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Geister

A question for Atheists, what is your point to life?

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OK, I want some of (this discussion.

running late due to brain fog)

..The problem I find with all of it is that each of these theoretical arguments seems to stop one step too short and accept an assumption as factual. And that is the one thing that a true scientist can never do. Every scientist worthy of the title must be willing to ask himself or herself, at any moment, about any theory: What If I'm Wrong?

Agreed. Also agreed many people, including some professionals who should know better, tend to let a long-standing hypothesis or theory harden into "absolute fact".

There are very good reasons for taking a vast number of such as facts or solid truths *provisionally*, to avoid doubting and questioning oneself into paralysis, but the possibility and occasional vital necessity must be kept in at least the back of the mind.

Once upon a time, the building blocks of the Universe were Air, Earth, Fire and Water.

Or were thought to be? That was certainly the model in general acceptance, but the theory is not the reality, except in the minds of those who (erroneously) have failed to make the distinction)

Protons? Neutrons? Farnsworthian Fuff! I give you Quarks! Gluons! Muons! Bosons! Neutrons! Leptons! Tachyons! These - THESE are the warp and weft of the Universe! ::Pounds table for emphasis::

How would the above paragraph read if I were to write it in 50 years? 100 years? The point is that these "virtual particles" that ostensibly 'poop' in from nothingness don't 'poop' in from nothingness at all; the only nothingness is our knowledge of what they 'poop' in from.

All the above are still models and descriptions, albeit of increasing accuracy of representation or mapping (and therefore of grater practical use.) of reality, a concept and thing to which we only have limited access.

But here we go into the headline act:

I would challenge my atheist comrades to ask themselves the question, regarding the existence of a Creator, What If I'm Wrong?

I have asked myself this question. I am willing to accept the possibility that God does not exist. But in my analysis, the empirical evidence is suggestive of existence, and in the event of an actual afterlife, it does me no harm to hedge my bets in that direction. Your analysis may lead you the other way, but here's where I find it breaks down: most atheists I talk to demand that There Is No God, Full Stop. Which means they refuse to allow the possibility,..

Not me. I rarely deal in absolutes, and I know in such terms I cannot prove there will be a dawn tomorrow. But the raising of a perfectly correct technical doubt does not reduce me to a 50/50 agnostic on tomorrow's dawn. Similarly theism.

Tackling "why am I not sure there will be a dawn tomorrow" shows up some key issues of epistemology, but again ones that I suggest for most times, places and issues, can generally be put aside unless the doubt itself is the topic of interest, or is significantly "in the frame" as a suspect in the case.

On What If I'm Wrong?, one classic (mis-)employment of this is Pascal's wager.

But is it enough to set the question in pure binary terms created / not created?

A whole raft of different deities have been proposed, with differences that matter according to their theologies, so the potential for being wrong is vastly multiplied, and is far from being just the atheist's dilemma.

(I don't hold to "all religions are different paths up the same mountain", as it seems to hold fatal flaws in internal logic.)

I'm not sure that the question of a deity can be settled just on the contemplation of the universe or even its nature. The bible maintains that the hand of God is obvious in nature and the night sky, but this only an assertion unless demonstrated, or the text is known to be utterly reliable on other grounds.

Me, I can look at the cosmos and quite clearly see at least the possibility of a cold, indifferent universe.

The cold indifferent deity of at least some forms of Deism is to me effectively the same as no god at all, unless it can be shown that the selection of physical constants etc. required a conscious designing, as opposed to being self-selecting: the myriad shapes of snowflakes are not designed. They are an emergent property of shape the water(ice) molecule, itself an emergent necessity of lower-level forces...

Yes, what's at the bottom of that heap we haven't got to yet. Still working on it.

Meanwhile, why should I think I'm wrong and that a involved, conscious, deity exists?

(I used to think one did, so I'm not intrinsically closed to the idea: I just think the observable world models better without one than with.

Chris.

Brain had enough for now.

