Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Consistent Irrationality

Posted by Jerry on March 28, 2008

Most people function on a mix of rational and irrational ideas in their lives. There are only two ways you can survive: either you be consistently rational and act accordingly or you allow for instances of irrationality and hope that you will luckily escape the consequences of it or have someone else (usually, the government or rational neighbors) bail you out from the mess of your own creation.

It is only the human mind that can harbor contradictions, because it has free will—and since external reality does not permit such a mix of contradictions, the extent to which a person functions on irrationalities and contradiction, to that extent he is at war with reality.

Religion is fundamentally irrational. To the extent that you practice your religion consistently, it won’t be long before you either seriously or fatally harm yourself or someone else. It is the inescapable nature of reality. Here are just a couple of examples that highlight this principle manifesting in reality (from John Enright’s blog):

An eleven-year old girl is dead because her parents refused to take her to the doctor for a treatable condition. Instead, they chose to pray to god for a healing to occur. When, miraculously, no healing occured, and the child’s condition worsened over 30 days until she eventually succumbed to her death, her parents said that they did not pray with enough faith. Not to accept defeat in their battle against reality, the girl’s mother has now vowed to pray for her daughter’s resurrection:

An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday in Weston, just outside Wausau.

“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

A very troubling aspect of this story is that the government’s child services division apparently finds nothing alarming about these parents’ behavior and its implications to their three other daughters. The dead child–whose death was directly caused by the faith and irrationality of her parents–has three siblings between the ages of 13 and 16.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

“They are still in the home,” he said. “There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”

In another account of a battle against reality, a father allegedly placed his infant baby in a microwave oven to burn; his wife explains that her husband was under the influence of Satan, who had taken advantage of a “weak moment.” Through some means, the wife acquired the knowledge that Satan was angry at her husband for choosing to become a Christian preacher. Therefore, Satan compelled her husband to put their infant child in the microwave, shut the door, turn it on, and watch as the baby suffered serious burns.

The wife of this demon-haunted man, however, does admit to an interesting fact:

Mauldin said her husband had a mental disability and her efforts to get him help have failed.

Those who claim that religion is not something to be made fun of are correct in one sense. Religion cannot be taken so lightly as to be made fun of; know that the believers are not taking their religion lightly–and to the degree that they are not, we shouldn’t either, because life hangs in the balance. Religion should be criticized, denounded, and condemned as strongly as the practitioners who practice it hold their faith.

The pernicious death-premise of religion is hardly recognized by even most secular folks and atheists. While the secularists and atheists are content with rejecting religious beliefs, many of them often acknowledge that some people need religion and that religion can certainly provide a path to a virtuous and moral lifestyle. Indeed, many atheists share the same moral code that religion prescribes! Religion is seen as a guide to virtuous living that can be secularized, which is the insidious nature of this form of irrationality—it hides under the garb of universal virtue. 

A majority of people in the world (including many atheists) consider only religious people to be some of the most virtuous people on this planet. Think Teresa of Calcutta. How many people believe that Teresa was lacking in any significant moral virtue? I’d venture to say—very few. How many think she was downright evil?

Do you see my point? 

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UPDATE: Yahoo! News and the Associated Press have just posted a more detailed account of the 11-year old girl’s death, including interviews with the parents and some relatives. Here are some of the details missing from the original link I posted in my article above:

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She had probably been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by Friday and forward the results to the district attorney.

The girl’s mother, Leilani Neumann, said that she and her family believe in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but that they do not belong to an organized religion or faith, are not fanatics and have nothing against doctors.

She insisted her youngest child, a wiry girl known to wear her straight brown hair in a ponytail, was in good health until recently.

“We just noticed a tiredness within the past two weeks,” she said Wednesday. “And then just the day before and that day (she died), it suddenly just went to a more serious situation. We stayed fast in prayer then. We believed that she would recover. We saw signs that to us, it looked like she was recovering.”

Her daughter — who hadn’t seen a doctor since she got some shots as a 3-year-old, according to Vergin — had no fever and there was warmth in her body, she said.

The girl’s father, Dale Neumann, a former police officer, said he started CPR “as soon as the breath of life left” his daughter’s body.

Family members elsewhere called authorities to seek help for the girl.

“My sister-in-law, she’s very religious, she believes in faith instead of doctors …,” the girl’s aunt told a sheriff’s dispatcher Sunday afternoon in a call from California. “And she called my mother-in-law today … and she explained to us that she believes her daughter’s in a coma now and she’s relying on faith.”

The dispatcher got more information from the caller and asked whether an ambulance should be sent.

“Please,” the woman replied. “I mean, she’s refusing. She’s going to fight it. … We’ve been trying to get her to take her to the hospital for a week, a few days now.”

The aunt called back with more information on the family’s location, emergency logs show. Family friends also made a 911 call from the home. Police and paramedics arrived within minutes and immediately called for an ambulance that took her to a hospital.

But less than an hour after authorities reached the home, Madeline — a bright student who left public school for home schooling this semester — was declared dead.

She is survived by her parents and three older siblings.

“We are remaining strong for our children,” Leilani Neumann said. “Only our faith in God is giving us strength at this time.”

