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"God does not exist"? Debating explicit Atheism and its implications

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by Laika, Feb 22, 2015.

  1. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I need a little help. I've been an Atheist most of my life and since I've been on RF I have realised how little I know about the argument for belief in god. I simply have not been exposed to religion that much beyond maybe as a kid in primary school.

    I am currently on the border between implicit Atheism (no belief in god) and explicit Atheism (believing there is no god). I would like to become an expicit atheist and know that for me at least I have put my mind at rest, but in order to do so I feel I have to at least examine the arguments and the possibility more deeply.

    For those who don't know, the difference between implicit atheism and explicit atheism is considerable. The New Atheists are implicit atheists in so far as they argue that atheism is an unreasonable position to hold based on scientific evidence and therefore have no belief in god. it therefore has similarities with agnosticism and is more a question of degrees. Most Atheists on this forum would appear to be implicit atheists.

    An explicit atheist goes much further and would argue that the non-existence of god is a scientific fact as did the Communists in the Soviet Union. In other words, in explicit atheism the burden of proof falls on the Atheist to prove "god does not exist". I've been sympathetic to the Communist position, but have felt deeply uncertian about it and some of it's implications.

    To some extent explicit atheism changes the very definition of proof- and its the latter than interests me since that has implications of free thought which I may or may not be familar or comfortable with. It also changes the definition of science as well. The ethical implications are also extreme as this is where problems of nihilism, relativism come in as god has historically been the source of objective ethics. I think we'll get to that eventually. Given the scope, I welcome contributions from both atheists, theists and agontiscs to see if this position really holds up to scruitiny.

    I don't know what the outcome will be and half expect to lose horribly, but I'm pretty certian it will be clear just how difficult such a position is to accept which I hope will be interesting to believers and non-believers alike. I'm comfortable holding an unpopular position, but I want to be sure it is right and exactly how I know it is right and where it's weaknesses are. I'm going to have to look up the finer points as a I go along, so yeah, I'm asking for trouble- here it goes.

    I am a dialectical materialist. I would therefore argue that God does not exist because consciousness is a property of matter and can therefore only be a property of the brain as an organ of thought. If God is a Consciousness that does not originate from matter, God cannot therefore be real and can only ever be the product of thought; man therefore created god.
    As a philosophy, Materialism is the basis of our understanding for the objective world in contrast to idealism. A Materialist position can therefore be considered to be 'real' as a reflection of that objective reality and therefore a scientific fact. (Edit: As there is no god, Man is the only source of ethics).
     
    #1 Laika, Feb 22, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2015
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  2. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I consider myself an agnostic when it comes to what I know, and an atheist when it comes to what I believe (except on Tuesdays, when I entertain the thought there might be a god).

    Maybe I'm being superficial, but I don't see even explicit atheism as necessitating a revision of the grounds for morality -- but that could be because I think those grounds are to be found in a combination of human nature, social, individual, and ecological need, reason, and observation. That is, they are to be found independent of deity anyway.
     
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  3. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    For all practical purposes, the relative non-existence of individualism combined with moral systems based on opprobrium took care of enforcing cultural norms, and for all philosophical/ethical/theological purposes god as a source of objective morality exists only so far as one believes Plato's Euthyphro dilemma is solved.
     
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  4. Willamena

    Willamena Just me
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    I am an existentialist and a non-dualist. My basis of understanding the world is truth, which is found in the correct thought. As our thoughts are descriptions of the world around us, an internal running dialog of the world, so to speak, truth is malleable (relative to the moment) and constructive--it grows as our information about the world grows. The correctness of a thought is its certainty, cast "out" to become the world.

    That "essence precedes existence" is the idea that what constitutes the world is fixed in place before we come to know it and describe it. This is the position of the empiricist, the scientist, and the realist, for example. Existence, in this sense, is integrally tied to the knowing of the world as true. On the other hand we have the idea that the knowing of the world as true is necessary before we, as people, can, with any accuracy or honesty, state that there is a world to know. This is "existence precedes essence." This is the position of the idealist, the psychologist, and the anti-realist, for example.

    In both cases, there exists the idea that, "there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it.*" For the scientist and the naturalist, for instance, this being is a self-constructed world that resides independent of our knowing about it. For the idealist it is man--specifically, consciousness or a mind. "Or, as Heidegger has it, the human reality.*"

    Both cases also imply a reality, and hence an unreality, to mind or the world, effectively being eliminative of one or the other. Existentialism bridges this idea with the certainty that thought--that is, all that exists--has no essential existence... hence, everything has the same existence: thought is as real and unreal as the world. "Self" is as real and unreal as it makes itself (it is, in essence, everything about the body and mind that we think). It is us "lying about" (telling ourselves there is an "us"). Existence just is, and it is just what it is, pulling itself up by its own bootstraps. Non-dualism also bridges the two, recognizing a "not two" by demonstrating that the divide of "one or the other" is the real problem. It practices being eliminative of that divide.

