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No Need to 'prove a negative'
comfortable
Those of a religious bent are fond of saying that atheists cannot prove a negative, i.e. God does not exist.

This atheist sees the question differently.
All that is necessary is to prove the positive claim that there is no immortal soul causing my thoughts and actions; and therefore nothing to be judged by any purported 'God'; making the existence or non-existence of any god a moot point.

Consider
Identical twins.
Bob and Ray.
Born 2 minutes apart.
Same household.
Same upbringing, diet, church, parents, etc.
Same classes, same teachers, same grades.
When they were 9 years old, the family was in an automobile accident.
Both boys were unconscious for a week.
Both recovered completely
….except….
Ray lost his testicles.

Bob went on through puberty. His sexual awakening was typical.

At a school dance at the age of 16, both boys were invited by pretty girls to "fool around" after the dance.

Surely a sin.

They both 'resisted temptation' and kept their virginity (for the time being).

Question: If they had both died the very next day, how would Bob and Ray's souls be judged? Would they both be credited with having resisted temptation? After all, Ray was not tempted by his girl's proposition. He lacked the hormones to feel sexual urges. How can his soul be measured? His 'resistance' to sexual temptation was the result of hormones, chemicals in his brain or the lack thereof.

If changes in brain chemicals cause or prevent choices made, what role is there for a 'soul'?

Consider
In the 1940's and 1950's, tens of thousands of violent criminals were transformed into 'good citizens' by the simple expedient of severing nerves in their brains (most often with an 'ice pick'). (Google [icepick lobotomy] and [prefrontal lobotomy]. Rose Marie Kennedy, who's father had her lobotomized because he was embarrassed by her sexual awakening, is arguably the most famous case. It is in her name that the Special Olympics was founded).

Some of these former violent sociopaths went on to become good church members, repenting of their past sins and so forth. How did the ice pick change their souls? Please explain how is it, that a slender piece of sharpened steel can alter an invisible and immortal spirit?

Want more? Begin researching brain trauma and personality disorders, including tumors, accident, and disease.

If you don't want to do this research on your own, I don't blame you. Giving up a bogus cherished belief is never easy.

Hard, reproducible, irrefutable evidence that souls don't cause people, brains do.


This thread
I invite others to think of provable "positive" claims that make the religious point of view moot. Those who would argue say "You don't know everything." True. I don't know very much at all. But to abandon that unhealthy lifelong Stockholm Syndrome we know as religion, I only need to poke a single hole. No need to describe or prove the entire universe.

If I buy a tent to keep the rain off, and it has one leak - that is sufficient cause to abandon the idea that it is leakproof. I don't need to examine and explain every thread in the warp and woof, tens upon tens of thousands of them. I just take it back to the store and demand a refund.

How about you?
Edited by comfortable on 09/13/2008 23:41
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
derF
I sometimes have trouble getting my head around concepts like this. But from what I gather atheists do not need what might euphemistically be called a 'line item veto' to disprove every point in a bible or reiigion. After you have shot holes in a number of beliefs it becomes pointless to bang one's head against the wall having to disprove the next point the fundy raises in his desperate attempt to come up with something that could pass as a solid argument in favor of his beliefs.
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
 
Doubting Thomas
I'll try to prove a negative in this thread but can't guarantee I'll do a good job. It's 11:45 at night, I'm tired and have had a glass of homemade wine.

Jesus was not divine. He predicted his return and several amazing end-of-the-world occurrences within the lifetimes of the people he talked to, and these things did not occur. If he was who he claimed to be, these things would have happened. As it was he was crucified & died, and his disciples may or may not have stolen & hidden his body.

This is, of course, assuming that he really did exist after all, since I believe he did not and the stories about him were just made up. The evidence for this is that there are no credible contemporary writings about Jesus. In fact, the biblical stories were written some 30 or 40 years or so after he supposedly died. There are no Roman records of his execution. You would think that someone who caused such an uproar as he did (someone claiming to be the son of God and as a self-described "king" being a major threat to both the Jewish high priests and the Roman occupiers of Jerusalem) would have been of note in either contemporary Roman or Jewish writings. The only early mention of Jesus are the long-discredited and probably falsified writings of Josephus, who only mentioned him as someone who had followers. And this was also written long after Jesus' supposed crucifixion.

