Sunday, March 10, 2013

Not Believing in God(s) Is Terrible and Utterly Tragic

Imagine a typical1 citizen of a country in Western Europe. She doesn't believe in god(s) and neither did her parents or grandparents. How should she feel? Should she be depressed and overcome with a sense of hopelessness because there are no god(s) to save her?

Yes, according to Damon Linker who recently reviewed a book by A.C. Grayling [Where are the honest atheists? ]. The subtitle is: "That godlessness might be both true and terrible is something that the new atheists refuse to entertain."

Hmmm ... he's right about that. I haven't entertained the notion that not believing in imaginary beings might be "terrible." Why should I? Here's his answer ...
If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we're alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

Honest atheists understand this. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, but he called it an "awe-inspiring catastrophe" for humanity, which now faced the monumental task of avoiding a descent into nihilism. Essayist Albert Camus likewise recognized that when the longing for a satisfying answer to the question of "why?" confronts the "unreasonable silence of the world," the goodness of human life appears to dissolve and must be reconstructed from the ground up.
Now I get it. If you've been brought up to believe that someone actually hears and answers your prayers then it can be quite a shock to learn that this is a delusion. It's probably as traumatic as learning that there's no Santa Claus and no tooth fairy.

Not to worry. You get over it soon enough. Millions of people do every year without descending into nihilism, or worse.

Jerry Coyne has a much longer answer to the nonsense that Damon Linker (and Ed West) spout. You should read it here: New Atheism once again pronounced dead, still refuses to lie down. Why is it that religious apologists always seem to be so deficient in basic common sense?

APPENDIX

In case you've never heard of Damon Linker, you should visit his website where you will learn that "Damon Linker is one of the most arresting and honest writers of his generation on the subjects of faith and politics." He's written a book called The Religious Test described as ...
The Constitution states that “no religious test” may keep a candidate from aspiring to political office. Yet since John F. Kennedy used the phrase to deflect concerns about his Catholicism, the public has largely avoided probing candidates’ religious beliefs. Is it true, however, that a candidate’s religious convictions should be off-limits to public scrutiny? Damon Linker doesn’t think so, and in this book, he outlines the various elements of religious belief—including radical atheism—that are simply incompatible with high office, and sometimes even active citizenship, in a democracy. In six forceful chapters, he enlightens us to the complicated interrelations between churches and states, consistently applying a political litmus test to a range of theological views. Along the way, he clearly explains, among other topics, why the government in a religiously tolerant society must not promote a uniform, absolute code of ethics and behavior, why the conviction that America is worthy of divine attention is dangerous, and why the liberal position on the political deregulation of sex is our nation’s only hope for conciliation. In this provocative, hard-hitting manifesto, Damon Linker exhorts both believers and atheists to behave better in the public sphere, and offers a carefully charted roadmap for doing so.
I like the part about radical atheists who shouldn't hold high public office. I assume that's because they will have difficulty getting along with the Christian fundamentalists who already occupy far too many of those positions.


1. "Typical" doesn't imply that a majority of citizens are atheists.

137 comments:

  1. I love the thing about him thinking the existence of a god would give him intrinsic value.
    Nothing will ever have intrinsic value, since value is pr. definition the subjective opinion a mind has about something. Whether that mind is god or "just" a human being makes the value-judgement no more objective. It doesn't matter how old, the person is, how powerful it is, where it came from or what it has done, it is still only an opinion.

    Damon Linker doesn't have intrinsic value on theism either, he should grow up and become an adult, and.. just get over it really.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Even to people who've been devout believers for a large portion of their lives, atheism doesn't automatically lead to terror and depression, but can instead be quite liberating and inspiring. Well known examples are the personal stories from people like (off the top of my head) John Loftus, Matt Dillahunty, Julia Sweeney, Seth Andrews, Jerry DeWitt, Bart Ehrman, Dan Barker and many others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hee hee, look at Rumraket relying on 'personal stories'....
      Subjective accounts don't count as anything, as you know so well, R!

      Delete
    2. @andyboerger Subjective accounts count where you're talking about someone relating their emotional experience. It's typical of theists to conflate ANY experience into ALL experience.

      Expressing your feelings as a part of a process in the development of your personality and worldset is fine, even if it's a religious one. The difference between arriving at an atheistic conclusion and a theistic one is that atheists don't go on to try to "feel" imaginary friends in objective existence.

      Delete
    3. yes, barefoot hiker. OR that atheists haven't had the experiences that some theists have had that have persuaded them that their 'friends' are NOT imaginary.

      Delete
    4. @andyboeger Or, alternatively, that those who do are deluded. That's also possible. On the whole, that seems more likely. It would be easier to credit your suggestion if not for the fact that there are currently several thousand different, and largely mutually-exclusive, versions of "God" or "gods" in the devotional marketplace; which is to say nothing of the brands long-loved but now long forgotten, like Mithras, Zeus, Anubis, and Odin. They can't ALL be right. But they CAN all be wrong.

      Delete
    5. @AB -

      what ridiculous nonsense. You are proof that theists really can't be critical thinkers, at least not where God is concerned.

      AB: "yes, barefoot hiker. OR that atheists haven't had the experiences that some theists have had"

      The "experiences" you refer to are feelings that were produced by your own mind. Such "experiences" tell us about nothing except the properties of your mind, and nothing outside it.

      The "experiences" you refer to might be cited by you as evidence that YOU have certain properties, e.g. you have certain FEELINGS. They cannot be cited by you as evidence for the properties of anything outside your mind.

      Are they repeatable observations that others may repeat? No. Thus they are not facts.

      Are they logical inferences from hypotheses that make testable predictions about repeatable observations? No. Thus they are not testable theories.

      There is no reason why anyone else should be constrained by your "experiences" or any logical inferences from your experiences. They're not facts about the world outside your mind, and they're not logical inferences from facts about the world outside your mind.

      And now, argumentum ad absurdem: suppose that someone had an "experience" which told him Jews were Christ-killers and to blame for Communism. In the absence of facts or logical inferences from facts, why should we care about his "experiences"? They tell us about his mind, but nothing outside his mind. Why should the actions of other people be constrained by such "experiences"?

      Thus you have no evidence that your "experiences" provide any information about anything outside your mind. Your "experiences" are products of your mind and reveal nothing except the properties of your mind, and nothing about anything outside your mind.

      You have yourself demolished the argument that theists can be critical thinkers, at least not where God is concerned.

      Delete
    6. @Diogenes
      You miss the point - you miss many points. Why should everything of importance be publicly available? Where did that rule come from? And what facts are there, if any, that are public to the extent that experience is not also required?

      Delete
    7. Diogenes writes,
      'You have yourself demolished the argument that theists can be critical thinkers, at least not where God is concerned.'

      It is impossible to write a more question begging piece of prose. As an atheist, Diogenes rejects the existence of god. Therefore, based upon his prior commitment to atheists, theists CAN not - to him - be critical thinkers where God is concerned.

      Delete
    8. AB has never advanced a single logical argument for the existence of God. His arguments are based, at best, on personal experience. That is not critical thinking.

      I could say it's my personal experience that Armenians are ugly. Sure, maybe my experience tells you something about the properties of my mind. What does it tell you about the properties of things outside my mind? Nada. So why should my subjective experience be the basis of policies that compel other people?

      Rumraket and others have pointed out that every logical "proof" of God's existence contains MULTIPLE logical fallacies. None of the theists here even tried contesting that point! Every theist here simply dodged it.

      There's something wrong when William Lane Craig trots out St. Anselm's "ontological proof" of God's existence, which has been demolished in a dozen different ways, and no theist tells Craig he's a complete moron. No. They treat him as a great intellectual leader.

      AB, are you willing to admit that arguments based on "subjective experience" do not demonstrate the properties of anything outside your own mind? Simple question. Yes or no.

      Delete
    9. Diogenes writes,
      "AB, are you willing to admit that arguments based on "subjective experience" do not demonstrate the properties of anything outside your own mind? Simple question. Yes or no."

      Yes, absolutely.

      Delete
    10. Diogenes asks a silly question because he is too dense to understand, after all I have written on this site, that I am NOT interested in proving the existence of god to anyone.
      I am only pointing out that if people want to believe in god, they have ample reason to do so, and that if people like Diogenes and Rumraket, and Larry, want to call them deluded, ignorant, irrational, etc., that is simply their subjective judgement. They can shore up their subjective judgement with (over)reliance on logic as an all-determining enterprise, but the fact remains that their judgement of believers is purely subjective. They can choose to, or not to, open their minds to the possibility that the testimonies of some people among the many who claim to have had metaphysical experiences may reveal something about the universe that their reliance on logic can't.
      OR, they can come to echo chambers like this, chortle about how naive and silly believers are, puff themselves up like peacocks, and congratulate themselves on how 'rational' they are.
      Either way, purely subjective.

      Delete
    11. Diogenes, are YOU willing to admit that it is only through 'subjective experience' that you have come to your decision to reject out of hand all personal accounts of god(s)? That if pressed to explain your views, you would need to use terminology such as, "I just feel that it's stupid to accept any account other than what can be demonstrated through repeatable experiment" or
      'I fear that if I were admit some degree of open mindedness about others' accounts into my worldview I might head down a slippery slope whereby I can no longer trust my own reasoning ability', and so forth.
      No, something more objective. A clear, testable, fact-based reply such that 'the properties of something outside of your own mind' are clearly on display, please. Show how the principles you use, and the evidence you will accept, in order to decide what is and isn't evidence for god(s) were arrived at objectively, and are by objective standards superior.

