In my previous article I pointed out the extreme problems in confronting and debating religious believers, in terms of both language and logic. In the first case, believers (since they are objectively always at a disadvantage in any rational argument) always aggressively seek to deform the meaning of words used to their own ends.
This is perfectly exemplified in the latest, most recent posts (on Pastor Mike's Blog) attacking me (mainly by a poster named 'Rene') where the definition of "atheist" is challenged.
The definition I gave in at least one comment on the (innominate) site, was based on a definition I had provided in an issue of The Mensa Bulletin (March, 1994):
"Let's be clear about what constitutes Atheism and what doesn't. The Atheist - to put it succinctly, absolutely withholds investing intellectual/emotional resources in any supernatural claim. Indeed the word Atheism itself embodies this definition”
What is happening here is not active disbelief, i.e. making a statement 'There is no god', but rather simply passively withholding belief/acceptance in a statement already made. Hence, the deity believer has made the positive claim. The ontological atheist’s is the absence of belief in it. No more - no less.
What I mean by the "ontological atheist" is one who derives his or her atheism from the basis of ontology. The type of atheist here is also known as an implicit atheist.
However, it appears this form of atheist causes too much mental consternation for the likes of Rene. For he keeps insisting it is a "cop out" or "cowardly" for not actually "denying God".
But, as I have tried to point out to his pedestrian brain, one does not deny that for which the existence hasn't been shown anyway. And I provided Rene the basis to do this, by giving the necessary and sufficient conditions for ths existence of his deity. But, up to now, he has skirted this, opting to come after my use of precision terms (and if words are not precise, how can thought be?) as "exercises in semantic nonsense".
In fact not. These terms are well agreed upon. One of the best articulations is by Austin Cline:
Another definition has been given by George Smith(which Rene invokes to assert my own definition is "poor" - evidently unaware that Smith merely has provided his own interpretation not necessarily agreed upon by all):
"the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it"
But I have a few quibbles about it. I would change that to read: "the absence of any theistic belief or emotional, intellectual investment in such - based on the absence of any ontology provided by theistic believers. Thus, implicit atheism entails a conscious appreciation that theism has no ontological basis, and is rejected on that basis".
Note: I did not say the underlying entity ('God') is rejected-denied, but rather theistic belief.
There is an easy reason for this: because if no god believer provides a definition for his entity then we cannot know what manner of 'divinity' he is talking about. (This is especially important because otherwise we have to assume all god believers accept the same divinity, which I am sure they would object to).
So, unable to accept or process my very exact language, Rene adopts the only tack available, to attack my language - as opposed to rectifying his native obtuseness. Belligerently clasping on to Smith's (incomplete definition) and his own obdurate tone-deaf stance, he then has the temerity to ask me:
"Phil are you a child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues, but you are still unaware of them or are you a man [who attended Christian College for three years] unacquainted with theism? "
And this alas, merely exposes poor Rene as a hopeless, desperate dolt. He has already shown he can't process nuance, in definitions, and now uses my early attendance at a Catholic university to try to impute a kind of infantilism to me, which actually he is projecting as a trait of himself.
Indeed, this is evident in his next remark:
"You again want to redefine your atheistic position from active denial to passive denial".
Again, disclosing the impossibility and futility of debating Xtians. (Okay, at least a certain type of Christian for whom logic and reason are not facile skills) Here he errs by referring to active and passive denial, when there is no such thing. One either denies, or one does not deny. There is no "passive" aspect. There IS a passive withholding of acceptance and recognition of the claim made.
Rene's Neolithic and neonatal (childish) brain appears inured to processing that "denial" is not germane if the entity is regarded as redundant, which it would be if no ontological basis (e.g. necessary and sufficient conditions) has been shown for it. Thus, no serious person in his right mind goes about denying elves, tooth fairies, or flying spaghetti monsters. Denial is unnecessary because it pre-supposes a tacit existence ALREADY there. But if no one has presented me with the n-s conditions for fairies, it is superfluous for me to "deny" them. Denial embodies the subtext that in the back of my mind I suspect they really exist. But I do not. I act and conduct my affairs as if they DO not exist. In other words, the entity is redundant to physical reality. And the claimants have not demonstrated its inclusion is justified.
