Agnosticism - Atheism
Agnosticism - Atheism
1) Atheism comes in different flavors, so to speak. Atheism has different degrees of specialization, you might say. Not all Atheists are created equal, is another way of putting it. But what are these? There is certainly disagreement among those who claim Atheism for themselves, and there are as many or more who use other labels to describe their ignorance of god(s) -- the philistines* of deism (*one who is annoyingly indifferent to artistic and cultural values). There are those who confess that their faith in a god is god-given, and thus the rest of us are Atheists by exclusion. Generally accepted: an Atheist is one who maintains there is no god, that the phrase 'God exists' expresses a false proposition; a person who rejects belief in a god.
An Agnostic, in contrast, generally suggests that it is not known or cannot be known whether there is, or is not a god, but who also 'rejects belief in God' for himself. This hesitation to move to accept the title of Atheist may come for many personal reasons, but for purposes of Frame of Reference, these reasons are inconsequential, and Agnostics are welcome to make the claim and take the credit, even if only in private, for also being Atheists. Quibbling about what it means to 'know' is an intellectual, epistemological quandary easily solved: "What kind of answer do you want?" (see verse 30 following)
2) There is among extremely intellectual people what is considered a 'metaphysical god.' That is to say, the powers (the predicates) that are used to describe god are 'metaphorical, symbolic or analogical.' This is to be distinguished from those who accept god as a literal being -- all powerful, all-knowing and omni-present; and otherwise inscrutable and indescribable. If we use the word 'god' as a metaphor or in such a way to suggest an ephemeral, poetic or psychological relationship (i.e., god is Love) to man and Universe, then it is my contention that this is logically the same position as one who 'rejects belief in god.' The difference is just so much mental gymnastics, a smoke screen. A poetic metaphor is certainly not intended to suggest that man is literally an eagle when his spirit soars to heights of creativity. Such an illusion, is just that, in spite of how warm and fuzzy it is.
"Among professional philosophers, [those who write treatises and get paid for it], belief in the metaphysical god has been much more common than belief in the anthropomorphic god. This metaphysical position is at least as old as Aquinas..." (Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967) For several thousand years intelligent men have been trying to rationalize their belief and acceptance of god, but this is a paradigm case of the 'excluded middle;' you either believe, and can offer some explanation about your god, or you do not. It is not the logic of the argument or reasoning that creates this absolutism, but the demands of organized Religion. If you doubt, or make up your own concept of god, then you don't believe. You're on the outside looking in even if you merely doubt; you aren't accepting; you aren't part of the religious experience. You are not committed and obedient to the hierarchy of Religion.
3) Are all doubters, 'I don't knowers' and metaphysicists in the same logical category as Atheists when it comes to belief in god, from a religious perspective? One can certainly believe in any kind of god outside of religion, just as people believe in Tarot cards and get comfort from nursery rhymes, but to be valid, that belief has to change one's life, inspire or in some way be significant to influence one's actions. Moreover, this belief should be so compelling, it makes you eager to tell other people about it. If this personal god, however amorphous, is subtly behind your altruistic thinking, influences your best ethical decisions and helps create a constructive meaning for your life, then certainly that is a valid belief even if it is rejected by or inconsistent with organized religion. Shout it to the world! or at least whisper it to your friends; but try not to be a nuisance.
4) Confucius never pretended to have a divine message, he never claimed to be a prophet yet the wisdom he shared, most often in vain during his life, has persisted longer and possibly had more influence than most religions.
Wisdom is: when you know a thing,
to recognize that you know it,
and when you don't know a thing,
to recognize [and admit] that you do not know it.
The mistakes of a gentleman may be compared to the eclipses
of the sun or the moon.
When he makes a mistake, all men see it;
When he corrects it, all men look up to him.
Study as if you were following someone you could not overtake,
and were afraid of losing.
People's problems [according to Confucius] could be solved not by supernatural forces but only by their own and their ancestors' experience. He was naturally suspicious of prayer: 'My kind of praying was done long ago, not in words but in deeds,' he was to have said on his deathbed. The 'will of Heaven' was discovered not through theology but in the collective experience of the ancestors, in a word: History. In the world of Confucius, each man had to find the path for himself. (No wonder his teaching was largely unsuccessful during his life, most people are simply incapable of this kind of disciplined thinking.) He fulfilled his own teaching by being more useful as an historical figure for others to use, than as a political gadfly during his own lifetime.
5) Friedrich Nietzsche is credited with developing the concept of the "overman" Ubermensch. A human being that has created for himself that unique position in the world -- one who creates for himself the meaning of life, in this life. The most famous protagonist, Zarathustra, speaks of the death of god and proclaims the overman, one who copes successfully with life without the concept of a supernatural purpose. Furthermore, Ubermensch, overman overcomes the inertia of cultural conditioning (traditional religion) and surpasses the crass limitations of human nature (surpassing instinct). Society progresses in direct proportion, as more people achieve this state of moral leadership, whether as Atheists or believers, and they confidently explain their reasons for ethical judgments.
Blackbirds fly above the pond7) "Those who raise questions about the God hypothesis and soul [and afterlife] hypothesis are by no means all atheists. An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed. A wide range of intermediate positions seems admissible, and considering the enormous emotional energies with which the subject is invested, a questing, courageous and open mind seems to be the essential tool for narrowing the range of our collective ignorance on the subject of the existence of God." (Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain, 1974)
and lift my prayer
writ red on their wings.
