Answers to a Muslim

I received two long comments from Muslims on my ‘A Muslim Education’ post. The comments from lwtc247 required more  than a simple response from me in the comments section, hence this post.

I suggest you first read lwtc247’s comment at the ‘A Muslim Education’ post, then come back and read this response. I will quote some of lwtc247’s comment here, but for brevity not all of it.

lwtc247: You misunderstood what was meant by “They can’t escape who they are”. It means they are Muslim no matter where they go; …

I understand they can’t switch their ‘Muslimness’ off, what I was trying to say was – why do they have to be Muslim in the first place? Why can’t children be allowed to grow up without being indoctrinated in any religion. As Dawkins says "why do we have to identify children by their religion?"

Yes I do use the word indoctrination because that’s what I, and many others, see it as. From wikipedia:

Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology. It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned. (emphasis mine)

The emphasis is the main difference, between religious instruction (as lwtc247 calls it) and religious indoctrination. Teaching people religion, covering all forms of religion, in a historical, philosophical manner can be called religious instruction or education. However forcing (not the best word, but you get my point) children, to pray, wear specific clothing, disallow them from socialising with the opposite sex, and the hundreds of other rituals, dogmas and ideologies (which have no basis in reality) is indoctrination. Calling it anything else is just using "weasel words".

As the wikipedia entry goes on to say:

Most religious groups instruct new members in the principles of the religion; this is usually not referred to as indoctrination, because of the negative connotations the word has acquired.

"usually not referred to", mostly by the same religious people doing it, strange that!

lwtc247: I think your wider point is about apostasy. Yes, many Muslims look very dimly on apostates, …

Apostasy in any form is just plain wrong, from killing people because they are apostates to just shunning them (all of which occur in all religions to some extent somewhere in the world). I acquaint it as a form of racism, "because they aren’t like me I will shun or punish them". How is that a reasonable thing to do, how can anyone justify it?

lwtc247 then goes on to discuss the penalty for treason, amongst other things, and questions if the punishment is the death penalty. lwtc247 quite rightly points out the complicit nature of Australia assisting in providing evidence they knew "would contribute towards the proclamation of the death penalty for suspects in Indonesia." I agree that this is quite a grey area, in which we denounce the death penalty at home but aid in someone getting the death penalty in another country. I’m open to suggestions here.

As far as the death penalty for treason, that possibly still exists in the UK, however it doesn’t mean it justifies people being killed just because they don’t follow the same religion! In Australia the punishment for treason is life imprisonment.

lwtc247 then asks for my personal opinion: What’s your personal view on the death penalty, … What if someone tortured then murdered members of your family? Would you not wish reciprocation?

Personally I don’t agree with the death penalty, sure, if someone close to me was tortured and murdered I would probably wish to do the same to them. BUT that doesn’t mean I would do it, or that the government or legal system should do it for me. Again there’s a vast difference between blowing innocent people up and leaving your religion! Either way the death penalty is not my choice of punishment.

lwtc247 then gets back to the topic of the original post, but first throws this line in: It seems you really dislike religion (inc Islam), Yes which is your choice, Correct but your dislike of it makes you jump to rather hasty conclusions. Disagree (my answers in red, non-italic)

lwtc247 tries a little math to show that the school is actually subsidising the government.

Epic Fail. I’ve heard this excuse hundreds of times, usually along the lines ‘if the private schools ceased to exist the government would have to pay for the whole lot and wouldn’t be able to afford it’, But that’s never going to happen because the private schools (vast majority of which are religious schools) will still want to exist. So what ever happened to "user pays"? If you want your child to go to a non-government school then you should be prepared to pay for the whole thing yourself. I’m happy for my taxes to pay for schooling, just not happy for it to be paying for segregated religious schooling.

lwtc247: I can imagine why Muslim parents may not be so happy about it because, rightly or wrongly, they feel the secular life will mean their kids are exposed to things which put them in conflict with Islam and hence they seek avoidance of that possibility.

Same could be said about any religious school. Though it shows a huge measure of insecurity that they would be worried about their children being exposed to things that conflict with their faith. Is their faith that flimsy? Anyway what’s the problem with children realising their faith is wrong? There are thousands of different faiths on this planet, who’s to say which one is right? Perhaps none of them are, have you ever considered that? Have these children been able to consider this?

lwtc247: You claim to reject dogma, but seem to have accepted it as you give no reason why you agree with the Secular Party of Australia’s statement on integration.

I do reject dogma, particularly religious dogma, and I don’t see how putting a quote from the SPA demonstrates I am accepting their dogma. The SPA quote was simply a question asking how the school could justify segregation. A question I considered myself but I thought John’s wording was more eloquent. Nothing more nothing less. I can even agree with some things some religious people say (ie lwtc247’s question on Australia’s involvement leading to a death penalty) this doesn’t mean I’m going to follow any of their dogmas.

lwtc247 then asks what seems like a valid question: If Muslims should integrate and show tolerance and respect for secular and atheist views, why cant atheists and religious secularists accept Muslim opinions with regards to their faith too?

There are quite a few reasons why, I’ll only cover a few, I hope other readers will fill in the rest. This goes for all religions not just Muslim: 1) There is no evidence for what you believe in. 2) Things said and done in the name of your religion are divisive and dangerous. 3) Religious practices negatively impact on the wider community. 4) It costs me money.

If you are asking if I should "respect" your religion, then I suggest you read this article. (only because it saves me the time typing out my own similar views, not because I’m following someone else’s dogma)

lwtc247 trots out the old "we’re not all mad" line: Please don’t underestimate the tolerance Muslims show for non-Muslim religious secular and atheistic practices conducted not just in Oz, but across the globe.

Obviously lwtc247 didn’t watch Foreign Correspondent the other night!

lwtc247: There are reportedly over a billion Muslims world wide and the vast majority live in relative peace with their neighbours. People just want to get on in life and be happy with with their fellow man and surroundings.