      Delete
  3. From "Not the End of the World" by Christopher Brookmyre: When it was playing-for-keeps time, when life was drawing a line in the sand, he suddenly knew which side he stood. It was cold, dark and scary that side of the line, and there was nobody there to help you, but once you're there you can't return. Once you've seen behind the backdrop, you can't walk out front again and believe that what's painted on it is real. The world this side of the line is indeed a more foreboding place, but even though you have to tread with more caution, you walk with more dignity.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I will gladly admit that it can be depressing to know that death means annihilation. Still, being a grown-up means to stop with the wishful thinking already!

    The other problem is that immortal souls turn fairly horrid and incoherent if you do what the wishful thinkers usually fail to do, i.e. think the implications through. What actually happens with the terrified, lonely soul of a dead one year old in heaven whose parents only join her 30 years later?

    Are we mindless puppets or still ourselves in the afterlife? If it is the latter, then the free will defense against the problem of evil breaks down; if it is the former, well...

    And that is before really trying to get a handle on what "eternity" means, be it an eternity of sitting around in a golden city singing the praises of the cosmic tyrant or an eternity of torture in a lake of burning sulfur as a punishment for eating pork or praying only four instead of the commanded five times a day or something like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would imagine, if the only evidence/reports we have to go are true, that the one year old with be bathed in a light/love so overpowering the envy is a more appropriate response than pity.

      Re the problem of evil: if it was up to you would you still have the occasional nightmare?

      Delete
    2. The concept of paradise/heaven as a place of (eternal) happiness is logically untenable. Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience has a pretty good argument for why. His mother supposedly belives he won't be coming to heaven with her, because he's "working for the devil"(and therefore will be going to hell) or something to that effect. Yet, if she's supposedly going to heaven, the idea that she can be happy in heaven, knowing her son is roasting in hell for eternity, is absurd. If she truly will be happy there, then it won't be his mother, becauser his mother couldn't be happy knowing that.
      So either god wipes your memories upon entering heaven, in which case how can you be you if you have none of your experiences, many of which have had defining impacts on your personality? Or heaven isn't a place of happiness after all.

      The most sensible solution is that there isn't such a place as heaven or hell, it's nonsensical.

      Delete
    3. Your childlike mind can't grasp it, so what? The reports are the reports. I was simply going where the evidence tentatively leads. You alas, on the other hand, are going where your religion says you must.

      Delete
    4. As for "Matt Dillahunty says....". LOL - it's so unfair to bring on such intellectual heavyweights.

      Delete
    5. Luther, Rumraket may not have a 'childlike' mind, but he does seem to think that logic is the be all and end all. He now wants to use it to call heaven 'logically untenable' because he expects heaven to be exactly as Matt Dillahunty characterizes it. This is, of course, absurd.

      It is not difficult to imagine a heaven quite different from each of us just retaining our current personalities, including all our prejudices, etc. The notion of his mother, who would in heaven, by definition, now be a 'celestial being' worrying about where her son is - that's an argument?
      One might use it to argue that hell is not possible, I suppose, but not heaven. Gee Matt, Rumraket, let's say that there IS no hell, that Matt's mother is WRONG about that, but that when she gets to heaven she finds that out and is overjoyed?
      I mean jeez, all this shows is how limited the thinking of people like Matt and Rumraket is when it comes to the matter of considering that which is/may be beyond this plane of existence.

      Delete
    6. Andy, if you're going to throw logic out the window, stop trying to make logical arguments. Oh wait, you already did... nevermind.

      Delete
    7. And Luther, you're nothing but a standard hubristic troll, for all your bluster and rethoric, once pressed to attempt digging down into the matter you sound like Ray Comfort or Pat Robertson, a senile blithering, uneducated idiot.

      What do you have to show for all your pretention? Namedropping philosophers? Holy fuck I better get a prayermat and sandals ready.

      Delete
    8. Rumraket, I never 'throw logic out the window'. However, unlike you, I don't put it in charge of my life and kiss its ass all the time.
      It makes a better servant than a master, R.

      Delete
    9. Hahaahaha, oh my fucking god. I could not ask for better evidence that theism equals brain-rot. Logic's fine till it forces you to conclude your religiously inspired conceptions are false, at which point logic isn't fine any more.

      Well done Andy, well done.

      Delete
    10. I prefer not to have my words paraphrased by uncomprehending fools, generally, due to the level of misconstruction, as evidenced above. But I appreciate the effort nonetheless.

      Delete
    11. @andyboerger The notion of his mother, who would in heaven, by definition, now be a 'celestial being' worrying about where her son is - that's an argument?

      Andy, if you woke up and no longer cared, at all, about the people you formerly loved: their comfort, their happiness, their well-being, whether or not they were suffering... would the person who woke up, devoid of your compassion and the human relationships that have formed the structure of your life and place in the world, really still be "you"?

      Heaven is reputed to us to be a place of perfect happiness and contentment. But who can conceive of a mother who loved and wept for her son all her life who suddenly couldn't care less about him suffering moment by moment forever still being fundamentally HERSELF? I have a hard time even imagining a person who would WANT that. We might not like our troubles, but to be so utterly lobotomized would be to lose oneself, and most people would back away from that, no matter how blissful.

      The ultimate point is, if heaven is as advertised, no one who goes there is truly himself, but simply a blissed-out shell. And if one retains one's identity and concerns after death, there can be no heaven as described, because Matt's mother could never be completely--or probably even generally--happy in the awareness and possibly even the sight of her son being tormented FOREVER.

      Think of your own mother. Can you imagine a situation in which you knew, even WATCHED, her being tortured, and felt nothing but joy and rapture not just despite it, but actually because of it? Would that person really be Andy Boerger in any real sense? Now if we're wrong about this, please, walk us through the scenario where you imagine enjoying watching those you love tortured for eternity as the person you are.

      Delete
    12. Rumraket writes,
      'Hahaahaha, oh my fucking god. I could not ask for better evidence that theism equals brain-rot. Logic's fine till it forces you to conclude your religiously inspired conceptions are false, at which point logic isn't fine any more.

      Well done Andy, well done.'

      Rumraket, I wonder if you have ever studied any psychology? If you had, you would recognize that your comment, along with the later ones you made on our last thread, reveal a deep insecurity. You need to shore up your confidence in your worldview with a phony declaration of superiority (phony in that it is not actually felt), churlish demeanor and copious use of the f-word.
      It's pretty interesting.

      Delete
    13. barefoot hiker, you misunderstand. I was using, as an example, a mother who having become a celestial being would have dropped her prejudices regarding her son's beliefs, NOT her love for her son. And I was also using the example that the hell she feared he would rot in does not exist.

      Delete
    14. @andyboerger If hell doesn't exist, then what's the issue with being an atheist in the first place? It sounds effectively like living in New York and not being a Yankee's fan and suddenly having the fact they'd just won the World Series brought to light. Okay, fine; but if there are no ramifications for that, then what difference did it, or does it, or will it ever make? Or actually being Mets fan instead, for that matter?

      Delete
    15. Rapey: I would imagine, if the only evidence/reports we have to go are true, that the one year old with be bathed in a light/love so overpowering the envy is a more appropriate response than pity.

      Rapey is referring to people who get severe brain damage, head crushed in car accident, oxygen starvation, etc. and have a dream where they allegedly talk to spooks.

      Rapey refers to conversations with spooks as "the only evidence/reports we have to go [on]" regarding the afterlife, although of course, the only people giving such reports did not actually die.

      None of them, for example, had rigor mortis or started to smell, then came back and reported a conversation with spooks. If the supernatural is real, why are there no examples of corpses with rigor mortis, formaldehyde in their arteries, etc., coming back and describing God's recipe for curing cancer?

      None of these brain-damaged, oxygen-starved people who talk to spooks, to the allegedly "higher intelligences", really believe they're talking to a higher intelligence. If they really believed that, why is it none of them ever asked the higher intelligences what's the cure for cancer? Then bring that back.

      They don't even try. They don't make the effort. Even during their oxygen-starvation dream, they know, deep down, that the spooks are products of their own minds, not a separate intelligence with separate knowledge, and not a "higher intelligence" with more knowledge.

      If you don't ask the spook "What's the cure for cancer?" then you know deep down that the spook is the wishful thinking and imagination of your oxygen-starved brain.

      That's the real experience of Near Death Experiences: every single person with an NDE experienced the fact that the only intelligence with which they could communicate was their own, and imaginary friends they concoct. Every single person with an NDE experienced the fact that they never had any contact with any "higher intelligence" with super-knowledge where the universe, physics, math, biology OR medicine are concerned.

      That is their real experience. Why do you disregard the real experiences of millions?

      Delete
    16. @paedo
      LOL, you must be really terrified to invent such a ridiculous story and then post it here as if it had any merit. The fact is that many people who have NDE's are profoundly changed by it in a way completely inconsistent with your claim that deep down they know they didn't really experience anything of note. This is one of the great puzzles - and as noted, that you choose to try to explain it away to yourself with silly made up nonsense and ludicrous, and ludicrously uninformed, rules for what one must do when one dies, tells us about your fanatical religious views and little else.

