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I'm sure you get tired of endlessly reiterating the same bit of logic. I know I certainly get tired of hearing it. But to quote a wise man, I believe your comparison of God to flying unicorns is "apples to turnips." (I did like your choice of words, even if I didn't agree with the thought ^^).

Not apple and turnips at all. There is as much evidence for gods as their are invisible flying unicorns- none! Belief in either takes the same amount of faith.

When a person considers the complexity of the universe and everything in it, it is completely natural, based on our human experience, to presume a designer.

It certainly is. It's also natural to presume the sun goes around the earth, the world is flat, and thunder is caused by clouds bumping together. Science has disposed of all these natural presumptions. What makes your natural presumtion any better?

For any complex function having a known origin which involves the interaction of many parts to accomplish a specific purpose, we recognize that there must be an intelligence behind it.

Who's we? I can't believe people are still using Paley's watch argument. Now, I can see someone saying that the argument itself is based on the growth of machines around that time, since they were complicated enough to be clearly designed. Paley made his argument before another mechanism was known for creating apparently designed things that were neither humanly or divinely designed, so you can't blame him too much for the argument. People who use it today though, are either ignorant of the alternative "design" methods or refuse to accept them.

We would never stumble upon something as complex as a computer or a car and assume that it was produced by a natural process involving countless random changes.

If computers and cars could reproduce, have genes that mutate, and have nature select for which cars were best suited for the environment so they could continue to produce we would. The watchmaker argument has a fatal flaw: Naturalistic explanations for the complexity of life on Earth do not claim that complexity emerges from blind chance and so the specious comparison of the complexity of our cosmos to a box of watch parts that never form a watch by chance is not a useful analogy. There is an explanation for the emergence of complexity, and it does not include the existence of a supernatural being.

Take for example the formation of crystals. Mix a supersaturated solution of sugar in water, cool the water down, and crystals of sugar will form. The molecules of sugar that are diffused throughout the solution coalesce in complex patterns called crystals. God is not required to make that happen. Neither is a God necessary to form the complex patterns of ice crystals that form into snowflakes.

These phenomena exist because of what scientists call emergence, whereby "complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions." Emergent structures abound in nature. With no central director, billions of interacting parts make the easily recognizable shape of a hurricane. So it is with evolution through natural selection. The tendency of genes to seek their own survival, over time, results in more and more complex forms of life as each new form is built upon the shoulders of what came before.

So, herein lies a major difference between believing in unicorns and believing in God. Positing a creator actually provides an explanation for these natural conclusions we make regarding the need for a designer. Flying unicorns explain nothing.

Positing a creator is not an explanation any more than positing that the sun travels around the Earth because it's being pulled by a chariot. Explanations that are worth anything have evidence backing them. Oh, and flying unicorns explain where falling stars come from- they fly out of the backside of the unicorns after a night of heavy chili indulgence.

Why not just assume the first cause is intelligent? It's a silly question. Why not just assume electric storms are intelligent? Why not just assume tectonic plates are intelligent? Why not just assume the universe is an illusion of my own imagining? Why not just assume the force is produced by midichlorians? Why not just assume there's an invisible (and quiet) pink unicorn dancing around behind my chair?

Why believe anything you've got no proof of?

Of course, the atheist immediately fires back with: "If complexity requires a designer, then wouldn't the designer, being more complex, require a designer? You've only replaced one set of problems with another."

That's exactly right.

Perhaps. But how is that different than the quandary faced by the atheist? Where did all the matter and energy, and all the laws governing their behavior, come from?

How is it the same? Not having the answer for how we got here is not anything like making up an answer like "God did it?" Apples and turnips indeed!

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Where does energy come from?

Where did the laws governing the universe come from? I guess you believe they must have come from somewhere outside the universe? There is no reason why the laws of physics cannot have come from within the universe itself.They come from nothing! Most are statements composed by humans that follow from the symmetries of the void out of which the universe spontaneously arose. Rather than being handed down from above, like the Ten Commandments, they look exactly as they should look if they were not handed down from anywhere. And this is why, for example, a violation of energy conservation at the beginning of the Big Bang would be evidence for some eternal creator. Even though they invented it, physicists could not simply change the "law". It would imply a miracle or, more explicitly, some eternal agency that acted to break the time symmetry that leads to conservation of energy. But, as we have seen, no such miracle is required by the data.

You inevitably reach the conclusion that there is something eternal, so I don't see how supposing that the eternal prime mover could be intelligent is any less logical than supposing everything was merely a cosmic accident.

It's the part where you suppose there must be an "eternal prime mover" at all and that accidents are necessary as if this one possible outcome in this tiny part of the universe is more special than any of the other possible countless outcomes. Positing the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent being because you can't fathom how everything works and that a god poofing everything into existence (as if somehow "that" requires no explanation) is not as logical as the atheist not having a belief in the existence of gods because of absence of evidence. And not necessarily eternal. Cosmologists that no far more than I do theorize that it is possible for there to be a beginning.

This goes back to the assertion, frequently made by Martini, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and the burden of proof is thus on the believer, not the atheist. If positing an intelligent first cause reduces a great number of enigmas into just a few (where did God come from?, why would he permit suffering?, etc.), then I don't believe it's reasonable to assert that this is an irrational viewpoint which somehow requires more or less evidence than believing in nothing. After all, by not believing in God, you implicitly believe that everything we observe was the result of a colossal coincidence.