And furthermore, if Jesus did exist he would have in all probability looked like a typical Middle Easterner with dark features, not the light-brown haired & blue-eyed Caucasian Jesus pictures we always see.
You're just jealous because the voices are talking to me and not you.
 
neilmarr
I like your tent analogy, Comfortable. The theist, of course, will cower in a sheltered corner of the tent and say that half a tent is better than none.

I think the analogy would work better if we thought in terms of an ever-growing hole in a simple row boat. After a while, the finger the theist uses to plug it is inadequate, eventually, his whole arm is not enough to stopper the leak.

The only sensible course of action would have been to row for shore and safety as soon as the water started to gush in.

Where all this becomes our business, of course, is when we are -- literally -- all in the same boat and in danger of being sent to the bottom by monotheists who refuse to admit that their boat just ain't seaworthy and fight between themselves, dangerously rocking the said boat, over what the craft should be called and who built it ...

Best wishes. Neil
Edited by neilmarr on 09/14/2008 01:58
 
RayvenAlandria
When a theist pulls the "You can't prove God doesn't exist" on me, I tell them that they can't prove I am not the one true god and they need to give me all of their money.

If they chose to believe in something because they can't prove it doesn't exist, then they need to believe everything presented to them.

Theists made the choice to believe in a deity first, then they look for excuses to do so. All you can do is try to use examples of how they don't do that in other aspects of their life and ask them why the choose to do so in that one area.

 
Bob of QF
Interesting topic.

I'll add another analogy.

Two men, both born in Italy on the same day, at the same time. One born to a devout catholic family, another born to a poor unwed mother of the streets.

The catholic family so believed in their religion, that their boy basically grew up within the confines of the church, and at a fairly young age went to live in the church full time.

The other boy grew up in the streets, little or no formal schooling. He learned the way of the street: fighting, stealing, simple extortion. He soon joined a street gang, and left home forever.

Both boys flourished in their new environments. Each in their own way. Soon, both reached adulthood.

The catholic boy, naturally went into the priesthood, and was considered by all to be the very epitome of a priest's priest. Avid bible study, kind to anyone and everyone. Everyone he met, he loved and they seemed to love him in return. Truly a living saint.

The poor boy went into the local organized crime gang, and quickly rose to the top. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power, nothing was beneath him. All who knew him feared him, but sought out his favor, for he was a rising star in the underworld.

Both men grew old, as time passed. Both men rose in their respective professions to the very highest that each were capable of.

The catholic eventually gained the exalted status of pope. His was a benevolent papacy, and all considered him to truly love anyone he met, with kindness, compassion and generosity.

The criminal also rose to the very top of the crime families in Europe. He was envied by all who knew of him, and very much feared as well. His reputation for ruthlessness was an icon for his rule of an iron fist: no act too heinous for him to consider, when controlling his empire.

Both men grew very old and feeble. Both men began to recognize their inherent mortality.

The catholic's mind grew dim, in his ancient days. He began to question the meaning of it all, to question the value of his life, literally given over in service of others. As his mind faded, so did his faith. In the end, he not only no longer believed any of what he had stood for for so long, he regretted immensely the things he denied himself. He died, cursing the fate that had so long ago placed him in the hands of religion.

The criminal boss, too, grew old and feeble. But, his mind wandered into a different tack. He began to forget his petty rages, his violent nature. He forgot most of the evil deeds he did, and his very nature changed (some said for the better). In the end, when told of his violent past (which he could not recall with clairity anyway) he felt ill, and called for a priest. The priest, of course, listened to his very real contrition, and pronounced him forgiven. The relief was so great, the man died in an instant, with a smile on his lips.

Now.

According to the "justice" of the Christian Bible, what is the respective fates of the two men?

Answer:

The man who devoted his entire life to doing of good, goes to hell.

The man who devoted his entire life doing evil, goes to heaven.

Was Justice Done?

According to the Christian Bible, yes.....!
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
seeker
I agree with you comfortable. The question isn't whether one can disprove God but whether its even necessary.

