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Damn straight.
Zack “Curly” Tedders's profile photoRogue Black's profile photoMax Wellenstein's profile photoBruce Clement's profile photo
Yup. Can't argue with that. Where do I sign up?
Yeah, it's a bit on the obscure side. :) Someone put this up as a parody of all the various arguments that try to prove the truth of various religions – generally evangelical Protestantism – by assuming the truth of the religion. So they made the exact same kind of argument, but for a different religion.
The turtle holds them up. Duh.
Bob O`Bob
"Prove your god doesn't exist?
Sure, no problem:
You show me how you disproved Zeus. then I'll teach you how search & replace works."
+Dave Pearson Hrm. Local search isn't giving me good results for Asatru temples in my area. You may have to ask around.
I'm religious, and I value religion very highly, but I hate the way some people try to 'prove' that their religion is true (including atheists). "If my internally consistent reasoning is internally consistent, how can it be wrong?"
Ummmm, "falling" precedes "fell". Maybe no-one/thing is holding us up, we just haven't got to the bottom yet?
I've decided that if a government regulation ever goes into effect that requires all citizens to choose a religion, I'm going Norse. Way cooler than all that Yahwah stuff. Or Jedi. I'm sure my midichlorian count is high enough.
+Andrew Fallows Over the past several years I've encountered an unbelievable number of serious arguments both for and against the existence of god. I'm increasingly tempted to write a book going through each one of them and explaining in detail why they're all bollocks.
+Dave Pearson Crap. I think they're having some kind of server problem, actually. I do have a saved copy of the sequence, because it's absolutely fscking hilarious – but I'm not really sure about the ethics of sharing someone else's work like this. Maybe I'll ping them and see if they still exist.
Why can't everyone be right. Your belief becomes your reality. If you don't believe in a God, then there isn't one for you. If you do, than there one is. Odin can rule over Norway, while Zeus rules over Greece.... I know, I know, that's too easy.
Surely, in this comment thread, it's Norway or the highway?

I'll get my coat....
Descartes walks into a bar. "Would you like a beer?" "I think not." Poof.
But...but...Yggdrasil is a tree, not a horse!
+James Finstrom Not quite the same thing. That book is talking about evidence for the historicity of Jesus. I'm interested in people who make arguments both for and against the existence of god, from simple things like Pascal's Wager or the watchmaker argument, to more complex things like the ontological argument, or on the other side the argument from Occam's razor or the argument from inconsistent revelations. I think that all of these arguments are seriously, logically flawed, and that to date nobody has come up with a good rational argument either for or against the existence of god. (Which, incidentally, I mean as an argument for a meaningful role for faith, gnosis, and agnosticism, not as an argument either for or against religion)
+Dave Pearson

♪ The Norse are the Norse, of course, of course;
And no-one can convert the Norse, of course;
That is, of course, unless the Norse
is the famous Saint Olaf!
+Pete Bentley Actually, the Horse Faith comes out pretty well by this argument, too. If there is no God, who keeps sending the humans to fill the feed troughs?
+James Finstrom - It's also completely one-sided, and full of logical errors and opinions passed off as fact. You can easily find thorough rebuttals of the book online.

+Yonatan Zunger - There's no single book that thoroughly covers arguments for both sides, if only because there are so many of them. Comprehensive theological works usually span volumes. I think George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God is a pretty good summary in single-book form of the most common theist arguments and their flaws. I don't know of any single book that deals with common errors in arguments for atheism, but this is primarily because religious apologists typically write from the perspective of advancing their religious beliefs, and not that of debunking atheism "ab initio" (i.e., without assuming their religion is true), so to speak. The books written in rebuttal to the recent New Atheist books, taken together, actually give a pretty comprehensive coverage of the errors made in the more recent popular atheist writings (but these critiques are, in my opinion, also full of errors themselves).
The case against "god" can be made in one sentence: exceptional claims require exceptional evidence, and there isn't any, so it's up to the religious to make the case for a "god".
Chris S
+Peter da Silva, I think it's up to everyone to make a case either way - or to leave everyone else alone. While I don't see any evidence absolutely proving there is an existence of some sort of super being, the origin of the universe does point to the requirement that something exist. If you believe in the Big Bang or in our simply being here, our understanding of physics states that something cannot come from nothing. When you trace everything back to point 0, what started it all? What could create our entire existence out of nothing? Obviously, something that exists beyond our rules and understanding. That would be god, but not necessarily one of the beings the various religions believe to exist.
+Chris S I entirely agree with your first statement. I am pretty sure that 99.44% of all atheists agree, too. The problem is that the religious don't leave atheists alone. And it's not just the ridiculous laws giving them special status even in the most secular countries, but just admitting you're an atheist gets people looking at you like you said you like to eat cute little puppies... alive. Atheists are the ones who are supposed to defend their position, and they're usually asked to defend ludicrous straw men like the one you're throwing at me right now.

