Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Criticism of theism and atheism

I wanted to write down my criticisms of theists and atheists in this entry because I find it frustrating to discuss the subject matter with people on both sides who do not seem to comprehend what they are saying.  They seem to be ignorant of their own illogical and hypocritical arguments while criticizing another's point of view.  I want to point out some of what I consider illogical arguments and refute them.  As a point of reference, I do not view myself as either a theist or an atheist.  My beliefs are based on the notion that we could be considered "gods", but the word "god" does not make sense in that context as there would be no one to worship us (there is no point in worship in the first place, if you realized what consciousness is).  I consider all individual conscious beings as representative of the concept "god", and the collection of all the different types of consciousness is the "God" that monotheism thinks of (omnipotent, omniscience, etc.), which is the will of us all as One (this does not mean "God" is only the sum of all of our consciousnesses, but rather we are a portion of All That is).  I explained before that the One became the Many (us), and that the Many will eventually become One again when the Many realizes their true nature through all experience. [edit: this last perspective used to be what I understood about One and Many. Now I realize that We are always One, but we experience Many through our incarnations. So the "return to the One" only means we remember that we are always One when the experience of being Many is over. Also, there is no such thing as "all experience". There is only experience and we create infinite probabilities to experience.]

First of all, the word theism is classically defined as a belief in a god or gods.  The word atheism is the antithesis of theism due to the prefix 'a'.  That means the classic definition of atheism is a non-belief in a god or gods.  However, some like to argue that atheism is really the belief in the non-evidence of a god or gods, which is not the classic definition.  If this was the case, then theism would mean the belief in the evidence of a god or gods as that would be the antithesis.  But clearly this is not the case for those who believe in a god.  Any evidence is merely the justification for their belief, not the fact of their belief.  In addition, non-evidence simply means no evidence has been found, but it does not preclude discovery in the future.  So just because something isn't found yet, does not mean it cannot be found at all.  If this was the case, then no new discoveries could ever exist simply based on the non-evidence of anything undiscovered.  Another means to argue "non-belief" as not equaling "faith" is using poor analogies.  Saying "sex is the opposite of no sex" to counter the argument that atheism is also faith is trying to compare simple grammatical negations of words with negations of a statement of opinion.  Any time you make a statement of opinion, it is a personal belief.  Saying "God does not exist because there is no evidence" is not a statement of fact, but of opinion.  It could be argued that your very material existence is evidence of God, regardless of the knowledge of how some things work, since that kind of knowledge does not explain existence.  Therefore, atheism is faith because that is the definition of personal belief.  The most obvious indicator that it is a belief-based faith is the need to defend your position against criticism or differing opinions.  What purpose is there in vociferously and condescendingly denying one claim over another, other than to demonstrate some supposed superior intellectual capacity?

As a point of reference, I'll define what I believe theism and atheism means first so that we aren't arguing definition right off the bat.  If you don't agree with my definition, then of course my arguments against them may also differ.

A theist traditionally believes that there is a higher power than themselves who is the creator or benefactor of themselves and the world they live in.  They believe that the deity is to be worshiped and obeyed for fear of disappointing or disobeying their will, some believing in a punishment or dire consequence upon their physical death for the disobedience.  There are also those who believe in a more benevolent deity who would do no harm and instead provides us the life giving power out of pure love and goodness.  There are also those who believe in deities who do not quite fit into either of these categories such as the Hindu gods or the Greek gods, etc.  The basic premise, however, is that theists believe in a power or entity that is beyond or above themselves and they call them gods.  These beliefs have come from many different sources, much lost through time.  What we have today that refer to gods are typically ancient texts, discovered manuscripts and letters, or other sources of information such as wall writings that detail the cultural experiences and observations of their time which led them to the belief in deities.  Back then, religion was their science.

