The Blessings of Atheism

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stuff
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The "theodicy" problem refers to the oft heard query, "Why does g*d allow bad things to happen to good (i.e., innocent) people?" Western monotheists, according to Susan Jacoby, answer this question with the old saw, "free will." For atheists, this explanation is no better than no explanation at all.

Atheists offer a better and more "moral" response toward unnecessary suffering, Jacoby writes that atheists' "conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth."

Amen, sister.

The Blessings of Atheism

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doh1304
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Ivan Karamazov: "Even if God

Ivan Karamazov: "Even if God had a plan I would hate Him for it."

Pierpont
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Dump the Constitution... The

Dump the Constitution... The Blessings of Atheism...

Are these issues you even give a damn about? Or just topics you think will get a rise out of people here? Why do I see red flags a'waving? Simple. In the Constitution thread you never actually expressed ANY thoughts consistent with your original post. While you're at it, why not just tell us again why Obama made you buy a new gun after the Newtown shootings.

stuff
stuff's picture
Quote:Are these issues you

Quote:
Are these issues you even give a damn about?

What difference does it make and why do you care? If my posts make you "rise," don't read or respond to them.

Quote:
While you're at it, why not just tell us again why Obama made you buy a new gun after the Newtown shootings.

Even though this is an off-topic taunt, let me say that Obama had nothing to do with anything. Nobody "made" me purchase a gun. I like guns and I think my recent purchase is a fine weapon.

Stop harassing me with your taunting posts.

leighmf
leighmf's picture
Definitely trolling- since

Definitely trolling- since atheists are very offended by "blessings" -

Pierpont
Pierpont's picture
stuff wrote:Stop harassing me

stuff wrote:
Stop harassing me with your taunting posts.

Harassment? Hardly. Mine was merely a serious question to see if it's worth even responding to anything you post. Why should I, or anyone, join a thread that the OP doesn't care about or believe in, but posts only to "get a rise" out of people here. That is the definition of trolling.

BTW, if you want some examples of "off topic taunts" see:

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2013/01/dump-constitution#comment-188593

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2013/01/dump-constitution?page=1#comme...

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2013/01/dump-constitution?page=1#comme...

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2013/01/dump-constitution?page=1#comme...

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2013/01/dump-constitution?page=1#comme...

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2013/01/dump-constitution?page=1#comme...

PKB

norske
norske's picture
leighmf wrote: Definitely

leighmf wrote:

Definitely trolling- since atheists are very offended by "blessings" -

He may or not be trolling and I may find the title of this thread oft putting... but as an atheist I can assure you that myself and most atheists who I associate with have absolutely no problems with "blessings"....

Though I will be interested to read the forthcoming book by Susan Jacoby “The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought” as I consider Robert Green Ingersoll to be one of the great Americans in history and a continuing source of inspiration in my life....

Probably a good idea for theists to stop pronouncing what atheism is or isn't... conversely, not a bad idea for atheists to stop pronouncing what theism is or isn't. Absolutism appears to be the rage around here as of late....

stuff
stuff's picture
Quote:He may or not be

Quote:
He may or not be trolling and I may find the title of this thread oft putting

The title was written by the editors at the N.Y. Times, not me.

polycarp2
With or without moral codes,

With or without moral codes, people always do what they think is the next best thing to do
.
If a bank robber thought the next best thing to do was go to the beach instead of shooting a bank teller, he'd be off enjoying the waves instead of robbing a bank.

You'll always say whatever it is you say next...no matter how hard you may think before you say it.

You'll always do what you do next if you come to the conclusion it's the next best thing to do or say.

God doesn't have anything to do with any of that, but makes a wonderful scapegoat.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

.

leighmf
leighmf's picture
norske wrote: leighmf

norske wrote:

leighmf wrote:

Definitely trolling- since atheists are very offended by "blessings" -

He may or not be trolling and I may find the title of this thread oft putting... but as an atheist I can assure you that myself and most atheists who I associate with have absolutely no problems with "blessings"....