First, there's no law of physics that states that something can't come out of nothing. In fact there have been a number of respected scientists that have proposed theories that involve not just "something coming out of nothing" but something continuously coming out of nothing. It wasn't until the cosmic background radiation was explained that Hoyle's "continuous creation" model was (mostly) set aside, though variants of it still come up now and then. Stephen Hawking's eponymous Hawking radiation is derived from the assumption that virtual particles are continuously created and destroyed throughout space.

Second, there are few atheists who would deny the possibility that there's some kind of conscious creator who set the universe in motion and then went on a sabbatical. The question becomes... does this god-of-physics matter? Should people behave differently whether it exists or not?

Thirdly, there are very few religious groups who make claims as diffuse and demand-free as that. Virtually all make deliberate, specific, and contradictory claims, and those claims are the basis for the special legal treatment of churches and the abuse of those who dare to admit they don't believe in any of these contradictory deities.

So your straw god might exist, but it doesn't have any bearing on atheism. The bottom line is, the people demanding special privileges are the ones who should be providing proof for their claims.
no one wins over religion....the argument is like divorce...who wants the biggest slice of the cake...argument starts over and over again...THE ULTIMATE INFINITE subject that up to now no one can 100% give the people of the true answer that will UNITE THE WORLD IN ONE RELIGION....for it is the mystery that holds the POWER OF ONE HIGHER THAN US!
There should be no more need to unite the world under one religion than to unite the world under one flavor of ice cream.
Chris S
+Peter da Silva, you make some good points. I don't think what I said was a ludicrous straw man argument, but it sounds like you've already made up your mind about it. I absolutely do agree that the accepted religions of a country do get special treatment compared to atheism (or paganism, wicca, etc.), but I don't believe that was even the argument originally posited by you. So for the rest I'll say that you make some good and interesting points, but they're also unnecessary. And any atheist who doesn't deny the possibility of a conscious creator who set the universe is not an atheist but rather an agnostic or deist - which makes a world of difference.
+David Yonge-Mallo Logic is typically skewed or ignored in favor opinion when it comes to matters of religion or politics. You will note that Religious people and Athiest both claim 100% knowledge based on circumstantial evidence. Truth is the only ones close are the Agnostics who say "we dunno"
It's a straw man argument because it's attacking a point that very few people are trying to defend, and its ludicrous because it's making claims about physics that are simply not true.

My original point is that the people who are making positive claims are the ones who should be required to prove something. The only reason I made that point is that in the real world it's the people who aren't making a claim who are being required to support it. You made that point for me, as I knew someone would. Thank you for being my straight man.

Finally. There is no practical difference between an atheist, an agnostic, or the more diffuse variety of deist who believes in a god that makes no difference. And in some ways a strong agnostic position is more militant than an atheist one: the claim that there is no god is in many ways weaker than the claim that it's impossible to know if there's a god.
Chris S
+Peter da Silva, I appreciate your enthusiasm in this discussion. But only to a point. After all, you're arguing against something I offered as an opinion, not an argument. I rolled with it anyway to see where you were going, and you went down the rabbit hole of being condescending and ultimately trying to prove how smart you are. Over the internet. Never mind that many respected theorists have provided theories that ultimately have not dethroned the Big Bang cosmological model and its being routed down to a finite point in the past. They all provide ideas that haven't provided much yield as of yet. Never mind your dismissal of your misuse of terminology, grouping together different groups with different points of view and then casually dismissing it. Never mind that you went off on a tangent in the end about the militancy of one belief versus another. I don't doubt your intelligence and don't need you to try to prove it to me. Just lighten up a little bit. We're in a comment thread following a humorous image about Norse mythology versus atheism! And I think our little side conversation has run its course.
I readily admit that I'm callously using you to illustrate a point. That I set up a trap and you walked into it. If it wasn't you, it would be someone else.

There's always someone willing to demand that atheists prove there's not a god.
+Peter da Silva I would modulate a few of your propositions.