    * Existentialism is a Humanism, Jean-Paul Sarte 1946

    So where does the argument for explicit atheism fit into this picture? Man, as "self," is self-made (no god); god, as the foundation upon which existence without essence must rest, is also self-made. It is "the image of god" that we point at and address, argue about on forums, and invest belief in. Yes, Virginia, there is a god. Yes, I am the explicit atheist.
     
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  5. Robert.Evans

    Robert.Evans You will be assimilated; it is His Will.

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    The Consciousness of God does come about through a spiritual body however. So it would be matter before consciousness- that is the pattern we follow and is why everything is the way it is. You need to speak of the Existence that is before the concept and entity that we know as God. That is something that just exists. It may be considered aware just as a cell might be considered to be aware in one form or another, but not conscious. Do you not agree that ultimately there has to be something that just ''is''. Everything has to come from something, right?
     
  6. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    "Qu'est-ce que signifie ici que l'existence précède l'essence ? Cela signifie que l'homme existe d'abord, se rencontre, surgit dans le monde, et qu'il se définit après."
    ["What is it that is meant by the existence precedes the essence? It means firstly that man exists. He encounters himself, emerges within the world, and that later he defines himself."]


    Yet the author adds what you do not:
    "L'existentialisme athée, que je représente, est plus cohérent."

    [Existentialist atheism, that I represent [am a representative of], is consistent"]




    Sartre qualifies this with a conditional: si Dieu n'existe pas...

    ["if God doesn't exist..."]

    "Mais que voulons-nous dire par là, sinon que l'homme a une plus grande dignité que la pierre ou que la table ? Car nous voulons dire que l'homme existe d'abord...:

    ["But what do we wish to say by this, that man has greater dignity than stone or table? We wish to say that man exists primarily.."]
    Here I think a great part of Sartre's essay is in disagreement, as it begins with humanity, bereft of god and thus "il n'y a pas de nature humaine" ["there is no human nature"], and truly the self makes itself (or, rather, "rien n'existe préalablement à ce projet"), but we begin with humanity being primary and existing, as real, and the self may be absent but not unreal, I think (or rather I think that's what Sartre intends.
     
  7. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    That's very healthy. The best heretics must be heretical to their own beliefs. :D

    The problem is that there is a relationship between the arguments for the existence of god as an objective entity, and the existence of objective ethics. In a way they both represent a form of alienated consciousness, a dis-embodied 'idea' or 'principle' alienated from human control. In the same way God is a projection of man, our 'morals' are also a projection of our own social relationships.
    You're right in so far as explicit athiesm does not necessarily lead to a revision of the grounds for morality, but in the case of dialectical materialism there is. This is mainly an attempt to "invert" ethics from their alienated idea or principle back to it's material origin in socio-economic organisation. Therefore each society (the fancy Marxist terminology is 'mode of production' or 'socio-economic formation' which mean roughlyi the same thing) they have different ethical ideologies reflecting these different production relations. There are some constants as well, but they are not absolute.
     
  8. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I've dealth with the relationship between the existence of god and ethics in my previous post, but specifically the distinction is a product of liberal and secular thinking. Under Capitalism, you have a distinction between public and private life that does not necessarily follow in other systems (the public sphere is economic and political, whereas the private sphere is the family and domestic). this distinction leads to a distinction between public legal systems and private ethical systems of individuals. Such a distinction does not exist (to the best of my knowledge) in other societies and is rather unique to liberal forms of capitalism as certian moral beliefs are mandated as the dominant ideology with legal power- thereby erasing the public-private distinction from an absoute one set in law, to one of degrees of power and proximity to power.
     
  9. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Greased up & ready for action!
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    People variously try to prove there are or aren't gods. All fail by premises, reasoning or both. So we're left with our own opinions. I prefer to disbelieve in stuff which isn't in evidence. I could be wrong. Meh. You're doing the only thing I consider reasonable, holding opinions, & questioning them.
     
  10. Willamena

    Willamena Just me
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    Right.

    It wasn't my intent to draw on Sartre as representative of my ideas.
     