Edited by Emettman

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Atheist. But not an arrogant atheist. I don't know with certitude. I believe this is my only life and my point is to live fully and compassionately.

The OP's question seems odd to me.The reverse is more interesting. What is the point of life for God people? When they die, they go to a better place. It seems to me that they would be excited to die and not fear death.

Isn't there a post somewhere on this site about believing something exists, but does not? ie, schizophrenia and god.

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It seems to me that they would be excited to die and not fear death.

I am, and I don't. For me, the fact that I am here begs the question of why, which implies there must be a reason. That's the thing that is so tormenting, and for which the answer is so elusive. Personally, I believe I am here to become, through the experience of life on the material plane, more than I was than when I arrived, and to add that experience back to the godhead when I return. Whether and to what extent I will retain any of what one would consider a 'personality' I really have no idea.

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Now Running on fresh but decidedly non-Duracell batteries. Brand x it is: the bunny may fall over at any time.

.. I would challenge my atheist comrades to ask themselves the question, regarding the existence of a Creator, What If I'm Wrong?

I have asked myself this question. I am willing to accept the possibility that God does not exist. But in my analysis, the empirical evidence is suggestive of existence, and in the event of an actual afterlife, it does me no harm to hedge my bets in that direction.

;)

Cerberus

I'm looking forward to some swapping of perspectives on observing and weighing empirical evidence.

I think it points pretty firmly to the non-existence of a omnipotent benevolent deity.

(A capricious or cruel one, that idea I'd be harder put to undermine.)

I didn't have you down for Pascal's wager when I first mentioned it, but it seems more present, now.

"and in the event of an actual afterlife, it does me no harm to hedge my bets in that direction."

I take that to be one of the dodgy steps in the "Pascal's wager" case.

It could do a lot of harm to have hedged your bet in the wrong direction, for instance.

Many deities, according to the revelations or information held out concerning them, have been most specific about what should be done and not done, believed and not believed, particularly in reference to belief in *different* deities from themselves.

And often also about the fate of the disobedient, measured from each particular standard of judgement.

St Paul understands this in 1 Cor 15:19, where he stands directly opposed to a "nothing to lose" presentation:

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied..."

His defence of course is that, of all religions, Christianity is true, uniquely true. Verse 20:

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."

I disagree with Paul and, yes, I'm betting my life and hypothetical afterlife on it.

I didn't become an atheist lightly but having gathered, thought and weighed what I can, as carefully as I can, it's the position I've arrived at.

Agreed, I might be wrong, but I'd need to be shown where and how before I'd change my mind which is in principle open to change.

Empirical evidence? I might start with contemplation of the surface of the moon or the location of my prostate gland.

All the above given with no intent to offend, only to debate with clarity.

Chris.

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I am glad your belief system works for you, don't tell me what mine should be, you arrogant asshole.

Hear, hear.

Until that post, this discussion was going along in a friendly fashion, no anger, no accusations. I'm glad it's returned to that state. Thank you, lovely Crazyboarders...

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I'm looking forward to some swapping of perspectives on observing and weighing empirical evidence.

I think it points pretty firmly to the non-existence of a omnipotent benevolent deity.

(A capricious or cruel one, that idea I'd be harder put to undermine.)

Actually, as a sort-of-Deist, I really don't make any representations about the relative benevolence of God; I don't think any particular attention is paid to individuals for purposes of intervention. Even if it were so, the example of Job hardly suggests God as benevolent - Job is used to prove the devil wrong, and when Job has the effrontery to ask why, God's reply is "WHO ARE YOU TO QUESTION ME?"

In general, I have found life to be wretched from the get-go. My illness has left me unable - unable - to feel most forms of pleasure, yet I am able to experience pain and negative emotion with perfect clarity. Yet I don't shake my fist at the heavens and blame God for my lot in life, any more than I look for Him to reach down and fix me. I was sent to earth with tools and gifts to help myself and others; it's my responsibility to use them, not His to do it for me.

