The biggest problem I have w/ my mom is that she has spent 20 years gleaning through and researching different religions, so her circular reasoning is SO elaborate and not tied to a single, easy to discredit dogma. It's amazing i can still think enough to write this the way my head is spinning right now...

Eventually what it came down to is that we reached a stalemate. She provides examples by all the spiritual teachers she went to and the amazing things she witnessed that I have no explanation for. She half sold me on all things except when I brought up choice. Her experiences with the teachers just baffled me...

There, I plowed right through her thinking and finally felt comfortable with my atheism again. She never understood my argument or her circular reasoning and I can accept that, but at least I feel better about myself now.

She's such an incredibly complicated theist. She actually really made me think hard all the way through because her arguments are so unique and complex.

That's really the beauty of theism. You only need one chip in the wall to make everything come crashing down. Her examples with the spiritual teachers rather disturbed me though... I don't know what to make of them. I won't settle for the easy answers though.

Unfortunately we ended on rather bad terms.... I tried to explain to her that atheism is very similar to agnosticism and they can coexist...
At this, she looked up the definition of atheism and then hammered again and again that atheists are "against god" and if they are so agnostic "why do they fight against him?"

I say: We're not against god. We're against religion. Religious dogma hurts people in real ways that we can see. Personal beliefs should not be a basis to hurt others.

She ignored this as the only irrational part of her argument and continued to preach about how atheism is proud and defiant and unfounded.

So frustrating...

I feel like I could dismiss her so much easier if she wasn't so smart and if she didn't grow up agnostic. Her beliefs are nearly rock solid. She doesn't put up with most retarded things about religion and agrees that people who follow dogma are not good.

Then I say: they follow their immoral values exactly the same way you do yours. Satanists make a lot of self-correcting choices to find their teachers. Their methods of even selective following hurt people.

"Those people don't follow the right path"

"How do you know? You're only lucky your experiences led you to your perception of the good path!"

About then she got horribly angry because she thought I was defending satanists and I got frustrated after her renewed claims that atheists were "against god."



whew... just needed to vent... thanks for putting up with me if you read this far!

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Comment by Jo Jerome on November 23, 2009 at 2:13pm
Speaking of unwillingness/inability to apply critical logic to things you really want to believe in, had a perfect example crop up today. My sister posted a chain-mail panic post on her Facebook page today about "Warning! This Friday Facebook will allow everyone and anyone to use all your photos in ads without your permission!!!"

It's another urban legend panic mail. Like the kind she's been emailing and posting constantly for 15 years now. Every single time I give her links to the Snopes.com or Urban Legends page that debunks it, explain how ridiculous an idea it is, explain how to spot a likely hoax or urban legend chain mail through their telltale signs.

Yet, she keeps posting them. Even gets mad at me for debunking them and then makes the same mistake next week.

These hoaxes, among other things, take advantage of people's desire/willingness to believe outrageous stories. "You have to believe this! Quick, tell everyone you know! It's true because my friend's friend told me!" Anymore, they'll sometimes even say it's been verified on Snopes when it hasn't. Yet, will my sister take my advice, bookmark Snopes.com, and look before she reposts? No.

Comment by Jo Jerome on November 23, 2009 at 2:08pm
It's kind of like the Russel's Teapot argument. The burden of proof does not lie with the skeptic. Someone does (or moreover claims to have done) something that appears miraculous to you and I. All this proves is that you and I don't know how the 'miracle' came about (if indeed there was one since Mom is relying on third party accounts here).

On using the belief to derail the belief, true - it sure doesn't work on everyone. But I find people are more likely to listen to me if I give them some benefit of the doubt. It's one of my favorite ways to debate. Rather than stubbornly insisting "Your machine won't fly," I'd rather say, "Ok, fly your machine for me." And watch it not fly.

Or in this case. "Ok, say there are ghosts. How does that prove there is a sentient, separate-consciousness-from-you-and-I being? One can exist independently of the other."

Back to Russell's Teapot, if my telescope does detect a small object orbiting the Earth, that doesn't prove it's a teapot. It only shows that there is either a small object orbiting the Earth or my telescope is seeing something else that I happen to interpret as a small object.

