What would constitute as the real?

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What would constitute as the real?

Postby Globular » Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:31 am

for atheists, what would constitute the real? physics-- which i presume you think is one of the "hard" sciences-- many of its findings have to be taken on faith, on the word of the scientists, because we do not have their expertise. quarks, for instance, we know them only to be the traces of the traces of the traces. no one has actually seen or touched them. consider too, how often scientists have revised their findings. i have here with me several journals of the late 19th century, proving by means of science that women and negroes are inferior beings. but they were accepted then as truth, scientific truth. of course, we know better now that that is not the case. why then, must we consider science's limited concept of reality as the final word?

is it not that a purely materialistic view impoverishes us? after we die, nothing. then what is the reason for living? is it merely for ourselves, for pleasure? what is the need for sacrifice and kindness and goodness, if we are not meant for something greater than ourselves? i know that religion has been the cause of much pain; even my Dominican Order has been instrumental there, but that does not negate the beauty and the meaning that belief in God can give. consider too, the alternative. great evil, atheists say, have been done by believers. but the greatest evils of the 20th century have been done by those who believed in reason. hitler, stalin and mao--they were reasonable men, looking for a reasonable heaven on earth, and look at where they led us. as one historian said: the 20th century has shown us that it is possible for a concentration camp to exist beside a great university. greater evils have been done by those who believed only in man.

great evil has been done by religion, yes, but great good also. go anywhere on earth where there is poverty and suffering, and you will find people who believe, doing what they can for their brothers and sisters. and i mean anywhere. can the same be said for atheists? even the learning that modern man prides himself in has been preserved by the labors of monks and nuns who spent their lives preserving knowledge for the glory of God. science has its roots in the universities which the religious established. law, philosophy, music and the arts, too. to focus only on the bad is a one-sided view of reality. give believers their due, my friends!
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Postby donnyton » Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:13 pm

I think you should separate your arguments so that posts don't get too long here...


In a nutshell, however:

The problem with your question is that "real" has many colloqial meanings, just like the word "good". If you asked what atheists consider "good" it would be a meaningless question because what do you mean by good? Good food? Good morality? Good ethics? I'll try to answer this question vaguely, and maybe you can be more specific.

What's real is what manifests. We can dismiss the idea that we're all living in a simulation or The Matrix because if that were the case, then our reality would be defined as The Matrix anyways and nothing can change.

What "manifests" is what can consistently be evidenced, not just observed once fleetingly. Gravity, something often used as an example, can't be "seen" but if we drop objects, they are always attracted to earth. If one day we all started floating, then we might say that gravity may not have been real, but as far as we can tell, it's been consistent as long as we have been observing it.

Something like "love" is also real in this sense. If somebody came to you and claimed they loved each other, but they didn't know each other's names, lived 1000 miles apart, and never spoke to each other, you might doubt whether the love is "real". Love manifests in many ways, such as mutual respect, living together, sex, sacrifice, etc. And most importantly, it is manifests consistently. Prostitutes show evidence of love but we can reject it because it is inconsistent; rarely do relationships last longer than a night.

Science is not the final word, in fact, it is religion that claims to be the final word. If I say that gravity doesn't exist, and another person says gravity doesn't exist, and then we find out that gravity does exist, if I change my answer, then I am now much more reliable than the person who says "Well gravity still doesn't exist. I'm not changing." It is the ability to change and accept new evidence that makes science reliable. Religions, however, reject new evidence.

Perhaps it's easier for the intellectually lazy or incompetent to believe in a book that hasn't changed in 2000 years, just like it's easy to stick with Windows 95 all your life. Is Windows Vista perfect? No. Does the fact that Windows Vista improved over Windows 95 mean that "Look! They're constantly improving their software! That means they're always wrong!" It's silly to point out that revising your point for the better means you were wrong in the first place--it's infinitely better than the person who was wrong, has not changed, and is still wrong.

