Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Pussycat of the Atheosphere

I received an email from an apparently nice guy with whom I’d been “exchanging views" over at Spanish Inquisitor. He senses a hostility from me. From me! The pussycat of the Atheosphere.

In a comment, he wrote: I'm really, sincerely interested in trying to understand your point of view.

So, because I’m all about educating my readers, here’s my response. This is my “point of view” in a nutshell:

I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in a god of vengeance and I don’t believe in a god of love. I don’t believe in the god of the bible, both the old and the new testament, or in the god of the koran, or in the gods of the vedas, or in the gods of any book of the dead. I don’t believe in any gods that have ever been written about anywhere by anyone. I also don’t believe in the individually concocted god who conveniently resides in a commenter’s heart. I don’t believe in a god who made man out of mud six thousand years ago and I don’t believe in a god who set the entire evolutionary ball rolling, possibly more than four billion years ago. I don’t believe in a god who blesses America or one who damns America. I don’t believe in the god whose name appears on my money or in my pledge. I don’t believe in the god of the Republicans and I don’t believe in the god of the Democrats, the god of John McCain or the god of Barack Obama. I don’t believe in the god of Pat Robertson and I also don’t believe in the god of Barry Lynn. I don’t believe in the tinker-toy god of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the criminal god of the minions and yes-men, both right and left, of this crooked administration. I don’t believe in the state god of Hitler’s Nazis or the people’s god of Stalin’s Communists; I don’t believe in the gods of any totalitarian regimes. I believe neither in the god of Hamas nor in the god of the Knesset. I don’t believe in the god of Osama bin Laden; I don’t believe in the god of Timothy McVeigh. I don’t believe in any god that historically has condoned — and/or continues to condone — the slaughter of whole peoples, the enslavement of the weak, the subjugation of women, and the demonization of homosexuals. I don’t believe in the god who urges his or her believers to attack violently or threaten psychologically those who believe in other gods, in whom I also don’t believe. I don’t believe in a god who discourages learning and encourages committed ignorance. I don’t believe in a god who causes hurricanes and floods and famines; nor do I believe in a god who is not personally responsible for those disasters. I don’t believe in a god who enjoys watching humanity suffer, but I also don’t believe in one who suffered for humanity. I don’t believe in a god who commands the most odious human acts of savagery, or even a god who condemns such acts. I don’t believe in ANY gods.
Here’s what I do believe in: human potential for good — and for ill. Here’s what I’d like to see: far more good, far less ill.

50 comments:

PhillyChief said...

What about the god who makes it possible for you to find your car keys?

What about that one a lot of people invoke before an orgasm?

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
No, not even them. I don't even believe in the god who makes your favorite team lose if you serve poultry.

iambilly said...

What about the golf gods (I do not golf -- I like walking, but I'm not a masochist)? And I think Ric will agree with me, cats are gods.

PsychoAtheist said...

Outstanding post Exterminator! In fact I am so impressed I think it deserves one of my special 'Thumbs Up' awards.

You can collect it here:

http://psychoatheist.blogspot.com/2008/05/psycho-atheist-thumbs-up.html

The Exterminator said...

(((Billy))):
So if there are gods of golf, does that mean there are demigods of miniature golf?

Psycho:
I'm flattered by the award. I don't see how this little post deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Atheist Blogroll and Planet Atheism, but, hey, I'll take it.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Preventing the war of all against all, that's basically what I think we should be doing. If you want to call that "good", I don't have a problem with it.

John Evo said...

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty..."

God.

PhillyChief said...

Can you phrase your comment in the form of something sensible Will?

tina FCD said...

Ditto, Exterminator.

tina FCD said...

The guy on the other blog should of quit while he was ahead. :)

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I'm confused. I thought Grumpy was the Pussycat of the Atheosphere.

the chaplain said...

I love this post. I'm sure you realize, of course, that somewhere out there is a sincere theist with all of the answers to all of life's really important questions (if we don't know the answers, that means that those particular questions don't really matter) who can't wait to tell you that "deep in your heart, you really do believe in God and are just
a) rebelling against him,
b) too proud to submit your will to his,
c)angry with him"
or some other such twaddle.