      Delete
  5. Luther, reports are not evidence for the reality of the claim. When you understand that reports of personal experiences are nothing more than evidence of what is going on inside someone's head independently of anything that is factual regarding how the world works then we can start to have a fruitful conversation about what the evidences say.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1. Reports are all the evidence we have, and possibly all the evidence we can ever have, and the reports seem to suggest an afterlife. And that's true however much you desperately want to disbelieve it. 2. Give me just one fact the discovery of which was not in any way dependent on what was going on inside someone's head.

    Once you have even the slightest understanding of these facts, and have pondered them for some time as best you can, you might, just might, then be able to say something that is of interest to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You misphrase the question, Luther. Anything considered to be a "fact" cannot consist only of something going on inside someone's head.

      Delete
    2. I had a dream last night - fact. Move on, clown.

      Delete
    3. No, Luther, you didn't have a dream last night.

      You think you did. You believe you did.

      But in reality, you didn't have a dream.

      It works just like belief in gods. You can make up anything you want, but for it to be true, you must have evidence. Otherwise, any contrarian can come along to deny what you say, and you can't do a thing about it except stomp your feet and fume.

      Delete
    4. On the contrary, rather than stamping my feet and shouting, I can point out that the fact we dream is a Moorean fact. Moreover, I could point out that no fact is so secure that it is impossible for someone, like you, with a religious axe to grind, to dispute it. But hey ho, there being such pricks in the world doesn't stop it being a fact.

      Delete
    5. Nice try, Luther, but you didn't say "dreams" or "Moorean fact". What you claimed was that you had a dream last night.

      But you didn't. You didn't have a dream last night.

      I say you're mistaken. I say you DID NOT have a dream last night. Why should anyone believe you did? Just because you say so?

      Without evidence, you have no fact. All you can do is try to shift the ground of the debate.

      But hey ho, the world is full of deluded turdlets who just make stuff up without any evidence and call it fact.

      Delete
    6. It is of no consequence what you think. I have all the evidence I need. You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that facts need to be demonstrable to someone who is intent on denying them. No such thing is possible and no such facts exist. Thus the fact I had a dream last night is on as sound a footing as it needs to be, and the fact you've befuddled yourself with such bad philosophy that you think your doubt amounts to anything is neither here nor there.

      Delete
    7. Another dodge.

      You have no substantial answer to say how I can tell your claim of having dreamed dreamed last night is factual, so you bluster. You sling bafflegab and denial, but you got nothin' but hot air.

      Or am I just too simple to understand? By all means, enlighten me. Why should I believe your report of having had a dream? Because I don't. Go ahead, demonstrate the factuality of your claim.

      But you can't. You're like an incompetent poseur who styles himself a philosopher, but that's no more a fact than your claim to have dreamed last night.

      Delete
    8. @phht
      FWIW, part of being a good critical thinker (like me), as opposed to being an arsehole (like you), is understanding what evidence could be offered in any particular case and then assessing the actual evidence offered against that standard. By contrast, part of being an arsehole (like you), as opposed to being a good critical thinker (like me), is to have one absolute (and preposterous) standard (which can never actually be met), and then applying that one rule in an ad hoc manner in order to preserve one's cherished beliefs and to reject anything that doesn't tally with what one wants to believe.

      Delete
    9. Luther writes,
      'You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that facts need to be demonstrable to someone who is intent on denying them.'
      That is exceptionally well put, and relates to the argument/discussion that I recently had with Rumraket on another thread.
      We can turn that around and challenge Rumraket about the 'personal stories' he presents that demonstrate that, in his words, atheism 'can instead be quite liberating and inspiring.'
      I don't deny that it can, but suppose I did. I would say, 'Rumraket, atheism can NOT be liberating and inspiring because it doesn't 'liberate' anyone from the fact that sixty or seventy years from now it will be as if they never existed, and it is already so for any heroes, such as Beethoven, Shakespeare, Darwin, etc. that they may have. Just dead meaningless lives on a dying world. People who IMAGINE themselves to be 'liberated and inspired' are just deluding themselves, and thus their subjective experiences hold no weight'.

      It is so easy to make the exact same argument when one is, as you write, intent on denying what is presented.

      Delete
    10. phhht, you really don't believe that Luther had a dream last night? I challenge that. I maintain that you really DO believe that Luther had a dream last night, and are just saying you don't. Please prove that I am wrong. You can't, by the way.

      Delete
    11. @Phht
      I gave an answer. It is of zero consequence what you believe or what you say. It is no part of what a fact is that phht has to be convinced of it - and certainly no part of what a fact is that phht has to admit he is convinced of it. You seem to imagine two strange things: 1) that you have some importance to the issue that you don't have; and 2) that you don't actually believe I had a dream last night - you do - you're just lying for the sake of argument. Where on earth would you get such an idea?

      Delete
    12. @Andy
      Interesting you should raise that point since I just made the same point myself. These clowns really seem to imagine that the playing of silly rhetorical games has some import for the truth. This is one of the key features of self-styled atheists - they imagine that getting their consent is somehow the key factor in determining the truth of a claim. Short of putting people to the torture, someone can always so "no, I don't accept that" - but so what? Tell us something we didn't know.

      Delete
    13. Andy, you are absolutely correct. The factuality of my belief that luther had a dream last night is nonexistent, just like the factuality of his claim. Neither claim is a fact. I'm amazed it took you guys so long to grasp that.

      Luther, you rectal polyp, you can dodge all night long, but you cannot show how your alleged dream is a fact. Your claim that you had one is unsupported. It is nothing but hot air, stinking of its origin. It is not a fact at all, but a baseless assertion. And unless you come up with some evidence - of which you are quite clearly innocent - it will remain so.

      Delete
    14. I have shown how it is a fact (supported it) to the only extent that is necessary/possible. You still seem to be completely confused over what a fact is in a case like this and over your role in things. Let me explain: your view, and what you will admit about it, do not matter one iota. You are not the judge before which all claims must be laid, and your stated judgement is of no consequence. Thus you misunderstand what a fact is; you misunderstand how facts are demonstrated in different cases; and you misunderstand the rule to which you take yourself to be working.

      Delete
    15. phhht, it's not quite like that. I maintain that I can make a more logical case than you that you DO in fact, believe that Luther had a dream last night.
      a.) people dream regularly. Scientific studies of sleep confirms this.
      b.) In general, when someone says they had a dream last night, the person they are speaking to believes them. I'd guess this to be so in nearly all cases. They have no reason to think the other person is lying, and besides, there IS a.)
      c.) People tend to have egos, and dislike losing arguments.
      Thus, it is MORE logical to assume that you believe Luther, but are maintaining the position that you don't in order to score a rhetorical point, than that you in fact DON'T believe him.
      It is not a question of whether it is a 'fact' or not. Logic depends on the strengths of various positions. And in this case, my supposition (You believe Luther but are lying that you don't) is stronger than your assertion that you don't believe him.

      Delete
    16. Andy, you defeat your own position. It doesn't matter what you or I assume about the factuality of luther's claim. It doesn't matter if you think you can make a rational case for his claim. Neither of those things makes a fact of an unsupported assertion.

      To see this, tell me how I can test the truth - the factuality, the reality - of luther's claim for myself.

      I make it a practice to disbelieve an assertion unless there is objective evidence to support it. To do otherwise is to open oneself to every rectal polyp of a charlatan on the planet who just makes stuff up without evidence and calls it fact.

      Delete
    17. @Andy
      It's even worse than that because phht has already said he acknowledges that I genuinely believe I had a dream last night, but he, for undisclosed reasons, says he believes I did not. Thus he has already abandoned the one good reason to disbelieve me (ie, I'm lying) and is now saying he believes some unknown mental phenomenon took place (me falsely believing I dreamed) as opposed to the common dreaming phenomenon. And when we factor that nonsense into your argument, the answer is clear: phht is, because he knows he's beat and can't give it up, just opening his mouth and letting any old rubbish fall out.

      Delete
    18. Luther, you're just pulling that tired old debating trick: when you have nothing else, denigrate your opponent. You can scream my insignificance to the heavens, but that still won't make a fact of your unsupported assertion. It you actually could do the latter, you wouldn't have to dodge so blatantly with the former.

      Go ahead, you pompous self-inflated helium balloon, tell me how I can test your claim to see if you are stating a fact, or just stomping your feet, fuming, flinging spittle, and ducking the question.

      Otherwise, you anal itch, you got nothin' but hot air.

      Delete
    19. @phht
      What makes my claim to have dreamed a fact is whether I dreamed or not. Its status as a fact or otherwise depends in no way upon whether you are disposed to admit you believe it. As for you being able to verify it, you could try asking me - that, in practice, and almost in principle, is the only (and certainly the appropriate) way of coming to know what the facts are in such cases. If you don't like that then you're are of course free to rant and rave at the world for not being the way you'd really really like it to be.

      Delete
    20. @phht
      You can test my claim by asking me. That's the deal with dreams. Sorry you don't like it, but who cares - welcome to the real world.

      Delete
    21. Don't have to ask you. You already claimed that it is a fact that you had a dream last night.

