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Why Call Him God?



You can't blame God. Heck, he'd solve all those problems but he has to focus on who wins football games.

The thinking atheist? Is there any other kind?

That's a rather risky comment to make.

Why is it risky? I don't think anyone has arrived at atheism the same way people arrive at religion, which is by not thinking. This doesn't necessarily mean that all atheists are smart or that all religious people are dumb, just that atheists don't blindly accept atheism; it usually follows some thought. I suppose there are a few people whose parents are atheists and so, like most people, they have adopted their parents' beliefs. But those instances are rare, and even then, they have probably encountered attempts at conversion, which in turn must've resulted in some examination of their beliefs.

So, again, I think a thinking atheist is the only kind there is and I don't see what's risky about saying so.

Some people just don't "arrive" at atheism. They just never believed in gods, but they may very well believe in things as weird or even weirder. Or, they just switch religion for some other stuff that's just as weird (like New Age stuff), thus strictly "arriving" into atheism, and still with the same level of "non-thinking".

Actually, I find that usually relativists and postmodernists do less thinking than many religious people including fundamentalists. The religious people still follow some sort of logic, but they part from a false premise (the bible is true, etc.). From my recent experience with one very annoying relativist friend, some of them don't even care about "logic" at all. They just like to make unsubstantiated and impossible statements like "everyone's beliefs carry the same weight" or some such crap. At least most religious people have the decency to tell you they have the ultimate truth!

So, Andyo, in your world Atheist = Relativist = New Ager = Anyone who doesn't think like you?

Hmm I reread my post and don't see where you could get that from it.

Some relativists and new agers are (strictly speaking) atheists. Some relativists and new agers are less of a thinker than some religious people.

Obviously not all atheists are new agers. I'm not.

Just a feeling I got from it. Your re-reading of your own words is hardly a disinterested opinion. You know what you think, but words are not an precise means of conveying concepts.

Your scenario implies flawed thinking, not no thinking. And who said anything about post-modernists or relativists? We were talking about atheists.

I was Raised Atheist, so I didn't really have to think about it if I didn't want to. I think it is somewhat of a given that you have to think about it a little because we have no book. When you want to explain to your friends what you believe you can't read the instruction manual or repeat what you were taught in Atheist sunday school.

atheists don't blindly accept atheism; it usually follows some thought

just a bit of contrast between your life experience, and bigdaddy's thoughts about "how things are".

Well, i think what he says is true. And your point reminds me of the conversatoin about Ricky Gervais' article.

See you don't really need to take Atheism on faith, to be an atheist nor do you have to think about it. Because bald isn't a hair color and Atheism isn't a belief.

What I think is true that eventually, as an atheist, you are forced to think for yourself. people do that to varying degrees.

i hate to be the one to break it to you, red, but even "religious" people are "forced to think for themselves". they are merely working with a different set of assumptions (beliefs?) than, say, an atheist scientist. but even atheist scientists have a set of assumptions that they are working from/with, which may or may not be "true".

i think what you were referring to here is not "religious" people, per se, but brainwashed people, and more than this, people who are unwilling or unable to think for themselves. a category which includes many atheists, as andyo and norm have (rather eloquently imo) pointed out above.

i am aware that here, for the most part, religion=brainwashing, and i play along for fun, because no one here (that i can think of) has been stupid enough to even imply that religion is the ONLY form of brainwashing, or the ONLY reason a person might refuse/be unable to think for themselves.

I was simply pointing out that questions like...

What happens after I die?

Where did the universe come from?

What sexual position is the most moral?

What is the Nature of my existance?

How do I slaughter a Goat?

What is the approprate way to treat my neighbors Slaves?

Are all questions that Atheists have to come up with their own answers for. They can't read the answer in a book given to them by an all knowing indiviudual or ask a holy person with knowledge and interpretations of the divine.

I think religious people might be brainwashed into being overly defensinve all the time.

That's a rather risky comment to make.

Indeed, while I believe that atheists are better than the average it is clear that their thinking is often flawed. You can be right for the wrong reasons. You can parrot the reasons of others without understanding, that's not thinking. You can believe that being an atheist is cool, that you're a rebel and still not arrive at your atheism through thinking. Atheists like others engage in cognitive dissonance, they fall victim to all the cognitive problems others do, not as often perhaps, but they do. There are thinking atheists, but also atheist's whose thinking is flawed.

