Well, according to Michael Ruse, any way.

Can any qualified philosophers comment? I found the philosophical arguments in TGD and God is not Great fairly persuasive, but I'm just a musician and a bureaucrat, not a philosopher. Do Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet et al attack philosophical strawmen? Is the ontological argument really as dumb as it appears to be?

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No, we don't. Subjective eveidence is not only pointless in the natural world view. It is pointless no matter what. After all if you can present "feeling" God as evidence, then I can present "feeling" Gods absence as evidence, none of which stable, or observable, or can be repeated and shown to other people as evidence.
There can be no bridge. Any reasoning person should expect empirical evidence. It is the only way to ascertain something and it be of reason and even close to truth.

To even approach the idea of supernatural 'evidence' as being in any way legit it will have to have empirical evidence to prove it.

The problem with theist's is that they want a god to exist, because they think if he/she/it doesn't they become insignificant and have nothing to live for because they aren't getting a prize at the end of it all. Pheh. Theism = pessimism
For many people, the crucial aspect of choosing to believe any claim is not the accuracy of the claim, but the physical and social consequences of rejecting those claims. Our brains are very good at deluding us into "believing" things that may be good for us as an organism that may well not be true. For example, we see patterns where none exist all the time, because the upside of correctly seeing a pattern that does exist exceeds the downside of seeing one when there isn't.

Human behavior follows a normal distribution curve, and while most people can easily differentiate between things that are supported by independent evidence, and those which are true only as abstract ideas coming from an authority figure (shaman, priest, whatever), and are sophisticated enough to verbalize a claim that they do not believe to be true if they see it as being in their best interest, and having someone convincingly threaten to kill or truly socially ostracize you if you don't go along with whatever silly claim they might make is enough for most to cheerfully agree that yes, there are fairies in the garden. Some, however, are not able to make this distinction in the value of truth claims, and equate ideas that are supported by evidence and those supported only by authority.

For some, the potential loss of the social group made up by their co-religionists is a downside that far exceeds the upside of admitting, even to themselves, that the claims of their religion are contradicted by evidence. For the vast majority of human history this kind of unreasoning loyalty to the group, whatever their claims may have been, clearly has survival and reproductive benefits. Group loyalty is, after all, what has made us what we are (among a great many other things).

For these people, the only thing that will convince them that the the claims supported by evidence are the better "choice", if you will, is to have the group authority figure they identify with tell them so. A depressingly large percentage of humanity really are sheep, and the "decide for yourself" ethic of modern liberal thought simply leaves such people as a commodity to be farmed. Witness the rise of televangelists.
Yep, yep, yep. Which is why the secularizing of human thought is a slow process, but one that must be carried forward if we are ever to survive as a species (into space and beyond, which is the goal if we are to survive indefinitely).
I realize this is way late and somewhat ironic, but I wasn't attempting to suggest that we should find some way to accommodate subjective 'evidence' in the debate. Just that we need to take the different 'baselines' into account and try to establish a mutual understanding of the topic under discussion (e.g. what constitutes evidence in the first place) or we'll just end up talking in circles. Essentially: "always define your terms." Sorry if that wasn't clear :)

This is WAAAAY later, but . . . . I agree with you.


I think we atheists tend to fall into the trap of knowing we are right and not attempting to "bridge this gap" by empathising with our opposition.


In changing a person's perspective, in a counselling context, the therapist MUST initially gain the trust and respect of the client they are addressing. When that occurs, the client is ready to look honestly at the validity of their existing stance. They dare to appraise an alternative view and they have more courage to redefine their stance based on that experience. This concept is based on psychological constants, and it WORKS.


The first necessary step is to "always define your terms". The next is to accept that your baselines are different, but that neither is judged to be inferior. Finally, you concede as much as you possibly can, to the benefit of your opponent. Then you respectfully offer your own view, presented skillfully, with credible logic.


I have had significant results in being this way with christians and muslims alike, and I believe it is the best way to spread our truth.

I'm a huge Dennett fan as well.

I tend to tackle the problem of religion as philosophical and Dennett speaks to me the most out of the four 'New Atheists'.

Oh, and by the way to me the term New Atheist means that Atheist's are no longer religious apologist's or so arrogant that they think only the enlightened few will/should be atheist's.
I think Aurelian has made an accurate summation of Ruse's position:

Ruse is an accomodationalist - he thinks we shouldn't tell people that science is incompatible with religion.

Unfortunately, and Mr. Ruse seems to be tangled in this specific problem, philosophy tends down one of two paths: Religion without (a) god(s), or science without data.

Hume got it right. To truly begin to understand human nature, one needs both reason and data. As he said “the only solid foundation” for the science of human nature “must be laid on experience and observation”.


The Onotological Argument isn't really much of an argument.

I consider myself a PEARList...that is Proven Evidence And Reasoned Logic. I am atheistic in my beliefs, but I seldom identify myself as an Athiest any more than I would identify myself as an A-Dragonist, due to my disbelief in Dragons.

God(s) is a concept that does not fit into my beliefs...there is neither proven evidence nor reasoned logic. Indeed, any of the Abrahamic religions would have to pass the Epicurean Paradox to even get my attention.

Dawkins does a good job with the philosophy, but I find Hitchens does fall a bit short. YMMV.
The "problem of evil" is only a problem if you claim the creator has to be a loving one who cares about human suffering and actually affects events on Earth.

There's no philosophical foundation to propose a loving creator... the argument is so weak (and based on Christian beliefs that there exists a loving god) that there's really no reason to argue against it. Responding alone is giving them too much credit.

I think "god's problem" leading to agnosticism is just more lazy thinking on Ehrman's part. These sorts of arguments are fine to discount the specific claims of Christianity, but are not sufficient to discount the idea of some type of creator of life. There certainly COULD be a creator/god that doesn't give a damn about human life.
There indeed could be. The Epicurean Paradox only applies when speaking of the god of the Abrahamic religions. The same is true of the paradox of Omniscience vs. Free Will.

But, Occam's Razor also suggests that postulating god(s) is of little value. If someone claim there is a god that created life, then it is up to that person to prove any such claim, or at least provide evidence.

I have seen no Proven Evidence nor Reasoned Logic to postulate any supreme being. There is no correlation between what evidence we have and any miraculous being pulling the strings.
It's certainly true that a hands-off deity presents no problem of evil, but that's not the popular conception of God. I think the problem of evil is an exceptionally potent tool against the popular definition of God as an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent person that individually loves each and every one of us. That creature clearly doesn't exist. And free will is no dodge, because natural disasters have nothing to do with individual human choice. Original Sin is no dodge, because natural disasters befall the saved as well, and they've supposedly had their sins washed away by the blood of Jeebus.

Raised as a Baptist, I found the problem of evil to be a serious problem. I'd say it's the main logical contradiction to the Christian concept of God that started me on my path to atheism. Especially since Yahweh is so flagrantly not benevolent in the Old Testament. Atheists would be remiss in not raising this issue with Abrahamists, as it's the most powerful bludgeon we have. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about or arguing with deists. But the problem of evil goes to the core of the Abrahamic religions.



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