Author Topic: Agnosticism - lending validity to religion?  (Read 920 times)

SteveS

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« Reply #30 on: September 14, 2007, 08:56:19 PM »
Thanks for the response, Mister Joy.  I think we understand each other well enough.  Just a few things, going from the bottom of your post up:

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
For the record, though, I do believe in the possibility of a 'higher power' as an abstract, undefinable, unfathomable thing, so to speak. I just don't believe anything that's written about it is at all likely to be true
Exactly!  Possible?  Sure.  Likely that anything written thus far is true?  No.  In this regard we are in agreement.

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
so if you don't think that "God does not exist" then I'd define you as an agnostic and you'd define me as an atheist. I don't really mind because I don't think it matters what words we label one another with.
:lol:  Yup, I'm on board with this one as well.  Ultimately you are exactly correct - the labels do not matter nearly as much as the opinions behind them.

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
Also, word origins ultimately hold far less applicability than their present boundaries and distinctions anyway
Saying word "roots" was, I think, a misstep on my part.  I should have said "word components" or something.  All that I was trying to get at is that "atheist" is a composite word.  "a" plus "theist".  "Theist" means something, "a" means not.  Ref: symmetry and asymmetry.

For what its worth, I concur that the most predominant, modern usage of these words is:

Theist: one who asserts that god exists
Atheist: one who asserts that god does not exist
Agnostic: one who asserts neither

I choose "atheist" for myself, but not because I agree with the above usage, but because of my "juicy" explanation  :wink:  
In particular, I've called myself both a "weak atheist" and an "agnostic atheist", to further distinguish myself from the predominant definition.

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
In my mind what they believe is irrelevant; it's what they do with that belief that can be the problem, the actions themselves, & that, if anything, is what the main bulk of the ongoing dilemma should be about, not whether or not God exists.
Eh, agree and disagree.  I think debating whether or not god exists is a fruitful and fulfilling exercise.  I like philosophical discussion!  But, I also agree that practically what we do with these beliefs is important.

Personally, I follow a libertarian philosophy, so I think each person should be able to define and pursue their own goals.  If somebody wants to be a theist and go to church and follow a religion, then I would never chose to do this myself, but I don't believe I have a right to tell them that they cannot.  Basically, I agree with you 100% when you say

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
the real problem only comes out of one side intruding belief upon the other
so I refrain from "intruding" my atheist beliefs upon theists.  I don't go door to door telling them they are wrong, for instance, nor do I propose we should write laws banning or outlawing religion, or anything of the sort.

Finally, just for grins,

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
my incompetence when it comes to HTML (or whatever it's called) prevents me from being able to label the originator of the quote, if that matters to you at all
No - it doesn't matter to me at all.  But, all you have to do to get the originator's name in there, is when you write you quotes do it like this:

Code: [Select]
[quote="Somebody"] Whatever somebody said [/quote]
This will appear as:

Quote from: "Somebody"
Whatever somebody said

Cheers!
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

Mister Joy

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« Reply #31 on: September 14, 2007, 10:15:00 PM »
It seems that we are very much aligned, Steve.

With regards to the one potential disagreement that we may have, though:

Quote from: "SteveS"
Eh, agree and disagree. I think debating whether or not god exists is a fruitful and fulfilling exercise. I like philosophical discussion! But, I also agree that practically what we do with these beliefs is important.

Personally, I follow a libertarian philosophy, so I think each person should be able to define and pursue their own goals. If somebody wants to be a theist and go to church and follow a religion, then I would never chose to do this myself, but I don't believe I have a right to tell them that they cannot.


*Rejoice! I have now entered a new posting era."

I think it was more miscommunication on my part. By 'dilemma' I was referring, albeit without much indication, to areas of discussion that are reviewed with a certain brand of high-priority assertiveness. I agree that debating the existence of God is an invigorating and worthwhile pursuit, however I think people tend to focus on this obsessively, sometimes becoming needlessly argumentative and aggressive for what it's worth, while the more significant, down to Earth & life changing issues surrounding religion/beliefs are glazed over without much concern.

And cheers to you too! I'm glad somebody finally explained that to me.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Mister Joy »

SteveS

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« Reply #32 on: September 14, 2007, 11:55:53 PM »
Quote from: "Mister Joy"
It seems that we are very much aligned, Steve.

Yes, I concur.

