Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God I Hate "The Atheist Experience"!

The people I am discussing come a close second on the scale of horrible, to the current manifestation of Fundamental Christianity in the United States. My battle has been with one streaming atheist show called, "The Atheist Experience" and its pack of rabid hosts. The only thing worse then trying to engage these guys in philosophical conversation, might be actually having to hang out with them (I wouldn't wish it on an enemy).

I am so frustrated with these Atheists because they exhibit some of the same disgusting behavior, like censoring dissent, name-calling, quote mining, scape-goating, group think, as the parent organizations that spawned these devils. I truthfully hate modern organized religion so much more, for creating the market for this type of organization.

Atheists are in fact devils, and I mean in the true sense of the word "deceiver". They like to employ reason and empiricism when it suits their case, and then revert to other thought patterns when it doesn't. They offer an empty present and when you try to tell them there's nothing in the box; they react like children.

I have been trying to engage some of these atheists as of late and its been muddled at best. They seem unable to accept any form of criticism, even when I acknowledge their strong foundation. I have never disagreed with a person who says "I have seen no good reason to believe in god and so I don't". My disagreement arises in the enactment of these beliefs, what shape they take in reality. The shape is of a hammer, where any spiritual or super-natural belief is blasted as ignorant and non-scientific.

I want to lead a campaign against these villains! If any like-minded readers encounter this blog, I say let's unite against "The Atheist Experience". Let us become A-Atheists! Our army is non discriminatory, our goal is simple, our resolve is concrete!

ugh, I just wanted to get a post up in the moment...I still plan in the next post to talk more about my research (a paper connecting esoteric spiritual ideas with the infamous rapper Tupac Shakur), and I am going to present some of my conversations with my enemy...and life reflections...and reflections about a book I am writing called "The Boy and the Witch"....until then go to the atheistexperience.blogspot.com and get em!


  1. As a long-time listener of the Atheist Experience, I find your accusations of both the show and Atheists in general to be colossally ignorant. I don't necessarily mean this to be insulting or demeaning; I'm just having difficulty seeing the show from your point of view.

    There's a big difference between "censoring dissent" and "silencing trolls." The Atheist Experience doesn't censor dissenters; in fact, quite the opposite! The entire point of the call-in aspect of the show is to have theists "explain what they believe and why" and discuss it. Unless you've only seen half an episode or something, I don't see how you could possibly make this accusation.

    When someone has demonstrated that they are incapable of being swayed by reasonable, rational argument, ridicule is the unfortunate weapon of last resort. If everyone knew how to argue, name-calling would be unnecessary. I will concede, however, that there are times where (in my opinion) the AE name-calls prematurely.

    In my experience, the AE is not at all guilty of quote-mining. I suppose you might be arguing that they're taking Bible passages out of their "spiritual context," whatever that means. If you feel they are unfairly quote-mining (not that any quote-mining is fair), you should probably call them on it; they'll welcome the concern.

    I have no idea how you could ever accuse them of scape-goating. Whom are they making a scape-goat? What possible reason would they have of making a scape-goat out of anyone/anything?

    Likewise with groupthink. There is no Atheist Groupthink. We are of the opinion that God is just as probable as unicorns and fairies, but beyond that there's no ideological consensus whatsoever. I'm not quite sure how you justify characterizing the show this way.

    You say:

    -----"They like to employ reason and empiricism when it suits their case, and then revert to other thought patterns when it doesn't."-----

    As an Atheist, and as a long-time listener of the AE, I would very much like you to explain that statement. What other thought patterns do we revert to? When have we done this? Please, let me know (and let the AE know; I'm sure they'd love to know just as much as I do), so that I/they can correct this obvious error in reasoning.

    -----"The shape is of a hammer, where any spiritual or super-natural belief is blasted as ignorant and non-scientific."-----

    That's because, given current evidence, any spiritual or supernatural belief is ignorant and nonscientific. Unless you know of a spiritual or supernatural belief that isn't?

    Anyway, you write like a person who is very much capable of rational discussion and debate, and I'd love to hear back from you. Also, I found your most recent post to be a very interesting read.

    P.S. I know I might be misinterpreted as an AE zealot, or something, which isn't at all the case. I simply admire the show, admire rational argument, admire literate bloggers, and despise unsupported accusations. Hence, this comment.

  2. Thanks for all your comments. Frankly, I am going to have disagree with a lot of what you said. I have watched AE for like two years now and I just started recently having a correspondence with the show.

    I believe AE does engage in censoring comments. I also believe often people are hung up on, or rediculed and then ignored (blog comments, emails) which amounts to a certain type of intellectual censorship. There is also an "absolutist" strain I believe in Atheist ideology, which inherently ignores opposing views. To me the label "troll" is a useful way to label those who disagree with you. I have been personally insulted by many connected with AE, but when I respond in a similar way, I was censored by the admin.

    I stand by my accusation of quote-mining, not for "spiritual" reason explcitlty, but from the angle of literary interpretation. All these stories, which are often refrenced, exists in communication with the text as a whole. We cannot isolate certain passages and extrapolate general truths from it.

    The scape-goating I observe is towards religious institutions more generally. Here, religion is dipicted as the source for immoral and ignorant behavior. To me the scape-goat in this context is the institution of religion. So, why have had war though-out history? Religion. Why have we have had racism? Religion. Etc. To me this ignores the responsibility of the individual themselves, in these particular situations, i.e. scape-goating.

    The "reversion" to other tactics point was about name-calling, and redicule, and group-think etc. They want to criticize religous minded folks for these behaviors,but then when their own ideas/beliefs are challenged, I observe the same response from them. People with AE have basically granted this is true, but ignore it in the same you suggest, which is an "eye for an eye" logic which, is the exact reversion to the critiqued behavior I mentioned. You can't say religion X is xenophobic, and closeminded and their wrong for that and then in the next moment display the same behavior. Well, you can, but you will meet the same criticism applied to religious thinkers and be hypocritical.

