Things I do believe

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  • I believe in the power of logic, reason and evidence to explain the world in which we find ourselves.
  • I believe we have to deal with what ‘is’ first, over what ‘ought’ to be.
  • I believe faith to be harmful, whether it be religion, ideology or anything else. Believing without evidence to support what you believe is fundamentally flawed – even dangerous.
  • I believe atheism to be the only honest position on the question of god/supernaturalism.
  • I believe freedom of expression is one of the paramount human rights and that it includes ‘icky speech’.
  • I believe you have the right to be offended.
  • I believe I have the right to offend you.
  • I believe you’re responsible for your own intake.
  • I am a ruthless egalitarian. I believe everyone should be treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexuality etc, only modified by their differing needs and the empirical facts of the situation.
  • I believe in education for its own sake.
  • I believe in art for its own sake.
  • No matter how poorly you regard my work and art, I believe I’m worse. It makes me try harder.
  • I try not to, but I loathe hypocrisy. If someone’s a hypocrite it at least shows that they’re trying to be a good person, even if they’re failing. This is why I rage so much at people who say they’re for social justice, but whom display their own prejudices. They disappoint me and break my heart.
  • I believe misandry is a thing, because misogyny is a thing.
  • I believe a little flirtation is harmless fun.
  • I believe *ism to be wrong, whether it flows to or from marginalised groups. Prejudice is prejudice.
  • I believe if you’re against something, you shouldn’t do it yourself.
  • I believe complementary and alternative medicine is absolute bollocks.
  • I believe I look fly in hats.
  • I believe the best way to create an equal and fair society is to treat people equally and fairly. Without exception.
  • I believe you’re allowed to ‘slip’, when you’re angry.
  • I’m an ideological left-anarchist, but a pragmatic socialist. I believe in individual rights, but when you group individuals together the best guarantee of those rights is to consider the group.
  • I believe there’s almost always another option to violence.
  • I am a naturalist, a materialist.
  • I believe the ‘best’, most objective moral system is a combination of Utilitarianism and Epicureanism. Pleasure has value.
  • I would believe in democracy more if the electorate were better informed and the system were more representative.
  • I believe in fidelity and honour, though it’s not for everyone.
  • I believe respect must be earned.
  • A care about people. I have a deep sense of empathy, I get embarrassed for others. When that quality of empathy is ignored or denied I feel it as a personal attack upon a part of my essential identity as a human being.
  • I believe in being ‘decent’. In the sense of morally upright, respectable, kind and obliging. I put myself out for others often. I pay more than I should. I give people time. I am very forgiving. I am unforgiving of myself in this respect and I expect the same from others. I get upset when they fall short.
  • I believe in a ‘hands off’ approach. Let people find their own way and motivation and they’ll do their best.
  • I believe everyone deserves a second, and a third, chance.
  • I believe the crux of human existence to be a struggle between altruism and selfishness.
  • I believe in the power and importance of consent and the principle of ‘Ask and tell’.
  • Do what thou wilt, so long as it harm none.
  • I believe Scotch whisky is superior to Irish whiskey.
  • I believe curry is one of mankind’s greatest inventions.
  • I believe in taxation to support important social, educational and material infrastructure from which we all benefit.
  • I believe in universal healthcare, free at the point of use. The right to life is the most basic right of all.
  • I believe in abortion, up until the onset of consciousness.
  • I form friendships quickly and easily, and often deeply. I may consider you a friend even if you don’t consider me a friend and I consider myself obligated to that friendship.
  • I believe in treating people as individuals.
  • I believe almost everyone is interesting.
  • I try not to judge, I try to understand. I sometimes fail.
  • I like most people. You have to be an absolute cunt for me not to get on with you.
  • I believe sexy fun times and sexy fun art are harmless, positive even.
  • I believe prostitution should be legalised – and regulated
  • I believe drugs should be legalised – and regulated.
  • I believe escapism is important.
  • I believe you can find someone attractive and still appreciate them as a human being as well.
  • I believe the internet should be free.
  • I consider The Singularity to be a likely outcome for the human race.
  • I believe games and the act of play to be more important than they’re normally considered to be.
  • I believe you can entertain an idea without accepting it.
  • I believe humour is important.
  • I believe satire is a powerful way to undermine something you hate.
  • I believe in crediting people with intelligence. I hate patronising or talking down to people.
  • I believe in taking the long term view.
  • I believe the human race has to get off this rock.
  • I believe in greater human unity over greater balkanisation.
  • I believe in free will.
  • I believe stories can be powerful, but not overriding.
  • I believe cats are better than dogs.
  • I believe Flash Gordon and Big Trouble in Little China to be the greatest films ever made.
  • I believe love is an unlimited resource.
  • I believe you’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick.
  • I believe creativity should be unfettered.
  • I believe 2000AD is the best comic ever made.
  • I believe fantasy is distinct from reality.
  • I believe it’s not butter.
  • I believe I can convince you of the things I believe, given enough time.
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Shut Up & Listen When I tell you about ‘Check Your Privilege’.