I tend to agree with these statements particularly the second one. My only concern has been put much better by others than I could ever do. Tolerant religionists indirectly support the radical religionists. Marcus Brigstocke puts it rather well.

Without the audience to prop it up … fundamentalist religious fanaticism goes away.

I highly recommend all my readers to watch Marcus’ video (about 7 minutes) he argues a few of these questions and my points very well.

Finally I’d like to say that I will make an effort to watch the video lwtc247 recommended. I would also like to point out that lwtc247 you are probably wrong when you state: It’s the kind of information you’re not usually invited to see in secular or areligious indoctrination.

Many religious people would be surprised how much religious material atheists devour. The thing is unless you have both sides of the story it’s more difficult to make an argument against it. I have recently been concentrating on reading secular and atheist literature, but have also read more of the bible than I did even when I did bible study many years ago. I’ve read some portions of the Quran and frequent a few religious blogs to get their side of the story. I watch both religious and non-religious documentaries, in fact I’ve probably watched more religious documentaries than non-religious ones. I will be happy to watch "An Islamic History of Europe", apart from the religious aspect of it, I find history interesting anyway.

Finally I don’t know how you can use "secular or areligious" and "indoctrination" in the same sentence. As I have already pointed out, the difference is; in the religious community you are not expected  "to question or critically examine". On the other hand in the atheist, skeptical and secular community questioning and critically examining is de-rigueur, it’s expected. 

I’m sure I will get "called on" with some of the things I say, that’s one of the interesting things about writing this blog. If I say something I have to be willing to defend what I’ve said, or if proved wrong be willing to accept the new fact(s). I endeavour to do both to the best of my abilities. Occasionally we may just have to agree to disagree.

Anyone is free to leave comments here, and I welcome all points of view, as long as they are mostly on-topic and not outright defamatory. As often as possible I will reply to those comments; though not always this in-depth. 🙂

Cheers

Oz

Share this post :

Advertisements

32 Comments

Filed under atheism, atheist, christianity, islam, Muslim, religion

32 responses to “Answers to a Muslim

  1. My comments seem to be becoming redundant.

    I know from comment exchanges that you and I have had that you don’t tend to put all religious believers in the same group. I have said that one of the best things about my belief is that I feel encouraged to question it. I enjoy the questioning and learn from it…I learn about myself and my beliefs and about other people and the world.

    And I am not “surprised how much religious material atheists devour.” I also believe that you cannot defend a point if you are not informed.

    Always happy to agree to disagree with you!

  2. Thanks for the reply.

    I avoided the word indoctrination precisely because of what you pointed out: It has negative overtones. Its use is primarily used in a negative sense, and usually by people not of religious faith. The words neutral aspect rarely comes through. {c.f. fatwah, jihad etc.}

    Muslim parents hold dear to their heart the notion that giving their children knowledge and encouragement to develop as a Muslim, is the best thing they could ever possibly do for their children. Is then indoctrination of what the parent believes to be the truth so bad? Isn’t indoctrination the prerogative of parenthood? Some parents indoctrinate their kids into playing piano, consuming vegetables, watching TV programs, support of a football team, even perspectives of history and science. Some indoctrinatination in the negative sense is pressed upon their their kids e.g. against promiscuity, drug taking, gangstersism, rudeness. Not many parents would welcome his/her child persistently questioning of why they must be polite, and timewise, it’s impractical for a parent to have lengthy debates about every aspect of the child’s life. Parents are supposed to know better and pass that knowledge to their kids.

    Do atheists not indoctrinate their kids against uptake of religion? I suspect so.

    But given the fullness of time, kids raised as Muslims or in other faiths inc. the atheistic faith, will often challenge or examine those beliefs passed to them. Some cast their indoctrination aside. Fair enough IMHO. You said “which have no basis in reality” but that is a very subjective position. To Muslims it does have basis in reality.

    Acts akin to apostasy can also take place outside religion, such as expressing doubt about 9-11, anthropogenic driven climate change. The consequences of rejecting the ‘norm’ bring negative impacts onto ones life. I wasn’t using possibility of the death penalty w.r.t. treason as justification of possibilty of death for apostasy in Islam, rather the fact that such ultimate punishment isn’t the preserve of Islam, which is commonly portrayed.

    The book is Punishment of Apostasy in Islam bt S.A. Rahman (ISBN 983-9541-49-8)

    Re: Hasty conclusions. I still feel you did make a hasty conclusion in that you incorrectly took the quote to mean they were imprisoned into being a Muslim rather than being always aware they are a Muslim.

    Your try to belittle me by using terms like “tries a little math’ or ‘gets back to the subject’ (as though I’d put forward unconnected issues. Please lets not – the discussion is pleasingly cordial so far.

    If you disagree with my view, that it is legitimate to highlight if the government funds the teaching of religion once the funding goes above 93% (when the hours of religious instruction are 7%) then it is better to argue directly against that, and not against the analogy you proposed and I wouldn’t agree to as being valid. It could be said “without the 70% funding the school would be likely to close, so 70% funding can be thought of as allowing the teaching of religion”, but even if you take that approach, the deficit of 23% remains to be spread across the other subjects too, i.e. those who provide the 30% are in fact subsidising the other non-religious subjects. Look at it this way: If those donating 30% didn’t donate the school, it is also likely to close down, so there is a subsidy being paid by the school. But to entertain your analogy, if the religious school were to close, it is difficult to dispute the government having to shell out 100% of the funding for those pupils to take up a place in a non-religious school.

    “Is their faith that flimsy? – flimsiness doesn’t come into it. As I mentioned, (and I did say rightly or wrongly – to which you only entertained the ‘wrongly’ perspective) it’s simply a desire for a parent who believes the child living the religious code will keep them from harm, and exposing them outside of that, will put them in harms way. The same thing happens in families where religion doesn’t play a part of their lives. Most parents aren’t cavalier with exposing their kids to danger. Many parents in the UK drop their kids off to school in the morning despite the chance of anything bad happening to their kids being very low indeed.