(IJ - 1998)
This is hardly a courageous explanation; it seems to be a capitulation to the "enormous emotional energies" of his market for scientific communications. If you don't have certainty, of course you can have faith, and according to some religions there is virtue in having faith. But Carl Sagan neither has the virtue of courage nor the virtue of faith, he is somewhere else, lost in the middle with an open mind. What kind of answer do you want? This is a clear example of the 'fallacy of the beard.' "We are guilty...if we use the middle ground, or the fact of continuous and gradual shading between two extremes, to raise doubt about the existence of real differences between such opposites as strong and weak, good and bad, and black and white. [certainty or belief vs. denial or skepticism)...Learning to see close distinctions is a very important part of becoming educated." (W. Edgar Moore, Creative and Critical Thinking, 1955)
8) The Taoist poetic imagination was more interested in the unity of experience than in any conceivable power of a Creator to make new worlds. The banal and therefore accurate creation story goes:
There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change
Goes round and does not weary,
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name [Milky Way galaxy?]
So I style it 'the way.'...
...Man models himself on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.
(Translated by D. C. Lau)
The feeling for the unity of the world and how we are connected to
it, can give each of us a stoic power to face personal afflictions.
"We must understand that things are what they are
spontaneously [ontological] and not caused by something else."
This is the Taoist teaching of Kuo Hsiang (died 312AD):
"But let us ask whether there is a Creator or not.
If not, how can he create things?
If there is he is incapable of materializing all the forms.
Therefore, before we can talk about creation,
we must understand the fact
that all forms materialize by themselves.
Hence everything creates itself without the direction of any Creator.
Since things create themselves, they are unconditioned.
This is the norm of the universe."
Apply this to mathematics and you have the incompleteness theorem. (see Septimus Stele: Mathematics, verse 12)
9) Among the fourteen questions to which Buddha would not reply are:
Is Universe eternal or not eternal, or both?
Is Universe infinite in space or not infinite, or both or neither? Buddha never said: "Come, be my disciple and I will reveal to you the beginning of things." Buddha's object was the destruction of ill for the doer, thereof: "It matters not to that object whether the beginning of things be revealed... what use would it be to have the beginning of things revealed?" The Buddha's aim was not to know the world or to improve it but to escape suffering -- which was the mechanism to gain salvation.
10) To love God truly, you must first love man. And if anyone tells you that he loves God but does not love his fellow man, he is lying. (Hasidic saying)
The favorite place of God is in the heart of man. (Jewish Quotation)
"The first step to atheism is always a theology which drags God down to the level of doubtful things." (Paul Tillich, Shaking of the Foundations, 1963)
11) The man who ascribes things to accident sees a bird's nest and thinks it has no special purpose. (Bahya Ben Asher, Kad ha-Kemah)
A house testifies that there was a builder, a dress that there was a weaver, a door that there was a carpenter; so our World by its existence proclaims its Creator, God. (adapted from Rabbi Akiba, Midrash Temura, ch. 3)
"One is either 'open' to the presence of God or one is not. If one has faith, proofs and reasoning are not needed; if one lacks faith, they are of no avail [excluded middle]. A person who has faith is not shaken by absence of evidence or by counterevidence; a person who has no faith will never become a true believer even if he is intellectually convinced by the arguments of rationalistic theology." (Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967)
12) "Man has the urge to thrust against the limits of language. Think for instance about one's astonishment that anything exists. This astonishment cannot be expressed in the form of a question and there is no answer to it [if it were]. Anything we can say [as an answer] must, a priori, be only nonsense. Nevertheless we thrust against the limits of language." (Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1929)
This is one way language haunts ethical discussions. There are other possible problems that make ethical discussions difficult and often counter-productive: Misinterpretations, emotional filtering, religious biases, the use of invectives, conflicting personal agenda, power struggles, conflicting language-games (that is, a different understanding of meaning and use of key words); all of these can prevent reasonable communication and successful outcomes to ethical discussions. There is a popular game in school, where the teacher whispers a statement into the ear of the first student, each student tells their neighbor, and 25 students later the last student attempts to repeat the statement which almost always sounds very different if not contradictory. A myth that is repeated often, handed down from generation to generation, is susceptible to the same kind of textual deterioration. Those who wish to discuss ethical questions must have patience, use plenty of examples, test their companions for understanding by asking for paraphrasing and make a special attempt to listen closely to what the other person has to say. (see Vicesimus Alter Stele: Ethical Decisions, verse 10)
13) Man is a holy Temple, and his heart is the holy of holies. (Jonathan Eibeschutz, Yaarot Dvash)
This optimistic view ignores the existence of evil or tragedy as part and parcel to human nature. In fact many Atheists will suggest that the existence of evil in the world (whether as a Satan, as simply the work of malefactors or as natural calamities and disease) shows the theological claims for god to be false. However, the acceptance of an infinite god, a god beyond description, is logically a saving grace, since this, by definition, is beyond such petty arguments and indeed beyond reason.
