Saturday, July 19, 2008

Quazy Quistian Question # 7

Whenever my wife and I have an argument – which, given our confrontational natures and unpleasant personalities, is fairly often – one of us usually winds up saying, “I’m not convinced.”

Ex: You know I can’t mow the lawn. I’ve got allergies.

Mrs. Ex: How come your allergies only kick in when there’s yard work to do?

Ex: It must be something about disturbing the greenery. All the crap flies up my nose.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.

Ex: Well, I’m not convinced you’re not convinced. I’ve told you hundreds of times that I’m allergic. How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head?

Mrs. Ex: You’ll never convince me. I think you’re making it up.

Mrs. Ex: I wish you wouldn’t spend so much time on your stupid blog.

Ex: It’s not stupid. I’m changing the world through humor.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.

Ex: You’re not convinced that I’m changing the world?

Mrs. Ex: Yeah. And I’m also not convinced that there’s any humor.

Ex: What if I could offer you evidence?

Mrs. Ex: I wouldn’t believe it.

Ex: I’m not eating those French-cut canned stringbeans.

Mrs. Ex: OK.

Ex: You’re not gonna get all pissed off if I don’t enjoy the vegetables you’re trying to push?

Mrs. Ex: I just opened the can. Why would I care if you eat them or not?

Ex: I’m not convinced.

Mrs. Ex: OK, if you care so much, I don’t see why you couldn’t open a can yourself. It’s a well-known fact: Everybody needs vegetables. What do you have to offer?

Ex: I wasn’t able to find any canned vegetables I like.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. Did you look?

Ex: I know what we have.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. Did you know we have creamed corn?

Ex: Really? I’m not convinced.

Mrs. Ex: It’s in the cupboard, under the fruit cocktail.

Ex: I didn’t notice it.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. You didn’t look, did you?

Ex: Well, I looked but I didn’t dig around.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.

Ex: What would it take to convince you that I looked?

Mrs. Ex: You couldn’t convince me, because I know you didn’t.

So there you have it. You couldn’t convince me, because I know ... whatever.

Change a few details in the dialogues above, and you’ve got three so-called debates between an atheist and a religionist. (Note: In real life, neither my wife nor I is a believer; we just play one on this blog. Don’t struggle to figure out which one of us represents whom in what scene. In our fictional personae, we’re not consistent. I have the authority to write that way because I’ve just renewed my literary license. For any Christians interested in obtaining one: You will be tested in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. So if I was yourself, Id practiss, pracktis, PRACITCE!!!!!!!!!)

A few weeks ago, a quintet of atheists discussed what evidence we’d need to believe in a god. The stars spelling out “Jesus says ‘howdy’”? The sun turning into a big, sad bunny face? A burning bush suddenly singing back-up for Johnny Evo? Our conclusion: It’s not entirely out of the question that there’s some evidence for a god somewhere, but we’d be skeptical. Really skeptical. All other possible explanations would have to be absolutely disposed of. Most atheists are open to accepting irrefutable evidence for the existence of a god, even though we’re 99.9999999999...% confident that no such evidence exists.

On the other hand, lots of us here in the Atheosphere waste our time laying out our case for freedom from faith. We debate, discuss, and argue — often civilly, but sometimes sarcastically or in a broadly comic way — with theists. We point out inconsistencies in the bible. We cite similarities of biblical stories with other ancient myths that preceded them. We offer science and explain the scientific method. We discuss historical events, as recorded by reliable sources. We attack flawed logic and bogus philosophical reasoning. We appeal to the common laws and moral traditions of many cultures and societies. Most of all, we insist on evidence. The religionists, ultimately, dismiss our rants with a mere I’m not convinced.

Now, there may be the odd Christian/Jew/Muslim/Hindu/tree-worshipper who waters his or her seed of doubt with the spray from our scattershot hose of reason. But for the most part, the great majority of theists try to sell their beliefs with: How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head? When atheists ask What if I could offer you evidence?, religionists respond— without having heard that evidence — I wouldn’t believe it.

