It Circles Back to This Again

I’m a pretty fervent atheist. I don’t see how when people examine their religion, alongside with anyone else’s that they can possibly come to the conclusion that their specific religious text is in any way more viable than the others they have discredited. Of course I am then making the assumption that these people have critically examined their text…or have even looked at an opposing one.

Too much credit?

I suppose I might give too much credit to the fact that people have taken as much of a vested interest in this subject as I have. I dedicated a few years of my life to intense research and study. Now I realize that I’ve gotten pretty bad at my justifications for why I no longer believe because I found no point in further pursuing the subject. I don’t see the point in studying the historicity of any given religion if none of them can provide answers that are any more cogent than their competitors.

I guess it’s time for me to start researching again. I do get tired of the same old drivel but research can always be fun. History is not a hard science so there is always something to be gained out of it. Onward and upward?

About Paul Loebe
  • Randy Wanat

    Confirmation bias. There. Now, wonder about something else. :)

    • Paul Loebe

      hahahaha

  • Anton

    It’s no more circular than asserting that you believe God doesn’t exist, because there’s no evidence that God exists, because you’ve already decided that the only valid foundation for your beliefs is an empirical program that you already know won’t recognize evidence for anything that’s not empirical.

    I’m not saying you’re not justified in believing whatever you want. It’s just that we all go looking for ways to justify our beliefs after we’ve already decided what to believe.

    • busterggi

      Show me dependable, repeatable, corroborative non-empirical evidence and I’ll consider it.

      • Anton

        Right. You want people to provide you with something that you know they can’t provide, otherwise you’ll keep believing exactly what you already believe. It’s pretty much what we all do.

        What was Randy saying about confirmation bias?

        • Plutosdad

          We don’t “want” people to provide us with anything. Evangelists are the ones who want to convince us something is true. As they say the burden of proof is on the one trying to change the mind of the other, not on the receiver.

          So convince us if you really want, or don’t, many of us are concerned with other matters like our lives, helping others, etc.

        • busterggi

          Why can’t it be provided? Believers in the supernatural claim that prayers routinely heal the sick & even raise the dead, ghost hunters go on about repeated hauntings, ESPer’s should just be able to sit down and demonstrate their power as should psychics of all kinds

          No excuses when the belief in such things claims evidence exists – put up or shut up.

          • Anton

            Why can’t it be provided? Believers in the supernatural claim that prayers routinely heal the sick & even raise the dead, ghost hunters go on about repeated hauntings, ESPer’s should just be able to sit down and demonstrate their power as should psychics of all kinds

            No excuses when the belief in such things claims evidence exists – put up or shut up.

            Okay, but now you’re making assumptions that people who believe in God believe in all that other stuff. You’re well within your rights to expect people to provide evidence when they claim it exists.

          • busterggi

            “Okay, but now you’re making assumptions that people who believe in God believe in all that other stuff.”

            No, I didn’t say that. You’re ass-uming.

          • Sam Black

            So what evidence would you offer for the existence of a supernatural deity? If said deity never interacts with matter or energy such that we would be able to detect it, then what reason is there to take the claim for the existence of a supernatural deity as valid and true? Without evidence, ALL claims of faith are equally valid/invalid. Your claim for the existence of a christian god will carry no more weight than my claim that the world was created by the invisible pink unicorns that live in your butt.

          • Sam Black

            What assumption? Are you claiming that there are no people who believe in god who also believe in those various supernatural claims? You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one.

          • Ken

            I happen to believe in some of the listed things with out believing in the Christian’s god. He is simply stating that people who believe in such things are providing evidence for the supernatural while you are not.

          • Stev84

            We’re well within our right to demand evidence, when believers demand that their unproven beliefs be enshrined into the law for everyone to follow.

          • Randy Wanat

            Wrong. Merely that belief in all that other stuff is equally justified, based on all the available evidence, as belief in any god or gods. Logic and the apologist are ever adversaries.

          • Sven2547

            Okay, but now you’re making assumptions that people who believe in God believe in all that other stuff.

            I stopped taking you seriously right here. You’ve missed the point so very, very badly.

          • Deanjay1961

            So you’re not claiming any evidence exists? What are you on about, then?

        • Sam Black

          No, it isn’t about belief. The evidence supports a particular understanding of reality. Until new evidence suggests otherwise, maintaining that supported understanding is the most rational position possible. It would be irrational and quite unusual for anyone to suddenly change their understanding without some new form of evidence to base a change on.

