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View Full Version : For the Atheists: Other ways to think about God / spirituality.



Wei Wu Wei
12-19-2010, 01:53 PM
I find that many atheists have interesting ways of conveying what they consider to be the silliness of religious believe. I find many of their examples and metaphors to fall short, preferring a simplistic idea of God that is easy to discount.

I'm sure most are familiar with the idea of Flatland, a 2D world often used to explain higher dimensional movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWyTxCsIXE4

Starting with a 0-dimensional point, you can move up a dimension by moving away from that point.

Here you have a 1-dimensional line. In this direction, there are only 2 directions, forward and backward. There is no such thing as width, it's nonsense in this dimension. However, to move up a dimension, the idea is similar: you must move in a direction that takes you further away from every point on the line, simultaneously. This cannot be done by moving forward or backwards, because any motion in those directions would bring you further from some points and closer to others. In order to move away from every point at once, you'd have to move sideways.

This creates a brand new dimension, what we know as width. if we equally fill in the space between all the points we want with a finite length, we end up with a 2 dimensional Circle. Here we have a 2-dimensional figure.

Again, a similar move can be made to jump up into the inconceivable-to-a-flat-lander 3rd dimension. Starting at the center of the circle, you have to move in a direction that takes you away from every point on/in the circle simultaneously. there is no direction like this in 2 dimensions, and it requires the mind-blowing jump up a dimension, as illustrated in the flatland example.


So here we are in 3 dimensions. 3 or 4 when you consider time as a function of space.


Now, if we were all 2 dimensional, and someone spoke of a 3rd dimension we'd think they are crazy. If they said that through this direction that cannot be explained, they are able to have knowledge of everything, inside and out, albeit in a way that is almost impossible to explain in a 2-dimensional framework. This direction would allow for incredible insights and self-knowledge, even though it would be impossible in 2-dimensions. A scientific community that looks only at empirical, measurable reality would totally miss the "extra" dimension, because the reality they know lacks any tools or even reference points for this extra dimension: there simply is no such thing as "up".


Imagine that spirituality functions is a similar way, perhaps through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices, one can experience another dimension of reality, one that allows movement towards and away from everything that exists, simultaneously. One that offers insight, foresight, and self-understanding in a way that is simply incomprehensible in our rigid empirical understanding of our world-as-we-experience it.

If you asked a flatlander about the scientific plausibility of a third dimension, they'd say it's nonsense that can only be taken by weak faith, as opposed to empiricism and rationality which explains their 2-dimensional world perfectly and consistently.

Is that not analogous to the scientific position on spirituality?


Some more to come.....

djones520
12-19-2010, 02:14 PM
I don't find it silly. And I personally find it offensive when other atheists voice that they do. Sick of ass hats like you making me look bad.

Apache
12-19-2010, 03:30 PM
I don't find it silly. And I personally find it offensive when other atheists voice that they do. Sick of ass hats like you making me look bad.

So you're an atheist, or agnostic?

djones520
12-19-2010, 03:33 PM
So you're an atheist, or agnostic?

Atheist.

Apache
12-19-2010, 03:37 PM
Atheist.

So for you there is no doubt, whatsoever, there is no God?

djones520
12-19-2010, 03:40 PM
So for you there is no doubt, whatsoever, there is no God?

Of course there is. I cannot inequivocally prove that there is no god/higher power. It's a decision I've made on faith.

It is one that all Atheists make on faith, whether they realize it or not.

Apache
12-19-2010, 03:53 PM
Of course there is. I cannot inequivocally prove that there is no god/higher power. It's a decision I've made on faith.

It is one that all Atheists make on faith, whether they realize it or not.

At least you're honest about it. I don't agree with your stand, but I will show the same respect you've shown on this matter... ;)

hampshirebrit
12-19-2010, 05:03 PM
Atheist.

Yaaay.

GO CU ATHEISTS :D

Rockntractor
12-19-2010, 05:08 PM
Yaaay.

GO CU ATHEISTS :D

Go where, you have no where to go, you will die like a possum by the road!
Have a nice day!:D

djones520
12-19-2010, 05:10 PM
Go where, you have no where to go, you will die like a possum by the road!
Have a nice day!:D

Nothing wrong with that. Better then what you folks think will happen to us. ;)

Rockntractor
12-19-2010, 05:13 PM
Nothing wrong with that. Better then what you folks think will happen to us. ;)

I'm being mean!:D

hampshirebrit
12-19-2010, 05:20 PM
Is that not analogous to the scientific position on spirituality?



