Atheist Arrogance?

While reading "Micha's post":http://catallarchy.net/blog/archives/2005/03/01/good-and-hard/ it occurred to me that atheists appear to tend toward more arrogance than I see in most religious people. An excellent example is my wife's ex boyfriend, who she calls an "evangelical atheist" because he took pleasure in attacking other people's religious beliefs.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that socialism and atheism seem to go hand in hand? There must be a certain humility in believing there is a higher power than you, at least when you believe you do not know for sure what that higher power's purpose is for you, or even if it has one. Certainly some people believe that God talks to them and only to them. However, it takes a special kind of arrogance to believe that you (or any human for that matter) can direct an economy. This is the same kind of arrogance that allows one to say with certainty "there is no God" and that others should join the "reality-based community."

Do understand that I'm talking about a particular kind of atheist here. There is, of course, the Sartrian atheist, who says "Holy crap! There's no God! Now what do I do?" The same sort of humility can come from the belief that one is alone in the universe and has no set purpose as from the belief that there is someone much more powerful than you. But there is also the type of atheist who believes that he or she can be God, because the position is open. This person, in my opinion, must be watched far more closely than the Jerry Falwells of the world.

As for me, I'm an existentialist agnostic who is prone to flights of fancy. I don't believe it is possible to know whether there's a God, so I'll be skeptical of anyone who claims to know either way. Even if God calls you up on the telephone, you still have to use your own judgement to determine if it really is God, and then you have to decide whether or not "he" is crazy.

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For the record, I think

For the record, I think there is enough reason to believe there is a God. The rest is faith. I also think that for someone to believe that this universe is here because of time + matter + chance requires faith.

The odds that this universe came to be without a designer are so minute that by mathemeticians standards they are 0, infinitesimal.

In that regard, we have the same starting point. Neither the theistic worldview nor the atheistic worldview can be proven.

For all the

For all the atheists/naturalists out there - in response to a number of earlier posts, I am quite curious as to how you decide a theistic being is immoral. Please explain to me how the naturalistic worldview enables you to decide what is good/evil and right/wrong.

If possible, let's avoid the semantics.

How would you go about

How would you go about proving there’s not a God? If you were God, how would you go about proving it to me?

Sean,

I just wanted to know if your basis for believing that one cannot know if there is a God is logical deduction, a gut feeling, or whatever and what the line of reasoning is.

Of course no one can prove there is no God - that's why atheism is a very interesting position for those who pride themselves in basing their beliefs on fact. Can't really answer you second question I cannot think like an infinite being. Are you making the assumption that God would need to prove himself to you or me?

bq. I swear, you’d think

bq. I swear, you’d think an agnostic would understand atheists...

I do understand atheists. What I don't understand is atheists who claim to "know" there is no God, any more than I understand those who "know" there is a God. Calling your faith in the non-existence of God "reality-based" is as ridiculous as a dogmatic theist telling me I'm going to go to hell for the reason du jour.

Holy crap! There are no

Holy crap! There are no Leprachans! now what do I do?

I swear, you'd think an agnostic would understand atheists, but they seem to be more dogmatic than theists. Every solid consistent definition of God that I have heard of is either disprovable, or inconsequential.

You appear to buy into a definition of god whos existence can neither be proven or disproven. Clearly, such a thing can have no effect on the real world. Any such effect would be evidence for it's existence. However by definition there are no such effects.

Why just one such non-verifiable god? Why not many such gods? If there need be only one such god and I am presented with many then how to choose? Seems to me such concepts present more problems than solutions. It becomes even more problematic when morality is based on gods word. If god A says butter the toast on the top, but god B says butter it on the bottom and both gods are non-verifiable then you are in a multi-level quandry. There are four possibilities for existence, even if both gods told you to do the same thing it may not be the right thing to do anyway.

From an atheist perspective there is no more arrogance in not believing in god than in not believing in Leprachans. You are taking a theist perspective as agnostics tend to do. Is it arrogant for me to scoff at the idea of searching for pots of gold when I see a rainbow? When you figure out the difference let me know. I see no difference.

