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Date Posted: 07:54:54 06/24/05 Fri
Author: Eric
Subject: Atheism's central claim
In reply to: SM77 's message, "Rationality?" on 18:00:19 06/22/05 Wed

The central claim of atheism -- that God does not exist -- simply cannot be proven by any possible means.

This may merely be problem of semantics, but I have to disagree with you here. I must admit that the term, a-theism, suggests an anti-god stance. Perhaps that is true even in the majority of cases. The central claim of my own personal atheism is more like, "there is no evidence to support the existence of a theistic god." I actually think that this statement would resonate with more atheists that the claim you listed above. After all, that kind of central claim would also force all atheists to be adragon, achimera, aunicorn, etc. etc. Being all those "a's" at once would be exhausting.

Rationality gets as butchered as "God told me to" does. Rationality can be just as much of a lie as religion. Marx and Hitler used rationality in the same way that Catholicism and Islam have used and do use God.
I will agree with you here that horrific acts have been perpetrated under the banner or rationality. I might quibble a bit with your painting of Marx and Hitler with the same brush, but that's another issue. Both rationality and religion are clearly used for ill ends. This, in and of itself, does not disprove the existence of either.

When we're looking at the atheism/theism debate, we're talking about truth claims rather than moral implications. Take something like mathematics, a system based entirely upon reason. It certainly exists in an ideal form if nothing else. It can be used to help dole out aid to starving people, or to coordinate the activities of death camps. Despite its amoral nature, I think anyone would be pretty hard-pressed to disprove its existence.

With the exception of the vague, "There's something out there," brand of theism. Theism can be handily disproven. Reason can be used to make claims. I can prove time and time again that area equals length times width. The moment I start using theism to make claims, it can be disproven. Reason is butressed by specificity while theism is butressed by ambiguity.

God, however, is more than any one religion claims. The proposition that only one religion can be true is a fool's game for idiots. God is bigger than any finite human religion.

You do deserve credit for coming up with really the only defensible statement in support of theism. You are saying that there is something out there, but that nothing about it can be known. This construction is inherently unfalsifiable because you aren't making any claims about it. The strength of your belief lies in the fact that it simply cannot be disproven. The weakness is that it also cannot be proven, or even supported with any empirical evidence.

One of the reasons that atheists are reviled (not by you, I don't think) by believers is that they invariably come off as arrogant assholes. The fact is, you probably do have evidence for a theistic god. This evidence is a feeling that you have, a genuine feeling. Humans are simply not rational creatures. Everybody routinely has irrational, emotional responses. We are both rational, and irrational. Religion will always be with us because humans feel. You feel there is a god. A highly intelligent man, you've managed to reconcile your feelings with reason, coming up with a belief that is as unassailable as it is unprovable.

I really want to make it clear that I think theism really has little to do with intelligence. Having read your posts over the years I'm pretty sure you are smarter than I am. You're one among probably millions of believers including notables like Newton and Gallileo who are a hell of a lot smarter than me. I still think you're wrong about God.

I imagine that there's always been a small portion of the population that doesn't have any, or very little, religious feeling. A small portion of this group will come out as atheist. A larger portion of the group will simply daydream as they listen to sermons about end times. It is these people who, like Kathy and I, don't believe in a god because we lack the "evidence" that you have; we don't feel god.

I'm really delighted to see you back. I've missed reading your posts. I hope all is well.

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