Thinking it through: The atheist dilemma

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Near the end of his life, existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre told his friend, the ex-Communist Pierre Victor: “I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.”

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33 thoughts on “Thinking it through: The atheist dilemma

  1. Who on earth just inevitably trusts their own judgement to be true ? Good Lord didn’t old CS ever make any mistakes ? He never felt the need to say to a mate “hey can you check this out, I think it’s right but I need another opinion”

    I know ego runs rampant in the Christian religion but to believe that your thoughts must be divine in origin seems a bit over the top.

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      • HI Bryan,

        Well as a generalisation it’s probably not fair to say each and every Christian is an egomaniac. But maybe it’s fair to say that there’s nothing incompatible with the religion and egomania.

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      • Atheism and just about anything bar religious belief I would imagine. That’s about the only incompatibility there.

        But I haven’t heard of too many atheists boasting that their thoughts are infallible because they are divine in origin. Although you could probably name some that seem to act as though they had they belief.

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      • Hi Bryan,

        Yep Dawkins can give the appearance of being somewhat arrogant.
        It gives us some perspective though, doesn’t it. As arrogant as he appears I’ve never heard him make any kind of statement along the lines of he has perfect thoughts because of his divinely created brain.

        Indeed you’d hope, as a scientist, Dawkins would be aware of the fallibility of human reasoning. (And I believe he has made some comment on the matter that would indicate this)

        So as arrogant as Dawkins may appear he’d have to pale in comparison to Lewis.

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      • Bubba Ray,
        Speaking of friend Dawkins, I think the point that is most frequently missed, is that the critics base their comments on his public comments, and opinions in the media. But if they actually went back to his published works, they would find much more considered and valuable material that is not arrogant, that is not tossed off the top of his head, and that will be long read and remembered.

        Some months back, I reported on how I had just got hold of and read his book The Greatest Show on Earth. This is a stunning work, representing the best thinking of Dawkins, and should be studied by everyone who is ignorant of the Theory of Evolution. Please note that I studiously typed the word theory with upper case first letter. If it were not so tragic, it would just be terribly funny in the way so many sceptic within Fundamentalist churches pounce onto that term – ‘theory of Evolution’, and get the idea that scientists can only put forward an hypothesis about Evolution.

        As I point out when I hear that argument put forward, – When a person studies music, they know that one must learn about both the Practice of Music and the Theory of music. This latter term in no way suggests that music might not exist at all, and that all we have to work with is an hypothesis about the existence of the same. The ‘Theory’ of music is the description and study of just how music happens, of how to apply it to best advantage, and how to teach it to others. Exactly the same applies in regard to Evolution.

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • I was asked to write a a commentary on Richard Dawkins’ views alongside an extract from his latest book The Greatest Show On Earth in News Ltd Sunday newspapers.

        Here it is in full below..

        Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind – Albert Einstein

        SOME of the most controversial words in Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species come in the book’s final sentence.

        It reads: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’’

        It’s the reference to the creator that riles some atheists. Darwin included the words in almost all editions of the book printed during his lifetime.

        But atheists, including Richard Dawkins, claim Darwin was not, at the end of his life, a believer in God and may have added the reference to a creator to soften the impact in society of his theories. Maybe.

        What is more interesting is Darwin’s own explanation. He said what he really meant by the word “creator’’ was that things had appeared on the planet by “some wholly unknown process’’. Darwin never said his evolution theory proved God did not exist.

        Unlike Professor Dawkins. The author of The God Delusion and recently The Greatest Show on Earth, is a fundamentalist atheist. He thinks that religion is “a dangerous virus’’.

        He says at the start of his latest work, which enthusiastically and soundly makes the case for evolution: “This is not an anti-religious book’’. But Dawkins sadly can’t resist the temptation to be an anti-religious polemicist. And it sometimes adversely affects his work as a scientist.

        Dawkins writes: “God, to repeat this point, which ought to be obvious, but isn’t, never made a tiny wing in his eternal life.’’

        This blind assumption of scientific certainty where there is none is nonsense.

        When it comes to religion Dawkins could appear to be an ignorant bigot. He denies the existence of God but says it is “an intriguing possibility’’ that aliens started life on this planet.

        He has said no one can be both sane and well educated and disbelieve in evolution.

        Yet he has also admitted he cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all design anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. This is a faith basher who relies on faith.

        Atheism should not drive science anymore than religion should. Science is a process of discovery and should be open to possibilities, no matter where they lead. Fundamentalists on both sides of the fence need to remember that.

        There are many believers in God who see no contradiction between creation and evolution. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences both affirm that science and religion can be perfectly compatible.

        Recently the Church of England in Britain voted to affirm the compatibility of belief in both God and sciences.

        And Christian clergy from various denominations in the US have signed The Clergy Letter, expressing their belief “that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist’’.

        Physicist Freeman Dyson said science and religion were two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both look out at the same universe. And both are worthy of respect.

