‘Net case: Possessing the Treasure

Posted: February 3, 2008 in Atheism, Blogs worth reading, Evolution, Religion, Reviews

learnenglish-central-stories-treasure-story-330x220.jpgIt has been some time since I’ve done one of these and, to be fair, this candidate is not in the same league as some of the others my little ‘net case examinations have looked at.  That being said, this is still a great example of the sort of utter nonsense that Atheists (and Agnostics, for that matter) have to deal with all the time.  The same old tired arguments or statements which are simply irrelevant to the discussion.

Possessing the Treasure seems to be yet another one of those websites which leaves logic and objective thinking alone and generally seems to have no actual arguments to make which have not been shot down years ago.  Sadly, it is but an indication of the style of pseudo-reasoning which seems one of the main assets of creationists, fundamentalists and other less than rational people.

I’ll illustrate the point by examining one such entry on the site, the one simply titled ‘Atheism‘ .  It would make your task easier, as the reader, to go and give it a quick word before I continue.  Off you go, I’ll go get a coffee or something.

The new atheists seem to be angrier than ever.

I have been an Atheist for, oh, at least sixteen years now and I have yet to meet an angry Atheist. I have met some who have become frustrated with the same old tired nonsense arguments supposedly supporting the existence of a supernatural power and so on.  Never any actually angry ones.

Sam Harris says his goal is “to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity”

I am not a great fan of Harris’ writing style but he does have a fair point in this regard. In general, Christianity does like to make out their beliefs do possess intellectual and moral qualities. There is no intellectual justification to believe in a supernatural power/creator no evidence, no logical reason, etc.  Nor do Christians or any other religious/belief system group have any sort of monopoly on moral or decent behaviour.  There are good people and there are bad people no matter what they believe, it is that simple.  Being a Christian does not automatically make you a good person, nor does being an Atheist.

Richard Dawkins wants you to know that he is “dumbstruck by your denial of tangible reality, by the suffering you create in service to your religious myths, and by your attachment to an imaginary God”

I am a fan of Dawkins’ work much more so than Harris’, however.  And, once again, Dawkins is right.  There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of a supernatural creator/power, there is no logic which supports such and … well, you get the point.

Ironically, these strident, militant atheists often come across like the very people they want to criticize. They themselves are believers, for they firmly believe—without any scientific proof—that there is no God.

flying_spaghetti_monster.jpgOccam’s Razor answers this one beautifully and has done so since the inception of the concept back in the 14th Century.  Also, there is the simplest of logical arguments that simply because you can disprove it, it does not mean it exists.  The classic examples of the invisible, intangible pink dragon in my garage of even the more contemporary Flying Spaghetti Monster are things which can not be disproved but it certainly does not mean they exist.  Quite simply; if there is no evidence to support the existence of something then you really should not belief that it does, for it does nothing but mean that every other concept that you can imagine might also exist – and you have no more reason to believe in your chosen concept than (for example) Optimus Prime being the creator of the Universe (hey, that would be kind of cool actually).

Furthermore, they read the Bible with such rigid literalism that they sound like fundamentalists

That brings up the point of what is and is not ‘real’ in terms of biblical writing. You either have to say it is all 100% correct (very popular choice amongst fundamentalists, despite the evidence to the contrary) or say that some parts aren’t accurate.  But from what standard do you then start concluding which parts are real and which parts are made up?  The only method available is through the subjective viewpoint of modern theologians and the moment you do that, the entire credibility of the text gets thrown out the window.   Well, to be honest the credibility goes out the window as soon as you start critically analysing the contents of said text but that’s another matter…

And all the while they are advocating the atheism of the 20th century tyrants who put more people to death, and more brutally, than any other worldview in history.

Oh dear, he may as well have held up a big flashing billboard which said ‘Hitler was an Atheist!’ in rather large letters. Which, as anyone who has looked into the subject knows, is wrong – he was a self professed Catholic and, at best, a Deist.  He was in no shape or form an Atheist.  Nor did historical figures such as Stalin or Pol Pot or even Mr. T kill anyone in the name of Atheism, they did it for their own personal gain.  Yes, this was one of those arguments that is so old and defeated so many times that it makes you cringe when someone brings it up yet again.

This entire site, like so many others based on irrationality, in a major way in the way it appears to construct a conclusion that a supernatural power exists and then looks for evidence (or shoddy arguments, take your pick) to support that cause.  When, as any rational person knows, you should instead objectively look at the evidence and form a conclusion from there.  Even if it is a conclusion you do not like or are comfortable with.For example, in another entry it is written:

We also have to consider this: if there is no God, as Dostoyevsky said, everything is permitted.

Which is nothing but a bad attempt to make a supernatural creator/power the source of all morality when there is absolutely no reason to at all.  There are so many theories which fit known facts regarding social and moral behaviour that an alternative for which there is no evidence for is completely uncalled for.  The Social Contract or the simple fact that early human groups that co-operated had a much higher survival rate than others and thus prospered and bred simply explain morality and match all available evidence.

In other words, we rule out the possibility that God is and that he has created, and then we are left with evolution, even though we have no coherent system of proof of it – and we cannot have, because we cannot put the whole universe back into the laboratory to test it.

r220586_866946.jpgThe evidence that supports evolution (as stated in this humble blog, scientific papers, peer reviewed journals and generally from people who know what they’re actually talking about) is truly massive indeed.  From analysis of DNA, geographical evidence, archaeological evidence, species diversification and even good old fossils.  Talkorigins.org is an excellent source for such evidence yet a lot whole of religious folk are either ignorant of the evidence or simply do not care about it.  The number of transitional fossils found, studied and catalogued are so many that … well, the last entry on this blog is about yet another one that has been unearthed.  You might often here such claims that there have been no to few transitional fossils or record found, quite clearly those claims are completely false and spoken from a position of ignorance.

