Friday, May 25, 2007

The Argument from Ego

[Joseph Stalin; atheist and former General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party]

Many atheists are annoyed and genuinely bewildered by my insistence that atheism is a full fledged metaphysical philosophy and is therefore just as much a religion as Judaism or Islam. Seemingly they actually are not thinking in terms of materialism and determinism. Rather, for the typical atheist, atheism means “I just don’t believe in God.”

It suddenly dawned on me this week what atheists actually mean by this.

When an atheist says “There is no God” he really means only one thing: that he regards himself to be the most important being in the universe. Therefore there can be no God. This is what I call (slightly tongue in cheek) “The Argument from Ego”.

As it is actually commonly practiced, atheism is indeed not a religion but rather may be classified as an aspect of narcissistic personality disorder.

This helps us to understand another odd phenomenon: that without exception famous atheists are not nice people. Lack of empathy and arrogance are symptoms of their illness.

In practical terms, if one is going to choose a spouse, partner or neighbor, atheism should be regarded as a red flag. NPD sufferers seldom seek treatment. This helps us to understand why voters usually reject atheistic politicians.

Let us hope that everyone soon has a complete recovery.


avrum68 said...

My fiancee, a psychiatry resident, recently had a lecture about the similarities between psychosis and religious belief. In other words, I'd be careful the way you throw around DSM criteria. Moreover, most honest therapists don't take the Axis 2 diagnosis very seriously i.e. NPD. Lastly, while all, without exception, atheists I've met have had horrible childhoods, I don't believe this qualifies as illness.

The fact that we Jews take our 8 day year old babies, slice off their foreskins - exposing them to unimaginable pain (and yes, I've been to a number of brit) - because a book told us to, is akin to child abuse. Perhaps our commitment to this rite describes generations of sociopathic behavior.

Anyway, we're all crazy in our own way. Religious, atheist, and blogger.

Spike said...

So, leaving aside Stalin's mistreatment at the seminary where he recieved his education, how do you feel about agnostics? Do they attract the same blind rage and broad overgeneralisations?

TigerBoy said...

"When an atheist says “There is no God” he really means only one thing: that he regards himself to be the most important being in the universe. Therefore there can be no God."
How do you come up with this stuff?
I don't even consider myself to be the most important being in this house.
That would be my cat, TigerBoy.

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, the concept that religion is a delusion is a pillar of atheistic thought. However I think the argument actually works better in the opposite direction. Monotheism in fact has been proven to have immense therapeutic value - look at Alcoholics Anonymous. However, on the contrary, how many mentally ill people are successfully treated with atheism?

Spike, I have a post about agnostics.

Spike said...

How is declaring the uselessness of revealed truth terrible mental laziness? Surely organised religion is the laziest position one can take? Always being told what to think, what to do, never having to decide for yourself?

You seem to be arguing against Ignosticism, rather than agnosticism.

jewish philosopher said...

Agnostics (and my brother, an extremely nice guy, happens to be one) don't declare anything. It's a sort of "no opinion" attitude. That's a lot better than vehement atheism, however I think it's a little mentally lazy.

TigerBoy said...

Gosh, I think you misunderstand yet ANOTHER simple concept. You're so good at that!
Angostics don't claim "no opinion" on the subject. They feel that the ABSOLUTE truth of the existence of an "unknowable" God is, well, unknowable.
Sounds like a totally logical position to me!
But, you KNOW differently, right? Oh, wait! Yours is called faith. So, you don't KNOW differently.
But, I'm an Atheist. I must KNOW differently. But wait. I believe differently. I don't KNOW my position to be true.
Sounds like the Agnostic is absolutely right.
I am STILL an Atheist.
And you are STILL a backward, hateful, closed-minded old zealot. : )
Mazel Tov!

avrum68 said...

"They feel that the ABSOLUTE truth of the existence of an "unknowable" God is, well, unknowable."

Really? Not the one's I know. And here's where I agree with Dawkins. It's a lazy way out of thinking about the issues. For most anyway.

"And you are STILL a backward, hateful, closed-minded old zealot. : )"

Well, he's a computer scientist, and open to debating a bunch of materialists, so JP can't be THAT backward.

