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Wed Nov 14, 2012, 10:57 PM

Agnosticism and Atheism: Five Misconceptions, Five Quotes By Okla Elliott

(The fol­low­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tions of pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tions do not by any means exhaust the num­ber of spu­ri­ous claims made on the sub­ject, but I hope they will help dis­pel some of the most ram­pant inac­cu­ra­cies afoot in the cul­ture. I also hope the quotes and the video will be shared widely via social media. The more we can spread these sorts of intel­li­gent and care­ful thoughts, the bet­ter peo­ple can under­stand the grow­ing phe­nom­e­non of agnosticism/atheism in this and other coun­tries. It is not my goal to con­vince any­one of any­thing here, but rather to make sure we all have the facts straight so that we can all choose for our­selves what we want to believe.)

1. The most com­mon mis­truth lev­eled at athe­ists is that they are com­pletely cer­tain that sci­ence is right and believe sci­ence explains every­thing in human life. While there may be a few of these peo­ple run­ning around, none of the major spokes­men for athe­ism over the past century—Bertrand Rus­sell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Aldous Hux­ley, Christo­pher Hitchens, Sam Har­ris, etc—maintain this view. In fact, Sartre pointed out that the gap between the bio­log­i­cal facts of the body and what he called “the lived body” (where our con­scious­ness and expe­ri­ences take place) is so huge that sci­ence could never reach the core of our phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal expe­ri­ence. Mar­tin Hei­deg­ger, another well-known athe­ist of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, was famously anti-technology and claimed that “sci­ence does not think.” Hux­ley was crit­i­cal and prais­ing of science/technology in equal mea­sure. And Har­ris has said that just because we might know the chem­i­cal make-up of choco­late, this does not decrease or increase our plea­sure in eat­ing it. So, none of the major spokes­men for athe­ism have actu­ally argued that sci­ence has all the facts and that it can explain every aspect of our lives, and no athe­ist I know per­son­ally holds this posi­tion. Sci­ence is one of many tools we have in our lives, and it is cer­tainly one of the most use­ful ones, but like all tools, it is fal­li­ble as well as use­ful. And the use­ful­ness of sci­ence has lim­its, like the use­ful­ness of any tool. Fur­ther­more, it is impos­si­ble to main­tain that sci­ence is infal­li­ble, since we hear every day that some old the­ory has been debunked or some new tech­nol­ogy has super­seded an older one. It is there­fore merely a straw-man the reli­gious side of this debate has con­structed to mis­rep­re­sent the actual views of atheism.

2. Another com­mon mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of athe­ists is that they are cer­tain there is no god and have a kind of arro­gance in this cer­tainty.
Again, this is not the posi­tion of any of the major spokes­men for athe­ism. Sartre said you can never defin­i­tively prove god does not exist, as have Rus­sell, Hux­ley, Har­ris, Dawkins, etc. Their posi­tion is that they have been offered insuf­fi­cient evi­dence for any par­tic­u­lar god’s exis­tence (be it Vishnu, which 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple claim exists, or Yah­weh, which 2.2 bil­lion peo­ple claim exists, or Odin, which only twenty thou­sand or so claim exists). In effect, nearly all athe­ists are actu­ally agnos­tics in that they admit there is the pos­si­bil­ity of a god or many gods exist­ing. They have merely decided to ten­ta­tively believe that there are no gods until suf­fi­cient evi­dence is offered to change that posi­tion. This is why the terms agnos­tic and athe­ist are nearly syn­ony­mous. Athe­ists might think it con­sid­er­ably more prob­a­ble, though not cer­tain, that no gods exist, whereas agnos­tics would per­haps say it’s a 50/50 chance that some sort of god(s) exist. Athe­ists are there­fore merely fur­ther along the spec­trum of incredulity than agnos­tics, but both admit the pos­si­bil­ity of god(s) exist­ing. It is, in fact, quite often those with faith who say that they have cer­tain knowl­edge of their deities’ exis­tence. They even often claim that no amount of evi­dence could ever sway them from this cer­tainty. This is pre­cisely the oppo­site of the atheist’s posi­tion. If evi­dence for gods exist­ing were offered, athe­ists would hap­pily accept it and alter their belief. So, here again, the reli­gious side of this debate has mis­rep­re­sented the athe­ists and agnos­tics of the world, and it is in fact guilty of its own accusation.