0Xo8hfvI want you to ‘check your privilege’ about the phrase, ‘check your privilege’.

If someone is arguing with you, you should address their points, their reasoning, what they’re saying. When you tell someone to ‘check your privilege’ you are, essentially, engaging in an ‘ad hominem‘ fallacy, an ‘argument to the person’. For example:

“I don’t think that statement qualifies as sexist.”
“That’s because you’re a man, check your privilege.”

Simply because one is male (or white, or rich, or whatever else) doesn’t render one’s arguments invalid, it doesn’t mean you lack empathy, sympathy or imagination, it doesn’t even mean you haven’t experienced racism, sexism or whatever else yourself.

I’m sure in some ideal world ‘check your privilege’ is meant to mean ‘I say old chap, have you considered that your socioeconomic, racial and other statuses might affect your point of view?’ In practice however it means ‘Shut up you white male oppressor, you don’t know shit’ which is – in and of itself – quite startlingly sexist and racist.

I’m hardly the only person to note this.

Add to this things like ‘mansplaining’ (another horrifically sexist term) and the fact that some people think they can’t be *ist simply because they’re members of a self-identified oppressed group (riddle me this Batman, is the Nation of Islam racist against whites or not?) and its not hard to see why the perceived hypocrisy on display costs feminism and other activists a lot of support from people who should be natural allies – such as myself. The problems between the sceptic/atheist movement and skepchick/Atheismplus provide ample example of the problem here.

If your task is to communicate with people outside echo-chamber activist groups and their unquestioning hangers on then you have to listen to the experience and perception of the people you’re talking to. You also CANNOT presume that simply because a person agrees with you on one topic (say, atheism) that they must agree with you on another topic (feminism).

Questioning and challenging are vital to scientific enquiry and rational thought, challenging your claims about X,Y,Z doesn’t make the person challenging them *ist, it means they’re looking for evidence, testing your ideas to see if they’re robust and accurate. When you write these people off you’re harming yourself and your cause which would be much stronger if it did stand up to scrutiny and came out the other side unscathed.

We have all become very sensitised to sexism. I suffered a huge amount of unwarranted abuse over written works making fun of sexism and over a blog article defending what Neil Gaiman would call ‘icky speech‘. That has hyper-sensitised me to much of the hypocrisy I see in the ‘social justice’ movements, many of whom – to me – seem to have become the very things they hate.

In my experience many of these groups and their members are amongst the most obnoxious, bigoted and horrible human beings it has ever been my misfortune to come across – ironically as blind to their own bigotry as they claim others are to their own privilege.

If you’re a feminist and you’re calling out what you consider to be misogyny or sexism you want to be taken seriously and not dismissed, yet all too often this is exactly what happens if a man calls a woman out on misandry or sexism. Rather than acknowledging that men can suffer from sexism – or whites from racism – or anybody else from another other form of prejudice, this is dismissed, mocked, derided in exactly the same way as would not be considered acceptable the other way around.

This is a missed opportunity. We have a whole generation that is now very aware of unfairness on these sorts of bases but rather than going ‘You know what? You’re right, lets fight all forms of sexism together!’ it instead becomes a fight over who is more oppressed than who.