No, not at all. It's actually a piss-poor attempt at such an analogy ... and that's about the best I can say about it.

Apache
12-19-2010, 05:31 PM
No, not at all. It's actually a piss-poor attempt at such an analogy ... and that's about the best I can say about it.

and people wonder why I like Brits....:p

CaughtintheMiddle1990
12-19-2010, 06:29 PM
I find that many atheists have interesting ways of conveying what they consider to be the silliness of religious believe. I find many of their examples and metaphors to fall short, preferring a simplistic idea of God that is easy to discount.

I'm sure most are familiar with the idea of Flatland, a 2D world often used to explain higher dimensional movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWyTxCsIXE4

Starting with a 0-dimensional point, you can move up a dimension by moving away from that point.

Here you have a 1-dimensional line. In this direction, there are only 2 directions, forward and backward. There is no such thing as width, it's nonsense in this dimension. However, to move up a dimension, the idea is similar: you must move in a direction that takes you further away from every point on the line, simultaneously. This cannot be done by moving forward or backwards, because any motion in those directions would bring you further from some points and closer to others. In order to move away from every point at once, you'd have to move sideways.

This creates a brand new dimension, what we know as width. if we equally fill in the space between all the points we want with a finite length, we end up with a 2 dimensional Circle. Here we have a 2-dimensional figure.

Again, a similar move can be made to jump up into the inconceivable-to-a-flat-lander 3rd dimension. Starting at the center of the circle, you have to move in a direction that takes you away from every point on/in the circle simultaneously. there is no direction like this in 2 dimensions, and it requires the mind-blowing jump up a dimension, as illustrated in the flatland example.


So here we are in 3 dimensions. 3 or 4 when you consider time as a function of space.


Now, if we were all 2 dimensional, and someone spoke of a 3rd dimension we'd think they are crazy. If they said that through this direction that cannot be explained, they are able to have knowledge of everything, inside and out, albeit in a way that is almost impossible to explain in a 2-dimensional framework. This direction would allow for incredible insights and self-knowledge, even though it would be impossible in 2-dimensions. A scientific community that looks only at empirical, measurable reality would totally miss the "extra" dimension, because the reality they know lacks any tools or even reference points for this extra dimension: there simply is no such thing as "up".


Imagine that spirituality functions is a similar way, perhaps through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices, one can experience another dimension of reality, one that allows movement towards and away from everything that exists, simultaneously. One that offers insight, foresight, and self-understanding in a way that is simply incomprehensible in our rigid empirical understanding of our world-as-we-experience it.

If you asked a flatlander about the scientific plausibility of a third dimension, they'd say it's nonsense that can only be taken by weak faith, as opposed to empiricism and rationality which explains their 2-dimensional world perfectly and consistently.

Is that not analogous to the scientific position on spirituality?


Some more to come.....


For me, quantum physics and the like kind of "prove" that at the very least there is a LOT about this universe and existence which we don't understand and that there is some sort of force which drives existence. Whether this force is a "God" in the common sense, I don't know, but I do feel the universe was created by something, something presence, force, willpower or being, greater than our understanding. All of man's religions are simply attempts at understanding said force/willpower/being on our terms. Interpretations, basically.

CueSi
12-19-2010, 09:40 PM
Yaaay.

GO CU ATHEISTS :D

I.E- - - Atheists that aren't assholes! :D

~QC

AmPat
12-19-2010, 10:26 PM
Nothing wrong with that. Better then what you folks think will happen to us. ;)

You have a choice in that. You could exercise the same faith you profess for atheism toward God's Son. Then, your eternity would be assured.

djones520
12-19-2010, 10:39 PM
You have a choice in that. You could exercise the same faith you profess for atheism toward God's Son. Then, your eternity would be assured.

Paying lip service just to cover my bases isn't going to cut it when that final decision comes.

I do not believe, and that will probably never change.

AmPat
12-19-2010, 10:44 PM
Paying lip service just to cover my bases isn't going to cut it when that final decision comes.

