesn’t, is less likely to show consistently through his actions that he does. How does God show us that he loves us? Unlike the man in the married love example, the being we call God, if it exists, is not visible. How do we know that God made the sun rise? How do we know that God didn’t flood New Orleans? One “action” is good and loving, and the other is cruel and destructive. But the main thing is that while we might identify only the good things in the world and say they are evidence of God’s love, we can’t connect the evidence to the source. At best we can say this person did that good deed in the name of God. But the action can only be traced to the person. The person’s belief is not evidence for God, it is motivation for acting. There is no observable source called God. Other people’s emotions are observable only when it is possible to connect the result (action) of an emotion to the person expressing the emotion.

  3. Love and god are not really comparable. Love is a completely subjective concept. Love is a feeling. It is up to each individual person to decide what love means to them, how they feel it, and how they react to it. Emotions are just chemical processes in our brain, and since our brains are each unique in physical makeup, it seems likely that emotions will be unique for each person as well.

    God (I’m talking in the traditional Judeo-Christian sense here) is the complete opposite. God is the ultimate objective reality. God is the same for every person, and is unchanging – at least that is the belief of those who follow god such a god. That’s why religious zealots are so fervent – “My god must be the only right god”.

    It’s pretty much pointless to argue the existence of something as subjective as love, since there is no objective basis on which to argue. But it is more than acceptable to argue the existence of such a seemingly objective god, and the funny thing is that recently, that argument has turned god into a subjective being, with people now claiming god to be anything from inner-consciousness to the sum of all energy in the Universe. Once god becomes that subjective, it becomes just as hard to argue about god’s existence as love’s.


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