    I said you seem to accept dogma as you agreed without qualification to a statement by some body which I guess you would think is an authority on matter pertaining to religion. If you explained why, then I’d have known you critically analysed their statement rather than accepting it by virtue of the fact it advocates secularism. It’s clear now you did consider it.

    “what seems like a valid question” – again, please don’t do this. Were intelligent people, were no longer on the school debating team, no need to hint at the insult. Were mature enough to discuss the issues on merit and tolerant to agree to disagree.

    Re: “1) There is no evidence for what you believe in.” – As a Muslim the scientific aspects of the Qur’an do pass my test of proof of a superior power and knowledge. You obviously disagree. Great. Disproof of God however isn’t possible so atheism is a faith too. But even if I’m wrong and God doesn’t exist, if people want to believe it’s true then by the principle of freedom of thought that belief is a matter for them.

    Re: “2) Things said and done in the name of your religion are divisive and dangerous.” – Please keep this in perspective! A tiny minority of people same some things which some believe are dangerous. As for divisiveness atheists say things divisive to theists. Division of principles and beliefs isn’t actually significant in the culture of tolerance. If those ‘dangerous’ things are actually ‘bad’ then the chances are it’s got NO basis in religion or are a perversion of Holy scripture.

    Re: “3) Religious practices negatively impact on the wider community” – Not if you agree with that practice. There is a certain amount of toe treading by virtually every community/grouping towards virtually every other community. That is human culture. Negative aspects again usually have no basis in scripture.

    Re: “It costs me money.” – but many things cost you money. Is this one only so sore because it has to do with religion? Capitalist macro economics (usury, inflation etc) cost’s you money too. I believe an Islamic system of government would cost you far less. Hosting the olympics cost many Australians money. Pity the pockets of those who hate the games.

    Respecting the religion (a philosophy) is quite different from respecting the people (warts ‘n all) who supposedly follow it. But of course there are individuals who do infact deserve respect. just like an atheist demands repsect from theists, it surely swings both ways. The report “Egypt – Rubbish People” gives grounds for dispute (allocating time to discuss it may be better left for later). But to hold Egypt as “Islamic” or for that matter ANY “Muslim” country, is equally contestable. Denying people social services and so forth is atrocious, and It’s certainly not-Islamic. The government of Egypt indulges in usury, which Islam teaches is a great crime/sin. ID and it’s use for civility are secular inventions.

    “Tolerant religionists indirectly support the radical religionists.” – That is nihilistic. It means every ill in society is because of society, from which the conclusion is no society, no ills. I don’t think that catchphrase is wothy in a discussion.

    Marcus Brigstocke asked for those of Abrahamic belief to show him where they can blow everything up. Gross generalisation aside, they can’t. Why’s that? Is it because it’s not part of the religion? Perhaps he knew that, perhaps not. He also said stick to the commandments or abandon the faith. That’s quite good advice.

    Re “paraphrasing: lwtc247 is probably wrong as he’d be surprised how much religious material atheists devour.” – that does surprise me as atheists and even some agnostics I know get instantly bored when you talk about religion, but it could be the sample I’ve come across is unrepresentative. You’re willingness to examine theistic material is admirable. Do you look at it with the intention of disproving it or on the off-chance you may find something which may change your mind?

    the documentary “An Islamic History of Europe” is more historical, but why given that you’ve just said atheists devour a lot of religious material and you expand upon that in the personal sense, then why not ‘watch’ any religious aspect it may have contained?

    The documentary highlights what I’d describe as probable wrong doings by Muslims, but it reveals Muslim practice of pluralism – which is what I wanted to prove.

    I use the term secular and indoctrination in together as the teaching of biology and is predominantly cast in terms of Darwinian theory in secular countries and is unwelcoming of critique. Insult and ridicule befalls the critical thinker who may reject this line of thought.

    I cannot prove God to you and had no intention of doing so as proof of anything is impossible (including disproof). Proof is like beauty. It lies in the eye of the beholder. Logic is the realm of the physical so neither can logic prove that which is metaphysical. The cognitive organ of a physical simply could not possibly perceive adequately that which has no physical comparison, although people try and physicalise God e.g. anthropomorphise God.

    The subjective nature of proof strongly suggests that there is a leap of faith necessary to accept the existence of God. Consequently God is both accepted and rejected, and the agnostics languish solely in the realm of logic conscious that supra-logic – that which we cannot probe may (or may not) reveal the existence of God.

    In some ways, it is a pity that religion based topics gets so deep and is so wide. It makes proper discussion about these issues difficult to make progress.

    In continuation of the discussion, it may be worthwhile to isolate a single point and discuss that at depth rather than addressing ALL points as we have done here. (? just a suggestion)

    @ wineymomma I too feel encouraged to question my faith. In fact Islam issues challenges to people to disprove it, and I guess somewhere in Christianity and Judaism they will do likewise.

    I also question my ability to comprehend such a thing such as God (only God isn’t a ‘thing’!) I know perfectly well where my limitations as a human being will start to make deeper thought difficult.

    For Humans to be absolutists, they can only contemplate and probe the physical universe. Even atoms, the flesh and bones through how we perceive the universe, themselves occupy the whole universe simultaneously. Even something as simple as that or extending the Schrodinger wave equation to an atom other than the simplest (hydrogen) is beyond current mathematical technique. The extraordinary mathematician Godal proved that mathematics is fundamentally flawed and so even modelling of anything contains errors (Heisingberg states a similar dilemma). Is it arrogance that blind’s most to think they can be absolutists? Quite likely I say.

  3. lwtc247, thanks for your reply, I appreciate the obvious time and effort you have put into it.

    There are a few points which I do not agree with, but like wineymomma (Hi there) we will have to be happy to agree to disagree. 🙂

    You raise some interesting points, and I agree with your suggestion that we should isolate a single point to discuss. I’ll have a think about it. If lwtc247, or anyone else, would like to select a single point to discuss in depth, please let me know.

  4. On the point of atheist parenting, of the two that I am aware of, both allow their children to attend churches and religious events as they like. They focus on giving their children critical thinking skills and letting them decide for themselves.