Speaking of closed minded, hey many religions, and for how long, did you did you try before you discovered the sublime truths of Atheism?

I've said it before, and it bears repeating, all...everyone...of my atheist friends had horrible upbrings. So perhaps it's not a choice as it is a logical conclusion from a shitty childhood.

Spike said...

Avrum, you are arguing entirely from anecdote. Pleasing that you know atheists, but not indicative of truth. If I said that all my religious friends were beaten by their parents, it wouldn't make any difference to the truth of their claims.

Agnostics claim that the truth of the existance of god is unknowable. Religious types claim that the existance of god was revealed to them. Therefore, the agnostics are claiming that the revealed truth is useless, otherwise the existance of god would be knowable. Militant agnosticism is the only position with a reasonable basis.

avrum68 said...

"Avrum, you are arguing entirely from anecdote."

Spike, I'm a therapist. Subjective experience is all we have to go on. I'd be glad to share some anecdotes of the frum world, just ask.

" I said that all my religious friends were beaten by their parents, it wouldn't make any difference to the truth of their claims. "

You see, in the psychodynamic world, subjective experience 99.9% arises out of specified social factors. Not always, but most of the time. And I've never witnessed or heard that a majority of religious folks were beaten by their parents. So it's quite clear that you're lying. But if you stated that, in your experience, religous Jews are often racist towards Arabs...have close knit families...befriend only other'd be correct.

jewish philosopher said...

"Agnostics claim that the truth of the existance of god is unknowable."

To me, that sounds ridiculous. What would people say if NASA decided, "The truth of the existance of extraterrestrial life is unknowable." What makes something unknowable? Because we don't want to know?

badrabbi said...

Greetings and salutations. Back from a great vacation. Recomend same to one and all.

Regarding atheism, agnostism, etc., it is very simply really:

There is no objective evidence for the existence of God, so theism (of the Hashem variety at least), is without a scientific basis.

By the same token, there is no objective way to prove a negative. Thus, one can not with absolute assurance prove that God or Santa Claus for that matter do not exist.

What remains is agnostism. But this is not agnostism of the "I don't know" variety. An agnostic is not saying "I am too lazy to think about it". He is saying "I thought about it. He probably does not exist, but I can not prove it with absolute certainty".

One can say that it is virtually (but not absolutely) certain that Santa does not exist. To that extent, then, one is agnostic towards Santa or a diety (of the 'Hashem' variety).

Think of it this way: Most agnostics are not lazy. They are simply respectful of the rediculous claims of the diests in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Personally, I can not absolutely prove that God does not exist, but I know that for all practical purposes, he is not relevant to my existence. Call me atheist or agnostic - it does not matter. What matters is that I aint praying to no imaginary thing!

badrabbi said...

Regarding your statement that atheists have had a bad childhood...

Your statement is irrelevant. Go through your records and analyze the childhood of physicists. Shold it turn out that their childhood was also messed up, does it follow that the notion of a 'black hole' or of gravity is wrong?

Does one thing have much to do with the other?

Or are you engaged in character assasination?

What if I were to claim, as many already do, that therapists are messed up in the head? Could I simply dismiss all your ideas by this notion without dealing with the ideas themselves?

Do you see what you are doing?

badrabbi said...

btw, my childhood was just fine!

For your records!

avrum68 said...

"Do you see what you are doing?"

My job...or an element of it anyway. Of course, with a client, you'd never say these things out loud. But various clues would provide a landscape for their problems.

You see, therapists ARE "messed up in the head" i.e. most are born, not made into, shrinks. See Alice Miller's Drama of the Gifted Child.

"Your statement is irrelevant. "

Yes, I'm sure you see it that way. Most materialists do. I've met neuroscientists who claim that dreams are meaningless, just random electrical firings. I work quite closely with psychiatrists who don't stray from "evidenced based" practice so not to run into folks like yourself (yet when these same folks need therapists, they run to subjective/psychodynamic folks first - see Irving Yalom's "The Gift of Therapy" for more on this issue.

"In conclusion, rather than judging atheists harshly, we must have an understanding of the deep psychological pain underlying much atheism."
Ha, ha..this is hilarious. As a lark, I found this:
from a quick Google search.

avrum68 said...