The Neumanns said they moved from California to a modern, middle-class home in woodsy Weston, just outside Wassau in central Wisconsin, about two years ago to open a coffee shop and be closer to other relatives. A basketball hoop is set up in the driveway.

Leilani Neumann said she and her husband are not worried about the investigation because “our lives are in God’s hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”

Posted in Atheism, Culture, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Deriving Atheism from Philosophy

Posted by Jerry on March 14, 2008

It is a matter of fact that science can never disprove the existence of God. The tools of science–experimentation, observation, and empiricism–are inherently inadequate for the job. At best, empiricists can only reach approximations of certainty–and can claim, like Richard Dawkins does, that they have a very high degree of certainty that god does not exist.

This, however, does not indicate any weakness in the position of atheism as such; rather, it highlights the fact that science is inferior to philosophy and that philosophy is and should be the foundation of all scientific thought. Once reason and objectivity are evicted from their epistemological base in philosophy, a free floating set of rules like that of pragmatism and relativism or a blinded philosophy like that of the skepticism is spawned: neither of these philosophies can agree on what can be known or indeed whether anything at all can be known.

As Ayn Rand said: “Science was born as a result and consequence of philosophy; it cannot survive without a philosophical (particularly epistemological) base. If philosophy perishes, science will be next to go. It is philosophy that defines and establishes the epistemological criteria to guide human knowledge in general and specific sciences in particular.”

It is philosophy that reveals to man the proper methods of thinking and the laws governing sensible, valid, and rational thought. In other words, it is philosophy that identifies the axioms of knowledge and the non-contradictory nature of existence, and then devises the epistemic rules of thinking (logic) that mimic the nature of existence. 

The lack of absolute certainty in the non-existence of god actually indicates the categorical confusion of metaphysics and nature that scientists like Dawkins commit. Atheism is often reinterpreted as being a naturalistic worldview; and although this is not false, it has resulted in the belief that atheism is actually a position reached at the end of a personal scientific and empiric quest. And often, this is indeed how many people become atheists: they start with their studies in evolutionary science, physics, or astronomy; they begin to ask the right questions and push for honest answers; they examine claims of miracles and seek scientific explanations; and eventually, they reach a point where atheism becomes the only plausible and default position to hold. Quite correctly, they see no empiric evidence to believe in the supernatural.

However, such atheists arrive at their conclusion through very weak and fundamentally unsubstantiated grounds. Indeed, such atheists can never deny that the next scientifically inexplicable event may suddenly turn them into theists or agnostics: in fact, some atheists (misguidedly) consider such “open-mindedness” in the face of an inexplicable even to be a sign of honorable intellectual honesty–the mark of a skeptic who is even proudly skeptical of atheism.

In essence, such atheists hold their belief at the mercy of the next concrete event, discovery, alleged sighting, or claim that would dictate whether or not they remain atheists or turn into agnostics.

The only way to rescue this unhinged concept of atheism from total collapse into subjectivism is to extract it from the domain of science and place it back where it belongs–in philosophy.

The position of atheism is a particularly philosophical position, not a scientific one. This is because atheism belongs to a subset of ideological positions, namely, the ideological position pertaining to metaphysics and spiritual belief. Particularly, atheism is the ideological position that holds as fact that there is no god. The only way to ascertain the validity of this assertion is by applying the laws revealed by philosophy, not by the implementation of any empiric, experimental, or observational method of scientific enquiry. In other words, the only permanent path to atheism is one primarily or fundamentally grounded on rational philosophical enquiry, not a scientific one.

Ayn Rand identified that existence exists and that existence is identity. It is on the basis of these fundamental and irrefutable metaphysical axioms that we know–with absolute certainty–that god does not, and indeed cannot, exist.

Existence is identity; that is, to be is to be something. A thing cannot be and not-be at the same time: this is a law that identifies a fact of existence. The supernatural not only means something outside of our Earth or our galaxy, but literally outside of everything in the Universe, including the Universe itself. Therefore, to be supernatural is literally to be outside existence qua existence, since existence is the totality of all that exists. Therefore, for the supernatural to exist, it must not exist. Therefore, the supernatural does not exist.

Likewise, if god is omniscient, then he must know everything; but then he cannot know what it is like to not know something. Therefore, god is an omniscient being who does not know everything. Therefore, god does not exist.

Likewise, if god is omnipotent, then he should be able to do anything; but god cannot kill himself. Therefore, god is an omnipotent being who cannot do everything. Therefore, god does not exist.

Likewise, if god is infinite, then he must transcend space, time, and measurement; but then he cannot have an identity–or be an entity–because to exist is to be an entity (to be is to be something; like the Universe is itself an entity). Therefore, god is an entity who is not an entity. A is non-A. Therefore, god cannot exist.

Likewise, if god is intelligent, then he must be rational, logical, and sensible. In other words, god would also have to obey the laws of rationality and logic; but then, our use of logic and reason above has demonstrated that were such an entity to exist, he would have to be full of contradictions; since logic does not permit contradictions, and contradictions do not exist, god does not exist.