    Your bold rejection that their is any group-think withen Atheism, I feel may not be the most objective. Group think seems a tricky thing to identify, when we are a member of that group. But go watch the chat log at AE's ustream account and honestly tell me there isn't a mob mentality present...

    I agree with your claim about spirituality being "non-scientific" in a sense, but I disagree with the idea more generally. You critique what I wrote and then employ the same giant hammer to say all spiritual beliefs are "ignorant and nonscientific". When you think about it simply you would realize your comment borders on hyperbole, as you have no access to the infinite number of spiritual experiences, which people through out time have had, i.e. employing the massive hammer.

    As for being a "zealot", no worries. I know from my bold title, it may not seem it, but I love the show too! I wrote this blog after an especially nasty exchange with Russell and so I was venting to some degree. The show ultimately has a lot more good stuff, than bad. I also was going for some irony with the title "God I hate...", anyways...

    I am actually going to post the Tupac paper in entirety on here, so check back soon and I would love to hear your response....

    I am interested to hear anything you have to say, to anything. I just posted a critique about Dillahunty's argument for "Linguistic Absolutism", which you might find interesting...

  3. -----"You critique what I wrote and then employ the same giant hammer to say all spiritual beliefs are "ignorant and nonscientific". When you think about it simply you would realize your comment borders on hyperbole, as you have no access to the infinite number of spiritual experiences, which people through out time have had, i.e. employing the massive hammer."-----

    No, I wasn't resorting to hyperbole, and I wasn't stating that I know, absolutely, that ALL spiritual and supernatural belief was ignorant and nonscientific. I said, exactly:

    -----"That's because, given current evidence, any spiritual or supernatural belief is ignorant and nonscientific. Unless you know of a spiritual or supernatural belief that isn't?" [emphasis added]-----

    This was your grand opportunity to say, "oh wait, here's a spiritual or supernatural belief that doesn't fly in the face of scientific knowledge" but you instead decided to accuse me of being absolutist, and of boldly and unfairly dismissing your statement.

    "Given current evidence" is the most important part of my statement. Every spiritual or supernatural "experience" I've seen is based on ignorance, and is very nonscientific. Give me one, just one, example, and I'll gladly change my mind.

    I can change the subject of my statement, and you'll likely see what I mean:

    -----"That's because, given current evidence, [the idea that cats naturally have eight tentacles on their back that are at least a foot long each] is ignorant and nonscientific. Unless you know of a [species of cat that has foot-long tentacles on its back]?"-----

    Regarding your scape-goating claim, it's depicted not as the source, but as a frightfully big source of immoral and ignorant behavior.

    I don't think we're going to be able to get much farther in this discussion unless we start citing episodes. And, even if we did, others of your posts make it remarkably clear that you aren't quite as rational as you initially seem.

    I'm not a person to run from an argument to save face, and I don't want to give that impression, but I am a person who's trying to gain control of Rampant SIWOTI Syndrome. To that end, it might be best if we parted ways.

  4. Well, all your comments are full of humor and contradiction so I hate to see you go, but if you must I understand. All of my beliefs are ultimately anecdotal, but I correctly understand that doesn’t make them untrue, unlike your philosophy. This is what you don’t get, but I don’t blame ya. Why would I spend a bunch of time providing you with evidence of god or the spiritual, when I already understand your pre-packaged, reductive, nonsensical, criticism; I wouldn’t.

    Are you aware of the Orwellian concept of “Newspeak”? You should look it up and if you figure it out, I would love to hear your opinion about that.

  5. I'm not entirely sure I understand the relevance of Newspeak to this discussion.

    If I read you correctly, you're admitting that you have "evidence of god or the spiritual," but that this evidence is "ultimately anecdotal." You also assert that my philosophy (I assume you refer to my atheism) is "pre-packaged, reductive, [and] nonsensical."

    I have two questions, then, for you. First, what, exactly, do you believe my philosophy is, and why do you believe it to be nonsensical?

    Second, do you understand why anecdotal evidence isn't generally accepted as substantial evidence, especially when attempting to convince people other than oneself?

  6. I wasn't ever trying to convince you or anyone else of any theological claims...Newspeak is relevant as you employed it with you odd reference to SIWOTI syndrome...

    I believe your philosophy to be nonsensical because it leads to groupthink, scapegoating, and other abhorrent argumentative practices and misapplies and misconceives the scientific method...

    I won't waste my time imagining the specific contours of your philosophy, but your poor "defense" of these behaviors provide enough evidence to me, to say that your philosophy is inept...

  7. So wait wait...

    A philosophy is nonsensical because it leads to bad things?

    I'd argue that these behaviors you assert are a natural outcome of human organization, not of the philosophy itself. I still contend that the AE isn't as guilty of committing these "abhorrent argumentative practices" as you assert they do, but even if we grant that you're totally right (for the sake of argument), that doesn't invalidate the philosophy at all.

    (Also, language is something that evolves, adds new words, new inflections, new idioms... so the fact that I mentioned SIWOTI syndrome, I think, proves exactly the opposite of Newspeak; it's a new word illustrating a new concept inherent exclusively to the internet.)

    Okay, I think we've started out on the wrong foot, socially speaking. I'd be lying if I said I didn't intend to be hostile, but I'd like to apologize for it.