"btw, my childhood was just fine!"

Irrelevant because I don't you. And very, very few folks:
a) disclose personal info on blogs
b) are aware of their baggage (most of my atheists friends, now well into their 30's-40's and hopelessly single are very much unaware about how their past mucks up their present)

Yet there are exceptions to every rule.

I'm still waiting to meet a true blue atheist who choose their position after having years of positive experiences with their religion, family, etc. To date, I haven't met ONE.

Atheists would be more honest if they wrote books about how their priest diddled their pee pee, and as a result, they rejected God, etc. Or how their parent's had a horrible marriage, forced their children to obey Halacha w/ guilt and anger, etc. But to write books about atheism as a an evolved choice...when they've never giving the alterantive an honest go...that's dishonest as well as denial making extrodenaire.

avrum68 said...

Finally, you may wonder why I didn't give atheism a chance. I did. Hell, I dabbled in all sorts of things. But an experience in Banff, coupled with my sensitive nature, forced me to consider the deism option. It took a leap of faith, and I've been struggling ever since (I was raised in a secular home).

badrabbi said...


Once again you have posited this rediculous idea about an atheist childhood. In effect, you have shifted the argument from the concept of existence of God, to the notion of childhood experiences of people.

I think you are wrong about atheists' childhood. But I think debating this with you is boring. We would simply engage in he said he said arguments that lead nowhere.

What I am saying - once again - is this: Don't worry about our childhood. If we need you, we will seek your professional help. For now, in this blog, deal with what we are saying. We are saying that it is likley that God does not exist. This is our argument. Never you mind if our pee pees was touched by the clergy!

avrum68 said...

" think you are wrong about atheists' childhood."

According to a very quick Google search it would appear I'm least according to one psych prof. And if so, this would explain the ire of atheists, wouldn't it? And if so, why should I take any personal vendetta, masked as an objective arguement, seriously? It's like listening to a pedophile argue the virtues of adult/teen sex (and they're having these discussions in Europe).

Badrabbi...if Dawkin's Army weren't as insulting, mean spirited and condescending, I'd be ignoring the issue. But I don't believe it's just to allow militant atheists the luxury of throwing around insults w/o providing a little bit of context for their so-called evolved ideas. There's a lot going on besides "does God exist or not", for both sides.

I'll let y'all debate fossils and evolution. My contributions will be of a psychodynamic nature.

"I think debating this with you is boring"
So why are you responding? Atheists are weird.

avrum68 said...

Anyway, for now folks, I'm outta here. I'm off to beautiful Vancouver for a vacation and own. Yes, that's right. I'm marrying a super cool girl* on Sunday, with many rabbis present. It should be a hoot. Ciao.

* doctor/scientist and religious. Her father, a distinguished math professor is also religious. So we're not all anecdotal spewing, subjective arguing, artsy fartsy psychodynamic types.

jewish philosopher said...

I have a simple question. If it's so obvious God does not exist and Judaism is a scam, then can someone please show me one example of a machine that we know was created spontaneously, with no intelligent designer involved? And can someone please show me an example of a successful conspiracy, involving thousands of people with no one revealing the truth, which was then somehow proven to a be a lie?

And if machines always have designers and unanimous mass testimony is always accurate, then just where does this certainty come from that Judaism is false?

And mazel tov Avrum. Email some wedding photos.

badrabbi said...


Mazal Tov. I hope you are eternally happy.

JP: "can someone please show me one example of a machine that we know was created spontaneously, with no intelligent designer involved?"

Sure: the answer is God!!!

jewish philosopher said...

How do you know? Did anyone witness His spontaneous creation?

Spike said...

For pity's sake, back to the conspirqacy principle. Right, you claim that all the jews told their children that they saw (or heard) god, Whilst badrabbi claims that only Caleb and Joshua were witnesses. Additionally, you define jews as people who believe in the revelation at Sinai, and call for the killing of those who voice dissent. So, what we have, in terms of the conspiracy principle, is a group of people, selected on the basis that they believe something to be true, killing members of the group who disagree, based on the record of 2 people. This seems remarkable circular and unconvincing. If you still want an example of a successful conspiracy, look at the blackening of King Richard III by the historians of the time.