I do not believe, and that will probably never change.
You yourself said you were exercising faith that you did not believe. What is the harm in exercising that faith toward believing?
Read Mark 9:24, "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief."

djones520
12-19-2010, 10:59 PM
You yourself said you were exercising faith that you did not believe. What is the harm in exercising that faith toward believing?
Read Mark 9:24, "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief."

Because I DON'T believe in God. I BELIEVE he does not exist. It's like your saying whats the big deal about black suddenly deciding to become white.

RobJohnson
12-19-2010, 11:04 PM
If an atheist opens gifts on Dec 25th they are still celebrating the birthday of my Lord, thank you! :)

djones520
12-19-2010, 11:10 PM
If an atheist opens gifts on Dec 25th they are still celebrating the birthday of my Lord, thank you! :)

Err.... no I'm not. I'm celebrating a day that the Government has said I can have off, and enacting a non-religious tradition of gift giving that my parents instilled apon me.

Nothing about the religious aspects of the holiday take place. Now granted, I did attend a Catholic Christmas mass once, when invited by some family friends, but that is about the only religious thing that has ever happened for me.

wilbur
12-19-2010, 11:39 PM
Imagine that spirituality functions is a similar way, perhaps through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices, one can experience another dimension of reality, one that allows movement towards and away from everything that exists, simultaneously. One that offers insight, foresight, and self-understanding in a way that is simply incomprehensible in our rigid empirical understanding of our world-as-we-experience it.

If you asked a flatlander about the scientific plausibility of a third dimension, they'd say it's nonsense that can only be taken by weak faith, as opposed to empiricism and rationality which explains their 2-dimensional world perfectly and consistently.

Is that not analogous to the scientific position on spirituality?

I'm not sure there is any standard scientific position on spirituality. I think supernatural is a better term... I don't think "spirituality" to be a necessarily bad or contradictory word in atheist-land or science-land.

I readily agree, that some yet-to-be detected supernatural dimension could possibly exist. But mere possibility is really only the bare minimum necessary requirement in order for a proposed explanation or hypothesis to remain on the table. Plausibility is what one needs to seek, if an explanation or hypothesis is going to be considered a genuine contender.

So can we gain real insight into this supernatural dimension through highly subjective, interpersonal experiences like prayer or meditation, enough to go from possibility to plausibility? I don't think so. How are you going to verify it, if you're calling empiricism, reason and rationality insufficient tools of investigation? In the meantime, people everywhere are conjuring up wildly contradictory stories about this other dimension based on their experiences, and we've eliminated from the outset our best tools cutting away the false from the true.

Maybe you can say your own experience is self-validating (like the experience of your existence is self-validating), but that can literally be used just about every single absurd belief that one can dream up. Anything could be justified that way (and people do exactly that - from belief in tarot to Allah). Those "anythings" could be possible... but plausible? Well, that has to be established somehow, usually by logical argument or evidence.

So this other dimension *could* exist... but so what? Zeus could exist, too. What reasons do you have to offer that could persuade one to believe it does?

AmPat
12-20-2010, 08:37 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apache View Post
So for you there is no doubt, whatsoever, there is no God?



Of course there is. I cannot inequivocally prove that there is no god/higher power. It's a decision I've made on faith.

It is one that all Atheists make on faith, whether they realize it or not.
I'm just responding to this. You did post the above, correct? Then you post this:

Because I DON'T believe in God. I BELIEVE he does not exist.
At first you post your doubt, then you refine/define your position quite differently. Just trying to clarify. Don't mean to upset you. You aren't attacking my belief so I'll not do otherwise. Although I'd personally prefer all of you have a faith in God, I'd never insist on it. After all, God doesn't.

Wei Wu Wei
12-20-2010, 09:46 AM
I'm not sure there is any standard scientific position on spirituality. I think supernatural is a better term... I don't think "spirituality" to be a necessarily bad or contradictory word in atheist-land or science-land.

I readily agree, that some yet-to-be detected supernatural dimension could possibly exist. But mere possibility is really only the bare minimum necessary requirement in order for a proposed explanation or hypothesis to remain on the table. Plausibility is what one needs to seek, if an explanation or hypothesis is going to be considered a genuine contender.