      See, luther, I'm beginning to think that you CANNOT TELL fact from fiction. I certainly see no reason to believe that you can, not based on what you've already said.

      I simply don't trust you, luther. I think you just make stuff up and call it fact when you have nothing whatsoever to back you up. Maybe you had a dream last night, maybe not, but your bald, unsupported assertion that you did so does not constitute fact.

      That's why just asking you isn't good enough, luther. You're looking more and more like a foaming-at-the-mouth loon.

      Of course, you can prove my opinion wrong. All you have to do is to support your allegation of fact with some objective evidence.

      Delete
    22. phhht, you are engaging in mere sophistry. You do not 'make it a practice disbelieve an assertion unless there is objective evidence to support it'. You believe subjective things that happen to you all the time. If a coworker apologizes for being short with you by saying, 'Sorry, I'm just in a bad mood today', you believe them. You don't ask them to prove that they are in a bad mood. Nor do you hold out another possibility, such as that they are just pretending to be in a bad mood because they have some other reason for wanting to be short with you. And even THAT reason, whatever it may be, you are not convinced of either. You would need another, dispassionate coworker to verify that your sour coworker was lying.
      If you do actually operate like that on a daily basis, then I suggest you get help for that, because it is a form of neurosis.

      Delete
    23. I'm not saying that my claiming I dreamed constitutes the fact I dreamed, I'm saying my having dreamed constitutes the fact I dreamed. And I have given you the only evidence that is needed/appropriate in such cases. If you don't like it, so what? The example of my having dreamed stands whether you believe I did or not. You seem unable to grasp the idea that different types of evidence are appropriate in different cases. So let me ask you: do you think it's a fact that people sometimes dream?

      Delete
    24. Andy, of course I make it a practice to disbelieve all assertions of fact without evidence, and so should you. Otherwise, I hope you never have to go outdoors, much less buy a used car.

      If a co-worker says he's mopey, that doesn't make it a fact. If luther says he had a dream, that doesn't make it a fact. Without objective evidence, all you have are unsupported assertions.

      I reject the credulous practice of accepting every baseless claim as fact. If you don't, you may not be neurotic, but you're a fool.

      Delete
    25. What you actually said, luther is this:

      I had a dream last night - fact.

      Nothing but bald assertion. You give no reason whatsoever to back your claim that it is a fact that you had a dream.

      But your unsupported claim, your baseless allegation, is NOT a fact. There is not the slightest reason to believe it is factually true, and in my view, there is reason to doubt it.

      Delete
    26. again, mere (and meaningless) sophistry. The due diligence required before buying a used car is of an entirely different order than disbelieving anything that comes out of a person's mouth in the course of our daily interactions. If you maintain that equal skepticism should be applied in all situations, then you, not I, are the fool.

      Delete
    27. I know that's what I said. I said it is a fact that I dreamed last night. And not that it matters, but the reason for believing it is my having said it. That is, my having said I dreamed last night (my bald assertion to that effect, if you insist on putting it so strangely) is perfectly good evidence for my having dreamed last night. So what if you don't believe it - that has no bearing on whether it's a fact - that would just make it a particular fact that you don't believe.

      Delete
    28. Imagine it Andy! Imagine someone who never believed a word anyone told them without checking. Pfft goes to work and someone says "I was the football yesterday", so pfft puts in an FOI request to the CCTV company to get the footage of the crowd entering the ground so he can go home and scrutinize the footage for hours trying to determine whether truth was told. I mean, if you didn't do that you would be a fool.

      Delete
    29. phhht, just to make sure, you also disbelieve the people Rumraket mentioned who claim to have been 'liberated' and 'inspired' by converting to atheism, right?

      Delete
    30. Luther, I know. phhht would make an interesting character in a Jonathan Swift book. I can picture Gulliver going to a world where everyone checks on, and demands proof of, everything that everyone says. At which point (and I don't think phht comprehends this) the whole notion of 'objective evidence' simply breaks down.

      I could, for example, refuse to pay someone for painting my house. "I asked you to paint my house white, and you painted it fluorescent pink."
      "What are you talking about? Look, your house is right THERE! It's WHITE!"
      "No it isn't, and you can't prove that when I said 'white' I didn't mean THAT color. That looks like fluorescent pink to me, so I'm not paying."
      If everyone behaved like that, fluorescent pink and white really WOULD be the same thing, and nothing would ever get accomplished.

      Delete
    31. I've had one smoke too many to continue - the whole things is becoming mindboggling. Sweet dreams.

      Delete
    32. But luther, your unsupported allegation DOES NOT support or constitute a fact.

      Perhaps you are lying. Perhaps you are mistaken. Perhaps you are a deluded loon who cannot tell fact from baseless allegation. Who knows? There is no way to tell. Any one of those circumstances would refute your claim of fact, wouldn't they, luther.

      And without evidence to back you up, there isn't the slightest reason to accede to your authoritarian claim. In fact, it would be foolish to do so.

      Delete
    33. You are mistaken. You haven't grasped the concept of what evidence is appropriate in a particular case. Thus I have provided evidence - you just don't like it, but so what?

      Delete
    34. Do you concede that if you were mistaken, your allegation that you dreamed last night would not constitute fact? Do you concede that if you were lying, your allegation that you dreamed last night would not constitute fact? Do you concede that if you are a demented barmioid who cannot tell a fact from a rutabaga, your allegation that you dreamed last night would not constitute fact? A simple, single yes or know will suffice, luther.

      Your bare word is worthless when it comes to establishing the factual nature of an allegation such as the one you made, because you could be mistaken, etc.

      You gotta have evidence, luther, or it's nothing but hot air.

      Delete
    35. You completely misunderstand the nature of facts and the nature of evidence. And, for the last time, it is not my statement that I dreamed that is the fact in question. You don't even seem to understand what the fact is supposed to be here.

      Just as a matter of interest, since it is of no consequence to my original claim, what would you count as evidence of someone having dreamed?

      Delete
    36. @Luther Flint the reports seem to suggest an afterlife

      "Seem". The Earth "seems" to be flat from an altitude of six feet or so. The sun "seems" to rise and set and thus go around the Earth. Rainbows "seem" to be miraculous until you learn the basics of refraction.

      Oxygen-deprived brains quite frequently generate the perception of a pinched-off tunnel of light. You don't have to be dying to experience that. Lots of pilots experience it undergoing prolonged high-G turns. The ones who experience it long enough pass out, crash, and actually die.

      What's lacking is any kind of evidence that would take this experience of an ephemeral physical sensation and demonstrate it to actually be a transitory supernatural one. It's the insistence that it is, despite the lack of any supporting evidence, that reflects desperation, Luther; not skepticism on the matter.

      Delete
    37. @andyboeger "What are you talking about? Look, your house is right THERE! It's WHITE!"

      Seriously, Andy, can you not see the difference between these types of claims?

      It's really not that hard to demonstrate an empirical claim. If two parties dispute the colour of a house, it's very simple to ask a disinterested third party to run an experiment (in this case "please look at this house and tell us what colour it is") and provide objective results.

      A supernatural claim can't be objectively tested in this manner. A living disinterested party can't accompany a dying person and come back and objectively confirm (or deny) that yeah, they met Jesus, got to kiss grandma and taste her strawberry preserves again, pet Rover who Grampa backed over with his Nash Rambler, and then got told it wasn't his time yet and he still had important things to do on Earth like invent the longer-lasting enema or something. So these claims, no matter how many of them pile up, don't constitute evidence of anything other than that people can make such claims and sincerely believe them. They might provide hope for the credulous, but they offer nothing concrete to the skeptical that would persuade.

      Delete
    38. @Hiker
      Nobody is talking about supernatural claims. The issue here is whether it is a fact that I dreamed the night before last. I say it is a fact, and some here say there it is not, and moreover, that there is not the slightest reason to believe it. I say that my reporting that I dreamed is all the reason needed to believe I dreamed the night before last. Andy's example was to show that there is no evidence sufficient ever to force someone to acknowledge any fact.

      Delete
    39. @ Hiker
      Re the NDE's - there we are talking about a supernatural claim. And there what evidence we do have supports the afterlife about as strongly as we could reasonably expect evidence to support it. That's not to say it is proven beyond reasonable doubt, but it is to say that we have pretty much all we could expect to have in the circumstances. The general question, then, is about what kind of evidence we can reasonably expect in different cases.

      Delete
    40. @Luther Flint Luther, any claim of the existence of personal identity without a physical existence, which is generally but not always to say "after death", is by definition a supernatural claim, because it's unevidenced in natural world. You advanced the matter of dreams in the first place as an allegory in support of claims of conscious experience after death.

      I suppose it's strictly true to remark that no one can be forced to acknowledge a fact, at least to another person. But the refusal to do so is not the same thing as saying there's no basis for facts in the first place, or basing one's comportment in the world upon them.

      Delete
    41. @Hiker
      You're not reading what I wrote.
      Do you regard the claim "I dreamed the night before last" as a supernatural claim?

      And no, I didn't advance it as an allegory, nor even an analogy, for a supernatural claim. I advanced it as an example of a fact, "I dreamed the night before last", that consists of something solely inside someone's head. The claim that this is impossible being the one I was responding to at that time. It was supposed to be the first step in trying to get some of the dullards who post here to understand the different types of evidence that can be expected in different types of cases. I did this because they seem, ludicrously enough, to be demanding the same type of evidence in all cases.