    Now on Atheism being a faith I have to strongly disagree, its a rejection of your propostion that a God exists, based on a lack of credible(to my mind) evidence – no faith required. I am open to the existence of a deity, but nothing has been presented that suggests that a god or gods exist, or have anything to do with my or your existence.

  5. arthurvandelay

    . . . they feel the secular life will mean their kids are exposed to things which put them in conflict with Islam . . .

    OH NOES !!!!!!!!!!

    There seems to be an awful amount of tu quoque in lwtc247’s remarks.

  6. You know what my answer to the muslim is?
    “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”

    Vote for me.
    Thank you for your support.

  7. @ arthurvandelay

    I’m sincere in my comments. I’m not employing any methodology in by discussion. What would be the point? “Winning” or having ones argument take a commanding position by way of tactics, is a hollow victory indeed and no self respecting person should/could draw satisfaction from that.

    I’m also deliberately not looking to pick a fight. I’ve had my fair share of epic battles in the past, but one reason why I decided to comment here is because I thought I’d found intelligent blogger with an intelligent commentators interested in exploring knowledge, divulging experiences and perceptions all with an aid for greater respect and understanding of one another. Was I wrong in that assumption?

    If I have written any lemons, You could always provide a wee bit on an explanation as to why you think my words contain some kind of (unintentional) false logic. I’m just writing what I believe are the opinions of some Muslims have, in respect of living in ‘western’ countries. It is possible my points at times may be weak or even contradictory – I have no reason to pretend otherwise; perceptions often have an element of irrationality built into them, which may lead to contradiction.

    @ Sean the Blogonaut

    A Parent who believes in freewill & apparently decides not to try to impart his life’s’ wisdom and learning to his child, is actually still imposing his ideals (ideal of having individual choice) upon the child. My father did that to me. I think parents should guide or indoctrinate their children. After all, they’ve been there, seen that and bought the T-shirt. Children’s perceptions are exactly that – childish. I was unhappy in the vast plains of philosophy for quite some time.

    Atheism is a faith because God cannot be disproved. If you could you could disprove
    God you’d be the most famous person in the history of mankind. One takes faith in disbelieving God exists therefore atheism is a faith.

  8. Are you a communist censor?

  9. AV

    Atheism is a faith because God cannot be disproved.

    Afairyism is a faith because fairies cannot be disproved. A-unicornism is a faith because unicorns cannot be disproved. Aleprechaunism is a faith because leprechauns cannot be disproved.

    If someone makes a claim, such as, oh, I don’t know, “God exists,” it is incumbent upon that person to provide supporting evidence if he wants others to accept the claim. If the evidence is insubstantial or non-existent, there is no reason to accept the claim. There is no “faith” involved in not accepting a claim when there is no reason to accept the claim.

    Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, based on the lack of evidence that deities exist. There is no “faith” involved here, only reason. A subset of atheists—strong or gnostic atheists—may go further and claim that no deities exist. It is then incumbent upon them to justify their claim.

    The notion that all or even most atheist are gnostic atheists is a strawman. A strawman is a kind of lie, and as I have been led to believe, the Abrahamic religions do not look favourably upon telling lies.

  10. I forgot to mention in my earlier comment the point that we agree on.

    I find it totally offensive that private schools that include religious education in the curriculum receive government funding.

    I don’t want to have any other religion shoved down my throat just as I refuse to shove mine down anyone else’s.

    And, after having been educated, I can say that atheism is not a “faith” because for me the word faith has a very specific meaning, a meaning that definitely cannot be applied here! “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”-Hebrews 11:1.

    Definitely not applicable here! 😉

  11. “Afairyism is a faith because fairies cannot be disproved.” – Good you’re dislaying an understanding the meaning of atheism.

    For those still not aware of the faith aspect that is atheism, here’s a quote from The Little Oxford Dictionary 1990, 6th Edition (N.B: first edition 1930!)

    “Atheism(noun): belief that no God exists. atheist(noun):atheistic(adverb)”.

    “Belief(noun): act of believing”

    “Believe(verb): accept as true; think; have faith or confidence in; trust word of; have religious faith belief is an act of faith.”

    –All original emphasis throughout–

    It’s not valid to attempt to reforge the definition of atheism, whether to incorporate respectable and understandable agnosticism (a more pure adherence to logic than faith) or otherwise.

    Atheists claim there is no God. The claim of the atheist is quite clear. Does not a burden of proof befall them? Some atheists understand this and is the reason why they need to espouse neoDarwinism. Besides, if a proof (e.g. God cannot exist) is based on a lack of proof (because we can’t observe him) then atheists must reject 96% of the universe. They must reject the big bang, the Higgs boson, other dimensions which some scientists are starting to speculate about and whether the fridge light goes out when the door is closed.

    It is unsubstantiated to say rejection comes about from the absence of proof. That is why I respect agnosticisms stance of ambiguity. Lack of proof (a barrier which all of us have and of differing heights) cannot carry any meaning as we don’t have the characteristic of omnipotence. Rejection by lack of proof one of nihilistic absolutism. As for the burden of proof theists would argue scripture is proof enough for them. They have faith that scripture is divine revelation.

    Get two atheists together and ask them enough questions and incredulity at the perceptions of one to the other will arise. It’s the human condition. If you try and remove the human condition, you enter the realm of mathematics. It is not coincidence that many philosophers have been scientists and mathematicians outright . It is also not surprising many have been theists.

    But to think mathematics is the be all and end all of proof is also untenable. Kurt Godel proved (in the logical sense) that mathematics was fundamentally inadequate. Mathematics proved it’s own limitations. Guess what? He was ostracised by some and as for his logical proof, they simply ignored it! But mathematical logic is grounded in physicality. To think physical logic can explain issues pertaining to metaphysics, again isn’t a sustainable stance.

    All of us have faith in something. 200 years ago, scientists believed in a vitalistic force, we show faith in news outlets, faith in vaccines, faith man walked on the moon, faith in the Higgs boson exists. There isn’t anything disgraceful about faith, faith in God or faith God doesn’t exist.