  8. You say, "I'd be lying if I said I didn't intend to be hostile,..."

    Thanks so much for all this, genuinely. I appreciate the honesty and I am "guilty" of the same thing. I agree that it is a natural by-product of defending a position, and beyond that a by-product of our humanness, among other things. And, truth be told, it is pleasurable to have a spirited debate and to feel success in our “perceived” victories. It is better to be a dick, and say you’re a dick, then to be a hypocrite, in denial.

    These types of behavior do begin to invalidate the philosophy, when they act as walls against constructive discourse. Constructive discourse is central to the philosophical process. If I think you are not open to other concepts and challenges, it leads me to think your beliefs are weak.

    To use our own exchange as an example, you were suspicious of my posting a Jones’ video. You did this because, I am speculating, correct me if I’m wrong, because in a move of fallacious logic you either A. Don’t like Alex Jones, or B. have found his past reports and material wrong or offensive, but neither are good reasons to discredit what the video actually reported.

    Did you even watch the video? It was an interview about a “sharp-dressed man”, who got the suspected terrorist, on to the plane. After this particular interview, Jones validated these claims with an interview of a person on that flight, Kevin Haskell, who is testifying to this fact. But your preconceptions, do not allow you to observe these facts. Tell me where I am going wrong here? Please.

    My other video is the type of anecdotal evidence, which accumulates and acts a preponderance of evidence, which leads me to investigate and believe in super natural events. I understand this “preponderance of evidence”, cannot withstand a logical syllogism, but in my view not all truths need to be validated nor can be validated, by logical constructions. There are many things which escape logical construction. Logic is one tool to discern truths, not the only, this is a mistake which I repeatedly find atheists making.

    On the issue of Newspeak, the issue is not the creation of “new words”. This is great. The problem of Newspeak is that it takes complicated word and ideas, and reduces them down and renders them into meaningless nonsensical unites, like your acronym. Most important this process is done for no good reason, but just for the sake of obscuring complex significations and creating cute lingo. When we make words meaningless, through this deconstruction process labeled Newspeak, we lose the ability to think about certain things. I bring this up with Atheist’s often, because I see the philosophy doing this exact thing, namely destroying the heteroglossia of though (See me post to Dillahunty about "Linguistic Absolutism". Interestingly enough, it is also a tactic of religious institutions, think Scientology.

  9. You're right, I was prematurely dismissing Alex Jones' video.

    However, your Christmas Miracle video betrays a bit about the validity of your supernatural beliefs. Her heart stopped and then restarted. There are now, basically, two approaches to be made:

    The rational one, "I don't know what caused it. What can we do to figure it out?

    The irrational one (which, lamentably, you seem to adhere to), "I don't know what caused it, and the scientists can't readily explain it. Therefore, it must be supernatural."

    -----"... but in my view not all truths need to be validated nor can be validated, by logical constructions. There are many things which escape logical construction. Logic is one tool to discern truths, not the only, this is a mistake which I repeatedly find atheists making."-----

    But, by your own admission, "constructive discourse is central to the philosophical process," and what is constructive discourse, if not applied logic? How could you know something was true, without using logic?

    And, I can see how acronyms like "lol," "omg," or "rotflmao" could be viewed as a Newspeak-esque reduction of words... but SIWOTI syndrome is more than just an acronym; it's a acronym-like word used as shorthand to describe a very unique and characteristic emotion: the intense, fiery desire to argue with someone over the internet, in the vain and futile hope that, if you only word your argument right, the opponent will understand your point of view.

    If SIWOTI syndrome is an example of Newspeak, then so is "philosophy," "linguistic absolutism," or any word at all that's used as shorthand for more complicating ideas. Isn't that what words are, really?

  10. First and then we can let Newspeak go. You are missing the point completely. "Philosophy" and "linguistic absolutism" are full words, and reference discreet segments of thought.

    Your acronym takes discrete words and mashes them all together, diluting their original meaning. I agree that many complex ideas are packed into any single word. This is actually my critique of Linguistic Absolutism, which I wrote about in a post, to dickhead Dillahunty.

    But Newspeak is different than what you describe, that’s why I asked you to go look it up and study it, before we talked about it.
    But there’s no reason to debate that particular concept, really. If you don’t think language is deteriorating, that’s your opinion and I have mine. I would just suggest you soberly evaluate your own educational experiences in this regard and see how well people communicate ideas through-out it.

    And specifically to SIWOTI syndrome, I have learned just because someone doesn’t agree with you right in the moment, doesn’t mean your words don’t have an effect. Sometimes the change occurs outside of your sight, right? And sometimes the change isn’t what you expect.

    On the “Miracle” discussion, I feel you do what a lot of rationalist or skeptics do, and you draw a false dichotomy between natural and super natural, real or not real. Meaning it either can be explained materially or it is super natural. But I think it is more appropriate to understand the situation as both/and.

    I accept the material explanation, that both hearts starting to beat again was "why" their alive. But this doesn’t make it any less super natural, for me.

    My thoughts go like this. What people often say when discussing a belief in god is like, why are we here? Now the materialist goes “Stupid, you came from Mom and Dad” etc. etc. etc. And for a time in my life, I thought this way too.

    But I also knew this misses the real question people are trying to get at when they ask a question like that. It is the more existential why are we here? To me the source of the existential angst is the spirit.

    So for the video what empowers my spiritual thinking is the idea of being faced with total destruction, having everything taken from you, but then in the last moment it all is returned. In some way, literally, I find something dishonest in your explanation of the situation. As a third party, you abstract the moment into a material explanation, essentially destroying your own empathy. I don’t want to get preachy here, but the conversation goes that way. And you essentially destroy the experience of the person in the video, who says himself the moment was miraculous. Who are you to tell him it wasn't, really?

    There are two ways we know things, right, through experience and through logic. What I feel your perspective does is delegitimize a major portion of our empirical experiences, i.e. the spiritual, the existential, the emotional? To me you accept partial answers from the materialist, ignoring a majority element of our experience, as people.