Good to know, because I was corrected in another thread by an atheist activist with great authority, and accused of being unkind for saying God Bless you as well as mentioning Master Sivananda of The World Fellowship Institute.

That is why I made the remark about atheists being offended by blessings- I was told blessing an atheist was highly offensive. So I didn't get the title, after having been scolded for a faux pas previously.

So, Ok sorry, Wow, I do not have sufficient data to call it trolling.

 

norske
norske's picture
leighmf wrote:Good to know,

leighmf wrote:
Good to know, because I was corrected in another thread by an atheist activist with great authority, and accused of being unkind for saying God Bless you as well as mentioning Master Sivananda of The World Fellowship Institute.

There are many legitimate reasons for atheists to be upset towards those who use religion and or the concept of God for nefarious purposes... being told "God bless you" by a well meaning theist isn't one of them.. to me anyway...

I'd rather spend my time concentrating on the things I am in agreement with my theist friends... such as feeding the hungry, putting an end to war, helping the disenfranchised and discombobulated masses etc. In doing that, I often find myself in the company of Christians, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Jains, Pagans and more than a few fellow atheists... Theists only hear from me when they use religion to justify bigotry, intolerence, hatred and attempt to comingle religion with government or public education... That, and  when Thom insists that atheism is a religion...

Pierpont
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norske wrote:Theists only

norske wrote:
Theists only hear from me when they use religion to justify bigotry, intolerence, hatred and attempt to comingle religion with government or public education... That, and  when Thom insists that atheism is a religion...

And maybe that's the root of Thom's problem... he believes/maintains/suspects any " *ism " is merely another belief system without foundation no different from any religious belief system.

 

Pierpont
Pierpont's picture
leighmf wrote: norske

leighmf wrote:

norske wrote:

leighmf wrote:

Definitely trolling- since atheists are very offended by "blessings" -

He may or not be trolling and I may find the title of this thread oft putting... but as an atheist I can assure you that myself and most atheists who I associate with have absolutely no problems with "blessings"....

Good to know, because I was corrected in another thread by an atheist activist with great authority, and accused of being unkind for saying God Bless you as well as mentioning Master Sivananda of The World Fellowship Institute.

That is why I made the remark about atheists being offended by blessings- I was told blessing an atheist was highly offensive. So I didn't get the title, after having been scolded for a faux pas previously.

So, Ok sorry, Wow, I do not have sufficient data to call it trolling.

Of course there's the confession in the Constitution thread where the OP admits s/he posted even though s/he disagreed with what s/he was posting. 

Quote:
I posed the question, "Dump the Constitution," but I am not an advocate of doing so.

 

stuff
stuff's picture
Quote:Good to know, because I

Quote:
Good to know, because I was corrected in another thread by an atheist activist with great authority, and accused of being unkind for saying God Bless you as well as mentioning Master Sivananda of The World Fellowship Institute.

That is why I made the remark about atheists being offended by blessings- I was told blessing an atheist was highly offensive. So I didn't get the title, after having been scolded for a faux pas previously.

Atheists (I am one) need to get a life, just like a lot of other people. If belief brings believers comfort, there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, there is a lot that is right with it. Tolerance ought to be one of life's two or three top rules.

I had a wonderful discussion a week or so ago with an Espiscopal minister who chose to lead a congregation in Nowhere, Nevada. She had a marvelous life story and was obviously thrilled to be preaching the Gospel in a tiny, isolated, yet phsycially beautiful town. When we ended our conversation, I said, "g-d bless you," without any cynicism or hypocrisy at all.

Semi permeable ...
Semi permeable memebrain's picture
 I need more than Jacoby's

 I need more than Jacoby's say so that a lack of an afterlife leads to a more moral imposition. Seems like a wash either way to me. Statistics are fairly meaningless in this regard since a strict religous society may have low crime rates, and by inference a high morasl character, Yet there is no proof in that circumstance that morality is caused by a belief in an afterlife. It could simply be cultural norms and a high deterrent to behaving outside of the box. The same examples can be used in the other direction. In other words there are no empirical test cases for the causes of morality, only theories. If you want to expand on Ms Jacoby feel free, otherwise I am unimpressed

 I am not sure how you are approaching free will, but again you seem to somehow suggest that moving from a christian form of free will to a better free will put forth by atheists? It would seem that the conclusion, morality is caused by not believing in an afterlife, supports the premises. and that of course is begging the question

stuff
stuff's picture
I don't quite think that is

I don't quite think that is Jacoby's point.