As for the pussycat image, I've known some cats with pretty sharp claws. Not that you're one of these - I'm just sayin'. ;)

Ted Goas said...

So let me get this straight: you don't believe in any Gods? Lol!

Chap, I bet you're right. And this theist will tell us all that God still loves us, if we would only let Him into our hearts by submitting to the church's beliefs.

Pass... :)

iambilly said...

I thought the war of 'all against all' was the goal of Christianity?

And after that, Armageddon out of here!

John Evo said...

@ Tina - I wasn't privy to the conversation, but I'd bet there was never a point where the other guy could have "quit while he was ahead".

Chas said...

Do you believe in god in a box? Do you believe in god with a fox? LOL

Wonderful post.

John Evo said...

Not in a box
Or with a fox
Not in a plane
Not on a train
Not in a tree
You let me be!

I do not believe in gods
for man
I do not believe in them
Chas I am.

bullet said...

Cats aren't gods, they just think they are. And it's our own fault. We used to tell them they were. And then kill them, which is pretty much par for the course.

The Exterminator said...

Will:
Preventing the war of all against all ....
I was kind of hoping that "all" would win.

Philly:
If you want every comment to mean something, you've come to the wrong place.

tina:
As Evo pointed out, I don't really remember the other guy ever being ahead. And, of course, he was so sincere about wanting to understand my point of view that he hasn't bothered to comment on this post. I'll have to ask Chas (see his comment above) whether the guy is too busy playing with a fox or hiding in a box.

SI:
I'm confused.
What else is new? You've been at the martinis again, haven't you?

chappy:
I've known some cats with pretty sharp claws.
Yeah, it's probably a good idea to keep me away from your furniture.

Ted:
So let me get this straight: you don't believe in any Gods?
I knew some commenter would try to put words in my mouth.

(((Billy))):
Armageddon out of here!
Can you kiss us goodbye first with your luscious apoca-lips?

Chas:
Do you believe in god in a box? Do you believe in god with a fox?
Thanks for the compliment. Evo stole the rest of my answer.

Evo:
Had you not beaten me to the punch, I would have written:
Not in the Host.
Not as a ghost.
Not on a cross.
Not as your boss.
Not in a bush.
Not up your tush.
Not with Obama
Or Chelsea's mama.
Not with McCain.
Or when you're prain.
Not with the prez
Or in his Pez.
Not taking tithe.
Not lithping lieth.
In any god I don't believe.
I don't believe it, Ev'-I-Heave.

Since you did respond first, though, I guess I won't write that.

bullet:
Cats also jump on you at odd times to insist that you love them.

iambilly said...

Bad pun. No donut.

grumpylion said...

I don't care what you say. I'm still gonna believe in Buffy and vampires and Cordelia Chase. Especially good-looking lady vampires.

(I really have to get out more, someplace where there are real women, but the cats won't let me. Only fair, I suppose. One must bow to the will of the furry gods.)

PhillyChief said...

I recommend you try visiting Liberty City, Grumpy. It's quite fun. ;)

davohynds said...

Hi everyone. I'm the theist. (And let the pummeling begin).

Quick disclaimer: I don't have all the answers, and I don't think you all believe "deep in your heart" that there is a God and are just rebellious. I'm not going to tell you you're wrong. (How would I know anyway?) I'm not going to try and "save" you or any bullshit like that. So please, don't assume I'm one of those creepy smiley people who bug you at the park and try and talk you into converting. Those people annoy the piss outta me.

As for the post itself... most of the "gods" you mentioned... I wouldn't believe in either. However, I would draw a distinction between all of that violence, oppression, etc. as the will or action of God versus those things done in the name of God.

I can go out and murder a bunch of toddlers in the name of the Exterminator, but that doesn't mean that it was actually the Exterminator who did it, or that the Exterminator even wanted me to do that. (Which, judging on the Exterminator's name... may be up for debate).

Obviously, my viewpoint presupposes the existence of God; that's not the point I'm arguing. I'm just saying there's a difference between someone's will and things done in their name.