I guess I'm a really odd

I guess I'm a really odd duck then. I'm an agnostic strong atheist. I do not believe in any gods. I believe I can prove that no being can exist with characteristics worthy of the title of godhood. And I'm willing to hear counter-arguments. I also have a number of smart, theistic friends. Their right to believe goes hand-in-hand with my right to disbelieve. The two are inseparable. Any other possibility is to constrain the choices available to both sides, eliminating freedom. Freedom of religion that does not encompass freedom from religion is a sham. It's a short step from there to saying that you have the freedom, but you may not disbelieve in a monotheistic god, a christian god or even the god of a particular denomination. :wall:

bq. Is it arrogant to state

bq. Is it arrogant to state flatly that Zeus doesn’t exist, or to note that a benevolent interventionist God wouldn’t allow backyard pool drownings, much less catastrophic tsunamis? Even if it is arrogant, so what? Arrogant pronouncements might also be true.

Michael:

It is arrogant to state that you know for a fact that something is true or not true when you don't. The most you can say is that you believe or are "pretty sure" Zeus doesn't exist, while admitting that you're playing the odds.

Indeed, it's arrogant even to state that a "benevolent interventionist" wouldn't allow tsunamis or backyard pool drownings, especially if you imagine God as viewing the human race as a single child, rather than a collection of children. If you protect your children from everything that could possibly hurt them, they will not be able to take care of themselves as adults. One can hardly call preventing your children from learning valuable lessons "benevolent."

This is the same situation I

This is the same situation I could imagine with someone claiming to be God: how do you know they’re not a fraud?

If she could turn a glass of Lake Erie water into a 1961 Cheval Blanc, that'd be close enuf for me!

bq. Question: By what reason

bq. Question: By what reason have you concluded that it is not possible to know whether there is a God or not?

Jason:

How would you go about proving there's not a God? If you were God, how would you go about proving it to me?

I can imagine a universe where there was someone you could actually meet who everyone acknowledged was all powerful and few dared question, but we do not live in such a universe.

I don't know how much SF you read, but in David Brin's Uplift universe, every living intelligent race except humanity knows who "uplifted" it through genetic engineering. Eventually, a race comes along claiming to be the long lost benefactors of humanity, and they build a cult following. However, they were frauds. This is the same situation I could imagine with someone claiming to be God: how do you know they're not a fraud? Even if almost everyone believes, there still must be some doubt.

Yeah, but why should I

Yeah, but why should I respect the moral judgement of a God who, on the one hand, tells me not to engage in the occasional killing, while He is evidently doing them wholesale. That’s a heck of a special pleading.

I can think of a few reasons to accept his rules:
1. (for the believers) he's the judge, jury and executioner.
2. he knows the plan, we do not.
3. the section of the 10 rules that deals with how to deal (or not deal) with others (i.e. the restrictions on murder, fraud, theft, etc.) is in line with natural rights, and has considerable empirical evidence that one is generally better off following them.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that Christian theology has dealt with the concept of God being both a benevolent intervenor and allowing disasters to occur. Now, if someone can point out a good work on how God can be omniscient and his Creation can have free-will simultaneously...

Is it arrogant to ... note

Is it arrogant to ... note that a benevolent interventionist God wouldn’t allow backyard pool drownings, much less catastrophic tsunamis?

It could just be ignorance. Christian's believe that there is a final reward and immortal soul. Many also believe that their mortal life is a set of trials and tribulations intended to make their souls somehow better for God's plan in the afterlife. If that is the case then a benevolent interventionist God may very well not just allow but actively cause quakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados, wildfires, and all sorts of natural disasters. If the soul is immortal, then such disasters bring the dead victims to the ultimate reward that much sooner. Hardly a bad thing.