You don’t need to think the discrimination and prejudice is even or equal[1] to acknowledge that its bad and wrong and worthy of opposition.

Prejudice on the basis of sex/race/class/whatever is wrong, whichever direction it passes. Don’t be a hypocrite about it, it’ll cost you.

***

While I’m here I also want to pass comment on another thing that’s been going on lately.

Between the death of April Jones and ill-informed policy makers knee-jerking and Facebook drawing ire over ‘hate groups‘ along with policy signal shifts in the UK and the US the free internet is once again being chipped away at. I’m not saying that these rape joke or bad taste groups aren’t awful, but they are also legal and there’s nothing to suggest they actually harm anyone. After all, a picture of a person isn’t actually a person, its a picture and shock humour gets its ‘sting’ from being shocking, not being acceptable and beneath comment/reaction.

Of particular irony is the objection that these should be removed being on the basis of offence, often by the same people who were up in arms about images of breastfeeding being censored (also on the grounds of people being offended[2]). Personally, my opinion is that as long as it’s legal and age/membership restricted anything should go.

I am particularly worried about the ‘hate group’ reaction ending up being applied to kink/bdsm groups which given previous overreactions is nigh certain.

[1] – While I consider Watson’s ‘Elevatorgate’ fuss to be ‘a huge fuss about nothing’ I also consider this to be on occasion where Dawkins was wrong. That there are greater evils than lesser ones doesn’t mean the lesser ones aren’t also evil – and worth fighting.

[2] – And over-sensitive algorithms. 

Woolwich

woolwich-attackers_2570495bI am disappointed with the reactions and actions on every side following the Woolwich attack.

This was a terrorist action, it was politically motivated as stated by the men who made the attack themselves. They took advantage of the prevalence of social media and camera phones to get their message out through multiple sources. This was an Islamic extremist action, also demonstrated the same way.

This was obvious and certain from the get-go given the near-live footage and the sheer number of corroborating witness accounts.

To try and divorce Islam from this action is patently ridiculous, just as it is ridiculous to try and divorce Christianity from the actions of the WBC or abortion clinic bombings and just as it is ridiculous to try and divorce the brutish racism of the EDL from their right-wing ideology.

Yet in the aftermath of the attacks the mainstream news was cutting out the initial part of the rant that invoked Allah and people who should be thoughtful, liberal, progressive commentators were bending over backwards to ignore the Islamic/political motivation and to write it off as random lunacy.

These sorts of actions are horrible, but they are comprehensible in the background of long-standing political interference by the US and UK in the Middle East, the actions of Israel in Palestine and the nature of the vast disparity between Western military technology and that of the Taliban and their ilk. That doesn’t make it excusable any more than understanding why our military has intervened in the Middle East makes that excusable.

Islam contains motivation and excuse for this sort of action, as does Christianity, Judaism, other faiths and ideologies. To ignore that, to cut it out of the conversation, is disingenuous in the extreme and given – in addition – the built-in misogyny and other issues with the faith it is staggering that people who consider themselves egalitarian and progressive would – in any way – excuse Islam its share of the blame.

Are we so afraid of being labelled ‘racist’ that we can’t admit there’s a problem here? Islam is a religion, not a race. Not everyone who follows it is a dangerous loon but it certainly appears to be a fairly strong risk factor. I am not picking on Islam specifically save in regard to this specific incident. Anyone who is convinced, utterly, that they are absolutely right and that their political or religious orthodoxy licenses them to destroy other human beings is a cunt.

We can’t let the fear of being tainted ‘racist’ block us from having an important, public discussion and – hopefully – a modernisation and reform of that faith. Especially when the perpetrators explicitly and openly described their motivations, reasoning and the role of their faith directly to camera.

Christianity managed to ‘de-militarise’ much of its dogma, though we still live with the consequences of that dogma to this day. Islam is still in the inquisitorial, absolutist, intolerant phase Christianity was from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. It can change.