14) "Dispute not. As you rest firmly on your own faith and opinion, allow others also the equal liberty to stand by their own faiths and opinions. By mere disputation you will never succeed in convincing another of his error. When the grace of God descends on him, each one will understand his own mistakes. So long as the bee is outside the petals of the lily, and has not tasted the sweetness of its honey, it hovers round the flower emitting its buzzing sound; but when it is inside the flower, it noiselessly drinks its nectar. So long as a man quarrels and disputes about doctrines and dogmas, he has not tasted the nectar of true faith; when he has tasted it, he becomes quiet and full of peace..." (Ramakrishna's Sayings, Hindu)
I think the simple life of faith has some allure to the extent that it is like the bee drinking nectar. If it is so for you, Frame of Reference will have no negative affect, and you will hopefully continue to live a happy, productive life. An Atheist, as well as a 'searcher,' is someone who is somehow compelled to that state of mind and should feel comfortable there, or aspire to be comfortable with their intellectual discoveries. There is even a more exciting challenge in life for an Atheist who by virtue of his or her non-belief is compelled to create purpose for him- or herself, and in addition has all the benefits otherwise accruing to the person of simple faith. (Overman?) Thus Atheism does not need to be anti-religion, but 'pro-life' and an affirmation of culture at its best. Atheists have everything to gain.
Duck16) One goal of this book is to provide a frame of reference for un-schooled searchers for enlightenment. This is so fundamental that the name of this book was changed accordingly during its writing to emphasize this essential point. It is not necessary to know in detail the methods and conclusions behind each verse, this can follow if the reader is particularly motivated or curious. It is initially important to have access to an organized body of knowledge and experience of others as a guide to help interpret new experiences. Our frame of reference limits (or expands) our perceptions because this is the mental tool and process by which we give meaning to what we see, smell, hear etc. Where a doctor sees symptoms and recognizes diseases, someone un-schooled will feel fever and pain and wonder what is wrong.
The plaintive cry
of the solitary Duck
is my Dirge.
(IJ - 1998)
By studying the history of philosophy and religion, we become acquainted with the most important value systems Man has devised. These are the raw data, the archeological facts. How we process this information depends on our frame of reference. Putting the data together with a robust frame of reference is how each of us succeeds at selecting the values best suited for our own lives. People often fail to recognize serious problems, superstitions or fallacies of logic because their frame of reference has not grown enough to make them wary. An adept frame of reference is absolutely essential to effective thinking; this is just the opposite of being brain-washed, it is being brain-equipped.
Once one has an adequate frame of reference, it is too easy to ignore the emotional desolation a young person might feel, cast out of religion for whatever reason, not having the necessary intellectual equipment to evaluate all the competing and conflicting doctrines chasing them in the streets. After diligent attention to the facts and councils in Frame of Reference, the reader ought to be schooled enough to evaluate any esoteric claim or myth, recognize it as such and interpret it appropriately.
17) The Hindu religion takes solace in myth and in countless communities of gods and goddesses, but they never allowed themselves the comfort of dogma. Their "Hymn of Creation" goes:
But, after all, who knows, and who can say
whence it all came, and how creation happened?
The gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows -- or maybe even he does not know.
(translated by A. L. Basham)
18) It is widely held that curiosity about our environment and the desire to understand the silent heavens, is innate in man. It can be regarded as a characteristic of our intelligence, an instinct encoded somewhere in our DNA, that we search for answers, or failing that, we simply make them up to fit the circumstances. Atheists share this instinct, but this kind of mental independence is a modern invention. Those who prefer to benefit from the objective knowledge human history has accumulated, grudgingly, that can be retested and verified rather than accepting the conniving, misguided or even well meaning words of charismatic leaders, are still the minority of society. Atheism is too often considered eccentric or even pathological, especially by the majority of the population that holds emotionally based religious views. Atheists, once identified, are sometimes disadvantaged in the normal course of human events in somewhat the same way that homosexuals have been the victims of narrow-minded discrimination. Have you ever heard of a successful Atheist politician? They would be the exception that proves the rule.
Special attention is given to discussing Atheism, not because these people as a group need more help than others, but because there is no such organized philosophy (outside political action groups). These are people who are often on the outside looking in, so to speak. Many Atheists describe themselves as agnostics, humanists, Freethinkers, Unitarians, Pantheists, Buddhist or simply Skeptics in order to avoid a presumed stigma of eccentricity. Some of this stigma is earned because Atheists have occasionally set themselves apart as 'self-righteous' judges seeking to point out in an 'evangelical' way the absurdity of the sincere confession of religious faith of the majority of their neighbors. Sound familiar? But in the end, Atheists are simply those who insist and thrive on doing their own thinking, and as such they are effectively disenfranchised from the majority of society they too often scorn. This accomplishment, the growth of free-thinking, is an important and enlightened stage of development for humanity, rather than a curse.
It is useful to add, however, that we can be open minded without being small minded. Certainly we inherit our best laws, judicious government and enlightenment from the history of one religious combatant seeking to right the other. Once we acknowledge that contribution we must move beyond and improve, synthesize and create better ways of going about the business of life. We must move beyond petty grievances and satisfy our innate curiosity by both learning the facts of nature and interpreting these facts with a goal of making a more constructive society for ourselves and others around us.
19) "One Hindu sect, the Jains, declared there were always not only two possibilities (mortal or not-mortal [god]) but seven, which gave them their Doctrines of Maybe, wrapping both the darkness and the dazzling brilliance of creation in a twilight of doubt... Creation... was a disintegration of the original Oneness... a fragmenting of the unity of nature into countless limited forms [the Big Bang]... The object for all was to 'get off the wheel,' to escape the cycle Samsara, and merge finally into the original One." (Daniel J. Boorstin, The Creators, 1993) Thus these teachers propound a meaning in life that is otherwise unobtainable for the average person. From that grows religions to help people live better lives.