There are any number of religions, all with their own deeply held convictions, testimonials of the faithful and mutually exclusive claims. They all claim the same evidence or lack thereof. Since they cannot all be true then we say certainly that somer of those religions are untrue but if some of those ereligionsare untrue and they all have the same evidence then it would be special pleading to assume any of them to be true.
 
neilmarr
***Theists made the choice to believe in a deity first***

This is a statement to ponder, Ray. It's a kind of chicken and egg thing (though evolution explains that paradox for us).

GK Chesterton, for instance, said: "If there were no God, there would be no atheists."

I think that's bloody silly. We are all born atheist and there's no reason at all to assume that the earliest humans were other than atheistic.

At the dawn of theism, of course, those with a vested interest in promoting it -- there are many theories as to who these Stone Age popes may have been -- could 'prove' their gods existed.

They would cite the annual chants that brough the rainfall, the lightning bolts from the sky, the religious orgies that stimulated childbirth, the village-decimating disease when the gods demanded more tribute to their earthly representatives.

One by one, science has shown these 'proofs' to be the indifferent manifestations of nature.

The trouble is, though, that the theist sticks to his guns in the face of all reason and rationality and places his faith in the ever-shrinking god-of-the-gaps -- wreaking havoc as he thrashes around in petulent desperation.

Neil
Edited by neilmarr on 09/15/2008 00:54
 
catman
Another point comes to mind: As far as being 'born atheist' is concerned, technically that's true, but many parents immerse a kid in theism from a very young age, heading off any consideration of any other viewpoint. Most children grow up believing that the religion of their parents is the correct way of looking at it. Only a minority will become atheists. So at least give the kids a break! It took me long enough to see the light of reason.;oops;
Edited by catman on 09/15/2008 01:22
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
comfortable
RayvenAlandria wrote:
...believe in something because they can't prove it doesn't exist, then they need to believe everything presented to them.


Good point. I like it. It makes every cockeyed proposition equally believable.

(Good points everyone else too, esp. neil & seeker )

So can anyone else think of a major tenet of any religion that is provably false? My choice of brain vs. immortal soul trashes the universe espoused by religions that believe in judgment; such judgment being their raison d'etre.
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
.
Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
catman
I'm sure Christians de-emphasize it or rationalize it somehow, but didn't Christ promise to return while his disciples were still alive? That seems to me to be a major breaking of faith (pun intended).
Edited by catman on 09/15/2008 01:27
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
neilmarr
***didn't Christ promise to return while his disciples were still alive?***

Hence, Cat, the ancient, popular and loony tradition of 'The Wandering Jew', an unnamed disciple doomed to roam the world in lonely immortality until Christ returns to keep his promise to someone present when he made his prediction. Only then does The Wandering Jew get to die like everyone else.

As you say, there are no tangled lengths to which a theist will not go to rationalise the irrational. And such nonsense, of course, has aways been promoted by, if not invented by, those at the business end of our various religions.

Neil

 
Sinny
Very good thread and point here Comfortable. I can't imporve on it.

I have to admit that this:

Both recovered completely
….except….
Ray lost his testicles.


I didn't see that coming and it made me laugh ;rofl;

and still a very good point you got across with it.
Edited by Sinny on 09/15/2008 20:56
 
derF
Yes! A very entertaining thread. Just wish I had something useful to add to it. Unfortunately I am one of those atheists who is predisposed to the idea that religion has nothing to add to the advancement of the human race that would be in any way 'positive'!
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
 
General-Pryce
I think a very provable point to discredit religion is of course the nativity. No historical evidence exists for it, the whole census thing and Joseph "returning" home carry no historical or logical weight. If we proove the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ are inaccurate that throws the whole existence of Christ, the existence of a father and the Bible into doubt.

Without Christ there can be no Christianity. You don't need to disproove a physical Christ (as one most likely existed) you only need to discproove the divine Christ and that is easy by showing that his birth could never have taken place in the way the bible states.

One of the most important building blocks of Christian faith knocked out. Or maybe a loose thread in a jacket, once tugged at continues until the jacket is frayed and worthless.
 
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