And so on…

It is only at the end of such personal philosophical enquiry in the context of metaphysics–by employing the tools of logic and reason and holding objectivity as the standard of knowledge–that absolute atheism can be arrived at. And this pure atheism is immune to whatever claims or random events that may give someone a sense of wonderment or of being inexplicable. This kind of atheism knows that there is–and can be–no gods.

Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

The Sword of Wafa Sultan

Posted by Jerry on March 7, 2008

Syrian-born political commentator and American psychiatrist, Wafa Sultan, speaks with the ferocity of a sword-wielding soldier in the battlefield of ideas.

“I have decided to fight Islam; please pay attention to my statement; to fight Islam, not the political Islam, not the militant Islam, not the radical Islam, not the Wahhabi Islam, but Islam itself… Islam has never been misunderstood, Islam is the problem…. (Muslims) have to realize that they have only two choices: to change or to be crushed.”

This video of her interview on Al-Jazeera is a must-see:

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1704.htm

Go to fullsize imageWhen Islamic barbarism was revealed in the wake of the Danish cartoons fiasco, Wafa Sultan and members from the Ayn Rand Institute got together on panel discussions across the United States to stand up against the Islamic threat to freedom, liberty, and western civilization. The ARI website has the video of one their events in which Wafa Sultan participated:

Totalitarian Islam’s Threat to the West
A panel discussion featuring Daniel Pipes, Yaron Brook and Wafa Sultan
Recorded April 12, 2007
View video playback (requires RealPlayer®)
Part 1 (55 min.)
Part 2 (60 min.)

Watch more videos of this brave woman. [HT: Rule of Reason]

Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, Islamo-loony, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Slow Poison

Posted by Jerry on November 30, 2007

I was over at Flibbertigibbet, reading his post on the US presidential race. It’s really scary how Christianity is gaining an even stronger foothold in US culture and politics.

Mike Huckabee is the currently leading Republican contender for the president. He is also an ordained Christian Baptist minister, and holds the following positions:

He’s against gays in the military.  He’s against gay marriage.  He’s even opposed to civil unions. As a Christian, he believes that homosexuality is immoral and that marriage is sacred.

He’s against abortion.  As a Christian, he believes that abortion means killing a child and a woman’s right to her own body is superseded by the fetuses alleged right to life.
 
He’s for the War in Iraq.

He’s against stem cell research for much the same reasons that he is against abortion.

He’s a creationist and an anti-evolutionist.  Why?  Jesus said so.

He regards environmentalism as a moral issue based on the Christian stewardship concept.

He supports national ID cards and use of RFID chips for tracking citizens.

Posted in 2008 US Elections, Culture, Political Issues, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

God Under the Knife

Posted by Jerry on November 8, 2007

I am currently watching a story on the late-night news program, and at the same time, reading the same story blogged by ReasonPharm.

Doctors in Bangalore, India, just completed a successful surgery to remove a set of limbs on a two-year-old girl. The little girl was born with 8 limbs–the extra four being that of her parasitic twin that did not develop fully inside the womb.

Seeing a child with 8 limbs, the primitive minds of Indian villagers saw similarities with their goddess Laxmi, from which the child gets her name.

The Indian villagers believed that the girl was a reincarnation of the goddess and lost no time in getting down to venerating the infant Laxmi.

ReasonPharm made some good observations about this story. Here’s one of them:

Reason triumphs over mysticism. The girl’s parents could have decided that their daughter was indeed Lakshmi reincarnated, and that they shouldn’t tamper with the body of a goddess. Instead, they realized that their daughter is a human being who could not have lived a normal life in the body she was born with. “It will be great to see our daughter have a normal body,” her father Shambhu, who only goes by one name, told reporters. “We were worried for her future.”

It is indeed noteworthy that these Indian devotees of Laxmi were willing to let their goddess Laxmi (or her reincarnation) go under the surgical–and rational–knife, almost literally severing mysticism from reality! 

Contrast this with the attitude of Christian fundamentalists in the US–presumably the more “educated” and “civilized” counterparts of the Indian devotees–with regard to stem cell research and biogenetic engineering. And these cells are not even reincarnations!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Rock Bottom

Posted by Jerry on October 4, 2007

I’m sitting here watching the evening news on Times Now India.

Here’s what’s playing: “Mystic” Rock Attracts Devottees.

Apparently, a sizeable rock weighing about 15 kilograms was found floating around somewhere. The rock refused to sink in water. So, some Indians have taken to worshipping the rock, considering it a miracle by their god “Ram.”

😐

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Serving Faith in Reasonable Doses

Posted by Jerry on September 19, 2006

Pope Benedict of the Catholic Church is trying to mask the fundamental dangers of faith in small, innocuous doses of reason. Desperately attempting to revitalize the Scholastic tradition of Aquinas in the Catholic Church, and rid itself of mysticism and enigma, the Pope is defending Christianity–and God–by an appeal to a return to Reason! As Aquinas had argued, so now does the Pope, that Reason and Faith are complementary; that the essential nature of God is rational and logical, and that the man has been endowed with the same apparatus of reason and logic that we share with God.