        • Randy Wanat

          Evidence that cannot be produced and presented is not evidence by definition.

    • Plutosdad

      The difference we we don’t say “god does not exist’ we say “we don’t see evidence therefore don’t believe” those are two different statements. Many atheists feel pretty strongly he is not out there, but evidence and facts lead us, not our “faith” that he is not there.

      • Anton

        Many atheists feel pretty strongly he is not out there, but evidence and facts lead us, not our “faith” that he is not there.

        I didn’t mean to imply that the faith component of disbelief is as great as that of belief. All I meant to say is that we validate what we already believe with whatever support is handy. I think anyone who says he bases his belief or disbelief on a dispassionate and objective assessment of facts and evidence is overstating the case.

        • Randy Wanat

          Do you believe leprechauns exist?

          • Anton

            My point exactly, Randy. Have you done a conscientious review of evidence for leprechauns, or do you (like me) just consider the whole thing silly?

          • Randy Wanat

            There is no evidence known to exist that indicates the reality of leprechauns. What is silly is to believe things are true before evidence supporting that truth has been presented. Do leprechauns exist?

          • Anton

            There is no evidence known to exist that indicates the reality of leprechauns. What is silly is to believe things are true before evidence supporting that truth has been presented.

            Gee, you’ve really demolished the whole belief in leprechauns, Randy. But as I keep saying, we believe (and disbelieve) plenty of things without doing a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Let’s be real here.

          • Randy Wanat

            What faith was involved in the assessment of the evidence regarding leprechauns? Do leprechauns exist?

          • Anton

            Hey, Randy, how long did it take you to review all the research, observations, and equations that support the theory of the Big Bang?

          • Randy Wanat

            If you understood how the scientific method works, you wouldn’t ask such a question.

          • Anton

            It’s easier to understand amateurs making ridiculous overstatements about their familiarity with scientific evidence.

          • Randy Wanat

            I have no idea what you’re talking about. Worse, I fear you are in the same boat.

          • Sam Black

            Argument from authority?

          • Anton

            Argument from authority?

            Nope. An argument from authority would be saying “such and such is true because Einstein said so,” but I wasn’t asserting the truth of any claim on anyone’s authority.

            But if you’re just taking umbrage at being called an amateur, you’re in good company. Every 9/11 truther online considers himself an expert just because he’s surfed the Web so much he feels well within his rights to make claims about how burning skyscrapers should and shouldn’t collapse.

            Is that a club you really want to belong to?

          • Sam Black

            Perhaps, but I’m not buying it. But just be aware that your statements come across as belittling other’s arguments because they aren’t what you’d consider an experts. One’s familiarity with scientific evidence is not relevant to the discussion as long and the facts presented are supported by evidence. Stay focused on the evidence and you’ll be fine.

            Totally reasonable to point out a factual error. Quite another to imply that their statement can’t be correct because they haven’t met your standard for reviewing the evidence.

          • Randy Wanat

            Everybody who isn’t paid to do X is an amateur at X. If you meant novice, then I suppose you might have a point, as is every religious apologist who ever lived. Nobody can be an expert in the field of something for which there is no evidence of its existence. For that matter, everyone who says science books and Bibles are evidence of the veracity of the statements inside them is a novice academic.

          • Deanjay1961

            The argument from authority is only a fallacy if the argument is from inappropriate authority (and it really should be called argument from inappropriate authority). It’s not fallacious to appeal to Einstein’s authority on Relativity. It is fallacious to appeal to his (or anyone’s, really) authority on God.

          • Anton

            Deanjay, no appeal to authority can substitute for actually establishing the facts of a matter. But you’re right, the appeal to a named and acknowledged authority is standard (and acceptable) in discussions between amateurs.

            What I was denying is that I had made any appeal to authority whatsoever. I was merely pointing out that most of these amateur discussions involve vague references to “evidence” or “science” that aren’t any more substantial, or any less reverent, than appeals to Scripture.

          • Sam Black

            Go ahead. Please explain where anyone has made any statements about their familiarity with scientific evidence.

            Are you arguing that one must perform all of Newton’s experiments and equations themselves to claim an understanding of the concept of gravity or to cite said principles in any discussion on the movement of gravitational bodies?

          • Jason Wexler

            I recognize that apparently Anton is a troll or at least regarded as one, however as near as I can tell he makes a valid point, which makes me wonder which part of the scientific method are you suggesting is being violated by what appears to be a request to demonstrate you have actually studied or understood a particular claim? I recognize of course that data supersedes, so are you saying rather than reading the journals one ought to do the experiments themselves? That can be somewhat impractical without access to a radio telescope at least as far as the Big Bang is concerned.