Now granted this can be a subtle difference, and perhaps too subtle for a coarse, neolithically-fragmented 3 pounds of Rene-based protoplasm, conditioned to think simply in black and white (either-or) terms. But one does not concede to a primitive accusation here merely because his opponent's brain is resoundingly primitive and unable to parse critical differences. Such is the case with Rene.
This error is then compounded by his resort to false analogy, a violation of logic. (And we won't even begin to belabor the incessant and ongoing logical violation known as "affirming the consequent" or making the statement that something exists prior to showing it exists!)
An excellent insight into Christian illogic (of the form peculiar to fundies) is evident in Rene's next remark:
"It is interesting that atheists assert that atheism is not a religion but total absence of belief. This is like saying that black [which is the defined as the total absence of color], not a color."
In fact here he makes a common logical error (driving the false analogy). That is in conflating a belief (or non-belief) in a God with holding or rejecting a religion. This has just come to the fore recently with a detailed survey finding that 15% of Americans are not affiliated with any religion. HOWEVER, many of those interviewed made it abundantly clear that this didn't mean they rejected God belief, only that they rejected being associated with a religion! Thus, it is clearly possible to be religion-LESS and hold a God-belief. In an inverse sense, it is possible to be religion-LESS and God-less! (Which the survey also shows, since the number of atheists doubled and they are also a subset of those WITHOUT religious affiliation)
The sterile (and self-defeating) ploy of comparing a color like 'black' to the condition of (simply) godless atheism is particularly egregious. Here, Rene conflates the use and medium of scientific definitions, with cultural or cosmetic ones. Obviously, for the latter group - black IS a color, since once can manufacture clothes, etc. of that color. One does not have to appeal to scientific journals to access "black"! However, that still does not obviate or remove the fact that in color spectra terms (based on what we can obtain using a laboratory spectrograph, say) 'black' IS an absence of color. (E.g. there is no wavelength or range of such in the electro-magnetic spectrum that allows the identification of 'black')
Rene then goes on:
"It is common practice throughout the world that black is a color regardless of the technical definition. Likewise atheism is a religion."
And here his brain is unable to process the simple and basic fact that a scientific definition is not necessarily the same as a cultural one. (And alas, his whole argument's validation critically depends on them being one and the same!)
But in science, since lab spectra disclose no 'black' it IS an absence of color. But that doesn't mean a cultural value for black (as a fashion) doesn't exist, nor that the latter's use and medium nullfies the scientific definition. Again, we behold the limits of his neolithic brain. The flat conclusion that 'likewise atheism is a religion' is then merely a hollow non sequitur, uttered to confirm his nonsensical brand of logic. Or is it illogic?
But as we saw, even in the recent religious affiliation survey Rene is proven wrong, since its results make clear that those who claim religions do NOT include atheists A(and atheists are ipso facto included in the sub-group without religious affiliation). Rene would actually have done slightly better by insisting atheism was a 'belief' (actually a negative belief) because at least then he wouldn't come off as an abject moron.
Rene, not to allow anyone think he's achieved brilliance at the last moment then writes:
"By the way, the US Federal Court of Appeals ruled atheism as a religion"
Which, of course, is neither here nor there. U.S. courts make tons of rulings each year, but that doesn't mean they are each engraved in stone. And while this court may well have ruled atheism a "religion" to make its legal argument more transparent, it still doesn't alter the fact atheism is NOT a religion.
For one thing it turns the very meaning and basis of religion on its head. We know all religions embody centralized beliefs or dogmas that issue from some sacred scripture or a body of theology based on scriptural interpretations.. Atheism has none of these, since there are no central propositions or beliefs with which all atheists agree.