What coincidence? An example of a coincidence is have a feeling a man is outside my house with a yellow polka-dot tie, brown shoes and a green shirt and I look out my window and a man matching that description happens to be standing on my front lawn. Who foresaw the universe would turn out the way it did?

I don't claim that every argument present by the believers, myself included, is rock solid, or even presented in the most logical fashion. We certainly don't all agree amongst ourselves. However, what I would really like to see in these forums is a bit more respect for the views of believers, rather than the arrogant dismissal of belief in God as an ignorant and irrational viewpoint.

Atheists have to be respectful? Respectful of what? If you believe in the tooth fairy after the age of 10 I don't respect you. Why should I? There's nothing "arrogant" about dismissing the claim that invisible sky fairies exist. Maybe you confused the word "rational" with "arrogant".

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Not apple and turnips at all. There is as much evidence for gods as their are invisible flying unicorns- none! Belief in either takes the same amount of faith.
I like your style. I'm sure our arguments will be much more meaningful if we all just respond with "Nuh uh. You're wrong and I'm right, and let me make this unfounded blanket statement to show how strongly I feel about it." Actually, on second thought, never mind.

Who's we? I can't believe people are still using Paley's watch argument. Now, I can see someone saying that the argument itself is based on the growth of machines around that time, since they were complicated enough to be clearly designed. Paley made his argument before another mechanism was known for creating apparently designed things that were neither humanly or divinely designed, so you can't blame him too much for the argument.
I tried to word my statement so as to avoid that response, but I guess I wasn't clear enough. The 200 year old Watchmaker analogy holds just fine if there isn't a natural process to describe the arising of the complexity. Since there clearly isn't such a process for cars or computers, then my statement is true, and the intuitive conclusion that a designer is required is justified.

If computers and cars could reproduce, have genes that mutate, and have nature select for which cars were best suited for the environment so they could continue to produce we would.
Now that's an interesting idea. If engineers could design self-replicating cars, I would be truly impressed. I take that back. I mean, surely, that wouldn't take any brains, just a lot of time!

Take for example the formation of crystals. Mix a supersaturated solution of sugar in water, cool the water down, and crystals of sugar will form. The molecules of sugar that are diffused throughout the solution coalesce in complex patterns called crystals. God is not required to make that happen. Neither is a God necessary to form the complex patterns of ice crystals that form into snowflakes.
The fractal-esque formations of crystals don't contain smaller interacting parts which perform a function. By comparison to anything living, or most man-made machines for that matter, they are comparatively simple, albeit intricate.

These phenomena exist because of what scientists call emergence, whereby "complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions." Emergent structures abound in nature. With no central director, billions of interacting parts make the easily recognizable shape of a hurricane. So it is with evolution through natural selection. The tendency of genes to seek their own survival, over time, results in more and more complex forms of life as each new form is built upon the shoulders of what came before.
Thanks for the 101 review of natural processes. It's nice that you can take a general principle derived from the chaotic interaction between the many small elements of weather and apply that without blinking to the all of the complex, intricate, and interdependent processes in nature which clearly carry out specific functions. Call me a skeptic, but I can't do that so easily.

Explanations that are worth anything have evidence backing them.
You continue to impress me with your profundity. Evolutionary processes aside, since that's not what this thread is about, I'm still waiting for the evidence that self-replicating organisms arose from a primordial soup.

Why not just assume the first cause is intelligent? It's a silly question. Why not just assume electric storms are intelligent? Why not just assume tectonic plates are intelligent? Why not just assume the universe is an illusion of my own imagining? Why not just assume the force is produced by midichlorians? Why not just assume there's an invisible (and quiet) pink unicorn dancing around behind my chair?
At least I gotta give you credit to sticking to your guns. You're pretty good at rehashing the same sentiments into different words.

What coincidence? An example of a coincidence is have a feeling a man is outside my house with a yellow polka-dot tie, brown shoes and a green shirt and I look out my window and a man matching that description happens to be standing on my front lawn. Who foresaw the universe would turn out the way it did?
I'm sorry, I must have misunderstood what is meant by the word coincidence. Let me look it up ... "A striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance." Well, I'm pretty sure that there had to be a considerable number of those things in order to arrive at intelligent life that can discuss its origin on forums. Of course, that's not to say that our current situation is the only possible outcome, or that we are the desired or expected outcome. Still, no matter how you boil it down, any combination of events that could lead to intelligent life is highly improbable when compared to the outcomes that would not result in such life, so regardless, there had to be some coincidences.

Atheists have to be respectful? Respectful of what? If you believe in the tooth fairy after the age of 10 I don't respect you. Why should I? There's nothing "arrogant" about dismissing the claim that invisible sky fairies exist. Maybe you confused the word "rational" with "arrogant".
Since you refused to address my argument with any sort of dignity, I have no desire to discuss this further with you. Feel free to tear this response apart, but I won't be replying.

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I like your style. I'm sure our arguments will be much more meaningful if we all just respond with "Nuh uh. You're wrong and I'm right, and let me make this unfounded blanket statement to show how strongly I feel about it." Actually, on second thought, never mind.