Do understand that I’m

Do understand that I’m talking about a particular kind of atheist here

I think that's the most important thing to note. I've often called myself an "evangelizing atheist" too, because I enjoy arguing religion with others, as well as trying to "convert" them. I would hope that anyone who believes something enough to call it a religion (or atheism) would consider it worth arguing and trying to convince others of. (Obviously not to the point of irritation)

But as far as the "playing god," you're only talking about one type of atheist, of which I'm not one. (Well, except for those lines in "Stranger in a Strange Land") The only kind of atheist who wants to play god is one who accepts the religious belief that morality flows ONLY from the divine -- ergo without god, you can be god and define morality any way you see fit.

I'm an atheist who still holds that there is absolute morality (just not defined by god), and nothing I can do will change the fact that murder is wrong. I think the hypothetical atheists you denounce as playing god have a ideological problem, but it's in their overall moral philosophy, not specifically their atheism.

...in which case Ted Bundy

...in which case Ted Bundy and Charles Manson, maybe even Stalin, were doing His work, and should be emulated.

I think you could also make

I think you could also make the claim that atheism and libertarianism go hand in hand, at the very least for the highly Randian subset of libertarians.

Somehow, I'm thinking that

Somehow, I'm thinking that He's got it under control and doesn't need anyone's help there. Especially since He gave us a list of things not to do to each other.

Yeah, but why should I

Yeah, but why should I respect the moral judgement of a God who, on the one hand, tells me not to engage in the occasional killing, while He is evidently doing them wholesale. That's a heck of a special pleading.

BTW, I don't have much vested in this argument. I'm an agnostic, I think. I'm not sure.

There seems to be both an

There seems to be both an epistemological and a sociological angle to this post.

Epistemology first: It's simply not possible to prove the statement "there is no God." Atheists who think that it is possible are wasting their time chasing their tails. That doesn't make it the idea of God any less a meaningless concept though. It's a null value, an empty concept; it can provide us with no information and is defined entirely as something that is ultimately unknowable. As such we can chop it neatly out of our ontology without losing anything, and in fact we're more likely to gain by ridding ourselves of useless ideas that can only muddy our thinking.

Now, the sociology: while atheism and socialism frequently do travel together, there's quite a rich history of socialist Christians, and from my own personal observation I find that most libertarians tend to be atheists or agnostics of some flavour. So I don't think this dog is going to hunt. As David Masten pointed out above, the relevent feature here is elitism/authoritarianism. One side thinks they can tell people how to live their lives because God told them so, the other side simply takes God out of the equation. Ironically enough the second type is generally more dangerous, but they're both cut from the same cloth anyway.

"Is it arrogant to state

"Is it arrogant to state flatly that Zeus doesn’t exist, or to note that a benevolent interventionist God wouldn’t allow backyard pool drownings, much less catastrophic tsunamis? Even if it is arrogant, so what? Arrogant pronouncements might also be true."

I would say it is somewhat arrogant. And the detriment of arrogance, I believe, is that it means one is not listening to counterarguments.

Is it arrogant to state

Is it arrogant to state flatly that Zeus doesn't exist, or to note that a benevolent interventionist God wouldn't allow backyard pool drownings, much less catastrophic tsunamis? Even if it is arrogant, so what? Arrogant pronouncements might also be true.

But there is also the type

But there is also the type of atheist who believes that he or she can be God, because the position is open. This person, in my opinion, must be watched far more closely than the Jerry Falwells of the world.

I find little difference between the person who thinks they can do God's job and the person who claims to know all of God's will. The arrogance is the same, both claim a right to be lord over others.

Interesting thoughts, Sean.

Interesting thoughts, Sean. I enjoyed reading your post and found your position as a true agnostic refreshing. In my experience, agnostics are typically atheists that either are afraid of the stigma the term brings or don't want to deal with the existential and logical baggage inherent in atheism.

Question: By what reason have you concluded that it is not possible to know whether there is a God or not?

Sean, "I wonder if this has

Sean,

"I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that socialism and atheism seem to go hand in hand?"

How so?

If I'm going to believe something exists, I would like to see evidence.

