What's an Atheist? Catch-All

LarryC wrote:

It is important to shift views to understand the concept wholly. A wind sprite in an animist worldview is not supernatural. Conversely, dirt in the same worldview is not natural. They both just are. Subjecting the concepts of animism under Western philosophical concepts doesn't make sense.

Well, considering the idea of atheism is a Western philosophical concept, that might be a trickier question than we realize at first.

In other words, if we're going to start classifying non-western beliefs according to a Western idea like a bright dividing line between atheist and theist (I know 'theist' isn't perfectly accurate as a term, but for simplicity's sake let's go with it), don't we first have to subject those beliefs to Western philosophical concepts in order to make things...compatible for lack of a better term?

LarryC wrote:

However, before we ask, "Do they consider it a god?" we have to ask "Do they even understand what we think a god is?"

Why is that important? Does it matter what we think a god is? Because I don't believe there is such a thing as god/gods. In my opinion they are societal and social constructs to explain the unknown, and are not real. I think if they personally believe there are gods (however their society defines it) then they are theist. If they do not, they are an athiest.

CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

I understand that different people see things differently. That's why I said

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Do they consider it a god? If so, they are theists. If they do not, and only see it as a non-corporeal being, they are atheists.

I'm not contorting anyone's perspective to meet a Western mindset. The reason I am using a dichotomous language is the entire thread is to define what is an athiest and what is a theist.

Interesting idea: is the test of an atheist subjective or objective?

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

I understand that different people see things differently. That's why I said

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Do they consider it a god? If so, they are theists. If they do not, and only see it as a non-corporeal being, they are atheists.

I'm not contorting anyone's perspective to meet a Western mindset. The reason I am using a dichotomous language is the entire thread is to define what is an athiest and what is a theist.

Interesting idea: is the test of an atheist subjective or objective?

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

That would actually be subjective. Objective would be "this is a god: it has characteristics X, Y, and Z; it does not matter if you call entities with characteristics X, Y, and Z by a different title, if you believe they exist and they have those characteristics, you are not an atheist."

I think we got sidetracked down a blind alley, here.
Stating that the world of the animist is not supernatural from the point of view of the animist is exactly the same as saying that murder is okay from the point of view of the murderer... while it may be a factual statement, it doesn't make the statement a true or valid representation about the world in general.

(I am not equating animism with murder, just pointing out the flaw in the argument.)

CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

I understand that different people see things differently. That's why I said

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Do they consider it a god? If so, they are theists. If they do not, and only see it as a non-corporeal being, they are atheists.

I'm not contorting anyone's perspective to meet a Western mindset. The reason I am using a dichotomous language is the entire thread is to define what is an athiest and what is a theist.

Interesting idea: is the test of an atheist subjective or objective?

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

That would actually be subjective. Objective would be "this is a god: it has characteristics X, Y, and Z; it does not matter if you call entities with characteristics X, Y, and Z by a different title, if you believe they exist and they have those characteristics, you are not an atheist."

Actually it would be objective. If someone does not believe in an imaginary friend are they being subjective on not believing in an imaginary friend?

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

I still don't think it matters what the wind sprite does and I don't believe we have to change our PoV. Do they consider it a god? If so, they are theists. If they do not, and only see it as a non-corporeal being, they are atheists.

Occam's Razor gents.

I find it interesting that Occam's Razor is brought up so often in opposition to the existence of God considering:

Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Standford wrote:

William of Ockham himself was a theist. He believed in God, and thus in some validity of scripture; he writes that “nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” In Ockham's view, an explanation which does not harmonize with reason, experience or the aforementioned sources cannot be considered valid. However, unlike many theologians of his time, Ockham did not believe God could be logically proven with arguments. In fact, he thought that science actually seemed to eliminate God according to the Razor's criteria. To Ockham, science was a matter of discovery, but theology was a matter of revelation and faith (e.g. some sort of Non-overlapping magisteria). He explains: “only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover.”

CheezePavilion:

The trouble there is that Western philosophical concepts don't always apply. Classifying concepts according to the supernatural/natural divide only makes sense when the concept exists in a framework that already stipulates the classification. That's why I said that maybe Oso gets it the best.

KrazyTaco[FO]:

A definition of a "god" sufficiently divergent from Western concept calls into question whether the word is usable at all. As an extreme, consider a society that considers "god" to be "a snack made from wheat, wholly tasty and somewhat dry." Now, nearly all the people in that culture will probably believe that such a snack exists, and in that their society calls this snack "god," do we get to say that they're theists?

If "god" means "some other sentience that isn't human but is comparable to one in many ways," is it still a god?

ruhk:

Actually, the argument is:

"We should try to understand a concept based on the worldview and philosophy that underlies it."

Saying that the animist's wind sprite is supernatural is like the Taliban saying that the Buddhists are worshiping Buddha.

