Could an Atheist handle a proof of God?

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Could an Atheist handle a proof of God?

Postby Mu » Wed Sep 06, 2006 4:21 pm

In the general forum is a post on "do atheist believe?" and that got me thinking: Could atheism survive a "proof" of the existence of a higher being? Is the non-existence of a God required for atheism to work, or could it work just as well under the "there might be a God but I don't care" attitude?
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Re: Could an Atheist handle a proof of God?

Postby Kazim » Wed Sep 06, 2006 4:49 pm

Mu wrote:In the general forum is a post on "do atheist believe?" and that got me thinking: Could atheism survive a "proof" of the existence of a higher being? Is the non-existence of a God required for atheism to work, or could it work just as well under the "there might be a God but I don't care" attitude?


Taking your hypothetical that the existence of God was someday proven beyond reasonable doubt, my opinion is that atheism would survive -- just as theism could survive a disproof of God. The reason is that there are always irrational people.

However, the roles would then be the reverse of what we perceive them to be now. People who accept the existence of God based on this (hypothetical) definitive proof would be acting rationally. People who continued to not believe in the proven God in the face of overwhelming evidence would be rightly accused of dogma.

Recently on the Non-Prophets, we discussed the X-Files, a show which I personally don't like. The point was made that in the X-Files universe, unlike our universe, supernatural events have been shown to real many times. So while it appears, superficially, that Scully is the hard-nosed, rationalist skeptic and Mulder is the starry-eyed guy who lives in a fantasy world, in the "reality" of X-Files, the opposite is true. Mulder accepts things based on evidence while Scully refuses to do so.
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Postby Sans_Deity » Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:02 pm

I've thought more about the X-files issue and I think I've come to the conclusion that they're both acting rationally at times and irrationally at other times - the key being that they don't have the same evidence....while the audience is in the position of having all (or most of) the evidence and would tend to judge them differently.

Mulder, for example, often has a rational basis for his hypotheses on a given case - based on empirical evidence that he's had access to, and others haven't. To Scully, this will appear irrational because she doesn't have the evidence.

At other times, Mulder will make an illogical leap to a superstitious explanation (based on being right in the past) and turn out to be wrong - those episodes end up justifying Scully as the rational one.

Scully usually makes rational decisions based on the evidence available to her, but she's also prone to a bias which made her slow to accept a-typical explanations despite supporting evidence...only when the evidence was overwhelming did she accept the truth.

Sure, she starts off as a rational outsider who, to the audience (siding with "our hero" based on the show's alternate reality) seems overly-skeptical - but, in the end, she's a believer and her belief is based on incontrovertable evidence.

Personally, I enjoyed that. She was, for the most part, a good example of a skeptical mind including the ability for that mind to change its beliefs based on evidence.

Though, if you stopped watching early, you wouldn't really get to see that change. :)

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Re: Could an Atheist handle a proof of God?

Postby Leopoldo » Mon Sep 18, 2006 8:19 pm

Mu wrote:In the general forum is a post on "do atheist believe?" and that got me thinking: Could atheism survive a "proof" of the existence of a higher being? Is the non-existence of a God required for atheism to work, or could it work just as well under the "there might be a God but I don't care" attitude?


Hello:
In general, all the supreme beings we know off are related to present and past religions. That's perhaps the reason for most atheist to disbelieve in a "supreme deity".
So the case for an abstract deity... what sort of abstract deity it would be? Let's us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that there is a real deity who want to sent us a message, or set of messages, for ass to follow.
Well, if that were the case in relation to us of a supreme deity, then he had made a very botch job.