You couldn’t convince me, because I know ...

Many Christians, claim to be “open-minded,” even though they’ve got the most tightly shut brains in the universe. Some won’t accept evolution, despite a century’s worth of biological discoveries and data. Why? Because the science conflicts with the ideas of a tribe of primitive, ignorant desert-dwellers living more than three millennia ago. That’s like rejecting the advice of a good lawyer for the counsel of your neighbor’s five-year-old. Other Christians accept evolution, but only if they can add the extraneous hypothesis: “God started it.” Those people don’t have open minds; at best, their minds are slightly ajar. Their ideas make no more sense than the premise that Jamie Leigh Curtis controls your bowel movements.

Is America a Christian nation? The evidence, in the form of our Constitution, cries out a resounding NO. There’s not a word about any gods or Jesi in it. It doesn’t even refer to the Twelve Commandments. The Founding Fathers left that stuff out because they specifically did not want the new country to be established on religious principles; they wanted it to be a governmental embodiment of the Enlightenment. The most ignorant Christians respond, “Yes, but we know what those men believed; we understand what was in their hearts.” With such an assertion, I might be able to prove that the words to “God Bless America” are secretly buried somewhere in King Lear; I understand what was in Shakespeare’s heart. And besides, he told me so himself.

Hurricane? God did it? Deaths of innocents? God didn’t do it. Survival of some people? God did it. Destroyed churches and Christian businesses? God didn’t do it. Economic benefits reaped by exploitive but prayerful construction companies? God did it. Financial ruin for the local citizenry? God didn’t do it. Or else: Man cannot understand or explain God’s mysterious ways. But everything happens for a reason. The storm was part of his plan. How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head? And anyway, everyone secretly believes in a god, particularly in extreme situations. I’m not convinced you’re not convinced.

All of which leads me to wonder: Despite the continuing lack of evidence for the existence of god, as well as the implied evidence against his existence, why do religionists continue to believe? Are they actually faithful, as they claim? Or are they merely smug, stubborn, and stupid?

Quazy Quistian Question #7
What arguments might convince you to even question the existence of your god? What evidence would you need to decide that your god’s existence is highly unlikely? Explain your response.


John Evo said...

The evidence I would need to prove to me that my goddess doesn't exist would be if someone could provide a death certificate for Adrianna Lima

The Exterminator said...

Well, she certainly does appear to exist. No argument from me there.

John Evo said...

I have faith.

yunshui said...

I'm reminded of a conversation with a Christian friend in which the phrase: "Why are you so close-minded?" came up. From him. Apparently, by refusing to accept the Bible as a valid source of evidence, I was dismissing religion out-of-hand. How very dogmatic of me.

Sarge said...

I am told that this present illness is this alleged entity's communication that I "get right" with him/it (?). It's quite plain; you better kow-tow, boy! What more evidence do I need!!??

Martin Luther quoted an early church figure when he stated that even if an angel came and told him that it was all just a shuck (paraphrasing, here, I doubt he used that word) he would STILL believe.

Bull-headed or what?

PhillyChief said...

I think Mrs. Ex makes you eat nasty canned veggies and mow the lawn as payback for something, and I just know there has to be something she must need to get you back for. If you say there isn't, I wouldn't believe it.

tina FCD said...

Imagine how fearful it is to question a god that might throw you in a lake of fire to burn for eternity?
Fear, I think, is the main reason religious people are afraid to question. Just my opinion.

It is so refreshing to be able to come here and find logic and reason. This blog helps me maintain my sanity, after reading and discussing things with people that are just sitting in their comfy little box.

the chaplain said...

Evidence to discount YHWH's or Allah's or Krishna's or Chtulhu's or Osiris's or, or, or - man, there are lots of gods, aren't there? I wonder why that is?