"There must be a certain humility in believing there is a higher power than you,"

There are a lot of higher powers than me. Smarter people, stronger people, richer people, better looking people. They all exist. There is observable proof of their existence.

Why should I consider the existence of a god any more credible than the existence of an invisible naked lady who sits on my head in times of trouble? There are equal amounts of proof for each.

Just because it was strange

Just because it was strange doesn't excuse hanging up on me.

I did receive a pretty

I did receive a pretty strange phone call yesterday.

In that regard, we have the

In that regard, we have the same starting point. Neither the theistic worldview nor the atheistic worldview can be proven.

For me, the better standard is not "which worldview can be proven?" but "which worldview can be disproven?"

A naturalistic worldview can be disproven through observation, deduction, science, etc. The natural Ptolemaic model of the universe was disproven in this manner. As was the Newtonian model of physical laws. The worldviews that replaced the earlier worldviews better explained relevant observations than the predecessors.

As is stated above, a theistic worldview cannot be completely disproven. Certain aspects of it might be disproven over time, such as the notion of the world resting on the shoulders of a large man or the sun being driven across the sky by a chariot. But the questions of a "higher power" cannot be disproven by science, because science deals with the realm of human observation.

Yet, that is precisely why I consider myself a naturalist an not a theist. All observable facts are potentially discoverable and explanable by science at some point in the future. All theories that I hold a preference for are disprovable at some point in the future. Why should I deal with that which is not disprovable? If it cannot be disprovable, why should I spend my time and effort on it? Science has much more rigorous standards than theism.

The odds that this universe

The odds that this universe came to be without a designer are so minute that by mathemeticians standards they are 0, infinitesimal.

I am interested in your reasoning behind this statement, as you certainly havn't provided any. Certainly there was a first cause behind the universe as we know it, but how people assume that proves design as opposed to a natural phenomenon is unclear.

Jason: I suppose "gut

Jason:

I suppose "gut feeling" is a better description of my belief that we cannot know if there's a God than "logical deduction." I simply cannot think of a situation where I would consider myself to "know" either way.

Are you a Leprachaun

Are you a Leprachaun agnostic also? If not then use your own logic on yourself. When you can prove the non-existence of Leprachauns you get back to me. In the meantime, without your proof, I feel perfectly comfortable saying that Leprachauns do not exist. Why? Because there is no credible evidence that they do.

Similarly, there is no credible evidence that Thor, Vishu, Allah, or the Christian God exists. It's as simple as that.

Pots of gold at ends of rainbows, walking on water, staffs turing into snakes, rainbow ends, reanimated dead, wooden boats large enough to hold all life, are evidence of make believe not credibility. Every religion that claims the existence of a god or gods has huge credibility problems, not only because the claim is so outlandish, but because the evidence presented to back it up is know to be utterly impossible. There are no ends to the rainbow, and people don't walk on water. It is obvious these stories are the beliefs of gullible goat herders. Ones that need to be drilled into the young as no sane adult would put any credence in them.

Johnathan Wilde, you want to

Johnathan Wilde, you want to weigh in on Doug Allen's "9 1/2 weeks" post? We need a naturalist in there.

http://catallarchy.net/blog/archives/2005/03/01/9-12-weeks/

"Are you a Leprachaun

"Are you a Leprachaun agnostic also?"

My concept of choice is the frisbee. I usually say, while I admit there is a very remote chance that all I know of the world is completely wrong, and that maybe every frisbee I've ever seen is just some kind of optical illusion, or alien-powered hologram, nevertheless I'm willing to say that I believe frisbees do exist. By the same token, I'm willing to say God does not exist, though I suppose there is a chance I am wrong.

Sorry Ruth, I wouldn't touch

Sorry Ruth, I wouldn't touch an abortion topic with a 10 foot pole. :razz:

You arrogant agnostics make

You arrogant agnostics make me sick.

