The level of ignorance in my generation when it comes to belief in god is incredible. I am consistently disappointed in my generation when it comes to participation and debate in the political and social realm. Here are my common arguments that consistently cannot be answered (and that get labeled "hateful" for a reason unbeknownst to me):
1. The burden of proof is essential, yet no one seems to understand the importance of this aspect. The burden lies with he or she who makes the first positive claim. The believer must be required to show proof of god's existence before anyone else can deny his existence or even inquire into what the characteristics of the divine may entail. For those that don't accept this proposition, I simply assert to them that there is an invisible teapot on the other side of the moon with a dwarf in it that shoots glitter out of its boobs -- and I ask them if they believe in this teapot. When they say no, I say "Why not?" and they seem to be puzzled (and this is where they claim I am "pushing my beliefs on others"). This brings me to the idea that since neither believers nor non-believers can prove their position, that they are somehow of equal weight and significance. This statement is in gross contradiction with the burden of proof. If neither stance can be empirically proven, then the rational stance is that which adheres to the principle of the burden of proof.
2. The emergence of process theology has posed a particular problem for secular philosophy. The best way of going about this conflict is the issue of predictability. Process theologians claim that god is simply polar in his or her characteristics. They claim that god is not compassionate, but our experience of him or her is compassionate. To me, this is simple word play and almost places theists into a Taoist/Confucian realm. The idea of predictability comes to be of great importance in the conversation between process theologians and secularists. These theologians will claim that god is omniscient, but that he or she only knows what is possible. The best way to confront this statement is pointing out that while the world is in fact unknowable, it is in no way, shape, or form unpredictable. Predictability relies not on knowing but predicting, which is something that our species has undoubtedly come very far in. We can predict, for example, how this world will end (either by the explosion of our sun or the collision of our galaxy with the Andromeda galaxy). This also raises quite a bit of questions when it comes to prophecies. If god cannot know the future because of our inherent capability of free will, where do the prophecies fit in that claim to know what future individuals will do? This is of great importance considering the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. If process theologians claim that god does not know what we will decide, then it makes perfect sense when the GOJ says that Jesus (if he even existed) told Judas to betray him. Process theology has essentially made the point that Jesus was a complete and utter fraud.
"I'm sick and tired of being told to prove that there is no god."
"1. The burden of proof is essential, yet no one seems to understand the importance of this aspect. The burden lies with he or she who makes the first positive claim."
I find it difficult to understand why my fellow atheists continue to think about any of this in terms of "proof", or "knowledge".
When someone asserts the existence of god as knowable, or provable, we instinctually recognize the absurdity of the assertion that god is empirically “knowable”, or that there exists some sort of “proof”. Their belief in god, expressed as a function of knowledge or a proven reality is to deny the very essence of their religion: FAITH.
If you have “knowledge” or “proof”, what is faith for?
And this is where atheists wander away from the REAL subject.
Neither you nor I, Andrew, “know” that god doesn't exist any more than we would accept the theist’s idea that god does exist. What we as atheists do know is that we don’t share the theist’s faith in the existence of god.
And that’s all we should offer up to the argument: “I’m sorry sir/ma’am, but I don’t share your faith in the existence of a supreme being”.
If the conversation is then to continue, it will be a conversation about faith, specifically, their faith, since you admit to having none.
Now you are talking about the REAL subject.
Very good, Asa. I have given up using Andrew's no. 1. argument with xtians because proving and knowing, unlike faith, require that you believe in a RATIONAL process to arrive at a conclusion, NOT a faith based process. A xtian, by definition, does not have to use a rational process to "know" God. Therefore, as you say, the argument (if any) has to be about faith, cuz that's the only thing they'll "rationally" argue about.
“I’m sorry sir/ma’am, but I don’t share your faith in the existence of a supreme being”, almost sounds like saying "I agree to disagree." I don't think that's what you mean, but I would prefer to say "Why should I believe in your god?" which gets back to them having the burden of proof, and allows you to show them the many weaknesses in the reasons for their faith.
