The Ten Commandments, which are common to these two religions, have two "tables," the first of which (commandments 1 - 5) defines the relations between God and man and the second of which defines the relations between men (6 - 10). The very first commandment is "thou shalt have no other gods before me. The next proscription is against idolatry, which basically amounts to a worship of things that are seen, or the creation itself, which in KJV language is as follows: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." In other words, belief in God is everything while belief (in the sense of worship) in anything else is all idolatry.
Thus, the logic of a monothestic religion of this type is that there is one true God and every other purported deity is a mere figment of man's imagination, hence an idol (the very word "idol" derives from a Greek root from which the Greek word "to see" comes from - even the word "idea" comes from a Greek word originally meaning "to see with the mind") and hence not real.
The logic of this piece holds if we proceed from an atheistic baseline, which takes the opposite view that only that which is material is real and all purported deities are only figments of man's imagination. If you assume that premise, then it is true that my belief in one deity and rejection of the 529 that others have believed in is not materially different from your rejection of all 530 of them (or whatever the number).
But this logic falls apart if one assumes there is one true deity (infinite creator and providential overseer of a creation from which the deity is above and apart) and all the rest of the purported deities are simply products of the mind and hence not real or true. In that case, the person who believes in the true deity can consistently say that he as a theist believes in the true one while rejecting all the false ones while the person who denies all of them includes in that denial the one true deity and hence is an atheist.
I know this is not the forum to get into religious debates but, if my summary of the logic is wrong, I invite others to explain why. Note that I am not assuming here that any religious point of view is true. I am merely taking that view on its own logic and explaining why it makes perfect sense for someone with that belief to say that he is a theist while one who is not a believer is an atheist. If the premise of one true God is true, it is utterly irrelevant to say that man has concocted a billion fake ones such that we are all atheists in denying them.
In other words, from the theistic perspective, the question is whether there is indeed a true deity of whatever type. If so, that is pretty important. If not, then obviously it is not. (Disclaimer: I am a believer and, indeed, a deacon in my church - but I am not making my points from a religious perspective, merely a logical one).
Edit (concerning the several replies): I invited you to engage the logic of my argument and you certainly did! My post is probably beside the point if all the original piece did was depict a way of steering away from a religious discussion that begins "How can you not believe in God?" or if it was merely a technique for getting a believer to understand the viewpoint of one who does not believe in a particular deity or in any at all. I don't think I was trying to exalt the theistic point of view or to denigrate those who don't accept it - merely trying to say what follows from accepting its premises. Got to rush now because I have to prepare to teach a Bible study tonight (really). Thanks for the fine comments - very stimulating.
The original statement in it's logic form is this: You believe in 530 gods, I believe in 529 gods. 530 minus 529 is 1, so we agree on not believing in most of the gods.
That's it. Nothing more to it. And assuming the date didn't secretly worship Zeus it's true. It's simply a way of dismissing the subject, knowing that a discussion between an atheist and a true believer is bound to end in an argument. Especially on a first date.
Instead of taking this for what it is there seems to be the need for an elaborate explanation of why there is a god and why that god is the one you happen to believe in. And the whole explanation is based on the premise of Christianity which the other part doesn't believe in.
Please don't take this as a personal attack - it's not in any way meant as one, but it's an interesting discussion.
Why? Why the double standards? We both find belief in Zeus ridiculous. What's fundamentally different about the Christian God in 2000 AD and the Greek God in 0AD? What statement can you make that is valid for the Christian God but is plainly ridiculous when you replace the word "God" with the word "Zeus"?
I am not arguing that the Christian God is more logical than Zeus. But be careful to bring it up on date if you don't want to end up in an argument like this one. Respect the religious beliefs of other people because they are important for them.
This looks to be a matter of definition of "atheist". (Or "theist", for that matter.)
Is an atheist one who does not believe the claims of the existence of deities? Or one who does not believe in the existence of what is in fact a deity?
"But this logic falls apart if one assumes there is one true deity ..." Isn't this just begging the question? By the same reasoning, if we posit that there are no deities, then no atheist is an atheist because they are not, in fact, disbelieving regarding any actual deities.
"In other words, from the theistic perspective, the question is whether there is indeed a true deity of whatever type. If so, that is pretty important. If not, then obviously it is not."
Well, that's the whole matter right there; it's pretty important whether you are a theist or an atheist, because that's part of what's under question. (More broadly, the question is whether there are any deities; there being but one is sort of a variation on that.)