When I speak of empirical evidence, I'm looking at it in a broad sort of way, and addressing the question not of whether there's a benevolent God, but rather of whether the Universe has a Creator. The evidence I find is in humanity itself. Humans are creators. We create and invent things not only to further our physical existence as individuals and as a species, but also for the purpose of individual self-actualization, which does not confer an advantage to offspring or the species at large. If we are indeed each connected to the Greater Whole, I see this as a reflection of a Creator.

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I'm not religious. I guess not believing in stuff means I am atheist.

I live to experience things. All sorts of things.

My purpose is unknown to me, but I try to leave it a better place than I found it. And have some humor- laughing is i think the reason we are alive, sometimes

I don't need an overarching meaning to my life. The thing I am doing is always the reason I am here, moment to moment.

I try to be kind. I want this world to be better, because it is the only world there is.

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Actually, as a sort-of-Deist, I really don't make any representations about the relative benevolence of God; I don't think any particular attention is paid to individuals for purposes of intervention. Even if it were so, the example of Job hardly suggests God as benevolent - Job is used to prove the devil wrong, and when Job has the effrontery to ask why, God's reply is "WHO ARE YOU TO QUESTION ME?"

Understood, I think.

It's just that, for me (where I am now, and with no dogmatic insistence) such a distant an uninvolved deity is is for practical purposes almost the same thing as no deity at all, being a remote "first cause" not necessarily any sort of being with conscious intent as the term deity might bring with its connotation values.

I fully agree with presence of the argument of right from authority, and the character of God as presented in the book of Job, taken literally or metaphorically. Paul produces and insists upon much the same thing in Romans 9, where humanity is mere clay, to be shaped for good or ill as the potter decides, with no come-back or grounds for complaint.

Under this scenario I appear to be one of the "vessels of wrath, made for destruction", one of those *not* picked to be a Christian even before God made the earth (Eph 1: 3-5)

In general, I have found life to be wretched from the get-go. My illness has left me unable - unable - to feel most forms of pleasure, yet I am able to experience pain and negative emotion with perfect clarity. Yet I don't shake my fist at the heavens and blame God for my lot in life, any more than I look for Him to reach down and fix me. I was sent to earth with tools and gifts to help myself and others; it's my responsibility to use them, not His to do it for me.

Up to the last sentence I would say something very similar, but I check at "sent to earth", finding nothing to do the sending, unless you intend that in a very non-literal sense.

When I speak of empirical evidence, I'm looking at it in a broad sort of way, and addressing the question not of whether there's a benevolent God, but rather of whether the Universe has a Creator. The evidence I find is in humanity itself. Humans are creators. We create and invent things not only to further our physical existence as individuals and as a species, but also for the purpose of individual self-actualization, which does not confer an advantage to offspring or the species at large. If we are indeed each connected to the Greater Whole, I see this as a reflection of a Creator.

Ah, I'm not sure we are connected to the greater whole. Even quantum entanglement appears to let us down on that.

And a reverse interpretation could leave the idea of a creator as a human projection of humanity's creative and tool-using tendencies.

Yes, we see patterns and make use of them, infer from them, but we also impose patterns where none exist: in clouds and constellations for example.

The "watchmaker argument" feels so right in some respects that it is not easy to to set aside even if it is accepted as not carrying valid force.

This would take us to consider the weak and strong anthropic principles, the Goldilocks effect and the puddle argument, I think?

Chris

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When I speak of empirical evidence, I'm looking at it in a broad sort of way, and addressing the question not of whether there's a benevolent God, but rather of whether the Universe has a Creator. The evidence I find is in humanity itself. Humans are creators. We create and invent things not only to further our physical existence as individuals and as a species, but also for the purpose of individual self-actualization, which does not confer an advantage to offspring or the species at large. If we are indeed each connected to the Greater Whole, I see this as a reflection of a Creator.

Humans do delight in creation, but what they enjoy even more, what really gets our blood pumping and creative juices flowing; destruction, murder, ruin, reckless, unsustainable exploitation of the earth’s resources, repression, selfishness and greed – among a litany of other niceties, etcetera, etcetera. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes - and our bodies- to be poisoned.