About things like quarks, atheists don't have "faith" in them. First of all, belief in the existence of quarks does not dictate whether you believe that it's okay to slaughter people for your God, but besides that, there's two different colloqial uses of believe here. Belief "in" something is very different than believing something. Most atheists believe that quarks exist as a phenomenon but don't "believe in" scientists as if that dictates their worldview. Have you ever met somebody who said "Because I believe that evolution is true, I think that murder and genocide and terrorism are morally correct"?

As humans, we only have our senses to give us a picture of the world. If you want to claim that God gives you a better reality, fine, but at least present some evidence instead of pointing out that science has holes, therefore we shouldn't trust it. Science and reason are the best ways to harness our senses to get some picture of reality. Science may have said that negroes were inferior at some point, but we have been smart enough to change that for the better. The bible, however, has always condoned slavery, still condones slavery, and even gives you details on how to price your slaves and when you are allowed to beat or kill them. Too bad you're ignoring those passages just to bolster your point--I'd take 19th century science over caveman religion any day.
"To say that it's not okay to believe in something that may or may not be true is ridiculous. Some people like to have that mystical fantasy in the world. It adds flavor."
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Postby dromedaryhump1 » Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:25 am

Glob said:
greater evils have been done by those who believed only in man.


Or to put your statement another way: "Us believers are less heinous than you non-believers!" ?? Thats quite an endorsement for "belief". I'm happy you set such high standards.


Donny, as usual, nicely said. Kudos.
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Postby Eilonnwy » Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:01 am

Believing a peer-reviewed scientific paper of Quarks is far different from believing in an old book based on hearsay.

I recently read an excellent essay from 1877 called "The Ethics of Belief" by William K. Clifford that explores when belief is acceptable and when it is not. It's a good essay, you should read it. The essay is here: http://files.meetup.com/12763/Clifford% ... Belief.pdf Though I'm not sure if you can access it if you're not member...:/

However, I will quote his ending summary because I think it hits on the nail what you're talking about.

We may believe what goes beyond our experience, only when it is inferred from that experience by the assumption that what we do not know is like what we know.

We may believe the statement of another person, when there is reasonable ground for supposing that he knows the matter of which he speaks, and that he is speaking the truth so far as he knows it.

It is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence; and where it is presumption to doubt and to investigate, there it is worse than presumption to believe.




That said, you make the silly assumption that not having a personal God makes life not worth it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I value my life more since I became an atheist. I still try to be nice to people. I give to charity because I care about this world. I think that makes me infinitely more moral because I give without the expectation of return in some other life. Instead, I know there are people suffering, and I would want someone to help me, so I will help someone. We live in a cooperative society where it is only natural for people to want to work together and help each other. It's as simple as that.

Also, please learn your facts. Hitler was a Christian who committed mass-slaughter because of antisemitism. Regardless, I find it a pitiful argument. The atrocities committed by religion outweigh WWII. Trying to attach 3 men to atheism, as if it's a philosophy (which it's not) doesn't cover up for the thousands, probably millions, that have killed in God's name.
~Jackie
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Postby donnyton » Sun Dec 07, 2008 7:29 pm

Don't forget, all Christians are atheists with respect to Zeus. All Muslims are atheists with respect to Buddha. All Hindus are atheists with respect to Anubis. Atheists are just the same with respect to all gods.

To say that atheism is responsible for evil is to say that not believing in Zeus could make people commit terrorist attacks, and not believing in Santa Claus could cause genocides.
"To say that it's not okay to believe in something that may or may not be true is ridiculous. Some people like to have that mystical fantasy in the world. It adds flavor."
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Postby DallasHeathen » Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:21 am

donnyton wrote:All Muslims are atheists with respect to Buddha.

Even Buddhists are atheists with respect to Buddha.
Is there a God? Find the answer at The Official God FAQ.
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Postby donnyton » Mon Dec 08, 2008 10:49 pm

No, there's actually quite a few Buddhist groups, especially in China, that worship Buddha as a deity, perhaps more as a Zeus figure than as a Yahweh figure, but as a god nonetheless.

