The Instigator
PublicForumG-d
Pro (for)
Losing
61 Points
The Contender
Spiral
Con (against)
Winning
77 Points

Atheism is a belief

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/19/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,059 times Debate No: 3717
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (12)
Votes (42)

 

PublicForumG-d

Pro

I read your debate on "whether or not atheism exists".

I thought it was a horrible blow out, in your favor. :)

That said, I disagree with your position of atheism as not a faith.

Atheism may not be an organized religion, but it is definately a faith. Atheism is
"1) the doctrine or belief that there is no God
2) a lack of belief in the existence of God or gods "

note: **Belief** that there is no God.

My sole contention rests on the fact that it is impossible to prove a negative.

==============
Ex:

Can you PROVE that striped elephants don't exist? You'd have to be able to check every place in the universe, and every possible elephant. Even then, it wouldn't be proof, because you may have missed it.

And, of course, we don't know whether striped elephants have ever existed in the past.

Proving that elephants DO exist simply requires finding 1.

You CAN prove that things exist; but you can't PROVE that they don't.

You can have reason to doubt, say, a purple elephant -- since that's just not a color critters like that come in; but it's not proof.

You can prove you have a pen.

Can you prove the pen doesn't think or feel? Well, no.

========================

Because there is no definitive, absolute way to prove that a G-d or gods does not exist, atheism entails (at least, to a very minute degree) an amount of faith.

If something has faith, it is a belief.
Spiral

Con

Thanks to my opponent for an interesting challenge.

‘theism' The belief in god(s)
‘a' – Greek meaning without
Atheism: Without belief in gods.

My opponent commits the fallacy of Begging the Question: attempting to argue that atheists should not define atheism broadly by assuming the truth of the narrow definition which religious theists would prefer. Atheism is merely the absence of belief in gods, it's not making any claims about the existence of gods, and therefore the only burden of proof lies with religious theists themselves. Atheists might assert that some or all gods do not or cannot exist, but that isn't a prerequisite for atheism and it shouldn't be assumed that any particular atheist does so (again my opponent will be an atheist in regards to gods other than those of his/her faith).

The idea that this narrow definition is the most appropriate one is, however, precisely the issue being debated. It is not legitimate to argue that something is wrong by assuming that the alternative which you favour is correct. The narrow definition indicates that my opponent probably doesn't have a valid argument to offer and is just grasping at straws in an effort to have some sort of argument. It's true that with the broad definition of atheism, there is little to attack, the burden of proof however, or at least the burden of support if there is nothing to prove, lies with whoever is making the positive claim. In context of atheism and theism, this burden of proof lies primarily or entirely with the theist because this is the person who is claiming that at least one of some sort of being they call a god exists.

The minimum, an atheist needs to perform is to examine whatever support is offered for theistic claims and show how and why they might be inadequate. If a theist does or cannot offer any support, there is little more that the atheist can do but ignore them. If there is no rational support for their claims, then they have no interest in engaging in rational discussion on the issues. The justification of atheism, if required, can only proceed from whatever is fundamental and necessary to atheism. Atheism is simply non belief; that means that little or no justification is required. Only after the theist has presented coherent and rational arguments might the atheist need to explain why she does not accept them. At that point, justification of atheism is based upon inadequate justification for theism. Remember the atheist has tools other than religion to explain the natural universe; they do not need a concept of god for everything to be.

Therefore, when the claim that a person is an atheist because they, "deny the existence of God," we see some of the errors and misunderstandings that statement involves. Firstly, "God" hasn't been defined (which god, which religion), so how an atheist regards it cannot be routinely assumed. You cannot merely assert that whatever you have in mind must also be something which the atheist has in mind. Second, it is not true that however this god is defined, the atheist must automatically deny it. The idea might turn out to be too incoherent to justify either belief or denial.

It is fair to say then, the entire attempt to deny the definition of atheism as a lack of belief in gods is an attempt by theists to avoid expounding and defending their own theistic position. Claims that atheists are making their own assertions, allow theistic claims to fade into the background and not be subject to the critical examination, and critique they warrant. Theists can therefore quietly remain theists without having to do any of the work necessary to justify it.

Proving the negative:
Eight is not equal to seven
The ancient Aztecs did not watch Seinfeld
The tsetse fly is not native to Antarctica

Clearly, it's possible to prove a negative statement. The real problem here is the nature of the positive statement being refuted.Science progresses by proving negatives. More specifically, it is by constructing possible models (a hypothesis), and then testing them (falsification), that we advance and build on the knowledge that we already have. By doing so, we have proven many negatives along the way. We arrived at the conclusion that oxygen is the necessary gas in burning because we were first able to disprove the existence of phlogiston, which was the reigning scientific position at the time. More exactly, we now say that oxygen is a better explanation of burning than phlogiston, because the first fits all the facts while the second does not.

The idea of proving negatives by testing is also part of a basic epistemic principle, Occam's Razor. If you have two models explaining the same data, and one is simpler than the other, then the simpler one is true and the complex one is false. Occam's Razor is not just a preference or a probability. Occam's Razor is essentially the fundamental rational standard that, to assert something you must have objective evidence. If there are two competing models, and one is more complex than another, then the complex ones has additional processes which have no evidence to validate their existence.

Logic and science indicate that there must be a basis (either in substance or in thought) for a contention or else it must be denied. An assertion, without evidence, is not accepted as true. That is the default position, the position that defines what critical thought is. Critical thought means not believing things you are told unless there is evidence to back it up. Religion cannot define god. Resolving this must take place before any significant discussion about the nature of God can begin. Atheists have no reason to provide these descriptions, without any beliefs about God; they have no reason to do so. The onus rests upon the theist. The mention of one's belief in God serves as an assertion that God exists.