If, for example, God were proven to exist then the definition of an Atheist would not change. However the people who were Atheists would absolutely change - myself for one :) because many current Atheists are also rationalists.
I like the argument for a number of reasons:
- It beg's the question "Why do I reject those other 529 gods?" Generally there is no good answer for this other than being indoctrinated at a young age. You realize that you believe what you believe because of the circumstances in which you were born. This leads to the conclusion that the religion you follow has more to do with where you live than what is "correct". (Noting that there are plenty of exceptions to this).
- It drives home the point that humanity has been creating gods for thousands of years. Most of those gods have likely been created before your god had even first been mentioned. Any rational person would ask why did humanity move past those gods? You can never disprove the existence of a god, so what happened? Ideally, you realize that religion is much like any trend, just with longer than average turn around.
- If you follow the trend of gods, you realize that humanity has been generally moving away from polytheism towards monotheism. This makes you wonder why and conclude that it is tightly correlated to (and arguably directly caused by) humanity's understanding of the universe. As we understand more about everything, we don't need gods to fill in these gaps of knowledge. For instance, we understand why the Sun rises or lightning strikes. As humanity has progressed, one by one we killed the need for Roman and Greek gods. This leads you to wonder what role a monotheistic god fills and realize that the god is generally used to bring understanding to things we don't understand and reason to things we can't control. This is hardly a rational reason for a figment that "solves" all unsolved problems.
In short, I like the "(n-1) vs n gods" argument because when you think through everything implied by it, a rational being has no choice but to conclude that in all likelihood the religion they follow is not correct. Unfortunately, emotion plays a huge role in religion, making rational thought difficult. On a personal note, I was a theist for 20 years, backed by 12 years of formal study in my religion. Making the mental shift to realizing everything I'd believed was wrong was difficult to say the least, but years later my life is all the better for it.
No, it's a fallacy. There is an absolutely enormous number of possible humans that could exist, but don't. A presumably finite, but enormous number. Neither of us believe they exist. I also don't believe in your existence (for the sake of argument), but you do. The difference is, you don't believe in 10^1000-1 humans, but I don't believe in 10^1000 humans.
No amount of stacking up non-existent things proves anything about any given thing, up to and including whether or not that thing exists.
Incidentally, this doesn't address any of your other arguments, which aren't really "in support of 'the (n-1) gods' argument" so much as their own independent, free-standing points. I just want to point out the (n-1) argument is a rhetorical device, not an actual argument of any merit. Perhaps "good rhetorical device" is all you meant by "sound", that would fit with the rest of your message, but I do prefer to reserve the word for its actual logical meaning; if we give that up we don't really have a replacement.
- It beg's the question "Why do I reject those other 529 gods?"
I reject the others specficially because I accept Christianity. I can neither prove my religion nor disprove (most) of the others, yet by accepting mine I must reject all others. I acknowledge I do this as a leap of faith, but that is different from being indoctrinated at a young age. I will agree with your over all point that most people just believe whatever they are told at a young age, but the more thoughtful people of any religion will often be able to bring forth real arguments for it. This of course is not proof, and many of these arguments involve sometimes personal experiences, but that is still very different from no good answer other than indoctrination.
Most of those gods have likely been created before your god had even first been mentioned.
Many religions will disagree with this. Literalists amoungst Christians and Jews, for instance, will beleive that God was known about since Adam with an unbroken chain of believers. The reasonable literalists will agree that God was first written about late in history, but that is different.
To those people, society did not move past older deities so much as some branched off to false religions and then some of those false religions faded away.
(I am not a literalist, but it is an alternate explanation)
If you follow the trend of gods, you realize that humanity has been generally moving away from polytheism towards monotheism.
True as a general rule, but first note that some polytheistic religions are still around, even in relatively highly educated populaces. Second, note that an alternate explanation is that God is trying to subtly guide humanity to the truth and moving to monotheism is man's response to this guidance. I am again not saying I personally believe this, but that is provides a different explanation.
You make excellent arguments which I respect, but there are other explanations for everything you bring up and I do not think they would provide much weight to someone who already believed one way or another.
[edit: fixed an omitted "not"]
But that does not explain people who switch religions later in life.
For myself, I decided that I could not be atheist after encountering spirits. My encounters with spirits disproved atheism for me, instead I am currently a Christian because that is the only religion that is able to accurately describe my spiritual encounters. Atheism as a worldview denies that spirits exist, therefore in my mind it can not possibly be accurate.
-If God is not real, how can we explain the existence of so many counterfeits?