If there is a real god, a creator as most religions put it, it must be a god rather indiferent to our existence and our fate. I have also to suppose that this god did not try to make a perfect world, neither a perfect universe.
Or at least, in the case this Universe would be perfect, his perfection cannot be perceived by humans. All our miseries and troubles, must be indiferent to perfect Universe.
In this case, and with such a god, I would have not any trouble to believe in its existence. This god had to be utterly indifferent to humankind and to me.
This sort of god, has the same sense that not god at all.
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Postby Leopoldo » Mon Sep 18, 2006 8:40 pm

Sans_Deity wrote:I've thought more about the X-files issue and I think I've come to the conclusion that they're both acting rationally at times and irrationally at other times - the key being that they don't have the same evidence....while the audience is in the position of having all (or most of) the evidence and would tend to judge them differently.

Mulder, for example, often has a rational basis for his hypotheses on a given case - based on empirical evidence that he's had access to, and others haven't. To Scully, this will appear irrational because she doesn't have the evidence.

At other times, Mulder will make an illogical leap to a superstitious explanation (based on being right in the past) and turn out to be wrong - those episodes end up justifying Scully as the rational one.

Scully usually makes rational decisions based on the evidence available to her, but she's also prone to a bias which made her slow to accept a-typical explanations despite supporting evidence...only when the evidence was overwhelming did she accept the truth.

Sure, she starts off as a rational outsider who, to the audience (siding with "our hero" based on the show's alternate reality) seems overly-skeptical - but, in the end, she's a believer and her belief is based on incontrovertable evidence.

Personally, I enjoyed that. She was, for the most part, a good example of a skeptical mind including the ability for that mind to change its beliefs based on evidence.

Though, if you stopped watching early, you wouldn't really get to see that change. :)

-Matt


I will try to think about a case of a world full of supernatural events.
In general, atheists are the type of persons that not believe in supernatural events. That's my case.
So, first of all, I do not believe in supernatural events because I never have witnessed any case of this sort.

So, to prove that there is a god, like those painted by most religions, the world has to change in a way as to show quite often this sort of supernatural events. Which is not the case.
So, if supernatural events occurs quite often, then there is only a puzzly. Why is god so elusive? Why has he let so many fake messengers go freely duping people? For it is clear that can not be as many different gods as religions posit. Most religions nowdays posit that there is only a supreme god, and at most some minor powerful beings, at a distance well before the rank of the supreme god.
So, all this makes not any sense to our logic.
So the asumption that a god, one day, could be proved, makes not any sense so far now.
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Postby Kathy_4 » Mon Sep 18, 2006 10:45 pm

A statement from Kurt Godel said something like that "This statement cannot be proved true" If the statement is false, then it is a contradiction. If the statement is true then it can't be proven at all.

Which makes myself conclude that there are no...absolute proofs. But that's again an absolute statement is it not?

Which makes me very confused. :x
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Re: Could an Atheist handle a proof of God?

Postby jhawksgirl » Wed Jan 17, 2007 9:15 am

Mu wrote:In the general forum is a post on "do atheist believe?" and that got me thinking: Could atheism survive a "proof" of the existence of a higher being? Is the non-existence of a God required for atheism to work, or could it work just as well under the "there might be a God but I don't care" attitude?


I hate to bring up an old topic, but I've been thinking about this question for a few months and I keep coming back to the same conclusion. My problem with your question, if you even read these forums anymore, is the part that I bolded. I think, if you were to get to know atheists and their approach, you might find that atheists are anything but apathetic. To assume that they just "don't care" and have a corrolating attitude tells me that you've really not encountered many atheists in real life.

In my experience, atheists put alot of thought, time, and research, into their position. Atheists, especially atheists who post on message boards or have their own internet and television shows, obviously DO CARE a great deal about the issue. It's precisely because we DO CARE that we research the topic. Because of that research and thoughtfulness, atheists have come to the conclusion that there's not enough evidence for God or that God is not probable.

So, to answer your question: could atheism survive if, suddenly, there were proof of God's existance? I think the answer is "yes, but...". Using the strict definition of atheism (no God), I think that there will always be a percentage of the population who do not believe in God...just as there are many Christians who ignore the mounds of evidence for evolution and insist that the earth is 6,000 years old, there would probably be some people who would ignore, or continue to argue/debate, the proof of God(s). However, most of us would probably consider the new evidence and weigh it accordingly...and, unlike most modern day Christians, a thoughtful atheist would probably restate their position based on the new evidence. Atheism isn't a "dig your heels in the dirt for the sake of being stubborn" mentality. It's a position based on a lack of evidence. So, it would be the perogative of the atheist (as an individual) to revise their position based on the new evidence.