  11. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I think you're getting at the argument of the necessity for creation. Dialectical Materialism doesn't accept the need for creation, since it argues the universe is in self-motion based on it's internal contradictions. Therefore it does not require an external force to 'create' it. For philosophical reasons I would suggest a steady-state universe (or something similar) fits in better with this philosophy. This 'solves' the philosophical problems of creation in which matter exists before consciousness, but raises scientific ones regarding the conflict between a logically consistent position and how far it corresponds to scientific evidence.

    So yeah, I do agree that there has to be something that just "is", but I would say it is the universe as the source for matter, rather than god as the alienated consciousness of man.

    Thanks. this is intended more as an intellectual exercise to see what my position is, how it holds up to scrutiny and where I can take it. As I can't figure out all aspects of the idea for myself, I kind of need others to hold me to account and spot where the holes might be.
     
  12. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    der Öffentlichkeit? Or are you not referring to the concept/term as Habermas developed it (and if not Habermas, perhaps Tönnies' Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft distinction? I don't recall (but could be misremembering or just plain ignorant) Engels and Marx making such distinctions, nor Lenin.
    This is true to an extent. In antiquity, for example, the polis/city and oikos were deliberately and obviously modeled upon one another (the word for "home' in classical Greek is the etymological origin of the first part of "economics", which in Greek meant something like "home management"). This was true during the Roman republic and even more so the Roman empire, with the emperor as paterfamilias. But the problem with such comparisons is that individualism is a relatively new phenomenon. The "private sphere" even today does not exist in places where identity remains far more fundamentally based upon community. In such places, the public/private distinction breaks down entirely, as it does for most civilizations throughout history. Also, because such places have strong cultural norms and opprobrium-based moral enforcement of these, there is instead of a public law vs. private ethic distinction a public law vs. communal ethic distinction.
     
  13. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I think there is a mismatch between these two understandings of explicit atheism. The first is self-justifying: anyone is entitled to simply believe that there are no deities. The second is a bit pointless IMO, for it attempts to deny a concept that is so vaguely defined as to be perhaps completely arbitrary. Is there anything at all that can not be called a God?


    Perhaps historically, but the way I see it the ethical implications are between vestigial and non-existent. As plenty of facts evidence, god has only marginal, non-essential role in ethics.

    Ethics are actually sustained by personal discernment and cared for by the biological and social sciences. Religion, at its best, is useful to spread and encourage it.




    ... far as anyone can honestly tell at the current time. I don't see any benefit in attempting to gloss over that part.



    Would "There is no convincing evidence nor argument that any God exists, nor that a consciousness with no necessary material basis exists, nor that such a hypothetical counsciousness would be inherently worth of religious attention for any reason. Therefore, for all practical purposes we can and should treat god as a humanly created concept until some extraordinary evidence to the contrary presents itself." be good enough for you?


    I would go with Ockham's razor myself, but it seems fair enough as it is.
     
  14. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I left this till a bit later as it's bigger.

    I am a dialectical materialist which is a form of Marxism (specifically dealing with the philosophy of nature). Materialism is monist and is therefore a "worldview" so it's philosophy permeates itself as an ideological understanding of reality. It is technically a 'dogma' as dialectics and materialism acts as underlying assumptions of how the world 'really' is. This therefore means that the need for logical consistency takes a certain precedence, but someone who is intellectually honest has to incorporate new ideas into this philosophical system.

    Truth in Marxism is based on the assumptions of ideology; that is the our ideas ultimately contain a subjective element which reflects socio-economic organisation and 'class interest'. disproving the existence of god is necessary in marxism primarily to eliminate the belief in 'god' because the implication is that systems like capitalism are the 'natural' order. Marxism therefore uses the 'idealist' school because it is a product of hegellianism. Even though it considers itself 'materialist', it retains this element of idealism in it's concept of 'ideology'. So in Marxism, Truth is not demonstrated passively, but actively by using and applying ideas in practice, but this only happens after you accept it's basic assumptions; dialectics and materialism.


    The Marxist conception of ideology leads to the conception of reality. ideology contains two elements; a qualtitative element which reflects socio-economic organisation, and a quantitative element, which reflects the development of the "productive forces" (science, technology and economic processes). These two elements as the source of man's understanding. However, because it is an 'ideology' it therefore does not automatically correspond to the objective world; truth is always approximate and partial.

    There is a debate in Marxism as to whether Marxism itself is an ideology or a 'science'. I used to think it was just another ideology- a philosophical perspective, but I've started to side with the 'scientific' argument, as in order for a socialist society to work, it is necessary to have 'truth' ideas on which to consciously master human social relations. So there is an element of unreality in the subjective content of an 'ideology' and it's capacity for illusion (such as the belief in god) whilst also being 'real' in terms of the degree to which our ideas reflect the objective world.

