Talk:Atheism/archive10

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Theism - as used in one of the headings - is not generally a simple opposite of atheism. I have to admit I don't have such a word to hand. Canuck 23:07, 30 July 2008 (EDT)

That's because there is no "opposite" . There are at least three values to the belief or otherwise in God or gods: "I believe there is a God", "I believe there is not God" and "I don't know". The "dilution" discussion is interesting. I can readily see the "burden of proof" motive. But behind that there is something more: the desire to "co-opt" Agnosticism into your particular fold. There are examples of both Theists and Atheists doing this: often they both co-opt and reject Agnostics, depending on rhetorical rather than rational motives. --Toffeeman 10:25, 2 August 2008 (EDT)

Reasons for Atheism

Should we add as a cause for being atheist - "Rational Enquiry"?

The Conservapedia commandments would rule that out. Conservapedia material is required to be verifiable and true. Astute readers are aware that your methodology of simply asking a question rather than offering relevant and valid evidence is a sign of the intellectual poverty of atheism. Conservative 21:45, 2 August 2008 (EDT)
If anyone wishes to investigate this material further, it might enhance the educational value of the atheism article: "Biet-Hallahmi, author of “Atheism, A Psychological Profile”, in “The Cambridge Companion to Atheism”, wrote, “…what these individuals [the most elite] had, in addition to their creativity and high intelligence, was a strong wish to create distance between themselves and their parents.”[1] Conservative 21:45, 2 August 2008 (EDT)
If anyone has access to a library with a subscription to this material (Biet-Hallahmi, author of “Atheism, A Psychological Profile) your help would be appreciated: http://cco.cambridge.org/extract?id=ccol0521842700_CCOL0521842700A022 Your library can ask for a free trial to this subscription service. Conservative 21:52, 2 August 2008 (EDT)
I have read that this book has material on the psychology of atheism as well: http://www.amazon.com/Atheists-Groundbreaking-Study-Americas-Nonbelievers/dp/1591024137

Conservative 22:07, 2 August 2008 (EDT)

Okay, let's just take your argument to pieces. I proposed that we add rational inquiry to the list of causes of atheism. This means that if one atheist ever has become an atheist through rational inquiry, then rational inquiry is a cause for atheism. For your argument against rational inquiry being added you'd have to show that atheists only become so for the reasons already listed - i.e moral depravity, rebelliousness and most interestingly error (which would be the result of all atheists rational inquiry - IF you could show that they are in error (btw, saying that an atheist didn't attend a debate and Joe Stalin was an atheist does not show atheists are in error)). So in other words you'd have to honestly, with a straight face, argue that the majority of the great philosophers of the past two hundred years only accepted atheism because they hated their parents and/or were morally depraved. Here's why you can't (and haven't).

The accusation that atheists become so because they want to distance themselves from their parents is statistical stupidity. The first, and blindingly obvious flaw, is that we are not left with an explanation of children becoming atheist in atheist households (those kids get on well with their parents). But wait, perhaps we have the answer to our riddle here! Maybe kids in Christian households felt a desire to distance themselves from their parents because they were atheists who disagreed with their beliefs, not the other way around. Kids in atheist households don't feel the desire to distance themselves from their parents because they agree with their beliefs. Our study found the right correlation, but got causation the wrong way round! Because the majority of households are Christian, then atheists are more likely to want to distance themselves from the parents they don't share the same beliefs with (because more of them live with Christian parents than don't), than Christians who if Christian will be more likely to keep close to parents who they do share beliefs with (see previous brackets).

Or perhaps some kids become atheist to distance themselves from their parents, and some kids distance themselves from their parents because they are atheist. The point is, like all pseudo-scientific attempts to explain the psychological motivations of people, it's anybodies guess, and the chances are the answer lies somewhere in the grey area (but almost certainly closer to atheism causing want of separation). The same criticism applies to the idea that atheists become atheists because they are fatherless. Maybe some do. Some people become Christians because they are fatherless. It's anybody's call on the actual numbers related to causation (rather than just correlation).

Now, given that there is no way we can reasonably assert that all atheists become so because of family problems and moral depravity, perhaps we should take some of the atheist's word for why they don't believe in God. i.e that they see no rational reason to believe he exists. Yes, their reasoning may be wrong, but no such proof has been given of this, at least not on this page. We have the listings of the various arguments, teleological, cosmological, ontological etc - the refutations of which are all easily derived from your standard philosophy textbook. Then there's the response to the argument on the existence of evil - that without God there is no way to judge men like Hitler because God is the source of morality. That's easily countered by the Euthyphro dilemma, from one of the great works of Plato (By the way, 1. The arguments against the ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments as well as the Euthypro dilemma were all provided by believers in God and 2. my -Christian- philosophy professor disagrees with all the listed criticisms before you turn this into an atheist hitjob). Now, the fact that no proof against atheism has been given yet does not mean that God does not exist. It means that we don't know. Given that we don't know whether atheists are right or not, we can neither list a cause for atheism as "error" or "correctness". We can only list it as "rational inquiry" which is the entire point that I'm making!

Oh, and just so you know, the following are not disproofs of atheism (they are in fact common logical fallacies): 1. Atheism causes bad things. 2. More people support Christians than atheists. 3. Atheists don't debate Christians in front of audiences (and Christians don't debate atheists in academic journals). 4. Some atheists weren't nice people. 5. Scientific discoveries in Christian dominated Europe between 1543 and 1680 were made by Christians in the majority of cases. 6. Some atheists have become Christians.