It is most dangerous when one blurs the very crucial line between reason and faith; because faith is a form of force, and force is utterly incompatible with reason. In any mixture of or compromise between good and evil, as Rand said, the good suffers and the evil wins out; in any compromise between reason and faith, reason suffers and faith (force) wins out.

Therefore, in light of this, I wish to highlight my own unique arguments for atheism against the claims that reason and faith are complementary.

First, the very idea that God has endowed man with reason and logic contradicts Christianity’s very cherished Book of Genesis. Read my “God’s Original Plan for Humanity.” Excerpt:

The Devil liberated human beings from the state of ignorance and animal-like existence. The Devil gave us the glimpse of immense possibilities, of achievements, of the concept of happiness, joy, love, of the higher meanings of morality, choice, freedom, failure, etc.
The Devil made the world we live in, possible. The Devil free-ed humans to build our own heaven, here in Earth.

Next, the Pope says the Christian idea of God is essentially rational in nature–that God’s nature does not subsume the contradictory, for example, even God cannot make a circle with four corners. Fair enough, and I agree wholeheartedly. But, why stop there? Read my “God’s Limitations.” Excerpt:

Since no capacity to ever do wrong exists in God, He is bounded by His nature to always do right — automatically.
Thus, no free-will, thus no choice, then automatic nature, like instinct. Thus, this whole argumentation of God being “perfectly moral” and having “free-will” and being independently “omnipotent” seems to fall flat on its face.

In another related, but seperate posts, I demonstrate how a God that is immortal and infinite must by necessity of His nature have a very monotonously boring life! Excerpt:

God cannot but live. God cannot but be moral. God cannot but be perfect. Thus, all of those things (at least), have absolutely no alternatives. And in the face of no alternatives, one cannot engage in choice. Thus, God has no choice in the matter and therefore cannot value His own actions nor can He value His own existence. This also means that God is limited in the things He can do.

The point is that a God who follows the principles of logic must–ironically enough–by the necessity of His own logical nature, NOT exist! Thus, to claim that God is rational and logical is to claim that God does not exist! Thus, it is clear that at the most fundamental level, reason does not permit the existence of God, but only faith does, and hence, reason and faith are diametrically opposed at all levels.

However, in my “First Principles of Atheism” I argued that the best way to prove the non-existence of God is to have the believer admit–like the Pope did–that any concept of God must be intelligible and open to rational and logical scrutiny. If this condition is not met, then I will have equal legitimacy in claiming Batman (or Superman) as my deity as you have in claiming Jesus or the Spaghetti Monster as your deity. If God is not required to be intelligent or rational or logical, then anything and everything can be considered “God”; one does not even have to worry about consistency, let alone truth!

Anyway, I used this opportunity not only to argue against the modern trend of mixing faith with reason but also to highlight the uniqueness of my own approach to atheism based on reason not on faith.

Posted in Atheism, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Epistemic Urges

Posted by Jerry on August 11, 2006

Jason recently mused about the whole concept of “souls”–what is it, where is it, and do we humans really have it. It’s an interesting post, well worth a proper read. I say this because his post got me thinking about souls too! 🙂

In his ruminations on the matter of souls, Jason cites one of my earlier posts, Consciousness: Its limited and limitless qualities. He says:

Ergo once mentioned that the idea of afterlife only exists because, being as we cannot comprehend not existing, we therefore imagine a life for afterward, because we cannot fathom not thinking, not feeling, not existing. We cannot fathom not existing, and therefore, we must continue to exist even when all we know and all we see disappears or goes away…

And I believe this is in fact true. As I said in my earlier post, our conscious minds are epistemically boundless, limitless, unrestricted in imagination. Our imaginations are completely free. As evidence, witness the creative, productive, and cultural history of human civilization–the myriad of unique, different, artistic and commercial creations by individual men–the millions of differents poems, books, movies, photographs, ideas, theories, applications, etc. This proves irrefutably that man’s imagination is limitless.

Epistemically, we can think, conjure, imagine almost anything; we can fabricate any unique kind of creature, superhero, fantasy realm, dreamland, creative design, musical composition, etc. The limitation to our consciousness lies in the metaphysical realm: our consciousness cannot survive beyond our physical death because a physical death is also the end of that which makes our consciousness possible, a functioning brain. Thus, in a metaphysical sense, our consciousness is grounded and limited (since it cannot overcome physical death), but in an epistemic sense, it is free and unbounded (it can imagine itself to “exist” in places where the physical brain does not exist, e.g., an imagined heaven).

Now, in addition to the fact that our imaginations are unbounded, there is another epistemic rule: our consciousness–while it can imagine anything–must have something to think about, something to imagine. In other words, a consciousness conscious of nothing is a contradiction of terms. The fact that we are conscious implies that our minds have some content that we are aware of.

[Edit: Ted Keer correctly pointed out to me that while we can imagine anything or any fantasy, there are some logical limitations to its abilities. These limitations are mostly of the abstract, logical kind. For example, it is impossible to imagine a squared-circle. We have no such figure, no such concept, and no such referent in reality. I refered to this limitation much earlier–much before Ted pointed this out to me–in a post titled “Musings on Metaphysics.” These qualifications notwithstanding, the fact of our immense abilities to imagine practically anything remains. The thrust of this post is that consciousness always imagines something since to be conscious is to always have some content of awareness; however, it cannot imagine *nothing* or the state of nothingness–which is what death is, nothing.]

