Thursday, October 24, 2013

One more waste of time

The genuine reason why I have no interest in 'converting' an atheist:

Trying to convince an atheist that God exists is like trying to sell them water when they'd rather purchase beer.

I have this odd propensity to watch YouTube videos by atheists, and debates about atheism versus theism. I already know there's no resolution. I already know that all interested parties have preconceived conclusions (including me, of course) despite their insistence of the verity of their infallible personal logic. I already know that even viewing these intellectualized shenanigans is ultimately a waste of valuable time.

But I just can't help it.

I think the impetus for gawking at them is quite similar to my occasional guilty indulgence in a Jerry Springer episode; the heated spectacle is amusing in its futility. Call it morbid fascination, but there it is. Understand this: by calling attention to this foible of mine, don't imagine that I believe it acceptable. I'm as ashamed of my amusement in this area as I'm entertained by said spectacle.

There is a particular video, starring Mr. Hemant Mehta, that lists the "15 things to NEVER say to an atheist," which I watched this morning. More important than the items I'm about to address, I'd say the two most significant aspects of his video are the sarcastic intonation that accents his delivery, and his overconfidence in his approach to the issue. The issue being, of course, the validation of atheism by theists. Nevermind that for someone truly confident in his belief, that sort of validation is not required.

Here is a link to the video:  Advice from a "friendly" atheist

Because I am weak, and I just can't help but waste more of my time, I will now address each of the 15 things, in the briefest manner I can muster.

1) "Where do you get your MORALITY?" 
Jews and Christians don't assume atheists are lacking morals; they just recognize that the morals of the atheist do not intentionally come from God. The concept that all human beings can effectively follow their own moral codes and still coexist peacefully is wishful thinking and displays a lack of understanding about human proclivities. The believer attempts to follow the moral code as set by God, thus removing the torture of self-doubt regarding the unpredictable nature of individual morality.

2) "Your life must be so EMPTY."
Emptiness in one's life occurs when one believes something is missing. Human beings are not always able to pinpoint the cause of their emptiness. They make assumptions about what causes it, and what can relieve it. The believer in God believes that the big picture questions, such as "What is the purpose of life?" merit at least some effort to try and arrive at an answer. For the atheist, the answer is easy: the world is entirely subjective, so of course the meaning of it all is only that which the individual ascribes.

3) "Why are you MAD at God?"
Atheists, for the most part, can't be mad at something they don't believe exists. If they are mad at anything, it's the annoying concept that they are answerable to an entity placed higher than them in the whole of existence.

4) "You can't DISPROVE God."
Attempting to prove the existence of God is a fool's endeavor. God has deliberately hidden Himself on purpose, and human beings are not supposed to be able to physically qualify His existence. For the atheist, this concept provides much amusement, because they're not interested in exploring the reason God would purposely do such a thing, only in laughing at the alleged ignorance of the believer. Comparing God to Zeus is like an orphan comparing one's unknown biological father to Santa Claus; that's why believers dismiss the idea so easily.

5) "What if you're WRONG?"
According to the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, God would never punish an individual for sincerely seeking the truth about existence. Believers, for the most part, do think about the nature of the god they believe in. Most don't enjoy the prospect of questioning their own beliefs however, and therefore unfortunately don't give much credence to Christ's earnest support of asking the hard questions. Fear is no substitute for the confidence that any genuine truth will withstand all attempts to debunk it. The atheist thinks he or she embraces this challenge by indulging in texts that support the atheist position. The concept of shame is not one atheists (and materialists, for that matter) care to entertain. So, instead of punishment, perhaps the atheist might consider how they may see themselves eventually, if their spiritual worldview just happened to be incorrect. Incorrect in relation to the Being that gave them the greatest gift of all and sustained every beat of their hearts while being scoffed at and relegated to non-importance. Ingratitude of epic proportion.

