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Sense the nonsense

Some time ago I was browsing web and I found this short comic on the topic of atheism.

While I was slightly amused by an awkward position to which this christian couple was put to, knockout that author intended to show is however certainly not as sharp as it appears.

One of the roots of the problem around the question “Who is an atheist?” is it’s very definition. We should not continue to solve this issue without first defining the word atheist.

According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary atheist is: “one who believes that there is no deity.

Thesaurus: “someone who denies the existence of god.”

American Atheists (self-definition): “Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own.

Other: “the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

This meaning of the word “atheist” is in its root of origin very similar to the word “atypical”. For in both cases we only added letter “a” in front of the original word. a-theist / a-typical, which changed the value of the word to its opposite meaning.

Reading the comic with these definitions in mind, we are one step closer in seeing why is it just a nonsense, rather than a witty blow to Christians.

Mathematically speaking: If Jeremy says that he believes, that 349*825 is 287925 then you have three basic options to choose from.

  • Check his claim whether what he is saying is true. After doing your math you can either come to the same conclusion and agree with him. (Christian – theist)
  • or come to a different one and disagree with him while having or at least assuming a different result. (Muslim – theist)
  • Disagree with him while saying that a result does not exist (dividing by zero is impossible) (Atheist)

We see that in the example above, not everyone can be right, we can all be wrong, but we can’t all be right. Here all three options represent position, standpoint, belief or opinion which has or ought to have a value in for one who is seeking the truth.

Therefore when a Theist says that an Atheist has a belief (faith) that there is no God, he holds a valid standpoint. However when an Atheist is trying to do the same, by pointing at the fact that a Christian (Theist 1) does not share the same view (does not have a belief in the same God) as Muslim (Theist 2) therefore he has 2 beliefs or holds 2 opinions, he is simply committing the usual “non sequitur” fallacy (conclusion does not follow from the premises).

Surely it logically follows, when a person believes that 2+2=4 he believes not that 2+2=5. Yet the second is not a belief by itself, but only a logical necessity following from the primary belief. This cannot be said about a belief that 2+2 has no true result, for this is the primary belief in itself and all the other (2+2=4 or 2+2=5) “disbeliefs” are thus logically necessary.

 Other Definitions

However, today we can find other, new definitions of the word atheist such as “the absence of belief in any gods.” or “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.” This position is also called a “weak atheism” and is often called also agnostic atheism. For it is very similar (if not the same) to a view called agnosticism that holds no commitment to any opinion whatsoever, perhaps only that the ultimate reality is unknown and probably unknowable (Merriam Webster).

Now, having this definition in mind I guess we in fact do have a fourth option and that is to say: “I do not know and probably I don’t even care.” This is surely a position, however at this point it seems that any further discussion is unnecessary. At least until one truly opens himself to the sort of questions, which has been sought to be answered by the many generations before us, namely: “How did it all start? What is our purpose? Where are we heading?…” To find the best possible explanation is one way to do it, which does not commit anyone to the inevitable verity of his conclusions only proposes rationality behind them over the reasonableness of its rival hypothesis.

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Sense the nonsense

Emotional Language: Suggestion: Phraseology

While having the exact same situation we can always see it from different perspectives. Often this perspective can be seen in our own language. For instance the famous half full/half empty glass perfectly portrays such situation. While the object might still be the same and objectively nothing is changing, our own perception of the situation, our attitude will determine whether the cup is half full or empty, which logically speaking ought to have no value for our following reasoning.

To take another example, I will now ask you to read following statements one by one.

  1. There are 2 girls.
  2. First one is called Jessica and the second Julia.
  3. Jessica is fatter than Julia.

Now what did you imagine? Usually people would picture two somewhat wider girls if not then at least Jessica would be perceived as slightly obese. Yet, this assumption like the one with the glass is not completely reasonable, because the statement number 3 did not say anything about either of girls being fat. Thus the 3rd statement could have been changed, so it would go like this: Julia is thiner then Jessica. I guess that at the moment our fantasy takes us naturally somewhere completely elsewhere, still again there is no reason to believe that we are dealing with two slenderly women, for the only thing it says is that one is thinner than the other.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Sense the nonsense

 

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Sense the nonsense

Emotional Language: Appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam)

Inspired by Robert J. Gula.

We can find individuals or companies that try to get hold of our sense of compassion and pity. Especially many charity oriented organizations use this mean to emphasize the need for financial attention to their problem. We are here often presented a picture of extremely sick and dirty child somewhere in the middle of a junkyard, out of which we can almost feel their dreadful perspective on life. This often stirs remarkably strong emotion of empathy which tenders our heart and is followed by a merciful emptying the content of our wallets.

However, there is really nothing wrong with this appeal in itself. It is only important that we are aware of this element and when we really want to feed starving children we ought to make sure that most of our donation will actually reach these people. For that purpose we need to deal with real facts and ask questions like: “How much of my donation will be used for administration? How much will go on other advertisements? How much will get the people that work with it?” Sometimes organizations that have fanciest commercials and well-known programs use a significant amount of donated money just on that purpose…

All in all it is important that we have compassion with people who suffer! And when this triggers an impulse in us to do something about it, this emotional impulse should not fall for the first cheap offer on the market, but should be accompanied by a reasonable thinking that will assure that we will sense the nonsense around us, do our homework and trace the best possible way of delivering the money to the purpose we have intended them for in the first place.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Mission, Sense the nonsense

 

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