    Truly, I advocate no specific theology and I find many of these institutions and beliefs disgusting. This is what propelled me towards an Atheistic world view and I think this may cloud a lot of atheist’s perspectives. Do you see any truth to that?

    What has been your interaction with organized religion? I really would be interested to know.

  11. I'm not quite sure we can let the Newspeak thing go, just yet. I agree with you that the amazing breadth of the English vocabulary is being lost, to at least some extent, especially with the younger people. But language is a tool that we adapt to our use, not the other way around.

    SIWOTI, strictly as an acronym, simply means "Someone is wrong on the internet." My point, and why I feel bringing up Newspeak was a little unjust, is that the acronym is part of a full concept: "SIWOTI Syndrome." It means far more than just "someone is wrong on the internet," just like "lol" means far more than just "I'm currently laughing out loud right now."

    There are intricacies to these new words that, out of hubris is seems, you're avoiding, and using Newspeak as a rationalization for... what? Appearing stupid because you use words that 12 year olds use?

    The whole concept of Newspeak is that words carry meaning and understanding. It is by words that we pass along ideas and so, if we have fewer words, or we lose words that have certain meanings, our ability to think about these concepts vanishes with them. "SIWOTI syndrome" doesn't "[take] discrete words and [mash] them all together, diluting their original meaning" because it means far more than just the sum of its parts.

    -----"It is the more existential why are we here? To me the source of the existential angst is the spirit."-----

    To me, I feel like you're just tossing the spirit in there to avoid actually thinking about the question. People ask "why are we here?" because of the apparent indifference the universe, absent a deity, seems to have for us. They ask this because they want their lives to feel valuable and meaningful, and don't like the idea that, ultimately, we're just automatic, self-aware pieces of biology.

    -----"As a third party, you abstract the moment into a material explanation, essentially destroying your own empathy."-----

    (Would this be a false dichotomy?) I resort to a material explanation because there is nothing that suggests it was more than that. This doesn't change the fact that I'm glad for the whole family that they didn't die. I'm not suddenly un-empathetic just because I explain it in a material way.

    -----"I don’t want to get preachy here, but the conversation goes that way. And you essentially destroy the experience of the person in the video, who says himself the moment was miraculous. Who are you to tell him it wasn't, really?"-----

    Are you suggesting that humans are infallible?

    I feel perfectly justified in believing that it's infinitely more likely he is adhering to a delusion and the whole situation has a material explanation, than it is likely that a divine entity personally intervened in the natural course of nature. Unless you can demonstrate, in some way, that an intervening deity is more likely than delusion?

  12. -----"There are two ways we know things, right, through experience and through logic. What I feel your perspective does is delegitimize a major portion of our empirical experiences, i.e. the spiritual, the existential, the emotional? To me you accept partial answers from the materialist, ignoring a majority element of our experience, as people."-----

    We know things through the concerted efforts of both logic and experiences ("senses," I think, is a more accurate word). We recognize that logic can be flawed, and we recognize that our senses can be deceived... and we use logic to doublecheck our senses, and we use our senses to doublecheck our logic.

    "Spiritual" is a nonsense word. "Existential" refers to our attempts to find our value, meaning, and place in the universe. "Emotional" has to do with the subjective experience of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. I'm not sure how you lump all three of these into a single category, much less how that category ends up being "empirical experiences."

    To me, you accept non-answers that have no legitimacy to them, which acts as a barrier to understanding truth.

    I was raised in a hardcore Mormon household. I was highly and strongly devout until I was about 17 years old. Within the last two years, I've attended many different churches out of a burning curiosity to know what other services were like, what the differences in beliefs were like, and maybe, just maybe, to see if any of them weren't a load of bullshit.

    Suffice it to say, I've had quite a bit of interaction with organized religion. This is not to say, however, that I'm an Atheist simply because I'm, like, "rebelling" against organized religion, or something; I'm an Atheist because I care about what's true more than about what's comfortable.

  13. I stand by SIWOTI syndrome being an example of Newspeak, but if you don’t? Okay. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do because it might better elucidate these similarities, then our discussion can. On the issue of hubris, I find this somewhat offensive as I offered the reason for not liking the acronym, as I thought it was a denigration of language, not because I’m too cool. Simply, my issue is that instead of explaining the concepts contained by the acronym, the acronym is offered as the argument itself. That’s all, nothing more, nothing less.

    Your interpretation of the question “why are we here?” is especially revealing. Usually I hear that question offered as a response to Atheism, not in support of it, which is not what your interpretation presents. It is also confusing for you to offer this perspective, as your philosophy supposedly answers this question. The atheist says you’re here because of your Mom, evolution, etc. So the question is answered by the means available to you, i.e. material answers. As an atheist how can you experience angst about the lack of a god’s presence, if you believe that god doesn’t exist, in the first place? This is my point we are spiritual beings. We cannot escape spiritual questions

    “I resort to a material explanation….” You say.

    But there is indeed more than that. The overwhelming anecdotal evidence from people saying there experience is more than that. And you’re right I was drawing a false dichotomy, but it is one supported by your own philosophy, not mine. My philosophy is that material explanations belong alongside our existential, transcendental explanations.

    You’re the one drawing the false line in the sand saying they don’t belong together. I understand that even your most ardent skeptic, atheist, is still in practice a spiritual being. I wouldn’t deny them that. I just wish they could accept that when discussing the question of god.

    Of course I would not suggest people are infallible. I also wouldn’t say that the billions of people who have believed in spirituality are either dumb or sick, which is what your philosophy does (what about the stinking hubris there huh?). The closest we come to infallibility is in our own emotions and this is what I seek to protect.