An atheist traditionally believes that a god or gods cannot exist because they believe there has been no observable evidence to suggest such a belief.  The rational for this belief has traditionally been a logical argument, with claims of scientific evidence becoming the newest argument for their belief.  The traditional logical argument has been the fact that nature is controlled by observable laws or rules (Newton's Laws) and anything that breaks these understood or observed laws or rules must have a more obvious explanation than something that is extraordinary.  Atheists typically use Occam's Razor as the basis for this belief, that if there is a simple explanation, then it is the more likely reason until proven otherwise.  Unfortunately, "a simple explanation" is highly subjective and is dependent on the basic assumptions being used to make the explanation.  For example, a materialist will say "simple explanation" is that which can be seen materially.  Anything else would not be considered "simple".  Traditional logic against a god also stem from their observation of mankind and human nature vs. the theological concepts preached by theists about an all-powerful, all-loving god.  Because they reason that if such a deity existed, then god either made a mistake with mankind due to the apparent evil that exists and thus not all-powerful, or god does not care because god allows suffering and thus is not all-loving.  The more modern argument against a god is their claim that science has understood enough of nature to no longer require a supernatural being to create the known universe.  It also uses Occam's Razor to argue that until evidence is provided for a deity, then a faith-based belief cannot supersede what we understand about the universe from scientific discovery.  The problem with this is that science is also faith-based, hence the concept of theory and hypothesis.  Some like to argue that faith has to do with the unseen, but in fact, faith has to do with the unknown.  Science may know what is observable, but they do not yet know the unseen causes, hence the purpose for science.  Take for example the Big Bang theory.  Evidence may show up to validate certain assumptions related to the theory, but one cannot see the actual event and therefore, all evidence pointing to the theory's validity simply is coincidence no less than a lightning bolt striking down an enemy is evidence pointing to the existence of God through vengeance.  In other words, you cannot prove things such as the discovery of gravitational waves as being from the Big Bang no more than one can prove the lightning strike was caused by God. These are inferred beliefs based on logical deduction of cause and effect,  without actually observing the cause.

Both the theist and atheist view the world from the perspective of a physical human being.  What I mean is that they view themselves and the world they experience as being the only real aspect of their identity (i.e. we are all humans).  For the theist, the spiritual world is simply another "place", non-physical, but separate from the physical world that we "go" to upon death.  The atheist typically believe that only the physical world exists and that the universe is large enough to represent a relatively infinite world such that a non-physical world is irrelevant.  Death is merely a recycling of physical matter and consciousness is some cosmic accident only available to certain species.

