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George Monbiot: Kick the big money out of politics 86% Posted Apr 2017

George Monbiot: Kick the big money out of politics

Comment: 8 hours ago

At last, a simple proposal to get money out of politics that could actually work. I propose we implement this, and have a review and referendum in 5 years time -  to keep the new system or revert to what we have today.

Bill Maher - Make Earth Great Again 88% Posted Apr 2017

Bill Maher - Make Earth Great Again

Comment: 6 days ago

The first Martian will be the first human born on Mars. And when they visit Earth, they will be too weak to handle the gravity. Mars is less dense than Earth with about 40% of the gravity, so Martians will feel over twice as heavy.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 9 days ago

You are not convinced by what I say about passing on my belief set, but you know very little about me. You are jumping to conclusions based on insufficient evidence, just like what religious people do.

And it's not about teaching the next generation to catch a particular type of fish, but to catch fish rather than crabs. One is nutritious, the other is a disease.

For somebody who analyses text for a living, I give you a D-, and that's being generous. The 2nd part of the definition for "agnostic" (btw I did not miss it out, it's not in my Mac OS dictionary - that's another conclusion you came to with insufficient evidence) actually reenforces my point: "a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God". Babies don't claim anything, they only accept. They don't question so they can't be agnostic.

You asked: "would you say infants neither believe nor disbelieve, or just disbelieve?" Let me frame my answer in a way that even an infant can understand. Is a duck born Christian? No. Is a duck born Muslim? No. Is a duck born agnostic? No. How could it be, it doesn't even understand the question. Is a duck born atheist? Well, kinda. My dictionary  says an atheist is "a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods", and ducks certainly lack a belief in god. Mentally, a human baby on the cusp of self-awareness is not much different from a duck.

When I said "the thing is, everyone is born an atheist" the point I was making was that a baby is not born with any particular religion pre-installed. So whether a baby is born atheist or agnostic, doesn't change that fact. I know it's obvious, but easy for religious people to forget. There's no such thing as Muslim children, only children indoctrinated with Muslim ideology.

As I said, I don't remember the research I cited, so I can't comment on the findings. Give me a link. But from what you write, it sounds like I'm coming in at an earlier stage in the evolution of humans. I suggest that any species with the ability to ask questions will create religion. If we are driven by a survival instinct, and we can ask questions, then surely questions at the top of the list are: what happens after we die, how did we get here, and why are we here at all. That would form the foundations for a predisposition to believe in god and an afterlife. 

A baby will also accept whatever as true because it has no reason to reject it, because it can't even reason. That is just the consequence of receiving information before the brain has the ability to evalute that information. That allows religion to propagate even if it makes no sense.

I am not conflating belief in god with religion. When I talk about god, I'm talking about the known ones, the ones that already exist. I've made this point many times before but it's still not computing. Did you miss the class on context? If you want to talk about unknown and unknowable ones, that's cool, just let me roll a couple of spliffs first and then we can get started.

"But try being honest with yourself: Do you believe this is a godless universe?" No. I believe the known gods are confined to this tiny spot in the universe that we call Earth. I don't know about unknown gods, maybe that's because they are unknown. As for unknowable gods, I'll ask a cat what it thinks of the stockmarket.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. All atheists are agnostic. It's just a matter of degree. Atheists who do not change their mind in the face of indisputable empirical evidence either don't exist or are very few. Agnostics are atheists who sit on the fence. Agnostics are not people of faith who sit on the fence, because faith doesn't allow you to sit on the fence. That's the point of faith, no fences, just big opaque walls. And within those walls, all your deep questions are answered. I'd better stop, I can feel the vomit coming up.

"To a pragmatist, it makes no difference to our daily lives if there really is a god in everything, or if there's no god anywhere in the universe". True, but not quite. To a pragmatist, going to church every Sunday is a chore if god doesn't actually exist. No one should care what other people believe, as long as their beliefs don't negatively affect the lives of others. The problem with faiths is that they are also designed to spread.

