Sunday, October 9, 2011

Making God Unfalsifiable: Making Metaphysical statements to prove there is a God.

I hate metaphysics. I think it's a branch of philosophy that posits that there are 100,000 restaurants but never offers to take you to any one of them just to see what the food is tastes like. Metaphysics in this sense leads to salivation and leaves you hungry and empty. No menus and just positing the possibility of 100,000 menus. I like food so don't tease me with the idea and then leave me without being able to taste it. I've run into this kind of argument for the existence of a god or gods, in some supernatural sense. The argument hinges on a few things; that we as human beings are fallible and we do not know everything, a god of a metaphysical description is possible (the possibility is not impressive in any way), the ability to string a number of concepts within reality together, call it coherent and sound good while doing it. Usually the argument in a conversational setting runs like this; We know of many things and objects within reality but we do not know what is outside of reality. We have not been able to determine the cause of many or all things and we are still ignorant to our reality in many ways. We have not adequately explained the origins or the purpose(s) of life and we cannot rule out the possibility that a god exists.

Without qualifying which god they are speaking of or where they obtained this concept of a god, which they believe is far more than a concept (i.e. it's very real and has some significant role in our reality), let's look at the argument as it stands. We do know of many objects exist in reality as well as quantifiable phenomena. The odd part of some metaphysical claims is the claim about what is outside of reality. The claim is made within reality and the natural world as we understand it. What knowledge or evidence does the person have to claim that something outside of reality exists and/or has bearing on our reality and that thing outside of reality is "god"? Those are just statements used with the language we have developed over time to express a thought. The thought does not have any explanatory power within our reality. It's a load of hot air. The thought could be wrong, misinformed, held onto because it makes the author of it feel good and does not square with the facts on the ground.

There are things in our reality that may be unknown but that does not make them unknowable. We are still trying to gain an understanding as best we can, with the evidence we have in reality to explain our world/universe. The rest of the argument is an argument from ignorance/god of the gaps. It's a good way to demand absolute certainty with respect to knowledge about the world/universe (which we can't get nor need) and pitch an argument for the existence of a god, because of not possessing all knowledge of the natural world/universe, and place metaphysical statements about the god in gaps in understanding or knowledge. Not knowing a specific cause (one may not even exist at all or be necessary) does not give any credit to a god or gods being that cause. Even if the universe came into existence because of a FIRST cause, then all you have is a first cause. You have no reason or evidence to suggest or claim that the first cause is god.

The possibility aspect is an example of low standards for believing something as big as a claim about the existence of a god, whether the claim is metaphysical or not. Everything is possible under that standard. It's possible that in 10 seconds I will burst into flames and my entire home will burn down. You may think that sounds crazy but it IS possible is it not? If I adopt this weak standard of possibility, simply because I cannot rule it out, then how is the belief I have in me bursting into flames any more ridiculous that a god that exists outside of reality or caused reality into existence? It's possible that Santa Claus actually exists and so does the tooth fairy. It's possible that apples can vote within the next 10 years and chicken sandwiches can play football. Should we conduct our lives because of those possibilities? I don't think so. For the god claims to fly, metaphysical statements do not cut it. It's the epitome of verbal vapor without any explanatory power about our natural world/universe.

Life does not have to have a purpose in order for it to exist as it does. This includes all types of life which includes humans. That is not a bad thing. If you're worried about your life having a purpose, I think it is up to you to give your life purpose. We have no evidence to suggest a god, creator, or transcendent consciousness, or underlying intelligence exists at all. A lot of people have been very good at playing with words to express empty thoughts about our world. They play with emotional strings and some attempt to use science in such a way to support their claims but are later refuted by hard scientists. Most people do not see the refutations of the 'sciency' claims. They make appeals to us with shared experiences, usually through strife and unpleasantness to demand that something outside of reality must exist and in some cases, we are accountable to that thing i.e. god. Making statements about the existence of a god are merely assertions until proven otherwise. Insisting that the statements are true and have explanatory power are just more statements. Show me something other than words to prove that this god you speak of actually exists. Otherwise you are just blowing hot air.

Atheism is a Religion? Again?

