Friday, July 20, 2007

Atheism: Intellectually Bankrupt


[statue of Zeus at the ancient town of Olympia, on the west coast of modern Greece, about 150 km west of Athens]

I have been told that atheism is "the philosophical position that God or gods do not exist".

Let’s think about this for a second. What exactly is meant by the expression “God or gods”?

Possible meaning #1: Something capable of creating something from nothing.

This is clearly nonsense, since cosmologists have proven that the universe was created from nothing about 13.7 billion years ago. So it would seem that something did create something from nothing.

Possible meaning #2: Something supernatural; something that does not behave according to natural laws.

This is clearly nonsense since scientists have proven that subatomic particles do in fact not behave in a completely predictable way; in other words they do not follow natural laws.

Possible meaning #3: Something superior to humans.

This is clearly nonsense, since there is no way of knowing if superior forms of intelligent life do not exist somewhere in the universe.

In other words, late 20th century science has completely pulled the rug out from under atheism. Perhaps this is one reason why atheism seems to have run out steam a bit in recent decades while the allure of religion is growing. Similar to Communism, atheism is a quaint 19th century ideology that has now been discredited.

Atheism continues as a sort of self-serving gut feeling that “there is no judge and no judgment”, but intellectually it’s bankrupt.

29 comments:

Joebaum said...

Supernatural might be "something we can't understand", becouse if its "unpredictable", every person is unpredictable since he has free choice.

Cameron said...

JP: I have been told that atheism is "the philosophical position that God or gods do not exist".

CH: Right on the money.

JP: Let’s think about this for a second. What exactly is meant by the expression “God or gods”?

CH: An excellent question. I contend that the word 'God' is ultimately meaningless, it references nothing.

JP: Possible meaning #1: Something capable of creating something from nothing.

This is clearly nonsense, since cosmologists have proven that the universe was created from nothing about 13.7 billion years ago. So it would seem that something did create something from nothing.

CH: Whether the universe is itself eternal, eternally recurring (cyclical) or something else entirely, has not been determined.

What physicists do know is that our current theories of physics cannot describe what occurred 'before' the Big Bang - this does not mean that there was nothing before the Big Bang - it just means our current understanding isn't sufficient to make a conclusion.

JP: Possible meaning #2: Something supernatural; something that does not behave according to natural laws.

This is clearly nonsense since scientists have proven that subatomic particles do in fact not behave in a completely predictable way; in other words they do not follow natural laws.

CH: Just because something is not completely predictable, does not mean it is not following natural laws.

Possible meaning #3: Something superior to humans.

This is clearly nonsense, since there is no way of knowing if superior forms of intelligent life do not exist somewhere in the universe.

CH: I'm not sure that agnosticism about other intelligent species in the universe is equivalent to 'is clearly nonsense'. It's certainly possible that there other intelligent species in the universe (indeed, I think there probably are given the mathematics of how impossibly huge the universe is).

JP: In other words, late 20th century science has completely pulled the rug out from under atheism.

CH: Coming from someone who eschews late 20th century science for the comforts of medieval mysticism I found that comment terrifically amusing.

JP: Perhaps this is one reason why atheism seems to have run out steam a bit in recent decades while the allure of religion is growing.

CH: All the demographic evidence I've seen indicates the opposite. As the wealth and health of a society increases, religiosity decreases. Church attendance in North America has been in a steady free-fall, and is already cratering in Europe.

JP: Similar to Communism, atheism is a quaint 19th century ideology that has now been discredited.

CH: Given the ancient Greeks (referrenced by your Statue of Zeus) practiced atheism long before the rise of Abrahamic monotheism came on the scene, as well as the fact that atheism is simply not an ideology, your conclusion is false to the core.

Richard Rosalion said...

Yes, but would you WORSHIP:

1. The big bang
2. Quantum particles
or
3. Aliens?

If you define god in any of these ways, then perhaps you have a point, but I think this also gives "God" no real meaning, in which case your religion is equally bankrupt. If I define "god" to be this keyboard I'm typing on (hell, it's an amazing piece of technology), then I'm certainly a believer, but it gives absolutely no spiritual value to my belief. If, however, you're talking about Jahweh (which, I presume you believe in), they you believe in a lot more than a big bang, a quantum particle or some alien being.

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, Judaism is not medieval. It goes back much farther than that and was already ancient when the statue of Zeus at Olympia was sculpted. Judaism is eternal.

Atheism really began in 1770 with Baron d'Holbach.