"A god that is described in a major religion is no more knowable to an agnostic than an infinite number of other gods that you have never thought of." Really? I don't compute. The gods of major religions are well described. What else do you want to know about them?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 11 days ago

I agree that religion exploits the natural inclination to believe. In fact, that's very well put. Thanks. A natural inclination to believe is not the same as being born with god preinstalled.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 11 days ago

Of course I'm as likely to pass my own beliefs on to the next generation as any person of faith. The difference is that my aim is to pass on "the how of creating a belief set" rather than any specific belief set. So if I disagree with the direction my child is taking, I'd want to debate more how they arrived at their belief, rather than the belief itself. It's a bit like showing starving people how to fish, rather than just giving them fish.

About being born agnostic - here's a dictionary definition of agnostic: "a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God". Clearly that is not in the mind of a newborn. From the same dictionary, atheist is: "a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods". Clearly a newborn lacks a belief in the existence of God or gods.

You say a baby's first thoughts are not of a godless universe. An atheist doesn't think about a godless universe either. He thinks about the universe, and as he learns more, so his picture of the universe develops - just like in a baby.

Anyway, it's not really important whether babies are born atheist or agnostic, what's important is to realise that they are not born pre-installed with any particular god. Which religion gets installed depends on which family they are born into. Islam is the fastest growing religion, not because it has the most compelling arguments, but because Muslim families have the highest birth rate.

You say research shows that humans are predisposed to believe in gods and an afterlife rather than simply accepting authority. I buy that. This is how I see it. A baby's mind starts off blank, so it accepts everything it learns as truth because there's nothing to compare with. That's what I mean by "accepting authority without question". It's not about obedience. Babies learn most from their parents (authority) and they believe every word because their minds are empty and itching to be filled (accepting) - whatever their parents say however ridiculous (without question). Consider how silly the Father Christmas story is, yet children will believe it is true until the age of 7. 

Because humans can think, and that death is feared, then it's follows that we would wish for an afterlife. And because we can think, it also follows that we'd be curious about where we came from and what our purpose is. Like I said before, if ducks could think, they would also have gods because they would also want to know where they came from and what happens after they die. To me, that's a predisposition to believe in god or an afterlife Otherwise we're back to Godwin's sister law.

About going over old ground - this is the point we reach where you pull out your equivalent to "god's mysterious ways". Unknown unknowns are all very interesting but not meaningful outside of philosophy class. I keep saying this but it doesn't seem to compute. It's like when Elon Musk talks about living in a simulation - it's all very interesting and definitely a possibility that shouldn't be discounted, but not meaningful in any real way. When I talk about religion or god, I'm referring to the ones we know of. Particularly the Abrahamic one because that god is the most problematic today. For whatever reason, you are too PC to criticise our known gods, so you introduce unknown gods to muddy the waters. Forget about the unknown ones, you can consider them when they make themselves known. In the meantime, evaluate the known ones, and if you don't come to the conclusion that they are all nonsense, then get off the fence and pick one. Or you could get creative and invent your own.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 15 days ago

I have never claimed to be more open than average. I am subject to the human condition as everyone else.

I think Godwin needs a sister law that says: when an internet  conversation goes on for long enough, it ends up in etymology or semantics. Agnosticism does not mean "without knowledge". That's ignorance. I can guarantee that a child's first thoughts are not triggered by the need to question god's existence. More likely it's the need to eat or shit. Babies are born without knowledge, but with a predisposition to accept whatever mum and dad tell them. At the early stages, that's where the bulk of their knowledge comes from. That "predisposition to accept whatever mum and dad say" lays the foundation for faith - accepting whatever god tells you. When a child comes to realise that mum and dad are just humans like themselves, there's a natural home for the "predisposition to accept a higher authority" to continue - that is in a religion.

I don't see atheism the way you do. It's not about god, it's about empirical evidence. God certainly exists in some form. We talk and write books about god. We have personal experiences involving god. And throughout history people have acted under god's guidance. The question is: does god exist outside of our imagination? Generally speaking, an atheist would say: there is no empirical evidence, so no. The point is, the atheist's view is dictated by the empirical evidence. In stark contrast, faith does not require empirical evidence. The words in an ancient book are evidence enough. And when there's a clash, the words are either reinterpreted to fit the evidence (that's the moderate approach), or the empirical evidence is ignored and god works in mysterious ways too advanced for us to understand. And this we teach our children, that faith is something to be respected. It makes me vomit.

