Atheism!

All about fearless pursuit of the Facts wherever they lead!

Except when they don’t lead to where atheism likes.  Then you just clam up and move on without apology, retraction, or acknowledgement that you were totally wrong.

Update: The author gets around to admitting his mistake a month later. Hostile Minion then *immediately* demands to know whether I will note it. Social skills galore on display.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    Yikes. That first link is nasty. I know you like to take potshots at atheists from time to time, but the tenor of that one post eclipses anything else. The writer and commenters are so clearly hateful and unhappy.

    • Claude

      Who knows how hateful and unhappy these people are, but I agree that the post by this Eberhard guy was inaccurate and in very poor taste.

      The sniping between Christians and atheists on Patheos is extremely acrimonious and inflammatory. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    • Mike

      The poison on that blog has to mean it’s rotten.

  • Benjamin

    ‘Grape juice’? He doesn’t even know Roman Catholics use real wine?

  • Alexander Anderson

    Ugh. This is why I don’t venture into the Atheist portal very often. Their posts about the Church are almost entirely infamitory vitriol– when it isn’t sanctimonious look-at-the-poor-stupid-suckersism. The whole Manichean atheists-smart, believers-dumb outlook gets so, so old and nearly incoherent when they find believers that don’t seem to be dumb, so they must be openly evil. I’m glad the commenters took time to remind me that all of my charitable work is worthless because I’ve never handed out condoms like those living saints Bill and Melinda Gates. That was nice.

  • Cindy Coleman

    That first link was vile, shows the kind of invincible ignorance we are up against in the world today. Talk about not having your facts straight, saying that the Gates have ” managed to do more in ten years in Africa than the Catholic church has done in 100.” All of the education, health care, refugee care, care for orphans and on and on an on that has come by way of the Catholic church is as if it had never existed to these haters. The image I have in my mind is of a child with their hands over their ears going “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah….don’t tell me nuthin’ I don’t wanna hear.” Maybe some could do a Wikipedia article on the “Good Works of the Catholic Church in Africa” :)

    • Jon W

      This is why arguing with people on the internet is nearly useless. Far better to be that Catholic who comes to someone’s mind when his atheist friends start gloating about how hateful, bigoted, stupid, and closed-minded Catholics are – the one who makes him stop and think, “Actually, the ones I know are pretty Christ-like.”

  • Scott

    You could use an archives link on this blog to access your older comments.

  • Joe

    Why do atheists even bother having a forum. If I didn’t believe in God, I probably wouldn’t care enough to talk about it. Same thing with American Atheists. Why waste money on something so pointless?

    • David Hart

      The difference is that people that do believe in gods are actively trying, and sometimes succeeding, to get laws passed based on their religious beliefs, or standing in the way of efforts to relieve real human suffering based on the supposed will of almost-certainly-imaginary beings. Also, note the phenomenon of religious privilege – even if a religious majority don’t manage to get their specific beliefs enshrined in law, they can still make it uncomfortable to be a member of a minority religion, or of no religion, without even realising they’re doing it. This is why it is important for those who don’t believe in gods to be vocal in their criticism of religions.

      There’s a reason people who don’t believe in gods focus on the supernatural beliefs that cause the most harm, and don’t tend to waste time on beliefs that, while equally implausible, cause no distortion to public policy. For instance, most people that don’t believe in gods also don’t believe in Santa Claus or astrology. But the believers in Santa Claus are almost entirely children, and thus have little political impact, and astrology is sufficiently amorphous that it’s specific claims are difficult to wield against anyone else’s rights. There is as much good evidence in support of the existence of gods as there is in support of the existence of Santa Claus or the claims of astrology, but harms people cause because of their god-beliefs massively outweigh harms stemming from Santa Claus-belief or astrology-belief, which justifies atheists talking about gods more.

      Also, quite a lot of atheists think that reality matters – i.e. it is important to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. To say that we should be unconcerned about our fellow human beings believing falsehoods, even if those falsehoods are not directly causing harm at the moment, is a dereliction of our ethical duties, because you can never tell in advance when some particular false belief is going to collide with a new state of reality in such a way as to cause harm.