This is one of these blog

This is one of these blog pieces that stakes out a position based on what is invariably untrustworthy evidence: that is anecdotal evidence. Its nearly pointless to address it because its likely based more on the author's prejudices than it is on the sort of sound analysis needed to address an issue like this. Indeed, that it is prone to cherry picking should be obvious.

On the problem of evil people have batted around I am reminded of the following:

"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." - Joseph Conrad

Sean,

If you want to read an arrogant Christian's work, just read some Bunyan. :)

Anyway, there are plenty of ready defenses of atheism out there on the web. All you have to do, is well, look. :wink:

I suggest the following:

Doug Krueger, What Is Atheism? A Short Introduction

A popular work.

Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

An academic/scholarly work.

Matt McIntosh,

Atheists come in generally in two colors. Strong and weak atheists. The latter are far more common IMHO.

Anyway, I've met far too many libertarians that are atheists to believe that there is some special connection between socialism and atheism (though obviously my only evidence is anecdotal).

Johnathan Wilde,

The Newtonian world wasn't disproven; it was adjusted though. Newton's three laws still apply, as do his discoveries in optics.

Yet, that is precisely why I

Yet, that is precisely why I consider myself a naturalist an not a theist. All observable facts are potentially discoverable and explanable by science at some point in the future.

Ok, that's a fair statement. But science is a search for causes - what happens when there is no cause? What do you do when science offers no viable explanation? What caused the big bang? Since natural law didn't exist in the singularity, science is not going to be able to give us an answer - not now, not a 100 years from now.

What caused the big bang, Jonathan?

Jason, It didn't exist

Jason,

It didn't exist there?

And who says that someday we can't replicate it either outside our universe via a "natural experiment" (we watch and observe what is going on) or a via an experiment that we ourselves undertake?

I am interested in your

I am interested in your reasoning behind this statement, as you certainly havn’t provided any. Certainly there was a first cause behind the universe as we know it, but how people assume that proves design as opposed to a natural phenomenon is unclear.

I really like the direction you are going better because I don't have time to look up and document a long series of infinitesmal probabilities. But here is an example.

Chandra Wickramasinghe, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cardiff, Wales, said that the statistical probability of of a single enzyme is 1 in 10 to the 40,000. The formation a single enzyme, the building block of the gene, whcih is in turn the building block of the cell, would require more attempts than there are atoms in all the stars of all the galaxies in the entire known universe.

Just a single enzyme.

To answer your question about the first cause, if you believe that the big bang is responsible for the formation of the universe as just about all scientists do, then the question is, as you alluded to, what caused the big bang? Prior to the big bang there was nothing. In the singularity as they call it, all natural law breaks down. So we know that natural forces did not cause the big bang.

What then caused it? Either nothing caused something to come from nothing or something not contained by the natural world caused something to come from nothing.

The theists believe that it is more likely that something (God) that is uncaused and exists outside of nature is a better explanation for the first cause than nothing (what rocks dream about).

Any talk of positive and negative energy or swirling particles of any sort is intellectually dishonest because we know that matter and energy did not exist prior to the big bang.

On the problem of evil

On the problem of evil people have batted around I am reminded of the following:

Interesting, is this not anecdotal evidence, what you just proclaimed "nearly pointless"?

You're kind of pulling the rug out from your own argument here. It's ok, I just wanted to point out that using Humes empirical test for meaning is useless in the world we live in. The very statement that for something to be meaningful it must be measurable and quantifiable is itself not meaningful by its own standard.

And who says that someday we

And who says that someday we can’t replicate it either outside our universe via a “natural experiment” (we watch and observe what is going on) or a via an experiment that we ourselves undertake?

Are you referring to the big bang? The simple answer is that we will never be able to compress the entire universe including ourselves into a singularity and be there to observe whether a huge bang occurs.

Replicating it in the lab is out of the question because you would be trying to form somthing from something. That does not meet the established conditions.

Jason, Well, the argument

Jason,

Well, the argument from first (the Cosmological Argument) cause for theists always falters on the question of "What caused God?" Indeed, all the theist does is merely shift the locus of debate re: the uncaused cause instead of solving it.