Being conscious of “nothingness” is an invalid statement, as no such thing is possible. “Nothingness” by definition would include the non-existence of consciousness. In fact, one must remain silent about the concept of “nothingness” because nothing can be said about nothingness, except in relation to something else.

The only sensible manner of speaking about nothingness is in its relation to something. One can only speak of nothing as being bounded or charted by something. Thus, it is purely for methodological purposes that we use the concept of “nothingness.” Nothing such as nothingness exists as such.

Therefore, human consciousness–as it cannot fathom the notion of nothingness–is impelled (or has strong epistemic urges) to imagine some sort of continued existence after death, because death and non-existence, i.e., nothingness, is simply unfathomable and impossible for the human consciousness to imagine; the nature of our minds is such that we are unlimited in what we can think of so long as we think of something and that we think of ourselves as thinking beings.

We are unable to come to a point where nothingness envelops our consciousness such that we can imagine what death and non-existence must really be like. This is why people are pre-occupied with contemplating death: the state of death is an enigma to them, a puzzling condition that they simply cannot get their heads around. They forget that the very act of contemplating what death must be like is succumbing to their epistemic urge of attributing a *content* to the state of non-existence, to imagine *something* about nothingness, to push their epistemically unlimited consciousness into the metaphysically impermissible domain of death.

Since we are incapable of experiencing, or even imagining, what death and non-existence must be like, we tend to explore (using our unlimited imaginitive capabilities) “after-death” scenarious of our continued existence. And while we are engaged in such flights of imaginative fancies, we might as well fabricate elaborate scenarios that fulfill our deep, emotional desires, such as “unending happiness and bliss” in heaven, joy, honey, wine, virgins in heaven; our desire of justice and reward is likewise fulfilled by imagining that evil and rich people are banished off to hell where they suffer forever, and poor, meek, and good people who “suffer” on earth are abundantly rewarded in heaven. This is the act of confusing our epistemic nature with our metaphysical nature.

Related Posts: Epistemic Urges-II

Posted in Atheism, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

First Principles of Atheism

Posted by Jerry on June 30, 2006

D. Eastbrook offered me a link to Anton Thorn’s site on Atheism. I haven’t had the time to peruse Anton’s site entirely, but based on what I have read so far, I believe Anton’s case for atheism is based on a weak definition of the concept “atheism”.

In his Atheological Credo, Anton defines his atheism as “absence of god-belief.” His essay is pretty much his answer to the question, “Why I have no god-belief.”

I believe this definition is weak and could possibly reveal holes in the arguments that he bases on that definition.

Atheism, as I define it, is not merely an absence of god-belief, but an assertive credo stating that there is no god to believe in! In other words, atheism belongs to the genus of ideology, the subset of metaphysics, and its differentia is the answer in the negative. Therefore, atheism is a resounding “No!” to the metaphysical question “Does god exist?”

Thus, if someone posed the question to me, “Why do I have no god-belief,” my response would be simply to say that I have no such belief because there is no such entity to have a belief in.

Atheism is the recognition that there is/are no god(s). It is not merely a belief that there is no god, but a recognition of that fact, and therefore, a metaphysical truth. A belief could be mistaken, or proven wrong at some future point. A recognition of fact is a recognition of reality as is. One can choose to not believe in something, i.e., have an absence of belief in something arising out of ignorance or error in thought; that however, does not necessitate the absence of the entity or experience that you reject belief in.

Further, note that most of Anton’s arguments in support of his “absence of god-belief” appeal to principles of logic, reason, rationality, axioms of reality, and other Objectivist principles. While he is right in doing so, and his arguments are valid and even impressive, they have little potency or relevance in the face of religionists who fundamentally accept faith over reason, contradictory premises, illogical arguments, and irrational beliefs.

It is futile to engage in logical persuasion with such people because they will simply say: okay, yes. All that makes human sense. All that is logical. But everything does not have to be logical. God is above and beyond our logic and worldly principles. God cannot be bound by principles of logic. Faith is illogical. Your arguments are good, but simply human arguments. Your absence of belief is actually agnosticism, not atheism, because given your statement that you do not believe in a god, you do not therefore claim that a God in fact does not exist.

It is my view that the starting first premise for an atheist to successfully engage a religious believer into considering arguments for atheism is by drawing strict boundaries of discussion. Force the discussion to be situated on rational and logical grounds because nothing is outside the province of reason–not even God:

1) State that whatever concept one has of God, that concept most likely includes their contention that this God is a supremely intelligent Being; They will concede this “intelligent” premise because they would not want to admit that they may be worshipping a stupid, ignorant, dumb, or unintelligent god. Nor would they want to concede that this Universe is not intelligently designed. So, assume God is a supremely intelligent Being.

2) If God is supremely intelligent, then God knows that a circle with 4 corners cannot be drawn. It is impossible for such a figure to be drawn, and God is well aware of that because He is intelligent. This means, God must certainly know (like we humans do) that there are basic logical principles that cannot be violated, in this case, it is the logical principle of identity. Similarly, other logical principles that are derived from identity and non-contradiction are also (and must be) applicable to God.