Nomad wrote:

I find it interesting that Occam's Razor is brought up so often in opposition to the existence of God considering:

Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Standford wrote:

William of Ockham himself was a theist. He believed in God, and thus in some validity of scripture; he writes that “nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” In Ockham's view, an explanation which does not harmonize with reason, experience or the aforementioned sources cannot be considered valid. However, unlike many theologians of his time, Ockham did not believe God could be logically proven with arguments. In fact, he thought that science actually seemed to eliminate God according to the Razor's criteria. To Ockham, science was a matter of discovery, but theology was a matter of revelation and faith (e.g. some sort of Non-overlapping magisteria). He explains: “only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover.”

So? He was almost correct:

he thought that science actually seemed to eliminate God according to the Razor's criteria

He just got sidetracked by a logical fallacy:

“The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover.”

No one's perfect.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
LarryC wrote:

However, before we ask, "Do they consider it a god?" we have to ask "Do they even understand what we think a god is?"

Why is that important? Does it matter what we think a god is? Because I don't believe there is such a thing as god/gods. In my opinion they are societal and social constructs to explain the unknown, and are not real. I think if they personally believe there are gods (however their society defines it) then they are theist. If they do not, they are an athiest.

CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

I understand that different people see things differently. That's why I said

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Do they consider it a god? If so, they are theists. If they do not, and only see it as a non-corporeal being, they are atheists.

I'm not contorting anyone's perspective to meet a Western mindset. The reason I am using a dichotomous language is the entire thread is to define what is an athiest and what is a theist.

Interesting idea: is the test of an atheist subjective or objective?

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

If someone says they do not believe in a god, is it possible that they are mistaken? My problem with the attempt to turn this into a simple test is that our definitions of the terms believe and g*d are not so clear and straightforward as we would like them to be.

One might say "I revere the ancestors" another might say "I venerate the virgin Mary" and another might hear "I worship false gods or graven images".

A Catholic or Russian Orthodox may be mightily offended when a protestant Christian or a Muslim interpreted their use of Icons, the crucifix, or the stations of the cross as worship of graven images or false gods. Those conflicts boil down to what we consider "believe" or "g*d" or "idol" to mean. I don't think there is enough general agreement on this meaning for the simple test to be meaningful or effective. It basically ends up being a test for whether or not one is able to think about religion from a contemporary Western POV.

I actually think the term atheist became an important term because of the cold-war, as a way of distinguishing g*d-fear

LarryC wrote:

KrazyTaco[FO]:

A definition of a "god" sufficiently divergent from Western concept calls into question whether the word is usable at all. As an extreme, consider a society that considers "god" to be "a snack made from wheat, wholly tasty and somewhat dry." Now, nearly all the people in that culture will probably believe that such a snack exists, and in that their society calls this snack "god," do we get to say that they're theists?

If "god" means "some other sentience that isn't human but is comparable to one in many ways," is it still a god?

That's a very good point, but if they believe that "god" is food, than we would need a better translated word. Or if they truly believed in a deity being "a snack made from wheat, wholly tasty and somewhat dry", then I would say they are a theist in the strictest sense of the word.

Nomad wrote:

I find it interesting that Occam's Razor is brought up so often in opposition to the existence of God

I was just using it to explain the definition of Theism and Atheism.

Oso wrote:

If someone says they do not believe in a god, is it possible that they are mistaken? My problem with the attempt to turn this into a simple test is that our definitions of the terms believe and g*d are not so clear and straightforward as we would like them to be.

You can say that about anything. Explain how you can objectively define the word "chair".

Using this logic there is no such thing as objectivity because someone somewhere will not agree with your definition.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
Oso wrote:

If someone says they do not believe in a god, is it possible that they are mistaken? My problem with the attempt to turn this into a simple test is that our definitions of the terms believe and g*d are not so clear and straightforward as we would like them to be.

You can say that about anything. Explain how you can objectively define the word "chair".

Using your logic there is no such thing as objectivity because someone somewhere will not agree with your definition.

This is a basic concept of linguistics: every word that we use is an arbitrary descriptor. There is nothing logically, soundly, objectively chair-ish about a chair that would justify our use of that word for it.

Nomad wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

I still don't think it matters what the wind sprite does and I don't believe we have to change our PoV. Do they consider it a god? If so, they are theists. If they do not, and only see it as a non-corporeal being, they are atheists.

Occam's Razor gents.

I find it interesting that Occam's Razor is brought up so often in opposition to the existence of God considering:

Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Standford wrote:

William of Ockham himself was a theist. He believed in God, and thus in some validity of scripture; he writes that “nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” In Ockham's view, an explanation which does not harmonize with reason, experience or the aforementioned sources cannot be considered valid. However, unlike many theologians of his time, Ockham did not believe God could be logically proven with arguments. In fact, he thought that science actually seemed to eliminate God according to the Razor's criteria. To Ockham, science was a matter of discovery, but theology was a matter of revelation and faith (e.g. some sort of Non-overlapping magisteria). He explains: “only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover.”