6) "You just have to have FAITH!"
Having faith in God and using one's mind are not mutually exclusive. Proclaiming that critical thought is the only path to understanding, and that faith is the product of a closed mind, are only logically connected for a person who views a belief in God as ignorant. This is easily rebutted by the existence of great minds in history and in current academic circles that believe God exists. Not completely understanding a mystery is not a cop-out; it's simple honesty (just ask Lawrence Krauss). Indeed, believing in something just "because I want to and it makes me feel good" is a dumb reason to believe in something; and that includes those who feel better about believing that the God of the Hebrews does not exist, in order to be accountable only to themselves.

7) "Just OPEN your HEART."
Aluminum tin foil hats notwithstanding, Hemant is correct. No one is ever going to be able to provide indisputable physical proof of God's existence. The atheist's heart isn't so much closed to God, but open to anything else but God. Hemant's claim to being open to the possibility is a perfunctory lie, as demonstrated by the sarcasm in the video.

8) "You were never REALLY religious."
The claim about "a lot of atheists" coming from "religious" families is more anecdote than fact, but yes, some atheists do emerge from believing families. The same is true for the inverse; some Christians emerge from non-believing families (just ask William Lane Craig). These anomalies are only indicative of the existence of free will in the individual. Religion has never been equal to faith in God; religions are a man-made framework for the formalized worship of God. An atheist's guarantee on these matters is just as reliable or unreliable as a believer's guarantee. One of the most common proclamations of a Jerry Springer guest is, "You don't know me!" Yes, most of the viewers don't know Hemant Mehta personally; does this mean they are incapable of any kind of profiling accuracy? Not necessarily.

9) "What happened in your CHILDHOOD?"
Just like a theist, an atheist's childhood wasn't necessarily traumatic for the individual to believe what he or she believes. However, the simple armchair psychologist's observation that one's relationship with one's father is often similar to how one views God, is often not far off base. The mistake atheists may be making in this regard is that the father-child relationship has to be riddled with trauma. Trauma is not necessary; the true inner intentions of the grown individual are evidence enough.

10) "Have you read the BIBLE?"
At the risk of being arrogant, I must declare Hemant's guarantee in this section of the video to be of very little worth. While it is true that many Christians are unfortunately not curious enough to read the text that their own beliefs are based on, through the years I have personally spoken to several atheists, and their knowledge of the Bible is always lacking in terms of applied knowledge. Most of their information comes not from the actual text of the Bible, but in other texts written about the Bible; texts usually created for the purpose of debunking the Bible, not understanding it.

11) "I will PRAY for you."
Of course prayer to a god that doesn't exist would have very little value to an atheist. However, the atheist's reduction of the prayer to worthless and irritating waste of time is merely indicative of the atheist's typical (and often denied) antagonism toward the value the believer places in his or her belief.

12) "Do you worship the DEVIL?"
The wrong assumptions of the few are not representative of the many. However, as Satan's persona seems to change from tempter to destroyer between the Old and New Testaments, it would be prudent to observe that there could be more involved in one's choices than one's own subjectively flawed logic.

13) "You must be AGNOSTIC."
All I can say in response to this issue is, "who cares?" This particular section of the video sounds oddly similar to the whole debate between homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender individuals; e.g. the homosexual judgmentally declaring that the bisexual is irritating and not being honest about his or her sexuality.

14) "Isn't atheism a RELIGION?"
Of course atheism is not a religion. Of course it is a rejection of the existence of God. Atheism is a belief system however, based on the materialist ethos that if you can't experience something with the five senses, or physically qualify it in a lab, then it can't possibly exist.

15) "Why are you so ANGRY?"
The truth about atheist ire: they're angry because, for various reasons, they don't want to live in a universe that is created by God of the Hebrew scriptures. Hemant was not being honest with himself; he indeed has a beef with the higher power. That's where the following cognitive dissonance comes in:

  * "People do a lot of crazy things in the name of God"; but what about the vastly greater number of crazy things people do with no connection to God at all?

  * "Passing laws that restrict LGBT rights or women's rights"; these are the actions of the politically conservative, not necessarily the actions of a Jew or Christian, per se. Hemant is confusing conservative political activism with the religious affiliations they use to achieve their legislative goals. In the hands of a politician, religion is just one more useful means to an end.

