Monday, April 14, 2008

Aspects of the Fundie Atheist: Addled Rebuttal to a Metric Truck Load of Fail, Part 1.

Beware...this site will cause massive brain damage and severely inhibit your definition of humor in all future instances of seeing it. Few people have survived reading through the whole list without becoming functionally brain dead and/or a true fundie. After seeing this little internet gem pop up on Fundies Say the Darndest , I decided to take a shot at rebutting some of its supposed criteria for "fundie atheists". Honestly, though...I may have overreacted, in that I took some of their examples of atheist fundiesm to apply as broadly as the rest of them that were given (and to be as ill-founded of a critique as almost every single point happened to be). Nevertheless, I present to you, here and now, my completely unwarranted rabid assault on this bland attempt at humor/argument. I will first only offer my response to the first 27, all pertaining to the Existence of God. Enjoy, non-existent readers...enjoy.

1.You became an atheist when you were 10 years old, based on ideas of God that you learned in Sunday School. Your ideas about God haven't changed since.
You assume that the idea of God somehow becomes different with age. Unfortunately, the concepts of what constitutes God, if it becomes more complicated from the rendition given to children, actually only serves to make it a more muddled and contradictory idea, rather than adding credibility to it.
And I also assume that you should equally critique Christians whose concepts of God have not changed with time (for reasons beyond me) either.

2. You think that the primary aim of an omnibenevolent God is for people to have FUN.
You make the mistake of confusing “fun” with peace, and contentment.
Basically, you trivialize what we expect of God’s creation, when our expectations of what should constitute life granted by a loving God would be identical to what you believe Heaven to be, rather than the world that we find to exist. I assume, then, that the primary aim of Heave if to have “fun,” right?

3. You believe that extra drippy ice-cream is a logical proof against the existence of God, because an omniscient God would know how to stop the ice-cream from being extra drippy, an omnipotent God would have the ability to stop the ice-cream from being extra drippy, and by golly, an omnibenevolent God wouldn't want your ice-cream to be extra drippy.

Replace your intentional misrepresentation of the argument using “ice cream”, a man-made object, with a natural phenomenon instead (you know, the things that you actually attribute to God creating), and it does actually make sense. But, I assume that all short comings in nature are not due to God’s shoddy workmanship, but “sin”, correct?

4. Although you've memorized a half a dozen proofs that He doesn't exist, you still think you're God's gift to the ignorant masses.

Clever use of terminology. There are no proofs that God doesn’t exist, anymore than there are for his actual existence. And I do not think that the masses are that ignorant (but, it is beginning
to seem like I am wrong on that one on many occasions…).

5. You believe the astronomical size of the universe somehow disproves God, as if God needed a tiny universe in order to exist.

It “disproves” nothing. But it gives us perspective, and lets us know that our galaxy is one of many, our solar system one of many more, our planet one of an innumerable quantity. It lets us realize that our world, as we know it, and interact with it, is not the end-all-be-all of existence, and that basing our interpretation of how existence came to be on our experiences on such a relatively small scale seems fallacious at best.

6. You think questions like, "Can God create a rock so big that He cannot lift it?" and, "Can God will Himself out of existence?" are perfect examples of how to disprove God's omnipotence and ultimately how to disprove God. When someone proves to you the false logic behind the questions (i.e. pitting God's omnipotence against itself), you desperately try to defend the questions, but then give up and go to a different Christian site to ask them.

It is a legitimate test of the limits of omnipotence, which shows that the qualities of God do have their limitations, even if those limitations pertain to God itself. Albeit, it does not show much, I’ll admit that. But it does show that the idea of God is not as flawless as most take it out to be.

7. Related to the above, you spend a great deal of your spare time writing to Christian websites asking them these very questions.

Would you not ask these questions yourself if you did not already know the answer? It is an interesting philosophical question, in a few ways, and most cannot provide (nor have ever heard) an adequate answer to it.

8.You declare on a public forum that you are "furious at God for not existing."