PhillyChief said...

Well davohynds,

Naturally there's a difference between someone's will and doing something in their name. When it comes to the god thing, that goes up a level since, without even dealing with the issue of there being a god or not, it certainly doesn't seem to be clear what that will even is. Oh, there are people quite confident they know what it is, and they all disagree to varying degrees.

For instance, there are people who think the will of the Football Gods is bbq-ing with a mustard based sauce. Ridiculous! Where do they get this stuff? Bunch of nutters. Those mustard lovers are a goofy cult, like the poultry-ists.

davohynds said...

Good point. Although, I have to say I find some credibility in the teachings of one of the poultrist demigods: Beer can chicken. Oh lord, it's heaven. You can find all of his teachings in The Barbecue Bible.

The Exterminator said...

Davo:
Welcome. Before I address your question, I need to clear up one misconception you seem to have. We never pummel theists here. We just hypnotize them and "suggest" that they worship Satan. If they're really recalcitrant, we force-feed them mustard-based barbecue sauce until they beg for mercy. (That's the procecure that eventually brought Philly over to the dark side.) If that doesn't work, we resort to the ultimate "persuader": we make them listen over and over and over again to "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" sung by Pat Boone.

Now that I've straightened you out ...

There are two big differences between someone doing evil in god's name and someone doing evil in my name: (1) I don't approve of doing evil, nor have I repeatedly gone on record as saying that I do, and (2) I have no power to control nature, nations, or ignorant mobs, and I've never claimed that I can.

As Epicurus said:
Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him god?

davohynds said...

Oh, god. That sounds downright awful. Well, I will say one thing, you atheists sure know how to convince a guy. I'd take regular pummeling over a single encounter with Pat Boone any day. Or Pat Robertson.

I guess my follow-up question is, when and where exactly did God go on record and saying God approves of evil?

As for your second point, I don't it is reconcilable to God's nature (in my understanding of God) to say God controls nature, nations, mobs, etc. But I don't understand how, just because God isn't omnipotent, God isn't still God.

I heard someone say once (sorry for not being able to cite my source) that God cannot be omnipotent and omniscient if God is a loving God.

However, who says that God must be both?

PhillyChief said...

Most theists

The Exterminator said...

OK, Davo, your own personal god is neither omnipotent nor omnisicient. He can't control nature; he can't control nations; he can't control mobs. He can't control the actions of humans because they have free will. Can he decide what he wants for dinner, or does he leave that up to his wife and kids?

In what way, precisely, is your god a god?

As far as when and where exactly your god went on record as approving of evil, you can open the Old Testament to just about any page and see what a mean-spirited, vengeful, odious shit he is. Do you mean to say that you don't believe in the god of the Old Testament? Why not? If you believe in Jesus, then, surely, you must believe in dad, many of whose commands junior was touting. Or don't you believe in the Jesus described in the New Testament, either?

Ultimately, not having recorded a verifiable miracle yourself (I'm making an assumption here, but a reasonable one), as a Christian you're stuck somehow with something that has been written in the past. The rational human part of you probably can't stand the holistic picture of the Abrahamic god that's presented in the biblical books, so you pick and choose, add and subtract, to come up with your own personal idea of an acceptable being.

But why posit that being at all? Obviously, your moral sense is far more "refined" than that of the mythological figure described in the "holy" books? I'm guessing that you don't believe in murdering and/or raping your enemies, killing innocent children, enslaving whole peoples, subjugating women, or perpetrating indiscriminate violence of any kind. Or even cursing an innocent tree or some poor pigs. Why not give yourself all the credit for being a good man? God had nothing to do with it.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Philly Chief - I was referencing Thomas Hobbes's "Leviathan" as well as underscoring my own pragmatic side. Sorry if I cannot be any more "sensible" than that.

davohynds said...

Exterminator:

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Work has been busy lately.

Upon rereading my last comment, I realised I wasn't clear when I said, "God cannot be omnipotent and omniscient if God is a loving God." What I meant was, God cannot be simultaneously both omnipotent and omniscient if God is a loving God.