My point is that the concept of an eternally existing deterministic universe, which is the foundation of atheism, has been discredited.

jewish philosopher said...

World wide, atheism may be similar to socialism. In a few corners it staggers on, but it's not a vibrant movement.

Cameron said...

JP: Atheism really began in 1770 with Baron d'Holbach.

CH: False. Some of my favourite ancient Greeks were atheists (Aristarchus for one). They simply did not believe in any gods.

JP: My point is that the concept of an eternally existing deterministic universe, which is the foundation of atheism, has been discredited.

CH: Three falsehoods in one sentence;

- eternally existing, deterministic universe... has been discredited.

falsehood one: If you check out the latest edition of 'Seed' magazine, you'll find an article on how the universe may indeed be cyclical. 'Brane' theory also supports an eternal cyclical theory of universe formation. Far from being discredited, it may indeed be ascendant.

falsehood 2: Even if it is the case that the universe is not 'eternal', nothing in particular follows from this about the necessary characteristics of God or atheism. So the universe isn't eternal - so what? There are naturalist explanations for the origin of the universe that don't require God, and this will be the case whether the universe is eternal or not.

falsehood 3. Atheism is dependent on an eternally existing deterministic universe. Nothing of the sort, atheism is merely dependent on rejecting faith in Gods. There is nothing about atheism that requires an eternal universe. Nor is their strictly speaking anything about atheism that requires a strictly deterministic universe.

Pleased to see you've become interested in the Baron though. He's quite good.

jewish philosopher said...

The fact is, Cameron, that there are really two distinct brands of atheism.

One is a philosophy, based on materialism, determinism and metaphysical naturalism. Baron d’Holbach invented that and it is now clearly dead.

The other atheism is a mental illness, based on narcissism and hedonism. This atheism is still alive, and probably always will be, however it’s not doing too well.

avrum68 said...

"The other atheism is a mental illness..."

Does Cameron pay you to make his job easier? Sheesh.

jewish philosopher said...

I like to call it the Godless Delusion.

avrum68 said...

"however it’s not doing too well."

JP, in a previous post, you asked if Dawkins was serious. But I wonder, is JP for real?

Atheism is like totally "in" dude. All current non-fiction bestsellers are touting the "God is Dead" line.

If atheism wasn't doing "too well" you wouldn't have had the emotional impetus to create this blog, right?

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think too many people are proud to be outspoken atheists. State sponsored atheism, which was huge 50 years ago, is dead today. Sadly, there are still some Jewish youth attracted to this outdated and discredited philosophy.

It's kind of like socialism. It's still around, but it's hardly the next big thing.

jewish philosopher said...

This article is interesting.

joe said...

"I had reasons not to want the world to have meaning, and as a result I assumed the world had no meaning, and I was readily able to find satisfactory grounds for this assumption ... For me , as it undoubtedly was for most of my generation, the philosophy of meaninglessness was an instrument of liberation from a certain moral system. We were opposed to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."

--Aldous Huxley

joe said...

"I had reasons not to want the world to have meaning, and as a result I assumed the world had no meaning, and I was readily able to find satisfactory grounds for this assumption ... For me , as it undoubtedly was for most of my generation, the philosophy of meaninglessness was an instrument of liberation from a certain moral system. We were opposed to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."
--Aldous Huxley

avrum68 said...

That's a great quote.

Cameron said...

JP: The fact is, Cameron, that there are really two distinct brands of atheism.

CH: The fact is Jacob that atheism is a simple philosophical position - there are no gods. Hence, any ideology or philosophy that has that characteristic can rightly be considered 'atheist', the list includes, but is not limited to;

- Buddhism (Zen that is)
- Jainism
- Communism
- Socialism
- variants of fascism (most are actually quite comfortable with religion, but some weren't)
- Confucianism
- Most ancient Greek philosophy

and at least since the enligtenment;

- Science

What do these systems have in common other than their atheism? Nothing. Nothing at all.

JP: The other atheism is a mental illness, based on narcissism and hedonism. This atheism is still alive, and probably always will be, however it’s not doing too well.

CH: And Avrum whines endlessly about how I sound angry!

I guess I should ask; which of the following subjects is more likely to be suffering a mental illness?

Subject A:

- claims to talk to an invisible being, often daily
- claims the invisible being 'loves' them and is their friend
- claims the invisible being has given them a moral code that makes them superior to others
- claims the invisible being has declared him and his people to be 'chosen' and specially blessed
- claims the invisible beings desires them to mutilate the penises of his newborn children


Subject B:

- believes that subject A is incorrect about there being any invisible beings.