      Delete
    42. @Luther Flint And there what evidence we do have supports the afterlife about as strongly as we could reasonably expect evidence to support it.

      Which is to say, from an empirical point of view, not at all. Again: all it provides in any objective sense is evidence that people can make the claim itself and sincerely believe it, but nothing about whether the claim itself represents reality. Those are two different things.

      Over a billion people claim, and quite sincerely, that Allah is one, not tripartite, never had a son, does not beget, and dictated the Quran to Mohammed. But does that fact that they sincerely make that claim persuade you therefore that the claim itself is valid?

      I'm not saying absolutely that there is no life after death, or that these people haven't genuinely had that experience. I'm not in position to do so. What I am saying is that their anecdotal experience doesn't constitute evidence of the claim, and no one is under obligation to accept it, to treat it as though it constituted a part of demonstrable reality, or live one's life as though it did; for all the same reasons the "truth" of Islam (probably) doesn't pass muster as "real" to you.

      Delete
    43. @Luther Flint I didn't advance it as an allegory, nor even an analogy, for a supernatural claim.

      Come on, Luther, don't crap in the pool and tell me it's raft for your hamster. I know what it is. You first elicited life-after-death experiences and when someone pointed out the paucity of such claims as evidence, you evoked dreams as a common subjective experience as if dreams, which we know exist, were an analog of claims of experience after death, which we don't. I don't mind that you make the claim, but don't be disingenuous about why you make it, especially when you go on to explain the same thing.

      It's interesting that you accept "they go on in someone's head" where dreams are concerned, but that the same thing's likely with regard to claims of near-death experiences doesn't seem to have occurred to you as a possibility.

      Delete
    44. luther sez:

      You completely misunderstand the nature of facts and the nature of evidence.

      So explain it to me, mighty intellect, o great impassionate eye who sees fact where no other can, explain how, when you claim you had a dream, I can tell whether or not you are lying, or mistaken, or just plain loony.

      Any of those conditions would make your unsupported claim of having dreamed non-factual, no matter how you stomp and fume.

      No more condescension, no more duckin' and dodgin', no more self-aggrandizement. Just say how I can get objective evidence that your claim is factual.

      Delete
    45. @Hiker
      Now you're just mixing up claims as if there's no difference between them. First hand reports of, eg, dreams are perfectly acceptable. Therefore, in certain cases, first-hand reports (anecdotes as you pejoratively call them) are perfectly good evidence and possibly the only evidence it is possible to have. It's no good stamping your feet, like phhh, and demanding that all evidence must be of the "three apples in the drawer" kind, because that leads to the kind of ludicrous, and dishonest, position phhht claimed yesterday to hold.

      The trick is to assess the evidence on its own terms, and not to employ silly rhetorical tricks (like the Allah one above). Different cases, different considerations. That's the ticket.

      Delete
    46. This argument is a terrible mess, and phht, AB, and Rapey have all argued horribly.

      First, phht has argued poorly by claiming that it is not a "fact" that Rapey had a dream last night. It *might* be a fact, but it could be merely a description of properties of Rapey's mind and not properties of the world outside Rapey's mind.

      In principle, as we all know, scientists can detect when someone is dreaming by putting electrodes on their head, eyes, etc. and seeing when they go into REM. This is a repeatable observation, so it's a fact. At present, our ability to determine the *content* of dreams is limited, but our ability to scientifically "read minds" is of course expanding rapidly, and in the near future, we may have the ability to at least categorize the content of dreams. Thus, phht has argued poorly.

      What phht should have said was: There are two things to consider here:

      1. Properties of your mind (subjective facts), and

      2. Properties of the world outside your mind (objective facts).

      Luther's bare statement "I had a dream" can be an objective fact if his brain has electrodes on it when he dreams. It may be category 2, objective fact.

      By contrast, the *content* of Rapey's dream (shudder) may tell us about the properties of his mind (shudder again) but that is just category 1, subjective. The *content* of Rapey's dream does not necessarily tell us about any properties of the outside world (category 2).

      e.g. if Rapey says, "I had a dream about Elvis, so that proves Elvis is alive" this is a claim about properties of the outside world which is only buttressed by properties of Rapey's mind. This is an invalid inference.

      If Rapey says, "I had a dream, and its content reveals properties of the world outside my mind which I could not obtain by any natural senses" then that is an invalid attempt to get from category 1 to category 2.

      The contents of Rapey's dreams (shudder) may be "facts" ONLY in that they tell us about the properties of Rapey's mind (shudder), but not necessarily properties of anything outside his mind.

      There is no reason to believe that what Rapey saw in his dream is necessarily correlated to properties of the world outside his mind. It may be if, e.g. he remembers a real event from his childhood, like tearing the legs off bugs or stealing chocolate milk from littler kids.

      The same thing goes with NDE's. Some person gets his skull crushed by a horse, his brain is oxygen-starved, and he comes back saying that he talked to a spook.

      NDE's tell us only about the properties of a minds starved for oxygen; they tell us nothing about any properties external to the mind itself.

      Rapey is trying to say, "Someone's head got stomped on by a horse, and he saw a pretty girl, therefore pretty girl spooks are real" is an invalid attempt to infer 2 from 1.

      NDE's and Rapey's dreams may be "facts" but they are "facts" of the sort that do not describe any properties of the world outside their deprived minds; thus there is no reason why other people should be constrained or compelled by "facts" in that category.

      Delete
    47. @Phht
      I have explained it to you. You're just not bright enough to grasp it. Here it is again: whether someone has dreamed or not admits only of certain types of evidence, and that evidence has been offered. The fact that you will not accept it is neither here nor their - the factual status of a dream does not depend on you accepting it. Moreover, by way of explanation, you are asking for something you can't have because you have befuddled yourself with bad philosophy into thinking you stand in need of it.

      Delete
    48. @paedo
      However horribly I may have argued, it is nowhere near as bad as your jumbled nonsense. For example, the idea that my having a dream is subjective fact is pure nonsense. Dream exist and that fact is as objective as any fact there is. And nobody was even talking about whether the content of my dream was correlated with actual events in the external world. You seem unable to keep on track in your rambling rants.

      You are also letting your fanatical religious views clouds your (lack of) judgement. NDE's are very intriguing. Nobody knows what they are or what they represent. All my point is is that given what evidence could reasonably be expected for the continuation of consciousness after death, they provide prima facie evidence for it. That you already claim to know they are not evidence of that tells us more about your religious views and your prejudices than it does about the nature of NDE's.

      Delete
    49. barefoot, your point above is irrelevant to my argument with phhht on this thread. He is saying that he takes nothing on subjective reportage. He has backed himself into the corner by saying pretty much exactly that. So I am pointing out the impossibility of objective standards even existing if everyone in society behaved like that. Individuals, and societies, navigate their way through experience, history, etc. by balancing some acceptance of subjective information with some demand for objective verification. Phhht has said that it is 'foolish' to do so. If everyone thought that way, and NO subjective information was ever accepted in any social intercourse, society itself would break down, to say nothing of the very meaning of 'objectivity'.

      Delete
    50. Can't make this stuff up: Diogenes says that all three participants have 'argued horribly' and then comes along on a white horse to tidy things up by -

      - throwing in his own inferences that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the discussion being had.

      Show, Diogenes, where Luther is making any claim that the contents of his dreams bear on reality. You can't, and the reason you can't is that you are making assumptions and associative leaps all over the place. It appears that you believe that Luther is arguing 'figuratively' and that implied in his argument is something about metaphysics. Certainly, he can and has argued about metaphysics in the past, but here is making a simple point - that phhht inanely has chosen to argue stubbornly against. Some things ARE, often and typically, taken as word even though they are subjective. Things like, 'I really like him', 'I'm feeling a little blue today' - and - 'I had a dream last night'.
      The only reason this particular thread has gone on so long is that phhht is unwilling to accept that very basic reality. He chooses to argue in order to score a rhetorical point.
      How you managed to miss that, and throw in your own gibberish about dreams having meanings, bearing on objective reality, etc., is puzzling. The fact that you go from there to criticize the argumentative skills of participants in an argument that you completely miss the point of is, well, amusing.

      Delete
    51. Rapey: the idea that my having a dream is subjective fact is pure nonsense.

      Again, Rapey's reading comprehension is not merely zero, it is in the negative numbers.

      Here is what I wrote:

      Me: Luther's bare statement "I had a dream" can be an objective fact if his brain has electrodes on it when he dreams. It may be category 2, objective fact.

      Now let us compare what I said to what Rapey said I said:

      Rapey: the idea that my having a dream is subjective fact is pure nonsense.

      Rapey's inability to comprehend ANY English sentence requires us to write the same things over, and over, and over...

      Seriously, I know immigrants who learned English at 30 with better reading comprehension than Rapey.

      Delete
    52. AB,
      Show, Diogenes, where Luther is making any claim that the contents of his dreams bear on reality. You can't

      As you know perfectly well, Rapey's first point in this thread was that NDE's prove that spooks exist because NDE's are "experiences", and "experiences" tell us something about the properties of things outside our mind.

      This was Rapey's first point, and everything he has written since then has been to buttress his assumption that "experiences" tell us something about the properties of things outside our mind.