-Most of the 529 gods that theists or Christians reject, for historical, scientific, and philosophical reasons, do not have a sound or rational basis for belief, such as Zeus or Thor.
-Many Christians are familiar with the competing claims of other religions, even as espoused by those faiths' most well-reasoned and ardent adherents, and yet still reject them.
Is this not the perfect example of begging the question? In order to be a counterfeit for God, a non-counterfeit God would have to exist.
Most of the 529 gods that theists or Christians reject, for historical, scientific, and philosophical reasons, do not have a sound or rational basis for belief, such as Zeus or Thor.
I realize that Christians believe they have a sound and rational basis for belief and believe that other religions do not, but I don't believe that has been demonstrated, and it would need to be.
Many Christians are familiar with the competing claims of other religions, even as espoused by those faiths' most well-reasoned and ardent adherents, and yet still reject them.
And vice versa.
"HOW can you not believe in God? I can't imagine life without believing in God!"
"Well millions of people used to not be able to imagine life without believing in Zeus et al, and you don't believe in them."
It reminds them that there isn't even a consensus within theists over which god is the right one, and it's a way to diffuse the issue.
Seems to me you agree with the article. You say 529 gods of history don't exist, 1 does. We say the exact same thing you do, just about all gods. Look how easy it is to make your quote sound atheistic: "Every purported deity is a mere figment of man's imagination"
> But this logic falls apart if one assumes there is one true deity
I'd argue that is where the problem lies. Because currently and as far as I am aware the Atheist viewpoint and the Theist viewpoint is equally legitimate and, at some specific point, not empirically provable either way. i.e. the existence of God is purely a belief/non-belief thing (I touched on this in another comment).
From a logical/rational viewpoint the Atheist and the Theist hold disparaging views regarding the Theists god (existence/non-existence). However, they hold essentially the same view r.e. other gods. Because the Theists God cannot be empirically proven the Atheist/Theist view is equally valid - they are equal.
In a case where God is either empirically proven to exist or not exist you are right; the argument breaks down. To my knowledge this situation does not currently exist.
Short version: your argument works perfectly. But if God empirically doesn't exist then the logic is flawed in the same way. From the unproven ground the logic is sound.
Just because something hasn't been proven to be false it doesn't mean it's true. It hasn't been decisively proven that the Earth wasn't sneezed out of the nose of a giant space-goat, but that doesn't mean that the goat-sneezing theory should be equally valid to other theories which have more empirical evidence to their name.
I have never seen any empirical evidence for the existence of a god, and thus it doesn't seem like a valid theory.
Also, from a personal perspective, I would say that the weighting is clearly in favour of non-existence. However from a religious perspective it is the other way.
That, ultimately, is the source of all disagreement over religion. How do you find a common measurements of truth/non-truth when your "markers" are entirely different.
Which is invalid? Who judges?
(the answer, I feel is that society judges - and currently we are in transition from pro-theist to pro-atheist, but it will be a long transition)
It makes little comment on whether the views are equal (that was a side issue Mixmax brought up). It is pointing out how the GP's logic is flawed!
Their word that properly meant "I have seen" was "(w)idon"; the wid- root comes into English as wit/witty, and via Latin as video and visual.
To address your point, I agree with your general claim that there's no logical inconsistency in a monotheistic view by itself. Suffice to say that the matter has been discussed so much that if there was a conclusive 'proof' against it, we wouldn't be having this discussion at all.
However, the argument against theism presented here is pretty effective against a standard, simplistic argument of religion which is basically 'how can something believed by so many people possibly be wrong' (which is how I interpret 'How can you not believe in God'). Holding up the multitude of religions, past and present, is a pretty good rebuttal.
Not an inconsistency, but a good argument.
Well put, Derek. Me too.
We will spend months stressing about a job or a start-up, which might affect our lives for the subsequent year or two or three, and no more than a few hours here and there really digging into what evidence exists to support an atheist or religious perspective. It's a cycle that sadly continues - 200 years ago everyone was Christian so people defaulted to it. Now, the trendy thing for "intellectuals" is atheism, and so many jump in without a thought (this continues to hold for both sides, as exemplified in the article).
When deciding which direction to take with a start-up we do hours and hours of customer interviews, site visits, market research, brainstorming, reading, and even self-reflection. The same, and more, should be done for religion (e.g., check out a church, speak in a truly unbiased fashion with ardent believers and non-believers alike, grab 20 minutes of a pastors time who has probably dedicated his life to talking to people like us, etc).
There is no topic that gets less thought relative to its importance.