  14. But you’re bypassing the false dichotomy I accuse you of holding, that explanations are either material or not. Now if that person in the video said “Jesus Christ saved my baby” this is a statement which is either true or false, because of its specificity. But to me, the man saying “this is a miracle” is a different type of statement. As it does not invalidate any other answer, where as the “Jesus Answer” does seem to be contrary to the material explanation among others, maybe.

    As for delusion verse deity intervention, it raises this thought. All of recorded history is filled with beings that believed in some form of god. It is my opinion that delusional people couldn’t perpetuate civilization. So it seems either delusion happens to be the most stabilizing force, or people are on to something? Do you see what I am saying, and the hubris I find in you all your responses?

    Your claim basically concludes that the Earth has been run and developed at the hands of absolutely crazy, delusional people. I just have never been able to accept these two facts can you explain them for me? It seems your perspective has to grant at the least, delusion is healthy, but doesn’t that balk in the face of rationalism? IF this is the case, wouldn’t it be of a greater utility to continue the delusion?

    Sense is not a better word, than experiences, because there is a part of experience which escapes your mere senses. I have a spiritual, existential experience; it is empirical. I don’t know what confusing about that. Why is spiritual a nonsensical word? Now you are sounding really like an AE puppet. Please explain.

    I am not going to say I know what your personal motives are for your Atheists beliefs, even though you can say everyone else with a theistic belief is dumb or delusional, I will just ask don’t you think it is interesting the correlation between “bad religion” and atheism? Can you at least grant that if you weren’t introduced to a spiritual belief, through such a harmful way, that maybe your attitude would be different? And are you sure that you don’t use your own experience, as the template for all religious opinions?

    I see atheists like this and I say this from my personal experience. They are like a person who was in a love relationship, who just exalted their partner, thought they could do no wrong and then they find out that their partner was a cheater. And so instead of destroying their ideal, which is what they were really in love with, they go to an opposite anti-ideal and say “all men are pigs” or whatever. Instead of checking their own false belief, they create another false belief to deal with the loss. Do you see any truth in that?

  15. Yeah, let's just drop the Newspeak thing; it's just turning into a "nuh-uh!" "yeah-huh!" match.

    I think we need to first establish what "spiritual" mean, because it's a nonsense word to me. You say that we're inherently "spiritual beings" because you blindly assert that it's our "spirit" (whatever that is) that is yearning to answer these existential questions. What is this "spirit," and what makes you think it isn't just us that are yearning to answer these existential questions?

    We both know that, when people ask "why are we here?", they aren't asking "what process created my body?"; they're asking about a kind of inherent purpose or meaning to their existence, and it was that question that I answered. There isn't any inherent meaning or purpose beyond what you, personally, give it. I'm not sure how this was "especially revealing," or just what, exactly it revealed to you.

    (But, of course, if you want a strictly material, causal explanation for why we're here, it involves the Big Bang, the formation of stars and planets, evolution, mom and dad...)

    I think we're operating under a different definition of "delusion," which might be causing a bit of an issue. I recognize that a delusion has a medical definition, involving a kind of debilitating, damaged psychological state, but that wasn't quite how I intended it. What I meant by the word was this: a delusion is a belief someone holds to be truth which is, in fact, false.

    People are perfectly capable of perpetuating civilization while holding delusions. I think the fact that we're conversing over the internet, even though a thousand years ago people still thought the Earth was the center of the universe, proves that point.

    We all, I think, believe things to be true which aren't. Some people believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. People holding delusions, even non-religious ones, is a frightfully common occurrence.

    I'm not sure I see the difference between "Jesus Christ saved my baby" and "this is a miracle." By saying "this is a miracle," he is saying "this could not have happened naturally," which flies in the face of observable reality. Either Jesus Christ saved the baby or it didn't. Either it could have occurred naturally or it couldn't. These aren't false dichotomies, unless you're going to argue that something that can happen naturally can still be a miracle at the same time... in which case, how can you tell a miracle apart from a natural occurrence?

    Now, I don't mean to seem rude, but I need to point out how ridiculous this line of thinking is:

    -----"So it seems either delusion happens to be the most stabilizing force, or people are on to something? Do you see what I am saying, and the hubris I find in you all your responses?"-----

    Are you really suggesting that it must be true, just because lots of people think so?

    Also, even if I'm raging against a religion that I perceive as slighting me, that doesn't invalidate my argument at all.

    So, you assert without evidence that we are "spiritual." I have a lot of evidence to suggest we're purely physical, material creatures, and pretty much none to suggest otherwise. I don't see how existential questions necessitate the existence of the "spiritual."

  16. I wasn’t suggesting it has to be true because tons of people believe it. What I was getting at, maybe not effectively, was spirituality seems an intrinsic part of our experience and further that I find a contradiction in the fact that Atheist’s label believers delusional and stupid, but it is these delusional, stupid people who have been building this world. Extended from this, it doesn’t seem make sense to me that a bunch of delusional, stupid, people could have gotten us this far? But, I would have to recognize it as one possibility.

    On the issue of a definition of spiritual I will appeal to the work of Anthony Pinn, in his book “Noise and Spirit”, which I use in my Pac paper. He defines spiritual as having three qualities, “libratory” “liminal”, and “integrative”. I don’t think these are exclusive properties of the word spiritual, but some of the most important qualities. This is just one set of definitions. I just find it silly to say something like spiritual is a bullshit word, when there have been limitless words and thoughts rendered on the subject. Whole cultures and periods have spent their precious time connecting to their spirit. Like I think I said, you can deny the denotative qualities of spiritual if you like, but at the same time you could probably give me a more eloquent definition of the word, than I am currently presenting.