I asked earlier why the wind sprite deserved special consideration. I would have to ask William of Ockham the same about his god.

Also, if you're going to stand by that assertion, then there can never be any scientific proof of his god's existence. Anything that concludes the existence of his god must automatically be an incorrect conclusion. If such a discovery were ever made, would you reject it?

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

That would actually be subjective. Objective would be "this is a god: it has characteristics X, Y, and Z; it does not matter if you call entities with characteristics X, Y, and Z by a different title, if you believe they exist and they have those characteristics, you are not an atheist."

Actually it would be objective. If someone does not believe in an imaginary friend are they being subjective on not believing in an imaginary friend?

There's a difference between not believing in an imaginary friend, and telling people you don't believe in an imaginary friend. I bolded the part of your previous post that makes a difference. There's a difference between saying you are something, and actually being that thing.

Unless, of course, being that thing is subjective.

Nomad wrote:

I find it interesting that Occam's Razor is brought up so often in opposition to the existence of God considering:

Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Standford wrote:

William of Ockham himself was a theist. He believed in God, and thus in some validity of scripture; he writes that “nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” In Ockham's view, an explanation which does not harmonize with reason, experience or the aforementioned sources cannot be considered valid. However, unlike many theologians of his time, Ockham did not believe God could be logically proven with arguments. In fact, he thought that science actually seemed to eliminate God according to the Razor's criteria. To Ockham, science was a matter of discovery, but theology was a matter of revelation and faith (e.g. some sort of Non-overlapping magisteria). He explains: “only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover.”

I bolded the part which I think explains why it's not unexpected for him to be brought up so much.

CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

That would actually be subjective. Objective would be "this is a god: it has characteristics X, Y, and Z; it does not matter if you call entities with characteristics X, Y, and Z by a different title, if you believe they exist and they have those characteristics, you are not an atheist."

Actually it would be objective. If someone does not believe in an imaginary friend are they being subjective on not believing in an imaginary friend?

There's a difference between not believing in an imaginary friend, and telling people you don't believe in an imaginary friend. I bolded the part of your previous post that makes a difference. There's a difference between saying you are something, and actually being that thing.

Unless, of course, being that thing is subjective.

Ok, would this rephrasing work?

If someone does not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

If someone says they do not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

That would actually be subjective. Objective would be "this is a god: it has characteristics X, Y, and Z; it does not matter if you call entities with characteristics X, Y, and Z by a different title, if you believe they exist and they have those characteristics, you are not an atheist."

Actually it would be objective. If someone does not believe in an imaginary friend are they being subjective on not believing in an imaginary friend?

There's a difference between not believing in an imaginary friend, and telling people you don't believe in an imaginary friend. I bolded the part of your previous post that makes a difference. There's a difference between saying you are something, and actually being that thing.

Unless, of course, being that thing is subjective.

Ok, would this rephrasing work?

If someone does not believe in a god, then they would be an athiest. I would say objective.

Yup! That works, and it's more than just a rephrasing: it's like the difference between being asked your favorite color, and being asked the flight velocity of an unladen swallow.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Yup! That works, and it's more than just a rephrasing: it's like the difference between being asked your favorite color, and being asked the flight velocity of an unladen swallow.

That's what I originally meant, except in my original statement I was imagining saying it in a real life situation since I can't read minds.

NSMike wrote:

If you're going to stand by that assertion, then there can never be any scientific proof of his god's existence. Anything that concludes the existence of his god must automatically be an incorrect conclusion. If such a discovery were ever made, would you reject it?

So... this has gone unanswered and I am curious if anyone has an answer for it.

NSMike wrote:
NSMike wrote:

If you're going to stand by that assertion, then there can never be any scientific proof of his god's existence. Anything that concludes the existence of his god must automatically be an incorrect conclusion. If such a discovery were ever made, would you reject it?

So... this has gone unanswered and I am curious if anyone has an answer for it.

Same answer Adam Savage gave. We can never scientifically prove the existence of God, Angels, Ghosts-no control.

Now if you mean like Star Trek 6. Would I believe that God wanted my Starship?

We then get to the metaphysical question. If I can meet, touch, constrain "god" within my understanding. Is that the same God in the burning bush, talking to Noah? Or, have we gained new understanding of a natural phenomenon. The moon is something I can see, may one day walk on it. Does that mean that the god of the tides is real? Cortes was worshipped as a god, Cleopatra, Ptolemey, are they gods?

That question presupposes that the person asking is right, either in the existence of their god, or the nonexistence of any god. You must already conclude that the god I find, is your god. Because I may just as likely find proof of the existence of Shiva, and will that cause the world to convert to Hinduism?