            I spent more than a decade focused on my research to get my doctorates, so I know how much is out there for me to know and how little of it I actually do, and that’s only in two narrow subject fields. Certainly it must be reasonable for Anton to ask if you’ve done any reading or experimentation in science to validate your trust in it’s superiority; and just as certain it ought to have been simpler and more effective to just answer the question he asked in the first place.

            Oh and thus far no fossil evidence of diminutive hominims have been discovered in the many archeological digs at various Irish sidhe sites where one would most likely encounter Leprechaun remains if such existed; additionally neurobiology suggests that the 0.4 cc intercranial volume of a small rodent sized hominin would be incapable of producing a sufficiently useful prefrontal cortex where the higher brain functions would start to develop. So not only is there no fossil evidence of Leprechauns, there is reasonable evidence in biology which precludes the possibility of existence at all. In my experience as a scientist actually seeking out the information either by book research or experimentation always helps to validate a claim, it only took me two hours to review the archeological data on Irish sidhe sites, and another 20 minutes get up to speed on the theories of neurodevelopment which allowed me to rule out Leprechauns or at least sapient ones.

          • Randy Wanat

            Ah, but you forget that leprechauns are magical, and thus not subject to the constraints of the theory of evolution! And, their bodies disappear upon death, so there would be no fossils. Again, magic. This is the essence of the apologetics. Now that your inability to detect leprechauns has been explained away, they must exist, or, at the very least, the possibility of their existence is not a total absurdity, right? Of course not. But, that’s the approach of the apologist.
            As for the former question, I merely listed the reasons, individually, that the scientific method can be trusted. I wasn’t saying one must, or even should, do them all. I was just saying there are multiple means of verifying the veracity of the conclusions drawn by the scientific community. Because of that, it is an eminently reliable method for determining fact from fiction, and anybody who cares if their beliefs are correct can and should subject them to the method. Of course, one can always fabricate reasons for science to be unable to operate upon the subject of their beliefs, and that brings us back to the leprechaun dilemma.

          • Jason Wexler

            Randy,
            I don’t disagree with anything in your more serious second paragraph, and that leads me to believe in conjunction with what Anton replied to me, that all of us are in broad general agreement. So I am confused what the previous disagreement was about? My reading of the discussion/debate initially was that you were trying to use unimperical methods to champion empiricism, and that Anton was attempting to get you to see that.

            I think we all agree that empiricism is the best method, but I think it’s also important to recognize the vast amount of knowledge to be had makes it necessary to ocassionally spot check our views and ideas through the empirical scientific process, and to make sure we are actually in accordance with best current knowledge. I am sure you are aware that people can and do accept all sorts of claims religious, scientific or other without checking them… after all how many people will tell you they believe the Earth to be spherical or orbits the sun but can’t give a good reason for why that is the case. We have good reasons for believing the Earth is spherical and orbits the sun, but they aren’t always readily accessible to all people; conversely the most readily available evidence to most people should lead them to conclude that the Earth is stationary and flat. Is it really scientific empiricism for them to believe that the Earth is spherical and orbits the sun just because “my parents and third grade teacher say so”? Empiricism is a process, repeating its results even if they turn out to be right (and they don’t always) doesn’t make you any more empirical that the religious person claiming revealed knowledge from a holy book. I think that is what Anton was trying to get at.

          • Anton

            Bravo, Jason! Thanks for the input.

            My questions weren’t meant to assert that we don’t know anything, or that scientific inquiry is just like religious faith. If you’ve worked in empirical research, you understand how our knowledge of reality is socially constructed. You understand the laborious work involved, the politics, the vested interests, and all the other factors that constitute research. Science isn’t a thing, or an entity; it’s a method that people live and work with. It has a philosophical basis, and it has limits to its applicability. Treating it like a Mexican wrestling character in the culture war isn’t doing justice to the complexity of the process, or to the people who work in empirical research.

            I have no reason to doubt the theories expounded by mainstream science: Big Bang, unguided species evolution, climate change, the works. But it seems like many people don’t understand where our knowledge comes from, or the philosophical concepts involved in its production. The belief that reality is revealing itself to us, and we have the Truth about reality, is actually a lot like a religious belief.