Obviously, this leads to a slight diminishing of the authority of God, but I don't see why such a diminishing would be cause to disbelieve in such an entity at all.

As for the perspective of God which is espoused through the common interpretation of the Old Testament (the odious shit that God appears to be), I think that assuming that such stories are all actual, literal historic records can lead to some fallacious interpretations. I think that a solid academic look at the texts and placing them in their historical and cultural contexts goes a long way in interpreting them, and furthermore reveals God to not be the odious shit that the text makes God out to be at first glance.

You're right in assuming that I "don't believe in murdering and/or raping your enemies, killing innocent children, enslaving whole peoples, subjugating women, or perpetrating indiscriminate violence of any kind." Quite the opposite, in fact. I've got some major problems with doing or advocating for those things. I think God probably does to.

As for why I posit God at all... well, honestly, there's some things that straight up don't make sense to me without the existence of God.

PhillyChief said...

Obviously, this leads to a slight diminishing of the authority of God, but I don't see why such a diminishing would be cause to disbelieve in such an entity at all

I doubt THAT trifle is what sealed the deal for anyone here, or anywhere.

I think that a solid academic look at the texts and placing them in their historical and cultural contexts goes a long way in interpreting them

Ah, the historical/cultural relevance idea. So genocide ok for them back then, but not ok now? That opens a can of worms, doesn't it?

You're right in assuming that I "don't believe in murdering and/or raping your enemies, killing innocent children, enslaving whole peoples, subjugating women, or perpetrating indiscriminate violence of any kind." Quite the opposite, in fact. I've got some major problems with doing or advocating for those things.

And just why do you? Because the bible says so or because you say so? This is the flip side of the historical/cultural context coin, is it not? Personal and cultural sensitivities driving the interpretation of the text. How can this book be the source of morals if such morals must be interpreted based on a given historical/cultural context? Sounds much more to me as confirmation that morals are subjective, not objective, that they fluctuate over time and from culture to culture. Because you are here, now, killing children and wanton genocide seem distasteful, but if you were born a goat herder in Palestine several millennia ago, it would be a normal thing.

As for why I posit God at all... well, honestly, there's some things that straight up don't make sense to me without the existence of God.

And why not finish off with the argument from personal incredulity?

davohynds said...

Ah, the historical/cultural relevance idea. So genocide ok for them back then, but not ok now? That opens a can of worms, doesn't it?

Not exactly. This is still taking the ancient texts as historical stories. You mention genocide several times as an example. I'm assuming you're referring to the book of Joshua, where God seems to command the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites.

Reading this as a historical text, that would be the logical conclusion, yes. But looking at the text in it's historical context. In actuality, the book was likely written by the same author(s) as the first several books of the Bible. These books span minimally several centuries of time, which clearly negates the possibility of one person authoring them all.

One hypothesis is that the book was written during the Babylonian captivity (years after the supposed "occupation" of Canaan). The book wasn't meant to be a literal account of history, but rather an encouragement to an oppressed people group to have hope. (And let's face it, we all love a good shoot-em-up flick from time to time).

That's one example, and I'm sure you could list a million other examples that I might be able to reply to with time and much research. But does that at least illustrate the concept of historical/cultural application that I was talking about?

Some of my personal incredulity. Well, I can list a few. A lot of it is scientific...

The whole question of "how it all started?" ... it doesn't make sense to me that all the matter in the universe just always... has been.

The coming into existence process of life... you have some inanimate matter, then suddenly you have a living organism that is reactive to its environment.

Dovetailing off that, the upward mobility of consciousness. How, assuming humans are the current pinnacle of evolution, did consciousness develop from a strictly reactive amoebic level to a brain capable of comprehending abstract thought.

I think for me the whole theory just really got shaken up in 9th grade biology. We were studying in depth the process of photosynthesis. I remember thinking... how the fuck does this just happen? I can't quite my mind around it.

Please understand that I'm not trying to have a apologetics, creationism debate here. You asked what things don't make sense to me... and those are a couple of them.

PhillyChief said...