Second, atheists make no positive claims for any transcendent existent that requires their worship or obeisance. They simply acknowledge no god or entity with which to build a religion in other words. Third, atheists maintain no sacred works, scriptures, or ancient artifacts, from which their “truths” are extracted.
They have no analog to a Bible, Qu’ran, Talmud or anything remotely similar. Instead, atheists pursue objective truth via open inquiry predicated on current science, which may provide fewer certainties or answers than if they merely placed their faith in a book.
Fourth, atheists convene no regular communal rituals, services or ceremonies to honor, or propitiate any entity. By contrast, the centerpiece of 99.99 percent of religions is precisely some social ritual, for the purpose of assembling together like-minded believers toward a common goal. Moreover, their churches, synagogues, temples etc. dot the landscape, taking up room that could be used to house the homeless in each respective area or locale.
Perhaps most importantly, there is no "acceptance" of atheist principles from any “congregation” since there’s no homogeneous congregation to bestow it. Atheists often disagree on as many things as they agree on, precisely because no formal coda exists to fix beliefs within a uniform dogma.
That said, let us look at Rene's last remark - again woefully missing the mark, and showing once again the futility of exchanges with certain dead-heads of the fundie persuasion:
"Accordingly, he does not say, 'I do not believe a deity exists', but rather prefers to say, “I choose to withhold my belief that a deity exists.” He claims there is a big difference between the two."
Here again, Rene's own neolithic and unnuanced language does him in. If I say the first statement, I am committed to a position of negative belief, e.g. disbelief. We need only go back to my Mensa Bulletin definition and the key words, here highlighted for his benefit:
"the atheist absolutely withholds investing intellectual/emotional resources in any supernatural claim "
What is happening here is not active disbelief, i.e. making a statement 'There is no god', but rather simply passively withholding any intellectual acknowledgment of committment or acceptance in a statement already made. Hence, the deity believer has made the positive claim. The ontological atheist’s is the absence of belief in it. No more - no less.
But now fully in the realm of folly, Rene cannot help himself when he blurts:
"To demonstrate this, all one needs to do is just invert the argument; is the assertion 'I believe a deity exists' any different from the assertion 'I choose to confirm my belief that a deity exists'? "
But, of course, readers will clearly see this isn't what my definition stated. Nor is it relevant to what has already been given. So here, once again, we behold Rene making an irrelevant pitch with an egregious example.
And we let him have his last say:
"Surely, the semantic value of such a distinction is zero, and so is the cowardly position of implicit atheism taken by a rational and educated adult."
To which I say: the semantic value of your twisted version of MY definition may be zero to you, but the RATIONAL value of my own definition(see my own words in my definition of implicit atheism from the Mensa Bulletin) is substantial to me. The reason is that it allows an exactitude and latitude for nuanced capacity of thought which your 'black-white' - either-or demands cannot permit. But if I capitulated to your demands, I would become as neolithically-primitively minded as you are.
Surely, the mark of a truly educated adult is to strive for maximal thought expression via exactness and attention to meaning, not descend to the minimum or base quantum allowed. So, it is no surprise that you see my rejection of your lowest common denominator methods and definitions as unacceptable.
As for "cowardly position", hardly! Not after having put myself out there with two books on atheism and Materialism. What you interpret as 'cowardice' here is really the inability of your own truncated intellect to argue at the level required to make cogent points.
But this is understandable, since your fundyism only teaches and drills you on the basis of cant and doctrine, not critical thought.
Thus again, we see why it is futile to debate hard core religious believers. Debate with Rene is clearly futile because he remains ensconced in primitive reasoning skills and resorting to deforming language to his own ends....since all other options for advancement of his claims are foreclosed. One step could easily be achieved if he would only provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for his deity's existence. But he can't. And it ought to be self-evident why he can't.