Can you please show me an example of life that was intelligently designed? And also a reason why evolution must be impossible?

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, you see the problem is this. Atheists claim that Ezra authored the Pentateuch based upon several earlier documents. What happened then is that all Jews scattered throughout the Middle East (“Jews” meaning those people whose ancestors were exiled from Judea by the Babylonians) as well as the Samaritans unanimously and without one peep of dissent known to recorded history, accepted this new scroll as authentic and henceforth teaching their children that this was the scroll which Moses had written and given to their ancestors. This, if true, would be a unique example of a massive conspiracy of falsehood unknown elsewhere in history. It would be on the level of the Apollo moon landings or the Holocaust being in fact hoaxes, created by a conspiracy of thousands of knowing liars working in unison with no one revealing the truth. So unless you are a fan of conspiracy theories, I don’t see how you accept this theory about the origin of Judaism. And the only other theory is “God did it”.

Life is not unique. Living things are merely machines made from water, protein and nucleic acid. And I can show you machines made by intelligent designers – would you like to see my watch?

There is no reason why evolution is impossible, only absurdly unlikely, and similar to a tornado hitting a junkyard and manufacturing, by chance, a perfect Boeing 747 aircraft.

Psychodiva said...

as a forensic psych professional working regularly with people diagnosed with varying personality disorders I had to laugh at your assertion that I as an atheist have a narcissistic PD- when you have attended the classes, done the training and gained the experience - then and only then can you diagnose- do not peddle your pop psychology - it takes more than just looking at a list of symptoms in the DSM or ICD before you can diagnose somebody - and certainly more than that if you want to diagnose what is a very very heterogenous group and stick them all under one label.

jewish philosopher said...

"as a forensic psych professional ... I had to laugh at your assertion that I as an atheist have a narcissistic PD"

This is typical. Many psychiatrists are themselves neurotic.

"when you have attended the classes, done the training and gained the experience - then and only then can you diagnose- do not peddle your pop psychology"

And when you have spent a few years attending lectures and studying theology, then you can decide whether or not God exists.

Spike said...

"And when you have spent a few years attending lectures and studying theology, then you can decide whether or not God exists."

Have you any qualifications in biology at all? Have you spent any time since your school years formally learning biology? You have taken the required molecular biology courses to be able to speak about abiogenesis with absolute authority?

Does your watch reproduce? Is it alive? Show me an intellignetly designed reproducing machine, or fuck off. And the claim about the self-assembling 747, whilst catchy, ignores reproduction. The precursors to life as we know it, ammino acids and the like, are found as far afield as the Oort Cloud.

I didn't claim anything about Ezra. I don't give a shit about Ezra. I don't care who you think wrote the scrolls. I am complaining that recorded history of the time was recorded by the priests, who could write, who kept the documents that agreed with them, and discarded those that didn't. You switch between what you call the conspiracy principle and the documentary principle whenever it suits you, but you never answer the question. If all the recorded history is recorded by the priests, and the priests kill apostates, then you aren't going to get any other recorded history. What may have actually happened is lost in the hearsay and distortions of the truth common to religions. All of the examples you give rely on more than the sayso of one self-selecting group of people. Show me the independant corroborating evidence, or retract your conspiracy principle.

badrabbi said...

Essentially all 'objective' evidence JP and his ilk have is the following:

"If Jewish claims are a crock, how come we beleive it for two thousand years?!"

Keep in mind that all of the evidence for Judaism and for God's so-called revelation is summed up above. JP makes this argument again and again.

Stop for one second, though, and think about it. Is this really a compelling argument? I know that I, spike, and others have tried to show how fallacious this argument is. But for the believer, just stop and think. Is this a convincing argument to you?

Keep in mind that there are no other arguments at the Jews' disposal. Is it enough?

The days of the thoughtful diest are numbered.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, I’m afraid you are shooting yourself in the foot. If you want your pure atheistic faith to remain intact, you would be better off not thinking so much. The fact that my watch, although it cannot reproduce itself, was obviously created by an intelligent designer, because it is a machine, means that a fortiori a mosquito, which is a machine a trillion times more complex than a watch to point that it has the power of reproduction, is surely the work of a superhuman intelligent designer. Perhaps an omniscient and omnipotent Designer.