            I deplore the way religious people trumpet their certainty about their beliefs in such an arrogant way. But judging by many of the comments here, they don’t have a monopoly on complacent certainty. I don’t think trading that set of easy answers for another bunch of easy answers, or replacing one unquestionable dogma for another, is anything to be proud of.

          • Jason Wexler

            Anton,
            My only criticism of what you say here is in your last sentence you say “unquestionable dogma”, I think it would be more accurate to say “unquestioned dogma”. Or perhaps even more accurate to say “replacing one unquestionable dogma with a different unquestioned dogma”, I know it’s a little thing but I think it makes a great deal of difference.

          • Anton

            Jason, I think it’s fair to say that “science” has become a dogma, at least in its idealized form. Sure, people are welcome to offer scientific evidence to try and challenge the conventional wisdom, but that’s taking for granted the exclusive validity of the method every bit as egregiously as a Scripturebot demanding someone have a Biblical basis for his opinion about Christianity.

            I’m not talking about trying to delegitimize the scientific method, just pointing out its reasonable boundaries. If someone suggests that there are some aspects of human endeavor science isn’t equipped to study, there are howls of outrage as well as accusations of using the Argument from Ignorance and God of the Gaps thinking. The assumption is that there are no questions that we can ask that can’t be framed as scientific matters.

            Sounds kind of dogmatic to me.

          • Jason Wexler

            My disagreement wasn’t with the word dogma but rather the word unquestionable. Also I think it would be wise to distinguish the scientific community from “lay” proponents of science. Consider for instance that most medical researchers and a surprising number of practicing physicians are willing to entertain the notion that the lipid hypothesis isn’t accurate or medically useful, but if someone who didn’t have M.D. or Ph.D. behind their name tried to explain that to say Bill Maher or another anti-obesity crusader, they would be accused of the kind of heresy you are suggesting, and in many cases even those with Ph.D. or M.D. behind their name would be accused of promoting a discredited “pet theory”. So I think you are better served by distinguishing between scientists and their “cheerleaders”.

          • Thierry Béchard

            “The belief that reality is revealing itself to us, and we have the Truth about reality, is actually a lot like a religious belief.”
            “trading that set of easy answers for another bunch of easy answers, or replacing one unquestionable dogma for another”

            Anton, I agree with what you’re saying but I would like to point out there is no such thing as certainty in science. Science gives you the best explanation we have on a certain subject, based on the evidence we have right now. It doesn’t claim to have The Truth about anything. Scientists observe a phenomenon, start with an hypothesis on what’s causing it, study, experiment, put it out for review, try and make predictions, try and falsify their hypothesis and when after this long process, if the hypothesis still stands, it may graduate to a theory, like the theory of evolution of the theory of gravity. Scientists in general are very open-minded and should new evidence appear that disputes some of the scientific explanations on any given subject, they would go through the process again and , it would be embraced as the new best explanation, until new evidence of the contrary comes up. There’s no dogma being replaced for another here. It’s honest – and humble – as scientists have no qualms is saying “I don’t know” about something they do not have an explanation for.

            How can you compare this with Christianity? Christians have an agenda: They have the bible who they believe is divinely inspired which they take as proof that their god exists and of course the bible is true because god inspired it… (hmm, just read that somewhere). They (arrogantly, not humbly I would argue) say that they already have the answers (it’s in the book) and now try by working backwards, try to match reality with the already acquired answers. Look at creationists for example. They use pseudo-science and dishonestly make it sound like real science to fool the masses of uneducated sheeple upon which they prey/pray by feeding them BS like intelligent design or irreducible complexity. They tell you that men walked with dinosaurs and that the earth is 6000 years old and eventually they fall back to tactics such as trying to poke holes in the theory of evolution or by asking questions like “What was before the Big Bang? You don’t know? Therefore God!” without the least bit of evidence.

            To conclude, I don’t think it’s fair to compare:
            “This is the best explanation until more evidence to the contrary / I don’t know but let me find out”

            to
            “I know it all, my book tells me so”

          • Thierry Béchard

            Yes, but what if Leprechauns are magical beings that only show themselves to the ones of believe in them? And what if by some magical powers (God given probably) they are very intelligent beings even with their small prefrontal cortices? If you could just keep an open-mind and “choose” to believe in them, they will eventually manifest themselves to you and you’ll be rich with all the gold they will give you!

          • Sam Black

            Non sequitor.

          • Sam Black

            Why are you requiring a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence? You seem to imply that if I don’t have a PhD in a topic that I can’t have an intelligent discussion about it while citing the evidence. You need to get real.