20) The Jains follow the concepts of their ninth-century poet:
No single being had the skill to make this world--
For how can an immaterial god create that which is material?
How could God have made the world without any raw material?
If you say he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression.
If you declare that this raw material arose naturally you fall into another fallacy,
For the whole universe might thus have been its own creator, and have
arisen equally naturally.
If God created the world by an act of his own will, without any raw material,
Then it is just his will and nothing else -- and who will believe this silly stuff?
If he is perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in him?
While the aim of the Christian faithful would be 'eternal life' the aim of the Hindu was to be uncreated. Yoga, or 'union,' was the disciplined effort to reverse creation and return to the perfect Oneness from which the world had been fragmented. (Daniel J. Boorstin, The Creators, 1993)
21) Almost all religions are built on faith, but in Buddhism emphasis is on seeing, knowing, understanding, and not on faith or belief. In Buddhist texts there is a word saddha (sraddha) which is usually translated as 'faith' or 'belief'. But saddha is not 'faith' as such, but 'confidence' born out of conviction. In popular Buddhism and also in ordinary usage in the texts the word saddha, it must be admitted, has an element of 'faith' in the sense that it signifies devotion to the Buddha, the Dharma (Teaching) and the Sangha (The Order).
Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of a Universal Soul, Brahman, Self, or Atman. According to Buddha, even the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of 'me' and 'mine', selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.
22) There was a time when angels walked the earth; today, they are not found even in heaven. (Jewish Quotation)
"Tentative conclusions should never be accepted as fact until tested by the appropriate procedures and judged to be true beyond reasonable doubt. (W. Edgar Moore, Creative and Critical Thinking, 1967)
23) "I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it. Indeed, I have had no choice but to act in this manner, for with the exception of the Coral Reefs, I cannot remember a single first-formed hypothesis which had not after a time to be given up or greatly modified." (Charles Darwin)
24) The argument from design says, in effect, that god is intricately involved in creating a universe that works in order that Man can exist. When we examine the complexity, efficiency and appropriateness of physical systems, it seems impossible that these could be as they are without the work of a divine intellect. (This argument has convinced many people who want to believe.) The design argument is deistic, meaning that it pictures a god as a creator, not as an intervener who works miracles in Universe or magic. Once this proof is put forward, then religious people add the aspect of god as a personal point of contact for their wishes (some use Saints as intermediaries), 'He' becomes a god that knows all, cares for man and blesses our dinner -- there are many embellishments. This argument is an anthropomorphic vision of god (usually pictured as 'Father'), even if one is content to suggest that god is Love, Truth or god is infinitely intelligent and made in a different form rather than suggesting 'man is created in the image of God.'
25) "He [God - King of kings and the Lord of lords] alone is immortal; he lives in the light that no one can approach. No one has ever seen him; no one can ever see him. To him be honor and eternal power! Amen." (The New Testament, 1 Timothy 6:16) and otherwise: "How great are God's riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions? Who can understand his ways?" (The New Testament, Romans 11:33) Yet we persist in trying to explain, approach and understand a humanoid god.
Christian, Jewish and Islamic teachings have no monopoly on believing in a human-like, yet incomprehensible 'God.' The larger the observable Universe becomes, the sillier it is to maintain that it was all put together for us, since we seem to be simply irrelevant to this vast expanse of galaxies. Bertrand Russell wrote: "If I were granted omnipotence, and millions of years to experiment in, I should not think Man much to boast of as the final result of all my efforts."
The original arguments of design used the complicated evidence of biology, the magnificent beauty and complexity of un-explained nature, of being and human intelligence as proofs of God. Once Darwin and subsequent scientists demonstrated the power of evolution and proved this through fossils, DNA studies, observed instances of speciation and the unequivocal study of geology, these examples seem to have been poor choices. As we learn about quantum mechanics and chaos mathematics, we see how physical mysteries can be explained: weather, earthquakes, the rotation of the planets, etc., but the explanations make them no less fantastic and marvelous.
Once we learn to accept the beauty and bounty we have without necessarily feeling compelled to explain and understand the infinity from whence it came, we can move on to dealing with the more important aspects of life, 'the art of living.'
26) The cosmological proof for god goes back to Aristotle, who suggested that the existence of motion requires an ultimate source of dynamics, an "unmoved mover." Likewise, in any hierarchy of existence it requires an over-arching state of existence, that being the domain of god. This demonstrates the fallacy of argument by analogy, 'motion' being used to contrast with 'existence.' Whereas analogy can be useful to explain concepts, it does not work as proof, because any similarities between the two different events or phenomena in an analogy are likely to be merely circumstantial and very limited. Aristotle was wrong about motion too, and so he was wrong twice about god.
Descartes also asserted that his moment-to-moment existence depended on the existence of a prior being beyond himself. But, there is no rational way to question our existence, so trying to explain existence is, in an important way, moot. When we talk about 'existence of God,' what kind of answer do we want? What does it mean to say that something exists? 'Thinking' was enough to prove to Descartes that he existed -- "I think, therefore I am." Does god answer the question about existence in the same way? For god it would have to be: "I create, therefore I Am." Not very convincing today in Universe where only exchanges between matter and energy occur; no new creation.