The case against "god" can be made in one sentence: exceptional claims require exceptional evidence

I think we should divide up claims of fact from normative claims. If someone is claiming "religion X is true, and therefore we should do Y and Z," e.g. mandate teaching religion X in schools, then that claim should be subject to the same sort of analysis which we give any other normative claim, including cost/benefit analysis of the statement, and (since often these claims do come with considerable costs) the truth of the hypothesis becomes important and subject to a relatively high bar of proof.

However, if the question is simply whether a proposition about the universe is true or not, then the bar is very different. In particular, I would argue that:

* Positivism (the belief that things should be presupposed not to exist absent positive evidence that they do) is a perfectly legitimate a priori philosophical stance to take, but it is not the unique valid stance. First, it needs to be qualified by a hefty dose of "...but we may well be wrong" (cf. the discovery of atomic and nuclear physics in the late 19th/early 20th century for a lovely illustration of that being done right), but more to the point, there is no more underlying epistemological basis to accepting the nonexistence of items as the default baseline state than there is to accepting their existence.

* Occam's Razor, which is generally used as a justification for positivism, is not IMO as powerful a tool as it's often described to be; at its best, it's a heuristic for guessing which statement is most likely to be right. Nature does not seem to feel constrained to obey it (cf. biology, which quite merrily has evolved systems that are hard to describe as simple by any standard).

* Even if Nature did systematically obey Occam's Razor, that rule doesn't come with a nice definition of what the actual simplicity metric is. Even in physics, many things which turn out to be "simple" and "elegant" are only simple or elegant post facto, after we know the appropriate language (which is often surprisingly heavyweight) in which to express it. (cf. General Relativity) To presume that we know that the existence of Odin is less likely than that of Jesus but more likely than the existence of an unbroken N=4 supersymmetry at 10^15GeV suggests a bit of hubris to me.

The position I would argue for is rather one of limited epistemic knowledge. I disagree with you that there's no difference between agnosticism and atheism, because they differ in precisely the positivist assumption.

(I also stuck in that subtle caveat of limited "epistemic" knowledge, because there is the separate issue of gnostic knowledge. The trouble with that sort of knowledge is that by its nature it's hard to convey from one person to another. But if you apply positivism and deny the validity of gnostic knowledge while looking at (say) psychology, you end up with the spectacular nonsense of Behaviorism; the ways in which that failed strike me as excellent evidence for why episteme should not be privileged over gnosis as a means of knowing. And in fact, I have had personal experience of the divine, based on which my own religious position is gnostic anolatry. But I have neither the means to nor the interest in convincing anyone else of that.)

The problem is that the religious don't leave atheists alone.
I should just note that atheists don't leave people alone, either. If I look at attempts to convert me to one world-view or another over the past several years, atheists seem to be the large majority of those cases, about 4:1 over all other positions combined. Oddly, most religious folk aren't particularly interested in convincing me of things.
+Steven Sudit And I have no objection whatsoever to the version which you're arguing. But it seems to me that +Peter da Silva's argument is somewhat different, that religions should be required to prove the validity of their claims. But I may be misunderstanding; if the argument is that they should be required to prove the validity of claims in order to use said claims as the basis for normative statements, then I'm totally good with that, too.
The fact that I don't see a practical difference between atheism, agnosticism, and many forms of deism should indicate that I'm not taking that kind of position. My point has nothing to do with what is true, but what should be used to guide one's actions. My wording is purely a response to the demand, implicit in the picture that started this thread and explicit in the arguments it's parodying, that atheism needs to prove itself.

The case against "god" is simple: there's no need for one. Whether one exists or not is irrelevant. And atheism can accommodate all the variants of that: there are deist atheists who believe the odds are that there's a god of some sort, and draw a bright line between deism and theism on that basis. There's atheists who think it's possible to create a god, through technology, and statistically it's likely that's already happened.

