We Get Mail…

[Pushed to the top of the page due to interesting updates…]
Ah, the perils of growing traffic! I get e-mail. Usually those are nice questions about sleep disorders, or requests for link exchanges. But today I got a christianist. Oy vey!
I hope I never get PZ’s traffic – I guess he gets dozens of those a day! And I don’t even bash religion on my blog every day like he does.
Below the fold is the exchange so far:

to me:
Sir, you say that you are atheist? Meaning you KNOW God doesn’t exist. This would imply that you have absolute knowledge right? You and I both know as scientists there are few absolutes and therefore since you don’t have absolute proof God doesn’t exist, you would be more correct in calling yourself agnostic instead meaning you do not know if God exists or not.
to chuck:
You mixed up your definitions of ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic’. You are using the term ‘agnostic’ to denote the meaning of the word ‘atheist’. If God came down and revealed himself and explained exactly how he did what he did and let us test his claims, I would not stubbornly claim he did not exist any more – that would be dogmatic and foolish. It is the ‘agnostics’ who stubbornly inists that the whole issue is unknowable – thus they are the ones who refuse to use rational thinking.
An atheist just sees there is no data and no logic to assume there is a God – the chances that God exists are very close to zero – so, until there is a change in that probablity, it is safe to assume there is no God – a very day-to-day way scientists treat all data and all scientific findings. Especially when a proposition has been tested millions of times over thousands of years and NEVER produced one iota of data.
to me:
I beg to differ sir, my definitions of the terms are in fact quite concise. At any rate, how has the “proposition” of the existence of God ‘been tested millions of times over thousands of years and revealed no data’? How do you “test” for God?
to chuck:
Concise does not mean correct. Billions of words have been spilled on “proofs of God” and none of the argumens ever held water, nor was ever any evidence offered. Frankly, I am tired of the same-old-same-old arguments about the existence of God. There are just no Invisible Friends in the Sky and likelihood of one suddenly appearing are approaching zero. I do not say they are zero, but that they are approaching zero, which you like to call ‘agnosticism’ but which is actually the position of every ‘atheist’: show me the proof and I’ll change my mind. I am not going to waste my time searching for it – the chances of sucess of such an endeavor are so miniscule, I think there are much more worthwhile pursuits.
I am more interested in understanding why so many people persist in this delusion. What is the deep psychological need to believe in unicorns, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and various gods and Gods? Is the parental indoctrinating influence so strong that millions of adults are incapable of shedding it throughout their lifetimes? Is it a matter of deep emotional insecurity? Is it an evolved mechanism for ensuring stronger in-group unity (which for the past couple of thousand years had led to practically all the wars, carnage and torture in history, as the members of the in-group slaughter the members of the out-group, suggesting that once the population size increases beyond the initial few thousands of humans on the planet, the trait of religiosity becomes maladaptive)? Those are much more important and interesting questions than the silly question about the existence of God.
P.S. I am a busy person. I’ve been through these kinds of debates a million times. I know from experience that my chances of changing your mind are practically nil as your mind is not in this to be changed. So, let’s just cut this off right now before I get completely bored. I have my own kids. I don’t need additional arguments with adults who never managed to outgrow their childhood follies.
There’s more:
to me:
Kind sir,
No childhood follies here. I do agree however with your points on the nonsense of Easter Bunnies, Satna Claus, etc. And I also agree that a lot of brutality and outright misuse of people has been perpetuated in the name of religion and “church folk” however none of that detracts from the belief. I will see you on that day of judgement and you will recocnize me and I will recognize you and I will acknowledge you and have a deep sadness for you and your eternal separation from God. “This life without God is hellish, the afterlife without God, that’s what hell is.” I pray that you meet God while he can still be found.
You are not too busy to boast of your atheism on the net so you are not too busy to face questions about it. If you don’t want challenges then don’t allow yourself to be open to them. Additionally, you might want to let your kids educate you instead. Their reasoning would be about as logical as yours.
to chuck:
If you could have found an actual recent post of mine “boasting” of my atheism, you would have posted a comment there instead of e-mailing me, wouldn’t you? Just because it states clearly in my “about section” on the top of my blog that I am an atheist does not mean I bash religion on my blog every day, do I? Apart from you providing me with the excuse, I rarely ever write about the nonsense that is religion. There are more important and interesting things to write about.
My kids are smart and they think for themselves. The world would be a better place if all parents taught their kids to think, instead of indoctrinating them with religious silliness. Unfortunately, we cannot (and would not) prevent parents from doing this kind of child abuse. Thus, we have to do the hard thing – try to undo the damage already done by trying to teach the adults, in college and elsewhere, that it is OK to chellenge one’s parent’s beliefs, that it takes more strength to admit “I was wrong” and become rational than it is to go around with machismo and push religious nonsense on other people, that only by going through the painful effort of letting go of their most cherished beliefs they can grow up to be adults.
Unfortunately, it is hard work to get people to do this. The social environment is far too nice to religion, giving it a veneer of respect it does not deserve, thus making our job harder. Thus, apart from one-by-one efforts to get individuals to see the light, we also have to try to make our job easier by changing the culture, to make it normal to laugh at religion and the religious, to shame them into thinking for themselves, to start looking at the world as it is instead of wishful thinking. This is why atheists have to be much louder than they normally are.
A world in which parents do not indoctrinate their kids with religion would be a world without religion. A world in which religion is sneered upon would be a world without religion. That would be a much better world. Not perfect – just better.
People do nasty things to each other for various reasons. Some of those are caused by their religion. Others are just justified by their religion and would necessitate alternative sources of excuse in a religion-less world. Coming up with alternative excuses is hard, as such excuses tend not to have even as much respectability as religion now enjoys.
Let’s hope religion itself gets to that point that it cannot be used as an excuse any more. Then we can all start working together on making the best of our lives here (instead of waiting for some heaven that will never come), making this planet a better place to live for all of us and our kids – not just the members of the in-group, but ALL of us.
We’ll both rot in the ground soon enough. I am trying to do something positive with my life while I am alive – make the world a better place here and now in some way I can. What is your contribution (no, do not answer, this conversaiton is over, do not respond)?
to me:
So many words, so little content. Take care sir.