Finally, asking questions is a sign of the intellectual poverty of atheism? Really? The guidelines were quite clear that we had to discuss an edit on the talk page before it could be made. Perhaps asking whether or not an edit should be made is a good way to start such a discussion? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by JohnyGoodman (talk)

I believe you don't like the causes of atheism section because atheism is similar to sausage. Many people once they see how sausage is made don't want to eat it! :) Conservative 19:20, 3 August 2008 (EDT)

So I just made an entire rant about how you can't reasonably speculate on people's reasons for thinking things, and then you with absolutely no evidence at all speculate that I don't like the causes of atheism article because I don't like the truth?!? I just stated what my actual objections are and I don't think you're in any position to inform me on what I really think. Would my criticisms be any less valid if I was just criticizing because I was upset about the truth? No. Because motivation means squat and argument means everything. That's pretty basic philosophy. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by JohnyGoodman (talk)

JohnyGoodman, thank you for conceding that you were ranting. Unfortunately, rants are generally not compelling and your rant was certainly not an exception to this rule. Perhaps if you had shown your unnamed "great" atheist philosophers were truly great you would have made some headway. Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; In the balances they go up; They are together lighter than breath. (Psalm 62:9). Conservative 00:17, 4 August 2008 (EDT)
"if you had shown your unnamed "great" atheist philosophers were truly great". Surely that can be covered with one word: "Hume". The support for "rational enquiry" as a reason can be covered by mentioning one of his works : "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion". You may be of the opinion that those who reach a conclusion of atheism through enquiry have erred in their enquiry, however "rationality" is not synonymous with truth. Many have erred in the pursuit of truth yet have not acted irrationally. If you built "true" into your definition of reason you would rule Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and just about every thinker ("great" or otherwise) irredeemably irrational. If JohnyGoodman were to show sources verifying some people's atheism as a result of their reasoning (as you will have it erroneous reasoning, but reasoning none the less) would it then be acceptable to add? --Toffeeman 09:05, 4 August 2008 (EDT)

Wonderful dodging of all the point presented Conservative. Now the reason I didn't name any of the great philosophers is because I guessed in advance that all atheist philosophers have already been labeled bad by you because of their beliefs so it would be impossible to present them to you (because you would deny they were great). Of course, I could present a number of books praising the great philosophers by respected academics, but of course you have no respect for the academic community (bunch of atheist Darwinist communists!) and so such an approach would also be futile. However, I will respect your intelligence and suppose you would add rational inquiry based on so many great philosophers having been atheist. I will list those within the past two hundred years (excluding Hume) So here goes (I add a short bio):

A.J Ayer - The great logical positivist. He argued that as metaphysical statements were not verifiable, they were meaningless (. Interestingly for you, he was rumoured to have converted on his death bed and then to have converted back soon after.)

Ludwig Feuerbach - Considered by some to be one of philosophy's great unsung heroes, primarily because he was overshadowed by Karl Marx, whose theses on Feuerbach seemingly dealt a great blow to the Feuerbach's argument that God was in effect an exaggaration of Man's nature.

Jean-Paul Sartre - One of the twentieth-centuries most famous philosophers, and not much less influential. Though in my opinion not one of the greatest, he was certainly one of the greats.

Simone de Beauvoir - Our greatest feminist? Perhaps not a great philosopher (I admit I do not value feminist literature too highly as philosophy) but better than a great many.

Nietzsche - The nihilist, a philosopher with an immense amount of influence. His beliefs are still proliferated by the (dwindling) post-modernist movement and played a key role in the shaping of existentialism.

Bertrand Russell - Before Dawkins there was Russell. He was quite explicit about the reasons for his conversion to atheism "I believed in God because the "First Cause" argument appeared to be irrefutable. At the age of eighteen, however, shortly before I went to Cambridge, I read Mill's autobiography, where I found a sentence to the effect that his father taught him the question "Who made me?" cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question "Who made God?" This led me to abandon the "First Cause" argument, and to become an atheist." Oh and he was a brilliant philosopher too.

Karl Marx - Some academics (not necessarily blood soaked communist fanatics) consider Marx to be the greatest philosopher who ever lived. The rest accept him as one of the most influential. Recent polls by German television and the BBC that consider Marx as the second greatest German and the greatest ever philosopher respectively seem to show he still has a great amount of respect (of course, normally I wouldn't cite polls among the non-intellectual public as being evidence of the strength of a person's arguments, but currently that seems to be half of the "atheism" page so I guess it's acceptable.) His strict application of the philosophy of materialism was explicitly the foundation for his atheism.

Jürgen Habermas - To be honest not of the same calibre as the rest, and I was unwilling to include sociologists, but still a great, highly original thinker.

Max Stirner - A proto-nihilist who suffered the same fate as Feuerbach (bearing the brunt of 400 pages of "The German Ideology"). His pre-emption of nihilism, existentialism, anarchism and post-modernism is a testemant to his understated abilities.

Ayn Rand - Ah, the other branch of conservatism! Semi-fascist (and largely wrong) she may have been, but her objectivist philosophy has reason and rationality as its basis. To claim otherwise would be absolutely ridiculous.

Noam Chomsky - Like de Sade and Beauvoir I would hesitate to call him a philosopher as such (though his works are certainly philosophical). His contributions to linguistics were enormously important (though I admit little knowledge of them) and his battle against the post-modernists is certainly admired.

Michel Foucault - Regardless of your opinion on post-modernism (and I have a low opinion) Foucault can at least be considered the best of a bad bunch. The most innovative philosopher of the past thirty years?

Jacques Lacan - Again, I have a low opinion of post-modernists (the late post-modernists are particularly worthless), but this vocal atheist remains one of the more intriguing.

Daniel Dennett - A highly respected authority on the philsophy of the mind, and one of the worlds most prominent atheist philosophers. His critique of qualia has helped bring the one great dualist argument to its knees.

John Stuart Mill - As varied as Marx, and was said to be the most intelligent man in Britain at the time. He made great advances in utilitarian ethics, and his philosophy could be said to have formed the foundation of much of neoclassical economics. Truly a brilliant, brilliant mind.

Now, that's a lot of major names in the philosophy of the past two hundred years. There really aren't too many of the great names NOT there (Wittgenstein for example, and if you extend the time line a little bit, the later works of Kant and Hegel). Now, would you honestly argue that of these esteemed gentleman, none of them reached their options on the existence of god through rational inquiry? You would seriously consider yourself in the position to say that the greatest philosophers of the past two hundred years are irrational victims of a poor childhood?