    This doesn't sound like a direct response to your statement above, but I think it covers the issues you're addressing. My apologies as I haven't read your link, but will have to get round to it sometime. Sartre did synthesis Marxism and Existentialism, so it will be intresting to read.

    Hurrah! another (explicit) atheist!

    God is the image of our limitations. It is not as simple as saying our 'ignorance' as in the god of the gaps because it is also our powerlessness. So the origins of religion are in man's powerlessness to control his own destiny and is the projection of our powerlessness by the forces of nature and society. Society is in Marxism considered 'natural' forces because Marxism rejects the dualistic assumption that man is someone how special because he has consciousness. By consciously mastering his own social organisation through a communist system based on economic planning, man no longer is hindered by his powerlessness and therefore is 'free'. The issue of ignorance remains to be solved over time, but it is within a Marxist ideology in which the existence of god has been ruled out.
     
  15. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    A teeny tiny suggestion.

    You might want to be more precise with what you mean by "god." Not all gods are the sort of supernaturalistic, transcendent stuff you seem to be assuming in the OP. Tell us what you believe "god" to mean first, and then we can tell you how to be atheistic with respect to that god-concept. Telling us how you use the word "real" might not be a bad call either, though that's somewhat covered in the OP.
     
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  16. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I don't know the exact terminology. what I do know was that Marx, Engels and Lenin were all supporters of secularism, but the distinction between the public and private got eroded under Stalin (particuarly with the league of the militant godless). Within the Communist party itself there was no distinction between public politics and private beliefs; they were expected to be atheists. In society at large the distinction remained- but the two were in conflict with one another as the atheist state launched several anti-religious campigns. The notion of 'freedom of religion' and 'secularism' meant something rather "dialectical" and self-contradictory in practice.

    Thanks for that. That's something I hadn't thought of. :)
     
  17. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    point taken- as the definitions do matter.

    In some ways I'm using the idea of a monothestic 'god' as a blanket term to cover virtually all supernatural phenemena as a form of alienated consciousness (that is consciousness without attributable cause originating from a brain and therefore matter i.e. philosophical idealism). The issue with explicit atheism is that it is not simply a rejection of one religious tradition but all of them.

    'Real' is a tricky one as Marxism uses the concept of ideology so ideas do not exactly correspond to the things they are describing. There is objective reality independent of the mind, and our conception of reality in the mind. The purpose of Marxism is therefore to argue that the "religious" or "idealist" conception of reality is an illusionary conception of reality in so far as it does not correspond to what is assumed to be real in philosophical materialism.

    No. I think I'd need to go futher and say that god is an illusion, has always been and illusion and most importantly, will always been an illusion. Asserting that materialism is a true reflection of reality, even if it is an approximation, must necessarily rule out the possibility of a deity.
     
  18. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Oh, is that so? I don't think the memo was distributed quite widely enough then. :)

    Fair enough... as long as you prepare yourself to deal with the fact that deities can be and will be defined in ways that are neither troubling for an atheist nor truly possible to disprove in a meaningful way. Instead, it is necessary to just (legitimaly) decree that you don't care for using them.
     
  19. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    It's entirely fair to define which god-concepts you're rejecting on your own terms. I'd be aware that pretty much anything and everything you can name is considered a deity by some theological position. It's why I feel it is very important to be specific about which understanding of god(s) one is taking issue with. IMHO, a better way of framing what you believe here would be that you reject any and all supernatural agency. Or, even better, to frame yourself in terms of what you believe rather than what you do not; define yourself in the positive rather than in the negative.

    I'm a little confused. Weren't we talking about theisms, not religions?

    If you aim to reject all theisms, that... well... it gets tricky. Doing this necessitates framing theisms by your understanding of it and ignoring or rejecting how other people understand it. As I said, there is nothing in this world or the otherworlds that someone doesn't consider worthy of worship, or a god. You'll have to ignore that, or you get really strange things going on like denying the existence of someone's genetic ancestors, denying the existence of the sun, or even denying the existence of the entire universe.
    This kind of goes back to the thing I said earlier about how it is better to define yourself in the positive. :sweat:
     
  20. George-ananda

    George-ananda Advaita Vedanta and Spiritualist and Pantheist
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    You seem like you like to think...You also seem to framing the world in western ways.......making your choices things like Dualistic Theism, Implicit Atheism, Explicit Atheism, ..... Do you consider the answer could be 'none of the above' in that list? That's my current opinion.

    I personally have found non-dualism (God and creation are not-two) the most intelligent position. But it took me some time to really understand it.
     
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