Regarding the "dilemma" --- I guess I'm not sure --- I've got to think about this some more before I can offer up anything worthwhile.  Eh, I'll have a few beers and post something more tonight (or tomorrow, or whenever).  This issue is interesting and thought provoking!
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

SteveS

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« Reply #33 on: September 15, 2007, 03:49:18 AM »
Okay, I've had some beer, I feel refreshed, so I reviewed this "dilemma" business, and I'm coming to the conclusion that any disagreement between us on this matter is probably only slight, if it exists at all.

Here's the paragraph I'm considering, and I've taken the liberty of emphasizing a particular part of it:

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
I also think that the Christian v. Atheist feud can get needlessly over the top at times; having a nasty tendency to target the wrong end of the stick. As rlrose highlighted, the real problem only comes out of one side intruding belief upon the other, whether through forceful politics or simple persuasive rhetoric. In my mind what they believe is irrelevant; it's what they do with that belief that can be the problem, the actions themselves, & that, if anything, is what the main bulk of the ongoing dilemma should be about, not whether or not God exists.

Taken under the context that this paragraph was largely responsive to the situation posted by rlrose, I certainly agree with this without reservation.  To provide an illustration, if another man attempts to kill me, by basic complaint is that he is trying to kill me, not why he is trying to kill me.  His reasons could be many:

1) He is a theist and I am an atheist and he believes God told him to kill any atheists that he encounters

2) He is an Islamic Terrorist and I am an American, and he has accepted Bin Laden's fatwa that all Americans should be killed

3) He is a Christian fundamentalist and he has mistaken me for an abortion doctor

There are plenty of non-religiously themed reasons too, like:

4) He is a psychopath who takes pleasure in killing, and I just happen to be there next to him

5) He needs money and so decides to kill me and take my wallet

 :roll:  Okay, enough already, right?  I could not agree with you more strongly that ultimately I really don't care which, if any, of these reasons a person has for trying to kill me --- what I do care about is that he is trying to kill me.

In part, what I think you are trying to express, is that if we can have any legitimate concern for what other people are "involved" in, we should be much more concerned with what they are doing instead of what they are thinking.  The reason is that whatever they are thinking can have no effect on me as long as it is not put into action.  I would further state that we should not be concerned with what people are doing in the case that their action has no effect on us.  Perhaps, for example, I don't like smoking.  If somebody is inside their own home smoking, it has no effect on me, so I should not be concerned that they are smoking.  It would, however, be okay for me to ask them to refrain from smoking while they are in my home (or leave if they cannot abide).

Back to religious grounds, when I say we shouldn't have prayer in public schools, what I really mean is that nobody should be forced to pray in public schools, not that nobody should be praying within the school.  In other words,

Teacher leading mandatory prayer session: bad
Student praying to himself before he eats his lunch: okay
Private school: do whatever you want, if I don't like it I'll go to a different private school or to a public school

My initial reaction was more from the perspective that I think it is perfectly acceptable for myself and a Christian to agree to have a polite discussion regarding the existence of god.  If this makes the Christian uncomfortable, and he doesn't want to talk about it, I would never force him to ---- unless he's trying to force one of his beliefs upon me.  But, in that case my objection would be that he's trying to force his beliefs upon me, not what those beliefs actually are; not whether or not I find them to be true beliefs or false beliefs.  Doesn't matter - just don't force them upon me.

What says you?  :wink:
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

Mister Joy

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« Reply #34 on: September 15, 2007, 03:47:14 PM »
Quote from: "SteveS"
Okay, I've had some beer, I feel refreshed, so I reviewed this "dilemma" business, and I'm coming to the conclusion that any disagreement between us on this matter is probably only slight, if it exists at all.

Ah yes. Well I went out last night, don't remember coming back & I've just woken up with a stinking hangover, so I may not be quite on the ball I'm afraid. I'll persevere though. :(

Quote from: "SteveS"
My initial reaction was more from the perspective that I think it is perfectly acceptable for myself and a Christian to agree to have a polite discussion regarding the existence of god. If this makes the Christian uncomfortable, and he doesn't want to talk about it, I would never force him to ---- unless he's trying to force one of his beliefs upon me. But, in that case my objection would be that he's trying to force his beliefs upon me, not what those beliefs actually are; not whether or not I find them to be true beliefs or false beliefs. Doesn't matter - just don't force them upon me.