I didn't respond with "You're wrong and I'm right". I responded by saying there is as much evidence for flying unicorns as there is gods. The burden of proof is on the believer.

I tried to word my statement so as to avoid that response, but I guess I wasn't clear enough. The 200 year old Watchmaker analogy holds just fine if there isn't a natural process to describe the arising of the complexity. Since there clearly isn't such a process for cars or computers, then my statement is true, and the intuitive conclusion that a designer is required is justified.

Great, so we agree. The watchmaker analogy doesn't work because living organisms reproduce and evolve and watches, cars and computers don't. I guess your point was the watchmaker argument would work if there weren't natural processes to explain the complexity of organisms but since there are, it doesn't? Great point! Thanks for arguing for the other side. The link you provided put it better than I could:

"The Achilles heel of the argument is that it fails if there exists a plausible explanation of phenomenon X in terms of natural processes. And this makes it vulnerable to advances in science, which has progressively found more and more naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena, and progressively abandoned explanations in terms of teleology. The location of mountains, for instance, is now explained in terms of plate tectonics. The structure of biological organisms is explained in terms of natural selection. The structure of the solar system is explained in terms of the nebular hypothesis and its refinements. And so on."

The fractal-esque formations of crystals don't contain smaller interacting parts which perform a function. By comparison to anything living, or most man-made machines for that matter, they are comparatively simple, albeit intricate.

Right. But they also don't reproduce and evolve. My point was that complexity does arise from natural processes and a supernatural entity is not necessary for an explanation.

Thanks for the 101 review of natural processes. It's nice that you can take a general principle derived from the chaotic interaction between the many small elements of weather and apply that without blinking to the all of the complex, intricate, and interdependent processes in nature which clearly carry out specific functions. Call me a skeptic, but I can't do that so easily.

Alrighty then. You go on believing that which is hard to grasp must be because there is an omniscient, omnipotent being behind the curtain pulling the strings. So science can't bottom out on every mystery of the universe, but the religious can by lighting candles, holding hands, and singing hymns? Wow, who wouldn't be convinced by such powerful evidence?

It's the honesty of scientist to say "I don’t know." After all, why is a made-up answer better then no answer at all?!

Religion makes us content with really not knowing. Science says, "See that phenomena over there? Let’s get to work it. Let’s roll up our sleeves and figure this out." Religion simply says, "God did it." Done. No more research necessary, experimentation required.

You continue to impress me with your profundity. Evolutionary processes aside, since that's not what this thread is about, I'm still waiting for the evidence that self-replicating organisms arose from a primordial soup.

I know, I know, until you see a video tape of the event the logical conclusion is "God did it". See the Miller-Urey Experiment I linked to below.

"At the end of one week of continuous operation Miller and Urey observed that as much as 10-15% of the carbon within the system was now in the form of organic compounds. Two percent of the carbon had formed amino acids, including 13 of the 22 that are used to make proteins in living cells, with glycine as the most abundant. Sugars, lipids, and some of the building blocks for nucleic acids were also formed."

Is that absolute proof that life arose without any gods? No. But I think it's pretty darn good evidence that the building blocks of life came about from the primordial soup and that the very simplest life form could have come about from those building blocks naturally after billions of years. But you need evidence that a god doesn't exist and until then the logical belief to hold is that one does?

I'm sorry, I must have misunderstood what is meant by the word coincidence. Let me look it up ... "A striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance." Well, I'm pretty sure that there had to be a considerable number of those things in order to arrive at intelligent life that can discuss its origin on forums. Of course, that's not to say that our current situation is the only possible outcome, or that we are the desired or expected outcome. Still, no matter how you boil it down, any combination of events that could lead to intelligent life is highly improbable when compared to the outcomes that would not result in such life, so regardless, there had to be some coincidences.

That's simply not true. The laws of the universe are the same throughout. It's no coincidence that our galaxy formed, it's expected. The Hubble Space Telescope site estimates there is hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. Ours happens to have a planet rich in oxygen and has other attributes that make it rich for life to arise from simple materials. I doubt other galaxies are without planets also being the right distance, etc. from their sun. Is it unlikely that these materials would begin to form organic compounds? See the Miller-Urey Experiment. Is it unlikely that after billions of years as evolution progresses and more intricate life forms come about that there will be organisms that are intelligent by our standards? I don't know. How much of a striking occurrence would there need to be for an all-knowing all-powerful creator to exist when we have zero evidence for such a being?

Since you refused to address my argument with any sort of dignity, I have no desire to discuss this further with you. Feel free to tear this response apart, but I won't be replying.

You mean you're not going to give me the same arguments and then complain when I repeat the same responses? Oh well.

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One thing that comes into play almost every day in my life is religion, mostly because I'm atheist, and people just won't tolerate it.

I just kinda wanted to start a debate where we all talk about our religions and well, show why we chose that religion, and just kind of talk about religion in general.