Additionally, rejecting an assertion does not imply burden to justify it. The evidence needs to be provided by whoever makes the assertion. The person rejecting the assertion needs to provide nothing at all. Many theists try to escape this basic fact of life by stating that their assertions need to be justified only to themselves in their personal experience. Simply, that what is true for others might not be true for them. But this is folly, this turns its back on productive thinking, it is solipsism, and states that every person lives in their own reality, and what is true in their life might not be true for others. The statement "you cannot prove a negative" is used here simply as a different way of saying "You can't prove me wrong because I don't even know what I'm talking about."

"If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless" ~ Carl Sagan.
Debate Round No. 1
PublicForumG-d

Pro

PublicForumG-d forfeited this round.
Spiral

Con

Another theist debate another forfeit, still, thanks to my opponent for conceding his position. I will use this round to expand a bit on the previous points.

Atheism's default position is its own stance on the nature of the universe, not that of theistic claims. This is important in understanding why atheism is not a statement of belief but merely a refutation of theist claims. Since it has its own rational basis, its only burden is the negation of any claim purported by those from an opposing position. To be considered, any theistic claim must have a rational basis, otherwise it is simply discarded. No justification of this is necessary, without a logical basis there is no need for rationalisation.

How this works:
Theist claim: God exists.
Atheism: No rational basis -- discarded.
Theist: The bible shows us God exists.
Atheism: The source fails due to circular logic. The bible tells us God exists, we know the bible is true because God tells us so -- discarded.
Theist (persistent): The bible is the infallible word of god!
Atheism: There are contradictions in both historicity and how god is defined --therefore it fails.
Theist: God is all powerful!! He can exist within contradictions.
Atheism: Contradictions can also negate the existence of god, there is no rational basis for the claim -- therefore it fails.
Theist: The bible is both truth and metaphor/analogy.
Atheism: There are no set criteria for deciding what is truth and what is metaphor -- therefore it fails.

And so on it goes. As can be seen, there is no statement of belief needed, no claims of faith are made, just simple rational discrediting of theist claims.

Disproving the negative:

"The principle that no one can prove an unrestricted negative, however, is itself an unrestricted negative." It states, in effect, that there are no proofs of unrestricted negatives. But, if there are no proofs of unrestricted negatives, then no one can prove that no one can prove an unrestricted negative. And if no one can prove that no one can prove an unrestricted negative, then it must be logically possible to prove an unrestricted negative. So the claim that no one can prove a universal negative is self-refuting-if it's true, it's false." (Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 21, Number 1)

To prove then, that God does not exist, it is necessary only to demonstrate that the concept of God is inconsistent. There are many, here is just a couple.

God is both merciful and just. God (being perfect) makes sure that everyone gets exactly what's due. If he is perfectly merciful however, he lets everyone off. Clearly he can't do both. The notion of a supreme being appears to be internally inconsistent.

The Perfection-vs.-Creation Argument
1. If God exists, then he is perfect.
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.
3. A perfect being can have no needs or wants.
4. If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.
5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5).

http://www.secularhumanism.org...

Clearly Atheism is not a belief system; it is simply the non belief in deities. There is no positive claim made, no statement of faith, no basis on belief.
Debate Round No. 2
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SweetBags 9 years ago
SweetBags
while both sides did a good job, pro never responded to con, and so con wins basically by default.
Posted by pitteas 9 years ago
pitteas
Nicely done Spiral. This was a slam dunk from the beginning, but you really made great points.
One more thing I wanted to add is the use of the word faith. People use it interchangeably with belief, and that's where a lot of the trouble comes from. To believe in something, you normally have logical and tangible evidence that you use to justify those beliefs. To have faith, is to hold on to a belief where reason fails. The faithful are simply people who must suspend what most of us consider most important - reason and logic.
To claim that atheism is a belief in the general sense of the word may not be that wrong, but I imagine that the instigator meant it as most theists do - that atheism is faith based - which is absurd.
Posted by Spiral 9 years ago
Spiral
A want/need is a deficit. A perfect being would not have a deficit.
Posted by InkSlinger4 9 years ago
InkSlinger4
Sory about the spelling mistakes. (*down*, *too*)
Posted by InkSlinger4 9 years ago
InkSlinger4
Some people believe the Messiah is the same as God, some people believe they're separate. The whole trinity thing, you know. I personally believe they're separate, but the whole thing can get rather confusing.

I love the Atheist and the Bear thing!

To Spiral: The Perfection-vs-Creation Argument seems rather flawed. Why can't something perfect want or need more? First, you'd need to define perfect. If God is merely perfect at each level of existence, Creation was simply another facet that he was progressing to. Just a thought though, and if you want to cast me own in a tower of billowing flame, I won't be watching. I'm way to busy to actually start another argument.
Posted by tigersandgreenweather 9 years ago
tigersandgreenweather
Nicely done Spiral :D do you debate anything other than religion?? :P shame about all the forfeits you get. Goooooooooooooooooooooo Atheism!
Posted by HellKat 9 years ago
HellKat
Wait nevermind you mean one God, not one god, okay forget I even said it.
Posted by HellKat 9 years ago
HellKat
Isn't God different from a messiah? I thought they were, unless of course you're talking about Jesus, who most people do consider to be the human form of God.

Why can't there be more than one God?
Posted by nater 9 years ago
nater
Here's my oppinion. I belive in a true God the messiah. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with not having a standpoint however there can only be one God.
Posted by Yraelz 9 years ago
Yraelz
You're picture is amazing! That story is pretty funny also.
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