12 responses to “We Get Mail…

  1. You misdefine “agnostic”. An agnostic says that the issue is at present unknowable, not that it will always be unknowable. That is not irrational – to say that a question that cannot be answered is not the same as saying it can never under any conceivable circumstances be answered.

  2. Isn’t there the ol’ epistemologically agnostic/metaphysically atheist compromise out there somewhere?
    We could call them agnostheists.


  3. Atheism and agnosticism are at the very leasy substantially overlapping sets. Bora self-identifies as an atheist (as I do) while holding to tenets that perfectly fit the definition of agnostic as used by Ingersoll (arguably the Dawkins of his day, and thus someone we would readily call ‘atheist’), Russell, etc.
    IMHO, the definitions of both have changed somewhat over the past century. If Huxley were writing today I think he would be less hesitant about accepting the label ‘atheist’, since it is commonly used (by atheists) to mean just what he meant by agnosticism.
    ‘Agnostic’, on the other hand, has lost value – while some (like John above) continue to use the label in its original sense, it is often used in a watered-down way to express uncertainty about the existance or nature of God while still giving special benefit to Western ideas of God (or to certain priveleged Eastern spiritualities). By this I mean that many who self-identify as ‘agnostic’ mean they are agnostic about God in a way they would never be about, say, Zeus… which represents a shift away from the deep skepticism of the agnostics of a century ago.

  4. I think ‘outeast’ captured it well. After all, this conversation got moved (by my act of posting it here) from high-speed e-mail back-and-forth with a typical non-thinking theist to a slower blog-commenting thread where the participants are more thoughtful and do not need a quick sledgehammer hit on the head and oversimplifications.

  5. I prefer to consider agnostic an adjective and atheist a noun. In this context, I consider agnostic to be a descriptive term for the condition of one’s subjective perception of the truth about some matter, especially the question of whether a supernatural consciousness exists. If your beliefs are such that you admit to the possibility of such a being, I would describe those beliefs as agnostic. If you consider the reality of such being to be improbable, I would also consider you an atheist. Nearly all atheists, if rational, have agnostic perceptions. Few Christians have agnostic beliefs. Subjectively, they claim no doubt as to their perception of the truth in regards to their claim.

  6. I hate when they just make up their own definitions, accord to you a position to which you don’t subscribe, then blast it with a virtual tsunami of ignorance, a tidal wave of logical fallacies.
    That just pisses me off, and I tend to just smack them down and spend far too much time thinking up ways to piss them off right back.
    Immature? Sure, but deeply satisfying all the same.
    Just so y’know.

  7. Bora,
    you say that you are Jewish? Meaning that you NEVER eat shrimp. But you wrote an article about the comsumption of shrimp. This would imply that you are a hypocrate. You are not really Jewish. You need to accept Jesus in to you’re heart. Jesus loves you and wants you to be saved. I KNOW because I am a Christian and I have 7 PhD’s.
    Chok (pronounced “joke”)

  8. Bora,
    you say that you are Jewish? Meaning that you NEVER eat shrimp.

    No, he says he’s Jewish, meaning that his mother is Jewish. Being Jewish is an inherited identity (matrilineal to boot,) to some extent distinct from religious observance. Eating shellfish does not make one non-Jewish, it makes one non-observant.

  9. Chok (pronounced “joke”)

    Damnit, I need to give up responding w/o reading the last line.

  10. I just wanted to thank you for adding me (The Insomnia Blog) to your New Blogroll. I didn’t notice until now.

  11. I hope my readers (at least those who come for clock/sleep related stuff) are also your regular readers. I need to remember to link to you more often!

  12. Pierce R. Butler

    Chuck, where are you? Speak to us!
    Maybe there is no Chuck – just some words Bora made up.
    I guess that attitude makes me achuckic…