Ask an Atheist

Jun 2014
726
United States
#1
I like the topic Ask a Catholic, but because of time constraints feel woefully inadequate to really get into an in depth discussion there right now. But if you have questions for me I can try to get back to you soon.
 
Jun 2011
1,542
Somewhere "in this immensity"
#2
I like the topic Ask a Catholic, but because of time constraints feel woefully inadequate to really get into an in depth discussion there right now. But if you have questions for me I can try to get back to you soon.
Dear Skeptic,

As an atheist, whom or what do you pray to, and whom or what do you worship?

Cheers
 
Oct 2011
4,213
Quilimari,Chile
#3
Oh my
My dear friend Smiling, you asked for it.
I also am interested in your answers, even though I have not felt the urge to ask, just trying to be polite and accepting of your belief.

Loving regards
bill
 
Nov 2012
949
Florida
#4
As a believer believes and an atheist doesn't, at least both have staked out a position, and that is commendable. A person who is wishy-washy and doesn't really take a stand is the one frowned upon.

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot."
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." -- Revelation 3:15-16

I personally know a former atheist (now a Baha'i) who was surprised to discover that many of the things that atheists didn't believe about God, Baha'is didn't either.

Skeptic, while I do not share your non-belief, your willingness to engage and explore has been a big +. :yes:
 
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Apr 2011
1,055
Hyrule
#5
Abdu'l-Baha's question for atheists

I like the topic Ask a Catholic, but because of time constraints feel woefully inadequate to really get into an in depth discussion there right now. But if you have questions for me I can try to get back to you soon.
There's a philosophical position some atheists hold called eliminativism that says all truths can be reduced to physics. Our thoughts, ideas, and intentions, for example, are simply primitive ways of thinking about the whole shebang. These notions, they say, are mere folk psychology, so we should do away with it. The idea is that, if you look closely enough, the illusion of mind disappears. By describing everything through physical proccesses, we eliminate consciousness, persons, and other like-minded concepts. For these thinkers there is no problem of consciousness: again, it isn't even real. This is like looking closer and closer at a painting until the illusion of unity disappears. In fact, there is no painting, and the painter would certainly have to be denied existence too.

Besides the way we treat other conscious beings (children, spouses, and so on), I think this view is unacceptable for the simple reason my experience of cosciousness as a united whole is real. I also think this view is instructive, because these eleminitavists are the brave atheists willing to take their materialism to its logical end. To even think there's a way of describing reality better by referring to consciousness, culture, ideas, and other like-minded phenomenon would mean throwing in the white flag to a supernatural/transcendental way of thinking, which one atheist on this board has called irrational.

Everybody lands on some side of the paradox behind the debate of consciousness. Eliminativists say, "Hey! No problem!" But if you're not satisfied with their answer, let's take a look around. John Locke highlighted the paradox as follows: "It is impossible to concieve that ever pure incognitive Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being." In other words, it is impossible to believe mindless matter created intelligent minds. David Bentley Hart words it another way: "How could it be that, in this instance alone, the essential aimlessness of matter achieves so intense and intricate a concetration of its various random forces that, all at once, it is fantastically inverted into the virtual opposite of everything modern orthodoxy tells us matter is?" If anybody is guessing what modern orthodoxy is telling us, see Richard Dawkins: the universe "has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference," he says. Even Abdu'l-Baha asks a similar variation of Hart's question:

"Man possesses certain virtues of which nature is deprived. He exercises volition; nature is without will. For instance, an exigency of the sun is the giving of light. It is controlled—it cannot do otherwise than radiate light—but it is not volitional. An exigency of the phenomenon of electricity is that it is revealed in sparks and flashes under certain conditions, but it cannot voluntarily furnish illumination. An exigency or property of water is humidity; it cannot separate itself from this property by its own will. Likewise, all the properties of nature are inherent and obedient, not volitional; therefore, it is philosophically predicated that nature is without volition and innate perception. In this statement and principle we agree with the materialists. But the question which presents food for reflection is this: How is it that man, who is a part of the universal plan, is possessed of certain qualities whereof nature is devoid? Is it conceivable that a drop should be imbued with qualities of which the ocean is completely deprived? The drop is a part; the ocean is the whole. Could there be a phenomenon of combustion or illumination which the great luminary the sun itself did not manifest? Is it possible for a stone to possess inherent properties of which the aggregate mineral kingdom is lacking?"