As for why we create (when we’re not actively destroying), evolutionary biologists and psychologists have put forth several credible theories based on work from myriad fields (see Steven Pinker, Jonah Lehrer, Daniel Dennett, Denis Dutton – to name but a few).

If human creativity and a yearning for self actualization are to be utilized as evidence of a creator – then other aspects of our behavior cannot be ignored – the desire to dominate, destroy, subjugate – etcetera – our way of living – industrial civilization – is based on, requires and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence. Our culture as a whole and most of its members are insane (I am not referring here to mental illness). Our culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life. Are there other ways to view humanity, yes, will they stand up to scrutiny, I think not.

“But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.

Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say "this guy", because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man.

I decided to look around for something else to worship. Something I could really count on.

And immediately, I thought of the sun. Happened like that. Overnight I became a sun-worshipper. Well, not overnight, you can't see the sun at night. But first thing the next morning, I became a sun-worshipper. Several reasons. First of all, I can see the sun, okay? Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the sun. I'm big on that. If I can see something, I don't know, it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I can see the sun, as it gives me everything I need; heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer, but hey. At least there are no crucifixions, and we're not setting people on fire simply because they don't agree with us.

Sun worship is fairly simple. There's no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn, and we don't have a special building where we all gather once a week to compare clothing. And the best thing about the sun, it never tells me I'm unworthy. Doesn't tell me I'm a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn't said an unkind word. Treats me fine. So, I worship the sun. But, I don't pray to the sun. Know why? I wouldn't presume on our friendship. It's not polite.” – George Carlin

Edited by goodoldneon

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I would like to think that the soul lives on after death. But i'm not sure, (you will never no until you go)

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Copypasting from a post on another forum that perfectly sums up my thoughts:

]Consider this: your genetic line is traceable all the way back to the first self-replicating molecule some 4 billion years ago. That first self-replicating molecule has had trillions apon trillions of descendants, of which 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% are dead. But you're not! You and your ancestors (along with every living thing you've ever seen) are among the fittest and most successful .000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of all life that has ever lived on earth. I mean, holy shit, is that not awesome?

In a sense, that first self-replicating molecule is the atheist's equivalent of "god" -- it is the entity that gave birth to all life that has ever existed on earth. I would give anything -- and I mean anything -- to be able to go back in time with an electron microscope and witness that first self-replication. It was literally the most significant moment in the history of the earth, and it led to all life that has ever existed on this planet. How awesome would it be to witness such a moment? How inspiring? Volumes of epic poetry could be written about that one self-replicating molecule. You wanna talk about being a part of something greater than yourself, holy shit. It makes me tremble just to think of it. It makes me want to sing. It makes me want to grab random people in the street and say "Do you realize this?!? Have you ever thought about this?!?"

And even that is not the grandest scale on which we have significance. For that moment itself was the result of a set of reactions that took 10 billion years to prepare.

Have you ever sung a song? Written a poem? Created... anything at all? Your art was not merely your own -- it took 14 billion years to prepare that work of art. Every breath you take, every word you speak, every thought that runs through your head is an artistic masterpiece that has been in brewing for 14 billion years. Every moment you are alive is a triumph, the culmination of 14-billion-years of work.

That's fucking awesome. There's no other way to describe it. I am literally trembling as I'm typing this, because it's so thrilling to think about.

And the fact that I have been lucky enough not only to exist, but to exist in a time in which science has allowed us to begin to understand some small piece of all this -- this brings a tear to my eye. It is simultaneously exhilarating and humbling. These are the most thrilling and amazing ideas I have ever contemplated -- and I make sure to contemplate them every day of my life.

Edited by hisnoodlyapendage

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When I speak of empirical evidence, I'm looking at it in a broad sort of way, and addressing the question not of whether there's a benevolent God, but rather of whether the Universe has a Creator. The evidence I find is in humanity itself. Humans are creators. We create and invent things not only to further our physical existence as individuals and as a species, but also for the purpose of individual self-actualization, which does not confer an advantage to offspring or the species at large. If we are indeed each connected to the Greater Whole, I see this as a reflection of a Creator.