I would pose a question in return: If Allah knocked on your door and said, "Islam is the only correct religion and my name is Allah." would Christianity survive?
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Postby Mu » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:08 pm

To answer the last question I'd need to know if he's Sunni or Shia.
Just kidding, I doubt any religious system could survive if any deity would be proven to exit (unless of course the guy behind him say "I'm God", and you prove them all right, kinda like Gailman's American Gods).
To come back to the core question here, and to take up your argument of the "active atheist". If I read you right, being an "atheist" means that you permanently reconfirm that there is no God, what, to me, would translate into "if there is evidence for God" you cannot be atheist.
What than leaves one point what do you call someone who believes there is not God, as in "even if there would be evidence to the contrary" (similar to a God believer doing it despite the absence of true evidence), or someone who just doesn't care as long as the God isn't the smiting kind.
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Postby Sans_Deity » Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:04 am

Mu wrote:To come back to the core question here, and to take up your argument of the "active atheist". If I read you right, being an "atheist" means that you permanently reconfirm that there is no God, what, to me, would translate into "if there is evidence for God" you cannot be atheist.


Emphasis added for clarity. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god, that's it. There's no claim of permanence about it.

Like any other issue, my belief or lack of belief is subject to change - as the evidence warrants.

Mu wrote:what do you call someone who believes there is not God


An atheist...the qualifying remarks you added ("as in "even if there would be evidence to the contrary") addresses what sort of atheists the individual might be and whether or not their position is justified. But if they don't believe in god (or believe there is no god), their an atheist.

Mu wrote:or someone who just doesn't care as long as the God isn't the smiting kind.


That might qualify as an "apatheist". Though the exact meaning of the term isn't really a 'settled' issue.

They may or may not be an atheist, though. Whether or not you "care" about the issue is completely separate from whether or not you believe. While one's personal interest may contribute to the answer (and the nature of the justification used to arrive at the answer).

Theism/Atheism - address what you believe about the god-hypotheses
Gnosticism/Agnosticism - address what you know or profess to know about the god-hypotheses
Devout/Apathetic (??) - to address the issue of concern?

I really don't think it's useful to try to label every possible combination of variables - especially if we're going to bring new ones in.

-Matt
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Postby Tapetum » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:02 am

I've used the term Devout Agnostic to describe myself for years now, which confuses the heck out of a lot of theists. I've since added "with Theistic preferences" to the list, which confuses even more people on all sides.

I haven't found any other relevant scales to place myself along thus far, but I may. After all, it took about ten years to add number three.
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Postby Mu » Tue Feb 13, 2007 4:00 pm

hmm, this makes me an apathetic theist I guess. Lacking the guts to tell an omnipotent invisible being that it doesn't exist.
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Re: Could an Atheist handle a proof of God?

Postby eebamxela » Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:20 pm

Mu wrote:Could atheism survive a "proof" of the existence of a higher being? Is the non-existence of a God required for atheism to work, or could it work just as well under the "there might be a God but I don't care" attitude?


"Atheism" is not a system that you "subscribe to" or anything like that. It is unfortunate that there is a need for such a word as atheist. I think it would make more sense to be called "A-convincedthereisagod-ist"

Ergo, if God himself appeared you'd have to be pretty silly to claim that he is not god (this is assuming he proves his godly powers). This is all hypothetical, but still relevant.
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Postby RSM » Sat Jun 23, 2007 8:20 pm

Mu wrote:hmm, this makes me an apathetic theist I guess. Lacking the guts to tell an omnipotent invisible being that it doesn't exist.