No-one would say that. You can be furious at God if he does exist for not making his existence known in a more explicit manner/making our existence better, etc., you can be furious at the idea of God’s influence in a social and/or political forum, you can be furious at yourself for not being able to believe in God’s existence, or you could just accept that God does not exist (even if doing so is also a leap in logic). It is doubtable that anyone could ever utter the phrase you mentioned in sincerity. It is an intentionally contradictory oversimplification.

9. You spend hours arguing that a-theism actually means "without a belief in God " and not just " belief that there is no god" as if this is a meaningful distinction in real life.

This debate over the definition of atheism is only brought up to counter arguments made using the latter definition of atheism, whereas the former is more accurate, and only under conditions where the argument made against the atheist would not be coherent at all without taking the second definition as the position that all atheists take. (e.g. it takes faith to believe that there is no God, which is only true if you are an atheist by the second definition.)

10. You consistently deny the existence of God because you personally have never seen him but you reject out of hand personal testimony from theists who claim to have experienced God as a reality in their lives.

Yes. Because personal testimony is not a reliable reason to believe something. Somebody could tell me of their favorable experiences with drug use, and everyone around me could have similar experiences or at very least concur. Does this mean that they are all correct, and that drug use is verifiably positive due to this? Or can I maintain that I can remain skeptical about it until I have a little more to go on than what others in the immediate vicinity have to say on the matter?
The reality is that anecdotal evidence proves nothing. And that is to not even delve into the matters of these “experiences” being simple misinterpretations of feelings, and/or deliberate attempts to read into events in order to confirm pre-existing beliefs.

11. You can make the existence of pink unicorns the center-piece of a philosophical critique.

That's invisible pink unicorn, sonny. The contradiction of terms is key in that it is unfalsifiable: due to the “invisibility,” the quality of “pink” could not be known to be true, but it cannot be disproven that it has the quality of pink either. I’ll admit that unicorns, pink or not, used in an argument sounds ridiculous, but the fact that it is ridiculous is tacitly a jab at the fact that, objectively, the idea of a god or gods in comparable in that it is the realm of the hypothetical and supernatural, but, for whatever reason, it is considered to be immune to the allegations of absurdity that are applied to similar mythological entities.

12. You insist that "the burden of proof is on he that alleges/accuses", and "it's impossible to prove a negative", then state "That's what Christians do. They lie. Their most common lie is that they were once atheists." When reminded about the burden of proof bit, you reply with, "Well, prove Christians don't lie!"

The first part is true, the second is a straw man. Normally, Christians are only accused of lying on a case by case basis (with the evidence right in front of the speaker’s face). Any generalizations drawn from that are the problem of the generalizer (and, unfortunately, that may include your attempt here to show hypocrisy amongst “atheist fundies” as well).
Oh, and as for Christians being former atheists…it depends on which of the two definitions of atheism from above you were using. Regardless, one needs to realize that one person’s atheism is another’s pre or inter-conversion period, and not many atheists are necessarily alike in anything more than their lack of belief.

13. You adamantly believe that the "God of the gaps" idea is an essential tenet of orthodox Christian faith espoused by all the great Christian thinkers throughout history.

It pretty much is, isn’t it? It isn’t acknowledged, per se, but it is a fundamental assumption behind many a flock’s interpretation of reality, allowing Biblical interpretation to coincide with science, and leaving whatever science has yet to fully observe and explain as the realm of the divine, and testament to God. When comes to it, the unknown is easily attributed to the unknowable, and whether or not “God of the gaps” was an explicit doctrine, or even remotely affected theology, does not change the effect that it has most likely had on the religious layman for a significant amount of time.

14. When you were a child, someone came down with a deadly disease and prayed and prayed for God to take it away. God did not remove the disease and your friend died. You ask other Christians why they had to die when they were such a nice person and never harmed anyone. Dissatisfied with their answers, you suddenly decide that there is no God and that all Christians are nothing but lying, conniving con artists and hypocrites....all that is except for your friend who died.