I really think that part of the belief in Theism is the inability (or unwillingness, especially if your Mom is that smart) to apply set-theory and logic to something they really, really want to believe in.
Comment by Johnny on November 23, 2009 at 9:52am
and also, i don't think she uses ghosts themselves to prove it. I think she follows the spiritual teachers who do the strange and miraculous things and preach their wisdom about the world and the afterworld.

there's where the danger comes in: following. I wouldn't become David Blaine's disciple if he started pretending he knew what happened after death just because he performs "miracles"
Comment by Johnny on November 23, 2009 at 9:50am
well. that's all well and good for convincing yourself. It will never convince a theist, however. Especially one who has experienced/claimed to experience things first hand.

To your last question the theist would derail, saying: then how do you explain ghosts?

me: I don't explain ghosts. I accept that I don't know what they are until some kind of proof about what they are surfaces.

Theist: (full circle) there are things that science can NEVER explain. we just have to accept them.


theist: because you can't explain them without the afterlife theory and I can because it makes sense due to ghosts.

me: but that doesn't prove god

science can't explain god.

whatever... this kind of reasoning just DOESN'T work. It's too easy to dodge and go in circles. people who have control freak issues just need god to make everything fit in their world. they just can't accept that they don't know something as important as what happens when you die. Their need to control will always force them to these kinds of discussions ^
Comment by Jo Jerome on November 23, 2009 at 9:42am
Given: Science has not discovered/measured/deciphered everything.
Therefore: There are things/events/experiences for which we have no current scientific explanation (often referred to as paranormal or supernatural).

I think the big difference here between Theists and Atheists is that the Theist looks at the supernatural thing and concludes, "Wow! God did it!" The Atheist looks at it and concludes, "Wow! New scientific mystery to unravel!"

This is why if it were me having the conversation, I'd use the belief against itself. "Say there are ghosts. That still doesn't prove existence of a god behind it."
Comment by Johnny on November 23, 2009 at 3:46am
She has experienced things herself, but her own experiences, besides ghosts and stuff, are all easy to debunk as hypnosis-induced states of psychology.

She refers to these more powerful teachers only because I can explain her less-inspiring in comparison anecdotes. That makes enough sense because her mind isn't yet as "open" as these people, to her thinking.

I rather like Jo's energy argument about animals being able to sense earthquakes and using meditation to achieve heightened senses may be a cause. I think it's a good explanation if it happened to my mom, but I don't really need to debunk anecdotal information because secondary sources are already not very reliable.
Comment by Johnny on November 23, 2009 at 2:19am
"But we ARE against god"

we're not against god. We're against people because we don't believe in god. My mom thinks that it is blind disbelief in rebellion with god, but really all that's going on is that we look at the people that we CAN observe, see the horrendous blows to society God creates, and get angry at them. If belief in God had no reprecussions, atheists wouldn't have any problems with it... though belief in things without substantial evidence has a reprecussion in itself on society.
Comment by Johnny on November 23, 2009 at 2:16am
"How do we know the man with the car wasn't planted there the way fake psychics will put plants in the audience?"

Exactly. That's why I said that we can't know anything for sure unless we saw the entire thing unfold. My mom really trusts this person, but she also has a bad case of confirmation bias I noticed. She tends to believe anyone with a spiritual message that also preaches peaceful and uniting things. "Miracles" and the unexplained to not go hand in hand with knowing about the afterlife.
David Blaine anyone?????
Comment by Loren Miller on November 22, 2009 at 9:44pm
I say: We're not against god. We're against religion.

But we ARE against god, or at least the blind belief in the insubstantial, the undemonstrated and unprovable. We oppose the assumption of the supposed "naturalness" of belief in a deity, and all that appertains to it, including the structures and usages of religion. Granted, it is difficult to be against something that doesn't exist, but I personally find no difficulty in opposing all the affectations that non-existent deity creates in those determined to foster and support it.

I've already gone head-to-head with my own mother regarding a person whom she had no idea about, yet supports as blindly as she likely does her god. That this person is at once her late husband and my late father matters not to me; they might as well be two different and distinct people. I can see that; she cannot, nor will she ever, more than likely. Perhaps it is indelicate of me, but were the topic that of the unseen deity, my attitude would be no different.
Comment by Ogden Lafaye on November 22, 2009 at 9:41pm
People are very creative in going out of their way to find things that cannot be explained. You have to get through the LIE, the distortions, omissions and dubious circumstances....this is impossible.

They want outside forces to control their lives.



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