Well, some are more likely to exist than others because they have holy books and everything to prove it. And rituals. And dietary and sexual laws. Oh, and some have places where eternal rewards and punishments are meted out according to that particular god's just standards. You can discard any religions that don't meet all of the above criteria. They're obviously primitive, and therefore, wrong. So, how many do we have to choose between now?

You'll note, of course, that my god is still in the running! That's to be expected, because mine is the right one.

It's easy to discredit the existence of all those other false gods, but mine's untouchable. He's the right one because my church, my pastor, my parents and my friends all told me he is. There's no arguing with those authorities.

So, I guess there's no evidence that will make me stop believing in god. Except, perhaps, the fact that, in showdowns between scriptures and science, scriptures always lose. And maybe the fact that god can't possibly possess all of the traits I was told he possesses. And maybe the fact that three does not equal one and vice versa. And maybe the fact that his moral code is more selfish and petty than that of an average five-year-old.

Still, I don't care about all that. I'm going to continue believing in spite of any evidence you and your godless cohorts manufacture to dissuade me from my faith. When the Day of Judgment comes, I'll hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and escorted to the alto section of the Heavenly Host Choir to sing my part in the Eternal Praise Meeting that will be punctuated by occasional Eternal Banquets. In the meantime, you, godless heathen, will be greeted with a stern, "Depart from me; I never knew you!" and cast in an eternal lake of fire. You'll be licking your chops in envy as I chow down on potato salad and fried chicken and you won't even be able to order a glass of water! Ha! Take that, you infidel!

The Exterminator said...

When a Christian accuses you of being "close-minded," he's really saying, "You gotta believe." Next time, ask him -- if he's open-minded -- why he's never considered the possibility that the bible is a collection of early political advertising slogans.

What the angel probably would have said is Es ist alles nur ein shuck. Angels always spoke either German or Latin to Martin Luther.

If you say there isn't, I wouldn't believe it.
What if I could provide evidence? Would that convince you? Oh, wait. I forgot that you can't prove a negative.

If you believe that No More Hornets helps you maintain your sanity, you're probably crazy already.

When the Day of Judgment comes, I'll hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and escorted to the alto section of the Heavenly Host Choir ...
You'll know it's really heaven if you get escorted to the bass section. Then look around. I'll be sitting amongst the big-bosomed sopranos. You'll recognize me by my big grin.

the chaplain said...

Ex - I hate to break this to you, but you won't be allowed to enjoy the company of big-bosomed women in Heaven. Well, you won't be able to enjoy their company for the same reasons you do now. ;)

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Why not? Just because he's a unremitting lech?

Sarge said...

Maybe the whole thing is simpler than we thought.

I've heard it said in many venues, sometimes in reference to cultural differences but also dealing with religious differences. I suppose cultural would do as well there.

One of my nephews and his family became Quakers and my mother (southern baptist, missed with me but tried with this nephew who is at least still a believer) went to a meeting with them.

I asked what she thought, and she said with the dismissive contempt of the righteous, "Well...that's not how I was raised".

I tried to pin her down, what, exactly was wrong with that philosophy in her view, and she just said, "I wasn't raised that way".

The Chinaman who said that patriotism was simply the custom of eating a certain thing for breakfast had a good point, to my thinking.

PhillyChief said...

Is that you Evo behind him singing?

I don't know much about Quakers, but they make good oats, which are good for breakfast.

John Evo said...

Philly, that's me behind him but I'm not singing. He's standing on my toes.

Ex said to you I forgot that you can't prove a negative.

Ahhhhhh...!! Now we arrive at the heart of the problem. Of the whole post.

We are asking them the wrong question, when we querry "what evidence would it take to make you not believe in (god of choice)"?

What we need to find out is why they have chosen, now that they are no longer children being force-fed religious belief, to set the bar of evidence so very low. We can show them what acceptable evidence is when it comes to any other aspect of our lives, and have them try to explain a) if their god can be found by using any of these tools and when they agree it can not then b) why they refuse to use those same tools when analyzing the presence of god.