    Here’s my thought on why existential questions arise out of the spirit, and not the mere material. It seems to me, if we were just material beings are behaviors and our experiences should be limited and quantifiable, like actions available to a computer. Here the tricky issue of free-will, and concepts like love become important. We don’t find material things like computers or toasters going through depression, or expressing existential angst.

  17. In regards to evidence of the spiritual, any artistic work, any social experience, any philosophy, contains evidence of the spiritual, for me. So listing these things would be a little too obvious, I think. I say these things are spiritual because they contain the qaulities I listed from Pinn. It is my contention that we wouldn't be attracted to this types of things, if our spirit didn't yearn for them, yearning for the like.

    You also kind of bypassed the correlation between Atheism and bad religion, which I genuinely want to hear your opinion on. And my metaphor that atheists are just "scorned lovers". So to ask the question in a different way, could you imagine that if you were raised in a different religious tradition, that this might make the concept of god "easier to swallow"?

    Lastly, I have a question, off subject, how do you add links, through text, on these posts. I am new to blogs, but I have enjoyed the links you post, so I would like to know how to do this myself on blog comments.

  18. oh and what was especially revealing to me, is that as an atheist, your still cry out, "why have you forsaken me god!", which stand in contradiction to the materialist grounds, you claim you stand on, suggesting that no matter how much we try we cannot escape that spiritual yearning.

  19. Oh and I do think a large majority of the time when people ask "why are we here", they are implying a material question of our existence, as many people still don't fully accept, understand, Darwinian evolution, and further they look at the fragility of life and are baffled by existence...The majority of people, it seems, go through life, without asking the philosophical, existential question "why"....

  20. Your "society builders" argument seems to follow this form:

    1) People hold belief X
    2) While holding belief X, these people "build this world" and "get us this far"
    3) Therefore, belief X is true.

    You're ignoring the (imho, extremely likely) possibility that "building this world" and "getting us this far" aren't hindered or obstructed in any way by holding belief X, which is actually false.

    Likewise, in your second paragraph, you commit another fallacious argument:

    1) There have been "limitless words and thoughts" about belief X, and "whole cultures and periods have spent their precious time" devoted to belief X (or, in other words, lots of people believe X)
    2) Therefore, belief X is true.

    Unfortunately, your reference to Pinn, while eloquent, doesn't really advance the problem at hand. It would be like if you asked me "what is a chair?" and I said, "chairs have three qualities: they're brown, they have four legs, and you can sit on them. These aren't exclusive to chairs, though."

    But even still, those three traits (as, I'm sure, is the intention) are incredibly vague. Whatever the "spirit" is, it apparently oscillates in its orbit, almost imperceptibly, and apparently integrates with stuff.

    Your third paragraph follows this form:

    1) (Assumed): "if we were just material beings are [sic] behaviors and our experiences should be limited and quantifiable, like actions available to a computer"
    2) (Assumed): Our experiences are not limited and quantifiable
    3) Therefore, we are not just material

    This at least follows a proper logical form, though only because you conjured up the premises out of thin air. In your opinion, our behaviors and experiences would be limited and quantifiable if we were simply material. What makes you say our experiences and behaviors aren't limited and quantifiable?

    Because you can't, personally, quantify them or see their limit, of course. Our brains are developed to the point where we can quantify the behaviors and experiences of toasters and computers, but we can't quantify our own behaviors and experiences because we're so profoundly more complicating than toasters and behaviors.

    I don't want to seem like I'm putting words in your mouth, but if this is indeed your argument, it seems like you're saying, "There's a threshold of complexity, and material objects can only go so far. To become more complex, a 'spirit' is necessary." If that is your argument, what makes you assert that there is a threshold, especially in light of natural selection and evolution?

  21. As a ten-year, classically-trained musician, I hear the "music and art prove God" argument all the time. You might be fascinated to read this article about music written for monkeys, which I think gives an insight into why we, as material creatures, enjoy art.

    I'll confess, being raised with a particularly life-enveloping delusion, and then harshly realizing it was all a lie, is a huge reason why I find truth to be so valuable and important. I speak out against religion, among many other logically questionable things, precisely because I'm a "scorned lover," as you put it. I just want to impress on you, however, that this doesn't make it "hard for me to swallow the idea of God"; it just makes me skeptical, as well as vehemently opposed to superstition and nonsense. I follow the evidence where it leads, even if it would happen to lead back to religion, and even if that religion happened to be Mormonism.

    (And again, even if I'm not countering your arguments, but instead "resisting" them due to my "scorned lover" complex, that doesn't invalidate my argument)

    I hope I haven't been giving the impression that I'm being obstinately contrarian. I believe I'm giving rebuttals, not excuses or rationalizations, but if you feel otherwise, please point it out.

    And, regarding your hyperlinking question, you might find this page helpful! I'm a huge fan of ordered and unordered lists, myself.

  22. On what we are labeling the “society builders” thoughts, it is my thought that it is usually the argument from the atheist perspective that says a belief in god hinders development. That is where my criticism arose, because I saw a contradiction in thinking a god belief hinders development, yet we have developed with this belief.

    On my supposed second fallacious argument, you missed my point. I was pointing out that for you to say the word spiritual is nonsensical, is somewhat nonsensical itself, as there is a plethora of materials defining that exact word. I wasn’t saying that because there is so much reflection on that concept, it makes all those reflections true. I was just pointing out that spiritual is a well established concept, with a deep history and is a perfectly okay word to use.

    You said the word spirit was nonsensical. I provided a definition. I don’t see the problem there. Your criticism of my definition applies to all words. I don’t understand how any process of definition would be okay to you, yet you claim to be frustrated by the lack of understanding in the word. When we define something, we usually explain its parts, right? Attributes of a thing, do not need to be isolated to that thing, for it to be a proper definition of that thing. To me your definition of chair, worked just fine, I wouldn’t say it is not a definition of chair, because a table has the same qualities. Is that what you were saying?