So can we gain real insight into this supernatural dimension through highly subjective, interpersonal experiences like prayer or meditation, enough to go from possibility to plausibility? I don't think so. How are you going to verify it, if you're calling empiricism, reason and rationality insufficient tools of investigation? In the meantime, people everywhere are conjuring up wildly contradictory stories about this other dimension based on their experiences, and we've eliminated from the outset our best tools cutting away the false from the true.

Maybe you can say your own experience is self-validating (like the experience of your existence is self-validating), but that can literally be used just about every single absurd belief that one can dream up. Anything could be justified that way (and people do exactly that - from belief in tarot to Allah). Those "anythings" could be possible... but plausible? Well, that has to be established somehow, usually by logical argument or evidence.

So this other dimension *could* exist... but so what? Zeus could exist, too. What reasons do you have to offer that could persuade one to believe it does?

I suppose this isn't enough to get anyone to subscribe to any set of beliefs, only to open up the possibility that perhaps these countless people who describe religious experience are actually experiencing something. There's no doubt that their descriptions would be contradictory, when we lack the language or conceptual apparatuses to properly make sense or describe it.





Opposites tend to go together.

Example: The Necker cube

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e7/Necker_cube.svg/400px-Necker_cube.svg.png

When you look at this cube, you can see one of two things: a cube's front face, the bottom, and the left face as the cube leans to the right, or the top and the right face as the cube leans to the left. The front and back faces switch respectively.

When a human looks at this image, their mind forces them to perceive either one cube or the other. You cannot see both cubes at once. This is because in order for one cube orientation to be seen, the other necessarily has to not be seen.

This also applies here:

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/images/AWK_SEP06/022JastrowDuck.jpg

The mind can either see a rabbit, or a duck. The appearance of one negates the other. If you try to see both at once, you cannot, or you see just a nonsense image.

however, the truth in both of these pictures, their reality is neither one image modality or the other. The necker cube is both - the left-leaning cube and the right-leaning cube, and it's also neither of them at all.

The rabbitdick is really neither a rabbit nor a duck, but it contains both of them.


This isn't just the logic of a few optical illusions, but of reality itself.

Mutually-independent opposites ([self - other] [fate - freedom] [existence - nonexistence] [meaning - meaninglessness] ect) exists only conceptually and follow these rules.

Another example is a coin. There is either heads, or tails. You cannot have both, but at the same time, you cannot have one without the other. The appearance of heads both negates AND is dependent on tails. This apparent contradiction lies in the nature of the coin itself. Again, this structure is both heads, tails, and neither heads nor tails. In it's truth as a coin, it contains them all.



A lack of conceptual or linguistic tools to describe God means we can, at best, point towards him/it rather than capture God in language. So - a metaphor:

On the existence of God - first we must ask: what is existence? What is it's nature?

You cannot consider existence without considering non-existence. Upon close enough examination, I submit that one will find that these two opposites relate in the same way as my examples above. If existence itself is like heads, then non-existence is like tails - so what is the coin? This is where God can be found, imo.



Now, so what does this mean about simple statements of God's existence?


Does I believe "God" exists? - no

However this statement only works with the understanding of existence described above, so that one can still have a relationship with God or experience God, without having to put God into a box, either of Existence or Non-existence, which are concepts that are really dependent on our own minds.

wilbur
12-20-2010, 11:59 AM
I suppose this isn't enough to get anyone to subscribe to any set of beliefs, only to open up the possibility that perhaps these countless people who describe religious experience are actually experiencing something. There's no doubt that their descriptions would be contradictory, when we lack the language or conceptual apparatuses to properly make sense or describe it.


Oh I have no doubt that people really have genuine transformative, profound "spiritual" experiences. But I think we have every reason to think that they are explainable and understandable, with out appealing to extra undetectable dimensions. This one can do just fine.

We have a long, long history of falling prey to absurd supernatural mumbo-jumbo to describe these experiences or dimensions, and the defenders of these various supernaturalisms tend to conveniently define all this stuff to be outside the realm of testability and falsifiability. Shamans with talismans to sell, psychics with a futures to divine, and priests with moral prescriptions all tend to place their "truths" behind this veil of untestability and unfalsifiability. We obviously need to exercise some extreme caution around these sorts of ideas.