Do some research on actual Buddhist theology first please.
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Postby Eilonnwy » Tue Dec 09, 2008 4:28 pm

There are still Buddhists who do not believe in a deity, so the statement is true to an extent, just not completely.
~Jackie
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Postby donnyton » Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:46 pm

Eh, I think a lot of people growing up in the west think that Buddhism is just some philosophy that Buddha practiced, a lot of them ignore the really fundamentalist Buddhists who believe that Buddha was a God and that Buddhism is necessarily the truth of everything.
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Postby Eilonnwy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:30 pm

Well now you're getting into similar argumetns Christians have when you make a general statements about their belief, but we all know there are countless demonatians ranging from moderate to fundamental. It's like saying all Christians believe in hell, when that's not entirely true.

I'm just saying it's not fair to label all buddhists as theists just as it's not fair to label all buddhists as atheist. It's a mixed bag. But it is fair to say "some". That was my only point.
~Jackie
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Postby Legato » Thu Dec 11, 2008 12:21 pm

The funny thing is that they all claim to know the truth and that everyone else either has it completely or partially wrong.
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Postby donnyton » Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:12 pm

Well technically atheists do that too. We're just justified :P
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Re: What would constitute as the real?

Postby Lucius_Sulla » Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:53 pm

Globular wrote:many of [science's] findings have to be taken on faith, on the word of the scientists, because we do not have their expertise. quarks, for instance, we know them only to be the traces of the traces of the traces. no one has actually seen or touched them. consider too, how often scientists have revised their findings.


No, no, no!

Scientists do not preach findings; they use the scientific method to outline and substantiate theories. The concept of theory in science is much more rigorous than the common use of the term. A theory has to meet at least a couple of standards. First, the experiments and research that helped formulate a theory must be repeatable for other researchers. Second, and most importantly, they make predictions. When the predictions of a theory are contradicted, the theory is either reexamined or thrown out, hence why you are no longer exsanguinated when you have a cold and why we don't put the earth at the center of the solar system. There is no faith involved with that, and anyone who looks at science as "taken on faith" has started from such a fundamentally flawed position that the point of any further discourse seems questionable until this error in perception is remedied.
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Re: What would constitute as the real?

Postby Edward » Wed May 13, 2009 7:38 am

Globular wrote:great evil has been done by religion, yes, but great good also


Which means essentially nothing at all. The important question to ask is this: was the great good supposedly done by religion impossible to achieve without religion?

You'll find that the answer is no. Good deeds may have been motivated by religious beliefs, but they were not unique to them. Likewise, evil deeds have been motivated by religious beliefs, but have been done without religion being involved, for a variety of different beliefs (many people on the theist side seem to forget that there are other motivations for action besides religion).

is it not that a purely materialistic view impoverishes us?

Not really, no. As far as we can tell, there is nothing but the material world (and by definition, if it's "real", it's part of the material world, so if supernatural occurences are ever demonstrated they'd simply become natural but unexplained occurences). You may as well ask someone who is born without any legs if he misses scratching his toes. You can't really be impoverished of something that isn't there to have.

Quite on the contrary, the material view empowers us. We no longer have to prop ourselves up on the crutches of a magical being who does everything for us, no longer have to sacrifice our accomplishments as being that fictional entity's gift (and likewise no longer have to guilt ourselves even more for our failures because we failed to perform up to a perfect entity's expectations, despite that entity being responsible for our inability to accomplish things in the first place. Religion is quite cruel that way) to us, and we become responsible for the way we live our own lives, right here and now, instead of in some worthless unconfirmed afterlife. We already are, but some people haven't figured that out yet, and that causes many problems.

go anywhere on earth where there is poverty and suffering, and you will find people who believe

, who pray and pray and get nothing at all, and die often agonizing deaths by the hundreds because missionaries have convinced them that there really IS someone on the other end of the phone, they swear. One pair of hands at work accomplishes more than every pair clasped together in prayer. People suffer terribly, and are softened by fairytale stories of some magical afterlife where they won't suffer anymore, where they'll be rewarded in fact for living so miserably. Between scraping a meager, miserabe living on parched ground and waiting calmly for an end that falsely promises infinite bliss, which would you choose?

What's more:
doing what they can for their brothers and sisters. and i mean anywhere.