Seven Refutations

Seven-Dwarfs

Insomuch as is possible I will limit myself to simple atheism, that is ‘I do not believe in god/s’ without involving naturalism, science etc. This is a basic, sceptical stance wherein we require evidence for a god before we believe in one (or indeed anything else). William Lane Craig’s ‘Seven arguments for god‘ keep getting brought up as ‘evidence’ when they’re not evidence and they’re barely even arguments. I will now show why:

1. Why is there something instead of nothing?

Leaving aside the science for a moment, ‘I don’t know’ is a perfectly acceptable answer. Is there a reason? There may or may not be. Is it even possible for there to be ‘nothing’? There’s some suggestion otherwise. Whatever the case, whether there a reason, an actor, a natural force at play or otherwise if you’re going to say ‘god did it’ you need evidence that god did it. WLC only has an assertion which, without evidence to back it up, is useless.

One down.

2. Cause and Effect

Again, leaving aside the scientific examples of exceptions to this this is a poor argument and not evidence. IF everything requires a cause then this must also apply to god itself, leading to an infinite regression of gods each creating the next one. Clearly this is not a logical or rational position. Craig takes up the ‘Kalam’ argument, which I have covered before. This one says ‘everything needs a cause, except god’. Well then, if there can be exceptions then not everything requires a cause.

Even if everything does require a cause that could be natural, one of any number of gods or something else entirely. Asserting it is god doesn’t make it so. You would need evidence to prove that assertion. Again, this is just an assertion and again, without evidence to back it up, it is useless. This is without even getting into issues like the impossibility of cause and effect before time and context.

Two down.

3. Argument from Design & Complexity

Again, ignoring the fact that science can account for the appearance of design and for natural complexity we still find this to be a poor argument. Things certainly might appear designed or special but that’s just our perspective on them. If they were different, they’d be different. If you shuffle a deck of cards the odds of them coming out in any particular order are around 1 in 10 to the power of 68 (I think, the point is that they’re long odds). Yet every time we shuffle a pack those incredibly long odds are made manifest in that particular order. We just happen to observe them in the order they have happened into.

Even then, much of the natural world is interdependent and deterministic, shortening the odds and moves in building cycles.

So, we can certainly say things ‘appear designed’ but there are a multitude of possibilities for this. Again, natural laws and interactions, again, any number of possible gods and again, other things we maybe haven’t thought of. WLC presumes god and wedges it in there because that’s all he can think of. Yet again, this is an assertion. Yet again, this assertion requires evidence to back it up. Yet again, he has none.

Three down.

4. Objective Morality

There have been innumerable moral systems over time. Morality is subjective, conditional and contextual. We really cannot point to anything at all that would universally be bad or wrong (or the worst option) in any and every circumstance. Ignoring the science, again, all we have here is an assertion and yet again, one without evidence. Craig specifically believes the Abrahamic god to be true, and that god has tremendous problems when you look at its morality. It breaks virtually every one of its own commandments, it kills, it lies, it even rapes children (Mary being adjudged to be a child by modern standards). The very split between the OT and the NT undermines this suggestion of objective morality.

Even if there were an objective moral system there are many possible explanations, natural ones, theistic ones and others. Craig fails to provide evidence that there is an objective moral system or that his god is the one behind it.

Four down.

5. Ontological Argument

This one is really rather crazy so why anyone takes it seriously I don’t know. The basic idea runs something like this:

  • We can conceive of an all powerful, perfect being.
  • Existence is a prerequisite of being all powerful and perfect.
  • We can conceive of god.
  • Therefore god exists.

I call this the ‘if wishes were horses’ argument.

Here’s my formulation.

  • I can conceive of the perfect roast beef sandwich.
  • Existence is a prerequisite of being the perfect roast beef sandwich and it is MY perfect roast beef sandwich so it would have to be here right now for me to eat.
  • Where the fuck is my sandwich?

That we can conceive of a thing doesn’t, apparently, mean that thing actually exists outside of the conceptual space of our mind. Physical reality certainly appears to be much more limited. This conceptual being could also be anything from god to Allah to The Great Green Arkleseizure. We can also constantly improve on our concepts over time.

Yet again, no evidence here, just a theological/philosophical mind game that, in the end, provides no evidence.

Five down.

6. Resurrection

Here’s where Craig gets specifically into the Christian god. In brief there is:

  1. No historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, even as a mortal man.
  2. No historical evidence for the resurrection.