3. It is often claimed that athe­ists can­not be moral. This claim seems very odd to me for sev­eral rea­sons. First off, Bertrand Rus­sell and Jean-Paul Sartre founded the Inter­na­tional War Crimes Tri­bunal, and both protested the Viet­nam War long before it became pop­u­lar to do so. Rus­sell agi­tated for equal rights for women, and he went to jail as a con­sci­en­tious objec­tor dur­ing WWI. He like­wise lost posi­tions at uni­ver­si­ties for tak­ing prin­ci­pled anti-war and pro-civil lib­er­ties stances. Sec­ondly, the claim that I can­not be moral because I do not believe in some god (or group of gods) offends me per­son­ally. I have never mur­dered any­one, never tor­tured any­one, never set any build­ings on fire, don’t cheat on my sig­nif­i­cant other, et cetera; and I refuse to own a car out of envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, refuse (mostly) to eat meat out of eth­i­cal con­cerns, and have agi­tated for the equal rights of LGBT cit­i­zens every­where, among other such activ­i­ties. In short, I do not think my athe­ism has led me to be any less moral; if any­thing, it has helped me to be more moral. Which brings me to my third point: There is no evi­dence at all that believ­ing in a par­tic­u­lar god makes one moral. If any­thing, the never-ending cases of child molesta­tion by Catholic priests, the reli­gious zealotry that leads to sui­cide bomb­ings, the mur­der of abor­tion clinic doc­tors, and the oppres­sion of women by Chris­t­ian, Hindu, Jew­ish, and Mus­lim reli­gious insti­tu­tions should cause peo­ple to won­der if reli­gion isn’t more likely to cause one to be immoral. In fact, if you believe there is some higher power that has the right to con­demn oth­ers to death and you believe you have direct con­tact with that higher power, you might be will­ing to kill other humans in that higher power’s name. But if you hap­pen to believe, as athe­ists do, that humans are what mat­ter, not some deity or set of deities, then you are more likely to view human well-being as the high­est moral value and more likely to con­sider your high­est moral oblig­a­tion to be to other humans, not to some prob­a­bly nonex­is­tent higher power.

http://www.secularpost.net/2012/11/15/aa5/


The rest is at the link...

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Reply Agnosticism and Atheism: Five Misconceptions, Five Quotes By Okla Elliott (Original post)
cleanhippie Nov 2012 OP
dimbear Nov 2012 #1
trotsky Nov 2012 #4
defacto7 Nov 2012 #2
trotsky Nov 2012 #3
cleanhippie Nov 2012 #5
Iggo Nov 2012 #6
meeshrox Nov 2012 #7
trotsky Nov 2012 #8

Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Wed Nov 14, 2012, 11:24 PM

1. The claim toward the end (within the Harris quote) that Christians invented physics

deserves a little intervention from Aristotle.

Maybe he was being ironic?

At any rate, spot on that we can't be sure there aren't gods lurking somewhere, vast and indifferent in the far corners of this immense universe. Just act as if there were no gods because that's the way to bet.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 08:10 AM

4. Might be referring to Newton.

Nonetheless, while superficially true that much of western scientific progress was made within Christian institutions, (a fact that some of the less informed among us like to pretend means Christianity was *responsible* for scientific progress) it is primarily because the church, through most of its history, sought to keep education away from the masses, and clustered in the institutions where they could shape and control it.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 12:40 AM

2. I'm an atheist not because a god doesn't exist

but because there is no reason to believe one does exist. If someone will give me a definable and rational reason that one exists, I will be compelled to change my mind; I would be glad to change my mind. I like knowledge. I like facts.

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Response to defacto7 (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 08:04 AM

3. Well put. n/t

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Response to defacto7 (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 10:05 AM

5. ^^THIS^^

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Response to defacto7 (Reply #2)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 10:54 PM

6. Reason.

Lovely.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 01:42 PM

7. I find it interesting

how few people (none) are trying refute this OP, and after how many days? Just wanted to point that out.

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Response to meeshrox (Reply #7)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 02:10 PM

8. They are ignoring it because they plan on employing each falsehood in current and future threads.

They come in awfully handing when trying to shout down atheists.

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