      • David Hart

        I misplaced an apostrophe in the above comment. Can the commenting software really not be able to provide an edit function?

      • Theodore Seeber

        “Also, quite a lot of atheists think that reality matters – i.e. it is important to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. ”

        Then why believe the falsehood that the universe can exist without a creator?

        That alone leads me to believe that most atheists would not know reality if it came up to their door and rang the doorbell.

        • David Hart

          Wait … do you have good evidence that the universe requires a creator in order to exist? You would be in line for several Nobel prizes if you could establish that hypothesis.

          If, on the other hand, you don’t, and you’re just presuming that the universe requires a creator in order to exist because your religion requires you to assent to that claim, then I would ask you to try to be less quick to accuse others of not knowing reality.

          For the record, my own position is this: it is conceivable that the universe requires a creator to exist, but no one has yet come up with a convincing demonstration of this claim, and no one has yet been able to provide good evidence that such a creator exists (whether or not the continued existence of such a thing is necessary for the continued existence of the universe), or any convincing explanation of why such a creator wouldn’t itself need a creator, so the reasonable position is to assume, until further evidence becomes available, that the universe is perfectly capable of continuing to exist without supernatural assistance.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

            Wait … do you have good evidence that the universe requires a creator in order to exist? You would be in line for several Nobel prizes if you could establish that hypothesis.

            Considering it’s not a scientific claim – and unless there’s now a Nobel prize for philosophy, metaphysics and theology – you’re in error.

            There’s plenty of evidence, argument and otherwise that the universe requires a creator in order to exist. That you or others disagree is not compelling.

            Either way, should I take the lack of a Nobel prize for proving the truth of atheism to be evidence against it?

            For the record, my own position is this

            Wonderful. We disagree – many of us, for good reasons, or based on arguments and evidence.

            the universe is perfectly capable of continuing to exist without supernatural assistance.

            Ah, something you’re believing without good evidence, yes?

            • David Hart

              Of course the question of whether the universe requires a creator is a scientific question – I don’t understand how it could not be. Science is concerned with figure out how reality works. Either we live in a reality that requires a creator, or we don’t.
              Of course, it may turn out to be a question that we will never be able to get a handle on, scientifically, but that doesn’t make Seeber’s claim unscientific. To call a claim “not scientific” is really just to say “people who make this claim should be exempt from having to demonstrate good reasons to think that it’s true”, and we shouldn’t be prepared to do that, if we are being intellectually honest.

              If you could show that the universe requires a creator, you’d certainly be up for a Nobel for physics – because establishing that claim would totally overturn our understanding of cosmology. You’d be a strong contender for the peace prize, since religious differences exacerbate so many of the world’s conflicts, and if you could get a handle on the nature of the creator, you’d have good evidence to present to the people who believe in (and are prepared to fight for) a different sort of creator that they were mistaken; as the evidence piles up, it will eventually become as silly to fight over religion as it would be to fight over how many hydrogen atoms are in an oxygen molecule. You’d be up for one in medicine if the creator turns out to be a theistic one that can hear prayers and supernaturally heal people, obviously, since we could start to study how to maximise the effectiveness of prayers-for-healing on the creator. You might even be up for one in chemistry if you could begin to get to grips on what the creator was made of.

              I’ll concede you probably wouldn’t get one in literature.

              “There’s plenty of evidence, argument and otherwise that the universe requires a creator in order to exist. That you or others disagree is not compelling.”

              Well, it is compelling evidence that the ‘evidence, argument and otherwise’ is not compelling, since I and many others are not compelled by it (and since we’re on cosmology here, you ought to be more worried than you seem by the fact that top level scientists study the nature and origins of the universe are significantly less likely to believe in gods than the population average) – and since you’re the one arguing not just that there happens to be a creator, but that a creator is necessary for a universe to exist (a claim that you have merely asserted; you haven’t actually linked to any experiments or research demonstrating the necessity of a creator), you have the burden of proof here. Like I say, a creator may conceivably turn out to be necessary for the universe’s existence, but until this is demonstrated, it should not be assumed.

              “should I take the lack of a Nobel prize for proving the truth of atheism to be evidence against it?”