Anyone with me? :D

I AM BAPTIST AND I CHOSE THIS RELIGION BECAUSE MY PARENTS BEGAN TAKING ME TO CHURCH WHEN I WAS A YOUNG CHILD..BUT SINCE THEN I HAVE FURTHERED MY CHRISTIANITY MYSELF AND I AM STILL A BAPTIST CHURCH GOER. I BELIEVE YOU CHOOSE UR RELIGION ON YOUR OWN AND NO ONE SHOULD LOOK DOWN ON YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR CHOICES. HOW WOULD THEY FEEL IF SOMEONE MADE FUN OF THEIR RELIGION? THEY WOULDN'T LIKE IT SO THEY SHOULDN'T MAKE FUN OF SOMEONE ELSE!!

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I'm not sure if this has been stated, but:

Since atheists say "Who created your god?", then I say, "Who or what created whatever created the world universe etc.?"

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lol, by our definition, we don't believe in a Creator. Understand now? There are various theories as to the origin of the universe, such as the Bing Bang, string theory, etc. I don't know too much about those, though my personal inclination is that time/universe has been around forever, maybe the universe came from the Big Bang, which was condensed from the previous universe which wound itself back into a tight ball and exploded again, ie, repeating process. Though science has many theories, that's the point.

I strongly recommend that everyone click on this link and read it. It has good arguements!

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I'm not sure if this has been stated, but:

Since atheists say "Who created your god?", then I say, "Who or what created whatever created the world universe etc.?"

We only ask those questions as a response to theist questions such as, "How could stuff always exist?" The question we ask back is "How could a very complex god always exist?" We don't ask because we expect an answer; we ask to show the theist that positing the existence of a god as an explanation for how "stuff" got here isn't an explanation at all and leaves one with even harder questions to answer. Who created God? And if a complex God always existed, how could that be? Why is it you can believe a god can always be here but don't belief "stuff" could?

Oh ok, i get it now. So, no offense or anything, but, the universe is your god?

No, we are atheists; we don't have any beliefs that gods exist, so of course the universe is not labeled by us as a "god".

"a" = without, "theism" = belief in the existence of a god or gods

We are without belief that any gods exist.

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I AM BAPTIST AND I CHOSE THIS RELIGION BECAUSE MY PARENTS BEGAN TAKING ME TO CHURCH WHEN I WAS A YOUNG CHILD..BUT SINCE THEN I HAVE FURTHERED MY CHRISTIANITY MYSELF AND I AM STILL A BAPTIST CHURCH GOER. I BELIEVE YOU CHOOSE UR RELIGION ON YOUR OWN AND NO ONE SHOULD LOOK DOWN ON YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR CHOICES. HOW WOULD THEY FEEL IF SOMEONE MADE FUN OF THEIR RELIGION? THEY WOULDN'T LIKE IT SO THEY SHOULDN'T MAKE FUN OF SOMEONE ELSE!!

I must say it's a remarkable coincidence that your uninfluenced choice was to be a baptist and not a muslim, jew, buddhist, sikh, hindu, catholic, or anything else. Just the same as your parents! What are the chances of that?

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yeah, my parents were both raised catholic and became athiest at their own free will

they've told me that if I wanted to be theist, rather than just follow their example, I could, they wouldn't think less of me

so I didn't use my parent's influence for my choice

I made it myself

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My dad = atheist, I think. We don't really talk about it, but kinda imply it I think

My mom = stout Christian, as her family, of course. She would send me to all kinds of religious stuff when I was younger. I was too young to understand what the old guy in the silly white robes was saying, so I never really had a chance to be brainwashed or anything. I got to make a decision for myself. And I did, and it's only been strengthened since, seeing people in church monotonously reading and repeating the words appearing on the screen.

Anyway, yeah. I made my own choice freely, and it was atheist, despite my mom's side of the family (definitely not because of it, I didnt become an atheist to be a rebel or something like that, or because they made me go to church, etc. They DIDNT make me go to church.)

long story short, when you're left to truly make an unbiased decision, it's usually the best one.

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long story short, when you're left to truly make an unbiased decision, it's usually the best one.

true that

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... I never really had a chance to be brainwashed or anything. I got to make a decision for myself. And I did, and it's only been strengthened since, seeing people in church monotonously reading and repeating the words appearing on the screen.

...

long story short, when you're left to truly make an unbiased decision, it's usually the best one.

I completely agree that each individual should make their own decision, but wouldn't you agree that not everyone has the same inclination and ability to evaluate the tremendous amount of information that can influence the choice? This is obviously true of children.

For example, let's say you've put a great deal of effort into your own search for answers, and now you have children. Of course you are not going to force them to believe as you do, but you want them to make an informed decision, so wouldn't it be reasonable to try and inform them? When they are young this guidance can't take the form of complicated detailed explanations, such as an examination of Bible prophecy, the genetic processes of natural selection, or the indeterminism of quantum mechanics. It has to be simplified, and so I think it's inevitable that your guidance will be biased in favor of your own beliefs. As long as this is accompanied with guidance in how to think critically and not simply accept everything you hear and read, then I don't see it as a bad thing. In fact, a little bias seems like the right thing.

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I completely agree that each individual should make their own decision, but wouldn't you agree that not everyone has the same inclination and ability to evaluate the tremendous amount of information that can influence the choice? This is obviously true of children.