    I didn’t say all (or most) atheists were gnostic atheists, so I didn’t lie. But clearly as the very definition of atheism proves, atheism is a faith.

    @ wineymomma, if a school gets government funding how can it be a private school? I’m not sure about the Australian education system works, but it’s weird that a government funds a private school. What’s the definition of a public and private school? If you don’t want religion shoved down your throat (or that of other kids) isn’t it better that the R.E. is conduced in a different class or, different school, where elements of religious teaching may spill over into other subjects e.g. biology or spots?

    Re: atheism and faith, see the English language definitons above.

    P.S. not so sure what were you meant by “after having being educated” – how does that nullify the definition of atheism? If you could clarify for me I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  12. and sorry about the uncloded tags.

  13. AV

    “Afairyism is a faith because fairies cannot be disproved.” – Good you’re dislaying an understanding the meaning of atheism.

    And you’re displaying a serious misunderstanding of the point I was making.

    For those still not aware of the faith aspect that is atheism, here’s a quote from The Little Oxford Dictionary 1990, 6th Edition

    Dictionaries tell us in general terms how words are used at a given point in time. (That point in time being the date of publication of the dictionary.) They are not repositories of the timeless, eternal, unchanging meanings of words, nor are lexicographers authorities on the timeless, eternal, unchanging meanings of words.

    Purporting to tell an atheist what he believes by pointing to a dictionary, rather than actually listening to your interlocutor, is special pleading. Moreover, it demonstrates that you are acting in bad faith (if you’ll forgive the choice of words).

    (N.B: first edition 1930!)

    Appeal to tradition fallacy. Given the function of dictionaries, the fact that you are appealing to one that is more than 70 years out of date is pretty detrimental to your case.

    It’s not valid to attempt to reforge the definition of atheism, whether to incorporate respectable and understandable agnosticism (a more pure adherence to logic than faith) or otherwise.

    There is no attempt to reforge the definition of atheism. The Wikipedia entry defines atheism thus:

    Atheism, as an explicit position, can be either the affirmation of the nonexistence of gods, or the rejection of theism. It is also defined more broadly as synonymous with any form of nontheism, including the simple absence of belief in deities.

    That Wikipedia entry, of course, is no more an authorty on the absolute, ahistorical meaning of “atheism” than any dictionary you want to wave about in my face, but it does give you a more thorough idea of how the term is used in contemporary discourse. I also suggest that you look up the difference between explicit and implicit atheism, and strong and weak atheism, all of which maybe found in the aforementioned Wikipedia entry.

    It is also worth noting that whereas atheism (in its implicit or weak sense) may be defined as a single position on a single question (“Do you believe in the existence of a deity?”), agnosticism is an epistemological position (i.e. regarding what it is that we can know). It is therefore possible to be both an agnostic—in the sense that one does not claim knowledge regarding the existence of deities—and an atheist—in the sense that once lacks belief in the existence of deities, there being no evidence in support of the claim that they exist. I fall into this category, as do—I would hazard to guess—most atheists.

    Needless to say, it makes no difference to me whether you personally regard agnosticism respectable and understandable.

    Atheists claim there is no God.

    This is a strawman. A subset of atheists (strong atheists, gnostic atheists) make this claim. It is not a claim made by all atheists.

    I didn’t say all (or most) atheists were gnostic atheists, so I didn’t lie.

    Yes, you did. And you repeated the lie when you asserted that “Atheists claim there is no God.” This is to assert that all atheists are gnostic atheists. That is a strawman.

    It also, I repeat, demonstrates that are not conducting this discussion in good faith. You have a caricature of Teh Atheist in your head, you insist that all atheists fit this caricature, and when somebody tells you that your caricature is in fact a caricature you stick your fingers deeper into your ears.

    How do you feel when Muslims are treated in this fashion?

    As for the burden of proof theists would argue scripture is proof enough for them. They have faith that scripture is divine revelation.

    That’s nice. Why should non-theists consider scripture to be substantial evidence?

    Let me put it this way. Scientologists would argue that L. Ron Hubbard’s account of prehistory is evidence enough that 75 million years ago, Xenu brought billions of frozen people to Earth, stacked them in volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Based on the fact that Scientologists believe L. Ron Hubbard when he writes that such events transpired, you also should believe that such events actually took place?

  14. Are you saying atheism in 1990 means something other than atheism in 2008?

    I’ll try and respond to your other points in a while.

  15. Before I go to return later, the first edition was 1930, the sixth, the one I quoted from. was 1990.

    Mr. Darwin amongst thousands of others e.g. Einstein, Planck, Fermi, Boltzmann, Cantor, Newton, Euler, Nietzsche, Leibniz, Freud, would be saddened at your attitude to books out of date. But I suspect on relfection you wouldn’t say that next time.

  16. firstly, @ Jonh McC, I’ll take your first comment as sarcasm, but what was the second comment about?

    I see we have descended into semantics “faith” and “believe/belief”.
    I’ve discussed this before, but will try and explain it again.
    Personally I don’t care if theists say atheists “believe” there is no god, or that atheism is a “faith”. However the terms have to be used and understood correctly.

    wineymomma has stated it perfectly, for theists “faith” is usually taken to mean “faith” as in the biblical sense. Not as in “I have ‘faith’ the sun will rise tomorrow”.

    So you can say that an atheist has ‘faith’ that no god(s) exists, but it is not a system of “faith”.

    Similar to “believe”. I ‘believe’ in ‘theory X’ I don’t know if I could prove it, but there is enough evidence that if I really wanted to I probably could, and so many things work because of ‘theory X’ I ‘believe’ it must be true.

    There is no evidence for any god(s), scriptures supposedly ‘divine guidance’ is no proof. I think AV’s comparison to Scientology demonstrates that.

    So why should I “believe” in any god(s)? Conversely I can say that I ‘believe’ there are no god(s).

