Forced atheism

This is a response to someone on Quora who instisted that belief is binary, and that I should be calling myself an “atheist”.

Belief could be considered binary in two uninformed ways.

1. You could imagine that words are ontologically prior to the concepts they are invoked to denote. Just because there exist the linguistic tags “like” and “dislike”, we don’t assume reality must reflect the artifactual binary nature of these words. We instead insist that reality trumps any and all linguistic tags invoked to reflect that reality. The deficiencies of language are no excuse to distort reality, in this case, the intrinsic gradient nature of belief.

2. You could imagine that human emotions are ontologically prior to objective reality. Here too you would be wrong. The cognitive bug humans have that makes it difficult for them to take an epistemic position between a) absolutely certain X is true and b) absolutely certain X is false is no excuse to pretend a gradient concept must conform to that cognitive bias. Yet, once again. our emotions are not ontologically prior to objective realities, but, if we are to be rational, must conform to those realities. In this case, your disposition to irrationally either believe or disbelieve must be discarded for a more rational approach that actually reflects the gradient nature of belief.

I hold about an 15% degree of belief that an Einsteinian god of some sort is out there. And since belief is not binary, and since I want to add as much resolution to the actual reality of my epistemic position, I do not distort that epistemic reality by presenting belief as intrinsically binary. It is not. Never will be. I *tend to disbelieve* an Einsteinian god exists. The term *tend to disbelieve* retains the necessary resolution that accurately reflects my epistemic reality. I do not feel at all compelled to pretend my 15% degree of belief is equal to your 0% degree of belief. If your own position requires no nuance, no problem. My position does. A single term such as *atheist* does not capture that distinction. I like distinction and nuance. It not only accurately reflects reality, it separates me from those who have no appreciation of nuance, and opens the door for more productive discussions without locking myself into a category with substantial connotative baggage that does no dialogue any good.


Revisiting the term “atheist”

The concept of belief is intrinsically gradient. It is not binary in spite of the terms employed to reflect the concept of belief suggesting a binary quality.  

I’ve address this issue previously here and here, but I think it warrants revisiting.

Belief is intrinsically gradient. Consider another concept that is intrinsically gradient. Love is a concept that intrinsically falls on a gradient. 

Let’s imagine someone says the following.

“You either love me or you don’t. Which is it?”

We would consider this person immature and inappropriately forcing you to make love binary when we all know it is not. We are not forced to say “I am a lover” or “I am not a lover”. Love comes in degrees, and to treat it as binary is to unnecessarily default to a very low-resolution, as the tag “love” can be used to cover a multitude of positions along the gradient of love.

Consider another person saying…

“You either like James Brown or you don’t. You have to decide whether you do or you don’t.”

We know “liking”, just as “believing” and “loving”, are gradient concepts. We would consider this person philosophically unsophisticated at best. 

The problem seems to be the misguided notion that, because the linguistic tags are binary (e.g., belief/disbelief, love/hate, like/dislike) that these somehow inform the concept. 

But linguistic tags are not prior to the concepts they are employed to represent. The concept is always ontologically prior to any subjectively derived linguistic tags that might be  recruited to convey that concept. 

So forcing a clearly gradient concept into a binary linguistic mold is misguided and inappropriate. 

I currently give an Einsteinian god a 15% degree of certainty, but this certainty was once closer to 80%, then gradually declined. 

There was nothing magical when that degree of certainty reached 50%. This 50% has no more significance than you reaching your 50th birthday. It is an arbitrary number that may be aesthetically pleasing, but it remains arbitrary. We don’t, if we are rational,  give concepts significance based on arbitrary thresholds. 

Imagine Mr X suggesting that he is “bald” since he has only 49% of his original hair, while calling Mr Y with 51% of his original hair “not-bald”. Imagine Mr X running around suggesting to men who have <50% of their original hair that they must call themselves “bald”. 

Observe the silliness of inverting the proper heirarchy between the concept and its linguistic tag. 

If a concept is intrinsically gradient, you can’t invoke linguistic use or limitations associated with that concept to modify the concept. The concept remains as it is, and linguistics, if they are to facilitate a meaningful and accurate communication of that concept, must reflect with as high a precision as possible that concept. 

If “disbelief” and “belief” are inadequate to reflect the vast range of possible belief positions between 0% and 100% on the epistemic gradient, we should not create an arbitrary threshold of 50% to validate the terms “disbelief” and “belief”, but rather add the modifiers that will best reflect our actual epistemic position. These modifiers can be terms such as “slight(ly)”, “significant(ly) and “extreme(ly)”, or can be an actual percentage as I attempt to do when expressing my Einsteinian god belief. 

In summary, concepts are always logically prior and ontologically foundational to any linguistic tags that we employ to reflect those concepts. Inverting this heirarchy for gradient concepts such as loving, believing and liking is, at best, to pixelate the concept, and in most cases to distort the concept, a result not consistent with the presumed goal of accurate communication.

Robert G. Ingersoll

ingersollThe promotion of reason in opposition to faith is nothing new. Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. His arguments have not lost their force. Also a prominent member of the Republican Party, he refused to run for office, and is best known for his speeches for which the public paid as much as $1 to attend. Below is a collection of some of his most salient quotes from books and speeches.

  1. Nothing is greater than to break the chains from the bodies of men — nothing nobler than to destroy the phantom of the soul.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, quoted from the Address, Ingersoll the Magnificent, delivered by Joseph Lewis on August 11th 1954 dedicating, as a Public Memorial, the house in which Robert G Ingersoll was born, Dresden, Yates County, in the state of New York.

  2. The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child”

  3. They knew no better, but I do not propose to follow the example of a barbarian because he was honestly a barbarian.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Limitations of Toleration”

  4. The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive, and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, “Crumbling Creeds”

    Continue reading

Atheist/Theist Exchange on TAG

This lively exchange on 5 Youtube videos is between Matt Dillahunty (atheist) and Matt Slick (theist) on the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God (TAG). Both Matts are radio talk show hosts. This is only for the philosophically inclined.

I also had a comment “exchange” with Matt Slick over one of his Youtube videos. I posted a blog entry a week ago that demonstrates Matt Slick’s arrogance when dealing with non-believers, and this arrogance, while not invalidating his arguments, is perhaps a clue on why he cannot get past some concepts introduced by Matt Dillahunty that do invalidate his arguments. His primary fallacy is one of equivocation on what logic and logical absolutes are. He seems to claim that any human description of an entity (logical absolutes) that does not rely on human cognition for its existence, does, in fact, rely on human cognition since the description requires a human mind, and is therefore incoherent. Matt Dillahunty attempts time and again to point out this equivocation between the essence logical absolutes and their conception within minds.
Continue reading

Deconversion Stories

The following are deconversion stories of individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

  • Youtube user DasAmericanAtheist

  • Youtube user LovingDoubt

  • Youtube user DrixDZanth. Former Evangelical Christian / Former Well-read Creationist.

Continue reading