Disagreed (and I can find you multiple believers/non-believers who will agree with me).
In many ways it's irrelevant - your life choice to make whichever way you choose (with in depth research or knee jerk reaction). There are lots of other diverting things to spend your time on.
It's a cycle that sadly continues - 200 years ago everyone was Christian so people defaulted to it. Now, the trendy thing for "intellectuals" is atheism, and so many jump in without a thought
I feel that's a bit disingenuous - 200 years ago to hold a different religious belief was risking your life.
grab 20 minutes of a pastors time who has probably dedicated his life to talking to people like us
Oh. man no. Religious organisations are designed to self propagate. A pastor is essentially a salesman for the religion. Hear what he/she has to say but treat it with a large dose of salt.
Ultimately religious belief is (or should be) an individual thing.
Your statement that "religious belief should be an individual thing" is exactly the mindset that I am trying to address. The existence of a God is fact, or not fact. It's either true for everyone, or false for everyone. Saying something is "individual" is healthy only to the point that it does not stop you from actually researching it, and many times the best learning is done in collaboration and reviewing the work of others.
That's the point I am disagreeing with though.
The problem with God is that there is no way we can consider it as a Fact or Non-Fact. There is currently no objective reality of God's existence - so there is no element of fact or non-fact in it (interesting side note: if we all unequivocally believe in God how would that affect things - philosophical question for those so inclined :)).
An individuals opinion of God is really Faith or Non-Faith (do you believe it may be a provable Fact or may not be a proveable Fact); and that is what I feel is the personal choice - even if someone just shrugs shoulders and says "yeh, there must be a god" we have to respect that. Period.
(another side point: my problem with religion is, simply, that it tries to influence that decision, making it out to be the most important decision of your life...)
The same can be said for unicorns and garden gnomes. Except that an overwhelming majority of people consider it a Fact that those creatures don't exist.
if you can make someone believe anything (e.g. there's this god with x,y,z attributes), you can make them do anything.
Now of course, whether or not we can determine the truth of that statement is another question entirely. I certainly am not aware of any way of proving it either way in this life, and indeed the evidence I am aware of (in either direction) is highly ambigious. And of course, even if you decide you personally beleive there is a God (or a multitude of them) that does not indicate which (if any!) of the currently available religions is closest to correct.
I arrived at my decision to believe in Christianity by a leap of faith. I think there is some evidence I can bring to bear to support it, but I am the first to admit that it would not stand up in most courts of law much less in the arena of science. I believe it because on an intuitive emotional level, it seems right.
Thus, I try to respect all religious beliefs. I cannot prove my beliefs are correct. I cannot disprove someone else's beliefs (excluding a very few fringe groups that make provably false claims, and even then it is those specific claims not the religion as a whole I could disprove).
But, while my belief in God is a personal thing, the existence or nonexistence of God is a fact. We may not be able to answer the question in this mortal life, but it is still either true or false.
But there is no way to "research" the existence or non-existence of God. It's entirely a matter of faith, which I either have, or do not - that's why it is an individual matter.
The existence of God is both fact and not fact, until you look in the box.
I'm from one of the most atheist countries in the world, and to tell you the truth I don't think I've ever had a serious conversation with friends or family discussing whether God (or a god) exists. To us it would be like having a serious discussion about whether or not the tooth fairy existed. We just don't really care, and think the whole discussion would be kind of silly if it wasn't for all the wars fought in the name of various religions.
No amount of investigation into god/religion is going to prove the existence of a god. Once someone reaches this realization and at the same time still lacks faith, I see no reason to go any further if they aren't inclined. There's finite time and only so much people can do with it. I don't see why god/religion should be any more deserving of this time than anything else.
I don't think it is the 'trendy' thing at all, it is just that when you think this stuff over and you weigh the evidence someone that is intellectually oriented will probably come down on the atheist side of the line.
Trends have nothing to do with it, at least atheists are no longer burned at the stake. But in plenty of countries it's probably safer to have the wrong religion than no religion at all.
That's why you end up with great scientific minds being reduced to things like Pascals Gambit. While Pascal did enter into an interesting piece of game theory, the substance requires very little thought (if your not going to believe in god, you better be right sort of thing).
Not really. The real life-impacting decision is choosing whether to live for yourself and by your own moral code, or blindly following someone else's.
re: pastors, barber called, time for a hair cut...
That's not really an a accurate statement. What a person believes doesn't determine what is relevant in this case. What does determine what is relevant is what the truth about God actually is.
