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Thread: Exposing Atheistic Myths

  1. Top | #111
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    This conversation seems to have demonstrated - Thank-you Half-Life - that the actual myth is that persons actually believe in a god. A person may say as much but the reality based upon their behavior is that they clearly do not. I may as well tell someone I have a trillion dollars. Why should they believe me? What reason would they have based upon my behavior to assume that my belief is sincere even if they know I don't have the money? It's interesting how this thread has turned out.

    I have known persons with mental conditions that allowed me to accept their sincerity when they made extraordinary claims, even if I knew their claims were not true. Should I extend that courtesy to people who say they have gods?

  2. Top | #112
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    Although, I disagree with Gun-Nut that virutally no one sincerely believes in God, I do agree that actions and behavior are a needed and stronger indicator of sincere belief, beyond uttering the words "I believe in God".

    Most of the arguments discounting the role of behavior in reflecting belief are using invalid comparisons.

    For example, take a smoker who does sincerely believe that smoking is bad for their health. The belief that smoking is bad is merely a belief that it makes a bad outcome more likely, but not certain. In fact, 84% of moderate lifetime smokers will not get lung cancer. So, smoking doesn't actually conflict with the belief that smoking is bad. However, a belief that and all knowing God punishes those who do X is not probabilistic, it is certain. In fact, the major motive to believe in such gods is that it makes outcomes certain and therefore reduces existential angst. There are no beating those odds. Thus, doing X is a stronger indicator that you don't believe in a God that punishes X, than is the case for smoking and beliefs that smoking is bad.

    Sure, you could also add a belief that God will forgive you, if you ask nicely, but that just shows that one's actions do reflect one's theistic beliefs, so much so that people need to invent corollary beliefs to tack onto basic theism in order to allow themselves to engage in various behaviors.

    If you sincerely believed that the God of the Bible existed and that the Bible was his word, you would read, think, and talk about the Bible constantly. That b/c such beliefs inherently would make understanding what is actually being meant in every Bible passage more pragmatically important than anything and have more assumed impact on your and societies' well being than all of science combined.
    If such beliefs were sincere and held with confidence, then the consequences of failing to fully understand the Bible would be so certain, severe, and infinitely more long lasting, extreme, and certain than the consequence of anything else that people do. And those theists that don't give any special deference to the Bible or particular source of information would still spend most of their waking hours thinking and talking about what that God wanted and how to achieve it.

    To claim that these behavior don't follow from sincere theistic belief is to claim that people's actions are not driven by the most basic desires to avoid pain and seek pleasure.

    It would be analogous to the belief that a meteor was definitively going to strike Earth and end all life in 10 years from now, unless we could find a way to stop it. IOW, sincere belief in anything close to Abrahamic monotheism where eternal suffering can only be avoided by knowing and following God's will would psychologically and behaviorally look like the sincere belief of scientists who knew with scientific levels of certainty that a meteor was going to kill them and all life within a few year, unless we figured out how to stop it. Virtually every person who believed it and expected they or their loved one's will still be alive would be obsessed with it and constantly talking about it and wanting every social resource to be directed at figuring out how to prevent it. Nothing else would matter by relative importance. The only exception would be people who also sincerely believed in an afterlife and thought that the meteor was sent by God and therefore nothing could be done. And actually, that would mean they don't actually believe there is anything that could be done, which means their lack of action to stop it would be a reflection of their lack of belief that it could be stopped. With the God the most monotheists say they believe in, it isn't just material death at stake but (according to what they claim to believe) the eternal well being of their soul, the equivalent of potential suffering infinite painful material deaths over and over. So, actually this analogy undersells just how extreme and all consuming the thoughts, discussion, and action would be if most of society sincerely believed in the God of the Bible.

    I anticipate responses like "But people who believe in climate change still don't act to act though they do." Like smoking and cancer, climate change is a highly uncertain probabilistic thing. The reason that few people are doing anything about it is that they don't hold at least one or more of the following beliefs: 1) That the effects will definitely be catastrophic for human civilization, 2)That it will happen within their or their kids' lifetime. 3) That there is anything they personally could do that would make a difference.

  3. Top | #113
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    I agree about the probabilistic factor... makes sense.

    What is the ratio between an average human lifetime and eternity? It's infinity, right? As in, one's lifetime is infinitesimal as compared with eternity.. In the particular case of Christians, how foolish would it be to do anything but live the perfect Jesus's lifestyle?

    "I'll give you 100 million dollars if you can hold your breath for 1 second"
    "nah.. can't be bothered to do all that work.. not for 100 million"

  4. Top | #114
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    So when someone claims to believe in a god, goes to church, prays, invokes their god at funerals and weddings, teaches their children about their god, listens to experts who claim to know things about their god, gives money to these god experts, sings to their god, but spends most of their time doing mundane things that have nothing to do with their god, what can we know about this person? What does this person actually believe? What is their behavior telling us about their stated belief that they have a god?

    It tells me that this person and their brain really enjoy their god fantasy, which for them may even be something healthy, but that it takes a back seat to getting on with life proper. Sounds a lot like Natural Selection to me.

  5. Top | #115
    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    This all seems rather arbitrary to me. For example, a deist certainly believes in god... his concept of god not the god of the Abrahamic religions. A deist's god is a creator god, not a prying, bossy, demanding, judgemental, and interfering god. The fact that a deist's god is unlike the Abrahamic god does not make it any less a god. A god that winds the clock then sits back and watches without judgement is still a god.
    Yeah, but it's unlikely that hardly anyone believes/believed in a deist god, except as a retreating fallback position when science and reason made the prying, bossy, judgmental god(s) they or their culture believed in intellectual indefensible (such as the case with the desim of the Enlightenment and early post-Enlightenment era). Such a God doesn't serve any of the many psychological/political function for which gods were invented (comfort, sense of purpose/importance/justice, social control, etc.). The only thing a deist God does is provide a really terrible answer to "How did it start?" by replacing the "it" with "God", and answer that rests upon simultaneously presuming that every "it" needs a cause but then fallaciously contradicting that premise by accepting a god that is uncaused.