27) But lest we be too proud: there are still many unanswered questions in the cosmos; plenty of room for a god to be the answer? But no organized religion has postulated that as scripture, that god created the laws of physics, except by zealous inference. Nor has a god ever demonstrated knowledge of the laws of physics or chemistry, (au contraries, just miracles) so how can these be attributed to it? And, another thing, if a god is not a person, then the correct pronoun is it not Him or Her as is now the fashion. Just a small detail, but it seems objectionable to god-fearing people to address their one god as an 'it.' It seems somehow derogatory or demeaning -- blasphemy? But excuse me, I didn't make the language, and a monstrous, infinitely wise, infinitely large entity is not a person, and should not be represented with a personal pronoun. 'It' is the only appropriate pronoun for such a god in English and other romance languages.
But this argument is all so Western, ethnocentric, jejune and immature. Gods for Eastern practitioners are much more pragmatic, specifically limited, more sensible like the Greek and Roman gods. Gods that don't require a capital "G." Hindu gods and Shinto gods are personal gods that help and intervene in every day life--but still much more sensible. So which should we accept? There has never been a power struggle, pecking order between East and West, except for a few wars fought, ostensibly, for other reasons. If the wars in Viet Nam and Afghanistan are considered in this context, then the Western gods lost. Are gods works of art, something like the Internet and the World Wide Web? -- it makes us wonder how all that can be possible? -- its greater than the sum of its parts!
28) The ontological proof (ontology -- the study of the nature of being) for god dates from the eleventh century when Saint Anselm, the archbishop of Canterbury, made the following argument: We conceive of God as "something that which nothing more perfect can be conceived." And he progressed to the assertion that -- from the fact that we have this concept, it follows logically that such a being must exist. Why? Because if he (it?) did not, we would be able to conceive of something still more perfect -- namely, a perfect being that does exist -- and it is an absurdity to conceive of something more perfect than the most perfect conceivable being.
It should be apparent that this is a circular fallacy that could be used to prove anything, but ends up being simply nonsense. The ontological nature of Universe, its existence without need for an intelligent cause, is shown clearly by Moon and Sun. They are there, we are here, and that's just the way it is, no need to conceive or intervene to create anything since we understand, more or less, how these were organized, and how stars, planets and moons continue to develop. (Again, do we know what we don't know?)
The ontological argument confuses two quite distinct realms of thinking -- that of our reason --'conceived' (the best examples are mathematics, time and logic) in which premises internally dictate conclusions; and that of things, in which reality is based on experience, perception and measurement -- not conception. "Having formed an a priori conception of a thing, the content of which was made to embrace existence, we believed ourselves safe in [and capable of] concluding that, because existence belongs necessarily to the object of the conception (that is, under the condition of my positing this thing as given), the existence of the thing is also posited necessarily, and it is therefore absolutely necessary -- merely because its existence has been cogitated in the conception." (Emanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason). It is difficult to suggest an example to explain the point Kant is trying to make. Both time and palm trees exist on isolated, uninhabited tropical islands, even though none of this is perceived; this can be inferred to exist necessarily, and when these are discovered, it should be no surprise. Is there a god that exists in the same way?
29) People who accept god(s) -- or God -- have to do so without belief or proof, without the need for belief or proof. This has to be a visceral reaction to a childhood religion or subsequent personal vision quest, for lack of a better term. When belief in god is a rational belief, it is hollow. When acceptance of god is based on faith, the desire to believe, it is shallow and probably not strong enough to consistently influence a person to follow the tenants of the faith. Carl Jung was once asked if he believed in god, and his reply was "No." The individual looked puzzled until Jung explained. "I don't need to believe in God since I know that god exists." (paraphrase) Obviously he knew also the difference between visceral knowledge and rational belief.
You're a good candidate for Atheism unless you have that visceral
knowledge, in which case nothing in Frame of Reference could or need
convince you to the contrary.
30) The incessant coming and rolling Sun warms through a transparent wind. Still the sea foams around our feet They search the treasures of the ocean, The subtle power of the tide Near the ocean we can find this strength Go from the beach restored, energized (IJ, February 18, 2001)
31) There is another argument for a god based on the riddle of quantum
mechanics and 'observership.' The "Copenhagen interpretation" of
quantum mechanics treats as real only observed phenomena, raising the
riddle of how the early Universe could have evolved in the absence of
observers? "This riddle may be 'solved' by invoking God as the
supreme observer, who by scrutinizing all particles converts their
quantum potentials into actual states. [see Tertius Stele: Physics,
verses 15-17] The same thesis has long been used by believers to
resolve one of the oldest (and most tiresome) ontological questions --
the one about whether trees exist when nobody observes them, or make a
sound when they fall and there's nobody around to hear it... to go
through such gyrations just to salvage the Copenhagen interpretation
is to make a very small tail wag a very big dog, or God... Belief in
God explains everything about the material universe; therefore it
explains nothing." (Timothy Ferris, The Whole Shebang, 1997)
Enjoins us to be near, to relax,
To forget whatever yesterday was --
Thinking only of now and the tide.
Not an internal warming like a fireplace,
But a blessing on the surface against
The uncertain future, the promise of luck.
And rolls its white tresses gracefully
Signaling in a language known to many,
Those prelates walking, headdown, the shore.
Churned by the washing, waves rolling
Ever finer, made smooth by no design,
Underfoot, found with each step into the future.
Is wane at its ebb of flow
But all around sprinkled over the beach
The driftwood testifies to this strength.