If God does exist, and if the Bible accurately describes His interactions with and expectations of man, then not believing He exists has ramifications that will affect you for all of eternity!
If God truly does not exist, then you might be able to argue that it is irrelevant whether you believe in Him or not. But even in that case, it depends on how the belief in a false deity affects the believer. Does their belief in a false deity guide how they make important decisions in life? If so, then even belief in a false deity is totally relevant.
How, exactly? The former involves actual data points and hard evidence by which you can understand what is probabilistically true. In talking to a religious figure, you're just getting someone's opinion on what he believes. That method of 'research' cannot possibly help someone understand what is true in reality.
There might be a god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.
If the religious perspective if based on faith, how or why would one dig for evidence?
"Why don't you have any children?. This seems strange to me."
"Well, there are billions of children in the world that are not yours, I just have one less than you. We're basically the same."
The difference between having no children and one child is big. So is the difference between believing in no gods, and one God.
I think the original argument is useful to point out that there are billions of people who don't believe in your particular God, and that it isn't that strange to not believe.
Your analogy isn't equivalent in that way. Thinking through why you don't believe in Thor might help you reveal a double-standard or inconsistency. Thinking through why you didn't -- what? -- give birth to all the other children in the world is nonsensical.
However, the article specifically says “So, I guess we're not compatible, huh?”, meaning that we can't get along because we are different. And the response to that is “Of course we are! I like you a lot. And we do agree on 519 of the gods, so we'll just not mention that last one.” My response is that zero to one is a big jump. Darek seems to be a "lets all get along" kind of guy, and that is great, but this quote doesn't justify that.
Not if the reasoning you use to rule out the other 519 gods is "exclusivity of god #520". Or if the reasoning is "I haven't explicitly ruled them out, I just don't have any positive evidence for their existence, but I do for #520".
It's certainly worth thinking about whether your reasoning for whatever god(s) you believe in is consistent. The original argument sort of touches on that, but it does it quite poorly.
A similar argument can be used with Jeffrey Dahmer and murder, various priests and child molestation, Kobe Bryant and defeating people in a 1-on-1 basketball game, or Fred Phelps and funerals protested.
There is a big difference between no children and one, no murders and one, no gods and one, no felonies and one, and so on.
Im not sure that takes into account the fact that belief in one particular God (or set of gods) usually precludes belief in all the others.
In that respect belief/non-belief is not very different.
"Why don't you believe the sun is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium?" "Well, there have been hundreds of theories of what the sun might be composed of; giant birds, fire, holes in the sky... I just believe one less than you do"
That analogy still only works if there's some particularly good reason for believing that one God is significantly more likely to exist than any other.
* Sunday/Domingo - Sun/?
* Monday/Lunes - Moon/Luna
* Tuesday/Martes - ?/Mars
* Wednesday/Miercoles - ?/Mercurio
* Thursday/Jueves - Thor/Jupiter
* Friday/Viernes - ?/Venus
* Saturday/Sabado - Saturn/?
(translations based on word roots)
Monday - ponedelnik - "after no work"
Tuesday - vtornik - "second"
Wednesday - sryada - "middle"
Thursday - chetvurtuk - "fourth"
Friday - petuk - "fifth"
Saturday - subota - from Sabath
Sunday - Nedelia - "no work"
I always thought of "niedziela" as coming from "nie dzielić" / "не делить" / "no dividing/separating", though it doesn't really make sense as name for the day.
So they have:
* Domingo – Sunday
* Segunda-feira – Monday
* Terça-feira – Tuesday
* Quarta-feira – Wednesday
* Quinta-feira – Thursday
* Sexta-feira – Friday
* Sábado – Saturday
* Monday -> Δευτέρα ("second")
* Tuesday -> Τρίτη("third")
* Wednesday -> Τετάρτη ("fourth")
* Thursday -> Πέμπτη ("fifth")
* Friday -> Παρασκευή ("preperation")
* Saturday -> Σάββατο ("sabbath")
* Sunday -> Κυριακή ("of the lord)
The english names are of germanic/norse descent, again mostly names of gods.
Sabado is based on sabbath
Lunes -> Luna -> Moon
Tuesday -> Martes -> Marte (Mars)
Miercoles -> Mercurio (Mercury)
Jueves -> Jove -> Jupiter
Viernes -> Venus
Sabado -> Sabbath
I was always curious about the Friday -> "gold" day -> payday link, but I guess this was a total coincidence. The actual derivation seems to be Friday <- Venus's day -> gold planet's day.