  23. On the vagueness of the definition of spirit, I just disagree with you. You call the definition “eloquent” and “vague”, which seems to be a contradiction. And I don’t think I like the implications of your assumption that they were deliberately vague. Were you suggesting I employed them because they were vague, or that Pinn was? Either way, I don’t agree their vague at all, as they seem to properly characterize people’s usage of those words, and point to specific qualities of the word, therefore exhibiting its cogent qualities. And neither I, nor Pinn, offered them for any intellectual slippery purpose, but because they accurately define the word.

    I actually like very much how you reiterate my “thresholds argument” and that is basically my thought. I don’t understand how evolution or natural selection invalidates these concepts. Please explain.

  24. I completely understand that being a “scorned lover” doesn’t invalidate the theory of atheism. But I still suggest it clouds our ability to properly recognize the spiritual. Specifically I see this, to use your word, in the hubris which says that the billions of people who have believed and practiced spirituality are dumb or delusional. Once again, I am not saying believe these people because of their majority. I am saying that our dejected status may lead us to view these arguments in a certain way. Skepticism is healthy, I think, until it becomes absolute, because it places you in the position of unable to accept any evidence of the spiritual.

    On the issue of spirit proved through art, I am going to have to go read the article, which I am excited to do. But I would just say for the record, I never said animals didn’t have spirit, so that may make a difference in my reaction and response.

    On the issue of obstinate contrarian, I would say no worries friend. As long as you are being intellectually honest to yourself, you should have no problem. I like your challenges as they make me think and refine my own concepts, so thank you.

    And lastly, thank you for the link about hyeprlinks (ah redundancy).

  25. Okay so I read the article about music for monkeys and I am totally missing your point. If you could, I would like to hear you explain how music for monkeys, invalidates my idea that art is evidence of the spiritual. If it would have been an argument about a television being moved by Mozart, I would understand. See this is my problem you think the correlations that science can draw operate as epistemologies of the phenomena, which is untrue.

    This is my criticism of nueroscience based arguments, for instance when they say here's the frontal lobe, where the "god part" of the brain exists. To me they overextend their findings and conflate causation and correlation. And there always seems to be a portion of the explanation which escapes them.

  26. Oh and one more thing which I like to raise with atheists. So an atheist says I don't believe in god, because i don't have sufficient data to prove it exists. But in the scientific method we have a way of evaluating data pools, and certain things make them strong or week.

    So if i wanted to examine, for example, how many Iowans hated Barak Obama, I wouldn't be able to ask every Iowan the question, so I would have to use a sample pool. Now the strength of my findings, would be based on the strength of my data pool.

    Understanding this, do you see that atheist sample pool for their theory is laughably inept. As it takes one person's lifetime, and the short history of the scientific method and extrapoloates its findings from there, when there is an almost infinite time and space which escapes their data pool?

    I mean, to put it simply, atheists say I have never experienced a god, therefore I don't believe, but this seems an isolated, intermediary position, as so much of the data is outside our grasps. What is your thoughts about this idea?

  27. Atheists don't argue that a belief in God hinders development except, obviously, in the sciences. But even if every Atheist in the world argued that a belief in God will revert us back to the bronze age, this would not be a criticism of Atheism; it would be a criticism of a stupid argument that Atheists happen to use. Just because an Atheist says something stupid doesn't suddenly make God pop into existence.

    I provided a short, only vaguely useful description of a chair, not a definition. Likewise with you and the "spirit" and the "spiritual"; you provided a few (remarkably vague) words which described them, but those are only helpful if I already know what you're talking about.

    My description of a chair, for example, would be of no help to someone who hasn't seen a chair. It would only be useful if I had prefaced that description with a question, like: "Can you go get the chair out of the garage? It's [description]."

    If we sat down and worked at it, we could offer a definition of a chair which included everything we'd call a chair, and excluded everything we wouldn't call a chair. We cannot do that for "spirit" or "spiritual" (although you claim to be able to), and it's for that reason I call it a nonsense word. It's a word which has no uniform definition, and what little attempt at a definition there's been, we find that it means something different for every person. What's the use of a word that means something different to everyone? Why not just grunt and say, "well, that grunt means something to me, even if it doesn't to you"?

    That's what "spiritual" is. It's a laughably primitive attempt to explain the subjective human experience through subjective human eyes.

    I hold that spirituality is a primitive and anti-scientific delusion, and you claim spirituality is a fundamental aspect to our existence. We can't both be right. And this is where my "scorned lover" history comes in; as Matt Dillahunty so succinctly puts it, "I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible."

    So, my ultimate goal here is this: which of us is right? If I am right, I'm glad to be. But if I'm not, I'd like to discard this belief with haste and embrace the truth.

  28. Regarding your "threshold argument":

    How do you know of this threshold? Have you removed the "spirit" and watched a cognitively complex creature become simple? Have you placed a "spirit" in a simpler creature and watched it cry out in existential angst?

    With natural selection and evolution, we see a process that inevitably produces complexity out of simplicity. I see no reason to assume (for that's precisely what you're doing with this "threshold argument" -- assuming) that there's a limit to cognitive abilities, especially when we see varying degrees of these abilities all throughout the natural world.

  29. (I think, ultimately, out disagreement is here. It is with cases like, say, Phineas Gage, that I support my naturalist, materialist, non-dualist belief in the mind/body issue.)

    But anyway, your "sample pool" point is a curious one. Our lives, compared to the age of the Earth, are incredibly small; maybe God's doing stuff all the time and we, in our little blink of life, just happened to miss it.