        Richard Dawkins thinks no true scientist can be a believer. Yet a recent US survey revealed that at least a third of scientists openly admit a belief in God _ about the same percentage revealed in another survey 80 years ealier. Some of today’s leading scientists are Christians.

        For much of history Christianity and scientific study have been allies. Christianity provided the world view for science to emerge.

        Even Dawkins himself has admitted science probably grew out of religious tradition. But he argues that belief in science is the best way _ probably the only way _ of understanding our world.

        Surely it is dangerous _ and against the principles of good science _ to assume our lives are purely the products of material or emotional forces.

        Writer Aubrey Moore noted not long after Darwinism first appeared: “Under the disguise of a foe, it did the work of a friend. It has conferred upon philosophy and religion an inestimable benefit, by showing us that we must choose between two alternatives; either God is everywhere present in nature, or he is nowhere.’’

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      • HI Rian,

        As you might be able to guess Bryan has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about Dawkins.

        As a very young fella I read Cosmos by Sagan and Life on Earth by Attenborough, haven’t really read too much on topic since.

        But based on your endorsement I’ll have to The Greatest Show on Earth when time permits.

        As to the theories I’ve always liked the quote – “Creationists make it sound as though a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.” – Isaac Asimov

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      • http://www.christianpost.com/news/richard-dawkins-exposes-the-immorality-of-his-atheism-125159/

        Giving further ammunition to those who say that atheists cannot fully value all human life, Richard Dawkins has now stated that it would be “immoral” not to abort a baby with Down syndrome. Are you surprised?

        It was just last week that Dawkins exposed the irrationality of his atheism when he claimed that nice, nonviolent practitioners of religion served as enablers for religious terrorism.

        He first noted that, “It’s very important that we should not demonize ordinary, law-abiding, very decent Muslims, which of course is the vast majority in this country” (speaking of the UK).

        But that was only the prelude to the punchline: “[However] there is a sense in which the moderate, nice religious people — nice Christians, nice Muslims — make the world safe for extremists.”

        How so? He opined that, “the moderates are so nice we all are brought up with the idea that there’s something good about religion faith. That there’s something good about bringing children up to have a faith.”

        And, since faith can’t be defended rationally (according to Dawkins), then, “Once you teach people that that’s a legitimate reason for believing something then you, as it were, give a license to the extremists who say ‘my belief is that I’m supposed to be a suicide bomber or I’m supposed to blow up buildings — it’s my faith and you can’t question that.”

        This is complete bunk, not to mention utterly irrational.

        Now, to add insult to injury, Dawkins has exposed the immorality of his atheism, stating that if a woman knew she was carrying a baby with Down syndrome, she should “abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

        This is not just bunk. It is utterly rancid.

        Aside from his claims that the baby would feel no pain in being aborted (he’s quite sure about that?), he is doing the very thing that theists claim atheism can lead to, namely, devaluing of human life based on a survival of the fittest mentality.

        Really now, if you can determine that some people are not worthy to live before they are even born, surely it’s not that big a jump to determine that some people are not worthy to live after they have been born.

        Perhaps the very elderly and the hopelessly infirm, especially if their lives could be terminated “mercifully”?

        Perhaps those who are incorrigibly violent?

        Perhaps those who are seriously mentally handicapped?

        Why not? Or, more specifically, based on what criteria do we judge who is worthy to enter this world and who is worthy to live?

        It is becoming increasingly clear that Dawkins is something of an embarrassment, even to other atheists (although he is still revered by many). The only question that remains is this: Are his irrational and immoral positions unique to him, or are they the logical outcome of his Darwinian evolutionism?

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      • Dawkins posits that “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other.” He goes on to propose a continuous “spectrum of probabilities” between two extremes of opposite certainty, which can be represented by seven “milestones”.

        Many people quote some extremist statements by Dawkins, but according to his own opinion he was not the most extreme but at no.6.
        “6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

        Dawkins suggests definitive statements to summarize one’s place along the spectrum of theistic probability. These “milestones” are:

        1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
        2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
        3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
        4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
        5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
        6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
        7. Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

        Dawkins argues that while there appear to be plenty of individuals that would place themselves as “1” due to the strictness of religious doctrine against doubt, most atheists do not consider themselves “7” because atheism arises from a lack of evidence and evidence can always change a thinking person’s mind.

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      • Hey Ben

        Dawkins point of view seems to be based on an overall consideration of the child’s welfare rather than any survival of the fittest notion. to quote ” the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. ”
        https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/abortion-down-syndrome-an-apology-for-letting-slip-the-dogs-of-twitterwar/

        As to the enablement thing he may have a point.

        “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
        Steven Weinberg
        Steven Weinberg

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      • And therein lies the atheistic contradiction Strewth.

        Dawkins is quoted as saying :
        ““the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other.”

        But then he acts in a very unscientific way about God:
        “6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

        If the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other, why doesn’t he give the same courtesy that all scientific hypotheses are given; namely of keeping an open mind till the hypothesis is either confirmed or debunked. Instead he ridicules all Creationist and God believing scientists.