Words like "religion" and "believers" and "atheists" have been defined and redefined by so many people with so many different agendas that they have become all but meaningless.

If one would like an irreducible, non-reductionist distinction between "believer" and "atheist," the simplest and most defining difference would be one's attitude toward the idea of an "afterlife."

Semi permeable ...
Semi permeable memebrain's picture
 I understand the complexity,

 I understand the complexity, but I still am not understanding what the premises are that support the conclusion that a stronger moral life is created by not believing in an afterlife

stuff
stuff's picture
Quote: I understand the

Quote:
I understand the complexity, but I still am not understanding what the premises are that support the conclusion that a stronger moral life is created by not believing in an afterlife

Jacoby's point, I think, is best expressed in this statement:

Susan Jacoby wrote:
Atheists' "conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth."

Whether she is right or wrong, of course, depends upon one's point of view.

 

polycarp2
Actually, a lot of religion

Actually, a lot of religion consists of codified taboos such as not stealing. Justifications for them.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Art
Art's picture
Quote:Actually, a lot of

Quote:
Actually, a lot of religion consists of codified taboos such as not stealing. Justifications for them.
Actually, these principals have been codified in animal DNA for time immemorial. The basic tenet is the Golden Rule.  Human beings figured this out long before there was an organized religion of any kind.

MsFit
MsFit's picture
Hi, I'm new here, but have

Hi, I'm new here, but have been a Thom fan for many years. This is my first post here..

I read nearly all the reader responses to Jacoby's NYT op-ed. The one that resonated most with me stated that "The great divide is not between atheists and believers but is between those who believe in an all-knowing personal God and those who reject such an entity. Belief in a personal God requires mental contortions in the face of human suffering, while belief in a distant God does not."

The poster of that opinion was given as Mike Marks Orleans. 

 

 

 

 

 

norske
norske's picture
MsFit wrote: Hi, I'm new

MsFit wrote:

Hi, I'm new here, but have been a Thom fan for many years. This is my first post here..

Welcome...

MsFit wrote:
I read nearly all the reader responses to Jacoby's NYT op-ed. The one that resonated most with me stated that "The great divide is not between atheists and believers but is between those who believe in an all-knowing personal God and those who reject such an entity. Belief in a personal God requires mental contortions in the face of human suffering, while belief in a distant God does not."

The poster of that opinion was given as Mike Marks Orleans.

Also known as the problem of evil... how to reconcile the existence of great evil, death, destruction and pain with a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent....  Discussing such can be an interesting, existential, intellectual exercise... but usually devolves into circular reasoning before long....

Greek Philosopher Epicurus wrote some 1800 years ago...

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”      

Pierpont
Pierpont's picture
norske wrote:Greek

norske wrote:
Greek Philosopher Epicurus wrote some 1800 years ago... “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?” 
You don't get it. See... God is intrinsically beneficient. If anything bad or unjust happens, we can't blame God. We have no one to blame but ourselves... which of course leads to some well deserved human self-loathing and notions of original sin. We're just not worthy of God's love... even if that love never actually manifests itself as protections of the innocent against a depraved humanity. Aside from ancient fairy tales, God's always been AWOL... except to appear in tree bark or cheese pizzas... or is that Mary??? But we still must all place all trust in Him.    

drc2
The reason I use "the Mystery

The reason I use "the Mystery of Reality" in place of "God" is that it does not boil down to this binary choice.  Life is good.  The world is a mess.  Were it "good" without the evil and tragic, how "good" would it be, or would it be boring?  The Book of Job is about why we don't really want to rewrite the rules of the game to square out the relationship of being good to being rewarded, and the reverse.  The Mystery is that Big.