    Basically, the deist god is just the shell of what's left of god after all the psychological substance has be voided by reason, but the believer still wants to cling to the word "god" b/c they lack the courage redefine themselves as a non-believer and deal with that social ramifications that come with that.
    Absolutely. I agree. But the question was about whether anyone believes in a god. I was just pointing out that the argument given that people don't is flawed. Rather than the argument showing that people don't, it only shows that the overwhelming majority of people don't believe in a specific god - that vengeful, demanding, prying, god. I know many who call themselves Christian who do believe in a god but not that one assumed in the argument.

  6. Top | #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gun Nut View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    This all seems rather arbitrary to me. For example, a deist certainly believes in god... his concept of god not the god of the Abrahamic religions. A deist's god is a creator god, not a prying, bossy, demanding, judgemental, and interfering god. The fact that a deist's god is unlike the Abrahamic god does not make it any less a god. A god that winds the clock then sits back and watches without judgement is still a god.
    I disagree... Such a god is indistinguishable from a non-existent god, and therefore out of scope of my statements. It is too trivial to matter to me.
    Not at all. Such a god is indistinguishable from a non-existent god for you because you don't believe in it. Those who do believe in such a god believe in it (kinda a tautology). We are talking about beliefs, not reasoned understanding of a demonstrable reality.

  7. Top | #117
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    In a way though, Gun Nut has a point. I think that Christians who really believe in the god who saves people from the horror of the Hell described by Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus are few and far between. The writer of that story would have us believe that there is a place where the vast majority of humanity is going to spend an eternity in torment. The story of salvation is the good news of an escape from that horrible fate through Jesus.

    Such a fate would be far worse than drowning. If someone had fallen overboard a ship on the ocean and I had a nearby lifebuoy I'd toss it to him without a second thought. But few Christians act with the air of urgency true belief in the traditional afterlife options merit. Every effort of one's being should be dedicated to finding lost souls and saving them from this horrid outcome. Instead most Christians are content to show up at church on Sunday morning, do their rituals, toss their dollar in the collection plate and be content that they've paid their fire insurance premium. They don't really believe there's ever going to be a real fire.

    Or as the Japanese saying goes, "The fire is on the other side of the river."

  8. Top | #118
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atheos View Post
    In a way though, Gun Nut has a point. I think that Christians who really believe in the god who saves people from the horror of the Hell described by Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus are few and far between. The writer of that story would have us believe that there is a place where the vast majority of humanity is going to spend an eternity in torment. The story of salvation is the good news of an escape from that horrible fate through Jesus.

    Such a fate would be far worse than drowning. If someone had fallen overboard a ship on the ocean and I had a nearby lifebuoy I'd toss it to him without a second thought. But few Christians act with the air of urgency true belief in the traditional afterlife options merit. Every effort of one's being should be dedicated to finding lost souls and saving them from this horrid outcome. Instead most Christians are content to show up at church on Sunday morning, do their rituals, toss their dollar in the collection plate and be content that they've paid their fire insurance premium. They don't really believe there's ever going to be a real fire.

    Or as the Japanese saying goes, "The fire is on the other side of the river."
    I don't think you read that story very carefully. What is the sin for which the rich man was condemned?

    He was damned for not caring. Not for failing to believe. He likely went to Temple every Sabbath day, much as do the Christians you describe. His doom was written in his cruelty and apathy towards the suffering that was literally laid at his feet. Hence Abraham's doubtfulness in the last line that it would matter in the slightest whether he came back from the dead to warn people. You cannot convince someone by fear alone to truly value the life of another. At best, you can talk them into pretending to care. Not the same thing, and condemnation of hypocrisy is the most consistent theme in Jesus' teachings as a whole.

    I also don't think "most people" follows from "the richest people". Most people live their lives much more like Lazarus than the rich man in the story.

  9. Top | #119
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atheos View Post
    In a way though, Gun Nut has a point. I think that Christians who really believe in the god who saves people from the horror of the Hell described by Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus are few and far between. The writer of that story would have us believe that there is a place where the vast majority of humanity is going to spend an eternity in torment. The story of salvation is the good news of an escape from that horrible fate through Jesus.
    ...
    What I want to know is how Christians can rationalize the idea that humans evolved from non-humans while also believing that all humans descended from one man and one woman. The idea which is the basis for original sin and the sole purpose of Christ the redeemer. Seems to be a basic conflict there.

  10. Top | #120
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    We're now going on to the 21st century of this Christian thing, so it's natural that the religion has become background noise and that "believers" can customize their level of engagement. Tons of the Christians I've known, worked with, or been related to, have been social Christians. It's their milieu, and it's not something they are motivated to analyze. Typically, they haven't read the Bible and their understanding is boxed in by the pastors they've heard. What atheists see as cognitive dissonance, i.e., voting for Trump; accepting divorce or cheerful fornicating in their family or social set; worrying about retirement accounts when JC says not to; opposing social welfare; all that is okay because they haven't really internalized the faith as a faith -- it's something else, it's their parlance or lifestyle. You'll still get kneejerk reactions to hot-button "faith issues", but that's not the same as a committed prayer regimen or a craving for transcendent contact with a deity.

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