        Furthermore we have Dawkins on public record saying that panspermia is an intriguing possibility although proof for existence of intelligent alien life form is as lacking as that for God!

        And then we have him on record saying that his research constantly tempts him to believe that the world and everything in it is designed. But then he deliberately struggles against the conclusions of his scientific research when he says that although we are tempted to believe in a designed universe it is not true.

        How is it that a renowned scientist like Dawkins constantly resists the conclusions where his research leads him?

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      • While we’re recommending books somebody should try “God: The failed hypothesis” by Victor Stenger. 0

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    • Rian

      Perhaps you would like to read the book “The Dawkins Deficiency – Why
      Evolution is not the Greatest Show on Earth” by Wayne Talbot.

      This book provides proof that Dawkins is engaged in dishonesty in promoting evolution, by not providing the scientific proof for what he is setting out to do, and by omitting scientific proof against evolution from such diverse scientific fields as engineering and cellular biology.

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      • hi davinci,
        Thanks for drawing my attention to Talbot’s work. will look it up with interest.
        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Davinci, scientific ‘proof’ is always subject to the discovery of further scientific findings. It’s probably better to use the word ‘theory’. Because a human being uses scientific methods to form strong theories does not eliminate the human tendency to believe, although of course influencing it.

        I am no fan of Dawkins, but it is his apparent belief system I challenge, not his scientific findings in which he correctly allows for possibility of change.

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  2. Being a logical person, enjoying fantasy but well able to recognise it, I probably had the makings of an atheist, but still felt there had to be something more, so agnosticism was my path. Since then I feel I am blessed for being shown proof of life after death.

    That gives me no clue of any particular religious path to follow, I just have to recognise my lack of knowledge, just let myself be guided by whatever forces I can swear are ‘good’.

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    • To Bryan and all,

      ‘Wow, I’ve just seen clear proof that there is a God. There just has to be a god-given intelligence in water – in common H2O! Consider it. If I hold a round bowl flat underneath a running water tap, notice that the water will demonstrate this God-given intelligence, by deciding to adapt to and exactly fit the round shape of the bowl! Just marvellous, aint it?’
      Hmmm.

      There are good arguments for a Christian God, and there are bad arguments. And none of these means that the case is conclusively proven one way or another. But the quote Bryan gave today from CS Lewis is very definitely a bad one. Honestly it strikes me that if Lewis were trotting out his facile arguments today he’d just be shot down in flames. We have much better Christian apologists than Lewis nowadays. Funny that we quote Lewis extolling the God-given thinking powers in man, since I recall just a couple of days back Bryan’s blog was all about the huge proportion of the population indulging in superstition, and presumably who, it would seem, do every bit as many silly things as pouring out milk and expecting it to form a map.

      In any case, I’m struggling to understand what relevance he is intending with the illustration.

      Now as far as a thinking brain is concerned, let us keep in mind that a brain is not to be seen as automatically carrying a natural ability to think successfully. First, the brain has to be a properly functioning brain, in the body of a CONSCIOUS human being who is not retarded, or who is not disturbed by mental illness. It has to be trained in the school of the world, and without being brainwashed into evil or superstition. By observing cause and effect, by observing bodily sensations and the ways to either encourage or to avoid them, the brain progressively gains understanding, and in the process learns to put two and two together, in order to think. The tools of thinking are sensation, observation, memory, comparison, etc. The thinking brain simply doesn’t work without them.

      Then we think of the child who has been totally deprived of love and caring or companionship. That God-given brain looks a bit silly then, doesn’t it? Oh yes, and under the influence of drugs or when damaged by injury or tumour, that same brain can look pretty feeble. I would say that the human brain looks just like any other organ of living bodies, a product of evolution, still in the making, and hardly perfectly designed. Amazing, complex, – yes, but God-designed perfection, – NO.

      Cheers, Rian.

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      • Hi Rian,

        In one of my more idle musings I thought that it’s all just pattern recognition really.

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      • Hi Rian

        I’d also agree that the brain is far from perfect, the entire human body is far from perfect. Heck there are entire industries devoted to making up for the shortcomings of the human body / mind.

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  3. That spin by C.S Lewis has a pivotal axis the worthless word :-“BELIEF”
    And the goal of the spin is maintaining a deluded self importance .
    He actually expects to gain immortality and those words penned by him are just to cement his “BELIEF ” he deserves that immortality .
    Keep in mind Bryan I have shown that the word “BELIEF ” is used by many to cover immoral acts.
    And politicians use the word more than most .

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  4. Perspective !
    The inability to accept oblivion in one direction of time while ignoring the oblivion of not having existed .
    Why are you not afraid of the time before when you did not exist ?
    The oblivion before is the same oblivion coming .
    Did you require a belief while nonexistent ?
    If so what belief version would that have been?
    What need of a belief in the oncoming nonexistence ?

    All these question come about only when a person has a belief in self importance !!!
    Not thinking it through the dilemma of creating a fairy tale of being important .

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    • In Genesis, the JST says….”For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. . . . And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air; But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word. (Book of Moses 3:5-7. June – October 1830)

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