In short, again, these are claims which require evidence, not evidence themselves.

Six down.

7. Experiential

Subjective, personal experience is not evidence. Yes, people inculcated into a particular religion may claim to have a particular experience but this varies from person to person and culture to culture. The ‘spiritual experience’ of a Hindu is no more or less convincing than that of a Christian. While we give certain things a pass on the need for evidence (mundane, everyday experiences and so forth) really, we need evidence to rationally believe anything.

Your ‘encounter’ with god is no more convincing than my ‘encounter’ with an Aztec god after having taken mushrooms.

Seven down.

Summary

Every single one of WLC’s arguments are arguments from ignorance (I don’t know, therefore god did it) or arguments from personal incredulity (I can’t believe this happened any other way than god). These are, needless to say, fallacious lines of reasoning. There is no evidence here, just questions into which ‘god did it’ has been crudely rammed on absolutely no basis.

And yet WLC is considered the ‘best’ apologetics has to offer.

Free Education – At home and abroad

meat grinderI’m a firm believer in free education. It was already eroded by the time I got to University age with loans creeping in and placing students in debt and the rise of ‘vocational training’. Both the simple joy of learning  and accomplishment have been seriously eroded and educational attainment has been commodified. The only possible reason someone might want to be educated is – apparently – to earn more money and that’s the basis of the loans.

There are plenty of other reasons to learn and there are many benefits to society as a whole in having an educated  populace. Education lifts people up, makes them more socially mobile, creates an informed and aware populace who can make informed decisions. Yes educated people tend to earn more, but they also understand more, tend to be more law abiding and socially conscious and more invested in their surroundings.

Education isn’t a commodity, it is a social investment.

Europe and Scandinavia understand this and Britain used to. There’s still some respect for academia here but it’s being eroded by the American commodification model. The US, for all its scholarship culture, has almost entirely commodified its higher education now and there are few exceptions, few places where talent, rather than money, talks.

Cooper Union is – or was – one of these.

Through outstanding academic programs in architecture, art and engineering, and a Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art prepares talented students to make enlightened contributions to society.

The College admits undergraduates solely on merit and awards full scholarships to all enrolled students. The institution provides close contact with a distinguished, creative faculty and fosters rigorous, humanistic learning that is enhanced by the process of design and augmented by the urban setting. Founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, industrialist and philanthropist, The Cooper Union offers public programming for the civic, cultural and practicable enrichment of New York City.

This place is now under threat. One of the very few remaining institutions where someone can get in on merit is threatening to become a fees-based institution. The situation is more dire in the US and so Cooper Union’s students need our support. Everywhere across the world though we need to be aware that education is under stress from monetary interests and we need to recognise that education has its own value, beyond the monetary, in terms of art, culture and social investment in our future.

European countries understand this. Scandinavian countries understand this. Because of this these nations are ahead of the US and the UK in social and educational markers. The sky has not fallen in, if anything it has been shored up.

Please consider supporting Cooper Union, as I will.

Why Atheism Isn’t Illogical, a Rebuttal for ToAtheists

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This is a reply to the article ‘Why Atheism is Illogical. Part One: Atheism is a Belief and a Truth Claim’. Which was written by @ToAtheists from Twitter.

There are another two parts to this article but I consider that a refutation of the first article renders a refutation of the second two redundant.

This is an interesting ‘attack’ on atheism, given that it comes from a philosopher rather than a member of the religious community. Nonetheless, and somewhat disappointingly, it falls afoul of many of the same problems that religious attacks upon atheism do. Most especially not understanding what atheism is and what it does – or doesn’t – claim.

The author says, at the beginning of their article:

” I found rather quickly that the structures of religious belief are duplicated in atheist belief. But this lead to the fascinating question of why atheists try to deny this basic fact which in turn opened up the realization of how atheism is an inherently illogical belief, even more illogical than religious belief. So, this work in progress is attempting to understand why and hopefully establish a theory with the power to explain atheist belief.” – ToAtheists

In my opinion this presents an immediate bias and a conclusion before the subject is even examined. It is also manifestly incorrect.