But if this is true, or if some form of pantheism is true – if the universe is divine and we are part of it – then ultimately there is no reason for a distinction between good and evil.

Again, trying to attribute morality to some sort of natural power. See above for why this is a silly, silly argument.  As well, there is no more reason to suppose god is the source of morality and decency than the Flying Spaghetti Monster or even Batman.

Voltaire and others have seen the power of this argument from design. The universe seems to be designed.

And here we get onto the whole Intelligent Design argument which really is just as silly as straight out creationism. An example how silly this is was used by Dawkins at one point, it went something along the lines of;  Imagine a small, shallow hole in the ground. It rains and the hole fills with water.  The water thinks, if it could, that the hole is perfectly shaped to fit it so it must have been designed for the water and the water alone. Yes, so the argument of design falls completely apart the moment the moment you think about it objectively instead of trying to use it as a ‘Go god!’ argument.

But secondly, I am not an atheist because of human beings. I am not an atheist because of the nobility of human beings.

Yet again, poorly attempting to attribute morality and decent behaviour to a supernatural power/creator of some sort.  It is a silly argument as demonstrated above.

Supremely, there is love. I do not mean the kind of love of which we might see parallels in the animal world, such as my cat loving me because I feed it cat food. There is something much superior in the human world where love may be shown without anything gained in return – for example in time of war, where people sacrificed their own lives for other people’s freedom.

I feel like some sort of power ballad should be playing at this point. But, in short, this is at least the fourth attempt by the author to attribute emotion and morality to a supernatural creator.  Love and altruism have been seen in animals, dolphins and chimpanzees are common examples,  where one member of a community will disadvantage themselves for the betterment of the whole group with no expectation of reward.  The reasons? Intelligent creatures know that their species future depends on working together and doing what is best for the group and sometimes that means that the individual takes a hit or two.

But thirdly, I am not an atheist because of the Bible. I have referred already to some of the things it says. It is because of this book that I am not an atheist.

mr-men-little-miss-gang.jpgNot exactly the best of reasons, basing your belief system on text written by bronze age goat herders who really did not know any better.  The bible contains so many historical and factual errors that it really is not worth the bother.  It also contradicts itself in both testaments which further highlights what a flawed document it is.  You may as well base your belief system off the morals taught in the classic ‘Mr. Men‘ children’s books.

warning.jpgHolding up the bible as proof of god is also just an exercise in circular logic. For example; “I believe in god because the bible says he exists. I believe in the bible because it is the word of god.  I believe in the word of god because the bible says it is so. I believe in the bible because…”

I am sure you get the idea, it is a great example of circular logic indeed.  You may as well try flying by picking yourself up by your own shoelaces.

  1. Steve B says:

    creationists, fundamentalists and other less than rational people

    Great way to promote open and reasoned debate. Start by calling your opponents delusional.

    You and Ann Coulter have a lot in common. You may have some valid points, but your caustic presentation loses you a lot of credibility.

  2. Matt says:

    My point of view is that if the hat fits, then you should wear it. People who have no evidence to justify a belief in something are simply not rational. It is not rational in anyway whatsoever to believe in something if you have no testable evidence to do so. Otherwise, your beliefs simply are not valid when matched up against such things as Santa Claus, Tooth Fairies, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  3. Cataboligne says:

    Good article. We believe so at least – anything that entertains. And you are quite correct on one point – faith (i.e. a belief in something unprovable) is not rational. I have often wondered at calling a human a “rational animal”… While I will admit humans are animals, I have the idea they are all highly irrational beings.

    I started out thinking this is a great argument to being able to create a time machine – then I read the last statement:
    “You may as well try flying by picking yourself up by your own shoelaces.” and thought – really, doesn’t anyone read hitchhikers guide anymore?

    It is my personal belief that most religions were started to avoid treating fellow living beings with the honor and respect they deserve as a living thing. I don’t subscribe to any of them…

  4. Matt says:

    Thankyou for that well thought out and reasoned argument. And also for making yourself seem like an immature, dim witted yokel.

  5. Jake says:

    You seem to think human reasoning, human logic, and human rationality are absolutely correct? Do you forget our limited perspective of the universe as humans? And that theres a very distinct possibility that even the most advanced science is inherently flawed due to the fact that it is entirely based upon human experiences and observations? The human experience of the universe, and attempts to explain it’s workings either religiously or scientifically, are akin to a blind person opening the door of the Louvre, poking around at the threshold of the door with his stick for about 1.5 seconds, and then proceeding to proclaim his vast knowledge of the contents of the museum. That is an analogy to how little we humans know about anything, and to claim that science, logic, reasoning, rationality (which are based on human thoughts) OR religious faith (also human thoughts) are adequate to explain the complexities of the universe, than you sir are a moron.

  6. Matt says:

    You seem to be jumping to some rather crass assumptions.
    Did I anywhere say science knows absolutely everything? No. No scientist or anyone who knows anything about science would ever say such a thing.

    However, science does have the best track record thus far of finding things out and it can be agreed we should stick with it until we come across a better system.

    It is certainly a lot better deducing truth and knowledge than, for example, religion which has gotten us pretty much nowhere even when it was at it’s height of influential power on society.

    So I shall retort; for assuming to know my stance and trying to place words into my mouth … you, sir, are a moron.

    You also have no idea about grammar and punctuation.

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