    So enough of the semantics. Atheists can ‘believe’ there are no god(s). Atheists can have ‘faith’ that no god(s) exist. BUT atheism isn’t a system of “beliefs” and we don’t have “faiths”; unlike all religions which are all based on “beliefs” for which there is no evidence (and no way of finding any) and have “faith” in what they are told by their spiritual leaders.

  17. In my post I briefly discussed the problem of ‘tolerant’ Muslims supporting the more radical ones. Well it seems I may have overestimated tolerance within Islamic/Muslim society.

    These two articles certainly make you wonder: The Undercover Mosque and Apostasy.

  18. AV

    Are you saying atheism in 1990 means something other than atheism in 2008?

    You’re missing the point. Dictionaries are a register of how words are used at a given point in time. They do not fix the meanings of words eternally. So you’re not going to be able to tell an atheist what he believes by referring to a dictionary, because lexicographers—the people who write dictionaries—are not experts on atheism. (In other words, you’d be committing the appeal to misleading authority fallacy.)

    You could get a better understanding of what atheists believe by . . . um . . . listening to and reading atheists, even if what they say disconfirms the straw-Atheist you’re clinging tenaciously to at the moment. But you seem disinclined to do so.

    Before I go to return later, the first edition was 1930, the sixth, the one I quoted from. was 1990.

    1990 is still almost twenty years ago. And what was the point of mentioning that the first edition was published in 1930, if not as an appeal to tradition?

    Mr. Darwin amongst thousands of others e.g. Einstein, Planck, Fermi, Boltzmann, Cantor, Newton, Euler, Nietzsche, Leibniz, Freud, would be saddened at your attitude to books out of date. But I suspect on relfection you wouldn’t say that next time.

    You’d suspect wrong. And I doubt very much that the scientists in that list would be saddened by my attitude towards arguments based on appeal to tradition and appeal to authority fallacies. Evolutionary biology has moved far beyond The Origin of Species (little was known about genetics/DNA in Darwin’s time), physics has moved beyond Einstein and far beyond Newton, psychology has moved far beyond Freud, and so on. Ideas and theories are only as good as the evidence that supports them. These figures have made great contributions to their fields, but their words are not dogma.

  19. AV

    Personally I don’t care if theists say atheists “believe” there is no god, or that atheism is a “faith”.

    I care. I don’t like being misrepresented. Once can be put down to mere ignorance. When the misrepresentation occurs multiple times (willful ignorance), one is forced to suspect dishonesty, malice and prejudice.

    wineymomma has stated it perfectly, for theists “faith” is usually taken to mean “faith” as in the biblical sense. Not as in “I have ‘faith’ the sun will rise tomorrow”.

    Agreed. To confuse the two is to commit the equivocation fallacy.

    So why should I “believe” in any god(s)? Conversely I can say that I ‘believe’ there are no god(s).

    I agree with Matt Dilahunty on this one: belief is not subject to the will, and has to follow from the knowledge one has. I can say that I lack belief in deities because there is no evidence that deities exist. I’m not in a position to say that I believe deities don’t exist, because I don’t know if it is true that deities don’t exist. I think it is possible for us to say that we believe it unlikely that deities exist, given the absence of evidence for their existence. And given what is currently known scientifically about the universe, it is possible to deem the existence of certain deities somewhere between extremely unlikely and impossible. Take, for instance, a definition of God as “a being that created the Earth 6000 years ago.” I couldn’t believe in the existence of that God, and simultaneously believe—based on what is generally accepted by science—that the Earth is 4.55 billion years old, because then I would be in contradiction. We know, based on science, that the Earth is 4.55 billion years old, so it therefore is possible, based on the knowledge we have, to believe that “a being that created the Earth 6000 years ago” does not exist.

  20. @ AV to continue your argument, that’s the big difference between science and religion. Science is all about correcting and improving (I’m sure Darwin would be very happy to know his book is the basis for evolutionary theory, but that many other scientists have vastly improved on his theories, and that new books are constantly being released with the new facts) whereas religion basis everything on one book that is many years old, very out-of-date, and full of errors and contradictions. Additionally religious books are never amended when new knowledge is acquired, all they do is re-interpret what is written (one of the reasons for so many denominations based on the one book)

    @ AV, I think my statement
    Personally I don’t care if theists say atheists “believe” there is no god, or that atheism is a “faith”. may have come out a bit wrong, and you may have not got the full context from the remainder of my comments. What I was trying to say was I don’t care if those labels are used, as long as they are used correctly. Unfortunately, theists tend to use them in the wrong way – which I do care about.

  21. AV

    Additionally religious books are never amended when new knowledge is acquired, all they do is re-interpret what is written (one of the reasons for so many denominations based on the one book)

    They can be amended to fall in line with differing ideological views, however. The Catholic Ten Commandments are slightly different from those found in Protestant Bibles, for instance. In the Catholic Bible, “Thou shall not kill;” in Protestant versions that Commandment reads “Thou shall not murder.” Also, in the King James Version, Leviticus 18:22 reads:

    Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

    . In the New Living Translation, the same passage reads:

    Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.

    Given that the concept of “homosexuality” did not really exist prior to its emergence in late 19th century psychology and sexology, and as a distinct socio-political identity in the century following, the use of the term in the NLT is anachronistic.

  22. AV

    What I was trying to say was I don’t care if those labels are used, as long as they are used correctly.

    I was addressing lwtc247’s ambit assertion that “Atheists claim there is no God.” This assertion may be true of some atheists. It is certainly not true of all atheists, as I have been trying to explain to him. There is a difference between “all atheists lack belief in God” (true) and “all atheists claim there is no God” (false).

    Atheism is a response to a claim made by theists: “There is/are deity/deities.” (Sorry to parse it like that, but I wanted to encapsulate the positions of monotheists as well as polytheists). Claims require justification; if the evidence in support of the claim is insubstantial, then the claim is not convincing enough to be accepted. Atheists (a-theists) are those people who do not find the theistic claim convincing enough to be accepted, because the evidence in favour of that claim is insubstantial.