              Of course not – atheism is simply the non-belief in a specific set of hypotheses. Should we take the lack of a Nobel prize for proving the truth of the non-existence of fairies to be evidence in favour of the existence of fairies? And if not, how are gods in any way different from fairies in this analysis?

              “Ah, something you’re believing without good evidence, yes?”

              Not really. I have pretty good evidence that the universe exists. I’m experiencing it right now. I have seen no evidence at all that supernatural phenomena are real, let alone alleged supernatural phenomena that are necessary for the universe to exist. One might just as well turn it around and say that you believe without good evidence that the Sun doesn’t need to be kept alight by Huitzilopochtli in order to keep shining. You can’t disprove the hypothesis that Huitzilopochtli is necessary for keeping the Sun alight (and I’ll admit that it’s conceivable, though he may have relaxed his requirement for a constant supply of freshly-sacrificed human hearts since the old days), just as you can’t disprove the hypothesis that a supernatural creator is necessary for keeping the universe up and running, but in both cases it is the person who is proposing the supernatural phenomenon who has to back up their assertions with good evidence.

              • Mark Shea

                Of course the question of whether the universe requires a creator is a scientific question – I don’t understand how it could not be.

                The doom of the materialist. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                David Hart says:
                Of course the question of whether the universe requires a creator is a scientific question – I don’t understand how it could not be.

                YOS replies:
                The “universe” cannot be held hostage to your lack of understanding. So briefly: Natural science deals with the metrical properties of matter. No matter, no science. Creation is the joining of an essence to an act of existence. That is, on one side of the arrow is non-existence; on the other side existence. Science only deals with transformations, where existing matter in one form is changed to another form. (E.g., one form of ape evolves into another form of ape; sodium and chlorine are transformed into common salt; etc.)
                And of course, this fact of change in the material world was the starting point for Thomas’ First Way of proving the existence of God.

                The error made by devotees of scientism is to confuse the epistemological choice of methodology with an ontological fact about the world.

                David Hart says:
                Science is concerned with figure out how reality works.

                YOS reminds:
                No, with figuring out how metrical properties of matter work. There is more to reality than matter. There is mathematics, for example. And Heisenberg noted that “It has become clear that the desired objective reality of the elementary particle is too crude an oversimplification of what really happens.” So matter as such has proven elusive to science.

                David Hart says:
                To call a claim “not scientific” is really just to say “people who make this claim should be exempt from having to demonstrate good reasons to think that it’s true”,

                YOS answers:
                I claim that Pushkin was a great poet in the Russian language. I also call this claim “not scientific.” But how does this exempt me from providing reasons?
                I daresay Mr. Hart would call the claims of ID “not scientific.” Is he exempt from giving reasons why it is false?

                David Hart says:
                If you could show that the universe requires a creator, you’d certainly be up for a Nobel for physics

                YOS notes:
                Don’t see why. It’s not a question in physics. I’m not sure how it would overturn cosmology any more than the assertion that Beethoven was the composer would ruin a performance of the Waldstein Sonata. Besides, the core of that cosmology, the Big Bang, was first devised by a Catholic priest, Fr. Georges Lemaitre, who saw no problem. Fred Hoyle and other atheist scientists disparaged the Big Bang, which they thought too theological. (Hoyle later became friends with Lemaitre.) Of course, as Lemaitre pointed out, the beginning of a space-time continuum (Big Bang) is not equated with creation, which happens continuously every moment.
                Aside: Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253), in his ‘Treatise on Light’, wrote that out of nothing pre-existing, God had created a single point from which the entire physical order was derived by way of extension or expansion. The first dimensionless point was light which was one and simple, containing matter implicitly in its light form. Call it the medieval Big Bang.

                David Hart says:
                religious differences exacerbate so many of the world’s conflicts

                YOS informs:
                Nah. That’s just one of the myths fervently believed in by Late Moderns. One may as well say that many of the world’s conflicts are exacerbated by science, which provides the napalm, nerve gas, machine guns, and so on that make modern conflicts so much worse than the wars of King Louis. It’s not even quite true of Islam, although more difficult to discern. One often finds tribal rivalries and disputes over property rights at the root of matters. As the Irish used to say: “If the king of England woke up Hindu, the Irish would be facing Mecca by nightfall.”

