Hammer

VorJack writes:

If Atheists have a God, the way many believers insist we have, it isn’t science. The God of atheists is Truth (or Reality, or the Universe, depending on how you want to spin it.) Science, reason and logic are only the means of finding the Truth, but they’re also the only means we’ve found that work.

We are constantly appalled at the things that people want to slap the label of “Truth” on. Time and again we find people declaring something to be Truth on the flimsiest of pretexts. A reference to a holy work, or some revelation in the distant past or some deep inner feeling.

Yes, we know that there are many arguments to be had. Many religions have theology that is internally consistent, and many have theology that is quite beautiful. But when you hold them up to the light of Reality, it’s hard not to feel that your looking at some fancy decoration painted on a stick.

And so the temptation is always there to take up the hammer and join in the long tradition of idol smashing.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • dave crowther

    I cannot agree more about the danger of calling “Truth” things that hang on such “flimsy pretext”. What I do not agree with is the idea that an atheist’s search for Truth should be so qualitatively different from that of a person who believes (read Hopes) there is a man behind the curtain (so to speak, of course). Verifying a God is much more problematic, for instance, than verifying gravity (even though, you really cannot see either one); and perhaps there is just no way to verify God, for that matter. But I think that the skeptic and the prudent believer are in equal positions relative to Truth (as it was used in the post): both are limited to observations, thoughts, patterns, prediction, to prove or verify anything. Even those things so universally agreed upon after years of good scientific and other observational analysis are not literally prooven; in that what we think of as proof is really just a way of saying a thing appears or acts or happens the same way every time we observe or test it- there is no way to say that the ball will always fall toward the earth in the future, even though it has always done so when tested in the past. It just happens so often that it is practical and useful to BELIEVE it will happen. Do you see what I’m getting at? Am I making a logical jump or mistake that I don’t see? let me know

    • Daniel Fincke

      sigh, I just lost a whole lot of writing. Suffice it to say, what you are spelling out is a strong agnosticism on all metaphysical questions and even some scientific ones. By agnosticism I refer to either the view that there is not sufficient evidence to decide one way or another on a given question or, even stronger, that in principle a particular question could not be settled one way or the other with adequately compelling rational evidence.

      This makes you an agnostic. I think we should call your prudent believer an agnostic theist and call an agnostic atheist someone who sees the same situation of inconclusive evidence as the agnostic theist does but opts not to believe. By contrast gnostic theists and gnostic atheists would be those who actually think there is sufficient reason to make a knowledge claim about the existence or non-existence of God.

      So, then, the question is whether the choices of the agnostic theist and the agnostic atheist are equally justified. For the beginnings of my answer to that question, two of my most recent posts are where you should read next: http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2010/06/07/disambiguating-faith-how-alack-of-belief-in-god-vs-belief-god-does-not-exist/ and http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2010/06/21/disambiguating-faith-why-faith-is-unethical-or-in-defense-of-the-ethical-obligation-to-always-proportion-belief-to-evidence/

      I will say one specific point though. A non-sensible physical law or force is not as shakily supported by evidence as a belief in a God is. They may both be technically invisible but the one is clearly observable in the form of specifiable mathematically predictable regularities and the other one is not. All that is necessary for belief in gravity to be justified is for the world to reliably behave as the theory predicts it will. The theory of God makes no such concrete predictions. If God meant some set of observable, regularly recurring phenomenon in nature which took place whenever certain conditions were met, then we could easily test for God by asking whether that phenomenon indeed is observed to regularly recur whenever certain conditions were met. But God’s not that clearly specifiable and it’s part of why most ideas of God strike many atheists as not even meaningful.

  • Andrew

    So atheists don’t have emotions which inform them of the truth of something? And their rhetoric is completely dispassionate to the point where logic and reason are not fully objective? (And was not this realization the beginning of the shift from modernity to post-modernity?)

    I’m not trying to be “anti-atheist” at all in asking these questions, but rather trying to suggest that truth takes many forms. While some of those forms may be more scientifically verifiable than others, the denial (or to put it less adversarially, the consistent omission) that other kinds of communication exist and reveal truths should not be forgotten. In fact, remembering this may enable the atheist to deny an almighty focus of worship, whether it be God, truth, a nation-state, or anything else, therby strengthening his or her own atheism.

    Then again, I’m not an atheist, so maybe I got that wrong.

    • Daniel Fincke

      <blockquote>So atheists don’t have emotions which inform them of the truth of something? </blockquote>
      I work out a somewhat long account of the ways that we should and should not consult our hearts in our rational deliberations in the post  Disambiguating Faith: Heart Over Reason, so I would be delighted to hear your thoughts after reading that post in addition to this one.  The gist of it is that while the emotions might be wise in hinting at a truth lying in one direction or in another, or might sensitize us to various aspects of a situation to which we might be inattentive without emotions, ultimately if they are not confirmable through reasons they are nothing more than feelings.

      Now some truths are, of course, about feelings.  If I feel sad, I learn immediately from the feeling that I am sad.  (Though even this might be more complicated than that since sometimes we might not even realize what we are feeling—am I sad or angry?)  But if a feeling tells me I’m going to heaven, I do not exactly learn I’m going to heaven on that account.

      A feeling of suspicion whenever I am around someone may clue me in to something about them that I’m not fully conscious of and cannot articulate.  In this way my feeling of suspicion can lead to a conscious investigation.  But, again, I need to be able to justify my suspicions with evidence.  If it turns out that my suspicion of this person is really just that I am uncomfortable because he is a different skin color than I am, then it’s not a veridical emotion but a prejudicial one and does not tell me anything about him but only about my own racism.  If I realize that he makes me uncomfortable instead because of something threatening in his posture or his ways of moving, then I would have to investigate whether these seem like symptoms of an aggressive personality or whether a less hostile interpretation of his nature is more likely.

      Sometimes no complicated deliberation is necessary.  I see a bear charging at me, I feel fear and simultaneously also have a full cognitive justification to avoid getting eaten as part of that fear.

      The next line you make is worth replying to with a new post. Expect it shortly. I’m not sure I understand what the second paragraph is about. Can you clarify it?

  • Andrew

    And I meant “fully objective,” not “not fully objective.” Oops lol.

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    I think theists also want their God to be the truth and reality. (Ultimate reality anyway.)

    Perhaps this is only what people should ideally value and strive for. Atheists can be just as irrational and silly as theists can. Let’s face it. Philosophy isn’t that popular. People think it’s a bunch of hooey for the most part and know little to nothing about it. I wouldn’t expect many people to display a high level of wisdom considering their attitudes.


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