3) Given that we now accept that God also subscribes to some basic principles of logic — like A is A (a circle is a circle and cannot be a square with 4 corners at the same time), we can introduce further arguments that are strictly rational. For example, we can argue that since God is also immortal and eternal, God can never kill himself or cause himself to cease to exist; God cannot do that because he cannot violate the law of identity, i.e. A is A. It’s His nature to be immortal.

4) Thus, we slowly begin introducing further logical arguments once we have firmly laid the foundation that a supremely intelligent God must also concede to basic principles of logic. Once that has been settled, one can begin, as Anton does, shooting all the logical, philosophical ammunition you have. [See my posts in “Atheism“]

Note that my method requires the we set clear boundaries of discussion with religionists to accept the validity of logic as the most basic premise in analyzing God-concepts. Thus, in a way, I am introducing to them the fact that all beliefs are subject to logical and rational scrutiny–even beliefs accepted on faith. By dragging them into the field of logic and reason, and away from the murky, nebulous territory of faith, I get them to see the veracity and validity of my arguments. If beyond that, they still disagree, one must simply ignore them, because a mind not open to rational persuasion is not a mind worth engaging with: such a person may be evading reason, is fearful of the consequences of being persuaded, or may simply be intellectually inequipped to handle the complexity of rational thought.

Now, I can forsee that someone might interject my argument by saying, what if one holds a Spinozist conception of God, i.e. pantheistic, identical with nature? Or what if one concedes that this “super power, higher Being” does not have to be Intelligent? If such argument is put forth, then its not too difficult to point out the uselessness of even introducing such a concept of God that is not already taken care of by our current understanding of the Nature, evolution, existence, and its processes. A “god” identical with “nature” is nature itself–why bother introducing such a bromide as “God?”–and based on what premise, reason, or belief? If it is merely an assertion of faith, then anything goes. I can assert that Superman exists, and construct an entire religious paradigm around Him as deity.

UPDATED:

The more I read Anton’s site on atheism, the more I believe that his arguments are weak in some fundamental ways. First, for example, take his argument that the claim “God exists” is a contradiction and thererefore, is self-refuting. His argument basically takes us on a tour of the Objectivist axiom of existence (and its corollary, consciousness) in order to reach his conclusion. He says:

To claim that god exists, you must both assume the truth of the primacy of existence and deny it at the same time.

What he means is that, to make the claim that “God exists” and that existence exists because of God created it, is to arrive at a contradiction. Objectivism states that consciousness is only meaningful if something exists in the first place (primacy of existence). In other words, consciousness cannot exist without something independently existing also. Consciousness is awareness; and if there isn’t anything to be aware of, then one cannot be “aware.” So, how does this apply to God? Anton claims that stating that God exists is making a claim for the primacy of existence (i.e., existence exists), but making the claim that God brought “existence into existence” makes a claim to the primacy of consciousness.

In other words, Anton claims that by proposing God’s existence, the theist is claiming that God is essentially conscious (i.e., aware) without needing anything existing to be conscious of! This, according to Anton, brings us to a contradiction, and therefore the claim that God exists is self-refuting. [For a different approach to arriving at this contradiction, see “We Exist. Therefore, God does not.“]

I find his argument to be logically sound, but fundamentally weak in its ability to persuade a theist to accept it. Why? Because, Anton’s argument of contradiction necessarily depends upon separating existence and consciousness as two distinct premises (or the only two exhaustive metaphysical primacies); and that is a centuries-old debated premise.

In fact, Hegelian Absolutism and Spinozistic Pantheism fundamentally rests on the view that existence and consciousness are not distinct and opposing primacies, but actually one and the same–each implying the other. Further, some Idealistic Rationalists also claim that the Absolute Consciousness contains within itself the awareness of itself and of “existence.” In other words, existence (like us, animals, rocks, buildings, etc.) are nothing more that the imaginations or thoughts of an Absolute Consciousness (whether it’s an entity or some kind of “collective consciousness” is debated among themselves) that thinks existence into existence!

Moreover, the premise that consciousness cannot precede existence has also been challenged by many theistic and atheistic philosophies. Existentialism (of both the secular and the religious kind) asserts the primacy of the consciousness. God, as understood by some theists, is an integrated, infinite entity that is essentially and fundamentally existent and aware of its existence at the same time. Contradictions, according to these theists and others, do not always lead to invalidation but possibly to a synthesis of opposites, or a transcendence of apparent opposites (Hegelian dialecticism). 

Now, why do I state these as objections to Anton’s arguments even when I know that they are absurd? Because, those are the kinds of arguments a theist could legitimately pose as a challenge to his argument and feel vindicated.

In fact, even in Objectivism, one must be careful in explicating the axioms. Rand said that the axiom of existence “implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives, and that one exists possessing consciousness” (Atlas Shrugged). In other words, Rand does not state that existence and consciousness are opposites and that one must choose one over the other, but that each implies the other. That if there is consciousness, there necessarily must be existence. Or, to state it in another way, when I make the claim that Existence exists, I am at the same time also making the claim that I possess consciousness.