I cannot stand the statement "atheism is a religion". Atheism is not an assertion nor a belief. It is the rejection of theistic claims about a god or gods. That's it. Nothing more than that. It's not true or correct to say atheism is a religion and the statement is often used to equate religion and atheism as two things on the same playing field. But let's grant the statement that "atheism is a religion" and see what that means. First, we need to decide how atheism is like a religion. Do we have a uniform set of beliefs? No. Do we have rituals? No. Do we have one particular book or a set of books in which all of our ideas are placed? No. Do we have some standard of morality that we demand others must follow? No. Do we advertise? Yes. Some atheist organizations advertise on the side of buses and billboards as do some churches. Do we cast people out of atheism? Even the question is absurd given that atheism is an expressed doubt about theistic claims. Do we have a ton of instances where an atheist has killed in the name of atheism? No. We have a number of cases where someone has killed others in the name of a religion. That does not necessarily mean the religion is bad, but it is certainly used as a motivation to commit violent acts against others. Bad people do bad things because they want to do them and the same can be said for good people. If the religion is used as a motivation to do good or bad things, then I think the religion ought to be subjected to scrutiny and skepticism. Do we tell others how to dress because of atheism? No. Do most atheists attempt to restrict your rights in public policy, which affects us all because of atheism? No. This is an absurd question too, given what atheism actually is. So we advertise. Some of us evangelize. I'm an advocate of evangelizing. You need to get your message out there and make yourself be heard and speak to issues that affect us all in the communities in which we live. You need to say, publicly, that you exist. There is great power in just showing people who you are.

The people that claim "atheism is a religion" are those that see atheism as a threat to their tightly held religious/spiritual beliefs and it's a response to outspoken atheists. I've seen this claim from a number of religious and spiritual people that would like for us atheists to shut up and sit down with our critiques of their beliefs. They have not learned the distinction that can be made between them as persons and the beliefs they hold. You can still be the person you are with a different set of beliefs or no beliefs at all. I or any other atheist can maintain respect for a theist as an individual and criticize their beliefs. I can respect YOUR RIGHT to hold a particular belief and not the belief itself. This is something that a lot of theists do not seem to understand. I as an atheist grant you respect because of our shared humanity but if you bring illogical, unsupported, supernatural claims to me, expect me to take those beliefs to task. Persons are worthy of respect tentatively, but that is not true of their beliefs. I do not care how nice you are or how charitable you may be, your beliefs will not get 'respected' until you demonstrate why they ought to be respected. A lot of theists that I have encountered view 'respect' as acceptance and accommodation of their claims without critical inquiry or push back when their claims have stepped into places where they have no business. Refusal to agree to those terms leads to unwarranted comments about not respecting them as persons, closed-mindedness, "fundie atheism" and all sorts of strange name-calling. Demanding respect for your beliefs from the jump is an automatic sign that you will assert something that you do not intend to work for and I will not accept that demand. The demand is unnecessary. Express your beliefs but do not demand nor expect respect for them until you earn it.

Name calling: If I call you an idiot within the discussion or call your beliefs illogical or stupid, it's within the context of the discussion we are having. I have been shown to be an idiot and many times by my own girlfriend. It happens. Put your ego aside. Some discussions do get nasty. Some people are total assholes regardless of their belief or non-belief.

Arguing from the idea that atheism has the potentiality as being as bad as religion is a pathetic argument because it's a cheap shot at atheism without looking at reality. Call me when an atheist because of atheism crashes a plane into a building or chops off their daughters head because she is in violation of some atheist tenant(which do not exist no matter how many theists claim they do). Call me when atheists are insisting a woman does not have the right to choose because she is in violation of another atheist tenant. This potentiality argument screams of weakness and "I do not have any other viable arguments". It's flailing around for the sake of flailing around. Stop claiming that we are doing the same kinds of things when you do not have evidence to back up the claims you are making.

There is also this problem some religious and spiritual people have with atheists that are outspoken and do not hide the fact that they are atheists and express it freely. Some of us wear t-shirts, blog, say it on Facebook or Twitter. We are not telling the religious/spiritual people to shut up, but they certainly want us to be silent and be okay with that and then they turn around and express they are advocates of free speech. In other words they are advocates of free speech and expression until such an expression hits too close to home.  Religious/spiritual folks can express their beliefs as much as they want. If someone tried to prevent them from speaking, I would be against that. However I will not nor will I encourage others to be silent or soft with their criticism of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Atheism is NOT a religion. It is not asserting or claiming anything. No positive assertions at all. Atheism does not tell you how to lead your life or how to treat others but that is not a reason to dismiss atheism as a tenable position. If a theist has a problem with a particular atheist, then they have a problem with that atheist and should not use that as a way to attack ALL atheists or atheism. It's like being mad at one woman who claims to be a feminist and using that grievance as an attack on ALL feminists and feminism. It's wrong.

We atheists are not going anywhere and neither are the religious/spiritual folks. We are not going to shut up and you will not shut us up. We will speak on issues of justice, public policy, women's issues, politics, law, medicine, business, sports, technology, etc. Get use to us because we are not going anywhere.