  * "Bad science curriculum decisions"; this is most likely a reference to the desire to include Intelligent Design as a companion study alongside unguided evolution. This is an entirely different discussion, but suffice it to say that open-mindedness is more claimed than demonstrated by the most adamant evolutionary biologists.

  * "Revisionist history curriculums"; and these would be what? The only blatant revisionist history I'm aware of is the repainting of historical figures and events with the joyless strokes of the pernicious nihilist.

  * Hemant "value[s] the truth, and value[s] people's rights." Of course he values the truth; his subjective version of it, just like everyone else on the planet. Of course he values human rights; this is the rallying squawk of anyone who thinks the way to change people's minds is to scare them with lawyers and pseudo-intellectualizing the real issue, which is who has the freedom to think what.

  * "The Christians in power often don't value human rights"; let's see how that assertion stacks up against the next person who decides to walk into an abortion clinic because the living tissue inside her is not really a human being until a particular group of people declare it so.

  * "Talk to an atheist"; sure, why not? They're as interesting or boring as anyone else. Just don't expect them to look away from the mirror and become interested in the creator of their universe.

  * "Try to get rid of the stereotypes from your mind"; good advice, perhaps Hemant should take it as well.

  * "It's offensive, it's disrespectful in a lot of cases and it shows that you assume a lot of things about us"; I can only speculate the degree of cognitive dissonance present that prevents Hemant from seeing these qualities in his own point of view.

10 comments:

  1. W Maxwell Cassity-GuilliomNovember 8, 2013 at 5:07 AM

    At the bottom of this blog you mention that hemant should get rid of his stereotypes, but just one sentence above it you say "don't expect an atheist to look away from the mirror". It's such a revealing contradiction I almost wonder if you did it on purpose, as a way of subtlely mocking the typical religious response to atheism.

    As for why I'm an atheist it isn't because, as you ignorantly assert, I want to be unaccountable. It's simply because of a lack of evidence and that's all. I'd love for an afterlife to exist, but belief in an afterlife is thus far unjustified by the evidence. I also don't believe in santa claus, are you going to say that I don't believe he exists because I don't want presents?

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  2. As a flawed human being, I make no claims to being free of suffering stereotypes... however:
    1) I wasn't aware being self-absorbed was an 'official' atheist stereotype, I was merely making a personal observation about atheist attitudes regarding spiritual matters.
    2) Since none of us can honestly be completely free of maintaining some kind of stereotype regarding something, I was reacting to the "those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" opportunity Hemant provided.

    You may well declare me ignorant, because I may or may not be accurate regarding your own reason(s) for being an atheist. I can't speak for you personally, but I would casually observe that the whole "I really want to believe it, but there's no evidence" line of dialogue sounds a bit to me like the glass-is-half-empty point of view, but on steroids, so to speak.

    To some degree we choose our mental states. You have chosen to believe that ultimately your life has no meaning other than the memories of others after you pass away, for perhaps two more generations at most. I say this only because when the memory of you has disappeared from humanity, your entire life, and everything it accomplished, is erased from history forever.

    I choose to believe otherwise.

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  3. W Maxwell Cassity-GuilliomNovember 8, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Putting aside whether belief can be a choice at all even if I give you free will for hypothetical purposes...

    We're not talking about how comforting a belief is, and I don't care how comforting a belief is. We're talking about whether or not it's true, which is a completely separate discussion than whether or not it's comforting.

    I care if what I believe is true because the more true things and fewer false things I believe, the better a model of reality I can build in my mind. The better my model of reality, the better decisions I can make, and the happier I am as a person because that's how I am.

    If you don't care if what you believe is true then we don't have anything to talk about.

    P.S. Feel free to criticize atheism all you want, it is after all just an idea, like deism or christianity is just an idea, but please avoid stereotyping atheists. I give you and all religious people the credit of not attacking your character, and I expect the same respect in return. Even though I know some atheists don't do the same as I do, that doesn't change my expectation for you guys.