You do realize that due to your morals, shaped by the time and culture in which you live, you're struggling to justify how such awful things could possibly appear in a book that's supposed to be the word of your god, don't you?

As for your rationales for belief, they are textbook examples of argument from personal incredulity.

Have a nice day

The Exterminator said...

Davo:
If you accept that at least some of the books of the bible were written by authors -- meaning, not by your god -- then where do you draw the line. Did your god inspire these authors? If so, did they just slip in all the odious acts when he had his back turned? If not, then how do you, personally, choose which books, events, details of the bible are inspired by god?

As far as the rest of your comment:
Scientific answers may not make sense to you, or they may not yet be available. But does that mean you must posit a god as an explanation for those processes you don't understand? It's a convenient dodge, but adds nothing to humanity's store of knowledge.

davohynds said...

I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, not divinely written. It's a work of stories and experiences which are all based on divine inspiration (as are all works of spiritual writing). They're subject to human interpretation (both by the reader and by the author). But ultimately, they're still divine experiences (I believe).

As for my thoughts being arguments from personal incredulity, scientific answers not being available yet, etc., I can see your point here. However, I feel like we just fell into a logical circle.

Either way, neither of us has presented concrete evidence that our perspective is 100% correct with no unresolvable questions. I say, explain to me how these things work and you say that scientific answers aren't available yet. You say prove to me God exists, and I can't give you solid proof either.

Reconciling the problem of suffering with a loving God may not make sense to you, and the answers may not be available. But does that mean you must posit that there is not God?

Please understand, I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm not saying I'm wrong either.

It just seems to me like saying that scientific may not be available is similar to theists saying you just have to have faith.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, not divinely written. It's a work of stories and experiences which are all based on divine inspiration (as are all works of spiritual writing).

Like the question of miracles, I wonder why there are no divinely inspired books written these days. Has god run out of inspiration? Are we humans not receiving the divine word anymore?

Or, gee, perhaps those books weren't divinely inspired in the first place. Perhaps the authors, having never had much book learning in the first place, ascribed to god their ability to take thoughts from their head and put them on paper.

You say prove to me God exists, and I can't give you solid proof either.

You've just defined an atheist, or at least, an agnostic. Good job. You're halfway there.

But does that mean you must posit that there is not God?

No atheist does that. We merely say there's no proof, as you concede, so why believe in something for which there's no proof. There's no proof of fairies either, and you don't believe in them, do you?

The Exterminator said...

Davo:
As SI pointed out, you've made a common mistake in your comment, and I'd like to clarify. Atheists do not posit that there is no god. They just don't resort to the hypothesis that there is one whenever they can't explain something.

This is more than a semantic distinction. Here's a concrete way of looking at it:

Say that you and I are both stumped over a question. I'm uncomfortable that I have no answer, but I feel that I have to live with my ignorance until I -- or someone far smarter than I -- comes up with an explanation that makes sense and lends itself to being tested and, potentially, falsified. I'm not making any hypothesis whatsoever.

You, on the other hand, just shrug your shoulders and say, "It must be god's work."

So you've posited a god. Of course, I can't test that or falsify that, so, given my criteria, I reject your explanation. But my rejection involves absolutely no hypothesis on my part. I don't claim unequivocally that you're wrong; I merely claim that you've given me no reason to think that you're right.

PhillyChief said...

Davo,

A common hurdle I find for religious people in understanding the world outside of their belief is the notion of absolutes. Of course in religion, that's all you have. Absolute certainty on how the universe is, how it came to be, what your purpose is, what good and evil are, etc. Out in the real world, absolutes rarely if ever exist. With this in mind, I fully understand your mistake in assuming that atheists assert there is no god with 100% certainty, and then find us deficient for failing to prove that. We don't assert there is no god with 100% certainty. What we do is look at the claims for a god or gods, and consider them. Do they seem plausible? Is there evidence to support the claim? So far, the answers have all come up "no"; however, it would be disingenuous for us to say then that there absolutely are no gods.