Toffeeman, you didn't demonstrate that any of them were great. Conservative 17:58, 4 August 2008 (EDT)
Er...I didn't list "them", I listed "Hume". The man who inspired Kant. The key-stone philosopher of both Logical Positivism and Popper. Demonstrating that Hume was a great is a bit like arguing that Mozart could write a good tune. --Toffeeman 18:07, 4 August 2008 (EDT)

Actually Conservative, the list was made by me. I excluded Hume because I was just looking at the past two hundred years. I even wrote out little bios for you to show what philosophies (all the major philosophies of the past two hundred years actually) that they pioneered. And Toffeman's statement applies to my list. Arguing that Ayer, Feuerbach, Sartre, Beauvoir, Nietzsche, Russell, Marx, Habermas, Stirner, Rand, Chomsky, Foucault, Lacan, Dennett and Mill (and Heidegger, I forgot him) weren't great, great philosophers is like arguing that I haven't demonstrated that Newton was a great scientist by informing you that he laid the basis for modern physics. Ask any academic, even non-philosophers, and they will tell you that that would be a pretty much perfect list of all the greatest most influential philosophers of the past two hundred years (though Lacan, Dennett and Beauvoir may be dropped and Wittgenstein recruited).

The problem is, as I stated in the first paragraph of my last comment, that it is pretty much impossible to demonstrate that they were great because you can just say they weren't, ignoring the fact that they were the founders of all the important philosophical doctrines of the past two hundred years. What would it take to demonstrate to you that they were the greatest philosophers of the past two hundred years?

Here's a challenge, make an alternative list of the greatest philosophers of the past two hundred years. Considering that the sixteen philosophers I mentioned two paragraphs below weren't great by your definition, your list of sixteen philosophers would have to be greater. Let's see how many non-atheists are in it. I'll give you a start - Wittgenstein. Give me a list and bios of the greatest philosophers by your standards and what extremely influential fields of thought they've set up.JohnyGoodman 18:30, 4 August 2008 (EDT)

You mentioned Dennett. Have you read Daniel Dennett's commentary on Stalin located here: http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2008/07/boba-digest-part-2-daniel-dennetts.html I believe Dennett is acting quite illogical for a so called "great philosopher". Dennett has quite the penchant for using the favorite fallacious modus operandi of a great deal of atheists and that is the exclusionary fallacy. I do intend on creating an atheists and logic section for the CP atheism article. Conservative 22:55, 4 August 2008 (EDT)

Yes I mentioned Dennett (I have some distaste for him). I mentioned 15 other great atheist philosophers as well. You have mentioned zero non-atheist philosophers of the past two hundred years who compare to those sixteen. Perhaps that is because now that philosophy has developed, and gained a clearer understanding of the world thanks to the breakup of aristocracy and such ideological intrusions as the church, the vast majority of philosophers intelligent enough to use reason to create great works are also intelligent enough to use reason to reject God? You might want to listen to all my points next time.

As for your proposal to create an atheist logic section, this hardly acquiesces my request. It will undoubtedly involve a paragraph or two taken out of context to show how the logic of atheists leads to genocide and child molestation or something like that. What I am requesting is that you accept that "rational inquiry" is a possible cause for atheism in the "reasons for atheism" section, and I have shown that rational inquiry has been used by the majority of the great philosophers of the past two hundred years to reach an atheist set of beliefs (not to mention hundreds of lesser philosophers, and not even starting on atheist beliefs held by geniuses in other fields) . So therefore rational inquiry should be added to that section.

How about this: Rational Inquiry - Many philosophers have reached their atheist beliefs through rational inquiry, for example Bertrand Russell, A.J Ayer, Ludwig Feuerbach, Jean -Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Jurgen Habermas, Max Stirner, Ayn Rand, Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Daniel Dennett, John Stuart Mill and Martin Heidegger. Bertrand Russell, for example stated that "I believed in God because the "First Cause" argument appeared to be irrefutable. At the age of eighteen, however, shortly before I went to Cambridge, I read Mill's autobiography, where I found a sentence to the effect that his father taught him the question "Who made me?" cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question "Who made God?" This led me to abandon the "First Cause" argument, and to become an atheist." JohnyGoodman 13:06, 5 August 2008 (EDT)

Did you read the Sartre quote in the Conservapedia article? Any comments on the Sartre quote? Are you are of this information on Sartre: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/metadata.epl?mode=synopsis&bookkey=47787I I plan on probably incorporating the University of Chicago Sartre information just cited in the CP atheism article. Conservative 18:55, 5 August 2008 (EDT)

Yes, I am aware that Sartre was a Maoist who accepted violence as a weapon for the poor? What exactly is your point? How does this relate to the points I made? Where is your list of alternative philosophers? Why are you continuing to ignore rational inquiry as a cause of atheism? Can you actually answer my points rather than continuing to launch ridiculous attacks on individual philosophers based on quotes that you just happen to disagree with rather than quotes which show they were not great philosophers?

As for the conversion, that is one book that got it wrong. Sartre was interested in Judaism, but did not convert. And of course, not only did he write much of his philosophy while an atheist, he also presumably reached atheism through rational inquiry, and perhaps then theism also through rational inquiry. I'd be much more ready to believe that when he was in the prime of his life and his mind was in mint condition he was using rational inquiry than when he was on his deathbed he was being rational. But please, do not respond to this particular paragraph. It is not the point I am making. Instead please comment on the criticisms raised in the previous paragraph and the previous few comments by myself. JohnyGoodman 19:18, 5 August 2008 (EDT)

JohnyGoodman, you are asserting that there have been great atheist philosophers. Yet you are not providing any compelling evidence to support your claim. I believe that is because you cannot give what you do not have. As far as providing a list of great theist philosophers, the article is on atheism so I don't think your request is very pertinent to the Conservapedia atheism article. Conservative 20:03, 5 August 2008 (EDT)

Remember, read every word I type. Firstly I have already addressed your claim that I have merely asserted that these were great philosophers. I gave bios to show that these men were pioneers in their fields. I then made the comparison to Newton, stating that "(arguing I haven't demonstrated those philosophers as great) is like arguing that I haven't demonstrated that Newton was a great scientist by informing you that he laid the basis for modern physics." Would you insist that I take you through the details of Newton's arguments and contributions before you accepted him as great? Similarly, are you honestly arguing that I take you through the details of the influence, impact and significance of existentialism, positivism, nihilism, marxism, post-modernism, utilitarianism etc before you accept that those were major branches of philosophical thought and by extension the people who created them were great too? The problem, as I have said already, is that no matter how much detail and evidence of their influence and greatness I give, you can always just deny it.

