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Thread: For Atheists - define what you don't believe in

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    Cyborg with a Tiara
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    For Atheists - define what you don't believe in

    In the thread "For Christians, Define God," Lion asked,

    Now, when atheist proselytisers ask me to define God my first thought is...
    Shouldn't atheists be the ones defining what it is they disbelieve?
    The answer, of course, is "no, that would be ridiculous"
    In good faith, Atheists provide an answer to why, so that Lion and others can understand why such a question is not a valid line of inquiry.

    (Hoping Moderators can move those de-rail posts to this thread)
    Last edited by Rhea; 06-17-2018 at 10:05 PM.

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    Veteran Member braces_for_impact's Avatar
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    I'm just going to add a bit to what I put in the original thread. I'm kind of surprised when theists try to shift the burden like this because SO MANY of these debates process on a similar path (at least if they're done in good faith.)

    Every time we ask a theist to clearly define what they believe in, it is so we can entertain the possibility (It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. -Aristotle) of the god they are proposing, and if we remain unconvinced, we ask questions to clarify, or point out inconsistencies in the god narrative they have put forth. In essence, every time we discuss this, as long as we remain unconvinced, we're disbelieving in your personal concept of god. We have to do it this way, because no two of you have the same concept of god, despite (in most cases) him being perfect, including being a perfect communicator. (Go figure).

    Get it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    Now, when atheist proselytisers ask me to define God my first thought is...
    Shouldn't atheists be the ones defining what it is they disbelieve?
    Lion IRC,

    I think in effect you're asking "Don't you know which king your revolution is trying to overthrow? Do we loyalists need to be giving you directions to the palace?"

    Is that what prompts you to think this thought?

    Thanks, if you answer.

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    The question is invalid. The burden of proof is on the claiment. Be it the Big Bang theory or Young Earth Creatioism my response is the same, does observation mathch theory.

    In the case of YEC it does not, unless you invoke an unprovable god. We call that theism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhea View Post
    In the thread "For Christians, Define God," Lion asked,

    Now, when atheist proselytisers ask me to define God my first thought is...
    Shouldn't atheists be the ones defining what it is they disbelieve?
    The answer, of course, is "no, that would be ridiculous"
    In good faith, Atheists provide an answer to why, so that Lion and others can understand why such a question is not a valid line of inquiry.

    (Hoping Moderators can move those de-rail posts to this thread)
    Asking Christians to define god is important because they are the ones making the claim.

    One should keep in mind that they aren't monolithic. A lot of them mean very different things when they say "god," so if you're going to get into an apologetic debate with one, it is important to learn what their claim actually is before discussing whether or not it is true.

    It is not necessary for me to come up with a working definition of god any more than it is my job to come up with a working definition of leprechaun. If someone wants to say that leprechauns are real, they need to supply the definition and the proof. Asking me to define leprechauns is just another tiresome shifting the burden of proof fallacy.

    There are an infinite number of non-falsifiable claims. I can't possibly be expected to define all of them. If someone can offer proof, then I will start to believe in it. Unless and until that happens, it's on the list of the infinite number of things I don't believe. I'm sorry if it upsets theists that I don't believe in their god, but I also don't believe in the gods of other religions, nor do I believe in elves, fairies, goblins, pixies, vampires, leprechauns, werewolves, were-walruses, psychic were-walruses, skull-juggling psychic were-walruses, tofu dragons, square circles, or married bachelors. I don't believe in any of that because no one has proved it.

    I do believe in electrons because evidence was provided. I do believe in elephants because evidence was provided. I do believe in the Germ Theory of Disease because evidence was provided. I do believe in slide rules because evidence was provided.

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    Veteran Member Ford's Avatar
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    atheist proselytisers
    I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but in my more than a half century on this rock I've yet to have someone knock on my door and say "have you heard about our Lord and Savior non-existent deity?"

    For a good chunk of that time I've held that atheism means lack of belief in ANY gods, deities, supernatural entities, etc.

    Is it a god? Don't believe in it. Seems pretty simple.

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhea View Post
    Now, when atheist proselytisers ask me to define God my first thought is...
    Shouldn't atheists be the ones defining what it is they disbelieve?
    Well, last time i attempted to answer this sort of question, I believe i said:

    I don't believe the universe needs a creator, so i don't believe in the creator gods like Atum, Omai, God the Father, Odin, Tzacol, etc.
    I don't believe human thought is insufficient to explain morality, so i don't believe in any of the lawgivers, like Tyr, Lugh, Ganesha, God the Father, Odin, etc.
    I don't find human imagination insufficient to explain inventions, so i don't believe in any of the gods (or titans) who brought fire/Knowledge to humans, like TheSerpent, Prometheus, Raven, etc.
    I don't particularly believe in an afterlife, so screw the various candidates for judges.
    I think the seasons are well explained by orbital mechanics, so any gods of weather, seasons, bringing back the sun are surplus to needs.
    I think the sun is not a chariot, wheels of a chariot, rolled by a beetle, thrown by a giant, or any 'just so' story of primitive cosmology so i can teach sailors how to implement a leap second adjustment on 31Dec or 30Jun without an appeal to the sky beetle or the great big ball rolling across the solid sky overhead...