      If you, AB, concede that dreams IN FACT tell us nothing about the properties of things outside our mind, then why are you not arguing with Rapey who says NDE's prove spooks are real and you can talk with them (and yet, strangely, no one having an NDE has any interest in asking them the cure for cancer)?

      AB: If NDE's tell us about the "real world", as Rapey says, why don't dreams?

      Delete
    53. @Paedo
      So humans only discovered the objective fact that we dream in the 20th century. Who made the earth-shattering discovery that, after years of wondering if such a thing could possibly be true, we really do dream.

      Re your last point - the argument might be something like this: dreams tell us that consciousness is doing stuff when we sleep (it's not just switched off); and NDE's tentatively suggest that consciousness continues after death (it doesn't just stop). As for the content, well, that's what we actually experience after death it seems, and there's no prima facie reason to think there's a further reality of which our NDE experiences are merely grossly misleading perceptions.

      You seem to imagine that an afterlife must exist external to our minds/souls rather than simply being the mind/soul returning to the whole (universal mind) of which it was always part. That would be my guess.

      Delete
    54. Diogenes writes,
      "This was Rapey's first point, and everything he has written since then has been to buttress his assumption that "experiences" tell us something about the properties of things outside our mind."

      That's simply untrue. It IS true that Luther's first point was to use his analogy to dreaming to buttress his remarks, but that was unfortunately and uproariously sidetracked by phhht choosing to make an issue of whether or not Luther can establish as a 'fact' that he dreamed last night - or now several nights ago. If phhht was intending to argue Luther's larger point, and was using the dream example purely figuratively, he did a very poor job of that. I assume he is being literal. And in so far as he IS, your points are all based on inferences and unnecessary tangents. YOU can have that argument with Luther, but that is NOT the argument that phhht was having with him.

      Delete
  7. I suppose there is sense to some of what Linker says. Personally, I find the idea of an eternal life quite horrific. Could you imagine what it must feel like, after a million years of existence, to realize you have done and experienced everythig you possible can, and you still have a literal eternity of boredom before you? Still, it would be nice if no one's life ended til they felt they had experienced as much as they wanted to. And it would be nice if people who committed criminal acts were always punished in a manner proportionate to their crime. (Though it should be mentioned that the theist must confront the question that, if God exists, why these things do not simply occur in the world as we experience it, a question that does not arise for the atheist.)

    However, I have yet to encounter a compelling explanationof how the existence of God is supposed to impart meaning to our own existence. How? If, "in the beginning", there already existed the most perfect and complete being possible, then exactly what point is there to my existence, not to mention that of the universe itself? It can't be because we have any purpose to fulfill. God is already the ultimate possible achievement. Anything else will be imperfect, and therefore lesser than him. Is our purpose to worship and adulate God? Then how is that supposed to make us feel as is our lives are meaningful in themselves?

    Maybe some of theists who frequent these environs can illuminate me on exactly how my life is impoverished by my not believing it is overseen by a celestial dictator, to borrow Christopher Hitchens' phrase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lutesite, I can't illuminate on exactly how your life is impoverished by being an atheist, because I don't think it IS impoverished. But I can point out that your concepts of god and heaven are quite limited, and the issues you present have been dealt with before by theists. It doesn't mean that you have to accept the answers, of course, just that your concepts are not really what most theists actually believe in.
      For example, one could not be 'bored' in heaven. And why/how would they? Why should you assume that your heavenly 'personality' would experience time in anything like the way your earth-bound personality does? Heaven is thought by many theists to be an eternal NOW. Yes, it always goes on, but not by our rules of time. Even your words 'million years of existence' don't make sense. We define years by how long it takes the earth to move around the sun. What would a year be in heaven? The time it takes Cloud Nine to revolve around God's nose?
      So if you WERE to decide that you might like to believe in heaven, you would not need at all to be worried about being bored.

      As for the question of why God would even bother to create a universe if 'He' was already perfect, that also has been addressed. Some would say that it is simply because it is the nature of God to create. Some would say that it is only by creating that God can really know 'Himself'. And some would say that God creates a 'limited' universe in order to bring about its eventual evolution to a state of perfection. I think the Hindus believe something like this. And others would simply ask, why do people decide to have children or buy pets? So that they can have something to love.
      I don't expect you to accept any of these positions, but do ask that you accept the possibility that your own musings into this matter thus far hardly encompass all the possibilities.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply, andyboerger. But it doesn't really address my main point. I did not intend to deny that believers might have a different conception of heaven, or that they might have some ideas that attempt to explain why a perfect being would be compelled to create in imperfect material reality. It's just that these ideas are not convincing to me. And even if I could convince myself that they are true, I fail to see how this would impart a sense of meaning to my existence that it would otherwise lack. That is Linker's position, that the only alternatives to theism are nihilism and despair.

      But it seems that is not your position, so of course you have no obligation to defend it.

      Delete
    3. indeed, lutesite, not at all my position. I believe that an atheistic outlook is perfectly valid, and is certainly capable of providing adherents (for lack of a better word) with all that they need to be intellectually and emotionally fulfilled human beings. It is not my path at this point in my life, but it has been, and it is nothing I have an issue with.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. @andyboerget Yes, it always goes on, but not by our rules of time.

      But Andy, we exist--as you would probably purport, we were created--as temporal beings, to exist in temporality and understand and comprehend existence on the basis of change, which is all time is: a measurement of rate of change. What is a realm where there is no time--which is to say, literally, one in which nothing ever changes--to beings entirely conditioned to experience everything on the basis that no two moments are identical? It's nonsensical to even suggest that such an existence would bear any kind of resemblance to a human consciousness, or that any kind of identity based on a temporal existence could even be stuffed into that sort of realm of non-experience.

      Delete
    6. barefoot, it is hardly nonsensical to imagine the core essence of a person being able to find happiness, even far greater happiness than can be experienced on earth, in such a realm. You are not the same person you were when you were an infant, or two years old. But you can relate to your former child self even though you have now gone beyond it. It IS nonsensical to imagine heaven as a kind of place where we get our wings, sit around, praise god, retain most of our current personality without improvement on it, etc etc.
      Those musings are largely metaphorical, and patently silly, but that hardly rules out the possibility of either the continuation of the soul or its increasing capacity to experience joy.

      Delete
  8. The nice thing about eternal life is that it is a "gift." Since we have free will, according to the Christians, we can freely and willingly reject it.

    Doing that kicks the teeth out of the heaven-hell extortion racket.

    And why not? It's not like you're really going to live forever, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Intrinsic dignity...what a joke. Another feel-good echo chamber for the self-absorbed and made to sound as if it comes from without, or from on high.

    ReplyDelete
  10. But luther, your unsupported allegation DOES NOT support or constitute a fact.

    Perhaps you are lying. Perhaps you are mistaken. Perhaps you are a deluded loon who cannot tell fact from baseless allegation. Who knows? There is no way to tell. Any one of those circumstances would refute your claim of fact, wouldn't they, luther.

    And without evidence to back you up, there isn't the slightest reason to accede to your authoritarian claim. In fact, it would be foolish to do so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are completely confused. Of course my unsupported statement that I dreamed doesn't constitute the fact I dreamed. The fact I dreamed constitutes the fact I dreamed. And the fact I dreamed is not unsupported, it is supported by my statement that I dreamed. So what you want is supporting evidence for the evidence - that is, what you want is one more piece of evidence, over and above what has already been offered. But this is a game that can always be repeated until it appears nobody would ever be justified in believing anything ever. But since people are often justified in believing things your "reasoning" has gone astray. So, I ask again, do you accept that people ever dream and i so, on what basis.

      Delete
    2. Diogenes made some good points but I think that phhht did too.


      luther said:

      "I had a dream last night - fact."

      And then went on to say (among other things):

      "First hand reports of, eg, dreams are perfectly acceptable. Therefore, in certain cases, first-hand reports (anecdotes as you pejoratively call them) are perfectly good evidence and possibly the only evidence it is possible to have."

      First hand or even 15th hand reports are "acceptable" for some things under some circumstances but they are not necessarily a "fact" or "perfectly good evidence" to anyone other than the first or 15th hand reporter (and maybe not to them) unless there is supporting, factual, objective evidence. And when it comes to scientific standards (which I think is what phhht is trying to get across) your unsupported claim of having "a dream last night" would not be accepted as "fact".

      "For example, the idea that my having a dream is subjective fact is pure nonsense. Dream exist and that fact is as objective as any fact there is."

      That people have dreams does not factually support your claim that you had "a dream last night" or any other particular night. Your claim of having "a dream last night" is subjective.

      objective: of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind

      "I'm not saying that my claiming I dreamed constitutes the fact I dreamed, I'm saying my having dreamed constitutes the fact I dreamed. And I have given you the only evidence that is needed/appropriate in such cases. If you don't like it, so what? The example of my having dreamed stands whether you believe I did or not. You seem unable to grasp the idea that different types of evidence are appropriate in different cases. So let me ask you: do you think it's a fact that people sometimes dream?"

      Actually, you claimed that you "had a dream last night" as a "fact", but your so-called "example" is a subjective claim, unless you have supporting, objective evidence. Again, that people sometimes dream does not necessarily mean that your claim is a "fact" to anyone other than you (and andy).

      "I have all the evidence I need."