I, perhaps, stripped too much context from my original post because your answer doesn't even come close to what I was getting at.

I'll write a lengthier reply when I'm not on an exercise bike.

NSMike wrote:

I, perhaps, stripped too much context from my original post because your answer doesn't even come close to what I was getting at.

I'll write a lengthier reply when I'm not on an exercise bike.

Is this along the lines of the Babel fish and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? ; D

I guess at that point, one could reject the scientific proof as proof as you ask, or change one's opinion on how theological truths can be known, considering them to be matters of both discovery and revelation/faith.

Kind of a reverse god-of-the-gaps situation.

I like the way Neal Stephenson put it at the end of Anathem:

That's funny, because if anyone did prove the existence of god, we'd tell him "nice proof" and start believing in god.

It may be idealistic and naive, but that's how I'd like to think it would work. It only really becomes a problem when g*d is defined as "something that defies the laws of nature" and the laws of nature are defined as "those laws which, by very definition, can never be defied". In that system, g*d is not possible and thus the existence of a g*d would show that the system is broken.

CheezePavilion wrote:
NSMike wrote:

I, perhaps, stripped too much context from my original post because your answer doesn't even come close to what I was getting at.

I'll write a lengthier reply when I'm not on an exercise bike.

Is this along the lines of the Babel fish and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? ; D

I guess at that point, one could reject the scientific proof as proof as you ask, or change one's opinion on how theological truths can be known, considering them to be matters of both discovery and revelation/faith.

Kind of a reverse god-of-the-gaps situation.

Yes, that's pretty much where I was going, sort-of. Trying to apply some of the reading I've been doing (i.e. The God Delusion). Dawkins makes a very similar argument early on, and I was clumsy about it. Carry on.

Am I the only one who thinks that sentient lion society sounds a bit like Warren Jeffs' crazy FLDS?

Seriously. The whole shunning young men (including your own flesh and blood) thing because they amount to competition for mates sounds exactly like this.

Paleocon wrote:

Am I the only one who thinks that sentient lion society sounds a bit like Warren Jeffs' crazy FLDS?

It sounds like a Bob Marley song if you ask me.

Edit- The name Sentient Lion Society is what I'm referring to.

NSMike wrote:

This is a basic concept of linguistics: every word that we use is an arbitrary descriptor. There is nothing logically, soundly, objectively chair-ish about a chair that would justify our use of that word for it.

I,I "Sometimes a ghoti is just a ghoti."

Hypatian wrote:
NSMike wrote:

This is a basic concept of linguistics: every word that we use is an arbitrary descriptor. There is nothing logically, soundly, objectively chair-ish about a chair that would justify our use of that word for it.

I,I "Sometimes a ghoti is just a ghoti."

*Shudder* Something I failed to mention about linguistics is how my exposure to the ideas actually generated a genuine fear of language.

Paleocon wrote:

Seriously. The whole shunning young men (including your own flesh and blood) thing because they amount to competition for mates sounds exactly like this.

Wow, I never thought of it that way, but it fits perfectly.

I don't know how accurate it was, but on "Big Love" (HBO show set among fictional Mormons) the women did a heck of a lot more work around Juniper Creek (the enclave of a fundamentalist polygamous sect--the "pridelands" I guess you could say) than the men did, kinda like lionesses doing most of the hunting.

Robear wrote:

So, considering that, which aspect of lion society would lead you to predict government with solo leadership with hereditary inheritance and massive control over fixed resources - monarchy?

Like I said: the part where the male person/male lion with the biggest weapons that protects the group doesn't have to do any other work and takes what he wants from those who do the work of gathering resources and if he takes over a new territory he kills the offspring of the former ruler.

Are we requiring so perfect a correspondence as you seem to be asking for? If so, explain Libertarians to me given our primate origins.

I think you're missing the point. You keep anthropomorphizing. The males are not the ranking cats in the pride, nor do they do most of the hunting or pride defense, nor do they control most of the food. They *do* have to leave the pride and go solo at some point, and may not be accepted into another pride. It's the females who are social; the males are in a sense hangers-on.

It's very, very different from a hierarchical human society. I'm not looking for a perfect correspondence, and I do feel that jumping from some basic animal behaviors to a complicated social structure like monarchy or Libertarianism is very much like the creationist demand to show the exact path from a small fish to a human being. Your objections all seem to start with "assume the lions are just like humans...".

I might, just to see how he gets to many of the ideas humans have had about sexual morality involving celibacy and sodomy for a species so closely related to the bonobos ; D

I think you'll get a better idea of the difference between the evolution of cultures and the evolution of ideas. They are not related in the way you seem to understand, unless of course I'm just missing the sarcasm and you do get it. If we were totally congruent with bonobos, we'd *be* bonobos. The interesting question is, I think, why we have *anything* in common with other species.