    Within the set of all atheists, defined as those individuals who do not accept the theistic claim, there is a subset of atheists (gnostic atheists/strong atheists) who make a claim of their own: that there is no God. Yes, this is a claim that requires justification, like any other claim. No, I don’t have the knowledge to determine whether or not this claim is true or false. Yes, I would demand of gnostic atheists that they justify their claim before I accept it.

    The error lwtc247 is making is asserting that what is true of gnostic atheists is true of all atheists. Hopefully by now he has been disabused of this misconception. Hopefully.

  23. Speaking of semantics, The Atheist Blogger has a new post discussing agnosticism, in which he also explains the word ‘belief’, and what being agnostic really means.

  24. Even in the states most private schools receive some sort of subsidy from the government. As for RE being taught in a different setting/classroom, I think in a perfect world that would be fabulous…but we do not live in a perfect world.

    My “education” on the subject of atheism has been more in the area of sociology. I can read definitions all day. They don’t tell me the why and how someone comes to the conclusion that they do not believe in God. That’s what I am truly interested in understanding.

  25. Mel Steffir

    In the Spring of 2006 God sent a message. The message is about the meaning of First is Last and Last is First. The message is this:
    In the morning I go to Heaven. In the afternoon I live my life. In the evening I die, death.
    What does this mean? It means that Birth is Last and Last is Birth. God also gave an example so that you can understand this better. Example: Mike Douglas died on his Birthday, August 11. (note that Mike Douglas and Michael Douglas are two different people.)

  26. @ AV 11:32

    I didn’t misunderstand the point you were making. You equated theism with fairys, unicorns an leprechauns clearly because you were trying to par theism with man made myths. But, you actually, and correctly, factored into those definitions the word “faith”.

    Theists do provide proof. The scriptures.

    Different people have different ways of cpnsidering something to be truthful. That you reject the scriptures (or anything else) as being a sign of God doesn’t negate peoples acceptance of it as being truth.

    Atheism as I have shown from the OED and now here is faith based. It may be that people who think they are atheists, need a new word to describe them, but as the OED and Doctionary.com show, what you call an atheist isn’t an atheist.

    Disbelief(stated in the dictionary) is a positive assertion, lack of belief(you state from wikipedia) is the passive. The two are not the same.

    An agnostic has a lack of belief towards the positive assertion AND the negative.

    Your lack of belief is only towards the positive assertion. You don’t address the negative. If you did so, you would have to either believe in the negative (therefore coming under the definition of an atheist – as codified in the dictionaries) or you would have to disbelieve in the negative in which case you would be an agnostic.

    You are trying to combine agnosticism with atheism. Agnosticism is highly respectable as at it’s core is the awareness that man can never have total knowledge of everything and so there is always some doubt either way. Atheism is also respectable as it requires the leap of faith into believing God can be disproved and all people undertake leaps of faith (e.g. they take out loans in the belief they can pay it back later, even though they cannot see the future)

    You can say “I have a lack of belief in God because I think there’s no proof” to which I’d ask “Can you disprove God?” If you said “No” then you’d be an agnostic. If said “yes” you’d either have to provide positive proof – which nobody has ever done yet, (and according to Godal they can’t do!) or say “I cannot prove it but I believe it to be the case”

    There ambiguous nature relating to the negative assertion simply isn’t valid. It’s an attempt not to be pinned down so that you have to declare faith God doesn’t exist.

    Your attempt to discredit what I say because I point to a dictionary is invalid. Do I take it you have never used a dictionary to express the meaning of a word and understand its parameters? I think not. And you fall foul of your own argument when you yourself use wikipedia to define atheism!

    I disagree with you. Theism, atheism and agnosticism are all considerations of epistemology, because all of them are grounded in degrees of knowledge and faith.

    It is not possible to be an agnostic and an atheist unless you ignore the meaning and requirements of atheism. You reassert the combination of atheism and agnosticism.

    I’d be interested to hear which atheists don’t claim there NO God.

    And no, I didn’t lie I never said “all (or most) atheists were gnostic atheists” Show me. where did I ever say “all (or most) atheists were gnostic atheists”. And how could I have “repeated the lie” when you then try and prove it but quote a different point?

    I insist all Atheists conform to the definition of atheism as stated in established dictionaries. Something that is the very basis of any successful communication.

    Because of it’s importance, I’ll state it again, by rejecting the most solid description and accepted definition of atheism – that which appears in dictionaries – will nullify any attempt you could possibly make to discuss, describe or define anything, be it weak, mediocre, median or strong atheism. You have brought into irrelevance any display of intellectualism becasue some person can write a page on wikipedia.

    Now if we could agree a standard, like a dictionary perhaps, by which to define and conceptualise these arguments, then your cherished counter-opinion may hold some validity.

    non-theists don’t have to accept scripture to be substantial evidence. No one said they did. That’s a pretty important point. You believe or you don’t believe – that’s up to you. Atheists in my opinion, don’t reciprocate.

    No I don’t believe Hubbard’s writings. I don’t take the leap of faith to accepting it. But I do accept monotheistic scripture was from God. If my beliefs are wrong, I am still entitled to believe them and act upon them. Just as scientologists should be allowed to prsctice what they believe is their unique religion. I have actually posted about 2 blog posts defending their right to believe. I have also spoken up for people who believe they are the Messaih.

    Freedom of thought and expression are immense importance to me, and I presume to you also.

    I will try to reply to your other welcom comments when I have time.

  27. AV

    I will try to reply to your other welcom comments when I have time.

    I don’t see the point, since you don’t seem to have read or comprehended anything I have written.

    I didn’t misunderstand the point you were making. You equated theism with fairys, unicorns an leprechauns clearly because you were trying to par theism with man made myths. But, you actually, and correctly, factored into those definitions the word “faith”.

    Which proves nothing about whether atheism is a “faith.”

    Theists do provide proof. The scriptures.