As a further example of how great these philosophers were, I set you some homework. I proposed a way of you testing my thesis that the greatest philosophers of the past two hundred years so you could try and refute it (the burden of disproof is on you as a test is available, rather than the burden of proof on me.) Presumably finding a list of theist philosophers in the same time period who were greater would involve you assessing the influence of each of the philosophers on the list I provided. You would then have to do some research to find what the major branches of philosophical thought have been in the past two hundred years (hint: I listed them a couple of sentences ago), and hopefully that would educate you as to how much atheists have added to philosophy and how little theists have added in that time period. The reason the list I asked you to acquire is relevant is because I am not asking you to put it in the article. I am merely offering you the opportunity to show that as the great philosophies of the past two centuries were pioneered by theists, so my rationale for you adding "rational inquiry" to causes of atheism would be undermined, because clearly atheist philosophers could not be thinking particularly rationally if they were in direct opposition to the great minds and the majority of philosophers of the past two hundred years. Presumably if you could create a better list of theist philosophers than atheist philosophers, then my claim that the greatest philosophers of the past two hundred years have been nearly all atheists would be undermined. You have declined to do so. You have also declined to provide any proof against the claim that those 16 philosophers were great. Considering this you currently have precisely no reason to refrain from adding "rational inquiry" as a cause for atheism. So you should add it.JohnyGoodman 22:03, 5 August 2008 (EDT)

The point of “great” is not to place these people on a pedestal but to establish that their thought is going to be of an, at least, fair quality. It is important to criticise their ideas and find out where they went wrong. They most surely did commit errors: they disagree and there is only the one truth. But you would, surely, agree that it is ludicrous to suggest that all the philosophers mentioned by JohnyGoodman were gibbering dunces incapable of stringing a couple of cogent thoughts together. They are commonly held to be “great” and so must at least be “reasonably rational”.
The point of “philosopher” is because these are the sort of chaps who often think about this sort of thing: this “reasonably rational” thought will have been applied to the question of God’s existence.
The point of “atheist” is, of course, because this “reasonably rational” thought was applied to the question of God’s existence and clearly resulted in atheism.
It is beyond reasonable doubt that the philosophers in JohnyGoodman’s list became atheists through rational enquiry.--Toffeeman 12:59, 6 August 2008 (EDT)
Toffeeman, influence does equal greatness. For example, Hitler was influential in a negative way. Secondly, reread the atheism article as you seem to fail to recognize that modern scholars reasonably debate whether or not Hume was an atheist and I suggest you examine the footnoted material on this matter which I believe cites the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I believe I also cited material which shows that Hume's arguments against miracles are quite inadequate and I am sure this is no suprise to the many Christians who have received miracles. Do yourself a favor, go to the Bible believing and miracle believing Christian church that is nearest to you and is known in the Christian community for reporting miracles and do your own investigation of this matter.Conservative 20:42, 6 August 2008 (EDT)

1) Thank you for your concern for my immortal soul. I am, however, not an atheist. I am someone who thinks it crucial that “rationality” is not conflated with “being right”: such conflation leads to dogmatism and authoritarian thought.

2) “Do yourself a favor, go to the Bible believing and miracle believing Christian church that is nearest to you and is known in the Christian community for reporting miracles and do your own investigation of this matter.” There are many good reasons to go to a church. “To see a good football match” is not one of those good reasons and neither is “to see if atheism can be arrived at through rational enquiry”. Investigating whether theism can be reached by rational means does not establish that atheism cannot. Unless, of course, the assumption is made that rational = true. As before such a conflation rules Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and just about every thinker irredeemably irrational

3) “(I)nfluence does equal greatness”. I did not deny it, or mention it in any way.

4) a) In his Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy article “Hume on Religion” Paul Russell takes pains to draw a distinction between “thin” and “thick” conceptions of God. A concept of God becomes “thick” once we add anything commonly held necessary for orthodox religion. “Benevolence”, “puissance”, “sapience” etc. The “thin” conception of God, Russell holds, “is so thin and obscure that it is theoretically empty and of little or no practical importance”. It is with regards to the “thin” concept that some doubt arises about whether Hume should be described as an atheist.

“(I)n respect of thick theism Hume is not just a sceptic, he may be legitimately described as an atheist”

With respect to the “thin” concept Russell does not put forward the idea that Hume was a theist. In common parlance he may be described as an agnostic: this would make Hume a “thick atheist” and “thin agnostic”. But Russell says that, in Hume’s case, the labels “agnostic” or "sceptic" can be highly misleading:

“In particular, these labels fail to identify properly and highlight the wholly hostile and critical character of Hume's general attitude towards religious doctrine and dogma. More specifically, they incorrectly suggest that on this issue Hume's position is one of intellectual “neutrality” — taking no stand for or against religion. This clearly gets Hume's fundamental commitments and intentions wrong.”

Russell, finally, plumps for “irreligion” to describe Hume’s stand.

So, with regards to any commonly understood concept of “God” scholars do not reasonably doubt that Hume was an atheist. Hume positively denied the existence of anything remotely akin to what you, I and the readers of this encyclopaedia would call “God”. With regards to a concept so finely nuanced as to be for all practical purposes empty Hume’s attitude should neither be described as believing nor as agnostic but as “irreligious”. It is not an undue dilution of the term “atheist” to say that, except in an obscure and technical sense, Hume was as atheistic as they come.

b) If you insist on this obscure and technical sense of the term “atheist” then you should remove a good deal of the article. On this obscure and technical sense of the word Bertrand Russell, for example, was not an atheist and should be removed from the list of “Other Well Known Proponents of Atheism”

c) Never-the-less the argument against Hume being, strictly speaking, a “thin” atheist is not:

Hume arrived at his opinions by rational enquiry/ Atheism cannot be the result of rational enquiry/ Thus Hume was not an atheist

That there is a discussion implicitly recognises the fundamental point at issue: that atheism can be arrived at by means of rational enquiry.

5) Even if we accepted your points, where do they get us? Which point invalidates the following?