Also for our lives. Rolling and breaking
The rhythm is both hypnotic and
Visceral -- in the courage of our breasts.
To command each day to your Will
As the tide makes the smooth rocks,
Polish your own life as you go forth...
The incessant coming and rolling
Sun warms through a transparent wind.
Still the sea foams around our feet
They search the treasures of the ocean,
The subtle power of the tide
Near the ocean we can find this strength
Go from the beach restored, energized
(IJ, February 18, 2001)
32) Enthusiastic Atheists point eagerly at the mounting evidence from scientific discoveries that Universe (therefore humanity) emerged from chaos. The Harrison-Zeldovich spectrum of density fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, for example, confirm within observable limits that random flux influences the positioning and formation of stars and galaxies (something like the waves in sand along the beach). If Darwinian evolution depends on chance (even risk) there is no material need for an intelligent creator. It can and did happen, so can't we just accept that? The burden of proof for their being an over-reaching god is left to those who make such claims, not to the Atheist who is content to wait for incontrovertible proof.
Proof? This is a rational construction, and there is the question: "What kind of proof will it take to convince you?" So there are two issues at stake: First the theist must define or at least characterize god with some degree of specificity (i.e., YHVH of the Old Testament). And Second, describe the logical sequence or basis of the kind of proof that is to be presented. (i.e., Mathematical: requiring necessary and sufficient conditions?) Anyone who tries to do this, or even agrees that it is possible, is a good candidate for Atheism. Welcome! Enjoy! Rejoice! You are free!
33) God can be no more than the reputed, organized scriptures claim. It is not necessary for an Atheist to disprove every possible rationalization made for god. It is not necessary for an Atheist to disprove anything, or 'believe in nothing,' as it were. Not believing is rational, we can simply stand aside and absorb the facts. Consider these two statements: "I believe there is no god." and "I don't believe there is a god." These statements differ grammatically, but not essentially. But, the former has been taken to suggest that Atheists are, as a class of thinkers, believers in 'no god,' the negative argument, or null set. This is simply not the case, it is a fallacy of grammar!
To propose a god that is hard at work understanding all our thoughts, recording our deeds or making nature do those things we can otherwise not explain, is to trivialize the concept of god and significance of Man's dependence on such belief. It is a very imperfect machine that requires the constant intervention of its designer to keep it working. On the other hand, if god set into motion a deterministic Universe, with the result know in advance, where is the fun in that? That would be a very dull movie.
"All who genuinely seek to learn, whether atheist or believer, scientist or mystic, are united in having not a faith but faith itself. Its token is reverence, its habit to respect the eloquence of silence. For God's hand may be a human hand, if you reach out in loving kindness, and God's voice your voice, if you but speak the truth." (Timothy Ferris, The Whole Shebang, 1997) An Atheist can benefit from this secular faith.
34) "God as being-itself is the ground of the ontological structure of being without being subject to the structure himself... God is that structure; that is, he has the power of determining the structure of everything that has being." (Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 1963) How, in such an explanation does this god become a "he?"
"This type of discussion [Tillich's] is simply unintelligible in that it consists of sentences which may be rich in pictorial associations and in expressive meaning but which fail to make any genuine assertions... one set of metaphors is exchanged for another, and literal significance is not achieved... if a putative statement is compatible with anything whatsoever, if it excludes no conceivable state of affairs, then it is not a genuine assertion... void of any assertive force." (Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967) If god is reduced further to the Platonic 'form' of Universe, then this god is an inert shell -- ghost -- or to salvage the concept -- think of god being another dimension if you can.
35) The mere failure of the arguments for the existence of god does not show that there is no god. Anybody who supposed this, would plainly be guilty of the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam. Likewise, any one who argued: Where is the evidence against the existence of god? Finding none, would have to accept any and/or all gods, Greek, Norse, Inca and even contradictory gods or magic. "Tis thus because not otherwise." Isaac Newton refuted this in the seventeenth century. (see Tertius Stele: Physics - Atoms, verse 8)
36) Is it true that to the question of the origin of things, Man can only wonder, doubt and guess? "A philosophically acute Atheist could offer a twofold answer:.. First the question about the 'origin of the universe' is improper and rests on the mistaken or doubtful assumption that there is a thing called 'the universe'... we have a tendency to think of the universe as a large container in which all things are located... because it is used as a familiar noun... there is not a universe over and above the different things within the universe. While it makes sense to ask for the origin of any particular thing, there is not a further thing left over, called 'the universe' or 'it all,' into whose origin one can sensibly inquire... the origin of any individual thing fall[s] in principle [inside] the domain of scientific investigation... Second: it is enough to reject theological answers to the question... He does not have to be able to answer that question." (Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967)
Postulating the existence of an incomprehensible god does not answer any such question either, it just means that grammatically we agree, we choose to say it using an opposite syntax.
1) Believer: A god, creator exists that is incomprehensible and infinite--gives life by Grace.37) Some non-believers have turned to Humanism to provide answers, in lieu of other more convincing arguments. Humanism may take on several vestiges but one good expression suggests: "...it is the viewpoint that men have but one life to lead and should make the most of it in terms of creative work and happiness; that human happiness is its own justification and requires no sanction or support from supernatural sources; that in any case the supernatural, usually conceived of in the form of heavenly gods or immortal heavens, does not exist; and that human beings, using their own intelligence and cooperating liberally with one another, can build an enduring citadel of peace and beauty upon this earth." (Corliss Lamont, Humanism as a Philosophy)
2) Atheist: A sensible, comprehensible god does not exist, creation happens--and that is Grace.