Same thing? No. For instance, fairies. I'm guessing you don't believe fairies exist. If not, do you assert with 100% certainty they don't exist? If so, try proving that. What have you come up with? Maybe that there's no reason to believe otherwise? That's it's absurd to think they exist? But why? Evidence maybe? Some sign clear sign of their existence, no doubt, no possibility of mistake? As far as I know, there's never been anything for fairies, so the vast majority of the world I'd say doesn't believe in them existing because it's absurd, yet what about say the christian god? What happens when he gets put to the same test? Why a different answer than the fairies? For an atheist, there is no different result. Like fairies, we see no good reason to believe in the christian god or any other. Can we prove absolutely, 100% that he and the rest don't exist? No, but we can't prove fairies don't exist either.

Now I can appreciate how difficult it must be fathoming a world where you can wake up and go to sleep not knowing with absolute certainty most things about the universe. How'd we get here? What's my purpose? Do I even have a purpose? What happens when I die? How do you know what's good and evil? And so on. As unsettling as that may be, it's honest. You may have absolutes, but how can you know they're real? You can't. You're expected to just have faith that they are, despite how implausible they sound or how illogical they are, especially when they at times contradict each other. In fact, the more difficult to fathom, the more then you're supposed to have faith. Now I ask you, how many times in life in anything outside of religion does such a strategy pan out? How often does relying on faith, especially when it contradicts experience and evidence, work?

So if you want to try to understand the world outside of religion, and especially if you wish to understand atheism and atheists, you have to get past this obstacle of absolutes. They're not out here, and we don't assert them. We look at issues, weigh them, and make decisions. Most of the time, we don't know with absolute certainty if our decisions are right, but we try to make the best ones we can based on what we know. That's intellectual honesty, that's real life, and I'm willing to bet it's how for the most part you live your life. We'd all love to have certainty in our lives, pure, irrefutable absolutes, but that's wishful thinking.

davohynds said...

So as a general rule, I stay as far away from computers as possible on the weekends (they just loose that certain special something when you work with them 40 hours a week). But I got on this morning to see what y'all'd had to say. I appreciate your thoughts Philly and Exterm. I'll ponder them and try and make some intelligible assertion sometime next week. In the meantime I'm gonna go garden or play in the rain or something.

By the way, I blogged about y'all... cos I'm starting to like y'all.

PhillyChief said...

What is this "away from computers" of which you speak? I can't follow that.

The Exterminator said...

Davo:

You don't have to ponder to make some intelligible assertion. In fact, you don't have to make an assertion at all.

One of the problems that we atheists have with religionists is that they always want to make assertions. Why don't you just say what you think, even if you haven't come to a conclusion?

davohynds said...

"Atheists do not posit that there is no god. They just don't resort to the hypothesis that there is one whenever they can't explain something."

That is really interesting. You learn something new every day. See, this is why I love conversations like this. Cos you just understand people so much better by learning from them and trying to understand how they see things.

That makes a lot of sense. Very interesting perspective. That just opened up a whole new level of understand for me. Now atheism makes sense to me. (I'm glad we've had this conversation).

Now obviously, a lot of very terrible things have been done in the name of God, some of the darkest moments of our human history. I think a lot of these can be traced back to the absolutes deal you were talking about (some group claims absolute truth, thereby assuming absolute power and subsequently using that power to oppress those not within their group).

But assuming that my view of God permits ambiguity and the dissolution of absolutes, thereby allowing tolerance and disallowing any form of violence or oppression ... assuming all that ... is there a problem with one positing God?

Other than it being, in your opinion, adherence to a persistent antiquated myth, if a theistic perspective causes no harm to others, and further provides a motivation to do good, is there a problem with such an adherence?

Or does, in your opinion, such a position necessitate the belief in absolutes and consequently, the violence and oppression that has been done in the name of God?

The Exterminator said...

Davo:
But assuming that my view of God permits ambiguity and the dissolution of absolutes, thereby allowing tolerance and disallowing any form of violence or oppression ... assuming all that ... is there a problem with one positing God?
What do you mean by "problem"? Obviously, on a personal level, I have no problem with anything you choose to believe as long as you don't impose that belief on me. I think you're giving your intellect short-shrift, but there's no harm done to anyone other than you.

On the other hand, if you bring your belief into the public sphere in any way -- through government, through attempts to influence the educational system, through strictures on science, even through your knocking at my door early on a weekend morning or accosting me outside a store -- then I have a BIG problem with your beliefs.

Enough said?

PhillyChief said...

You have no idea how frustrating it is to have to explain that bit about what atheism REALLY is, so thanks for getting it and spread the word to your believer friends.

To address your questions, anyway you slice it the answer is always yes, there's a problem with one positing god. Your alterations of the more common god beliefs don't eliminate the problems. At best they lessen them. Here's an example:

I have a buddy who smokes. He REALLY feels the need to smoke when he's upset and anxious and smoking calms him. Now he's switched to lights, he's cut down drastically from his old two packs a day, he thoughtfully goes outside to smoke so as not to harm anyone else with his smoking and he never pushes smoking on anyone else. So where's the problem with his smoking?
• He's damaging his health
• By smoking when he's anxious, he has no motivation to seek another remedy for his anxiety or better yet, look to address the anxiety itself
• His behavior to go outside and smoke can still look appealing in some way to someone, especially a kid
• Seeing him smoke or knowing that he smokes is ultimately a validation of the action to others
• His habit affects his behavior in ways he's not aware of

Theism is the same way. It damages your intellectual health, assigning god as an answer for the mysterious is both not really solving the mysterious and potentially killing the drive to actually solve the mysterious, the god positing behavior is validated every time it's witnessed and can appear to be desirable to someone, and there are ways such behavior can have an adverse effect on you that are not readily apparent. For instance, the behavior could spill over into other facets of your life by reducing your skepticism, your curiosity, and perhaps increasing your gullibility, not to mention a potential for killing the importance of or drive for expanding your knowledge.

Now aside from the smoking analogy, I have a REAL problem with your statement of belief providing a motivation for good. Who's good? What good? How is it good? Now this is no different than me asserting my opinions of what's good, but then I don't claim some guy in the sky as my source and justification.
First, it's intellectual laziness.
Second, I think it's both better for someone and better to convince someone to do good on the merits of the good, not because it's the will supposedly of a guy in the sky.
Third, a god justification only works for others if they accept the god so if you want your good adopted, you have to get the god adopted.
Fourth, the need for god adoption to accomplish your ends prompts not so good behavior to make that adoption come about, which gets glanced over since it'll be actions done for "the greater good".

So you see how, on various levels, the god belief is a problem, or at least I hope you do or eventually do, the way I hope my buddy stops smoking.

davohynds said...

Exterminator:
"If you bring your belief into the public sphere in any way -- through government, through attempts to influence the educational system, through strictures on science, even through your knocking at my door early on a weekend morning or accosting me outside a store -- then I have a BIG problem with your beliefs."

As do I, my friend. As do I. (Also, if you see me doing this, please call me on it).

PhillyChief:

From my personal experience, my belief in God has only increased my skepticism, curiosity and desire to learn. Seeking understanding of God drives me to understand people and the world, in that they are all reflections of God (I believe).

That premise also delineates my personal motivation for good. What is good to humans and for the universe (or "creation", as I would refer to it) is good to God, in that they are the closest physical representations we have of God.

As for you four points as for your problems with my statement of belief:
1) I don't think so, but I'll get to that later.
2) I would also say that good should be done for the merits of the good, which is also the will of the guy/gal in the sky. Good for people is good for God, and if the two are in conflict, I would say one is either misunderstanding what good is or what God is.
3) Not really. As I said, good for humans/"creation" is good for God. So you don't have to believe in God to want good for humans/"creation".
4) Again, there is no good that calls for using not-so-good behavior. In order to be good, both ends and means must be good. The idea of doing evil for a "greater good" is a myth, I believe. When such options come into conflict, I think we need to either reconsider our understanding of "good."

Furthermore, pursuit of such ideals can be very difficult and requires great imagination. It also requires a strong drive for understanding (which requires skepticism, curiosity, and pursuit of knowledge).

Honestly, I think that, although our perspectives about God are different, it's probably that we practice our beliefs similarly. In such cases, I believe that we probably hold very similar beliefs, we just use different terms and frameworks to express such beliefs. I dunno, your thoughts?

I hope your buddy stops smoking, too. I can identify... it's my project for this month. Starting next week.

PhillyChief said...

Seeking understanding of God drives me to understand people and the world, in that they are all reflections of God... Good for people is good for God

Well of course things like this are the exception to the idea that religious belief is dangerous to your intellectual health, for it does take considerable imagination and intellectual exercise to make the idea fit reality. :)

Where you currently seem to be is at a place where your god belief is clearly superfluous. Good for people is good for people, period. The god addition is superfluous code, so to speak. It doesn't prevent the application from running, but it's a needless addition that can potentially affect speed of performance. Likewise, The drive to understand people and the world should be to understand people and the world. The additional string of god code is needlessly stuck in there.

To use another analogy, your god is equivalent to the British monarchy. Powerless, meaningless, and there for strictly entertainment value and some strange form of comfort, while of course draining from the budget but hey, everything is done in the name of the Crown and everything is referred to as "Her Majesty's" this or that. Of course the Queen is real though. If your god could come out and give one of those little queen waves, that would be nice.

PhillyChief said...

I should also add that it seems you're merely relabeling good as god. I see no reason for that, either. Aside from the obvious confusion factor, I see no need to try and conserve "o"s. Unlike the shortage of oil, there's no world shortage of "o"s. Feel free to use them. Ooooooooooooh yeah!

davohynds said...

See, now... it's that attitude that got us into this problem in the first place. That whole American over-consumption, hyper-stimulation drive. It's n* w*nder *ur c*untry is s* freakin' *bese. (I am d*ing my best t* c*nserve that v*wel which y*u s* needlessly wasted). There's beauty in simplicity, my friend. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

I'll have my people talk to God's people. We'll see if we can't get Her to do one of her little "queen waves" you asked about. Tho, she may not be able to fit it into her schedule until August. God's a busy woman after all.

The Exterminator said...

Davo:
That premise also delineates my personal motivation for good. What is good to humans and for the universe (or "creation", as I would refer to it) is good to God, in that they are the closest physical representations we have of God.

I agree with everything that Philly has so wittily said here. I'd also add the following.

It appears that the god you've chosen to believe in is an omnibenevolent one, or at least one who is an exemplar (or, at very least, an encourager) of benevolence. The odious shit described in the bible, you said, is a literary device, and not your god.

So, clearly, you're making moral judgments on your own. But instead of looking at yourself in the mirror and saying with glee Hey, I'm a damned good guy, you're attributing your idea of ultimate morality to a being that -- basically -- you've invented by cobbling together those traits you, yourself find admirable.

I think you have created a god who advocates your commendable sense of morality. And not the other way around.

Of course, if you ultimately adopt my opinion, it would leave you having to cope with a seemingly subjective, rather than an objective, ethical system. That's pretty scary, to think that you're uniquely responsible for judging your own actions. This is not the place for me to go off on a tangent and argue that the negative version of the Golden Rule -- basically, don't do to anyone else what you wouldn't want done to you -- may be hardwired evolutionarily into our brains. I think the universals of morality are, at a very deep level, a survival mechanism. Humans have developed to a point where most of us are born with the propensity to understand that it's not a good idea to do violence or practice deceit.

But whether that argument is correct or not, freedom from faith still leaves a person stuck with values for which he's accountable to no one other than himself. And, yeah, that's frightening. But it's also empowering. It puts you in a position where you have to weigh your words and actions and decide for yourself whether they're right or wrong.

Society, of course, will do its best to keep you from making the most egregious moral mistakes -- like killing someone, or stealing, or "bearing false witness." But it should be obvious that the prohibition against those acts comes from within individuals. Including you; no god has anything to do with your revulsion toward those actions that are globally reviled. You'd find murder, rape, theft, and fraud unacceptable with or without some amorphous character telling you that they're wrong.

Do you agree with my assessment of your moral code?