    TL;DR: Pretty much any category of divine being that was invented as an explanation for some aspect of human life, nature, is not something i find compelling, neither as an explanation nor any of the explanations FOR the deity. Find a list of the gods mankind does or has worshiped at any point in history, draw a big red circle around it with a line bisecting the circle, and that's the god i don't believe in.
    Any of them.
    It's like, what atheist MEANS.

    So, no, asking what God I do not believe in is a silly question.

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    I guess we have to have the burden of proof discussion again.

    Here's a video for those who prefer video arguments (it also happens to be a much better argument than the one I'm about to make):


    Dear Christians (in case more than just Lion are reading this),

    The existence of your god is a non-falsifiable claim. That means it can't be disproved even if false.

    Because the existence of your god is a truth claim with a lot of emotional importance to you, I'm going to talk about a different non-falsifiable claim instead. Since you have no emotional attachment to this other truth claim, you will be able to examine the logic of the arguments dispassionately. Let's talk about fairies. Again, I'm not doing this to be insulting, I'm doing this because I assume that you don't care about fairies.

    Sadly, there really are people who believe that fairies are real, although the belief was more prevalent in the 1800s and before. Whether or not people believe in fairies is irrelevant. What matters is that fairies are non-falsifiable.

    Fairies are non-falsifiable because a fairy-believer can play an endless series of rhetorical games that always leave open the possibility that fairies are real despite my best attempts to falsify their claim. For example, a fairy-believer can say that the fairies were hiding in the cupboard while I was searching the shed.

    Thus the only way I can disprove fairies is if I can search every square inch of the universe simultaneously, something which I would only be able to do if I were omniscient. Since I am not all-knowing, I cannot disprove fairies even if fairies do not in fact exist.

    And that's the important thing to understand about non-falsifiable claims. They cannot be disproved even if false, but they can be proved if they are true. That is why it is not your job to disprove Vishnu. Hindus have to be the ones to prove Vishnu. It has to be that way because it is only possible to prove the claim if the claim is true.

    Not only are all the gods of the thousands of religions non-falsifiable, but we can't even disprove the fictional deities because it is possible (however unlikely) that the authors were accidentally correct. Not only are the thousands of gods of the thousands of religions non-falsifiable, but we can't even falsify the gods that we know to be works of fiction.

    Further, there are an infinite number of non-falsifiable existence claims I could make up in the future, such as the skull-juggling psychic were-walrus from the above-linked video, or Russel's famous celestial teapot.

    If the burden of proof for Vishnu lies with anyone other than Hindus, then that means that all the gods are real, including the fictional ones, because we cannot disprove any of them. If all the gods are real, then that means your Bible is definitely false because the Bible claims to represent the one and only true religion of the one and only true god.

    I think that most Christians commit the shifting the burden of proof fallacy without understanding the nature of truth claims. They think that shifting the burden of proof will somehow make their truth claims true, or at least reasonable, but if the burden of proof works that way, then that would disprove Christianity as well as every religion that claims exclusivity. So because you were unwilling to accept the burden of your own truth claims, you made an argument about the burden of proof that if true would disprove your own religion.

    You know what else is a non-falsifiable existence claim?

    Elephants.

    No, I'm serious. Elephants are a non-falsifiable existence claim.

    Like fairies, elephants cannot be disproved even if they do not in fact exist, but they can be proved if they do exist, and you know what? We have evidence for the existence of elephants. That is why most people accept that elephants are real. Almost no one questions the existence of elephants. There are not message boards and Facebook discussion groups and Google+ discussion groups all dedicated to heated debates about whether or not elephants are real, even though the existence of elephants is a non-falsifiable claim.

    Because we have evidence for elephants.

    And out of all the people who believe that elephants are real, not one of us will respond to questions about the existence of elephants by saying "Oh yeah? Well, you can't prove that elephants don't exist!" Not one single person who believes elephants are real responds that way. You know who does respond that way? Nearly everyone who believes that a god or gods are real. People who believe in UFO visitation, people who believe in Bigfoot, and people who believe in the Loch Ness monster also respond in this way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ford View Post
    atheist proselytisers
    I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but in my more than a half century on this rock I've yet to have someone knock on my door and say "have you heard about our Lord and Savior non-existent deity?"

    For a good chunk of that time I've held that atheism means lack of belief in ANY gods, deities, supernatural entities, etc.

    Is it a god? Don't believe in it. Seems pretty simple.
    I also don't think that fairies are real.

    If someone says that fairies are real, I will challenge them and ask them to prove that fairies are in fact real.

    So I guess that makes me an afaerieist proselytizer.

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    Which came first, the atheist or the atheist? Atheist is what theists call those who do not accept their claims.

    Lion makes a series of claims about what god is. None of it is in the Torah. It is all in Lion's head, filling in the blanks with imagination. In all seriousness for a theist to consciously accept that would be devastating, crushing. A life long belief disappears and the crutches are gone.

    Naked and afraid. It is why otherwise rational skeptical theists fight tooth and nail to maintain the illusion.

    Lion is not very good at apologetics.

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