I think you've hit the nail bang on the head there ducky.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Mister Joy »

SteveS

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« Reply #35 on: September 16, 2007, 06:11:29 PM »
Hey Mister Joy, I find the contrast between the 'primary' public schools of our two nations intriguing:  in ours they want to have "official" prayers but we don't let them, and in yours they don't want to but are made to anyway.  :lol:  There is a certain amount of madness in here somewhere!

About primary/elementary, here's a typical break-down of US school classification:

Grades Kindergarten through 5: Elementary School
Grades 6 through 8: Middle School (usually used to be called Junior High)
Grades 9 through 12: High School

I think the most common variation on this theme would be to include grade 5 in the 'middle school', but there are probably others.  These are more typical divisions than hard and fast rules.

The ages of the grades are:

Kindergarten age: 5 turning 6
12th Grade (Senior in High School) age: 17 turning 18

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
openly expressed patriotism

Yeah - the pledge of allegiance seems needless to me.  The major problem with it, IMO, is that it is simply outdated - the pledge was created as a knee-jerk reaction to the nationalistic fervor that was running rampant in the world at the time of its inception.  Personally - I think the practice should be discontinued.  Most atheists probably agree with me in this matter, not for the least reason because they object to making children recite the phrase "one nation, under god".

I don't have a problem with patriotism per se (considering our above discussion on thoughts & actions), but I don't know why we would require our citizens to swear their allegiance to the flag - is that even possible, to be in allegiance with a flag!?!  :lol:
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

Mister Joy

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« Reply #36 on: September 17, 2007, 01:00:16 AM »
Makes sense, I was in grade 3 & would have been in 4 if my mother hadn't taken me out. Exciting stuff.

Patriotism, in itself, is a healthy & harmless attachment, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not supposed to think that though, because I'm socially obliged by my intellectual status to hate my own country, so sayeth the BBC, Channel 4 & the 6th Form college I recently got out of :roll: . National pride is not a particularly well-accepted thing over here.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Mister Joy »

SteveS

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« Reply #37 on: September 17, 2007, 02:22:43 AM »
Really?  I find that surprising, what with the wealth of success the United Kingdom has enjoyed as a nation!  Don't they at least set this aside during the world cup, and cheer like mad for the English soccer team?  I was in Hawaii last summer on business during the world cup, and there seemed to be English football fans all over the place - one couple even flying the traditional "England" flag from their hotel room balcony (the white one with the red cross, not the Union Jack - signifying England only instead of the U.K., from what I understand).

Its weird over here - I definitely pick up on some of the sentiment that you expressed (lots of intellectuals and such criticizing every step of the American nation, from Columbus enslaving natives all the way down), but then when the terrorists toppled the World Trade Center there were flags flying everywhere.  Now, the Bush administration's "near record" (I'm qualifying this because I'm not sure if its actually a record or not) low approval ratings, and civilian backlash against the Iraq war, are causing a lot of self-questioning and doubt again (or so it seems to me).

In all fairness though, most of these people probably dislike the president and his political decisions more then they dislike their own country.

But who knows?  What is a "6th Form college"?  I'm not familiar with the term....
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

Mister Joy

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« Reply #38 on: September 17, 2007, 09:10:59 AM »
Quote from: "SteveS"
Really? I find that surprising, what with the wealth of success the United Kingdom has enjoyed as a nation! Don't they at least set this aside during the world cup, and cheer like mad for the English soccer team? I was in Hawaii last summer on business during the world cup, and there seemed to be English football fans all over the place - one couple even flying the traditional "England" flag from their hotel room balcony (the white one with the red cross, not the Union Jack - signifying England only instead of the U.K., from what I understand).

A lot of us make an exception for footy (well naturally) though some English football fans have a tendency to be psychotic, to put it plainly, which gives the whole thing a bad reputation.

Incidentally, the status of the 'UK'; nation, country, commonwealth & what not; is fairly hazy and difficult to get your head around.

Technically, I have three flags:
The English flag (red cross on white), which represents my country; that being England.
The Union Jack (<<that one next to me) which rather vaguely represents the commonwealth of Great Britain; so all of the countries in the UK, & our overseas territories.
Finally the European Flag (blue with a circle of yellow stars), but I like to pretend that one doesn't exist because it's just patronising and useless.

