On Atheism

Another post hidden in the bowels of the draft folder. I’m not sure why WordPress makes it so difficult to find these; it didn’t use to…

I have been following some bloggers who profess to atheism, and commenting on their blogs.  It is interesting how they sometimes respond to me.

As a Christian, I am definitely a “theist”; that is, someone who believes there is a God.  I find that there are two types of people who are not theists; those that believe there is no God, and those who have no beliefs about God.  I was brought up to consider that the first group were “atheists” and the second group were “Agnostics” (don’t know whether or not there is a God).  What is a bit disconcerting to me is that both people with belief there is no God and some of those who do not have any belief about God both claim to be atheist.  And when you ask them for clarification, they insist that it is a binary condition.  Either you believe in God, or you don’t.  Why is this?  I don’t know.  Perhaps they prefer the “bigger group” resulting from the combination of everybody who does not believe in God.  Perhaps the term “agnostic”, with its implication from translation of “lack of knowledge”, is disturbing to them.  Perhaps they are just so tired of some of the theists that they want to draw as far from them as is possible.  I’ve experienced some of the more obnoxious theists, so I could understand that, except I’ve also met a few believing atheists who were also obnoxious.

If you check out the current definition of “atheist”, it has indeed been broadened to cover both believers in no God and those who don’t hold any God belief.  Then the definitions note that there are qualifiers such as “strong” or “explicit” to cover those who believe there is no God and “weak” or “implicit” to cover those who have no beliefs about God.  And I would be fine with that, if the people used the qualifiers.  They seem not to.  There is also the concept of adding “Gnostic” and “Agnostic” to the terms “atheist” and “theist”, indicating where you “know” (believe) it or not.  Again, that would be satisfactory, but seldom happens.  So, I’m afraid I fall back on the original concept of the term, and assume anyone who claims to be “atheist” believes that God does not exist until I get some indication otherwise.  Note that some atheists jump on this assumption or even this definition of the term, and claim it is a “ploy” of “the Christians” to “marginalize” atheists by “turning them into just another religion”.  I’m going to inch out on a thin branch here and claim that ANY belief about God is qualification for being considered “religious”.

Another area of discussion is the relationship between “belief” and “knowledge”.  I’m often told, “belief is not the same as knowledge” and that is a true statement.  However, I claim that belief is a SUBSET of knowledge.  When you come right down to it, many of the things we “know” are actually beliefs.  If you got a “fact” from a book or a teacher or other expert, you certainly think you “know” it.  But unless that “fact” can be proven to anyone else, it remains a belief.  In order to be a “fact”, it must be undeniable.  Since “everyone” agrees that many beliefs are knowledge, I claim that beliefs about God are also knowledge.  Just not as reliable as many other beliefs.

Anyone who gives a belief, particularly one as nebulous as anything about God, the status of “fact” is at risk of being obnoxious.  In my opinion, a person is welcome to believe anything they want which cannot be disproved.  However, they must understand that if they cannot prove it, they should not be presenting it as “truth”, and especially not expending great energy trying to get others to join in the belief.  Discussing with those who have any interest, or presenting it as theory or belief, fine.  But browbeating people would seem to be a losing proposition.

How theists browbeat nontheists is fairly obvious.  There is the ever popular “I know the truth and you don’t, so quit being so stupid and listen to me”.  And of course, faulty logic, either starting with untrue or at least unprovable assumptions, or using invalid logical arguments.  Then there are the threats and insults.  “If you don’t believe ‘x’, God’ll whack you”.  “Since God doesn’t like ‘x’, we’ll pass a law so Man will whack you.”  “If you don’t know God, you can’t be moral”.  “You do something God does not like, so you are a bad person”.  Interesting approach from those who claim they are directed to “love their neighbor”.  Doesn’t love have an implicit assumption of overlooking “faults”?

How can atheists browbeat people?  Or more accurately, theists?  Aha, another possible reason that nontheists may prefer being known as atheists, to only get grief from one direction.  There is the “Christianism” mindset; lumping all Christians or even all believers in God into one group, with all the negative aspects of some imputed to all.  Sorry, this is just as invalid as racism or sexism.  Plus, the same people may also claim that “all Christians disagree with each other”, which seems contradictory.  The “I know the truth and you don’t…”  and invalid logic methodologies are used by some atheists as well.  Then there is the “science can’t measure it, so it does not exist”, and “any God must follow the same need structure as does Man” outlooks.  These views have proven to be wrong in the past, so it is not impossible they could be proven wrong in the future.

Techniques include:  questioning any evidence presented while holding their own evidence inviolate, attacking the words rather than the ideas, taking things out of context, misreading what was said (which we all do) and holding onto that misinterpretation even after being assured that meaning was not intended, and even descending into insults and name calling.  Come to think of it, theists have been known to use similar techniques.  I guess what it boils down to is ANY belief tends to make us defensive if it is attacked. It is just that beliefs about God do not have any proof, and so are bigger targets than beliefs with more support.

What is interesting is that some atheists attempt to convince theists that they are wrong with an intensity which is, well, as intense as that of some theists.  Even if it were not the case that the very (or at least original) definition of the word “atheist” implied a religious outlook, the behavior of some atheists sure do seem like the behavior of some theists.

 

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Don’t hate Trump

There are a lot of people out there who say they “hate” Trump or act in a way which seems to indicate they “hate” Trump. Why?

Sure, he is obnoxious and has an elevated opinion of himself. He opens his mouth and although he hopefully intends to express himself accurately, the careless words come out as absurdities or statements, which IF MEANT, would show serious character flaws. He may be hard to like, but that hardly seems enough justification for “hate”.

It is claimed he holds women in disdain, and if true, that would certainly be a turn-off for women (and many men). But is it true? It is a fact that at least once he said some horribly disrespectful things about women. We know this because it was recorded on camera, wielded by professionals. And oddly enough, it was not presented to us until years later, at a key point in the election cycle. This indicates to me that it was realized at the time to be an unimportant, not uncommon, scenario between male friends, which, sadly, has been duplicated to at least some degree by at least 75% of the men out there. And, to be brutally honest, many women as well. It was strictly presented in a time and manner which indicated it was a weapon, not “truth”. All event is worth, if a rare instance, is a “tsk tsk”, not hate.

Then there were the women who claimed he molested them. Not a word in all the years he was a famous person, and then several all come out right at a critical point in the election? And at least some of the early ones had undeniable ties to the Clinton campaign? You’ll pardon me if I give them no credence. Find me someone who has no ax to grind and a believable reason to keep it secret for so long, and then I’ll consider the possibility that this is a valid charge.

Since much of his alleged disdain for women appears to be unreliable and strictly intended as “weapons” against him in the election cycle, what say we look at the positions he has hired and promoted women into? If you think he “hates” women, you might want to find some actual, verifiable proof of it before “hating” him back.

Ok, he is often accused of being “racist”. Apparently based on statements he has made which are so absurd, they must have been poorly thought out rather then intended. If he really thinks “all Mexicans are rapists”, then yes, he is not only a racist, but insane. If he meant to say “SOME Mexicans are rapists” then he is not necessarily a racist, or even wrong; that statement would have been absolute, provable fact. Again, for the most reliable take on this, look at the people he has interacted with throughout his long public history, and the people he has hired and promoted, before accepting and propagating the charge that he is a “racist”.

Ok, how about his “shady” business practices? How about “avoiding paying any taxes”? As to the latter, I say that if the IRS is satisfied with the taxes he has or has not paid, then it is the height of folly for us to whine about that. I suspect that he has paid every cent he was legally required to, and if you don’t like that amount, whine about the convoluted tax system YOU allowed to be set up, not someone who has the skill to play it to the limit. As to the business practices, I don’t know. My suspicion is that if anyone had a valid beef, they would have prosecuted it through the courts. If he actually did a person wrong (and not just played the game better), than that person and that person only has some justification in “hating” him. Everybody uninvolved? Hearsay is not allowed in a court of law; what say we don’t give it any credence in the court of public opinion.

So what we have so far is a person who can be crass and unpleasant and even greedy, but is unproven to be “evil”. He has some opinions which do not agree with other people’s opinions. So freaking what? If you want to attack one (or more) of his opinions or ACTIONS, proposed or implemented, go for it. Provide some justification that your opinion is better, other than just it is your opinion. And concentrate on the opinion/action and leave personalities out of it. Attacking the person screams that your position so weak, that any sane, intelligent person will dismiss your whole case out of hand.

To be clear, here are the people who I see come out as “hating” Trump:

– People who have been paid or bribed (directly or through their leaders) to display “hate” of Trump

– People who have accepted information about Trump without evaluating the source for bias or verifying the information against other (reliable) sources

– People who unquestionably accept the instructions to “hate” Trump from those people they “worship” (such as Hollywood or sports celebrities or politicians)

– People who put all their eggs in the Clinton basket and thirst for revenge that she lost

– People who have been stealing from the country for years and fear Trump will cut off their loot or power, or even prosecute them

– People who detest Christians and/or the behavioral limitations which Christianity prescribes.

– People who think the country was moving in the right direction and are concerned that progress would be halted or even reversed, but can’t support their opinion with facts and reason (or don’t dare, because if their true agenda were revealed, they would be reviled)

– People who have actually be damaged by Trump (and I list this only as a possibility, because I haven’t seen one yet who isn’t questionable)

Which group do you belong to? Why not belong to the group of people who don’t like one or more things that Trump actually seems to be doing, and present your case against each issue with facts and reason, leaving the personal attacks on the playground?

Or even the group who put up with the personal quirks of the man because he appears to not be another lying politician out to screw us over, and will give him a chance until he actually attempts something intolerable?