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  4. As Pilate is quoted to have said, “What is truth?”

    Reality is something we all appear to share. Interestingly enough, the apprehension of reality becomes another aspect of the subjective viewpoint... although intuitively, it seems objective to most individuals.

    You wish to build a model of reality in your mind, somewhat akin to Plato’s Forms? That’s probably the best any of us can muster. The confusing part comes in when our individual definitions of reality differ.

    Materialists hold the opinion that reality is only what we can experience with the five senses, or qualify in a laboratory. This is a fine start, but becomes a questionable approach when factors like consciousness are encountered. There is no empirical proof that the brain’s electrical and chemical activity actually comprise consciousness; that still remains theory. So what is this thing we all experience on a continuous basis, second after minute after hour after day after day, etc.?

    Like God, the origin of consciousness still remains in the realm of philosophy. This realm does not dwell within the materialist’s worldview. Therefore, if your “truth” is a consequence of a materialist conception of reality, then it ultimately becomes opinion, not fact, since the materialist view of reality does not encompass all aspects of life as we experience it.

    I very much care that what I believe is true; I just search for it in a different way than you do.

    I’m not interested in attacking atheists personally. I’m not even interested in attacking their ideas. I’m interested in creating dialogue between the two ‘camps’ that is superior to much of the acrimonious nonsense that occurs online.

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  5. W Maxwell Cassity-GuilliomNovember 8, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    We have no reason to believe consciousness is immaterial. We have billions upon billions of examples of minds as an emergent property of the physical brain, in all humans, in all animals, in insects, etc. and not a single verifiable example of a mind without a brain.

    Let me give you more evidence for the claim "the mind is an emergent property of the physical brain": as we've seen in a large number of medical cases, when the brain is damaged the mind changes. For example there was a man who suddenly, apparently out of completely nowhere gained pedophilic attractions, increased libido, and a few other strange behaviours, he was evicted and prosecuted by his wife but the next time he did a medical they found a brain tumor. When they cut it out the pedophilic attractions and increased libido, as well as the other strange behaviours completely vanished. Even more telling, he redeveloped all of those things again some time thereafter, and he went to the doctor right away and they found a tumor in the same place and cut it out again, and again all the behaviours went away. Link: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2943-brain-tumour-causes-uncontrollable-paedophilia.html#.Un0wceK9Jas

    There are countless other cases where the brain clearly affects the mind, but even if you still want to argue that our mind is not an emergent effect of our brain it says nothing about the relevant parts of our discussion.

    I agree with you that all we can do is justify beliefs to varying degrees according to the evidence, we cannot claim absolute knowledge. I do not claim absolute knowledge of anything except the three logical absolutes and science agrees with me, which is why the graduation point of science is a Scientific Theory, which is what a hypothesis becomes once it has an enormous body of supporting evidence and has produced testable predictions which have always tested true. Scientific Theory is not "truth" it is "our best current explanation based on the evidence".

    Let's throw physicalism out the window for now, just hypothetically. This does not get one closer to the conclusion "therefore god". At the most one might be able to conclude a pantheism like Einstein or Spinoza's god-concept, but certainly not the doctrines of any of the major religions. To get that you have to have god interceding in reality, which would be a falsifiable event that is purported to have happened or continues to happen in the physical world, and therefore in the realm of scientific understanding.

    To be clear I'm not a theist, deist, or dualist, I'm an atheist and physicalist. I've arrived at these positions through an application of epistemology and skepticism.

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  6. Your interpretation of the brain’s effect on behavior and thinking is only one way to interpret the evidence. Both of our interpretations conveniently fit into our separate worldviews. I’m not going to present my theory regarding the connection of the brain to thought, because I’m fairly certain you’ll again declare “we don't have anything to talk about.”