I can surely find no disagreement with these assertions, although logically these have the same structure as any other statement of belief. I do occasionally find disagreement with other proposals wearing the garments of Humanism when they range into particularly socialist or communist political rhetoric obliquely suggested here by "citadel of peace and beauty."
38) "In the Western world outright atheism [one who denies the existence of any and all gods] has been unfashionable since the 19th Century, having yielded to the agnosticism which Robert Ingersoll summed up thus: 'Is there a God? I do not know. Is man immortal? I do not know. One thing I do know and that is that neither hope nor fear, belief nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be. We wait and hope.' ...atheism and agnosticism obviously do nothing toward answering the ultimate riddles of life..." (Paul Hutchinson, The World's Great Religions, "Life," 1955)
Rather than be offended by such a clear statement against Atheism, one must acknowledge the challenge to answer 'the ultimate riddles of life' in honest, pragmatic and factual terms, independent of the belief in any particular god. To 'wait and hope' without attempting to be part of the solution is not unlike the ostrich with the proverbial head in sand. Is that part of the definition of Agnosticism? I think not.
39) The Cynics were a formalized group regarded as the followers of Diogenes (circa 412-324 BC). The word means 'the dog-like' and ascribed to his philosophy because of its boldness and shamelessness. Much of the later Stoic philosophy owes its content to the ideas of the Cynics. There is an appeal to nature and reason, where humans should live according to human nature, according to human reason shared with those who can think rationally to reach the truth (rather than relying on emotion or the oracles). More of a way of life than a formal philosophy, Cynicism espoused a strict code of ascetic behavior and self-sacrifice in favor of the common good (for the educated elite's good). It is not necessarily atheistic, although these ideas were strongly influenced by Socrates who was killed, allegedly for being an Atheist (at least sacrilegious).
40) "To me God is Truth and Love; God is ethics and morality; God is
fearlessness. God is the source of Light and Life and yet He is above
and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even the atheism of
the atheist... He transcends speech and reason... He is a personal God
to those who need His personal presence. He is embodied to those who
need His touch. He is the purest essence. He simply is to those who
have faith. He is all things to all men. He is in us and yet above
and beyond us... He is long-suffering. He is patient but He is also
terrible... With Him ignorance is no excuse... He is the greatest tyrant
ever known, for He often dashes the cup from our lips and under the
cover of free will leaves us a margin so wholly inadequate as to
provide only mirth for Himself... Therefore Hinduism calls it all His
sport... "...Truth is God. God is because Truth is... Even the atheists who
have pretended to disbelieve in God have believed in Truth. The trick
they have performed is that of giving God another, not a new, name.
His names are legion. Truth is the crown of them all." (M. K.
Gandhi, All men are Brothers, 1960) How could any thinking person
ever believe or accept such a fanciful, internally inconsistent and
contradictory concept of god? If you have to convince yourself by
such a convoluted explanation, you will likely fail. People who
accept god don't need this kind of justification, they don't need any
41) Atheism is to religion (and belief in god) as celibacy is to sex.
The one denies the other, the latter has no influence or claim on the
former. Just as the celibate can justifiably say: "I don't do sex."
The Atheist can say: "I don't do religion (or god)." But each can
love, operate normally in society and each ought to be free from the
assault (or presumptive inclusion) of their antithesis. In verse 40,
Gandhi presumes a relationship between god and Atheism; this is the
moral equivalent of date-rape.
42) "Jack looked around his own environment and saw many simple examples of how best to live. The roads had lines down the middle
[rules] and nature provided similar guidelines that can be deciphered.
Nature exists, the universe exists, and people make mythical answers,
and Jack now grouped religion into the category of myth, thus
"Yes, the universe is there and doesn't need a creator. The most
important answers in life are in front of our eyes. Animals live by
their natures and with their feeble intelligences organize complicated
societies, maintain families and exercise sophisticated communication
skills. They don't need to understand or be subservient to a Supreme
"Belief in a god is irrelevant to the lives of animals, no Higher
Intelligence needs to instruct them, show them how to live or produce
offspring. [Religions are needlessly pre-occupied with controlling
human sexuality.] The basic instincts animals need are there and man
has similar constructive instincts. 'Where did these instincts come
from?' There is always this kind of prior question. Man could go
further than animals and embellish his instincts with culture. Man
can create (and destroy) complex societies, economies, morality,
ethics, cities, nations, United Nations.
"It seems empirically obvious that each man should participate in a
functioning society according to the talents he has. Talents are
dispersed throughout mankind in a manner to satisfy all the
requirements of society. It is up to the ingenuity of man to create
structures and institutions to satisfy his basic and higher needs:
because it makes society work: because that is what man the animal does: because it is there." (IJ, Jack and Lucky, 1968)
43) It's not enough to be an Atheist, it is essential to accommodate
oneself to life in a constructive way. Ending life is no answer, it
begs the question. Atheism by itself without adjusting, having a
'spiritual' sense of the beauty in nature, is like calling a blank
sheet of paper a poem. Anyone could write that, or no-one, but what
sense does it have? About as much as religion, as it turns out. But
we can move beyond the blank page without creating myths and elaborate
priesthoods to control human behavior. We can live graciously in a
well managed, Atheist, democratic society. If this end is to be
achieved, then Atheists have to do as much to teach youth and "love
thy neighbors" as do the many denominational and non-denominational
44) Solving the problems we face in every day life often calls for
'creative thinking.' Those who believe in a higher intelligence can
call forth the assistance of this deity, but the process for an
Atheist is about the same. The first step in solving any problem is
to organize as much information that is available in your mind -- or
possibly in columns on paper. Discuss the situation with experts and
then allow the problem to stir in your mind, 'unconscious' thinking.
