Atheist Ramblings
by Stephen F Roberts
issue 1.1
April 1997
Things I ramble about:

On Goodness
My Quote
The 100% Problem
God and Hell
The Problem with Faith
The Missing Link
Random Thoughts
My beliefs
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On Goodness

...One thing I often hear from theists is that without god, a person can not be good. To that, I have two comments: 

   ...When I (as an atheist) am good. When I
   don't steal when I can, when I don't lie even
   when it would benefit me, when I return a lost
   wallet, when I help others, etc... I do it for no
   other reason than to be good, my actions are
   selflessly good.
   ...When a theist does good, he usually does it
   to please his god or avoid his god's hell, the 
   theist is selfishly good.

...also...

   ...What if I could prove to you beyond the
   shadow of a doubt that there was no god
   (hypothetically that is), would you immediately
   run out and become a horrid murderer,
   content only in the pleasures of yourself?
   Or would you remain a basically good person?
   ...If the former, then you are a scary individual,
   for only your timid faith keeps you decent. If
   the later, then why do you need god to tell
   you good?

...When I first realized I was an atheist, I had trouble reconciling goodness with atheism. Over time, I grew more certain in my choice and I began to understand what 'good' is. I recommend that you read up on evolutionary psychology.

...'Goodness' is a requirement for any animal that wants to live in a communal society. Early humans were such beasts, and it was through cooperation that they survived. Only early humans who behaved could live in the community, so they were more likely to find mates and pass along their genes... the genes that encouraged behaving.

...In addition to this, there is the question of is an action right because god says so, or is it right anyway. If it is right because god says so, then we are at the mercy of god's whims, and he may turn around and say something that is wrong today is right tomorrow (as he did during the O.T.). If things are good anyway and god just does them, then goodness is defined outside of god, and it is possible to be good without god.

...It is not sufficient to say that god is good because god is good or that it is his nature to be good. In either of these cases, then goodness is still defined outside of god.

...So round and round we go. But the basic point is that most atheists are good, law-abiding citizens. They are good people without some god out there to threaten or reward them. Think about it.


Some Random thoughts (from some of my .sig files)

   Even a child is bright enough to see through
   the god myth. What child hasn't asked "who
   created god?"
   The more you learn, the harder it is to find
   the little holes to hide god in.

The Problem with Faith

...There really is no problem per-se with faith, however, belief in anything without evidence is silly and IMHO a mistake.

...When the theist tells me that I have 'faith' in science, he is wrong. In science, when something is presented, it is supported by evidence. I may not read that evidence, but it is there for my review should I need it. That fact alone makes science not a religion or a 'belief'.

...But beyond that, when a scientific theory is presented, one of the important things built into the theory are the criteria that would falsify the theory. Nothing in science is just taken on face value, it must be falsifyable. By default, faith and belief and god is non-falsifyable. If any evidence comes up that would normally falsify the theory, the evidence is dismissed as wrong (witness Galileo) rather than evaluating the theory.

...So science takes its errors, dismisses bad theories and builds new theories that take in new evidence and make science stronger. Nothing in science is taken as 'gospel truth' and everything is open for question, even the most ancient 'truths'.

...No equivalent system exists when faith is used.


My quote

   I contend we are both atheists, I just believe
   in one fewer god than you do. When you
   understand why you dismiss all the other
   possible gods, you will understand why I
   dismiss yours.
                     -Stephen F Roberts

...Yep, that was me. You may have seen my quote floating around the net in various places. I'm real happy others have embraced it. To the best of my knowledge, it is an original quote. If you like it, please use it.


The '100%' Problem

...A popular ploy by theists is the 100% problem. It goes something like this "you cant be an atheist, since you cannot be 100% sure there is no god".

...Well, of course I cant be 100% sure there is no god. I also cannot be 100% sure that gravity wont stop in 15 seconds, but I can behave as tho I was 100% certain it would not (BTW: it didn't).

...By the same token, theists can not be 100% sure the universe or the world or their lives will continue for the next 24 hours, and yet they always speak of "tomorrow" and "next week" as if they are certain that such things will happen.

...So yes, I freely admit that I am not 100% sure there is no god, however, lacking any evidence to the positive, I can behave as tho I was 100% sure of that. Just as I act as if I was 100% sure an elephant wont jump out in front of my car and kill me on the drive home, and I can act as if I was 100% sure menacing alien forces wont take control of my mind in the next few hours (btw: I do consider both the aliens and the elephant more likely than some god thing, since I have evidence for elephants and I can easily postulate aliens without the supernatural).

There are many many things we are not 100% sure of and yet every day we behave as if we were. We do so because we have evidence and observations.


God and hell

 ...Occasionally, a theist will tell me that god shows himself to me, I just am not looking. In response, I usually post the following:

   ...If god is all knowing, he knows what he
   would have to do to make me believe he 
   exists, and he would know that what he has
   shown so far isn't good enough for me. If god
   is all powerful, he would be able to do it. And
   if god is all good, he would want me to believe
   in him, especially if he condemns me to
   eternal torture for the petty crime of not
   believing without adequate evidence.
   ...If god wants me to believe, he will have to
   give me a reason to. Since he hasn't, I
   conclude he doesn't exist. And if he punishes
   me because he wouldn't show himself to
   me, then he is guilty for my punishment.

...It is a paraphrase of various things I have seen posted here and there in *.atheism.


On the 'Missing link'

...Of course, there is no missing link problem, but try to convince some people of that :-)

...What we have is a nearly continuous chain of fossils that look a little like men, but are apes, and a string of fossils that look a little like apes, but are men. There is no 'ape-man' problem because the line that divides the two is a fairly arbitrary one. Scientists look a fossil and decide which side of the line it lies on, and it has to land on one side or the other...

...As an analogy, there are children who are too young to vote, and there are grown ups who are old enough to vote. Using the creationist logic, the child can never become a voter since there is no 'missing link' dividing a voter from a non-voter.

...There are lots of good lists of 'transitional fossils' on the talk.origins page.


My beliefs

 ...I am a strong atheist. I do not believe in god(s). In fact, I am usually quite militant in my atheism. Confronted, I will vigorously defend my position and will rarely shy away from a fight (unless confronted by an obviously inferior foe such as puby, zoner, a1 or any of the other brain dead thumpers out there).

...My main IRC hang out place is #atheism on DalNet. My nicknames are wubwub, or wubwurk. Stop by and say hi!

 ...To my knowledge, I have not "converted" anyone yet, though I do hope to do so someday :-)

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Atheist Ramblings
Copyright © 1997- 2001
by Stephen F Roberts
sroberts.at.wildlink.dot.com
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