                One need only list world conflicts — you know, examine empirical evidence?? Surely the Kaiser did not attack France in 1914 because of some latent Lutheran-Catholic dispute! Nor was the Great Northern War predicated on some doctrinal dispute between the Apostolic Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Orthodox Church of Russia.

                David Hart says:You might even be up for one in chemistry if you could begin to get to grips on what the creator was made of.

                YOS sighs:
                See? You haven’t the faintest clue. You think Existence Itself is “made of” some sort of matter.

                David Hart says:
                Well, it is compelling evidence that the ‘evidence, argument and otherwise’ is not compelling, since I and many others are not compelled by it

                YOS reminds:
                Few people are ever persuaded by logic and reason against their deeply-held emotional beliefs.

                David Hart says:you ought to be more worried than you seem by the fact that top level scientists study the nature and origins of the universe are significantly less likely to believe in gods than the population average

                YOS is not worried:
                There is nothing in the narrow technical training of a scientist that confers any expertise outside his technological specialty. The last generation of scientists grounded in the humanities — the Einsteins, the Poincares, the Machs, the Heisenbergs — are no more. Today, the most well-known scientists are not original thinkers, but i-dotters filling in the gaps of the great theories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — or entertainers, like Dawkins or Sagan.

                David Hart says:
                how are gods in any way different from fairies

                YOS smiles:
                How is Shakespeare different from Hamlet and Laertes?
                The Third Way concludes from contingent being to the necessity of something whose essence just is to exist. This necessary being is Existence Itself. It is impossible for Existence not to exist. A is A, and all that. And without Existence, no other thing can have being.

                David Hart says:
                I have pretty good evidence that the universe exists.

                YOS shakes his head:
                That is circular reasoning, a formal fallacy. What “evidence” can you possibly have without assuming an objective reality in the first place? (Keep in mind that the universe is not a thing, but the mereological sum of all things. It has no existence apart from the existence of the things that comprise it. )

                That you are experiencing reality right now is also circular reasoning. How do you know? Can you prove it scientifically? See Descartes for details.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        people that do believe in gods are actively … standing in the way of efforts to relieve real human suffering based on the supposed will of almost-certainly-imaginary beings.
        Say, who did start all those hospitals in Byzantium and Latin Christendom? And the orphanages? And the schools for the working class? Which organization today operates the largest international organization for charitable relief? Just curious.

  • kenneth

    The atheists can be a shrill lot, and given to fundamentalism of their own sort, and they have a fair reserve of contempt for pagans as well as Christians (though they don’t see us as a threat). Nevertheless, I’m in full agreement with them where church and state separation is concerned. If they, and the theocrats cancel each other out, we’ll have room for real religious freedom.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    Atheist combox commentors = collective affirmation of unbelief.
    If they have to keep affirming their unbelief, they might be so sure of it as they like to boast to their pals.

  • Will

    “Real compassion” is shipping tropical fruit to Africa?

  • IslandBrewer

    Actually, JT did admit his mistake. It took him a while because he was traveling. Are you going to update your post? If so, how long will that take?

  • IslandBrewer

    I also LOVE how you link to my comment on this post, but not to JT’s post! Awesome social skills yourself!

    • Mark Shea

      The guy could have written me himself. But he didn’t. I feel no burning need to check his blog. So I linked your comment, Mr. Minion. Good enough for me.

  • IslandBrewer

    Awaiting comments about how “shrill” I am in 3… 2 … 1 …

    • Mark Shea

      No need. You just proved it.

      • http://www.oram.us/young-earth-creationism-vs-old-earth-evolution-the-catholic-position/ Catholic Evolution!?

        Patheos won’t let me simply enter “ZING!” So everything else I’m writing is just padding.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

    Deleting comments Mark? Tsk, tsk.
    Notice how your comments and the comments from your readers remain on my site. But hey, you reacted faster than I, so good on ya. ;) If I’d known I could’ve just deleted detracting comments and be done with it…
    …I still wouldn’t have done it. Glad I don’t take my moral cues from you or any Pope.

    JT

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

      Glad I don’t take my moral cues from you or any Pope.

      No, just the higher up bishops in the Cult of Gnu.


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