You can believe that being an atheist is cool, that you're a rebel...

These types of atheists are in the minority and their atheism is usually short-lived. Besides, even these atheists are engaging in some thinking, even if it's flawed and unoriginal. Compare the Christian who is rebelling by adopting atheism, even temporarily and for stupid reasons, to the Christian who never strays. Which one is thinking? It's like the guy who spends his whole life listening to the same 100 or so classic rock songs versus the guy who pretends to enjoy jazz fusion or whatever just to be different. The second guy might be annoying and stupid, but at least he's thinking, whereas the first guy is just blindly accepting what's on the radio.

bingo. point- thinking atheists, represented here by norm.

again, point to andyo.

anyway, what is this? an advertisement for the devil, or a melevolent god?

sign me up. but only if i get to be the ceo. :)

i like the cartoon too, pedantsareus, but since you're the pedant, let's be clear: the act portrayed on the right side of the picture is not, strictly speaking, an act of "humanity". this would also include the acts of charles manson, for instance.

rather, it is an act of "humanitarianism"- a very different sort of thing, and a thing which has it's origins hideously mixed up with everyones favorite boogiman, religion- which itself, of course, is hideously mixed up with acts of anti-humanitrianism that make earthquakes look like minor acts of housecleaning.

things just aint that simple, in other words, but for a cartoon to "work" (as this one does) they must be made to seem so.

which brings me to a quibble about the video itself: many, if not most, of the acts of "evil" portrayed (the existence of "evil" is somehow merely accepted unquestioningly by the nominally ant-religious producers of the video) are act of man, and the simplest, most famous, most obvious rebuttal to this kind of "evil", common (at least) to the "3 abrahamic religions" (ack) is completely ignored, namely that man was given "free will" by god (i won't go into the libraries of explanations for this fact here) and that man- made "evil" and "god-made" "evil" are 2 quite distinct things, philosophically and religiously speaking. equating the two so casually, and ignoring completely the "standard" religious rebuttal to the question of man made evil, and especially the a priori assumption of the existence of "evil" by the makers of this clip seems disingeuous in the extreme to me.

I took the noun 'humanity' to be in contrast to 'God'. Humanity being the human race, not any aspect of its behaviour (sic). Humanitarianism is, in my mind, comparable to Godliness - a quality rather than a group or individual. If you accept that 'humanity' is a collective noun for the human race then it must be an act of humanity. But there I go again - words are not sufficient to express the complications of concepts.

Humanitarianism is, in my mind, comparable to Godliness


words are not sufficient to express the complications of concepts.

so, uh...i mean this is the most gentle and friendly of ways- why bother being a pedant? why not just try to focus on what people are actually trying to express, rather than the way they (mis)express it?

why not just try to focus on what people are actually trying to express, rather than the way they (mis)express it?

Where's the fun in that? ;)

I took the noun 'humanity' to be in contrast to 'God'.

so, let me be the pedant for the moment. this would mean, in the context of the cartoon, that god does the bad things, and humans do the good things- not only a philosophical/religious/atheistic impossibility, but rendering the cartoon meaningless and/or false at best. and as we know, humor without truth is not funny, so i was trying to be charitable with my "redefinition".

I was trying to explain my understanding of words, not of concepts. My interpretation of the words in the cartoon is that the Act of God is something that is not caused by humans - it could be good or bad, but in this case it refers to an earthquake. An Act of Humanity IS caused by humans, and again could be good or bad, in this case it is help and aid. You are, it seems to me, being overly simplistic in your interpretation, probably in order to have an argument. "why not just try to focus on what people are actually trying to express, rather than the way they (mis)express it?" As a science educator I have spent much of my life trying to encourage people to try to be more precise in their attempts at expressing their thoughts. I probably did too much analytical work in my youth, but I am afraid I am too old (or too lazy) to change now.

well, fwiw, you're ok in my book. try not to worry too much- be happy. :)

but also fwiw: if "acts of god" and "acts of humanity" according to you are equal (and perhaps equally random?) than what is the point of the cartoon, in your mind? if that's how you see it (and i dont' think this is the point, nor how most people see it), than what is the point of the cartoon? the cartoon does make a point, involving a certain black humor, i think, but the way you describe your understanding of it makes me wonder why you like it so much. the entire intent of the cartoonist is lost in your "pedantery".