Also, I’m not so sure about all those priests keeping all the records. In fact, as far as I know, the only books in the Old Testament written by a priest are Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles, all written by Ezra.

"If Jewish claims are a crock, how come we beleive it for two thousand years?!"
Bad, you could say the same about anything we know about history. How do we know about the Apollo missions? Because "If NASA claims about the moon landings are a crock, how come we beleive it for forty years?!" Why believe in the Apollo missions or the Holocaust or anything else. Just because someone believes it? We because we know that such conspiracies are implausible.

Spike said...

So, you are happy to accept the testimony of self-selecting groups of people? Is this why you believe that god produces a different spiritual energy for each day of the week? The moon landings and the holocaust have independant corroborating evidence, not just hearsay. WHERE IS YOUR INDEPENDANT CORROBORATING EVIDENCE?
We are not just relying on many eye-witnesses. If we were, we would spend all our time hiding from alien abduction squads.

The books were kept by priests. The priests, being the literate caste, had control over the storage of information, and that is very powerful. Look, for example, at how Trotsky was revised out of history by Stalin, and that only took a generation. The jewish priests have had hundred of generations to root out any dissent. If you have any evidence that the priests didn't keep all the records, well, please share it.

So, if all life is just a machine, why the need for god? After all, you are just a machine, and machines don't have souls. And, after all, you are only an imperfect machine, as you can't even seperate the ideas of abiogenesis and evolution from a common ancestor. Or, apparently, the conspiracy principle and the documentary hypothesis.

jewish philosopher said...

WHERE IS YOUR INDEPENDANT CORROBORATING EVIDENCE that the Normans invaded England in 1066? Do you expect me to accept the testimony of self-selecting groups of people?

"The books were kept by priests." How do you know?

Life is not just a machine, but it is at least a machine. And God built it.

Spike said...

We have buildings built by the Normans, a change in the linguistic, political, and genetic makeup of the nation, Documents (from more than one source) written by normans that survive, Sudden massive changes in Architectural style, the introduction of feudalism, and surviving remnants of norman french in english (eg the distinction between lamb and mutton). All of which is consistent with the norman conquest, and inconsistent with the theory of, say, a viking conquest. Can you say the same for the bible? Do you even understant why it is unjustified to believe the something based upon the number of people who believe, if that number is made only through selecting people who believe?

The priests were the only literate people. Would you let a group of illiterate people keep your library?

Prove that god built life. And please, not by repeating bullshit about probabilities that amounts to arguments from incredulity. And if life is more than a machine, can you please point to the part that is supernatural?

jewish philosopher said...

"Can you say the same for the bible?"

Sure. For example, see “The Bible Unearthed” by Israel Finkelstein page 119 that from about 1150 BCE until 586 BCE, no pork was raised in the villages of the highlands of Palestine. This is consistent with a Jewish invasion in 1273 BCE as per the Bible. There is a great deal of archeological evidence supportive of the Bible.

"The priests were the only literate people." Who dreamed that nonsense up?

"Prove that god built life." So who did? No one? But we know that all machines have designers.

Psychodiva said...

This is typical. Many psychiatrists are themselves neurotic.

now you are confusing neuroses with Personality disorders- and again- I do not have a neuroses- want to try again?

And when you have spent a few years attending lectures and studying theology, then you can decide whether or not God exists.

um- I have - don't assume and don't presume

jewish philosopher said...

I am not able to verify anything about you, psycho, however you nickname “diva” means literally “goddess”. I think this supports my theory about the link between atheism and narcissism.

Spike said...

"The Bible Unearthed"? The book that states that it has made discoveries that "have revolutionized the study of early Israel and have cast serious doubt on the historical basis of such famous biblical stories as the wanderings of the Patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt and conquest of Canaan, and the glorious empire of David and Solomon" (p. 3)

So, this great deal of evidence, which is so great that you are reduced to misrepresenting the work of the archeologists, definately shows what, exactly?