The most inclusive definition of atheism is this:

“Either the lack of belief that there exists a god, or the belief that there exists none…” – Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2008

The ‘lack of belief that there is a god’ also called ‘weak’, ‘soft’ or ‘agnostic’ atheism is not a belief but, rather, the absence of one. While it has the counterpart of ‘strong’, ‘hard’ or ‘gnostic’ atheism I can’t say that I have ever met a person – even Richard Dawkins – who would describe themselves thus.

Speaking for myself, I am certain – on the basis of logic, reason and evidence – that certain definitions of the god claim absolutely do not, indeed cannot, exist. So I am a Gnostic atheist with regard to, for example, the literalist version of the biblical god. However, we are not talking about me, or Dawkins, or Harris, or Dennett or anyone specific but rather atheism as a whole which, at its most inclusive is simply the lack of belief in god/s.

By this definition even a newborn child, unexposed to the dogmas and indoctrinations of religion, or even the very idea, is an atheist, albeit a passive one.

“Theism is the belief that the proposition God Exists (GE) is true. Theism is a truth claim for GE since, for any proposition P, to believe P is to take P to hold in the actual world. Beliefs are active assertions that a state of affairs is true in the actual world. To believe something is to believe that it is true and it is the height of irrationality to believe something yet think it is false, or to not believe something yet think it is true. The proposition GE is an existential proposition (the question of existence) and such propositions are different from propositions such as “democracy is the best political system.” All existential propositions are binary: necessarily either absolutely true or absolutely false. You can’t be a little pregnant or kind of dead, you either are or you are not. The existential proposition GE is objectively either true or false in the actual world and if it is false then its negation is necessarily true.” – ToAtheists

All agreed so far. With the note that the idea of god/religion can exist – and do harm – without the god proposition being true, real or actual.

“To deny any existential proposition is to necessarily assume its negation, for example, you must say that the Loch Ness Monster either exists or does not exist, there are no other options for you to choose. The negation of GE is the proposition God Does Not Exist (Not-GE). Rational beings either believe that GE is true, believe that GE is false and thus necessarily believe Not-GE is true, or say they do not know, claiming neither. The first position is Theism, the second Atheism, the third Agnosticism. Atheism is to deny that the proposition GE is true and thus to necessarily assume Not-GE is true. To withhold assent to both GE and not-GE—assert that one does not know—is agnosticism. It is necessarily the case that unless one claims ignorance, agnosticism, then one is assenting to either GE or not-GE—logical use of language prevents other possibilities.” – ToAtheists

More definitional problems here and more lack of understanding of what atheism is.

A denial rather assumes that there is a case for something in the first place. Since we’re talking in generalities we can’t really argue the finer points of the arguments ‘for’ and against a particular god definition. When such arguments are presented what is produced as a counter is a refutation, rather than a denial. Pointing out problem, fallacies etc in arguments is not denial – though apologists will often claim it is – it is refutation.

There is a difference between ‘I do not believe in god’ and ‘I believe god does not exist’. Of course, sometimes we say these things interchangeably because we’re only human and the long form of the statement is, frankly, the kind of tiny difference that only means anything to philosophers.

If I say ‘god does not exist’ it is, for me, shorthand for:

“I do not believe a god exists, I see no evidence for one and so, while one MAY exist I am forced by the burden of proof, my own scepticism and better explanations for god claims (science and naturalism) to hold the negative position. I will change my mind if evidence comes along that is sufficiently convincing and overturns everything else I have considered in coming to this point.”

Which I’m sure we’ll all agree, is a bit too much of a mouthful for day to day conversation and better summed up as ‘God does not exist’ or ‘I do not believe god exists’.

This burden of proof is the same principle we use in Western courts where we hold the position that someone is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. We suspend judgement, but assume the negative, as the only safe, rational and logical position unless someone’s guilt (or in this case god’s existence) can be proven beyond any and all reasonable doubt.

Another example of this suspended judgement would be the claim that a human being can fly, unaided. In case you are wrong it does not make sense to proceed as though the claim is absolutely true. We would suspend judgement and not throw ourselves from the top of multi-storey car parks flapping our arms until we were sure. Even then it would make sense to try taking off from the ground, just in case.