      Of course you do, just as you apparently have all the evidence you need to believe that NDEs are some kind of temporary foray into some sort of an afterlife. Everyone has all the evidence they need in many of life's circumstances but that doesn't necessarily mean that the so-called evidence (if there is any) is a "fact".

      "Reports are all the evidence we have, and possibly all the evidence we can ever have, and the reports seem to suggest an afterlife. And that's true however much you desperately want to disbelieve it."

      Reports may seem to suggest a lot of things but reports are not necessarily evidence, and "seem to suggest" does not equal "true".

      See part two.

      Delete
    3. Part two.

      luther said:

      "You are also letting your fanatical religious views clouds your (lack of) judgement. NDE's are very intriguing. Nobody knows what they are or what they represent."

      So, according to you, "Nobody knows what they are or what they represent", but "the reports seem to suggest an afterlife. And that's true however much you desperately want to disbelieve it." Could your god-pushing "afterlife" assertions be any more bald and your "judgement" be any more fanatical?

      "All my point is is that given what evidence could reasonably be expected for the continuation of consciousness after death, they provide prima facie evidence for it."

      Malarkey, on both counts. That is not "All" of your "point" and there is no evidence of NDEs being some kind of temporary foray into some sort of an "afterlife" to build a prima facie case on.

      "That you already claim to know they are not evidence of that tells us more about your religious views and your prejudices than it does about the nature of NDE's."

      Look who's pontificating about religious views and prejudices! Your claim that it is "true" that so-called NDEs are supported by "evidence" and that they "seem to suggest an afterlife" tells me (or "us") plenty about your god-pushing religious views and prejudices.

      "You are completely confused. Of course my unsupported statement that I dreamed doesn't constitute the fact I dreamed. The fact I dreamed constitutes the fact I dreamed. And the fact I dreamed is not unsupported, it is supported by my statement that I dreamed."

      Way to go around in confused circles.

      Delete
    4. @TWT
      The idea that any scientist conducting any kind of study would seriously question first-person claims of having dreamed is pure fantasy. How do you think experiments into sleep/dreaming are conducted? The scientists wake the fucker up and ask him what was he was experiencing! End of story. Same goes for pain, and any number of first-person only observables.

      Re NDEs - they are evidence of a foray into an afterlife inasmuch as they are what people consciously experience after they have formally died.

      You are also grossly confused about what constitutes evidence and which facts evidence supports. You are making the same mistake phht made in thinking that supporting evidence must be given for the evidence if it is to be evidence. This is nonsense. My statement that I dreamed is evidence that I dreamed. It's not evidence for my statement, which you seem to think it must be, but rather, my statement is the evidence for my having dreamed. Whether I dreamed or not being the question.

      Delete
    5. @TWT and all the others

      In any event - it is of absolutely no consequence whether you believe I dreamed in this particular instance. That was simply the example I gave, but I could easily have given the example, "people dream - fact", and unless you want to dispute the fact that people sometimes dream, you are going to have to accept that some facts about the world consist entirely in what goes on inside someone's head - which was the question at that point. Same with pain. People feel pain, that is a fact, and the pain is nowhere in the world external to the sufferer of it.

      Delete
    6. luther said:

      "...but I could easily have given the example, "people dream - fact""

      Yeah, but you didn't. The responses you've gotten are pertinent to what you said, not what you could have said.

      Delete
    7. @TWT
      But the responses I've had are completely irrelevant to the point I was making which was not that I personally had a dream that night, but that I, as an example of a human, had had a dream, and this was a fact consisting solely of something that happened inside someone's head. Not only that, the responses were hilariously wrong. Just the usual uninformed scatter-gun attempt to sidetrack an argument into irrelevancies by people with zero critical thinking skills and zero ability to engage an actual argument. People like you.

      Delete
    8. luther, you said: "I had a dream last night - fact." You did not say "... as an example of a human, had had a dream,..."

      You're the one perpetrating "the usual uninformed scatter-gun attempt to sidetrack an argument into irrelevancies" and you've got no room to denigrate others about "zero critical thinking skills and zero ability to engage an actual argument". Thinking of you as "an example of a human" is depressing.

      Delete
  11. Could Linker be one of those supposed adults who insist on projecting their fear of the dark and death on the rest of society ?

    Would he inject his dogma, revelation and authority based batshit crazy beliefs into the public sphere ?

    Is one a prejudiced, intolerant person to point this out and does that mean that one shares much in common with Liker by doing so ?

    Tough questions but we have experts standing by ready to answer them with nothing at their disposal but dreams, baseless claims, vague fears, pathetic hopes and logical fallacies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. steve, you have demonstrated again and again that you are a lazy thinker, so I took the first step for you.
      'Damon Linker is a senior writing fellow in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania and a Contributing Editor of The New Republic. He is the former Commentary Editor of Newsweek/​The Daily Beast as well as the author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege and The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other leading publications. He has edited First Things magazine, served as a speechwriter for New York’s Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and taught political philosophy at Brigham Young University. Linker studied history, philosophy, and writing at Ithaca College, graduating with a BA in 1991. He went on to earn an MA in history from New York University and a Ph.D. in political science from Michigan State University. Born in New York City, Linker currently lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two children.'

      In other words, to a person like steve who's mind is closed, very little to distinguish him from a Baptist fundie.

      Delete
    2. @andyboerger Andy, Isaac Newton was the president of the Royal Society. Is that enough to convince you it's therefore justifiable to keep looking for the Philosopher's Stone? Or is it possible that a man's credentials and the validity of each and every one of his notions are not actually the same thing?

      Delete
    3. barefoot hiker, Mr. Linker's credentials ARE impressive. But my point in posting this bio is that it contains nothing whatsoever regarding his religious beliefs. I think it is just as likely, given the topics that he writes about, that he is an atheist than that he is a theist. steve oberski is making an assumption about him because he doesn't like what he wrote.

      Delete
    4. His credentials are typical of a journalist, Op-Ed writer, and teacher of English. Big Deal.

      In the blurb for his book, there is no evidence that he has advanced a single valid argument, and clear evidence that he has advanced fallacious arguments, so he indicts himself. The end.

      Delete
  12. steve asks,
    'Could Linker be one of those supposed adults who insist on projecting their fear of the dark and death on the rest of society ?'

    Hmmm....that's a 'good' question, right there, steve. He very well could be. He could also very well be an atheist himself. He could even be an extraterrestrial or a pimple on your patootie. You might want to do a little research on him before asking here.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Linker on Dawkins, Dennet, Harris et al: Why does it matter that a handful of writers who refuse to accept this basic human reality have recently sold a lot of books?

    "The Religious Test" #217,817 in Books

    "The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege" #479,526 in Books

    Why does it matter indeed ?

    "The God Delusion" #723 in Books

    "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" #1,691 in Books

    "End of Faith" #5,256 in Books

    ReplyDelete
  14. The following is a best-seller written in crayon by six-year-old Little Timmy Johnson, First Grade class president at Harriet Tubman Elementary School.

    “My fellow First Graders, just a few months ago, the First Grade experienced a golden age of privilege and security based on absolute certainty: we were all united by our common values, based on our common belief and affirmation that Santa Claus was real and he watched over each and every one of us through his magic snowball. All children were good and nice and polite, because we all believed that Santa only brings toys to good children, but the naughty will get lumps of coal.

    However, in recent times, the First Grade has become afflicted by a radical, militant movement called the New a-Santaists. These children don’t merely believe that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, which by itself would be loathesome and perverted enough; they can’t just keep their sick, twisted beliefs to themselves. No, they have the temerity to say out loud that there is no Santa—in public no less! And worse, they seek to indoctrinate others into their perverted dogma! Even small children!

    Now everyone knows that some of the most unpopular children of all time have been a-Santaists, for example, Butch “gimme your chocolate milk” Pulaski, and Emily “The Biter” O’Reilly. Little Karen Dilworth is an a-Santaist now, but she’s got cooties. Johnny McIntyre says there’s no Santa Claus, but what else would you expect from a ginger? Sure, Little Daria Regan has joined the a-Santaists, but her name’s Daria, and that name sounds just like Diarrhea!!

    Many a-Santaists think they are smarter than we are, just because they can do times-ing and brush their own teeth. The truth is, a-Santaists are intellectual elitists who boast of their superior education.

    In the Second Grade a-Santaism has reached epidemic proportions. We need look no further than Mrs. Pacelli’s homeroom to see the social consequences of a-Santaism. There is a clear correlation between a-Santaism and throwing spitballs.

    If a-Santaists are so smart, then answer me this: where do Christmas presents come from? Huh!? Answer me that, a-Santaists, if you’re so smart!

    Oh sure, the a-Santaists say, our PARENTS buy the Christmas presents! First, that is just a theory, a mere hypothesis based on a-Santaist presuppositions. And second, we all know our parents are not cool! As if my middle-aged, minivan-driving parents could have bought my super-cool Starscream Mega-Transformer with Real Missile Firing Action!

    This a-Santaist “parents buy toys” hypothesis is absurd on the face of it. And where would our parents make these so-called “purchases”—at the mall? No intelligent First Grader would believe such an absurd “theory”!