For example, let's say you've put a great deal of effort into your own search for answers, and now you have children. Of course you are not going to force them to believe as you do, but you want them to make an informed decision, so wouldn't it be reasonable to try and inform them? When they are young this guidance can't take the form of complicated detailed explanations, such as an examination of Bible prophecy, the genetic processes of natural selection, or the indeterminism of quantum mechanics. It has to be simplified, and so I think it's inevitable that your guidance will be biased in favor of your own beliefs. As long as this is accompanied with guidance in how to think critically and not simply accept everything you hear and read, then I don't see it as a bad thing. In fact, a little bias seems like the right thing.

Quite right. The ability to think critically and ask the difficult questions is what matters. But here's the rub: If you are religious, should you encourage your children to reject dogma, not follow the herd, make decisions based on rationality rather than fear and superstition, and ultimately make choices independently of their parents? Chances are that if they follow your advice, they will choose to be atheists. Otherwise they are as likely to pick any religion as they are to pick yours. Either way they are going to hell. Wouldn't it be safer to just try and convince them to do like you did? In fact many religions oblige parents to do just that.

Another problem with religion I think.

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Quite right. The ability to think critically and ask the difficult questions is what matters. But here's the rub: If you are religious, should you encourage your children to reject dogma, not follow the herd, make decisions based on rationality rather than fear and superstition, and ultimately make choices independently of their parents?

Duh Puck's point is that if one believes they have examined a belief critically and they find it holds up to scrutiny, they are obliged to pass on that knowledge to their child whether or not that knowledge may end up to be false, while also teaching the child to think critically and be willing to change their minds especially when given new information. We don't let kids make up their minds for themselves about whether or not eating sweets for breakfast is bad, if reading is fundamental, etc. This is one area I happen to agree with him. The problem is that from my experiences, a very small percentage of Christians base any of their religious beliefs on evidence and only do so on faith because they were raised with the same beliefs. Even those that claim they have evidence the Bible is divine are pretending to have genuine evidence. The same types of lame evidence can be used to prove Muhammad was a real prophet.

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Duh Puck's point is that if one believes they have examined a belief critically and they find it holds up to scrutiny, they are obliged to pass on that knowledge to their child whether or not that knowledge may end up to be false, while also teaching the child to think critically and be willing to change their minds especially when given new information. We don't let kids make up their minds for themselves about whether or not eating sweets for breakfast is bad, if reading is fundamental, etc.

Well said. Even though I don't agree with your beliefs, it's clear you've examined things carefully, so regardless if your conclusions are right or wrong, I would consider it proper for you to teach your children accordingly, provided it's not done in a dogmatic or unreasonable manner.

This is one area I happen to agree with him.

Heh heh. That made me smile. :P

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But here's the rub: If you are religious, should you encourage your children to reject dogma, not follow the herd, make decisions based on rationality rather than fear and superstition, and ultimately make choices independently of their parents? Chances are that if they follow your advice, they will choose to be atheists.

To think that way, I would have to be pretty insecure in my own belief, wouldn't I? I frequently question my own beliefs, and when I have doubts or concerns, I do research until I feel I have a clearer understanding. Sometimes it requires adjusting my thinking, and sometimes I don't find a satisfying answer, but often such inquiry actually strengthens the belief I already had. I would hope my children would have a similar experience, but I can accept that they might not.

Incidentally, I don't feel that dogma is something that needs to be rejected, merely examined. The framework of principles and ideas that provides a rational basis for atheistic belief is certainly dogma. Very few atheists independently originate their own explanations for the origin of life, the universe, intelligence, etc., and you'd probably consider them to be silly if they did, since they would be ignoring the collective wisdom of many years of human experience and observation. However, whether you're talking about religion or science, the misapplication and abuse of principles, particularly when combined with a dearth of knowledge, has lead to innumerable screw ups (although the screw-ups of religion have without question been far worse).

Otherwise they are as likely to pick any religion as they are to pick yours. Either way they are going to hell. Wouldn't it be safer to just try and convince them to do like you did?

That's even less reasonable than your previous statement, although I suppose you were just trying to illustrate the thinking process of a religiously insecure parent. In any case, you essentially implied that all religions, by their very nature, are equally illogical and indefensible. Do you really think that there's no difference in the logical foundation for Greek Mythology, Christianity, Hinduism, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? While it's fair that the atheist may believe them all to be equally untrue, I don't think you can argue that they all have the same degree of rationality. Of course, there are many religions that don't feel such a rational basis is necessary, in which case I suppose you end with parents passing on beliefs and customs for the very reasons you mentioned, which is too bad.

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Since the debate has moved to this, I am happy to join in... Duh Puck said a child cannot do such evaluations, but when I was very young (i am younger than 20 now) I did figure out for myself that religious people were misguided, and wasting their time- because God doesn't exist. A theist might think that's a crushing conclusion, or they might think that it would sap the life out of life (if that makes sense), but they'd be wrong. I was happy when I realized that the universe was beautiful, and its own creation, not some guy with a white beard baking up some galaxies in His Divine Oven.