    Your insistence that every issue in life be qualified or quantified by empirical science may seem all-encompassing, but if I say I agree both with science as applied to the physical world *and* with the concept that there is more to existence than “meets the eye,” then which one of us is more limited by arbitrary parameters? Is it honest to just dismiss my worldview as cognitive dissonance? Is it reasonable to proclaim anything outside of the laboratory as a fairy tale? Then the love you think you experience for anyone you care about is a fairy tale as well. Science likes to posit that love is merely hormones and brain chemistry in action. Have fun with that.

    I have always recognized science as a tool to explore truth on a physical level. I have also always recognized its limitations in the full scope of human experience. It does not appear you have arrived at that conclusion yet. Perhaps you never will; it’s not my duty to change your mind in this regard.

    I’m not concerned with the possible intercession of God in reality. I recognize that ours is a measurably created reality, and we are merely two ‘aspects’ of it. My recognition of God as creator is not a result of believing in fairy tales; it is a result of a very human need to connect to something greater than itself.

    If we must limit ourselves to passing everything only through the filter of 20th and early 21st century empirical evidence, then I will politely withdraw and admit that nothing I say will provide you any edification.

    “Live and let live” is all this leaves any of us when it comes to clashing worldviews. That’s my approach, anyway.

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  7. W Maxwell Cassity-GuilliomNovember 8, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    When I declared "we don't have anything to talk about" it was a precise response to the idea of not caring about whether a belief is true. If one does not care if their beliefs are true, I simply have no reason to talk to them. Just because you may have a different worldview than I do doesn't mean we can't talk.

    As a physicalist, I still believe love has value. In fact it has the exact same value it did before I was a physicalist, it's just that now I know what it is. Why do you think that because something is physical it lacks value? Also how would introducing a non-physical aspect solve this problem in your worldview? All physical things lack value and all non-physical things have value, for what reason?

    "if I say I agree both with science as applied to the physical world *and* with the concept that there is more to existence than “meets the eye,” then which one of us is more limited by arbitrary parameters?"

    Hold on now, I'll absolutely agree (if you define "meets the eye" as empirical evidence, not just vision sense) that my worldview is more limited by parameters than yours, if you don't use reason and science to determine what's believable. However I refuse to say arbitrarily, my limitation to reason and science are based on their proven historical function in determining truth from fiction. I won't use faith to do so, as that's a presuppositional fallacy anyways, and I don't know any other methods. What are you proposing aside from reason and science as a method to determine truth from fiction, and what evidence has it given you?

    And to be clear here: the reason I have a lack of belief in dualism is because the proponents of it have not met the burden of proof. It's not because I think it's impossible, but rather that it has not been proven, in the same way that I'm an atheist because no religion has been capable of meeting the burden of proof thus far.

    "If we must limit ourselves to passing everything only through the filter of 20th and early 21st century empirical evidence"

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. A Scientific Theory is "our best current explanation based on the evidence" it is not purported to be "truth". I'm not saying dualism is impossible, I'm saying belief has not been justified. What other evidence would you provide, aside from evidence that we have? Evidence that we do not have? But we don't have it... unless you're referring to the formal logical arguments of great minds from the past, in which case go ahead. An argument always stands solely on its merits, regardless of who made it and when.

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  8. Before I go any further, I’d like to thank you for discussing things in a civil fashion.

    You asked, “Why do you think that because something is physical it lacks value?”
    I don’t think it lacks value, but for example, in the case of love, if one looks hard enough at the concept that our feelings are nothing more than disinterested chemical reactions (or better yet, “selfish” non-conscious genes), one will eventually arrive at the conclusion that feelings are delusional experiences brought about by chemical assistance, be they produced by our own bodies, or synthesized in a lab. That is why I choose to see the chemicals as a catalyst to action, but the chemicals themselves are released *because* the mind that controls the body prompted them through emotion.

    Here’s all I can tell you about why at least one reasonable person would believe in the God of the Hebrews...

    I am not Jewish. The family I was born into and raised by were not Christians, and we did not go to church. My parents and older siblings showed no interest in God that I could detect, although as a young boy I was keenly interested. When I asked questions, I received vague platitudes that brought me nowhere in that regard.