Quote from: "SteveS"
Its weird over here - I definitely pick up on some of the sentiment that you expressed (lots of intellectuals and such criticizing every step of the American nation, from Columbus enslaving natives all the way down), but then when the terrorists toppled the World Trade Center there were flags flying everywhere. Now, the Bush administration's "near record" (I'm qualifying this because I'm not sure if its actually a record or not) low approval ratings, and civilian backlash against the Iraq war, are causing a lot of self-questioning and doubt again (or so it seems to me).

It's the state which needs constant speculation, since they're the one's who are going to make these major decisions, not people's ancestry. We're all descended from slaves, after all. I don't go to Italy demanding an apology from the people in Rome for inflicting my celtic ancestors with the burden of civilisation. So yes, I agree with you here:

Quote from: "SteveS"
In all fairness though, most of these people probably dislike the president and his political decisions more then they dislike their own country.

It's definitely possible to be proud of your country without being proud of your government.

No patriotic Englishman likes the Government we have. New Labour is very anti-patriotic in the case of the English: we're basically told that we ought to feel guilty about everything & that we can't have our own parliament because we're all really evil et cetera (and Scotland and Wales suddenly wouldn't be running our country any more and stealing our money, ahem, I didn't say that). England gets a really bad deal within the UK, in all fairness - we're totally fekked over, to be more accurate - but I wont go into the details because I'll be ranting and raving for hours (politics is one of the few things that I regret becoming interested in, simply because it does nothing but make me angry).

Quote from: "SteveS"
But who knows? What is a "6th Form college"? I'm not familiar with the term....


Behold: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Diagram_of_UK_School_System.svg
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Mister Joy »

SteveS

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« Reply #39 on: September 17, 2007, 05:18:34 PM »
Hey Mister Joy - good stuff!  Thanks for clearing up the England/UK/EU thing - I'm probably not the only American confused on this topic.  I'm never sure if I'm using the right words - is an Englishman English?  UKer?  European?  British?  Argh - I never want to offend, but probably do so unintentionally!

I agree in principle with your comments, and find them relevant to my own situation (re: slavery, the state, etc.).  And especially:

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
(politics is one of the few things that I regret becoming interested in, simply because it does nothing but make me angry)

 :lol:  You sound like a man after my own heart!  Cheers, mate  :cheers:  

I'll check out the wiki on UK schools - probably would have/should have before I asked, but I'm pretty lazy.  :wink:  

Anyway, welcome again to the forum, I'm enjoying the hell out of your commentary/perspective!
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

SteveS

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« Reply #40 on: September 17, 2007, 06:45:19 PM »
I checked out the wiki picture - I now understand "6th form college".  Thanks!
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

quartel

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« Reply #41 on: September 28, 2007, 11:47:08 PM »
Quote from: "laetusatheos"
Most self described agnostics I've talked to are fairly turned off by religion yet still entertain the possibility of a god.



I find this to be most accurate of Agnostics.

However even as Atheists I think that we are still fallible and there still is a chance we can be wrong even it is really really small.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by quartel »

Mister Joy

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« Reply #42 on: September 29, 2007, 12:53:40 PM »
I think that like it or not - even within scientific boundaries and disregarding religion - things like evolution, big bang, et cetera, are all nothing but theories and because we know a minuscule percentage of what there is to know in this existence, we're not really even in a position to judge overall 'likeliness'; certainly not with much significance.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Mister Joy »

Allhailtuna

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« Reply #43 on: September 29, 2007, 02:33:36 PM »
I myself believe that a deist God could exist (Though I doubt it), but a Christian/Hindu/etc God? ...No.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Allhailtuna »

SteveS

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« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2007, 05:48:24 AM »
Quote from: "allhailtuna"
I myself believe that a deist God could exist (Though I doubt it), but a Christian/Hindu/etc God? ...No.

Yup - striking a harmony with this comment.  Mostly the Christian god, because that's the one I know the most about.  The more the theologians talk the more they dig themselves into a hole.

Quote from: "Mister Joy"
we know a minuscule percentage of what there is to know in this existence


At the risk of sounding like a smart-ass, I'd say we don't know how much there is to know yet.  How can we know that we've only uncovered a "miniscule percentage"?  Maybe we've almost got it all covered?  So - I'd say that doubt about how much there is to know is what makes "likeliness" calculations useless.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »