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Subject: Atheism: Is it faith-based? rss

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Alexander Fretz
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Hello there RSP, this is my first foray into your realm.

I've been asked to move this conversation to RSP, since it seems to be clogging up the geeklist. I seem to have sparked a fairly long debate with the following statement:

Fretzy wrote:
I find it important to call attention to the fact that atheism is, in actuality, a faith based system of belief.

Since the initial post I've modified the statement (for various semantic reasons) to the following:

Fretzy wrote:
Atheists and theists share a dilemma; Neither group can back up what they believe with empirical evidence.


I feel that these statements mirror one another, however I am curious to see how you RSPers feel.

Please excuse me if this is a topic which has been recently discussed.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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This has been pounded to death here.

The problem is the negative proof.

Atheists have nothing they need to positively prove. You cannot prove that there is NO grain of sand in the world that looks exactly like Nixon. But if you find one, you CAN prove it. Burden is on the positive.

Is it a faith? In many, merely an indifference.
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One has faith the unknowable will eventually be knowable. The other has faith that unknowable is that way on purpose and will never be knowable.
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Steve Bernhardt
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Geosphere wrote:
This has been pounded to death here.

The problem is the negative proof.

Atheists have nothing they need to positively prove. You cannot prove that there is NO grain of sand in the world that looks exactly like Nixon. But if you find one, you CAN prove it. Burden is on the positive.

Is it a faith? In many, merely an indifference.


Well, that was a short thread. Next!
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Blorb Plorbst
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Geosphere wrote:
This has been pounded to death here.

The problem is the negative proof.

Atheists have nothing they need to positively prove. You cannot prove that there is NO grain of sand in the world that looks exactly like Nixon. But if you find one, you CAN prove it. Burden is on the positive.

Is it a faith? In many, merely an indifference.


Or to put it another way: I can't prove that the tooth fairy doesn't exist. But I will choose to live my life as if he didn't until someone can offer me proof that he does.

If I acted in the opposite way: Believing in the tooth fairy because there was not proof that he didn't exist, people would call me insane. I would also have no reason not to believe in every other god and mythical creature that was ever written (or not written) about.
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Fretzy wrote:
Atheists and theists share a dilemma; Neither group can back up what they believe with empirical evidence.


What do you think the atheists are claiming? I think the atheists are claiming that the theists can't back up their claims with empirical evidence. It would seem you should agree with that.
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There are also some atheists who believe that God (at least certain popular conceptions of God) is logically impossible. Evidence is irrelevant in this case.

Similarly, the existence of even a single individual killed by an unpreventable natural disaster who has made no morally significant free choices causes severe problems for some notions of God. The evidence requirements for such arguments are minimal.
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Alexander Fretz
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Geosphere wrote:
Atheists have nothing they need to positively prove. You cannot prove that there is NO grain of sand in the world that looks exactly like Nixon. But if you find one, you CAN prove it. Burden is on the positive.


It seems that even without positive proof the matter still falls to faith...

I'm trying to think about it in the context of the way things would have been before gravity was defined. People noticed that objects were pulled toward the ground, but without proof one had to take it on faith that the fall would occur. Perhaps some had faith that one day the opposite would happen.

A number 7 atheist states that there is no greater being in the entirety of the universe which could have been responsible for our existence (or the existence of the primordial ooze which eventually evolved into homo sapiens).
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Fretzy wrote:
but without proof one had to take it on faith that the fall would occur.


There was proof.

Let go.

Fall.

ta da.

It just wasn't named yet. Nothing to prove.
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Paul DeStefano
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Fretzy wrote:
A number 7 atheist


What is a numbered atheist?
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Fretzy wrote:
It seems that even without positive proof the matter still falls to faith...


Do you have faith the Cthulhu is not perched atop your building while wearing overalls and a sants hat as he bursts into a chorus of 'O Solo Mio'?

Is there any reason to assume that he's really there?

Or can you just go look out the window?

It is only without positive proof that something must be taken on faith.
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Alexander Fretz
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Geosphere wrote:
Fretzy wrote:
A number 7 atheist


What is a numbered atheist?


Dawkins defined a belief scale. Google it.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Fretzy wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Fretzy wrote:
A number 7 atheist


What is a numbered atheist?


Dawkins defined a belief scale. Google it.


OK, everyone here is familiar with the scale, we just never referred to people as numbers.

Why did you bring it up? You just made a statement with no real direction.
 
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Fretzy wrote:

I'm trying to think about it in the context of the way things would have been before gravity was defined. People noticed that objects were pulled toward the ground, but without proof one had to take it on faith that the fall would occur. Perhaps some had faith that one day the opposite would happen.


Extrapolation of a general principle from a finite number of observations is called induction. Much of our knowledge is inductive in this way. We make observations, we fit them to a pattern, we expect the pattern to continue. That's a simplistic formulation of the way our beliefs work but not so bad.

The point is that when we believe things this way we believe them in proportion to the amount of evidence in support of the beliefs. We believe the sun will rise tomorrow with an extrememly high confidence because the model we have for sunrises is extremely robust and is consilient with many other fields of knowledge. In a certain sense you could say that we have "faith" that the sun will rise tomorrow. I mean, it could be that conservation of angular momentum will cease operating and the Earth will stop spinning while our side of it faces away from the sun (ironically, this wouldn't do away with sunrises, it would just make them happen once per year), but this is really a small kind of faith to have. It amounts to not much more faith than that which is required to dismiss Last Thursdayism.

Religious belief, however, is different. We do not hold it in proportion to the amount of empirical evidence in its favor. In fact, it is even possible to hold religious beleif despite evidence to the contrary. For example, there is simply no evidence that we are reincarnated from a past life, or that we will be reincarnated in a future life. Yet plenty of people believe this. Entire theologies are devoted to studying this concept. I would argue that this is a big kind of "Faith" at work. Belief in the absense of, or despite, evidence.

So, no, I don't think atheism requires the same kind of faith as theism.
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Alexander Fretz
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This issue really seems to have you in an uproar. I've met some rabid theists in my day, but wow...

Geosphere wrote:
It is only without positive proof that something must be taken on faith.


Having not observed sonething is a poor reason to exclude its possiblity.

I do not believe that there are any other planets in our solar system, and because of my belief I will not go looking for them.

To me, as an agnostic, divesting oneself of the burden of proof seems like an easy way to get out of working toward a better understanding of a complex issue.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Fretzy wrote:
This issue really seems to have you in an uproar. I've met some rabid theists in my day, but wow...

Geosphere wrote:
It is only without positive proof that something must be taken on faith.


Having not observed sonething is a poor reason to exclude its possiblity.

I do not believe that there are any other planets in our solar system, and because of my belief I will not go looking for them.


I didn't say it was not looked for.

It is not found.
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Fretzy wrote:
This issue really seems to have you in an uproar. I've met some rabid theists in my day, but wow...

Geosphere wrote:
It is only without positive proof that something must be taken on faith.


Having not observed sonething is a poor reason to exclude its possiblity.

I do not believe that there are any other planets in our solar system, and because of my belief I will not go looking for them.

To me, as an agnostic, divesting oneself of the burden of proof seems like an easy way to get out of working toward a better understanding of a complex issue.


Do you believe in Odin?
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Alexander Fretz
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mdp4828 wrote:
So, no, I don't think atheism requires the same kind of faith as theism.


I think I missed the part of the definition of faith where it was seperated into different levels.
 
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Dispaminite wrote:
Do you believe in Odin?


As far as odin goes, I remain an agnostic. I have seen no proof, and no disproof.
 
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Fretzy wrote:
Dispaminite wrote:
Do you believe in Odin?


As far as odin goes, I remain an agnostic. I have seen no proof, and no disproof.




How about Santa?
 
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Dispaminite wrote:
How about Santa?


Santa is not a god, however I see where you are going. I believe that Nicholas of Myra existed, and that his actions created a fable that people strive to continue to this day. Apples to Oranges.
 
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Geosphere wrote:
I didn't say it was not looked for.

It is not found.


You are beginning to confuse me. "It is not found." or "It is not yet found."?

Are you saying that Atheists continue to look for a god? They believe that there is not one, and yet they continue to search for his existence? That rings of agnosticism to me.
 
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Fretzy wrote:
This issue really seems to have you in an uproar. I've met some rabid theists in my day, but wow...


Welcome to RSP. and I think some people are simply finding your line of reasoning to be less than rigorous.

Fretzy wrote:
To me, as an agnostic, divesting oneself of the burden of proof seems like an easy way to get out of working toward a better understanding of a complex issue.


It only seems complex because you choose to make it so.

Just because there is no proof for something doesn't require a lifetime spent searching for answers. There's no proof that you have an 11th invisible finger -- will you apply the same effort determining if you do or not as you choose to spend on the question of God? If not, aren't you taking the convenient way out of working toward a better understanding of this complex eleven finger issue?
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Fretzy wrote:
Dispaminite wrote:
How about Santa?


Santa is not a god, however I see where you are going. I believe that Nicholas of Myra existed, and that his actions created a fable that people strive to continue to this day. Apples to Oranges.


But do you, as a person, believe there is a a magical fat man living at the North Pole with his plucky sidekicks, and who has this reward/punishment system? Certainly there are millions of people who do believe in this. This idea of his existance is reinforced to these people by society.

I'm guessing the answer is "no". How much does this lack of belief in Santa Claus influence your life? How many decisions are dictated by your lack of belief? Outside of when he's brought up by someone else, how often do you even think about Santa Claus?

YOu call youself agnostist on Odin. So the same questions can be applied? How much does this non-100% belief in Odin influence your life? How many decisions are dictated by your non 100%belief? Outside of when he's brought up by someone else, how often do you even think about Odin? Do you worry that your non-100% worship of Odin, following Odin's requirements, are leading you astray?

This isn't a trick question. You want to know why Atheism isn't a belief. The easiest way to demonstrate that is through an example.
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Fretzy wrote:
Dispaminite wrote:
Do you believe in Odin?


As far as odin goes, I remain an agnostic. I have seen no proof, and no disproof.


Have fun with that.
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