Clearly it is natural to believe in higher powers, since humans have been doing it for centuries. The need to explain everything around us is strong. And, especially in earlier times, without the science and knowledge to explain things, it seemed that a god would be necessary. But it's not, and hence the world is beautiful... with a god it seems uptight, a network of people, all following rules. But without a god, it is chaotic and wondrous

Anyway, I hope that if/when I have kids, they make an informed decision for themselves. Yes, I will be probably be biased toward atheism, but as Duh Puck and Scraff have said, that's a good thing, since I am firm in my own knowledge of that

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To think that way, I would have to be pretty insecure in my own belief, wouldn't I? I frequently question my own beliefs, and when I have doubts or concerns, I do research until I feel I have a clearer understanding. Sometimes it requires adjusting my thinking, and sometimes I don't find a satisfying answer, but often such inquiry actually strengthens the belief I already had. I would hope my children would have a similar experience, but I can accept that they might not.
For clarity, when I said "you" in the earlier post I meant it in a general sense, meaning anybody rather than Duh Puck in particular. Actually I'm not quite sure what your religious beliefs are other than that you are a proponent of the God hypothesis in this topic, but if you were a Christian for example, a tendency to question your beliefs would seem to be at odds with the religion since it would imply a lack of faith. I don't doubt that you personally value rational inquiry, though that would make you somewhat atypical of religious believers.

Why? Well, the hypotheses which unlie religions are preposterous, and unsupported by evidence. At some level I think all religious believers know this, but they believe nevertheless. This is typical of superstitions, and there is insecurity inherent in this. If you are emotionally attached to a belief or feel that you need it (as tends to be the case), you need to defend it. Thus there is a tendency to view evidence selectively and accept any supporting argument without question. If you want evidence of this just look at the various websites which support religion against logical argument. You could start with the link to "Answers" magazine you left a few posts back. It isn't information, it's empty rhetoric. But that's enough to convince a lot of people that they have done the homework and come to an informed conclusion, especially if all they really wanted was to be convinced of that. What I'm getting at is that it isn't realistic to expect religious people to encourage free and questioning thought. The mindsets are not compatible. This is also not a comment on you personally. You seem to be much more inquisitive than the average believer, but if you open your mind to the evidence I really think your belief may be at risk. Can you take that risk?

Incidentally, I don't feel that dogma is something that needs to be rejected, merely examined.
If you examine dogma sufficiently (and it still holds) it ceases to be dogma and becomes a conclusion based on evidence.

The framework of principles and ideas that provides a rational basis for atheistic belief is certainly dogma.
I may not speak for all atheists but as far as I'm concerned atheism is not a belief, but an absence of belief. It is simply a state of being unconvinced by the hypotheses which underlie religion. As such the principle or idea it is based on is the necessity to question things and not accept belief without evidence. Whether that could be considered dogma is a bit doubtful to say the least.

Very few atheists independently originate their own explanations for the origin of life, the universe, intelligence, etc., and you'd probably consider them to be silly if they did, since they would be ignoring the collective wisdom of many years of human experience and observation.
It is not necessary to originate explanations for these things in order to recognise that God is not an explanation. Though obviously it doesn't hurt when you realise that there are other explanations.

In any case, you essentially implied that all religions, by their very nature, are equally illogical and indefensible. Do you really think that there's no difference in the logical foundation for Greek Mythology, Christianity, Hinduism, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? While it's fair that the atheist may believe them all to be equally untrue, I don't think you can argue that they all have the same degree of rationality.
They have exactly the same degree of rationality. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster illustrates this quite nicely. People believe in them for personal or social reasons but never for rational ones. I have never yet encountered a rational reason for belief in God or the supernatural. Naturally that's a challenge to name one, and for purposes of a constructive discussion I suggest you pick just one (the best one of course) so that we can explore it properly without getting too lost in rhetoric and personal affront, which is all too often the consequence of dialogue on this subject.

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I may not speak for all atheists but as far as I'm concerned atheism is not a belief, but an absence of belief. It is simply a state of being unconvinced by the hypotheses which underlie religion. As such the principle or idea it is based on is the necessity to question things and not accept belief without evidence. Whether that could be considered dogma is a bit doubtful to say the least.

I agree ;D I think it's hard for theists to grasp the concept at first. They are stunned or something that we don't believe in a god and seem like they refuse to believe it at first. They ask things like "Wait- is the universe your God? Is science your God? Isn't atheism a religion too?" etc. Atheism isn't a religion- it's a lack of one. And like I said, in the post above octopuppy's, we truly appreciate the beauty of the world we live in

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Then wait until they are older

and for it to be truly unbiased, you don't really need to talk to your child about it

let them find it for themselves when they are ready

and decide for yourselves

either that, or you would have to be saying that we didn't make our decisions unbiased

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If you examine dogma sufficiently (and it still holds) it ceases to be dogma and becomes a conclusion based on evidence.

We're probably just getting hung up on semantics here. It just depends on which definition of "dogma" you use:

1. A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a church.

2. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.

You were referring to the first, I to the second.

If you were a Christian for example, a tendency to question your beliefs would seem to be at odds with the religion since it would imply a lack of faith.

Perhaps many feel that way, but I am a Christian (although not mainstream), and I don't feel that way at all. To the contrary, I believe that the Bible encourages proving your beliefs to yourself, with an emphasis on acquiring accurate knowledge. For example:

Acts 17:11- Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

John 4:23 - A time is coming ... when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

1 Tim 2:4 - [God] wants all men to be saved and to come to an accurate knowledge (Greek e‧pi′gno‧sis, which is more precise than the general gno′sis, or knowledge) of the truth.