Not everyone needs a traumatic, dramatic soap opera-esque motivation for believing or not believing. Undoubtedly, there are some people who are turned to faith after traumatic events in their lives. Others are turned away from it. It is incredibly ghoulish of you to make light of that fact. Also, very few atheists outside of their teenage years think that ALL Christians are con artists, liars, and hypocrites, but we are all too aware of such people existing among their ranks, along with a wide variety of other problems, that Christians themselves try to dismiss in all the wrong fashions.

15. You call a view held by less than ten percent of the American public "common sense".

Since when has popularity dictated what is “common sense” or not? Just because people refuse to realize the obvious does not make it any less true (and yes, this argument can be used identically against atheists. It’s why there is little to no use in trying to pretend to have all the answers in this kind of debate).

16. You're a spoiled fifteen year old boy who lives in the suburbs and you go into a chat room to declare that, "I know there is no God because no loving God would allow anyone to suffer as much as I...hold on. My cell phone's ringing."

How does having a cell phone or not reflect upon suffering? And, very few atheists outside of this quaint little example would argue that their own personal suffering disproves an Omnibenevolent God…it is a general trend of suffering in others, across nations and times: natural disasters, wars, plagues, famines, executions, susceptibility to disease, general squalor, or even the capacity to feel pain and the tendency to die itself all contribute to wondering why such a loving God would punish us so generously for the sins of Adam. You do not need to suffer yourself to realize this.

17. You attack your fellow atheists, who hold the "belief that there is no god", calling them "liars," and state that, "I do not deny the existence of any god. I just don't believe in any." Then you tell someone that their God is "made up." When someone calls you on this, you state, "I never made such a claim."

So, I’m guessing you genuinely fail to see the distinction between having no belief or faith in the existence of God, and having active belief in the non-existence of God. Here’s a hint: one is a result of having a no evidence presented to them, the other one is an assumption made with no factual basis for believing it. It’s not THAT glaring of a distinction, but it is a subtle enough of a difference to give leverage in arguing your position. Nice hypothetical contradiction, though it is funny how most theists would say the same thing about the gods of other religions, and are not called on the contradiction of believing that their own deity is not false, despite having as little basis in reality as the one they dismiss.

18. Going with the definition of "without a belief in God", you insist that all people are born atheists, and that dogs, cats, rocks, and trees are as well. You make statements like, "My dog is an atheist. Ask him about his lack of belief."

It is irrelevant to argue that inanimate objects and non-sentient life forms do not have a belief in gods, but the fact that children come into the world without a belief in a god (an argument more in lines with the argument you are making a straw man of), it is a little more telling.

19. You believe that if something cannot be touched, seen, heard, or measured in some way, then it must not exist, yet you fail to see the irony of your calling Christians "narrow-minded".

Is it narrow-minded to say that something that you cannot interact with or observe at any definite level does not exist in practical terms? Or is it narrow-minded to assert that something that you cannot interact with or observe at any definite level MUST exist, and it must exist as the doctrine of your particular flavor of religion dictates, and other people must change their behavior to suit the proposed ideals of this purported unobservable, immeasurable entity? I am willing to admit that things beyond the senses may exist (and, given the vast variation in what different species can observe with their own senses, that isn’t much of a stretch). However, in the same vein, you should also realize that admitting that the supernatural could exist does not immediately mean that the entirety of that supernatural is precisely defined by your worldview.

20. You say that there is no God and that those who believe in God do so in blind faith, yet your claim that there is no God also rests on blind faith.

Another point where the distinction between “lack of belief in gods” and “belief in no gods” is relevant. It does not require faith to have no faith.

21. While you don't believe in God, you feel justified on bashing God or attacking those who believe in something that you KNOW doesn't exist, fighting against or even discussing about a non-existent being are the symptoms of mental illness!

(see 19). We are justified in criticizing (or outright bashing, depending on the context): 1. the nature of belief in gods. 2. the description or actions of the god described by a religious text. Just because we do not think it exists doesn’t mean that we cannot make comments about the descriptions given to us.