Other parts of the same site are devoted to the European, Chinese, and Vietnamese day name origins:
Friday = Freyja Norse god more or less equivalent to Venus.
Wednesday = Norse god Woden more commonly known in the US with out the W aka Oden.
* Domenica (From Latin: dies dominicus -> Lord's day)
* Lunedì (Luna -> Moon)
* Martedì (Marte -> Mars)
* Mercoledì (Mercurio -> Mercury)
* Giovedì (Giove -> Jupiter)
* Venerdì (Venere -> Venus)
* Sabato (Sabbath)
Monday = Måndag = Månes dag (Máni's day) - Måne, the brother of Sol. "måne" is also Swedish for "moon"
Tuesday = Tisdag = Tyrs dag (Týr's day, son of Oden)
Wednesday = Onsdag = Odens dag (Oden's day)
Thursday = Torsdag = Tors dag (Thor's day)
Friday = Fredag = Frejas dag (Freyja's day) - some say this day is named after Frigg, and some Norse history seem to indicate that Freyja and Frigg are one and the same goddess that somehow got separated as two in literature
Saturday = Lördag = lögardagen, from old, old Swedish "laugr" (water/waterfall), the day on which you bathe
Sunday = Söndag = Sols dag (Sól's day) - "sol" is Swedish for "sun"
Monday: mánudagur = moon day
Tuesday: þriðjudagur = 3rd day
Wednesday: miðvikudagur = mid-week day
Thursday: fimmtudagur = 5th day
Friday: föstudagur = fasting day
Saturday: laugardagur = washing day
Sunday: sunnudagur = sun day
The idea that “we believe in 519 out of 520 Gods” means anything shows a fundamental misunderstanding of religion. You may not like the beliefs of some religious people but the point of religion is the beliefs. It’s not that a God created the world it’s that a benevolent God created the world and left teachings which lead to benevolence.
On that note I’d point out that he’s wrong about learning something too. The web is a wonderful place and you can go out and learn things but the problem with the Web as opposed to a person is the web doesn’t challenge your beliefs. He took the most superficial point imaginable out of a serious conversation and pursued it. So while he learned something useless he missed the much deeper contradiction in the statement he was so enamored with.
I'm confused. Are you saying that the second part can be true without the first part being true?
The beauty of it is that the religious conversation didn't matter too much - it was just that the clever rhetoric device (the Norse gods) was the avenue to a wealth of information. It is there for the taking but never actively taught.
So, the point is that you can pick up any passing point of interest and satisfy your craving for it like never before. Then half an hour later move on to something else.
And you will still have those Norse gods/weekdays lined up as a party trick...
This argument comes from Dawkins book The God Delusion. It's clever, but also kind of dumb. Trying to discredit contemporary religion based on what people believed 2,500 years ago is like trying to discredit science based on alchemy.
The former of these (which I do not personally hold) is a more sophisticated and plausible than the existence of Thor, while the latter is pretty much on exactly the same level.
Whereas oftentimes they're actually using the same methodology, techniques, and textbooks that you'd find in the neuroscience/physics/philosophy departments, and publishing in the same academic journals. C.f. http://csp.org/psilocybin/
Well, yes. Scientists around the world agree that every scientific topic should be debunked. The ones that are left -- the ones that survive an attempt at debunking -- should be taken as fact, presumably until they are debunked and replaced with something more valid.
> If you asked someone at the Harvard divinity school what the most compelling arguments in favor of religion were today, they'd probably talk about Thor ... -- not at all
Sure, because choosing what to believe in, without a scientific basis, is essentially fashion. And believe me -- Thor is _way_ out of fashion.
This is exactly the same as what many modern religious thinkers would say, which was my original point-- that debunking old dogma doesn't do anything to disprove the 'cutting edge' of religious thought.
edit: Whatever, if you read my archive you'll see I'm probably the most atheist atheist on HN, but at least I'm willing to be intellectually honest and give the other side a fair shake.
Saying we "agree on 519 of 520 and disagree on 1" is a non-statement. The first person's belief in that 1 by definition precludes his belief in the other 519.
The point of the argument is to challenge people to question whether the existence of their god is any more plausible than any of the other thousands of deities whose existence has been postulated.
It works well against Christians or anyone else whose god has specific and well-defined properties. It doesn't work against deists since their "god" is sufficiently poorly-defined to be more plausible than Thor.
No it doesn't.
It amazes me how often I hear Christians say "this argument works well against atheists" and then make an utterly stupid argument that none of the atheists I know would take seriously. This strikes me as much the same -- it's an argument that atheists think should work well against Christians, but that most Christians will think is stupid and misses the point.
Contemporary thinkers might argue that god is well-defined, but ineffable.
I think what you are saying is that a Christian (for example) would say, "of course I don't believe in other god X, because I'm not allowed to". The 519 of 520 argument depends on whether the monotheist can also reject those other gods on their own merits.
You seem to shrug off "what people believed 2,500 years ago" as, perhaps, silly or illogical and then chasten someone for doing the same to current religion :)
The Jews adopted that even tho the Egyptians reverted relatively quickly to multiple gods under King Tut. Mostly because the priests of all the various gods that had been shut down wanted power back.
From Judaism, monotheism spread to Christianity and Islam and some might say in some minor form to some variants of eastern religions/philosophies.
There's only speculation, nothing really concrete (at least not that I've ever found.)
Judaism does directly reference several Egyptian concepts. Both Genesis 1 and the plagues in Exodus draw heavily on the Egyptian pantheon (in a negative way -- explicitly rejecting Egyptian gods, calling them weak or stating that they are mere created objects.) But I don't know of anything that links Jewish monotheism to Egyptian monotheism.
To answer your point - the answer is yes, and no.
Ultimately it is next to impossible to be sure (assuming we can take the critical rather than the religious view of the history) when/where/how Judaism appeared.
At the time pretty much every country had their own God or gods and considered them superior to the others (though, ironically, appear to have been accepting of the other gods - just considered them inferior). General thinking simply says that at that time one particular country believed in one God - they were imprisoned for the Babylonians for a long while but the religion survived very devoutly.
I'm not sure what the common thinking is about why Judaism survived beyond that and grew to be so important.
Then, yes, Judaism influenced or started pretty much all of the modern religions.
EDIT: I find the birth of religions a fascinating subject, but I'm still churning through the birth/development of Christianity so not back to Judaism yet. All my knowledge above comes from a wonderful book called "A Little History of the World" which touches on the subject briefly.
If by 'all the modern religions,' you just mean the 'big 3.' [namely: Christianity, Islam, Judaism] I've never seen claims that any of the 'Eastern' religions were influenced by Judaism.
There's also virtually no evidence that Jewish monotheism was influenced by Atenism, the Egyptian monotheism founded by Akhenaten. It's a fun theory but not one that most scholars give credence to.
Modern Judaism is distinctly different than what was practiced two millenia ago.
The reason it's not practiced today is 'just' because the decree also states that you have to perform the sacrifice at the great temple on temple mount. That poses a technical problem, since:
1. The temple was destroyed 2k years back, and there's a pretty famous mosque standing in its place.
2. Religious jews have to do a special kind of purification in order to even be on temple mount, and this purification is impossible at the moment, again for weird technical reasons (they need a red cow, don't ask).
BUT, if there was a temple, and there was a purification rite, religious jews would, in all likelihood, be happily burning offerings 3 times each year.
In short, not as different as you may think.
There is a priestly caste, the kohanim. The kohanim have various obligations and duties, most of which are moot in the modern world, and one of which involves the hand gesture made famous by Leonard Nimoy.
There is another caste, the Levites, but they have no remaining duties.
Firstly your now considering early Judaism unenlightened. However the core beliefs are still very much the same; and many customs from contemporary Norse times are still observed by some sects.
Secondly that's the practice of religion; which is very different from a belief itself. It is possible to believe in God or a set of gods without following the practices of the organisations themselves. The difference between then and now is that a) you were "sold" the practices as an inherent part of belief in XYZ God and b) to believe without practising them was dangerous. As a result the actual belief in the Abrahamic God is somewhat irrelevant to the practices.
I do think it is quite baffling how you can be consciously aware of all the myriad of religions in the world and still not be a atheist. They can’t all be right and there exists no method of picking the right one except trusting you own feelings. I mean, Christians baptize their babies, Jews circumcise their sons – those religions seemingly don’t even want you to consciously decide to join them. It’s just assumed that you will if your parents have that religion.
I agree wholeheartedly with the first half of that statement: "They can’t all be right". The religions of the world have conflicting beliefs that cannot be reconciled. If there is one true God, then the other religions that worship other gods have to be false. You can't have it both ways.
However, at least with respect to Christianity, the second half "and there exists no method of picking the right one except trusting you own feelings.". is most definitely not true. Christians who believe the Bible to be true and accurate would tell you the opposite -- do not trust your feelings, because feelings don't determine what is true and what is false. In the Bible-believing Christian realm the argument would be "Read the Bible, decide for yourself whether you believe it or not."
I can't say I see differences of that magnitude. In fact, I don't see many significant differences at all.
(E.g. whereas most modern religions are far less bloodthirsty than some historical religions, so were many religious contemporaries of those bloodthirsty belief structures.)
Surely one can be religious and practice science. But in what denomination of which religion is it a requirement?
The non-religious have performed countless similar studies on religious experience, efficacy of prayer, etc. Are you suggesting their activities reflect on the state of religious practice in the modern world, simply because their subject matter is related to religious practice?
To give another example, if I wanted to debunk astrology then I'd start by arguing against the beliefs of Kary Mullis (who won the Nobel prize in science), not some 4000 year old scrolls.
Lame, yes, but valid.
for a theist, it may be hard to imagine not believing in their particular god. but it's easy for them to imagine not believing in those countless other gods
But if the idea of a god is inherently illogical (if the very idea is self-contradictory or meaningless), or if it is contradicted by the evidence, then there are strong positive reasons to take a harder stance as an atheist – with respect to that particular god. For in this sense, even believers are strong atheists – they deny the existence of hundreds of gods. Atheists like me merely deny one more god than everyone else already does – in fact, I deny the existence of the same god already denied by believers in other gods, so I am not doing anything that billions of people don’t do already.
月曜日 = Monday
月 = Moon, 曜日 = day of the week
My guess is that the ancients viewed deities as categories of things we don't know -- hence the 6 zillion gods. Over time, organization set into religion and people began anthropomorphizing the gods.
Judaism moved "categories of things we don't know" from a multiple choice to a single entity. Then organization set in again with the anthropomorphizing.
It's a mistake to take this to zero -- the assumption that we know everything and things we cannot prove are not worthy of consideration. Having a deep understanding of the huge amount of unknown in the universe is a critical part of a balanced life. To say you don't believe in one person's personification is to miss the point entirely.
Sometimes I wonder how much we choose what we believe, especially when it gets down to this bottom-of-the-soul (or "soul"), meaning-of-life stuff. When someone is incredulous at the fact that I don't believe in any sort of god, I 've said: "Let's try this: for the next sixty seconds, I'll start believing in God, and for the same sixty seconds, you have to stop believing in God. Are you in?"
Naturally, it's not really possible for either person to do this, but sometimes it promotes interesting discussion about the nature of faith — why can't we do this, etc, etc?
Of course, a lot of times it just pisses people off too.
Wow, I just had a discussion with my wife about giving up cable TV but keeping cable Internet for this reason. My argument was during the 1/2 hour of a silly sitcom, I can become knowledgeable with just about any subject of my choosing. And even if I want to veg out, I can still find most shows on the web.
Her counter argument was the cable box + remote are easier to use than hooking up a computer to the TV, which is what we currently do.
One person is just trying to say to the other that their different beliefs don't make them very different people. Based on the second person's reaction, I'd say their beliefs don't make them that different (in this case).
Someone mentioned that this argument came from Dawkins' book; this seems like a small twist on that argument to make a different (and demonstrably valid) point.
edit: of course this is just nit picking, and is not really relevant on the big picture.
Conflict resolution, finding common ground, agreeing differences that exist, but don't have to matter, and the observation that today we can invest all of 3 minutes to discover stuff, then decide whether we want to know more.
When I was 22 I moved country, and I knew nothing about where I was going. Encyclopedias told me very, very little, and after days, literally days, in the library, I still knew almost nothing.
Today I can spend 5 minutes on the 'net and know more in that time than I could've found in days of diligent, comprehensive, but above all boring research.
Read with the intent of learning - not all lessons are obvious, and some are worth more for having found them, rather than being given them.
But what I love about Derek's writing is that there always seems to be a lot of interesting nuggets of wisdom that they contain. I think there is a lot of interesting material here and that it could be taken a lot of different ways depending on the reader's perspective.
On the other hand, if someone does find it useful or educational, I suppose the only fault can be found in myself for not having pointed to the same insight.
Sivers' writing is generally "inspirational" (I love his writing style), light hearted and informative. I actually think there is a very deep and important point to be learned from this particular post.
However you wish to refer to your experience, for one reason or another I did not share it but, as I was musing, that is sort of irrelevant since someone did.
1) I actually do think it is educational
2) Regardless, things posted to HN, surely, don't have to be educational all the time! :)
To discuss your post a bit more: I think you missed the point. The subject of Sivers anecdote was irrelevant; as I read it (and the following explanation) it is about learning things :)