Ah, I'm not sure we are connected to the greater whole. Even quantum entanglement appears to let us down on that.

And a reverse interpretation could leave the idea of a creator as a human projection of humanity's creative and tool-using tendencies.

Yes, we see patterns and make use of them, infer from them, but we also impose patterns where none exist: in clouds and constellations for example.

Chris

It's interesting to me that this thread is sort of split into ideas about where the world comes from and ideas about where where our sense of right and wrong comes from. For me, the concept of God the creator and God the source of moral law are two separate issues. I think trying to make God into one-stop shopping for both makes either less plausible. When I read the Bible, what I think I'm reading is a summation of the history of the ethical evolution of one culture, highly specific to one time and one place. The teachings of that culture have proved remarkably enduring and have permeated, well, all of the Western world. (Oh-it just occurred to me that I should mention that while I certainly have read the New Testament, I am Jewish, and it's the Hebrew scriptures or the Old Testament that I think of when I talk about the Bible.) In a way, because the Bible has been read by so many people for so long in so many different circumstances, and has been believed to be the actual Word of God, it becomes very hard to separate God as the source of moral law from the written word about God as the source, at least for people who don't get trained to think that way. Just my observation.

And I think of it this way, too: faith may all be for nothing. Everyone might have it wrong; every recorded idea bout God might be wrong. So in some ways it's good to leave aside what people think they're worshiping and just look at the fact that they worship. Religion quite clearly exists.

Anyway, because my faith in how the world came to be goes to the explanations given us by science, I have a sort of built-in limitation on how much faith and what kind of faith I can put in God. I stipulate that the fact that we are here at all to have this conversation is amazing. But I admit that I am, perhaps strangely, untroubled by the question of where we came from. It's sort of interesting to wonder about, but in the end, what does it matter? After all, here we are! What I would like to see from God as the source of morality expressed as religion is a better way of dealing with the here-and-now, of behaving responsibly and respectfully toward our fellow humans. As with physicians, primum non nocere should be the fundamental tenet of religion.

It makes me laugh: I think I'm an atheist, but I'm not sure-does that perforce make me an agnostic?

A lot of religions have some version of a paradise lost, a dream of a perfect world that humans somehow screwed up and lost the right to live in, and to which we yearn to return. Jung certainly identified the urge. I think that humans project their desires back onto their image of God just as they rebel against this imperfect world and feel, at a level so deep it constitutes instinct, that anything that resonates so strongly must be true. Just as beauty is truth, yes?

If there is a God, I think we created Him, not the other way around. With our collective energy and our collective yearning.

I'm rambling now, thinking out loud. As much as creation doesn't trouble me, I lose sleep over this.

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I don't think the fact that life initially oozed out of some kind of primal biological sludge, that is necessarily made up of molecules, can be equated with G-d. G-d, by definition, implies the supernatural. And molecules, proteins, amino acids and RNA are not in the least bit supernatural.

That a molecule replicates does not in and of itself mean that it is life, although perhaps you were speaking metaphorically.

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I was pretty much raised to substitute the word "the universe" for the word "god" when listening to people. This keeps me from needing to argue with folks about the big basics.

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I've considered myself and atheist since I was 14ish. This is coming from a family of southern baptists. I've never really felt pointless with a lack of belief in a god though. I have felt pointless at times due to my MI.

But really my point to life is to make it another day and see what it brings.

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To be a good person.

ETA But then, I was born and raised this way. While I see the good of spirituality on an individual level it seems to cause so much harm and conflict that I really have troubles with it.

Edited by WinterRosie

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To be a good person.

ETA But then, I was born and raised this way. While I see the good of spirituality on an individual level it seems to cause so much harm and conflict that I really have troubles with it.

I agree with your last statement. It has always made me feel uncomfortable even as a child. It never made me feel good or secure. Then when I got older there was just too much conflict with logic.

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