You could also be a brain in a vat, whose entire life experience is nothing but simulation, created and controlled by an evil demon. You're everyday is experience is even completely compatible with this theory, and you have no way to disprove it. But you, like me, probably discard this idea this as ridiculous. To me, this is analogous to most supernatural theories or explanations, including most theories about other "spiritual" dimensions.

I don't think we lack the cognitive or perceptual power to describe our spiritual experiences, its just that the underlying reasons are complex and hard to discover (neuroscience is getting there though). Planets and stars were once considered to be divine beings, and now we chuckle at the folk who once believed that. Lightning bolts, sickness, natural disasters were all once thought to be the actions of supernatural beings from supernatural realms... spiritual experiences probably will end the same way. The interpretations of our spiritual experiences simply point to a lack of understanding, not an inability to understand - I think that is the more reasonable assumption.

As Richard Carrier says: "Naturalism is the horse that's won a million races". Supernaturalism is the horse that's lost every race that has ever been finished. Why should we continue to place our bets on it?


This isn't just the logic of a few optical illusions, but of reality itself.

I'm curious to hear why you think so, I don't think its obvious or self-evident that reality is like your optical illusions at all.


Mutually-independent opposites ([self - other] [fate - freedom] [existence - nonexistence] [meaning - meaninglessness] ect) exists only conceptually and follow these rules.

Another example is a coin. There is either heads, or tails. You cannot have both, but at the same time, you cannot have one without the other. The appearance of heads both negates AND is dependent on tails. This apparent contradiction lies in the nature of the coin itself. Again, this structure is both heads, tails, and neither heads nor tails. In it's truth as a coin, it contains them all.

A lack of conceptual or linguistic tools to describe God means we can, at best, point towards him/it rather than capture God in language. So - a metaphor:

On the existence of God - first we must ask: what is existence? What is it's nature?

You cannot consider existence without considering non-existence. Upon close enough examination, I submit that one will find that these two opposites relate in the same way as my examples above. If existence itself is like heads, then non-existence is like tails - so what is the coin? This is where God can be found, imo.

Now, so what does this mean about simple statements of God's existence?

Does I believe "God" exists? - no

However this statement only works with the understanding of existence described above, so that one can still have a relationship with God or experience God, without having to put God into a box, either of Existence or Non-existence, which are concepts that are really dependent on our own minds.

No pun intended, but I can't really make heads or tails of most of this. It seems like the God-coin, despite which side is currently facing up, always and necessarily exists. So he wouldn't have the property of "non-existence", if indeed, one can actually even call that a property of something. I don't even think that makes much sense.

m00
12-20-2010, 01:36 PM
When a human looks at this image, their mind forces them to perceive either one cube or the other. You cannot see both cubes at once. This is because in order for one cube orientation to be seen, the other necessarily has to not be seen.

Not for me. I have to force myself to see one of the cubes or the other. Without any concentration, it just looks like a hexagon with some internal lines that create 4 trapezoids, 2 triangles, and a rectangle.

So be careful what you project to all humans.

And for the rabbit/duck thing, its perfectly possible to see both simultaneously.

CueSi
12-20-2010, 02:05 PM
Not for me. I have to force myself to see one of the cubes or the other. Without any concentration, it just looks like a hexagon with some internal lines that create 4 trapezoids, 2 triangles, and a rectangle.

So be careful what you project to all humans.

And for the rabbit/duck thing, its perfectly possible to see both simultaneously.

I saw both a flat and a 3-D cube and I saw both the rabbit and the duck simultaneously. . . After that my eyes hurt.

~QC

Wei Wu Wei
12-20-2010, 02:39 PM
Not for me. I have to force myself to see one of the cubes or the other. Without any concentration, it just looks like a hexagon with some internal lines that create 4 trapezoids, 2 triangles, and a rectangle.

So be careful what you project to all humans.

And for the rabbit/duck thing, its perfectly possible to see both simultaneously.

I should rephrase that, you either see one cube, the other, or just a set of lines and/or other shapes.

The point is that if you see one of the 3d cubes, you cannot see the other at the same time.

Other shapes are possible and no clear shape is possible but the two cubes are mutually independent, much like our mutually independent concepts like existence and so on.

m00
12-20-2010, 05:06 PM
The point is that if you see one of the 3d cubes, you cannot see the other at the same time.

Sure I can.