There exist people who have rationally enquired into the existence of God and have concluded that He doesn’t exist.

Does influence equalling greatness invalidate it? Does “there exists a person who may not have been an atheist” invalidate it? Does “there exists a person who put forward a flawed argument against miracles” invalidate it? Does “there exist people who have rationally enquired into the existence of God and concluded that he does exist” invalidate it? Does "JohnyGoodman and Toffeeman haven't quite proved their case? (I can pick holes in their arguments)" invalidate it?

The answers are “no”, “no”, “no”, "no" and “no”. The first is irrelevant. The second affirms the consequent. The third assumes either that if one has rationally concluded something then one must be correct or that if one has irrationally concluded X then one must also have irrationally concluded Y. The fourth depends upon a false dichotomy. The final one is, again, irrelevant, the truth is what the truth is and does not become false if JohnyGoodman or I have erred in our arguments.

6) Once again it is beyond reasonable doubt that there are instances of atheism being arrived at by means of rational enquiry. The Conservapedia Commandments state that “(e)verything you post must be true and verifiable”. It is abundantly clear that JohnyGoodman’s suggested entry is both true and verifiable.

Now the commandment does not entail “if it is true and verifiable then it must be posted”. So, given the Conservapedia Commandments, it can be posted. But why on earth should it? Because it gives more true and verifiable information on an important topic, something any encyclopaedia should be seeking. As they lack a quantifier the headings “Reasonable Explanations for Atheism” and “Causes of Atheism” can be read as implying completeness. In the absence of saying “Some causes…” or “Some reasonable explanations…” it is likely that many will read this as “The causes..” or “All reasonable…” The omission of a true and verifiable reasonable explanation/ cause in these circumstances risks flatly denying a truth.

Given the entire “take” of the article I would suggest that “reasonable atheism” should replace "error":

Rational Inquiry - Many philosophers have reached their atheist beliefs through rational inquiry, for example Bertrand Russell, A.J Ayer, Ludwig Feuerbach, Jean -Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Jurgen Habermas, Max Stirner, Ayn Rand, Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Daniel Dennett, John Stuart Mill and Martin Heidegger. Bertrand Russell, for example stated that "I believed in God because the "First Cause" argument appeared to be irrefutable. At the age of eighteen, however, shortly before I went to Cambridge, I read Mill's autobiography, where I found a sentence to the effect that his father taught him the question "Who made me?" cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question "Who made God?" This led me to abandon the "First Cause" argument, and to become an atheist." Of course, unless one shares their atheism, one is forced to the conclusion that although rational their enquiries were erroneous.


Right, I’m off to France on vacation now. I will be visiting lots of churches. No doubt to your disapproval these will be of the Papist variety!--Toffeeman 09:14, 7 August 2008 (EDT)

Toffeeman, in your abundance of words you failed to do the one thing you set out to do and that is to show that atheism can be the result of rational inquiry. "Proof" by assertion is no substitute for laying out a case using evidence and compelling argumentation. Secondly, although I am decidedly Protestant, you will no doubt be surprised to find out that I invited the Roman Catholic gentleman to Conservapedia who created Conservapedia's article on the Historicity of Jesus. Conservative 18:43, 7 August 2008 (EDT)

If you actually bothered reading the "abundance of words" (about 1,000 - how could he expect us to possibly read that!) you would have seen that he clearly did show that atheism can be the result of rational inquiry and did not just assert it. I won't bother repeating the entirety of his argument (it's like, right by there) but the most important point, and one you keep ignoring, is that rational inquiry does not equal truth. So for example, Aristotle used rational inquiry to come to the conclusion that objects had a "natural rest" which they came to, which is obviously wrong. Rational inquiry involves asking questions about what we observe and arguments that exist using reason and logical forms. It does not need to end in truth. For example, if I was an alien who knew pretty much nothing about the earth, and you told me that Aristotle is a cat and all cats have nine legs, I would not need much rational inquiry into those facts to conclude that Aristotle has nine legs. It's not true, there's available evidence which I am unaware of against my conclusion, and there are arguments I have not heard yet against my conclusion, but it is a product of rational inquiry. I'm wrong, and even if I seemed to be right at the time I could later be proved wrong, but it is rational given the available evidence.

Because you are intent on testing my patience rather than actually providing counter arguments (so far no reasons for not putting in "causes for atheism" which we have not refuted multiple times, no list of great Christian philosophers of the past two hundred years) I think I'll show you what I mean my atheist rational inquiry. I'll be as in depth as possible. I'm not sure whether or not this is wise because when we respond with short comments you accuse us of making assertions and general claims, and when we respond with long comments criticizing that view, you simply ignore much of our argument and make the same argument that you had done before (and that we had refuted).

Now, by choosing to reject God we need to first take on the major arguments for him. If they're not true then there's no reason to believe in him. It would be irrational - and rational inquiry would result in atheism. If there is a reason or evidence for God and we just haven't uncovered it yet or are unaware of it, then rational inquiry would still result in atheism - it is only when we as individuals are given reason or evidence to accept God that it becomes irrational to reject him (yes I'm going over the same thing again and again, hopefully drilling in the whole rational inquiry does not necessarily lead to truth thing). Cosmological (or first cause) argument

Okay, remember that Bertrand Russell quote? Oh, you probably decided not to read it. But anyway, the oft presented argument (that is still presented by the ID crowd) goes something like this: 1. Nothing is infinite, everything has a beginning. 2. Everything has a cause. 3. Because everything has a cause to prevent infinite regress there must have been a first cause. 4. That first cause was God. The obvious counterargument, presented by Hume and Mill and accepted by Russell was that the argument is contradictory. It uncovers that there is a first (uncaused) cause from the starting principle that there are no uncaused causes! A slight distortion is the case of "who designed the designer" - which asks how the premise that complex things require a complex creator can result in the conclusion that there is a complex thing (God) without a complex creator. Only the first principle of the cosmological argument is actually correct, the rest are assumptions, and lead to a contradictory conclusion.

Well, Russell as he explicitly stated only believed in God because he couldn't come up with a counter-argument to the first cause argument (and his belief in God at that point was thus rational), but then he was exposed to the counter argument which refuted the only reason he had for belief in God, and thus it became rational to not believe in God. This is a case of rational inquiry leading to atheism.

Now, I could stop here because I only needed to provide one atheist who became so through reason. But for the purpose of educating you I'll run through a couple more proposed arguments for God and why an atheist rejects them through rational inquiry. The "moral" argument

This you hear a lot of the time. It has a couple of variations like this: 1. There must be a basis for morality in the form of absolute laws. 2. These metaphysical laws must have a cause. 3. That cause is God.

There are numerous counter arguments to God being the basis of morality. The most famous was presented over 2000 years ago (which indicates the irrationality of the theists who persist in arguing that without God there would be no morality) by a Greek called Plato who you may have heard of. He said this - if God made the absolute moral laws, then they are arbitrary, and thus not universal. But if they're not arbitrary then God has simply informed us of them rather than creating them, and thus he is not the basis for morality.

Another way of putting the moral argument is: 1. We need moral absolutes to judge what is good and what is evil. 2. Without moral absolutes we will not be able to judge, and thus evil will flourish. 3. Only God can be the cause of moral absolutes, and so he exists and we should follow him.

This argument, which turns up all over this site, is full of holes. The first premise is an assertion, and a misleading one. Clearly we judge who is good or bad, we could just be doing it based on emotions and attitudes more than anything else. Not accepting moral absolutes does not lead to human beings becoming barbaric immoral persons - it is essentially in their nature to judge, to feel upset when somebody does something that they don't like, to feel angry when someone does something they really don't life (Strawson has a fabulous essay where he talks about something very similar - that accepting that things are determined and so one cannot be morally responsible does not reduce humanity to barbarity because it is natural to hold others responsible). To claim that if we reject God we would suddenly be incapable of moral judgements is a ridiculous claim refuted by the empirical evidence of atheists making such judgements. So what if when stamping out dictatorship it's not that democracy is objectively better than dictatorship, but we like Democracy and its not like any relativist philosophers are going to argue us out of it yet!

There are also arguments against God, at least the God with the characteristics given in the conservapedia page. For example: 1. Metaphysical objects such as the nature of God and universal laws are unverifiable and thus unknowable. It does not matter if God sent down the ten commandments - as there is no evidence, and can be no evidence, that those ten commandments came from God. If I wrote down ten rules here that you should follow because God told me then you'd call me on it. Where's my evidence? The same call can be made against Christians. It doesn't matter that in the bible it says Jesus was God's son and Moses got Ten Commandments - that's simply not evidence. 2. Thus acceptance of universal moral laws, the identity of God (Allah/Jehovah etc) and religious truths (i.e was Jesus the son of God or a lying prophet?) comes down to belief rather than knowledge. It is not a case of God and Jesus revealing themselves to you and you rejecting them, it is a case of you not believing some book that was written thousands of years ago and believing a book written in the seventh century AD instead. 3. As the possible number of beliefs is near infinite (not just different religions, but different doctrines within them, different levels of fundamentalism, different moral laws etc) then the chance of anyone on the planet believing in the right set of moral laws and right doctrine is virtually nil.

So we can conclude: Either God filters us into heaven or hell depending on us correctly guessing a correct set of beliefs which is a near impossibility and thus God would be extremely evil, or God does not punish or reward us depending on our choices in life and beliefs and so there is no reason to believe in him. Regardless, it is virtually impossible to believe in the right God - if you've got no chance why bother?

Perhaps you could question my reasoning, but it is obvious I came to it through reasoning, rational inquiry (I have a great relationship with my catholic parents before you ask). So rational inquiry is a cause of atheism. The Falsification principle

Two men go into a garden. One says "A gardener attends the plants here". The other says "no, because the neighbors would have seen him." So the other replies "but he's invisible." "Well then they would have heard him". "But he's inaudible". "Then the garden would grow differently to all the other gardens around here which do not have gardeners - and the garden grows just like them!". "No, the gardener does not effect the garden in any way that we would deem unnatural". At this point the "gardener" is a meaningless hypothesis. Whether he exists or not we will observe precisely the same thing. And meaningless additions get booted by Ockhams razor. That's why many scientists when faced with "God + evolution or Evolution - God) just drop out the unnecessary God part. Rational thought in action (and if scientists aren't rational by your standards, then we've lost touch with reality).

There are many more arguments. For example, it is much more likely for the universe to have come into existence through chance than an infinitely more powerful being (and God must have come into existence, as the ID crowd insist everything must have a beginning.) Many question why exactly God has created so much evidence for the evolutionary position. Why didn't he just create Earth x000 years ago and provide overwhelming evidence of that. People would still have to choose between Atheism, Judaism, Christianity and all their various strands so it's not like the whole "God needs a free system to filter out the evil doers" argument comes into play.

I could go on, but I think I've gone past the word count that you seem to be willing to read a long time ago. I have mentioned numerous philosophers who came to atheism through rational inquiry. I have explained detailed processes of rational inquiry to reach atheism, and how these have been used. I have explained that being rational doesn't mean being truthful, so you can accept that Atheists cames to their beliefs through rational inquiry without rejecting God. You have provided no reason to not provide the cause Toffeeman and I have given, and refuse to accept or counter our criticisms. You have provided no reason to believe in miracles or God, nor have you shown that atheists are irrational for not believing in them.

The problem I think with people like you is that you simply cannot accept that atheism or the left wing are ever right, so you reject their arguments because if you accepted them then that might mean having to accept that they're right about something. I was reading American conservative magazine not too long ago, and read the review there of the book "Liberal Fascism". The article, written by a firm conservative, was brilliant, completely destroying the book's attempt to discredit the left through guilt by association with fascism, and not afraid to criticize unnecessary aspects of the conservative movement at times. Conservatives who are self-critical and who engage in true dialog with their opponents advance their movement, and get better arguments for their cause. Those are the Conservatives the world needs. "Conservatives" at this site are completely unself-critical, scientifically ignorant, and use conspiracy theories and slander to "defeat" their opponents - and that's why these "Conservatives" are stuck with 17th century arguments and philosophy, because by booting out reason, rationality and science they can no longer progress. They are increasingly becoming a laughing stock.JohnyGoodman 20:32, 7 August 2008 (EDT)

JohnyGoodman, I think some strawmen are being set up. First, I recognize in some investigations that rational inquiry does not necessitate having a correct answer. However, there is an abundance of evidence for the existence of God and atheists abundant use of the exclusionary fallacy is not a reasonable alternative. Second, I believe most Christian apologist reasonably state that everything that has a beginning has a cause. Also, the first law of thermodynamics and second law of thermodynamics argue against an eternal universe and these laws point to the universe being created by God.Evidences for God From Space—Laws of Science[2] [3] In short, material causes given these two laws are not a reasonable explanation of how the material universe came to be. Conservative 21:48, 7 August 2008 (EDT)

Firstly, there is no evidence for the existence of God provided. As for the laws of thermodynamics dictating that the universe is not eternal, so what? Look back over the cosmological argument. Atheists accept that nothing is eternal. They just don't make an exception in the case of God. Now you might say, well theists don't necessitate an eternal God either. But an eternal God is the reason that they argue God exists because the universe is not eternal! If the universe is not eternal, then big deal, it came into existence on its own one day (or something, we don't know). If we try and add God because we don't want to accept even temporarily that something came from nothing, we either have to say he is eternal (in which case we contradict ourselves because we said nothing is eternal) or we say he isn't, in which case we'll need to explain what created him (because we don't want to accept that something came from nothing) and the argument collapses.

And you don't quite understand the rational inquiry thing yet. Those philosophers didn't turn a blind eye to existing evidence. They looked to the scientific and historical communities, which said there was no evidence (this is not a case of an appeal to authority argument, it is in fact only rational to accept the consensus of 99% of the academic community). They then used rational inquiry to refute the existing arguments for God. This led them, through rational inquiry, to conclude God was a construct of man and not the other way around. As I said, perhaps evidence was available, but it wasn't made available to them and thus it was only rational for them to conclude God didn't exist.

A compromise perhaps

Why don't we let Toffeeman write something when he gets back and then have a look at what he's written. It think both of you have made good points and I am sure that when we put our mind to it we can include a decent section on some of the philosopher atheists and what they thought. As a philosophy graduate I would like to say that no description of atheism could be complete without reference to Hume's Dialogues or Nietzche's Beyond Good and Evil or even Bertrand Russell's Why I am not a Christian. I seems to me the best way to approach atheism is to present the arguments some have used in favor of it fairly and evenly, then show why they are fallacious. The article as it stands does theism and particularly my religion Christianity a disservice.--MCrowe 22:00, 7 August 2008 (EDT)

McCrowe, Christian apologists, some with PHDs, are linking to this article. If you could point to a better general article on atheism you wrote please do so. Secondly, we link to the "the most impressive atheist debater to date" Doug Jesseph (who is obviously not impressive) and the problem is that atheists are quite foolish and the Bible rightly states the fool in his heart says there is no God. In short, I don't think you demonstrated there is a huge problem with this article which you seem to imply. Lastly, I do think that a little more could be said about Russell and Nietzche but done mostly through footnoted references to quality resources. There will be more done on this matter. Conservative 22:09, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
Perhaps Christian apologists are linking to this article, but from a personal point of view I certainly wouldn't use it as a reference for an intelligent adolescent asking me about the problems with atheism, simply because it doesn't actually address the arguments that he or she would be aware of. The article is transparent in presenting strawmen arguments. The article does indeed link to Doug Jesseph (whom off the top of my head I have never heard) but it seems to me the greatest philosophical proponents of Atheism were Hume (even if in the end he wasn't an atheist himself), Nietzsche, Russell and possibly Ayer. I haven't written anything on atheism but I could whip something up in the next few days and I'll post it on this talk page. The only thing I'd say is that it might be better to have an atheist write the rational inquiry arguments and have a theist refute them. However I shall do my best.--MCrowe 22:23, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
MCrowe, I was aware that Russell's work "Why I am not a Christian" needed to be mentioned and refutations cited. I had planned on doing so. A similar type statement could be said for Nietzche. Secondly, the arguments of atheists are entirely made up of straw so I understand your mistaken idea that strawmen were set up. Lastly, the article does bring up or cite many of the common arguments that atheists use (existence of evil, supposed Bible contradictions, evolutionary position, scientism type arguments, arguments from outrage, etc. etc.). Conservative 22:36, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
Addendum, Hume and his material on miracles was alluded to in the conservapedia atheism article and abundant citations refuting it provided. Conservative 22:48, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
Mcrowe, you wrote: "The article is transparent in presenting strawmen arguments." The reason I quickly brushed off this criticism is that it was vague and not supported. My guess is that you are supporter of the evolutionary position and you were not fond of the material addressing this area which is covered much more in depth in the evolution and abiogenesis articles. Conservative 23:05, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
Not at all, it is interesting that I cannot object to some things in the article without being called an atheist myself. I am simply concerned by the "reasonable arguments for atheism section", the reasons listed are Moral depravity, Rebellion, Superficiality, Error, State churches, Poor relationship with father, Division in religion, Learned times, peace, and prosperity, Negative experiences with theists and Scientism. The article doesn't list the reason that almost all of these great philosophers use that there is, to their mind, not enough evidence for the existence of God. Rationally this has led them to reject God. I am involved with my church's youth group and in conversations I have with 16-21 year olds who are questioning their faith, most start out with this doubt exactly. Lets address the issue using the greatest minds in history as a start. I for one would be perfectly happy to have an atheist write a summary of the arguments used and then lets criticise those arguments as theists. Lets encourage an atheist knowledgeable in these arguments to write a draft on this talk page and then we can rebut it.--MCrowe 23:27, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
I also find it interesting that you seem to equate belief in evolution with atheism. I believe that evolution describes the complexity of life, though I think the only rational explanation for the origin of life itself is God Himself. I understand that not all agree with me here which is why I have not and will not add anything to the evolution articles. I hope I am not detecting an Anti-Catholic sentiment being expressed in your reply Conservative--MCrowe 23:27, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
McCrow, I don't believe these supposed "great philosophers" were being honest or at the very least they allowed themselves to become blind due to their moral depravity (pride, rebellion, etc. etc.). Please read Romans chapter one in the Bible for example. Secondly, I very much disagree with some elements of Catholicism but I do not engage in hatred towards Catholics and try to be civil towards my fellow conservapedians. That is why I did not mind at all citing Roman Catholic Peter Kreeft prominently in the article as I thought he helped create a noteworthy resource regarding the existence of God (I believe the co-author of the article is a Roman Catholic as well). Conservative 01:02, 8 August 2008 (EDT)
McCrowe, I think the real issue is that you are liberal and do not want to come to terms with the depravity of man and what is capable of causing in man. That is why the "moral depravity" issue in the atheism article sticks in your craw. Conservative 01:22, 8 August 2008 (EDT)
I am in two minds as to whether I should reply to your comments. It seems to me that you are more interested in throwing insults my way than engaging in any constructive discussion. If you will note, I was trying to arrange a compromise whereby a person knowledgeable in the reasons for atheism would explain the reasons for it, and then we would rebut those arguments. Instead it appears that someone who no doubt has never read Nietzsche, Hume et al doubts that "supposed "great philosophers" were being honest or at the very least they allowed themselves to become blind due to their moral depravity (pride, rebellion, etc. etc.)" Now I do not agree with much of what many of these philosophers say, but believe me, they make arguments that are difficult, though not impossible to refute. To dismiss them the way you do without even bothering to read them is very arrogant and ignorant. Worse than that however your attitude is unproductive to people who have heard about these ideas and need to have the knowledge to rebut them.
Let me ask you this, would you encourage young people to read the works of these philosophers? I know I do and I feel that your dismissal of them in this talk page is arrogant to say the least. They are, to a man far more intelligent than you or I could ever hope to be and some of them, (eg Beyond good and evil - Nietzsche) are fascinating insights into humanity, even if you reject the final conclusion. However I cannot make you read them, or try to understand their point of view so this will be my last word on the subject, except to say that I am not, on any sensible definition, a liberal.--MCrowe 08:31, 9 August 2008 (EDT)