So, along with Abdu'l-Baha, my question for atheists is the same: "How is it that man, who is a part of the universal plan, is possessed of certain qualities whereof nature is devoid?"

By the way, as an atheist, do you think materialism logically leads to eliminativism?
 
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Jan 2015
39
NY
#8
There's a philosophical position some atheists hold called eliminativism that says all truths can be reduced to physics. .... The idea is that, if you look closely enough, the illusion of mind disappears. ... there is no problem of consciousness: again, it isn't even real. ...
Correct.

I think this view is unacceptable for the simple reason my experience of cosciousness as a united whole is real. ... there's a way of describing reality better by referring to consciousness, culture, ideas, and other like-minded phenomenon ...
The "united whole" itself is the illusion. Conciousness, culture, ideas, and like-minded phenomenon are all illusions just like illusions of a magic show.


John Locke highlighted the paradox as follows: "It is impossible to concieve that ever pure incognitive Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being."
True if thinking intelligence was real but it is a kind of an illusion. Robots and computers as well as some animals also put on the illusion of intelligence, but none of it is really intelligence it just appears this way. Google or Siri d esn't really think to spit out answers to your questions, it just appears to be intelligent.

David Bentley Hart words it another way: "How could it be that, in this instance alone, the essential aimlessness of matter achieves so intense and intricate a concetration of its various random forces that, all at once, it is fantastically inverted into the virtual opposite of everything modern orthodoxy tells us matter is?"
Well, David Bentley Hart also rejects Bahaullah, so not everything he says is true is it ;P It is actually the opposite of what David says. Everything is randomly generated, so why all of a sudden we have to switch direction and say that consciousness and intelligence are NOT randomly generated?

Even Abdu'l-Baha asks a similar variation of Hart's question:

"...all the properties of nature are inherent and obedient, not volitional; therefore, it is philosophically predicated that nature is without volition and innate perception. In this statement and principle we agree with the materialists. But the question which presents food for reflection is this: How is it that man, who is a part of the universal plan, is possessed of certain qualities whereof nature is devoid? Is it conceivable that a drop should be imbued with qualities of which the ocean is completely deprived? The drop is a part; the ocean is the whole. Could there be a phenomenon of combustion or illumination which the great luminary the sun itself did not manifest? Is it possible for a stone to possess inherent properties of which the aggregate mineral kingdom is lacking?"
Abdu'l-Baha's question is answered quite easily. Logic shows that man too is actually without volition like all the other parts of nature. Even Baha'u'llah says that man does not have volition compared to the Will of God, so at least Baha'u'llah agrees with me. ;P It is only an illusion that we seem to be violating natural laws, according to both Daniel Dennett and Baha'u'llah. All the properties we attribute to an "other" consciousness or an "other" intelligence, are actually all derived from the random processes of nature. Look at one a simply 0 and 1 can do. Zero's and One's themselves lack the capacity to know anything, but a string of 0's and 1's can hold all the knowledge we possess in computer memory.

Nature does not have intelligence, so what is Baha'u'llah saying about the intelligence of "God" here?

Look at the world and ponder a while upon it. It unveileth the book of its own self before thine eyes and revealeth that which the Pen of thy Lord, the Fashioner, the All-Informed, hath inscribed therein. It will acquaint thee with that which is within it and upon it and will give thee such clear explanations as to make thee independent of every eloquent expounder. Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator. Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe.
 
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