    On my own accord, at the age of ten or eleven, I asked my mother if she would buy me a used Bible I found in the book section of the downtown Seattle Goodwill store.

    I briefly joined a church in my high school years, but became disillusioned about something the pastor said, and left. I haven’t become a member of any church since then, but through the years I’ve attempted a few times to try some different churches.

    What’s the point? Whatever it is that ‘makes’ you an atheist, the other side of the coin (so to speak) is what makes me a believer in God. Call these different paths statistical normality or anomaly, it doesn’t matter in the end, because, since you referenced the logical absolutes, A=A.

    Where does this leave us? I will not prognosticate a fate for you, because am I *not* a prophet, but even if I was, and your fate happened to be a negative one, you wouldn’t heed a ‘warning’ anyway. For all I know, your fate may be better than mine in the final analysis. That still wouldn’t change my love of God one iota.

    Faith is an easy target for those who disagree with the concept that an invisible Being and writings from thousands of years ago (don’t forget the Dead Sea Scrolls) could possibly have any relevance in our technologically advanced world.

    I’ve read *many* arguments against the God of Abraham. Good ones, such as if death only began because of sin, then why did predators seemed to be designed for preying on other animals before death occurred in the world? A very good question, and worthy of consideration, as are many others.

    No matter what theories are presented from the physical evidence, I will never even be *able* to disbelieve in God. Simply stated: oddly enough, the same certitude that causes you to doubt God’s existence is the same certitude that causes me to believe in it. You may insist that you arrived at your conclusion only by careful research, and I will not call you a liar, but will you ever really know for sure you were not destined by your worldview or nature to doubt God’s existence?

    I have no desire to force my beliefs on anyone. I have no desire that anyone who says God is non-existent should be punished. My only desire in relation to God is the hope that I ultimately don’t disappoint Him.

    It is correct to say that people are capable of making morally ‘good’ decisions without ‘fear’ of God. But people who stress that are missing the entire point of obeying God. I can’t speak for every believer on the planet, I can only speak for myself. My motivation for trying my best to please God is out of immense gratitude, not fear.

    That’s the best way I can explain things to you. I can appreciate that this explanation seems to add more credence to the concept of believer as ignorant. But like the logical absolute, again, I repeat: A=A.

    And with that, I need to get some sleep, lol.

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  9. W Maxwell Cassity-GuilliomNovember 9, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    You referred to us as different sides of the same coin and I think it stems from your assumption that I grew up in a certain way, which is not the reason for my beliefs. Let me explain why I believe the things I do:

    I mentioned it earlier, about applied epistemology and skepticism. The foundation of all my beliefs is the structure of claims: a claim, in order to be justified in believing it, must have sufficient evidence provided in support of it. This is why I do not believe the claim "gods do not exist", nor the claim "gods exist" because neither one has been proven with sufficient evidence. The fact of the matter is that one of them must be true, as they are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, but neither claim has been provided sufficient evidence to be believed. Therefore I currently lack belief in both claims "gods exist" and "gods do not exist".

    I'll use one of my favorite examples. You and I are walking around a fairground, and we come upon one of those huge jars full of gumballs. It is a fact that either there is an odd number of gumballs or an even number, as these are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. You turn to me and say "there must be an odd number". No evidence to support it, just making that claim by itself. At this point should I believe that claim? Would belief in "there is an odd number of gumballs" be justified? No of course not, there's no evidence to say either way. However this does not mean that I accept the opposed claim "there is an even number of gumballs", as there is also no evidence to support that one, even though one of them MUST be true and I have rejected the first. See what I mean by this?

    This is how I decide what's justifiably believable in my life. I put all of my beliefs through this filter of justified-by-evidence to ensure that I hold the most true beliefs and fewest false beliefs possible. It seems to me that you're accepting that there must be a god and are simply looking around for which one is true and what his characteristics are, but by what evidence have you accepted that there must be a god? I don't think we're two sides of the same coin, because it seems to me you've adopted a stance without sufficient evidence.