    If our toys are in fact bought by our parents, how can they have lasting meaning and value? Boys, ask yourselves: how can your Beyblade Mega-Battle Sphere with Ripcord Launcher have true, lasting meaning if it was merely bought by your uncool parents at some mall, instead of hand-crafted by magical elves at the North Pole? And girls: if your Barbie Dream House was bought by your minivan-driving parents, doesn’t that make it less pink-purple, in a real, meaningful sense?

    How can we possibly enjoy anything in life if Santa does not exist? How can our toys be fun and exciting if they are not hand-made in a magic castle at the North Pole, as First Grade tradition has always taught?

    And what about being nice? If Santa is not watching us through his magic snowball, why shouldn’t we all just be naughty, and not take turns, or even steal each other’s dinosaur-shaped erasers? If Santa's not watching me, why shouldn't I give a peanut butter sandwich to Davey Goldberg? You know peanuts make him blow up like a pufferfish.

    We must reject the radical, militant, extremist movement of the New a-Santaists. The majority of children believe in Santa, and some of us always will.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's really cute, Diogenes. I bet you went through a whole BOX of crayons writing it! You should get the best artist in your class to draw a picture of it!

      Delete
    2. Diogenes, your Little Timmy Johnson best-seller put a big smile on my face.

      Delete
  15. Little Timmy Johnson is the editor of the Harriet Tubman Elementary School kindergarten class newspaper. He is the former class president as well as the author of The a-Sanataists: Christmas Booty Under Siege By Poopy Heads. His essays and reviews have appeared on washroom walls and lockers around the school. Johnson has recently become fully toilet trained after several false starts but still depends on a pacifier. Born in a cabbage patch and delivered by a stork, Johnson currently lives in suburban Philadelphia with his mommy and daddy.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I must say that I don't get why it's so terrible. Maybe that makes me dishonest, maybe that makes me dumb, but I do find it interesting that all the complaints about how terrible it would be if there were no God come from people who do believe in God. Somehow atheists are able to find life worth living without... what does that say about the believers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you not read the article - nor even the quotations above. Some atheists are mentioned there.

      Delete
    2. I did read the article.

      So let's take that some atheists see it this way (some atheists also believe in ghosts or UFOs - are atheists who don't dishonest?), what does that say of the honesty of atheists who don't?

      Delete
    3. Rapey: Did you not read the article - nor even the quotations above. Some atheists are mentioned there.

      Doesn't matter because they misrepresented the atheists quoted. They certainly misrepresented Nietzsche, portraying him as saying that nihilism is a consequence of atheism. Nietzsche actually said that atheist nihilists have been successfully brainwashed by religious believers into thinking that if there's no God, then there's no meaning and value. So atheist nihilists have more in common with religious believers than they have with Nietzsche.

      The honest atheist does not buy into the religious brainwashing that if there are no Gods, then there are no values, so says Nietzsche.

      This is not what Damon Linker wrote, so I don't trust his factual assertions.

      Delete
    4. @Paedo
      How many of the atheists here do you suppose think that there really are values? And on a different point, it is only religion that gives meaning to the lives of fanatical atheists like you. That is, take away religion and your whole being would cease to exist because everything you are is measured against religion.

      Delete
    5. it is only religion that gives meaning to the lives of fanatical atheists like you.

      The pompous asshole Luther Flint has NO life except to sit at the computer all day, every day, waiting at pro-science blogs that deal with topics enormously too technical for his anti-science brain to comprehend, so that he can ignore the science totally, and twist them around into something anti-atheist.

      Without anti-atheism and anti-science, or with it, his pathetic life has no meaning.

      Pompous asshole Luther Flint has never once, at this pro-science blog, never once made a single valid, or even interesting, scientific point or correctly cited any scientific datum.

      Pompous asshole Luther Flint has never even once cited a single paper from the peer-reviewed scientific literature, which would at least be interesting.

      Pompous asshole Luther Flint has admitted he doesn't care about science anyway.

      Indeed, his entire life consists of nothing but waiting around all day, every day, for a comment-- any comment-- to be posted at pro-science blogs, so he can ignorantly twist it around into an attack on atheists.

      On the bright side, there's always his spirited defense of rapists.

      Delete
    6. @Diogenes
      On the contrary - I've just finished designing some rather attractive artwork for a new hot dog stall. Later on today I shall be submitting it to the printers. All the data points suggest the banners will look fantastic and the hot dogs will be delicious (cider onions don't you know).

      Delete
    7. "How many of the atheists here do you suppose think that there really are values?"
      Do you mean intrinsic values that would exist if humans didn't? Don't know. Probably quite a lot, there are atheists who believe in ghosts and UFOs and Government Conspiracies after all. But what would be tragic about there not being any value that we don't give it? Why does it need to be transcendental in order for it to be meaningful? Love, after all, is a psychological state - yet it's one of the most powerful motivators of our species. Love has no value which doesn't exist in our minds, yet that doesn't in any way make it tragic. Or at least I don't think it's tragic - maybe it is tragic and I'm being dishonest...

      Delete
    8. @Kel
      You seem to imagine our minds aren't every bit as much a part of the universe as anything else. Nice to see dualism so alive and so well in the early 21st century. And nice to see it so openly endorsed by those who also proclaim a central part of their lives consists in not believing it.

      Delete
    9. "You seem to imagine our minds aren't every bit as much a part of the universe as anything else."
      I don't know where you got that from what I said (and I certainly don't hold to that proposition; it's pretty evident that mind is brain activity), but it's nice to see that you can run with an assumption...

      "And nice to see it so openly endorsed by those who also proclaim a central part of their lives consists in not believing it."
      Are you actually interested in discussing the meaningful part of what I was addressing, or are you just interested in publicly attacking crudely-shaped mounds of straw?

      Delete
    10. @kel
      Well you talk of value not existing if humans didn't as if that's some interesting distinction that somehow renders them different from real stuff. BTW, do you know what the word "here" means? I do, and it's kinda important for what I said above.

      Delete
    11. "Well you talk of value not existing if humans didn't as if that's some interesting distinction that somehow renders them different from real stuff."
      Stop digging yourself a hole - none of that was even implied in what I said. It would be like saying that somehow life is not real because if you wiped life out it wouldn't exist anymore. Does it follow that life is somehow different from real stuff? Of course not! That something exists in the mind (which is a real phenomenon) means that it's reality exists while there's a mind to give it a reality. It ceases to exist when there isn't.

      "BTW, do you know what the word "here" means?"
      Do you know what the word "condescension" means?

      Now, I'll ask again. Are you actually interested in addressing the points I made?

      Delete
    12. @Kel
      You didn't make any about anything I've said. If you do, let me know, and then I'll see if I can be bothered responding.

      Delete
    13. Yet you were able to find the will to misrepresent my position twice for rhetorical effect... what a waste!

      Delete
  17. The first sentence in this guy's review of Grayling's book tells me how much of an idiot the guy is:

    That godlessness might be both true and terrible is something that the new atheists refuse to entertain

    I don't see why. Growing up as a Christian, I am relieved to have discovered that not everything I do is sinful. That I can accept what I am and work on that, rather than blindly accept some plainly stupid tabus handed down to me by tribes that did not know any better. That I will not burn in some hell for silly details like thinking that the guy who wrote that critique is an imbecile. Also, the laws that this god was supposed to hold his preferred tribes to were quite unsavoury. Thus, that there's no gods means that a lot of horrific gods believed to exist don't. There's so many terrifying gods (I would think that the great majority) that I see no reason why their absence could be "terrible."

    ReplyDelete
  18. Luther dreamed last night, and the night before, and the night before that. So did I, phhht, Diogenes, twt, etc. etc. So do a lot of mammals, I think. We don't remember every dream we have, or even most of them. Science has known this for a long time. Time to move on, people.

    http://chealth.canoe.ca/channel_health_features_details.asp?health_feature_id=363&article_id=1141&channel_id=135&relation_id=2334

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm glad you brought up those links, andy. Now, maybe you can show me where luther said, or presented evidence, that he was 'asleep' on the night in question when he claimed "I had a dream last night - fact." Being the nitpicker of details that you are, I'm surprised that you didn't notice or bring up those missing details. Oh wait, you only nitpick details (missing or otherwise) when you think that it will suit your religiously biased arguments against scientific methods and the ToE.

    You do know, don't you, that not everyone sleeps at night?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @TWT
      I said I dreamed, and thus implied I was asleep. That's normally good enough evidence. If you don't like it, so what? The issue here is not whether you believe I dreamed. What you believe is of no consequence. If you don't believe it but till want to join the discussion in a relevant manner then just take the last time you dreamed and use that as the exaample of the fact. And if you don't believe you've ever dreamed just use the example of someone else who you believe has. And if you don't believe anyone/thing has ever dreamed then go see a doctor about your psychosis.

      Delete
    2. Well, you've got me there, old man! Drat!

      Delete
    3. twt, I'm gonna challenge you on this. Please cite a single instance of me 'nitpicking' against the scientific method or the ToE.


      Go ahead.

      I 'nitpick' in terms of pointing out Larry's many errors, because he loves to point out the errors of others and accords to himself the prideful authority to proclaim who is and who isn't capable of critical thinking. And because he, by his own admission, want to 'change society' and it is clear to me that he would like to do that by ridiculing religious people, and by using science to disprove the existence of god(s), a role which it is so poorly suited for that only ideologues would seek to use it as such.

      Delete