Thus, a theist could in typical Hegelian fashion claim that God is the metaphyical primary that entails the primacies of existence and consciousness in Himself: He is infinitely existent and is omnisciently conscious of existence.

The question Anton should be asking himself is this: why should a religionist accept Objectivist axioms in this discussion on the existence of God? Because Objectivism is the true and rational philosophy? Yes. But as Anton readily admits, theists are fundamentally irrational! Their whole belief system is based on faith, which is whim! So, why would one hold the hopes that the rational axioms of Objectivism will have any ability in convincing these fundamentally irrational believers?

I myself discovered atheism before I discovered Objectivism and its rational principles. I still hold that my approach of “seducing” the irrationals into the territory of rational, logical sense by using their own concept of God as a “supremely Intelligent Being,” and then proceeding to analyze what “intelligent” i.e. logical and rational would mean when applied to God, is the most potent way of persuading and convincing them of the truth of atheism.

Posted in Atheism, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

God-concepts

Posted by Jerry on June 22, 2006

I have noticed that every concept that one ascribes to God, i.e., as an attribute of whatever God is, either is contradictory to begin with, or ends up getting mired in contradiction at some point, and to such an extent that the concept itself becomes simply unintelligible. And despite that, or maybe because of the unintelligibility that is encountered when thinking of such concepts, some people tend to either underestimate the efficacy of our rational minds, or they (the religious believers) tend to reinforce their “faith” in a God that is all “mysterious,” enigmatic,” and beyond our limited comprehension.

For example, the concept of an all-loving, unconditionally loving God is clearly and most obviously in fundamental conflict with the notion of heaven, hell, justice, retribution, and free will.

Fully moral, completely perfect God — fundamentally contradicts God’s free will and capacity to choose; contradicts His all-powerful, immortal, infinite nature… contradicts our own existence and the nature of our reality.

Justice as attributed to God, i.e. being fully just–creates fundamental conflicts with His quality of unlimited mercy, perfect benevolence, etc. Moreover, the notion that infinite souls live eternally the consequences of their mortal lives while they were on Earth as physical beings seems utterly unjust according to any formulations of justice.

Omniscience implies all-knowing, except knowing how it is like to not know something, which is a contradiction. The same is applicable to omnipotence: the powerlessness in the face of having to think of something He cannot do or cannot think of.

Thus, nothing about God makes any sense. And that in itself is a contradiction of the concept of a supremely intelligent God. It conflicts with some very fundamental standards of what intelligibility should be. If a supremely intelligent God fails to even meet the fundamental standard of non-contradiction, then either God is incredibly stupid, or we are. Clearly, there is ample evidence to show that humans are both stupid and also incredibly intelligent. But there is not a shred of evidence thus far that demonstrates God’s intelligence–let alone his very existence! All we “know” of God–or of such a concept as God–is that it is utterly nonsensical, unimaginably contradictory, incomprehensive, beyond any of our understanding… and therefore, most certainly true!?

Posted in Atheism, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Holy Order

Posted by Jerry on July 6, 2005

I have noticed this in me, a change; a very slow and deliberate journey that has changed the core of my identity.

In previous years, I was a very devout, religious Christian believer. My highest value was the knowledge of God and His intimate relation with me in my life. I will admit that there were many things I accepted on christian doctrinal faith, but there were also many more beliefs for which I pursued a rational and secular foundation. Nonetheless, my relationship with God had the quality of innocent acceptance and honest conversation. I called Him my father, my friend, my own. I walked with Him, I talked with Him, I joked with Him. God was like my own happy secret.

And yet, through all those years, I carried in me a very distinct feeling of worthlessness. In fact, I enjoyed my status as “unworthy” and “insignificant” — I thought I was practicing humility. In some strange way, I thought that the more I degraded my human spirit, the more I exalted the spirit of God — like He could only gain the affirmation of His highest spiritual ascension through my personal acknowledgment of self-descent. Before God, I thought, I am not even worthy of His pity, let alone His magnanimous love, which He offers me nonetheless.

God, I thought, loved me only because His nature was love, not because I was worthy of being loved by Him. I did not believe there was any inherent quality of goodness in me that made me lovable to God. It was He, in all His benevolence and mercy, that loved me, a poor, miserable, mortal sinner.

Ofcourse, the nature of this relationship with God can be seen as potentially very destructive to the human psyche; but that is the point.
The idea is in fact to invalidate the ego, reduce the identity of the self to the degree of such insignificance that there remains no shred of self-worth, self-esteem, or any definite concept of the self in one’s being.

Some might argue that this is not the goal of religious belief: to degrade the human spirit. However, I believe that recognizing the essence of the magnanimity of God invariably leads one to feel like how I felt: so utterly insignificant in this grand scheme of God’s awesome creation and His benevolence! Religion invariably makes you feel insignificant. Religious emphasis on the after-life and the soul invariably leads one to ignore or supress the experience of this material, real life, the personal concerns of this current world, the identity of the physical body, and the protection of one’s ego. This is what Kira Argounova in We The Living means when she says that anyone who believes in God does not value himself or life; he spits upon his own face.