There you go again, I didn't say they were equal, I said they were comparable, and I was talking about the WORDS, not the concepts. You (deliberately?) misconstrue my statements in order to create an argument - Men of Straw come to mind.

probably in order to have an argument


FINALE: It is now 01.06 on the 29th December in the UK, and I am approaching bed, happy in the knowledge that England have just routed Australia in Melbourne to retain The Ashes.

BTW I can't find 'pedantery' in the OED - maybe you should use 'pedantry'?

you said "comparable" but you meant "equal" in the sense that both acts of god and acts of huamanity can be either good or bad. which you actually did say, though i paraphrase. this point was the very core of our discussion so i didn't think using "equal" in stead of "comparable" would throw off an intelligent person such as yourself. i apparently miunderestimed :) the depths of misunderstanding which can flow not from me picking an argument, which i wasn't, but from pedantry, which can be useful in correcting errors of spelling and grammar but, apparently, can also contribute to misunderstanding, deliberate or not.

again: if acts of god and acts of humanity are "comparable" in the way you said, what is the point of the cartoon?

and joann, you naughty minx, if this is indeed an argument, and not a discussion as i had thought, then you have been wise to stay out of it. you ain''t got what it takes. :)

perhaps a little thought experiment would be helpful: imagine the cartoon looking like this- on the left, a beautiful, pastoral scene, rivers, a few trees, labelled "act of god".

on the right, an aerial photo of, say, the trenches of england and germany circa late 1917, labelled "act of humanity".

pretty funny, huh?

Back to basics, JB. You began by stating "the act portrayed on the right side of the picture is not, strictly speaking, an act of "humanity". this would also include the acts of charles manson, for instance." Why does the ability to commit one type of act preclude the ability to commit another? As I have tried to make clear I refer to the meanings of words, not the acts themselves. Acts of God, if such things were to exist, could (indeed would) include your pastoral scene as well as devastations. So your version of the cartoon would also be reasonable, if not funny. The original was not funny (to me, at least) but it was apposite.

ah. well, thanks for your patience in explaining. i wasn't trying to be obtuse, you know. it seems we both like the cartoon, but for different reasons.

i tend to look for humor in cartoons, and perhaps sometimes find it when it isn't really there. i saw this as a sort of darkly humored jab at the religious, and the language of insurance agents, with a sort of cry of angst thrown in at god or the universe or whatever which is constantly conspiring to to kill us.

i am familiar with unfunny cartoons, of course, and i see how you could see this as one of these- that is, not intended to be funny at all. editorial cartoons are sometimes like this. or maybe often like this. maybe i really am seeing a sort of humor (tepid and biting [?] as it may be) where there is none to be found, just because i'm that kinda guy.

thanks again for your patience, you really must have been quite a teacher (i believe you mentioned somewhere that you're retired.)

Thanks Jonathan. Yes, retired a long time!

This video was a bit over the top and dramatic.

The video dealt with the problem of evil, a question that has been tackled over hundreds of years by some of the greatest thinkers in history, in all cultures. Religion's answer to the question is psychologically satisfying for people in times of grave crisis - people are at least as likely to turn to religion in the face of horrors as turn away.

In the face of tragedy, atheism can provide no comfort, no community, only a cold isolation that we suffer in an indifferent universe.

But almost none of the discussion here, tackles the intellectual question of evil, the psychology of dealing with loss, or anything else that remotely touches on the human element of the tragedies documented on the video.

Instead, it's another discussion about how religious people are stupid, believe in invisible daddies, and how smart atheists are. It's sort of like Dukakis' famous debate answer on captial punishment, oddly devoid of any real human response to the question presented.

Most outspoken "new" atheists aren't very smart, either practically or intellectually (neither are most religious people). Most haven't read and considered Sartre, just as most religious people haven't read and considered Augustine. On a practical level, they're profoundly dense: they preach a point of view that offers nothing in response to the greatest challenges of life, and call others stupid when they ultize the tools civilizations have developed over millenia to bind societies and survive the horrors of a hostile world, and they wonder why so few are interested.