The point is in the living.  We get to be in on the healing, to be aware of what is wrong because we have an innate connection to what is right somewhere in us.  How we interpret our reaction or response to what the idealistic theologians get off calling the "fallen world" gets us to grace and humor more than to logic and 'justice.'  Why does Liberation Theology see how "the Gospel" speaks to the poor with its "preferential option?"  How is it that the slaves get the Word of God while the kings don't?

I barely want to refer to the poor Jacoby op-ed.  The level of lay pop religious chat is why I avoid being known as clergy whenever possible.  I find the distinction between the personal and abstract God fairly ridiculous.  If it ain't personal, what's the point?  The idea that it is some ontological entity somewhere is what needs to go, not that we are not the beloved creatures of the Creator.  Being good creation in Good Creation is a way of being at one with Nature.  It is about embracing being a human being instead of being an alien.  The Spirit of the Cosmos being Truth and Love is not impersonal.

The Great Theological  Question in my book is "what does it take to make and keep human life human in this world?"  It is an all-comers, open-ended invitation to what it's all about.  The point is not that the Cosmos is organized around us but that we must live in this time and place within our natural bonds, and that it is very good indeed!  Our first Commandment is to accept no false realities in this mystery journey.  Our second is to love one another because reality is of love.

While this may seem simple and even naive, doing both of these things is one complex and intriguing challenge called being who we are.  Get in on the joke or be the butt of it.  If I could figure out how to get that choice into technique, I could rule the world.  Theologically, this is about grace and the humility of Original Sin v. the religion of the will and decision.  Love does not domesticate that neatly.

MsFit
MsFit's picture
norske wrote: MsFit

norske wrote:

MsFit wrote:

Hi, I'm new here, but have been a Thom fan for many years. This is my first post here..

Welcome...

MsFit wrote:
I read nearly all the reader responses to Jacoby's NYT op-ed. The one that resonated most with me stated that "The great divide is not between atheists and believers but is between those who believe in an all-knowing personal God and those who reject such an entity. Belief in a personal God requires mental contortions in the face of human suffering, while belief in a distant God does not."

The poster of that opinion was given as Mike Marks Orleans.

Also known as the problem of evil... how to reconcile the existence of great evil, death, destruction and pain with a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent....  Discussing such can be an interesting, existential, intellectual exercise... but usually devolves into circular reasoning before long....

Greek Philosopher Epicurus wrote some 1800 years ago...

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

 

Thanks for the welcome, Norske. 

Most believers I've frankly discussed my unbelief with consider me an atheist, but "agnostic" is probably more accurate---or "Deist." I don't have a problem with the idea of a distant non-intervening Einsteinian "God" or universal intelligence, but I seriously don't believe in a personal God. In my experience,  the premise of a personal God inevitably leads believers into endless convolutions and contortions trying to  explain why the interventionist, benevolent, and supposedly caring deity didn't perform as wished and prayed for. I read once somewhere an unbeliever's opinion that the God of popular belief bears a strong resemblance to the loser boyfriend a girl's parents wish she'd get rid of. Sounds true enough to me.

    

 

drc2
Faith is about your humanity,

Faith is about your humanity, and doubts about the theology in which the "image of humanity" is projected are essential, not even barely inappropriate.

Truth has nothing to fear from Doubt and everything to gain unless Doubt goes inward and becomes Cynicism.  We doubt because we have enough belief in our own being to question what does not make sense or add up.  Dogmatism is not pure Belief, it is where we go to defend Belief from facts that do not fit and upset us.  Doubt is Faith, not its enemy.

It is not the end of the journey.  It continues to be a vital part of the commitment to intellectual and moral integrity.  It is essential to knowing how not to buy any false gods.  It is essential to the true God, the Mystery of Reality, who leads you to be you.  Learning to embrace the joy when everything you know is wrong and needs to be rethought instead of lamenting the end of the world is the gift doubt can give you.

Better questions are often the result, and learning how not to get stuck in false dichotomies or logical positivism comes from not wanting the mysteries 'solved' if that means the excitement is gone.