Do you have any evidence that the jews had entirely secular libraries? Then it seems reasonable to suggest that those who were literate kept the books.

Yes, no-one needs to have built life. Just as no-one needs to have built the solar system.

jewish philosopher said...

"have cast serious doubt on the historical basis of such famous biblical stories" That's the book. And even it actually is supportive of Judaism in many ways. Read it. I don't see much reason objectively why the Exodus is different than the Norman invasion. If you believe in one, why not believe in the other?

I think most Jews have always been literate.

"no-one needs to have built life" Maybe no one wrote Shakespeare either.

From said...

"don't even consider myself to be the most important being in this house.
That would be my cat, TigerBoy."

This was said by someone who now goes by the name of "TigerBoy", I found it ironic.

Spike said...

Objectively, there is good evidence for the norman conquest, whereas there is not good evidence for exodus, as detailed in "The Bible Unearthed". Or do you not understand the idea behind weighing the evidence? Or perhaps you don't comprehend the statement "cast serious doubt on the historical basis". The use of the word "believe" here is perhaps incorrect. I find the evidence that the norman conquest happened convincing, I find the evidence for exodus much less convincing. I do no "believe" in the norman conquest, I accept it as the most likely explanation for the data.

Do you have evidence for your claim that most jews have always been literate?

It is true that maybe no-one wrote Shakespeare. You could easily be a Boltzmann Brain, reacting to the random patterns of some dustcloud somewhere. If you can accept that evolution is possible, if, as you term it, improbable, then it is simpler to have evolution than to posit the far greater complexity of a god.

badrabbi said...

...Whilst badrabbi claims that only Caleb and Joshua were witnesses"

It is interesting, it is not my claim. Rather, the bible itself, in Numbers 14:22. The Torah makes the assertions that all Jews 20 years and older will die in the desert. Those left, according to the bible are:
1. Minors
2. Caleb
3. Joshua

These are the assertions made by the Torah itself. I have not yet seen any religious Jew refute these argument. In effect, they can not, since the above is explicitly mentioned in the Torah.

In essence, Kuzari is reduced to a crock. Just no one who believes in it whats to admit it.

Spike said...

Apologies, Bad. Meant to imply that that was the argument put forward by you, rather than your claim.

jewish philosopher said...

"there is not good evidence for exodus"

There is the oral and written tradition of the Jewish people, which in my opinion is quite good enough.

Spike said...

The book you reccomend states that there is no good evidence for exodus. Do you have any physical evidence for exodus, or am I putting it on the same level as, say, the flying spagetti monster?

Larro said...

I tried to read all the comments, but....

Anyway. I'm of the opinion that most people of faith would at best like atheists to just shut the hell up and censor themselves and at worst just disappear.

By the way I would say you have done an excellent job of stereotyping a subset of society, oh and it's brilliant how you are helping to perpetuate the Stalinist archetype so commonly associated with atheists, very kind of you. Boy, can't get anything past you can we? Atheists just can't seem to hide the fact that we are all card carrying commies out to send everybody off to the Gulag.

Narcissistic? Everyone's a freakin' narcissist.

jewish philosopher said...

You have no idea what I have to put up with. How many times have I read lately “Religion is evil, just look at 9/11.”

I have news for everyone – Islam is evil. Just look at 9/11. In contrast, the Orthodox Jewish community probably has the lowest rate violence of any community with 1 million members or more in the entire world.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

You have no idea what I have to put up with. How many times have I read lately “Religion is evil, just look at 9/11.”

You poor thing. And clearly the proper response to you feeling persecuted by some obnoxious and zealous atheists is to claim that ALL atheists suffer from mental disorders.


Psychodiva said...

"I am not able to verify anything about you, psycho, however you nickname “diva” means literally “goddess”. I think this supports my theory about the link between atheism and narcissism."

False evidence- what's in a name?- I usually call myself Culpepper online but that name was already taken when i applied for the blog site - again your 'evidence' of a nerosis or a PD is disproved- no you cannot verify anything about me- what it does prove is your complete and utter arrogance. Will you please look up the symptoms of narcissitic personality disorder before accusing someone of having the damn thing