For myself, I am tempermentally incapable of accepting a religious interpretation of my experience. I didn't "chose" to be a nonbeliever, and I didn't think my way into it. I just never could connect with any religious teaching. That doesn't make me better, or worse, dumber, or smarter, than anyone else.

don, thanks for your well thought out post- not that i agree with any of it.

one point you mentioned actually touches on the core of the discussion between me an pedantsareus- which was, in fact, the only real "discussion" happening here, so i hope you will consider me "qualified" to respond.

i wonn't do a point-by point but you say:

But almost none of the discussion here, tackles the intellectual question of evil,...

what do you mean by this? a big part of our "discussion" was about the fact the the very existence of "evil" (as opposed to, like, stuff we don't like) is a RELIGIOUS concept, and inappropriate as an "a priori acceptable" term/concept in a video made by professed atheists. after all, how is an earthquake (explainable in purely scientific and rational terminology) "evil"?

i have many disagreements with your post and wont go ito a detailed list. bottom line: i appreciate your having put the thought you obviously did into it, and you did (imo) make some good points.

Thanks. But I'm not sure what you mean by the problem of evil being religious in any distorting way - in fact, it is traditionally seen as a challenge to religious belief, and an argument for atheism. "Evil" is used somewhat loosely, not as a moral term - perhaps suffering is a non-objectionable word:

It isn't the earthquake that is evil or problematic - it is the larger question of suffering. Are you neutral on the question of suffering?

you're right, "suffering" would be a better word (and, actually, more traditional in these kinds of discussions) because "evil" is, in fact, a specifically religious idea. i actually prefer my own phrase, though i'm not expecting it to be picked up by any major philosophy departments :)"stuff we don't like". :)

which obviously means that of course, no, i am not "neutral on the questions of suffering". no one is, it's a definitional impossibility. the buddhists have built their entire religion around the avoidance of it.

I hate to disagree with Jonathan, but your post doesn't strike me as particularly "well thought out". I've read or heard many religious explanations of and responses to tragedy and mostly they strike me as trite or pat. You say that "people are at least as likely to turn to religion in the face of horrors as turn away", well, maybe, but you've given us no evidence for that assertion. Of course, "atheism can provide no comfort or community" - that's because atheism is the absence of something. There is nothing in nonbelief that offers either comfort or "cold isolation". Now, there are people, both religious and nonreligious who might equipped to provide comfort, but religion? Hardly.

I recently sat in a church and watched my wife deliver a beautifully inspiring eulogy on the occasion of the death of her best friend. She said very little about God or religion. In contrast, the pastor of the church (who had known the deceased for many years) gave a ritualistic sermon - devoid of emotion and significance. The only purpose of his words, as far as I could tell, were to use the death of my wife's friend as another occasion to proselytize and to numb the mourners with ritualistic, generic incantations. After my wife spoke, even he must have sensed the shallowness of everything he'd said.

sorry to hear about your wife's friend. fwiw i too have experienced the kind of contrast you described between a "religious" eulogy, even when the pastor/rabbi had known the deceased, and the heartfelt words of a real friend.

i hope you're right that the pastor saw it too, and learned something from it.

Very much agreed. Other than saying, "they are in heaven now" I have never seen anything comforting out of a religious eulogy.

Mostly they seem to be off topic and the part of the service that makes everyone sleepy.

Similarly when disaster strikes, even if people turn to religion it often doesn't seem to comfort. What about "It's part of his devine plan." is supposed to be comforting.

That terrible thing that just happened to you was planned? I see the prayers to spare loved ones and requests to not repeat the disaster as more about fear than comfort.

Happy new year!

Just one other thing, as Tim said, "atheism" just means that you don't have one belief, it's not a belief system.

That Sartre was atheist doesn't make all atheist existentialists. He's not our Augustine. For many of us, not even close. From what I've read from existentialists, I don't agree.


I agree atheists don't need to be existentialists, or Marxists, or Objectivists, or anything else. Regardless of whether you subscribe to any particular school, I think reading philosophy and theology is a good thing, as a background to discussing philosophical or theological questions.

Where do you find fault with Sartre?


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