People of all religions (and of none) do this. It isn't unique to any one religion. What that means is that it isn't at all caused by religion. Religion merely steals credit for it, pretends that it is responsible after all, and uses emotional appeals and other logical fallacies to hide its grubby tracks.

can the same be said for atheists?

It can, yes. And even if it couldn't, so what? You can't go from "atheists don't do acts of charity" to "therefore god exists" or "religion has value".

even the learning that modern man prides himself in has been preserved by the labors of monks and nuns who spent their lives preserving knowledge for the glory of God.

Again, so what? Religion was pervasive during those times. Is it really surprising that something that was present everywhere was present everywhere? But read on for the real point.
science has its roots in the universities which the religious established.

Established for the purpose of training new scribes to be able to read and write and copy the bible more to preserve it. Science that, often, was performed in spite of the religions, because its findings often contradicted scripture. How many died for finding out that the earth wasn't flat? How many were threatened with death like Galileo for speaking the objective truth?
law

Chicken and the egg, here. Laws existed in some form long before any modern religion came around; it only made sense to include versions of the rules into scriptures and teachings. It's not so much that religion established law as much as law and religion growing together side by side. Though the rule of "don't kill others" most likely came about millenia before someone thought it made sense to think that the world stood on the back of a gigantic turtle.

philosophy

I have a rather poor opinion of philosophy, because while it can be interesting mental exercise, arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin accomplishes absolutely nothing whatsoever. I wouldn't use it as a plus in religion's favour. Besides, much of philosophy was to explain away the findings of intellectuals that contradicted religion. Not exactly a noble purpose.

music and the arts, too

Again, so what? Add the pyramids in there too. Thousands upon thousands of deaths to build gigantic mounds of stone so that one person would be more comfortable in the afterlife. Amazing feat of engineering, no argument there, but for what purpose? I'm not against works of art that have no purpose apart from being enjoyed, but if the effort involved in pyramids and cathedrals and temples had been put into worthwhile endeavours instead, imagine how much better off we'd be. We can only imagine because we'll never know, but there you are.

to focus only on the bad is a one-sided view of reality.

As I opened with, the good aspects of religion are frankly unimportant. What's touted as a good aspect is often quite useless, as well (I'm thinking of two examples, notably "fear of god" and "the afterlife"). You do touch on one important point: it's a view of reality, something that's severely lacking within the religious communities of the world.

give believers their due, my friends!

Well, if we were about one thousand years ago, that due would be beheading or other similar events, but society has, mostly, moved on from scripture's instructions regarding that. Joke aside, most of us do give believers their due. That's why there's so much negativity involved.
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Re: What would constitute as the real?

Postby Eon » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:03 pm

Edward wrote:
philosophy

I have a rather poor opinion of philosophy, because while it can be interesting mental exercise, arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin accomplishes absolutely nothing whatsoever. I wouldn't use it as a plus in religion's favour. Besides, much of philosophy was to explain away the findings of intellectuals that contradicted religion. Not exactly a noble purpose.

I think you're confusing philosophy with theology or apologetics. Relatively speaking, very little philosophy is directly concerned with religion, nor is religion in any way responsible for philosophy. Philosophy is a broad field that covers a lot of things (often many of the same things religion tries to address, actually), but it is, essentially, the study of ideas and how we think. Yes, that covers religion, but it also covers science, politics, law, morals, etc.

Furthermore (and this is directed more so at the OP than you, Edward), citing philosophy as one of the goods that religion has provided is a demonstration of one's ignorance of the subject, considering the rather large number of atheist philosophers today and throughout history. Moreover, while many famous philosophers did believe in a god, many of them preceded the modern scientific age (and, indeed, the enlightenment), so we can only speculate as to whether or not they would still be believers if they were around today (or, indeed, if they were actually believers at all in their own time in some cases). Finally, there seems to have been a tremendous paucity of philosophers arguing in favour of strict, literal interpretations of any religion in any time throughout history. Philosophers may have theistic or even religious beliefs, but very few ever seem to be religious fundamentalists.
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