    Regarding love, I would agree with your whole paragraph except for the word delusional. A delusion is something that is unrelated to reality, but chemical reactions bringing about emotions is precisely the opposite, it's based entirely on reality. Love is a real experience, based on real chemical reactions, which are entirely physical. It's a real experience because we are sentient beings who are capable of experiencing things.

    For example, let's take a torture victim. He's in a lab, and the method they're using to torture is by exciting the pain-receptors through specifically applied electrical shocks. You could say these are 'emotions' which are 'created in a lab', but would you seriously say that the man isn't feeling anything? Of course not, what he's feeling is just as real as if those pain-receptors had been activated by being stabbed or cut or whatever other method.

    Now love is a much more complex physical chemical reaction, it's not as simple as pain. I don't know if we're capable of producing a feeling of love in a lab yet. "love" is also a much more broad term than "pain", as love can be broken into very different categories like lust or family affection or partner affection etc.

    If you're looking for a stable ground to base morality on with physicalism, take the well-being/feelings of sentient life. That's what I use as my basis. I think you'll find your worldview doesn't change enormously with that as it's basically what you're already doing, you just define 'mind' as non-physical whereas I define 'mind' as a physical property.

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  10. I see exactly what you mean, in terms of being caught between two absolutes due to lack of sufficient evidence. As a matter of fact, that distinction spurred a thought.

    Through reason, humans are potentially able to change their minds about something. My wife has repeatedly said that I am the only person she knows who will readily change his mind about something due to convincing argument, despite being resolute beforehand.

    But it occurs to me now, thanks to your explanation, that there must be something unexplained in my mind, body, soul, whatever, that is hardwired to believe in God. You are correct, I have no physical evidence; I have only a desire to find the one that is “true,” having already accepted a foregone conclusion that there must be a god.

    I am even willing to admit that it’s possible this is some sort of mental abnormality, and that it could perhaps be a vestige from a primitive past. I don’t know that for sure, and to me, it seems obvious that God exists, so if I were ultimately delusional via genetic and biological influences, then I’d rather continue in my current state. Why? Because far from creating the problems many atheists think such a belief generates, my faith in God has done nothing but save me in my real life from countless bad decisions and I’m sure many repercussions I’m not even consciously aware that I avoided. And, as you stated for yourself in an earlier message, I’m happy. Furthermore, I’m also not making anyone else miserable, lol.

    You have not mentioned this, but to make a distinction between why I choose to do the right thing, and why an atheist chooses to do the right thing, is not practical. I don’t think the good deed an atheist does is any less or more valuable than one a believer does. To me, the deed is what counts, because it is the deed that sets other things in motion, not the thought.

    One thing I notice that is threaded through both Testaments is the concept that God knows the true intentions of the heart. I know believers will debate about what it takes to “get to heaven,” but I think that sort of squabble is beside the point. The whole reason for all the “atrocities” committed in the Old Testament, for example, seems to stem from God’s extreme disappointment in some aspect of human behavior, despite longsuffering on God’s end. Humans being given the decision making powers of God, and then always making the best moral decisions for the well being of humanity, apparently are a non-sequitur, historically speaking.

    I agree with you; even if love is nothing more than chemical activity, the experience for us seems real, so perhaps it is pointless for me to make a distinction in that regard.

    And I also agree about what you said in the last paragraph. We are both somewhat justified to assume that we’re both experiencing consciousness, so I’d like to add from a practical standpoint, our differing opinions about where it stems from are not of vital importance. In other words, I don’t experience a pressing need for you to believe what I believe.

    I know some Christians would chastise me for not being more concerned with the conversion of the unbeliever. My take on that matter has mostly been that adult human beings are more than capable of making up their own minds about things.

    Even though I realize it’s just a movie, the way I feel about my possible cognitive dissonance is like the speech Duvall gives to Osment in Secondhand Lions: “That people are basically good. That honor, courage and virtue mean everything. That power and money, money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this: that love, true love, never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, you see; a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.”

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