That is a very confusing statement. Apparently you believe there is a god. But you want to tell this god that he/she/it does not exist. That is like looking at a tree and saying that tree does not exist. I don't think that is what you mean. Can you clarify?

As for the original question:

Could atheism survive a "proof" of the existence of a higher being? Is the non-existence of a God required for atheism to work, or could it work just as well under the "there might be a God but I don't care" attitude?


First of all, I do care about the God question. I have given it many decades of thought. Everything I know--the entire universe, moral values and ethics, human nature, natural phenomena--everything--makes sense only when I conclude that no supernatural being exists.

Secondly, if evidence were produced--that question makes no sense to me. We would have to establish the criteria of what counts as evidence before we could go anywhere with that question. The criteria in the Bible does not work. The criteria that Christianity uses does not work. Why not? Because it is hopelessly out-dated. We know too much about the universe to accept such criteria. What we know about the universe today, in and of itself, proves that the biblegod does not exist.

Biblegod makes real sense only in a three-storied flat earth. 1. We know that the earth is not flat. 2. We know that the earth is not the largest or most influential object in space. 3. We know that the earth is but a flick of dust on the outer rim of the swirling mass we call the universe. 4. So far, humans have not been able to reach the closest edge. In other words, the universe is unimaginably huge.

Where are you going to put God? Which side is up? How can god be above the universe when the whole mass is swirling madly? Even the continents of this insignificantly tiny planet are shifting. The Bible talks about the pillars of the earth. You see--the bible is so hopelessly out-dated that finding biblical criteria by which to establish evidence of God's existence is impossible. So what are you going to use as dependable criteria?
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Postby Lucretius » Sat Jul 21, 2007 1:13 am

Hypothetically say objective proof existed that proved there was a god (doesn't deserve a big G). Hypothetically say this evidence was comparable to the amount of evidence we have for evolution. So god has the same amount of evidence as evolution. People could still be atheists but it wouldn't be intellectually defensible or rational. You know that atheism would probably still survive to some extent because even though atheists are usually I think more rational than theists, not all of us/them are. The same way you get creationists denying evolution in front of mountains of evidence. If you had this evidence for god, some crazy people still wouldn't believe.

Wait a minute. If we had evidence for god no one would require any faith and without faith he is nothing. God disappears in a poof of logic lol.

Love that babel fish argument.
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Postby Whosawhatsis » Sat Aug 11, 2007 2:59 pm

If we had absolute proof of a god, it would be irrational not to believe that it existed. As others have said, there will always be irrational people.

That said, though, I think it's important to make the distinction that if it was proven that the Yahweh existed and that he had a son named Jesus who wore punk hardware through his hands and feet, that doesn't mean that it would be rational to go worship in the name of the father, son, and holy parasite. Likewise, if the god wore a "Hello, my name is Allah" name tag on the front of his "Muhammad is my homeboy" T-shirt (haha, those actually exist), it would not be necessary to immediately type "Mecca" into Google Earth.

I recently discussed this in my blog, here's an exerpt:

Theists often assume that if we had proof of a god, we would have no choice but to bow down and worship. This is not the correct response. If we met a non-human intelligent being, we should treat it the same way whether it was a god, an alien or some kind of super-chimp. The correct course of action (after learning to communicate) would be to invite the being to join our society as an equal. As a person, human or otherwise, it would have "human rights" (I don't like that term) and the obligation to afford other persons the same rights. If the god agreed to abide by our laws, we could get along amicably, and I would enjoy watching its party tricks, but if any appreciable portion of the Bible is factual, it would not accept. This is understandable, as it would need to immediately be brought up on charges that would result in imprisonment for innumerable consecutive life sentences, assuming the death penalty was not feasible.

Of course, an omnipotent being could not be forced to comply with our laws, or any punishments we deemed necessary, but if it refused to do so, it would certainly not be a being to be worshiped, but one to be hated and resisted in any way possible. Only a tyrant would demand worship, and it is the duty of any thinking person to resist tyranny.
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