    Why should non-theists regard scriptures as evidence? (Indeed, how is it possible for non-theists to regard scriptures as evidence, given that in order to deem scriptures reliable one must be a believer to begin with?) You haven’t addressed this point.

    Atheism as I have shown from the OED and now here is faith based. It may be that people who think they are atheists, need a new word to describe them, but as the OED and Doctionary.com show, what you call an atheist isn’t an atheist.

    The lexicographers who compile the OED and Dictionary.com are not experts on atheism. Appeal to misleading authority fallacy.

    Disbelief(stated in the dictionary) is a positive assertion, lack of belief(you state from wikipedia) is the passive. The two are not the same.

    What does that have to do with anything I’ve said?

    An agnostic has a lack of belief towards the positive assertion AND the negative.

    Your lack of belief is only towards the positive assertion. You don’t address the negative.

    Wrong. Read my previous comments again.

    You are trying to combine agnosticism with atheism.

    Because atheism in its weak form is compatible with atheism.

    There ambiguous nature relating to the negative assertion simply isn’t valid. It’s an attempt not to be pinned down so that you have to declare faith God doesn’t exist.

    How many do I have to explain this to you before it sinks in? I am agnostic as to the existence of deities, which means I don’t know whether or not they exist. Because I don’t know if they don’t exist, I don’t claim to know that they don’t exist. The onus of proof falls on the one making the claim. If no proof is forthcoming, one is not obliged to accept the claim. This holds true for any claim. Not accepting a claim on the grounds that it is unsubstantiated is not “faith.” I don’t accept the theistic claim, because it is unsubstantiated. Therefore I lack belief in deities. Therefore I am an atheist.

    I’m sorry if this is inconvenient for the strawman caricature of atheism you insist on peddling, but I have no vested interest in your strawman.

    Your attempt to discredit what I say because I point to a dictionary is invalid.

    Wrong. A dictionary is not a source of expertise on the topic of atheism.

    And you fall foul of your own argument when you yourself use wikipedia to define atheism!

    I addressed this already.

    It is not possible to be an agnostic and an atheist unless you ignore the meaning and requirements of atheism.

    Wrong. It is not possible to be an agnostic and an atheist unless you equate “atheism” with gnostic atheism, as you continue to do.

    I’d be interested to hear which atheists don’t claim there NO God.

    I doubt you’d be interested. You’ve been ignoring one such atheist all this time. Why should you change your ways now? But I am not obliged to prove a negative, nor do I really have a responsibility to educate you.

    And no, I didn’t lie I never said “all (or most) atheists were gnostic atheists” Show me. where did I ever say “all (or most) atheists were gnostic atheists”.

    You keep insisting that atheists claim there is no God, and you keep insisting on special pleading a particular dictionary definition of atheism which means that whenever someone calls himself an atheist you will take him to mean—in spite of his protestations to the contrary—that he claims there is no God. This is the equivalent of claiming that all atheists are gnostic atheists, because gnostic atheists are those atheists who claim there is no God. Got it?

    Theism, atheism and agnosticism are all considerations of epistemology

    Wrong. Theism is a belief in the existence of a deity, and atheism is a response to theism. Agnosticism and gnosticism are epistemological positions.

    I insist all Atheists conform to the definition of atheism as stated in established dictionaries.

    A pity. If you would only cease being so wilfully ignorant, we might get somewhere.

    I’ll state it again, by rejecting the most solid description and accepted definition of atheism

    Who decided that it was the “most solid description and accepted definition of atheism?”

    will nullify any attempt you could possibly make to discuss, describe or define anything, be it weak, mediocre, median or strong atheism.

    Only if my interlocutor stubbornly refuses to listen to my explanations of why the definition he is currently using is inadequate. But that is his problem, not mine.

    Now if we could agree a standard, like a dictionary perhaps, by which to define and conceptualise these arguments, then your cherished counter-opinion may hold some validity.

    Show me a dictionary which gives a more adequate and nuanced definition of atheism than you have provided this far.

  28. AV

    non-theists don’t have to accept scripture to be substantial evidence. No one said they did. That’s a pretty important point. You believe or you don’t believe – that’s up to you. Atheists in my opinion, don’t reciprocate.

    Clearly you haven’t been paying attention to me. I have to put that down to malice.

    But hopefully this comment is an indication that you at least realise the position the person who says “there is not enough evidence for me to believe in a deity” is in. Time will tell.

    Freedom of thought and expression are immense importance to me, and I presume to you also.

    How is this relevant?

  29. Pingback: Attn: Atheists. You believe what my dictionary says you believe. « Five Public Opinions

  30. The only Muslim in this villiage originally said:

    ,Do atheists not indoctrinate their kids against uptake of religion? I suspect so

    To which I responded, that in my experience this was not the case.

    To which he responded:

    A Parent who believes in freewill & apparently decides not to try to impart his life’s’ wisdom and learning to his child, is actually still imposing his ideals (ideal of having individual choice) upon the child.

    I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying here. The parents in this case are imparting their wisdom and life experience. They believe it better for a child to be able to critically asses all information, not just the religious. They are if you wish (and you do seem to want to) indoctrinating their children with the idea of an open, skeptical approach to life. A far better approach then slavish adherence to an out of date religious text IMHO.

    I was unhappy in the vast plains of philosophy for quite some time.

    What does this have to do with anything. You decided to choose a simple guide a book or books to lists the way you live your life, what because it is easier? Because you tired of thinking for yourself?

    On Atheism as faith, AV has said just about everything I could think to say on the subject. That you can not understand what he is saying, that you must see Atheism as just another religion/faith is an error in your thinking that I don’t think reason can disabuse you of.

  31. AV

    On another topic, Mel seems awfully familiar. I think he/she’s shown up before on The Thinker’s Podium. Or was it here? That white noise about “Birth is Last and Last is Birth” rings a bell.

  32. “Are you saying atheism in 1990 means something other than atheism in 2008?”

    Well, probably, yes. This is why companies publish new editions of their dictionaries.

    Dictionaries reflect changes in language and meaning, not vice versa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s