    There are more claims made about God than just "he exists," though. Having not seen or heard God is just the icing on the cake of disbelief -- the rest of the cake being made primarily of a statement like: "Funny how everything God that is attributed to God can be explained naturally."

  30. I am going to respond more fully later, I just woke up and need some grub and caffine but you wrote, "Having not seen or heard God is just the icing on the cake of disbelief", and that is just major bull and seems to undermine the strength of atheist claims. Atheism is fundamentally based on the lack of empirical evidence, something like the P.O.E. is the "icing on the cake". You got to rethink that point.

  31. ... and you've got to reread my point.

    Atheism is fundamentally based on the lack of empirical evidence. However, that lack of evidence is more than just "I, personally, haven't seen God"; it's "I, personally, haven't seen God, and it's very unlikely that what you saw was God, because it is better explained naturally."

    Empirical evidence isn't just limited to personal experience, like you seem to imply. Atheists are not Atheists only because they haven't been visited by some deity; they're Atheists because, for everything that is attributed to that deity, there's a better, natural explanation. We're all Apollo Atheists and Zeus Atheists for that reason -- not because we haven't been visited by them.

  32. I don’t want to end this dialogue as I recognize your intelligence, and your knowledge of the resources, but I no longer am feeling the need for the debate, or the need to nit-pick your comments. I have understood the futility of it the whole time (as you do), but and maybe this is my own maturing process, I no longer feel the motivation to continue this way.

    I would just concede the debate to you, but this is intellectually dishonest to myself, because many of the things you contend I believe at one moment, and deny the next. So this is the root of our problem, or rather my problem. I wish there was some way I could keep your attention without the contention, but this is our nature.

    As I say on my blog I am a student in a learning process. I am currently reading Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and that book is teaching me a lot of things about this process. One thing I would offer to you, which I have learned from that book, is be careful with the security of your reason. I understand that most of your philosophy would be supported by Nietzsche, but I still think there is a lesson which Rationalists/Atheists could learn from him.

    I intellectually understand the problems of dualism and the strength of naturalist arguments. For some reason my mind still senses a mystery beyond all the obvious naturalistic answers, which perhaps I wrongly identify with god. I never bought religion whole-sale, and I never took to the indoctrination of my up-bringing. I have studied Philosophy and Science for some time now and yet here I was/am still trying to justify a belief in god. It is insane, for sure, but as Nietzsche explains man is an insane beast, so what are you going to do?

  33. Oh one last thing, what was the point of the digger wasp link? It confused me! lol

  34. I intended the digger wasp link to reference its uses in philosophy... but yeah, as I read it over again, I realize it's rather oddly worded.

    Digger wasps are used as a philosophical example to demonstrate simple cognitive abilities compared to complex ones. The idea is like this: the digger wasp, once it finds food, goes back into its nest to check if everything's okay, then comes back to where to food was and drags it into its nest. If, however, someone like a human comes along and, while the digger wasp is checking its nest, moves the food... the wasp freezes, then starts looking around for food. Once it finds it, it repeats the process exactly... and you can keep a digger wasp occupied indefinitely by moving its food an inch over every time.

    So the digger wasp has a standard mental procedure it goes through:

    1) I search for food.
    1a) If I find food, I drag it over in front of my nest.
    2) I check the nest to see if it's safe.
    3) I return to where I left the food.
    4) I drag it into my nest.

    But, if you interrupt step 3, the digger wasp starts all over again. There is no 3a:

    3a) If the food is not there, I check around a bit to see if the food moved a little, or something.

    Humans are just extremely complicated digger wasps, then, in a way. It's just that, while the digger wasp had four steps (and only one sub-step: 1a), a human in that same situation would have only those four steps... but, like, a thousand or more sub-steps, with tons and tons of "if X, then Y"-like parts.

    Anyway, it's a cool example to demonstrate just how mentally simple brains can get.

  35. Also, my apologies for taking forever to respond; the new semester started up and it's taken away a lot of my time.

    But, okay, I was just wondering if you could clarify one point:

    -----"... because many of the things you contend I believe at one moment, and deny the next."-----

    Are you saying that I'm accusing you of believing something, and then denying that I was accusing you? Or are you saying that your beliefs are (admirably) in a state of flux, and that you haven't quite decided what you actually believe? If the former, I'm curious to know what I'm saying you believe. But, if the former, I find that profoundly admirable and respectable.

    If the latter, I can relate to that extremely well. Just like you, I'm also "a student in a learning process," and I think that's the best state for anyone to be in. I've never felt like my hard determinist, naturalist, nihilist, atheist worldview was the end of the road to truth, but rather a step along it. Just a year ago my view was different than it is now, and who's to know what I'll believe a year further?

  36. Yeah I am saying my ideas are in a state of flux...yeah I started school back up again as well, and am having trouble finding time to keep this blog up. I just recently attended a lecture here at the University of Iowa, where I attend school, by a physics Professor Steven Barr, who wrote a book titled "Modern Physics Ancient Faith", where he argued that the religion vs. scientist debate is nonexistent. It was a brilliant lecture attended by over three hundred people, which filled an entire auditiorium, so we see can deduce how relevant our debate, and the larger debate truly is....

    I am going to write up my notes about the lecture, and post it here, so stay tuned. I also contacted Professor Barr with a follow up question, and he responded immediatly and helpfully, so that was nice. I am glad to hear from you again, as I enjoyed our exchange. Good luck with school. What classes are you taking?

    I read in your blog that you can find school a bit boring, I sympathized. The key I have always found is don't let school get in the way of your own learning, ya know what I mean? I keep a stack of books around to read and peruse, even when I am class. Anyways hope all is well, and maybe we can pick up our debate on my Barr post, because I think it will raise some issues....