I know which person sounds the most sane to me...

jewish philosopher said...

There are plenty of religions which believe in a very much visible deity. Do you like those better?

The reason why I rate most atheism today as a mental illness is because no one can define it in any meaningful way, therefore it's surely not a philosophy.

joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joe said...

That's a great quote."

thanks. he really said that.

avrum68 said...

"The reason why I rate most atheism today as a mental illness is because no one can define it in any meaningful way, therefore it's surely not a philosophy."

Jacob...between Cameron knowing diddly squat about Judaism, and your similar knowledge about mental illness, perhaps both of you should call a truce. Sheesh. You remind me of Chabad rabbi who said: "Psychiatry, Psychology...it's the same thing".

jewish philosopher said...

Some Chabad people are nuts too.

Anonymous said...

You clearly do not understand the theories you are talking about.

#1: There is controversy in this area. But absolutely no seriously taken theory could be summed up by "There was nothing, then the universe popped into existence".
Some theories have the Big Bang as the moment something transforms into the universe. For example, one theory sees the pre-Big Bang universe as huge amounts of matter and antimatter forming and reacting with each other, with a tiny proportion of matter being formed more than antimatter, and the universe being made of that comparatively tiny chunk.
Some theories have the Big Bang as the origin of time. They're harder to understand, as we see time as absolute even though we know it isn't. For example, Julian Barbour describes the universe as a timeless collection of instants (snapshots), and our impression of time coming from the snapshots we call later containing references (such as higher entropy, equilibria or memories) to the snapshots we call earlier. That collection could be finite, and the first snapshot could be the Big Bang (or possibly something even older).
Something getting created from nothing is just not something science points to.

#2: Why on Earth should natural laws be completely predictable to us? If the Many Worlds interpretation is true, this is nonsense; the universe branches in completely predictable ways. If collapse theories are true, we can still predict the probability with as much precision as we like. There is still controversy (about the interpretation); you are looking at something not well-understood and saying "God!" - this will make you look silly when we understand what exactly is going on with quantum mechanics.

#3: Some religions (usually ancient) have gods as just superpowerful humans. The current view (starting possibly at Zoroastrism, but more likely at Judaism) uses moral superiority - in a broad sense: gods can tell us what is right and wrong better than we can. Dark matter super aliens can't.
More importantly, if such beings exist, they are not interacting with us right now. I still wouldn't want to worship them if they came demanding it - then again neither would I want to worship the Greek gods if they were real -, but things that just don't care about us humans can't be our gods, even if they are gods. I'll expand on this in "Which God Don't You Believe In?".

K said...

Mental illness defined: A medical condition caused by a physiological defect or injury in the brain that effects a person's mood, rationality, or coping skills.

How hard is that for you to understand?

Atheism is an opinion, not a medical condition. Atheism is non-belief, the absence of belief in an omnipotent supernatural being. Sort of like not believing in Santa Claus.

Supernatural is something that is beyond the known aspects of nature or the natural world, the physical world.

Your biggest problem isn't Semitics, it's semantics.

jewish philosopher said...

I think that in many cases, atheism is a symptom of sexual compulsion and/or psychopathy.

shoshi said...

Why do you reproduce an image of a false god on your homepage. this seems utterly forbidden to me. Please take it off. I am very shocked.

jewish philosopher said...

I think only three dimensional images are a problem.

Who are you?

Anonymous said...

As a relgious person myself (Im christian) I find your blog refreshing. I have had so much hatred from atheists in recent years that I too wonder if it is a symptom of some sort of psychopathy. Are you planning to write an entry exploring that aspect of it? Or do you have any links about that? thank you kindly!

Demitri
(sorry I have no blog account I try to spend as little time on the net as possible)

jewish philosopher said...

I have a couple of recent posts:

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/12/psychopath-and-atheist.html

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/12/famous-atheist.html

Anonymous said...

Ah! Thank you ! off topic but i wanted to say: By the way I am praying for Israel and what jews have to go through with the media being friendly to basically anybody who supports hamas (at least that's how it feels like to me). In case you are wondering you know many christians are pro-Israel in america but my background is eastern christianity (Im a greek) I support Israel not because of religion but because the jews are the only people in that area that have embraced a little greek idea we call democracy. I love them like I love my own people. all the best,demitri.
Im going to read your post links and then get off my selfimposed limit for the net is coming to a close.