Note that some interpretations of Quantum Mechanics allow for a universe where some events have no cause at all. :dizzy:

Jason Saadeh, Well, you are

Jason Saadeh,

Well, you are assuming that we are the only universe going. :)

The Newtonian world wasn’t

The Newtonian world wasn’t disproven; it was adjusted though. Newton’s three laws still apply, as do his discoveries in optics.

As a complete description of reality, his classical mechanics model of physical laws was disproven.

Johnathan Wilde, True, but

Johnathan Wilde,

True, but we still use them and they still are valid, unlike Ptolmey's model. Indeed, the latter is only useful as a cautionary tale as far as I know. :dead:

Gary, Once we posit that

Gary,

Once we posit that something outside of nature exists, you cannot project natural laws on it. That is the whole point.

Theists say that God is the uncaused cause. Natural phenomena have causes. You cannot project natural law on something exists outside of the natural world.

The cosmological argument simply says that something creating something out of nothing is more reasonable than nothing creating nothing out of something. In fact, it is antithetical to reason to believe the latter.

Quantum mechanics is a very iffy argument. I'm assuming you're referring to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. We can't know the speed and location of subatomic particles at the same time.

1.) This is about predictability, not causality - it does not prove the movement of electrons is uncaused
2.) Our attempts to observe them may be the very cause of this unpredictability

and most importantly

3.) Without the Law of Causality, we don't have science. If we determined that some things don't have causes, all of science is untenable. That would not be very helpful for us.

What is meant by arrogance?

What is meant by arrogance? If by the fact that most atheists see themselves as more informed in science, philosophy, and history- ues, this is true. If by the fact that few people are willing to come out and challenge theists, then certainly no. I have a friend who's an atheist (I'm agnostic) and while he would qualify on the first score on the second he's scared shitless. His daughter is not even allowed to talk religion w other children for fear she'll be ostracized.
Most of the above comments have focused on the definition of atheism, when it's the def of arrogance in question. DAN

Jason, I have never seen

Jason,

I have never seen "something creating something out of nothing". I have only seen 'something creating something out of something'. We have evidence in quantum physics of "Something from nothing". So I do not think your conjecture is more reasonable.

Besides, to paraphrase you, you are just projecting your warped understanding of natural law onto things you imagine exist outside the natural world.

Dan, You are right, and she

Dan,

You are right, and she would be ostracized. I would go further. It is "arrogance" on our part to speak up at all. That's the point. We are uppity niggers if we dare speak up. How "arrogant" of us not to know our place. It's just fine for the believers to constantly voice their belief not only in church but in every venue from our money to congress, but don't let the atheists speak up. Hell, we'll see a black woman as president long before an avowed atheist.

Brian, Show me how we get

Brian,

Show me how we get something from nothing in quantum physics. We don't. And if we did, it is pointless for you and I to talk about science.

Second, I am not projecting my "warped understanding of natural law" onto imaginary things. I am not projecting any understanding of natural law. I am suggesting that science tells us that everything has a cause but science cannot give us a cause for the big bang. Therefore, the cause of the big bang is unscientific.

Of course I use logic and what I know of this world to learn something of this uncaused cause, by I don't try to subjugate it to natural law. There is a difference.

Well, you are assuming that

Well, you are assuming that we are the only universe going.

Gary,

C'mon, man! Naturalists cannot explain how this universe got here and now you're positing others?

Brian, You seem to have a

Brian,

You seem to have a lot of animosity toward Christians. I am one. But I agree with the thesis of your post. Too many that call themselves Christians want to silence critcs. That misses the point of Jesus' message.

Religious faith is stupid.

Religious faith is stupid. That's why I'm so certain there's no God.
Anyone who's lived in a Blue State has probably encountered the problem of the Evangelical Atheist . . . the person who has discovered the Void and considers it their bounden duty to share their newfound joy with everyone around them, through force if...