Agnosticism and atheism are not incompatible. As I briefly covered above, the ‘weak’ atheist position can also be called the agnostic atheist position, and is the most common one.

  • Gnosticism/agnosticism is a claim of knowledge (gnosis).
  • Theism/atheism is a claim of belief (with or without belief in god).

Thus an agnostic atheist is one who does not claim to know, but does not believe that there is a god.

“When someone says “I am an atheist” that atheist is claiming that (1) GE is objectively not true (god does not exist), (2) the atheist believes GE is not true, and (3) the atheist is in a satisfactory relationship with the truth value of GE to claim 1 and 2. (All of this is also true for the theist and their claims for the truth of GE.) Atheism is a term that encompasses these three claims that are necessary equivalents to the statement, “I am an atheist.” Atheism is the belief that GE is false, meaning the belief in Not-GE, which means atheism is a truth claim for the proposition Not-GE.” -ToAtheists

Again, a restatement of the base misunderstanding and, alas, repeated assertion does not make something true. When an atheist says ‘I am an atheist’ they are only saying that they do not believe in god. Nothing more. They are not saying they absolutely and definitely know that no god exists just that they do not believe in one. This is the only ‘truth claim’ in the statement, the only assertion, that we do not believe.

Some religious apologists will try to argue that ‘deep down you really do’, which gets tiresome and honestly I’m not sure if there is a way to absolutely prove that we do not believe any more than its possible to absolutely prove that someone does believe. I’m fairly certain fMRI scans could produce some evidence of different brain structures and responses that would support it, but honestly I don’t know.

“One objection some atheists make to this is to say that the Atheist makes no claim but simply does not believe the claim GE. That this objection is absurd is easily seen when we ask if one can disbelieve claim GE while holding that GE is still true. This would, of course, be nonsense. If someone where to say “I do not believe it is raining but it is raining” we immediately see the contradiction.” – ToAtheists

To restate the example in the form of the actual atheist position: “I do not know if it is raining, but I do not believe that it is.”

And whether a-precipitationism or atheism the reasons for holding that position may be varied, from a simple absence of evidence for rain to having read the weather forecast that morning or having looked out of the window and seen no sign of rain.

Of course ‘it is raining’ is a rather mundane, ordinary and normal claim compared to the one ‘god exists’ which is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence.

“It cannot be the case that atheists do not have a belief. It is not the case that they are simply entertaining a certain state of affairs, for example, imagining there is no god. (Though some philosophers contend, with some neuroscience findings backing them up, that imagining a proposition equates to a belief.)” – ToAtheists

Atheists may have many beliefs, atheism – however – describes the absence of one, particular belief.

I can imagine the existence of a unicorn, dragon or a trio of saucy maids of easy virtue laying in my bed. This does not mean I believe any of them to be true. I may not be a philosopher but as a writer and a game designer I am intimately familiar with the imaginary and the capacity of human beings to suspend disbelief while still not considering the things they imagine to be real, true or actual. This is the essence of play, escapism and many forms of recreation. From this perspective, god belief is a failure to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Why this is considered a problem for D&D or Grand Theft Auto but not for Christianity or Islam I do not know.

““I have made the judgment that there is no god.” (Not-GE) So anyone who calls him or herself an “atheist” is either committing to a belief or being dishonest in their self portrayal. For the atheist to claim that atheism is not a belief is intellectual dishonesty.” – ToAtheists

To return to the jury analogy, a jury returns a ‘not guilty’ verdict if they are unconvinced of the guilt of the person on trial. In some jurisdictions it is also possible to render a ‘not proven’ verdict and this is probably a much better analogy for the broadest conception of the atheist position.