Now, while I have focused on logical reasoning and critical thinking as important factors in obtaining accurate knowledge, it must be admitted that I also believe that a person can be guided to such knowledge by God, but that's outside the scope of this discussion. Regardless of how a particular conclusion is reached, if it is true it should stand up to scrutiny.

To me, faith is basically a matter of trust, not credulity. Would you entrust your life's savings to somebody you didn't know? No, but you might trust a close friend, because you have 'faith' that they won't betray you. Such trust would only be damaged by inquiry if it was misplaced in the first place. So, if upon inspection of my beliefs I discover that I've been deceived or that there's no reason for my trust in God, I would abandon the belief. At this point, due to many reasons, I don't think that's likely to happen.

The hypotheses which underly religions are preposterous, and unsupported by evidence. At some level I think all religious believers know this, but they believe nevertheless. This is typical of superstitions, and there is insecurity inherent in this. If you are emotionally attached to a belief or feel that you need it (as tends to be the case), you need to defend it. Thus there is a tendency to view evidence selectively and accept any supporting argument without question.

You are quite right about the tendency to believe, but I obviously can't agree with your other assertions. -_-

If you want evidence of this just look at the various websites which support religion against logical argument. You could start with the link to "Answers" magazine you left a few posts back. It isn't information, it's empty rhetoric.

I posted that link because I found it amusing, but I doubt I would find much from that magazine of interest. However, I don't see how you can say it's empty rhetoric. It may be unreasonable to draw conclusions regarding the origin of humans from the post, but the primary point, and the reason I linked to it, was to highlight the vast gulf between humans and other animals. It's far more empty rhetoric for Time to state "no single, essential difference separates human beings from other animals."

If you open your mind to the evidence I really think your belief may be at risk. Can you take that risk?

Yes. I certainly will, and I hope the feeling is mutual.

I may not speak for all atheists but as far as I'm concerned atheism is not a belief, but an absence of belief ... It is not necessary to originate explanations for these things in order to recognize that God is not an explanation.

Atheism is not a religion. It most certainly is a belief. Every confident atheist I've ever talked to believes humans developed via natural selection. They believe that a creator is not necessary. Almost without exception, they look to natural explanations for why things are the way they are, and they form a belief based on this. For example, Scraff asserted that Paley's watch was long ago refuted as a basis for believing there needs to be a designer. However, the principle holds in the absence of a natural explanation, so until the past century or so, it would have been challenging for the aspiring atheist to defend their belief.

They have exactly the same degree of rationality. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster illustrates this quite nicely. People believe in them for personal or social reasons but never for rational ones. I have never yet encountered a rational reason for belief in God or the supernatural.

I suppose I can see how you would feel that way if you are absolutely convinced it's all hogwash, but since I come at it from a different angle, it's much easier for me to point out the logical inconsistencies in other religious beliefs than it is to do so with atheists. For example, most Christian religions supposedly believe the Bible to be God's word, but it's pretty easy to show the conflicts between their beliefs and what the Bible teaches, and it varies from one religion to another. While you may have no regard for the Bible, I'm pretty certain that my beliefs would stand up to a more rigorous comparison of Bible teachings than would the beliefs of most Christians. Incidentally, to say that my belief in the supernatural cannot be based on rational reasoning is about as dogmatic as anything I've heard in church.

Naturally that's a challenge to name one, and for purposes of a constructive discussion I suggest you pick just one (the best one of course) so that we can explore it properly without getting too lost in rhetoric and personal affront, which is all too often the consequence of dialogue on this subject.

I believe there's a flaw to this approach, and it's the same mistake theists make in debating atheism. I don't want to go there in this thread, but in the next few days I'll make a different post on the topic.

And like I said, in the post above octopuppy's, we truly appreciate the beauty of the world we live in.

So do we, unreality. Well, I can't speak for all theists ... so do I. :D

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Atheism is not a religion. It most certainly is a belief.

I'm not sure you grasp what I meant about atheism not being a belief. It's like the difference between these two statements:

1. "I believe that God does not exist"

2. "I do not believe in the existence of God"

The first is a statement of belief, and a point of view I do not support. The second is a statement of an absence of belief, and this is my position. The first statement does not allow for the possible existence of God. The second does. I think that the existence of God is possible. It's just that there appears to be no evidence for it and therefore no reason to believe it is true. The only assertion I am making is that, having looked for it, I have encountered no evidence for God. I'm always happy to change my point of view in the light of new evidence so if you can provide any I'd love to hear it.

The more general point I was making is that a lack of belief differs fundamentally from a belief. People who hold a belief often seek to bolster it, and often with the pretence of being open-minded. That is the nature of belief. The passages you quoted from the bible encourage a believer to seek truth, but to seek it in scripture. That's hardly going to give you an unbiased opinion. Similarly the encouragement of faith, which you could perhaps define as "belief based on trust", discourages independent enquiry.

Obviously I do hold beliefs but I make sure to keep them open to change, especially when I am not personally acquainted with the supporting evidence. But the beliefs which may support an atheist position (such as a belief in natural selection) are not required in order to take an atheist position. You do not have to believe that natural selection is true, only that it is more plausible than the theist alternatives.