The religious virtue of humility is best achieved not by making a pretense at being insignificant, but by truly and fully believing that one is not worthy and achieving complete emotional, psychological, social, and physical insignificance! Religious virtue is in honestly being able to say: I am nothing. I can do nothing. I am merely an instrument for God to do His works through me. I have no desires but to fulfill the desires of God. I am empty vessel; I am a blind and obedient servant. I do not deserve anything except that which God deems me worthy of having in His great mercy and pity. I do not even have the right to my life or my body, because I am only a channel for His will on earth and in my life.

It is a religious virtue to find your tongue licking the dirt of the ground… reducing yourself to dust, for that is what religion wants you to believe: You are nothing but dirt, and to dirt you shall return.

Posted in Atheism, General Work/Life, Personal, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

About Faith and Reason

Posted by Jerry on June 11, 2005

“An error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” — Atlas Shrugged, Rand.

[My discussion with Sasco D’Agostino]

Me: Well, you have made two different statements concerning our efforts at understanding God. First you said, “one can rightly NEVER say ANYTHING of God…”
Then you say, “we can never FULLY get at the essence of Him, we can merely come to a continually greater awareness of Him.”
THe two statements have very different implications. Initially, I used your first statement as a premise and logically built my argument. By the first statment, one can NEVER say ANYTHING rightly of God. In other words, one ALWAYS does say WRONG things about God…(OR, whenever one makes an effort to say ANYTHING about God one is ALWAYS WRONG). This is the implication of your first statement.
The second statement now allows more room for discussion. It says that one can say SOME things rightly about God, but NOT everything TOTALLY. I fully and clearly understand this view and subscribe to this perception assuming the existence of a real God. Thus, as a scientist would try to understand physical experiences in increments, I try to understand (as much as is possible to my weak and finite brain) the concept of God in little increments of logic and rationality.
THe reason I use logic and rationality as my method of investigation rather than acceptance based on faith is because I believe (similar to what Aquinas believed) that any concept of God SHOULD BY DEFINITION include the attributes of a perfectly Intelligent, perfectly Rational, and perfectly Logical Being. THus, a potential Being possessing such infinitely beautiful logic, infinitely profound intelligence, should atleast in some tiny and small way be perceivable to us by our serious attempts at being rational and logical to understand that Being (or come closer to an understanding of It).

Contrary to popular neo-didactic thinking that Rationality and Faith do not necessarily contradict but are complementary, I believe that right from the most basic premise, rationality and faith enter into major conflicts. The essential core of the concept “Reason” and the concept “Faith” enter into a contradiction. According to the Principal of Non-Contradiction, A is A. A and non-A cannot remain without conflict. In other words, Reason (A), which is a faculty of knowledge based on evidence, demonstration, axioms, and logic cannot in any way complement Faith (Non-A), which rests on an acceptance of ideas without any need for demonstration, logic, proofs, or axioms. Reason (A) and Faith (non-A) MUST by necessary logic exist in a contradiction with each other.
Another way to explain this is to look at how we gain knowledge through science. The basic and fundamental first principal of the Rational (or scientific) method is to assume a hypothesis and work towards disproving or falsifying that. One can never begin a hypothesis of negation and then prove its veracity, i.e. prove something is not true by showing that it has no evidence of being true. As a concrete example, I cannot assume that God does not exist and say there is no proof of God’s existence and therefore He does not exist. This is wrong.
I have to begin with a positive hypothesis and then disprove or falsify it. Thus, I begin by saying, Assume God exists. Therefore, going by what the definition of such an entity is that does exists… He should be this.. He should be that… He should whatever…
Based on the first principal of positive hypothesis, you build a coherent, logical, rational argument derived from self-evident truths, axioms, or verifiable evidence. If all of your arguments lead you to a hypothesis contrary to the one you started out with, then you must discard the initial hypothesis and revert to the null hypothesis. Thus, a logical analysis of the concept of God leads me to major contradictions and therefore I must reject the hypothesis that God exists and accept the null hypothesis, or I must reject my essential definition of God. In other words, the burden of proof then rests upon the believer to resolve contradictions and prove the non-contradictory existence of God.

Now, faith. Faith is the exact opposite of the rational method I just described. The method of faith begins as such: Believe that God exists. Then express wonder at the assumed fact that God exists. Then admire the assumed fact that God exists. And wonder why non-believers can’t grasp this assumed fact.
Faith starts out with the hypothesis that needs to be proven and assumes it is already true! The first principle according to a faith-based attempt at rationality is this: assume the conclusion and then provide rationalizations for assuming the conclusion.
Aquinas, among other doctors, in their effort to reconcile faith with reason and put on a facade of intelligibility upon mysticism, propagated this false epistemological method. The method works as such: Faith — God exists and He has created this Universe (That is the assumption of the faithful). Then “rational proof”: This Universe appears to be so well designed and orderly, surely there is an intelligent God that made all of this. Therefore, God must exist because the universe that we just assumed is so orderly and that we just assumed was made by God is the proof that God made the Universe and therefore must exist!

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