“That atheists believe that Not-GE is true is obvious in and beyond their embrace of the term atheism. The term is used by atheists to differentiate themselves from believers, a differentiation only desired if they reject what the believers believe; rejection equates to saying the believers in GE are wrong which is the assertion that the negation of the belief in GE (i.e. – Not-GE) is true. The derisive assertions of Atheists that religious believers believe in “fairy tales” and are “irrational” are assertions that religious belief is wrong. No sane person asserts that a belief is wrong without believing the opposite is correct, so to criticize GE prima facie is to assert Not-GE.” – ToAtheists

More problems here. Whether holding a position is rational or not depends on the evidence for it, NOT whether it is true or not. It is also possible to hold correct beliefs for the wrong reasons. Science in particular is very good at rooting this out and revising when there are issues. It was believed, for example, that bad smells caused disease for a very long time. To an extent this was true in that a bad smell (excrement, rotting meat) was often indicative of the presence of germs and toxins and so avoiding them made sense and would contribute to greater health. It’s the germs though, not the smell (or demons).

Atheism is just a statement of personal lack of belief in a deity. Atheists may or may not engage in anti-theism or counter-theism arguments but such is beyond the scope of basic atheism, which is our sole concern at this juncture.

Honestly, the rest of this article, and what I have read of the next two, is just the continued restatement and attempted justification of the same base misunderstanding over and over again. I would be repeating myself so this is as good a cut-off point as any.

To summarise:

Atheism, in the broadest and most inclusive of terms, is the personal statement that one does not believe in god/s. The only truth claim in it is that the speaker lacks belief in this proposition. Not that the proposition does not exist, just that they do not believe it. Once we move beyond that we’re into areas other than and in addition to ‘simple atheism’ and more specific argumentation. Such arguments and discussions are worth having, but they’re more than ‘simple atheism’.

I don’t hate you

sales-argumentWe argue, but that doesn’t – necessarily – mean I hate you.

You believe in god, magic, homoeopathy or the half-arsed witterings of Deepak Chopra but most of the time this doesn’t come up between us. Sure, there’s exceptions like the WBC hatemongers , the people actively campaigning against gay marriage or the hardline Christians and Muslims blowing people up for one thing or another but by and large you and we are normal people just trying to get along through our lives.

Everyone has to get along with people they disagree with, friends, family, workmates. If we all agreed on absolutely everything then the world would be a rather boring place. We’re not going to agree on religion though and the idea that you subscribe to religion or faith as an idea while still being a mostly nice human being is as shocking to me as a racist outburst from a loveable grandmother.

Here we are in the 21st Century, communicating over a network made possible by science, engineering, human ingenuity and the skeptical processes of science and yet somehow, deep inside, you still subscribe to the idea that believing something for no reason (faith) is a good and worthwhile thing. I’ll be honest about it, that scares me, deeply. If you’ll believe – and defend – the idea of a magic man in the sky who made everything, or a flying horse carrying a paedophile away to heaven, or that ‘magic water’ can cure disease what is to stop you believing that another race is inherently inferior or that god has ordained the death of your child? What is to stop you, in fact, believing anything?

There are many specific wrongs in many religions and woo beliefs but this idea that faith (faith=(belief-evidence)) is somehow desirable, worthwhile or praiseworthy is the universal danger that such thinking represents. Humanity progresses through doubt, questioning, testing, not through blind belief. Faith holds ideas sacred and unassailable, even if they’re utterly wrong. Faith allows the Catholic Church to ignore its predatory and child-endangering actions. Faith allows Islam to oppress women and to try to impose itself on other cultures. Faith is what leads to prayer over a child who could have been saved with medical science. Faith, to cast the net widely, is what has right wing governments dead set on austerity programmes and free market capitalism even though they do not work.

Most of you avoid talking about these things, but they’re not going away. Our growth is outstripping the resources our planet has to offer and we have a finite time to crack the problem. Faith holds us back. In the USA resistance to climate science, green energy projects, science education, contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage are all rooted in a paranoid, religious, right-wing section of the population running on faith. They hold us back. In the UK, previously thought relatively immune to the lure of such non-thinking the UK Independence Party has recently done well in elections with their mix of acceptable middle-class racism and empty rhetoric.

I want humanity to thrive and continue. I want progress to remain. I want us to grow as a species and to achieve wonderful things but that belief you hold, that faith you think so fine, that threatens everything.

I don’t hate you. I fear what your blind-belief, combined with that of billions of others, will cost us.