Incidentally, to say that my belief in the supernatural cannot be based on rational reasoning is about as dogmatic as anything I've heard in church.
All right. Your belief could be based on rational reasoning. I just don't think it is. Where's the reasoning?

I'm a bit short on time but I'll really have to challenge the following statements:

It may be unreasonable to draw conclusions regarding the origin of humans from the post, but the primary point, and the reason I linked to it, was to highlight the vast gulf between humans and other animals. It's far more empty rhetoric for Time to state "no single, essential difference separates human beings from other animals."

For example, Scraff asserted that Paley's watch was long ago refuted as a basis for believing there needs to be a designer. However, the principle holds in the absence of a natural explanation

To be continued...

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Back again! Now, where was I?

It may be unreasonable to draw conclusions regarding the origin of humans from the post, but the primary point, and the reason I linked to it, was to highlight the vast gulf between humans and other animals. It's far more empty rhetoric for Time to state "no single, essential difference separates human beings from other animals."
I can't really comment on the Time article as I haven't read it so I don't know if there was supporting evidence given or not. But the statement in question seems pretty reasonable to me. Here's your objection to it (going back a bit):

Even if you categorized technology as simply an advancement in the use of tools, which some animals are capable of, there is a phenomenal gap between what humans and animals have accomplished. And when you factor in abstract thought, mathematics, art, music, religious inclination, morals, highly complex languages, etc., etc., it seems silly to me to think that categorizing humans as different is somehow a form of racial arrogance. Even if we share 99.5% of the DNA of chimpanzees, there is simply no question of vast human superiority in almost every respect, with the exception of physical strength.
An interesting point here is that the "phenomenal gap" is related to accomplishment. If we went back, say, 4000 years in human history, human accomplishment would not look so impressive. Advances in all areas would be substantially less. Go back another few thousand years and things would be looking decidedly primitive. So what has changed? Have we evolved in the meantime? Not significantly. We're still the same species, but now we can do so much more. Human accomplishment has snowballed over a relatively short period of time, and continues to do so (consider the technological advances of the last 200 years compared to the preceding 200 years). Evidently we have reached a critical stage in our evolution where we are able to build upon previous advances in a way not previously possible. What we have achieved is what sets us apart, not what we are. The point of the statement in the Time article is that the basic functions which enabled us to get there are not much different from other creatures. We just got there first. It is natural that once we reached the critical stage that enabled this runaway development, our intelligence should develop more rapidly because our advantage over all other creatures is intelligence-based, so "survival of the fittest" becomes "survival of the smartest". But the timescale over which this has happened is tiny in evolutionary terms. Consequently, we haven't got very far. We have maintained our unique position because we have filled a niche. Once filled, there is no benefit for other species to move that way.

Sure, our brains are a finely-tuned instrument, capable of processing information at incredible speeds, and using this to maintain a model of the real world which is complex and accurate enough to make split-second decisions based on the most subtle cues. But the finely-tuned part of our brains is the part which has been longest in development, the part we share with so many other species. The part of our brains which sets us apart is the part that enables us to think rationally and cross-examine our own thought processes, making sense of the world around us based on logical deduction. That part is slow and cumbersome. Witness the effort that it takes for most people to think rationally. Human beings are, in evolutionary terms, half-baked. We got far enough to get a critical advantage over other species, but not much further. Now our lives are so comfortable that survival is not a challenge. Our evolution has stalled. We may even be backsliding into lower intelligence. We are ill-equipped to cope with the modern world we have created and the result is stress and dysfunctional behaviour. Compare this with other creatures which are perfectly adapted to their environments. We can do a lot, but our existence is not in balance with our world. Are we really so superior?

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We're probably just getting hung up on semantics here. It just depends on which definition of "dogma" you use:

1. A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a church.

2. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.

You were referring to the first, I to the second.

Atheism is NOT based on dogma by either definition. Not believing in gods based on lack of evidence is not a principle, belief or statement laid down authoritatively. By your definition, not believing in something based on reason is always based on dogma. That's absolutely ridiculous and I don't even think you believe it. Just another desperate attempt by a theist to put rational thought on par with religion. Good luck fooling someone who'll fall for it.

To me, faith is basically a matter of trust, not credulity. Would you entrust your life's savings to somebody you didn't know? No, but you might trust a close friend, because you have 'faith' that they won't betray you.

Eh, nice try again at putting religious faith on par with others. I trust close friends with money because I have evidence they are to be trusted, not faith. It would take faith to trust a stranger with my money. That's the type of faith that's on par with religious faith, the permission religious people give each other to believe in things strongly on bad evidence.

Atheism is not a religion. It most certainly is a belief.

Pathetic! Atheism is lack of belief in gods. Period. Not accepting a claim as true is not a belief. Get a clue already.

Every confident atheist I've ever talked to believes humans developed via natural selection.

So? Almost every confident theist I know also believes we've evolved via natural selection. Your posts continue to get more ridiculous. Is my lack of belief in Bigfoot also a belief?

Incidentally, to say that my belief in the supernatural cannot be based on rational reasoning is about as dogmatic as anything I've heard in church.

So, so desperate. Believing that belief in the supernatural can't be based on rational reasoning is not dogmatic; it's a belief based on one's knowledge of the lack of evidence for the supernatural.

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