"When we consciously seek a new or unusual tentative conclusion we
tend to stay in familiar channels. But when we permit the unconscious
mind to roam the frame of reference, free from restraint by the
conscious mind, [or prejudice] it is often able to break out of
familiar channels and put information together into new combinations."
(W. Edgar Moore, Creative and Critical Thinking, 1955) This process is
called incubation, and depending on the situation the answer could
come in the middle of the night, waking us with the power of an alarm
clock, or on the spur of the moment while in the shower, etc.
There are methods of thought control that teach how to hold the
question, focus the light of the mind obliquely on the problem, and
they teach that the answer will come as a spark of inspiration between
the natural in and out of undisturbed breathing. I like this approach
but am naturally skeptical of any supernatural intervention. In any
case it is a superstition that is harmless and easy to use. (see
Decimus Stele: Folklore - Superstition, verse 32)
"...Truth is God. God is because Truth is... Even the atheists who have pretended to disbelieve in God have believed in Truth. The trick they have performed is that of giving God another, not a new, name. His names are legion. Truth is the crown of them all." (M. K. Gandhi, All men are Brothers, 1960) How could any thinking person ever believe or accept such a fanciful, internally inconsistent and contradictory concept of god? If you have to convince yourself by such a convoluted explanation, you will likely fail. People who accept god don't need this kind of justification, they don't need any justification.
41) Atheism is to religion (and belief in god) as celibacy is to sex. The one denies the other, the latter has no influence or claim on the former. Just as the celibate can justifiably say: "I don't do sex." The Atheist can say: "I don't do religion (or god)." But each can love, operate normally in society and each ought to be free from the assault (or presumptive inclusion) of their antithesis. In verse 40, Gandhi presumes a relationship between god and Atheism; this is the moral equivalent of date-rape.
42) "Jack looked around his own environment and saw many simple examples of how best to live. The roads had lines down the middle [rules] and nature provided similar guidelines that can be deciphered. Nature exists, the universe exists, and people make mythical answers, and Jack now grouped religion into the category of myth, thus irrelevant.
"Yes, the universe is there and doesn't need a creator. The most important answers in life are in front of our eyes. Animals live by their natures and with their feeble intelligences organize complicated societies, maintain families and exercise sophisticated communication skills. They don't need to understand or be subservient to a Supreme God.
"Belief in a god is irrelevant to the lives of animals, no Higher Intelligence needs to instruct them, show them how to live or produce offspring. [Religions are needlessly pre-occupied with controlling human sexuality.] The basic instincts animals need are there and man has similar constructive instincts. 'Where did these instincts come from?' There is always this kind of prior question. Man could go further than animals and embellish his instincts with culture. Man can create (and destroy) complex societies, economies, morality, ethics, cities, nations, United Nations.
"It seems empirically obvious that each man should participate in a functioning society according to the talents he has. Talents are dispersed throughout mankind in a manner to satisfy all the requirements of society. It is up to the ingenuity of man to create structures and institutions to satisfy his basic and higher needs: because it makes society work: because that is what man the animal does: because it is there." (IJ, Jack and Lucky, 1968)
43) It's not enough to be an Atheist, it is essential to accommodate oneself to life in a constructive way. Ending life is no answer, it begs the question. Atheism by itself without adjusting, having a 'spiritual' sense of the beauty in nature, is like calling a blank sheet of paper a poem. Anyone could write that, or no-one, but what sense does it have? About as much as religion, as it turns out. But we can move beyond the blank page without creating myths and elaborate priesthoods to control human behavior. We can live graciously in a well managed, Atheist, democratic society. If this end is to be achieved, then Atheists have to do as much to teach youth and "love thy neighbors" as do the many denominational and non-denominational religious groups.
44) Solving the problems we face in every day life often calls for 'creative thinking.' Those who believe in a higher intelligence can call forth the assistance of this deity, but the process for an Atheist is about the same. The first step in solving any problem is to organize as much information that is available in your mind -- or possibly in columns on paper. Discuss the situation with experts and then allow the problem to stir in your mind, 'unconscious' thinking. "When we consciously seek a new or unusual tentative conclusion we tend to stay in familiar channels. But when we permit the unconscious mind to roam the frame of reference, free from restraint by the conscious mind, [or prejudice] it is often able to break out of familiar channels and put information together into new combinations." (W. Edgar Moore, Creative and Critical Thinking, 1955) This process is called incubation, and depending on the situation the answer could come in the middle of the night, waking us with the power of an alarm clock, or on the spur of the moment while in the shower, etc.
There are methods of thought control that teach how to hold the question, focus the light of the mind obliquely on the problem, and they teach that the answer will come as a spark of inspiration between the natural in and out of undisturbed breathing. I like this approach but am naturally skeptical of any supernatural intervention. In any case it is a superstition that is harmless and easy to use. (see Decimus Stele: Folklore - Superstition, verse 32)