Wow. You're passionate about this particular argument. If I already know that the burden of proof falls on the other person making the positive claim, and I know that proof is NOT forthcoming from them, I can no longer waste my time. The truth is, a belief system (or faith) is not a prerequisite for living, so I can just drop it, based on its lack of utility alone. Of course, this will cause the xtian to appeal to the danger of an afterlife in hell, but then we'll be right back to a positive claim with no rational basis...
Thank you, Asa. I am going to use this.
The problem with the whole faith vs knowledge argument is that the believers are frequently on both sides of it. If someone doesn't want to sign up for "the belief in things unseen," they'll pull out every dumb piece of ersatz "evidence" they can to supposedly "prove" their faith. This is also part of the reason why outfits like The Discovery Institute exist, along with the intention to subvert American science education in favor of their skewed view of reality.
Asa makes a great point about pinning your opponent down, regarding the nature of the argument. If they want to insist on their faith, then fine. The second they stray into the field of verifiable knowledge, it's a whole different ballgame.
I always use: "The onus of proof is upon the claimant". Very simple, yet confounds most xtians.
Andrew, as you well know, god can't be proven. This is a small exchange I had with a mormon about "knowing", but I think it is somewhat appropriate here:
To me, this begs the question: what justifies a "leap of faith?" Indeed, why should a leap of faith be necessary at all?
The shame is that it isn't faith they're talking about; it's gullibility, a willingness to swallow a lie whole because it's a pretty lie, or because of fear of death or uncertainty about life or an unwillingness to do the hard, introspective work necessary to understand oneself.
I would infinitely rather KNOW something, see it verified for myself and be certain in that verification than to believe something purely on someone else's say so, especially when that "something" is so outlandish as to be beyond any reasonable credibility. We've all heard the phrase: "Look before you leap." It seems to me that if people were to look and look hard and critically before they indulged in a "leap of faith" that a considerable number would see the nature of that leap ... and walk away, rather than take it.
Matthew, you're young?
Good, continue growing your brain. When my generation's mess comes down, you'll need all the brain power you have.
Tom said it exactly correctly, you are going to need all the wisdom you can muster. Our generation (I'm 76) leave you a terrible mess. I am so sorry. And at the same time, I understand personal problems that stem from systemic problems create great obstacles. It isn't easy to be an agent for change.
You make an excellent point, Matthew, and I am not trying to collect guilt and shame points here. I hope I can put into words what I mean. Here goes.
I have always tried to do the right thing and to be part of a solution when problems or conflicts rise. There was a time when I tried to dance on that knife edge of religious dogma and the more I tried the worse things got. It was only after I shucked religion, god, jesus, make-believe, delusions and denial that I became an effective and efficient problem and conflict solver.
The trick is to think, rationally, tune into heart (compassion) and gut (courage) and use these tools to explore options.
Many of my family and friends disagree with me, but remember that you are one of 7,078,861,700+ human beings on this planet and you do not exist to please anyone but yourself. Live according to your own lights, understanding you could be wrong. If you are wrong, change what you think, say, and do. If you think a problem through, with all the information you can gather, then stand on your principles.
Some will tell you that you cannot have morals without god and that is just plain silly. You have everything within you to make good, fair, kind, caring, compassionate thoughtful, intelligent, and reasoned decisions. Watch for effect of your decisions. Do you flourish? Does the other person have freedom to make his/her own decisions? Are you responsible for another person's decisions? Are you responsible for another's flourishing?
When you get that figured out, you can stand tall, firm, confident, competent and know you do the very best you can.
Now, as to feeling shame and guilt about passing on to your generation, my children's', grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's' generations, of course I am not the "one" who made this mess in our country. You must be aware by now that USA is in far deeper problem than the news will allow you to know.
Therefore, it is up to you and the other generations to become self-reliant, self-sufficient, independent/interdependent. You are not alone; as a homo sapiens your DNA includes the need for community. That means learning how to communicate, problem solve, resolve conflict, negotiate, compromise, and a lot of interpersonal skills that will bring you greater happiness and joy and safety and liberty than trying to live according to some religious dogma born out of the Bronze Age and morphed into power hungry, controlling leaders. Trust yourself. You have all that you need.