So I see no need for a stronger response to "prove there is no god" than "it's not atheism that needs to provide a proof".
+Steven Sudit FWIW, I'm a Christian who does not consider it acceptable to say horrible things about atheists, or any other person whose religion is not mine. I would, in fact, argue that it is un-Christian to say horrible things about people in most situations. You've probably seen this by now, but this summarizes it well:

I also don't consider it taboo to criticize religion, provided that the criticisms are well-founded and worth airing. As with any point of contention, some of the criticisms I've had leveled against my beliefs have been poorly formed, based on misunderstanding, or even ad hominem, and that's always frustrating, but if there are concerns I need to address when it comes to what I've chosen to believe, I want to know about them, not push them away.
+Peter da Silva Ah, OK – now I understand your position better. I definitely agree that atheists are under no more obligation to prove their point than theists. (And I'm frankly suspicious of anyone from either side who claims to be able to do so...)
+Steven Sudit I understood that, but I always feel compelled to pipe up when I can and say that whatever the prevailing behavior may be either locally or in a broader scope, there are reasonable people who can respect viewpoints they don't hold.
+Steven Sudit Certain types of everything encourage assholery. I think that there are just a lot of assholes in this world, and they will happily use whatever comes to hand as a means to enact it.
+Steven Sudit I'd even go further: the large majority of Christians of almost all denominations seem to be decent, kind people. In fact, the large majority of people seem to be relatively decent and kind. Assholes, unfortunately, are much louder than everyone else and so appear to be far more common than they are. When we don't know many members of a particular group, all we have to go on is the signal they transmit, which is disproportionately dominated by jerks, and so the groups we encounter the least often frequently seem to be the most assholic. But even most conservative, fundamentalist sects don't end up with an actual majority of them. (With a few exceptions)
And even then, Westboro Baptist Church, though its whole congregation seems to be in agreement, is widely condemned by the majority of Christians as not actually holding Christian values, so once again they are a minority in their larger group. To some extent, as we've discussed already, they have a right to believe what they do, but it's pretty trivial to point out where their beliefs break from scripture.
+James Finstrom - Unless you're using the word "logic" in a different way than I am, it's completely independent of anyone's opinions or beliefs. A logical fallacy is a logical fallacy, regardless of who commits it or what purpose the argument is supposed to serve. Lee Strobel's writings are full of logical errors, as are the writings of most popular authors on religion and politics (and yes, on both sides). You're absolutely right that many people ignore logic in favour of opionion when it comes to religion and politics. If they didn't, Christians would be embarrassed by Lee Strobel's writings. (Indeed, I knew a few ex-Christians who were so embarrassed by his writings and those of William Lane Craig that they left Christianity just to dissociate from them. This isn't a one-sided thing either: I know atheists who find the New Atheists embarrassing, but they sort of have no place to go.)

Since the majority of people are not trained in logic and can't tell a good argument from a poor one, they tend to reject good arguments that clash with their existing beliefs and accept and propagate poor arguments that confirm them. This leads to a situation where the majority of arguments that are popularly propagated on both sides are complete bullocks (to use Yonathan's word).
+Andrew Fallows +Steven Sudit Westboro was one of the examples that popped into my head under "a few exceptions." But this is also a group that believes in universalist dystheism, so they're really theologically closer to Cthulhu cultists than to the mainstream of Christianity.

+David Yonge-Mallo It's worth remembering that apologia (rational arguments for particular religions) was a medieval phenomenon, started mostly by scholars on either side of the Christian / Muslim divide and grown into a sport. It was never really meant to convert the masses.
+Peter da Silva - You wrote: <The case against "god" can be made in one sentence: exceptional claims require exceptional evidence, and there isn't any, so it's up to the religious to make the case for a "god".>

I'm not sure it's quite that simple, since whether "there isn't any" is precisely the point under dispute. Religious believers do claim that they have extraordinary evidence. From their perspective, the situation is that they have plenty of evidence, which atheists erroneously reject or discount.
find it so interesting reading views and educational comments about this subject...religion? well, so much too big for my small brain to digest the whole big universe of discussion. only my views....UP TO PRESENT MOMENT OF TIME NOT EVEN ONE YET PROVE ANYTHING BEYOND THE CAPACITY OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE MYSTERY OF LIFE, so as about who is right or wrong about the CREATION. +James Finstrom 50-50 I agree with you...(re.we dunno)
+Steven Sudit - Note that "find the New Atheists (the people -- and specifically the small group of writers at the movement's core) embarrassing" is not remotely the same thing as "ashamed of New Atheism (the idea or movement)".

Have you read the writings of the New Atheists? I agree with their purported ideal of countering bad ideas through rational criticism, but that ideal existed long before they did, and not only that, but they don't actually do what they claim they do. People find them embarrassing because much of their writing is just as misinformed and many of their arguments just as irrational as those of the religionists they criticise. Indeed, it's precisely people who have always maintained that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises" who find the New Atheists the most embarrassing: not because of what they claim they're trying to do, but because they do it so very badly when others before them have already done a much better job.
+David Yonge-Mallo Well, also because a number of the New Atheists seem to be kind of jerks. Many of them seem to delight in showing off their utter contempt for anyone who is not an atheist, and to be as rude as they can possibly be in the process.