Conservative, you are repeatedly failing to provide evidence for your assertions (something you ironically claim that we are doing). Saying so and so only came up his arguments because he was morally depraved is a statement in need of evidence. Even if you could prove that they were morally depraved you'd have to prove that this caused their arguments. This you have not, and presumably can not, do. Your other assertions, such as atheist arguments being straw-man arguments (show how the counter-argument to the cosmological argument is a straw man argument please) are without evidence, and that includes the "the Bible said atheists are fools therefore they are" assertion. Ironically you complain that McCrowe does not support his view that the atheism article uses strawman arguments, yet then proceed to present the unsupported view that atheists only use strawman arguments.

We have repeatedly demonstrated that atheists have used rational inquiry to come to their beliefs. It is true, verifiable and verified. I just gave you a number of arguments (rational inquiry) that atheists have used to come to atheism, and have repeatedly quoted Bertrand Russell explicitly stating that he left theism due to rational inquiry (rejecting cosmological argument). You have provided unsupported propaganda as counter arguments. You have simply provided no evidence to refute our proposition that rational inquiry has been used to come to disbelief in God.

I'd like to restate that this is a major problem with christian conservatism. What exactly is to be lost by admitting that atheists have used rational inquiry to come to their views? Would this be the death of christianity? Surely you'd just present counter-arguments, pursuing your own rational inquiry? By not making even the slightest concession, not admitting for a second that other groups have any sensibility and validity, you present no need for your community to tackle your opponents on rational and scientific grounds, thus ending your movements progression. That is why you're still stuck with 17th century philosophy and science being endlessly repeated by ministers and pundits, while atheists and those theists willing to use proper rational and scientific arguments to tackle their opponents views (and not claiming that they're all morally depraved ideologues) have been making ground for the past 400 years.

You can continue to pat yourself on the back regarding your supposed insights as far as the etiology of atheism. When you actually have something substantive, please let me know. Conservative 21:32, 8 August 2008 (EDT)

We have provided something substantive. You have not. Provide. Evidence. That. We. Are. Wrong. Are you incapable of doing this? Because you haven't done it.

The way in which Conservative refuses to even consider the earnestness of the earliest atheist philosophers should reveal the general mindset of fundamentalism: That all atheists secretly do believe in God, and that everyone who claims not to believe in God is just trying to annoy everybody else because that is simply their nature (straw man fallacy). The Bible is then referenced as though this is proof enough (argumentum ad verecundiam).
This is not a mature level of thought. With the same brazen inability to even think about a topic from outside my comfy frame of reference I could easily dismiss any topic ever by simply asserting that I do not think its proponents are actually being honest. This logic allows me to reject all of religion by simply stating that I think God-believers are not being honest. Is this really the kind of maturity we want on Conservapedia?
This article needs much more substantive input from conservative atheists (they do exist) because many prominent conservative thinkers have, in fact, been atheists (Ayn Rand as mentioned by Toffeeman is an excellent example!). When are we going to start making Conservapedia more about “conservative” values (smaller government, fiscal responsibility, etc.) and less about using fundamentalist Christianity to alienate political allies who simply do not believe?
--Stirlatez 15:47, 10 August 2008 (EDT)
Well said, I think that's what grated me the most, the idea that all these philosophers were dishonest, or blinded by their own stupidity or the such like. They are some of the most intelligent people who ever existed and to have someone just brush them off like this is absurd and highly arrogant.--MCrowe 20:03, 10 August 2008 (EDT)
McCrow, were you referring to me in the above post. If so, I never stated "blinded by their own stupidity". If you were referring to me, I find it unfortunate that my position was misrepresented. Conservative 21:57, 10 August 2008 (EDT)
You said the philossophers weren't "being honest or at the very least they allowed themselves to become blind due to their moral depravity (pride, rebellion, etc. etc.)". Perhaps I misparaphrased you a little, but it's still a very silly, arrogant and ignorant thing to say. Why don't you go and read "Beyond Good and Evil" or some of the other works before you pass comment on the motivations of the philosophers. It is obvious you are more interested in making ad hominem attacks on the authors rather than appraising the arguments. Honestly I thought I could improve this article somewhat but it appears that is not what you want. Good day.--MCrowe 22:58, 10 August 2008 (EDT)
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