You would say that one man's evidence is another man's nonsense. I would disagree with that. Not all evidence is equal. The best method we have by far of getting to the "truth" is the scientific method, and that requires empirical evidence.

Without empirical evidence, we are imagining a god outside of our imagination. Interesting in philosophy class, but of little use in the real world.

The "hard" atheist who still believes there is no god when presented with indisputable empirical evidence, has flipped into religion because he is ignoring the evidence. Similarly in politics, sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between the far right and the far left because their methods merge.

I don't think babies are born with a predisposition to believe in god, but a predisposition to accept instruction from a higher authority, just like ducks do. When combined with the human ability to ask questions, like "where did we come from" or "why did that volcano blow up and kill all my family?", then it starts to look like a predisposition to believe in god.

God is what we make up to satisfy our predisposition to obey a higher authority. If ducks could think, they would also have gods. 

By the way, why did you remove the A? Are you not proud of it anymore?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 17 days ago

I did answer your simple question of who created life. I said "I think life is the result of nature acting out according to the laws that govern the universe, like gravity, quantum theory etc." You are stuck on the idea that life could only be created by a god. Why? What if life is just what happens when conditions are right. That's why scientists are looking for life on planets with conditions similar to Earth, because if conditions were right here, then maybe they could also be right on a similar planet. I gave you a perfectly plausible explanation of how life could have started without god's help. Once life has started, it evolves over time becoming more sophisticated, complicated, and adapted for survival in its environment. Consiousness and self-awareness evolved in some species to varying degrees, humans being the most evolved in this area.

You talked about love - have you ever taken ecstacy? It makes you feel all lovey-dovey. How do you think that works? Is it god spreading a little magic, or is it the chemicals in the pills?

My turn to ask you a simple question - who created god?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 17 days ago

Parents willing to debate with their children may be numerous, but we are talking about fundamentalist parents. Big difference.

About being born agnostic - of course babies don't know about the existence of a deity, that's because they are born atheist. Babies are born atheist because they have no thoughts about god, until mum tells them. Then they become religious, or agnostic, or whatever.

About whether humans are pre-programmed to believe in god - I don't remember specifically the research I once cited, but it wasn't about discovering a god gene, it was about different factors making it advantageous to believe in a higher being. I just don't remember which factors.

You said, "what we are taught early on can become hard-wired, but that applies to atheism as well". No. We are already hard-wired as atheist when we are born. Atheism isn't a belief, it's a position applied to the question of god - don't believe something exists when there is no proof. It's not much more than common sense. It's something we teach our kids in every other walk of life except religion.

"What could be more motivating than serving a superbeing?" How about NOT serving a superbeing?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 24 days ago

Glad you are feeling better. I hope I don't ruin your day. You ask "who can create life?" But why "who"? Why not "what" or "how"? I suspect the god you imagine looks like a human. What if god is more like sludge? Or what if god is not necessary at all to create life?

You say "People refer to this action as from a 'God'." Some people maybe, but not me. I think it's much more likely that life is the result of nature acting out according to the laws that govern the universe, like gravity, quantum theory etc. And when scientists look around, that's exactly how the universe looks. And within the universe, god is man made, a figment of our imagination. After all, god only seems to appear within human existence. Let me ask you this, do you think that if we discovered intelligent life in another part of the universe, they would believe in the same god that you do?

You say "If science cannot explain this, maybe we should leave it to the ones who believe in a "God" and let them carry on with their belief." Really? What if their belief is to kill all who don't agree? Like ISIS think. Should we let them carry out their beliefs just because science can't yet explain the precise way life started on earth? There are plenty of theories, but trying to prove which if any are correct is difficult, largely because it happened 4 billion years ago. Unfortunately, there are no holy books from that time. We have to figure it out all by ourselves.

Also, I'm surprised you are happy to resort to god when we don't know the answer to something. Isn't it better to be honest and just say we don't know. Surely it makes sense to start following a god only when one actually pops up.