But I should say that I find many of the core ideas of the New Atheism to be deeply antisocial. The suggestion that religion should be "countered, criticized and exposed" seems to mean in practice that they should attempt to heckle, deride, or convert people at every opportunity. In the past few years, the overwhelming majority of people, at least 4:1, who tried to convert me in matters of religion have been atheists; and frankly, that's kind of weird.
Most of the time I don't much mind being a doormat atheist, because there are other things to do. Most, but definitely not all of the time.
+Steven Sudit I've noticed that whenever people express sentiments that differentiate them from doormats, people tend to call them all sorts of things. Did you ever read any of +Amy Sundberg's articles on that subject?
+Steven Sudit - it is only one of the many reasons about mystery of my own life. And I am happy of not knowing everything, for the more innocent person is, the more happier he/she be.
+Steven Sudit- Sir, if each of us knows why and what we are questioning about we be all smart enough to know the definite answers for anything and everything around us. We are only given a little brain enough to eat our ego in the end of the day. Genius people of the past and of present often called fools! What gives me a pleasure is by knowing that some of best writings, discoveries and inventions were written and done by those been branded fools.
I respect your views. Peace to you and I rest my case. thank you.
+Steven Sudit - You wrote: "Old Atheism was exemplified by Gould's NOMA..."

That's a very revisionist, and very wrong, view of the history of atheism. The term NOMA dates from the late 1990s at the earliest. Perhaps the idea is older, but it can hardly be said to "exemplify" atheism at any time in history, ever. Ever read H. L. Mencken? Mark Twain? Robert Ingersoll? Confrontational skepticism of religion is hardly "new". I don't think most atheists paid any attention to Gould's NOMA until Dawkins made a point out of drawing attention to it.
+Steven Sudit I don't know nearly enough of the history of atheism to comment on that part. I am familiar with Gould's notion of non-overlapping magisteria, and have always been quite fond of the idea, but from the perspective of a scientist and a theist rather than from that of an atheist. I can certainly imagine that there were other social trends going on which led to that idea becoming less popular among atheists than the harsher ideas of the New Atheists.

But as far as "converting people to what," alas, there are quite a few atheists who seem to believe that it is their duty to either convert everyone else to atheism, or failing that to manifest their contempt for them in as vivid a manner as possible. These are assholes who happen to be atheists and use atheism as a vehicle for assholery, in much the same way that other assholes use various religions; but in the past few years, I seem to have encountered a surprising number of them. (That may be a side effect of living in Silicon Valley, where the atheist population is higher and thus, statistically, one would also expect the atheist asshole population to be higher, while the religious asshole population is proportionately lower. Some days, I think I shoulda been a proctologist.)
+Steven Sudit Oh, I understand the whole atheists versus creationists business. What I find unfortunate is that so many people assume that everyone in the world is one or the other.

One thing which I've noticed and which has surprised me is that several of my atheist and agnostic friends believe that they've never actually known anyone religious. They're wrong, of course, but their perception of religious people is so dominated by the creationist stereotype that it never occurs to them that someone who isn't foaming at the mouth might actually be quite devout. And they'll then proceed to say all sorts of unpleasant (and quite untrue) things about religion, just sort of assuming who their audience is.

I've seen the exact same behavior in reverse, of course, but when someone bases their beliefs so deeply on rationality, I tend to just expect more of them. :)
+Steven Sudit Well, sure. Most atheists are pretty decent people and don't like being jerks to people for no reason. :)
I kind of like being a jerk to people for good reasons. I admit to overdoing it occasionally. I'm working on that.
+David Yonge-Mallo Sorry, I missed your comment. Let me try and address it: you write "Religious believers do claim that they have extraordinary evidence."

They are welcome to present that claim, and argue it, and present their evidence, but if people reject it they don't get the recourse of demanding proof from those who reject it, because they're still the ones making the extraordinary claims.

It's also important to note that different religions are making different extraordinary claims. Their proofs contradict each other, and it's not the atheists... by and large... who they should be concerned about. If you want to build a mosque in New York City, or a church in Tehran, it's rarely the atheists who are trying to stop you.

About all you get from atheists is the far more reasonable demand that religions not be given special privileges. And even voicing that idea gets one tagged as a "militant atheist".
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