22. You complain when Christians appeal to their emotions when justifying their belief in God yet you feel justified on appealing to your emotions for lack of belief in God.

Appeal to your emotions all you like, both sides should very well know that feeling strongly about something does not make it true.

23. You blame God for the starvation, sickness, pain and suffering in the world...when, indeed, it is MAN's greed, politics, selfishness and apathy that not only causes, but also ignores the sick and the starving masses. We aren't our brothers' keepers....but we should be.

I agree with the last sentence, but that is about it. The problem with what you propose as a solution to the problem of evil and suffering is that, even if man were directly to blame for every instance of pain in the world, that does not change the fact that God created men with the capacity to cause such pains, the capacity to suffer them so, and, despite all instances where pain caused being directly our fault, it is also somehow part of the omniscient God’s plans, which means that, when it comes down to it, God is still to blame for the suffering, as well as the actions of man, because he set up reality as it is knowing full well that such things would occur.
With this, you are left with a God whose omniscience is limited, who could not make a reality that would be less painful and less sinful human nature, or who intentionally wanted to make a world where humans who he pre-designed towards behavior that he dislikes and that will harm others are placed in a world where they can go wild and inflict pain upon one another in a manner that fulfills some bizarre goal of his own. And, with the existence of Heaven, one is left to wonder why we are forced to go to Earth to begin with if Heaven is more reflective of a perfect design than Earth, why God did not know what the snake or the first humans were going to do, and why God would punish us for sins he knew that we would do all along if he was aware of it. All in all, it is not a portrait of a particularly good deity.

24. When asked where the big ball of matter (that started the "Big Bang") came from, you insist that it popped out of nowhere.

This is a claim that I find many Christians making about the Big Bang, when the reality is that the Big Bang theory does not admit to knowing where this original matter came from, since the Big Bang theory only allows us to reconstruct the theoretical position and state of the universe up until a split second before time itself began. So, the correct answer is that we have no idea where that matter came from, and the Big Bang theory does not claim to know it either. Anything that anyone says beyond that is just guessing.

25. You say that the existence of God is a "blank idea", since no one knows the universe's secrets, yet you continue to state your opinion of God not existing as a "fact".

Again, you obfuscate what atheism actually is, and God not existing is sort of a "fact" (if you are particularly liberal with the definition of the word) because the default assumption that we have for any hypothesis or statement is that it is untrue until proven otherwise. Since there is no evidence suggesting that the idea of God is a valid one, the default assumption is that one does not exist, making atheism a more accurate presumption than theism. One need only look at every other religion and hear of Russell's teapot to know why this assumption is well-founded

26. You believe in many things about history (the culture of the ancient Mayans, egyptians, etc.), yet you refuse to accept personal modern-day testimony from someone who has personally experienced God.

You do realize that eyewitness testimony that can be verified with evidence and other accounts applies to historical accounts, but we only have the word of one individual about any given "experience of God". Seven people write about a battle with details about it that can be discerned as accurate upon observing the battlefield. That can be deemed to be accurate, because it is plausible, does not violate the laws of nature, is consistent with evidence and with other accounts. Then we have subjective experiences of God, which are felt by a single individual, who can provide no evidence of it, and gives an account that has all the symptoms of a simple hallucination, daydream, or outright lie. You've just got to be more skeptical about claims for the supernatural, which I am sure you are as well, unless you fully believe in every ghost and UFO sighting that has ever been given.

27. You ask Christians to come on to your forum to address issues you raise. When you don't like the answers or can't accept them, you proceed to delete the conversation.

Well, I can't really defend that...but, hey, their forum, their rules (I'm sure most Christian forums do the same thing, actually).

And, on that note, I wrap up my response to the first section. It was fun...sort of like beating a toddler with a wiffle ball bat. Of course, like everything that is fun, I most restrain myself from going too far in order to avoid incurring the wrath of the criminal justice system. So, until next time...peace!

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