Not that it will work. Just the better question to ask.

The Exterminator said...

Just the better question to ask.
Yeah, but is it Quazy?

Rhology said...

I have a strong suspicion that the only way one can weigh evidence in the first place is to have religious belief. If it is possible for you to construct a way for us to know what is rational apart from stealing theistic ground, it would be a good first step for you. Maybe you could write a post on it.

How do you account, fundamentally, for evidence, intelligibility, rationality, and the laws of logic?

The Exterminator said...

I have a strong suspicion ...
Well, we all know that your suspicions are totally worthless, so could you answer the question I posed instead of trying to deflect the conversation?

PhillyChief said...

Oh, and could you explain what "stealing theistic ground" means, too?


Rhology said...

Start from scratch and justify your usage of reason, laws of logic, and evidence.

In other words, if you think evidence is a good/the best way to discover truth, what is your evidence that evidence is a good/the best way to discover truth?
Then just assume I'll keep asking that question, asking for evidence, until you admit you hold to an infinite regress, tell me you don't know the answer (which is fine), or give me some other standard by which you can answer that question.

And taking it back to YOUR question, I would need to see your answer to this before I could consider not being a Christian.

The Exterminator said...

In other words, if you think evidence is a good/the best way to discover truth, what is your evidence that evidence is a good/the best way to discover truth?

Impossible to do without employing circular reasoning. As you've stated your ridiculous question, one can't use evidence, which -- according to your implication may or may not exist -- to define "evidence," and one can't define "evidence" without using evidence. Really, a rather stupid question, if you ask me. We all understand exactly what evidence is. If, as you imply, the concept of "evidence" is dependent on there being a god, you couldn't provide evidence for that either. So I guess maybe we should give up on evidence entirely, as religionists do, and all stick our thumbs up our asses and go back to swinging in the trees. Maybe you've already done that, at least intellectually.

Or, we could take the concept of "evidence" as an axiom and go on from there.

In any case, I didn't issue a special invitation to you to answer my question. However, since you're here, that's the only thing you may do in this comment thread to merit a response from me. You can post your question on your own blog.

So I won't respond to any comments of yours that are off-topic, although you can, of course, continue to spit in the wind here all you want. (However, please confine your loogies to only those that are Jesus-approved.)

Once again, that's my special Troll Rule™. Try not to stand downwind.

PhillyChief said...

So I guess maybe we should give up on evidence entirely, as religionists do, and all stick our thumbs up our asses and go back to swinging in the trees.

Rhology said...

Como quieras, man.
I *did* give an answer to your question.
Funny thing is, you're all about "give evidence for your beliefs" around here, except apparently when the question touches too close to home. I ask you to give evidence for YOUR beliefs, and all of a sudden evidence isn't all that important anymore. "It's axiomatic!" And you apparently can't tell me WHY it's axiomatic; it just is. Although I'd love to hear why.
Two can play that game. The God of the Bible just IS. I don't have to provide evidence that He is. And given all the epistemic ground you've ceded, we're on equal footing. Presenting evidence such as fossils, scientific findings, arguments about probability, all of that comes AFTER. And it's irrelevant if evidence isn't accounted for.

Given that you've shown you're going on faith alone here, you could always try again.

Ordinary Girl said...

I'm already convinced.

John Evo said...

LOL! Rhology sounds so silly whenever he attempts using intellect to justify a supreme being.

DUDE... you can't do it. You live on faith. Accusing others of living on faith is not a justification for believing a fairy tale.

Philly has it EXACTLY right! If science and reason are no better than faith then rather than accept Rhology's faith version of what "god" is, I guess I'll just howl at the moon (and pick my ass. That looks like more fun than eating holy crackers).

Anonymous said...

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear." Thomas Jefferson