I'm going to bullet point my issues with theism first since I've blogged about this point of view many times:
  • The ancient knowledge typically is an interpretation of a personal experience.  This leads to personal beliefs becoming a general belief.  It can also cause a misunderstanding of the experience, which distorts the message.
  • People's beliefs tend to be based on other's beliefs rather than personal experience.  This can cause deception by unscrupulous people for personal gain.
  • If physical beings were not the manifestation of spiritual beings, then we have no purpose for existence as our existence would be meaningless beyond death.  If we have a spiritual being separate from the physical being, then we are controlled by another being, which begs the question "what are we and why do I exist".  But if we are a spiritual being having an experience we define as "physical", then we are immortal already and you just don't remember this while experiencing mortality.
  • What is "heaven" and what is "hell"?  These are physical concepts projected into a spiritual domain.  A spirit, by definition, does not have form as there is no such thing as "space", meaning distance between two points.  If there is no space, then there cannot be "locations", except in the mind.
  • Many of the same points that atheists make regarding the religious notion of God also are valid points, such as why is there evil on earth if God is all loving, or why doesn't God intervene, etc. (This is not an argument against a loving God, but rather, the inability of theists, and people in general, to understand cause and effect because they view all acts done to them as being something out of their own control, and thus "acts of God").
  • Inability to listen and understand because their belief in a punishment is so great, they dare not disappoint their god or take chances with another belief.
  • Fear drives their motivation.  Those who profess love typically do so out of fear, as true love would not instill fear, which should be more so for the god they believe in.  This does not mean they do not love.  It simply means they continue to love out of fear, whether they acknowledge it or not.  If the reason for following is because one does not want to suffer punishment, then worship is an act born out of fear.  Even if they do not feel fear, it is because they believe that if they love, then it is pleasing to God, and so they are secure in their belief that their loving attitude is sufficient for salvation and so do not need to be concerned with judgment.  It's the "if I've nothing to hide, I've nothing to fear" view of God.  But even this point of view does not deny nor negate the original message of judgment.
Now I'll bullet point my issues with atheism:
  • There is a tendency to misdirect the argument for theism at technicalities of the belief, such as "you can't prove that" or "you can't know that" or "you can't say that".  Instead of trying to understand the point, it is typically ignored and the surrounding points are criticized.  The classic means of debating a point and thus "win" the argument, rather than trying to understand the point.
  • Many atheists like to use the theory of evolution, as it pertains to living matter completely ignoring non-living matter's varied "creations", as evidence against a need for intelligent design.  And yet, the concept of evolution itself POINTS to intelligent design.  What else would you call a theory that states the advancement or improvement of a species in order to "survive", if not an intelligent assessment of its current condition relative to its survivability?  You might be thinking "you don't know what evolution is", but the idea that a "successful" evolutionary state allows that state to persist because it is successful is using hindsight to justify the situation and projecting the argument forward as foresight.  You cannot claim something as being continuous based on past experience in a truly random system.  Dying off is not a reason for "unsuccessful" evolution, as probability in a random world would argue an unsteady state, meaning there is no "average" state.  A system that leans towards any particular state means it is not random, but has a higher probability of a specific state which shows a bias.  Any bias indicates something, whether known or unknown, is causing the bias.  An unconscious act of evolution through random chance could not explain all of the evolutionary changes that exist, because statistically, random chance could not account for such a large percentage.  It would require a more even distribution of change, both for better and worse.  But even then, there is no statistical data to show how much improvements exists relative to "negative" evolution.  In addition, the whole theory of evolution stems from the belief and acceptance of the theory of evolution as fact.  You cannot prove the theory of evolution with itself, no more than the bible can prove it's authority through itself.  Saying the theory of evolution is true because we observe evolutionary process is using itself as evidence.  Observing something that validates your belief is no more evidence as a theist observing something that validates their belief, and calling anyone who does not accept your observation as being a fool or ignorant further demonstrates the subjectivity of observation and belief.
  • The constant and incessant request for proof or evidence of a claim.  In science, much of the knowledge is hypothesis and theories.  They are theories based on observations and limited understanding, which the layperson calls evidence.  Whatever evidence science has discovered are typically building blocks for a larger problem observed.  But no evidence for a conclusion typically exists for the more complex issues.  For example, science does not have evidence of creation (that either a "Big Bang" created the universe or even that the universe was created at all.  Theoretically, it could have just popped into existence all at once).  What people use as evidence is really observed properties based on the assumption that anything physical must follow physical laws, but seeing circumstantial evidence, meaning the end effect is hypothesized to be a certain cause, does not equate to evidence for the theory.  Using circumstantial evidence as evidence for a theory is akin to a murder mystery, whereby a knife with blood is found in the home (the circumstantial evidence) of a suspect (the theory), but without any proof that the suspect was the one who used the knife.  Circumstantial evidence merely facilitates the ability to reason, but it does not constitute proof for the theory (unless you want to jump to conclusions).  Another person will argue that proof isn't the point, but that the circumstantial evidence points towards a reasonable conclusion.  But this argument is no different from the theistic argument, reasoning without proof.  The Big Bang is a theory and remains a theory because we can never replicate it to demonstrate the theory's correctness (models cannot be used as evidence as it is merely a means to demonstrate the theory).  So if science does not have evidence for anything of a philosophical nature due to the inability to travel back into time, such as how the world began, or what is matter, and atheists believe the theories of science, why should theists provide evidence for their theories?  Basically, it isn't about proof or evidence.  It is about faith, and atheists choose to have faith in science as their religion, while theists choose to have faith in religion as their science.  Many atheists will vehemently argue against this connotation, but as an observation, there is little difference except in the rituals and traditions they each follows.  Indifference is probably the only true non-religious behavior.
  • The requirement that the claimant provide evidence is also a typical argument.  The issue is they ignore their own claim because in their mind, they aren't making a claim, which is incorrect.  To have any belief is to make a claim.  To believe that gods do not exist is a claim and thus must require evidence according to the argument that the burden is on the claimant.  To claim non-existence as a non-claim is illogical.  Declaring anything is a claim.  Saying nothing is a non-claim. There was a reason someone decided to not believe something. The reason(s) are the "evidence" used to come to that belief for that individual.
  • Atheists tend to be indifferent in finding their own proofs since they don't believe.  And even if they sought proof, any evidence gathered, unless strongly impressed upon them, will be dismissed through self-deceiving reasoning.  So rather than go and examine the claim and find a lack of evidence for it, they simply claim lack of evidence until provided because of the 'claimant must provide proof" assertion.  The reason why this will never work is because they must be willing to accept the claimant's evidence first before they examine the evidence itself.  If they sought proof or non-proof themselves, they would have to argue against themselves what they experienced.  But when someone with a claim they disagree with provides evidence, there is a natural tendency to reject the evidence because of bias, and so it becomes pointless to offer proof.  The skeptic must find proof or the lack of proof themselves, IF they are truly looking for answers rather than simply seeking disagreement.
  • Skeptics will always find a way out of an argument because they do not need to accept anything as evidence.  This is because nothing can be proven from within the system!  It is all interpretation and observations, which is relative.  There is no way anyone in this reality can prove something absolutely because you would have to be outside of the system to demonstrate you understand everything about the system itself.  Otherwise, it can be claimed that you can't know everything to be able to prove it.  Proof is simply a probability of certainty through repeatability.  But even that is relative, since I can argue your conclusion is wrong.  This is why it's pointless to ask someone else for evidence.
  • Atheists cannot provide any evidence, whether it's science or otherwise, for any of their arguments because they claim something doesn't exist.  The problem with this is that to know something does not exist with certainty, it requires knowing (not just speculating) those possibilities cannot exist.  To believe evidence does not exist also requires the knowledge of all evidence to make that claim.  But they don't know and thus the constant request of proof by the claimant rather than seeking themselves.  Rejecting evidence, whether valid or not, does not prove their position either, so I don't see how lack of proof proves anything except that no one knows, not that the claimant is wrong.  Whatever evidence that is used for the non-belief is usually conjecture, personal bias, or a misunderstanding.  This is the same issue for theists.  The misunderstanding of certain concepts and ideas creates a false belief, which leads them to find more "evidence" for their misunderstanding because all knowledge is interpretations.
  • Using terminology as a basis for argument is another aspect of misdirection.  Arguing that terms are changing or that they are incorrect demonstrates the lack of comprehension of the claim itself.  The terms are defined in context within the claim, so to focus on a term outside of context is an error, but one the atheist does not recognize because they are myopic in the defense of their belief.
  • Occam's Razor is also misused.  Their argument is that a SIMPLE explanation is the best until otherwise proven.  The most simple explanation for existence is that we were created, just as nature procreates to perpetuate itself.  We have an observable template in nature to explain physical existence.  The key word is "physical".  One must believe that physical reality is not the only reality to understand creation from non-physical.  This requires understanding what "physical" really is, which is why I wrote the long entries about "proof of God".  To argue that science is the more simple explanation is false, as science does not have proof, but only an explanation (the same as religion) composed of rather complicated theories of chance, random statistics, mathematical probabilities, specific and perfect conditions, and plenty of exceptions, etc., predicated on the belief that only physical reality exists.  Science has not proven that creation was not designed, otherwise.  Both science and I agree that we exist because of spontaneity.  But that spontaneity was not by chance, but rather, OUR (the "I' without form) creative spontaneity through consciousness.  I don't like the word "created" or "designed" to refer to the universe's existence as they have religious connotations.  I think a better term is "perceived" as it focuses on the aspect of consciousness that allows us to experience the universe.  In order to understand anything, you must understand consciousness.
  • In science, there is a method to test out a theory and so science tends to believe in that method as being more objective and thus harder to inject personal bias.  In a faith-based assertion, it is a theory without any means for testing and so there cannot be any way to substantiate a claim.  But even science has no way to substantiate the test results because the results are based on the test itself.  The nature of the test is such that it is designed to demonstrate a certain result (ie. it is not open-ended, but "controlled").  The issue is with the conclusion drawn from the results.  There are many possible explanations for many experiments, which is why science requires consensus.  But again, consensus simply means a lot of people believe the same thing.  You don't need an experiment to get a lot of people to believe the same thing.  It simply requires personal belief.  The experiment itself is designed to demonstrate their belief.  Nobody creates experiments of an unknown expectation because they wouldn't know what to test for and so a test cannot be created.  This is the issue with testing non-physical concepts; it's hard to come up with the correct tests that is conclusive.  But it doesn't mean there isn't proof or evidence or that a test cannot be created.  It may take a while, possibly never.  Unless you want to volunteer and die to prove the metaphysical theories, I would suggest belief or non-belief would be better suited until the time comes when you have to take that test.
None of my criticisms should be interpreted as being against anyone having such beliefs.  I am only trying to present why the ideas and beliefs these two groups have are illogical, even if from a critical perspective.  It doesn't really matter that you believe this or that.  What is important is to be open minded to another point of view so that dogmas and ideology do not get a hold of your thinking, thus convincing yourself of your own ideas as the only truth.  While I listed many criticisms for both sides in their beliefs (and I know both sides will dispute my arguments), I want to point out that it is because of personal belief that these issues exist, rather than as simply a criticism.  All beliefs create reality, and thus when someone has a specific view of reality based on their belief, it is difficult to recognize or see beyond that reality.  In both the theist and atheist's minds, no other possibilities exist because it would run counter to their beliefs.  Reality is no more than your acceptance of a set of beliefs.  You were raised as children to believe in certain "facts".  Even as an infant, the sensory organs of your body were overwhelming your mental notion of reality so that by the time you're consciously able to recognize yourself, the only reality was that which your body told you was real.  Until you understand how you know what you consider real, you will find it difficult to accept anything outside of the conscious beliefs you take for granted as "fact" or "reality".  So the solution is to learn and understand the limiting beliefs one has in order to recognize that you create reality through your beliefs.

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