It's not hard to imagine how life could have started without god. Say there is a crystal that grows when it gets wet. Then breaks in half. Each half then grows when they get wet, and then they break in half. And so we have a cycle. Since the crystal halves are not identical, at some point, a crystal "imperfection" will be advantageous to its survival. Maybe its particular structure is lighter than the other crystals around, so it blows in the wind and lands in an area with more water. So these crystals (with the lighter structure) now multiply faster because of the wetter conditions. And they spread to places further afield because they get carried in the wind. And that is evolution in action. I'm not saying life started this way, I'm pointing out that god is not necessary for the process of life to begin. After life has started, evolution takes over and we can see that as clear as daylight in the fossil record and our DNA. 

About your holy book - are you so embarrassed with your faith you don't want to tell me? If not, you should be. Whatever your holy book tells you, it's just a book. Anyone can write a book and claim whatever they want. In fact, science fiction writer Ron Hubbard did exactly that and started Scientology. How do you know your holy book is the correct one?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 25 days ago

I'm also sure there are religious fundamentalist parents who are quite happy to 'debate' with their children when they get other ideas - but they are very few. Religious fundamentalist parents are more likely to disown their children if their ideas get out of control.

As for being born agnostic, that is funny. To be agnostic, you first have to be able to question things. I'm pretty sure a baby's first questions are not about whether or not god exists.

I don't think humans are pre-programmed to believe in god. I think it's a combination of factors that together result in the propensity for humans to believe in a god.

We have the ability to question things; other animals don't. And so we are look for answers to the big questions - the meaning of life, what happens after death etc. 

At a young age, we don't question our parents. We have evolved to accept whatever our parents teach us, just like how ducklings take lessons from mama duck. Ducklings who ignore mama, tend to have less babies when they grow up. 

And these things our parents teach us are at an age when our brains are still developing, and so our parent's worldview becomes "hard wired" into our brain. I'll remind you of the Jesuit quote: "Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man."

And of course there's teamwork. Get the motivation right and men can move mountains. And what could be more motivating than serving a superbeing. An army that follows orders without question is a more effective fighting force than an army of conscripts continually doubting authority.

There are a host of other factors as well. Maybe you can name a few.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

You're talking in riddles. What is a believer in this creator you speak of, called? And can you recommend a holy book for me to read?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

Which creator are you talking about? There are thousands of them.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

You didn't answer my question - how do you know God didn't make the heavens and the earth with age 5 minutes ago?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

No one is born believing in a god. That, they learn.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

How do you know God didn't make the heavens and the earth with age 5 minutes ago?

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

I can't speak for other atheists, but if I had children, when they're old enough to string 2 ideas together, I would say that there are many religions out there that have different world views to mine, check them out and if any take your fancy, go for it. I might disagree, but hey, let's debate it.

But if I was a Muslim parent, could I NOT involve my kids in Islam from birth until they are of thinking age? I think not, but any Muslims out there - correct me if I'm wrong.

The thing is, everyone is born an atheist. I don't think it is right to force your religion on your child before their brains have developed enough to think for themselves.

Everyone should be allowed to choose which religion they find most convincing, and if they come to the conclusion that all religions are BS, that's OK too.

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian 89% Posted Mar 2017

8th grade atheist vs adult Christian

Comment: 29 days ago

Excellent questions. He's all knowing, we're not, end of story. That's "faith" a nutshell. And IMO, teaching it to children should be classed as child abuse.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains true love 72% Posted Mar 2017

Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains true love

Comment: 31 days ago

I'm an atheist and I think his perspective on love is spot on. As Kennedy almost said: Ask not what she can do for you, ask what you can do for her. Fish love is asking what she can do for you.

TYT - Harvard scientists REVERSE ageing in mice 88% Posted Mar 2017

TYT - Harvard scientists REVERSE ageing in mice

Comment: 33 days ago

Please, nobody tell Trump about this.

Retracing route of London terror attacker 87% Posted Mar 2017

Retracing route of London terror attacker

Comment: 36 days ago

I think western foreign policy is the excuse that Islamists use to recruit and give themselves a purpose. That's not to say I support western foreign policy, but if it was limited to foreign aid, Islamists would find another reason to kill anyone who thinks different to them - and that includes moderate Muslims.

To say "The "terrorist" attacks in the west are a reaction to western foreign policies" suggests that western foreign policy is the core problem, whereas I think religion is the core problem.

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