            One can easily learn the supported principles of any field without having to earn a degree or reproduce the experiments themselves. Your argument from authority is only serving as a red herring.

            Just answer the question: Do you believe in leprechauns? Why?

          • Sam Black

            This looks like an argument from ignorance. I’m almost certain there’s fallacious thinking going on here. I’m just not exactly certain which fallacy is being committed.

          • baal

            And not the first time someone has gone around that mulberry bush with Anton.

    • Casey Braden

      The god that most people believe in is claimed to manifest in reality (answer prayers, etc.). So, if this is the case, we should be able to see these effects. Yet, this is not what we observe. I don’t see how this is circular…

    • Deanjay1961

      Can you give an example of non-empirical evidence you’d accept if it was for a different religion? Because I can’t help noticing that people with mutually-exclusive beliefs claim the same ‘non-empirical evidence’ as supporting what they believe. The definition of ‘evidence’ requires that it be useful in making a determination of the truth of competing claims.

      • Guest

        Spot on!

  • Plutosdad

    When I was still going to church and learning even biblical history, as soon as I wasn’t repeating how perfect the Bible was people started saying “you don’t need to be learning that” “you don’t have enough faith” etc. I remember reading The Search for God by Heeren, a somewhat apologetics book on a creator god existing, and people thought I shouldn’t even be reading THAT. Just reading apologetics meant your faith was not strong enough. And this wasn’t a fundamentalist or very weird church, it was in the suburbs of Chicago with educated people.

    Of course that was in an Evangelical church. in a mainline protestant or Catholic church I might have received different responses.

  • Dez

    I’ve never been a believer so it’s confusing to me how anyone can. Believers say they know in their heart or their books says so. Is that like heartburn and why could a book be proof? If believing in a god(s) is a personal experience then I have never experienced it then. When my parents use to force me to the few times we went to church, I always found it weird how people got so into the service. Hands raised up, praying and sometimes crying. I just don’t get it. Lack of belief is not a choice for me.

    • Paul Loebe

      I felt the emotional experiences, the cathartic ups and downs of my religious fervor. I am much happier now that I am not on that roller coaster (mostly due to lack of guilt over being a normal human being). My journey away from belief was intellectual rather than emotional. Acceptance of it was very emotional, though.

  • Jakeithus

    There’s no denying that many believers (and unbelievers) think and argue in the way you’ve diagrammed, but it certainly is not universal. Others will say, given what we know/believe to be true about the world, what is the best explanation into the cause of those beliefs.

    Now, people might argue about the best explanation, or about the facts that are trying to be explained, but this conversation can take place without circular reasoning you have described. Hopefully your continued exploration can lead to conversations with that type, rather than a believer relying on circular reasoning.

  • Paul Loebe

    I didn’t expect this much response for such a small and simple post…

  • SparklingMoon

    how when people examine their religion, alongside with anyone else’s that they can possibly come to the conclusion that their specific religious text is in any way more viable than the others they have discredited.
    ———————————————————————–
    In order to recognize a true religion it is necessary to look at three matters. In the first place, one must see what is the teaching of a religion concerning God. That is to say, what does a religion state with regard to the Unity, power, knowledge, perfection, greatness, punishment, mercy and other attributes of the Divine.

    Secondly, it is necessary that a seeker after truth should inquire what does a religion teach with regard to his own self and with regard to human conduct. Is there anything in its teaching which would disrupt human relationships, or would draw a person into courses which are inconsistent with modesty and honour, or would be contrary to the law of nature, or would be impossible to conform to or carry out, or make it dangerous to do so. It would also be necessary to see whether some important teaching needed to control disorderliness has been left out. It would also be necessary to discover whether a religion presents God as a Great Benefactor with Whom a relationship of personal love should be established and whether it lays down commandments which lead from darkness into light and from heedlessness to remembrance.

    Thirdly, it is necessary for a seeker after truth to satisfy himself that the god presented by a religion should not be one who is believed in on the basis of tales and stories and resembles a dead being. To believe in a god who resembles a dead being, belief in whom is not by virtue of his having manifested himself but is due to one’s own good faith, would be to put him under an obligation. It is useless to believe in a god whose powers are not felt and who does not himself make manifest the signs of his own existence and life (http://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=1#page/5/mode/1up)

  • Chuck Farley

    Deity belief almost always boils down to an emotional response or attachment. we don’t have it, they do.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X

%d bloggers like this: