Another straw-man atheist story

Atheism is a belief just like not believing sweden exist, really .....

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Another straw-man atheist story

#1  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jan 02, 2018 6:36 pm

https://www.bethinking.org/atheism/the-scandanavian-sceptic

"I don't believe that Sweden exists," my friend suddenly declared from across the coffee shop table. He took a sip of espresso and stared intently at me, clearly awaiting a response. I paused, my cinnamon roll halfway to my mouth, as I digested what he'd just said.

"Pardon?"

"I don't believe that Sweden exists," he repeated. "I think it's just a political conspiracy, designed to motivate other European citizens to work harder. All that talk of the best health care system, the highest standard of living, of tall and beautiful people. It sounds like a myth and I'm not buying it. I don't believe in Sweden."

I stared at my friend silently for a moment, allowing the sounds of the coffee shop to drift over us as I pondered. In the background, the radio began playing 'Dancing Queen' by Abba.

"What do you mean, 'You don't believe in Sweden'?" I finally replied. "That's insane. If Sweden doesn't exist, how do you explain IKEA furniture, or the Swedish chef on The Muppet Show, or what glues Norway to Finland? That's a staggering claim! What's your evidence?"

"What do you mean 'evidence'?" he asked.

"Evidence," I said. "You must have more than just a hunch but some pretty impressive evidence for your belief. I know Sweden only has 9.5 million inhabitants, but you can't simply deny outright that it exists!"

"Aha," said my friend sagely, "I see your confusion. You think that my denial of Sweden is a belief. But it's simply a non-belief and so I don't need to give evidence for it."

"Come again?" I said.

"Yes," he continued, warming to his theme, "I don't have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, or Shangri-La and nor do I need to do so for my non-belief in Sweden. You see I'm not making a claim of any kind—quite the opposite: I'm claiming nothing, I'm merely rejecting one of your beliefs—your belief in Sweden."

That story was, of course, entirely fictional but the response that I described from my friend concerning his Scandinavian scepticism does have some real world parallels, especially in the way that many contemporary atheists describe their non-belief in God. As one atheist put it recently: "I don't believe in God and I don't need to justify this, just as I don't need to give reasons for my non-belief in the tooth fairy or the Flying Spaghetti Monster." The late New Atheist writer, Christopher Hitchens, put it even more succinctly when he wrote:[1]

Our belief is not a belief.

In recent weeks, the merry bunch of atheists who like to hang out on my Twitter feed have posted similar examples, my favourite being:

Atheism isn't a claim. It's just non-belief in the claim 'There is a god'.

Since this idea is heard increasingly frequently, often when the atheist making it is asked to give reasons or evidence for their position, it's worth taking the time to briefly explore six problems with the idea that atheism is not a claim or a belief—and that to argue otherwise is to place oneself on the same level as my Sweden-denying friend.
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#2  Postby The_Metatron » Jan 02, 2018 6:40 pm

That's a wonderful equivocation, isn't it?

The hapless Sweden-denying knuckle dragger can't grasp is the concept of evidence. Evidence exists to suggest Sweden in fact exists. Jeebus doesn't enjoy that luxury.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#3  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jan 02, 2018 7:22 pm

The_Metatron wrote:That's a wonderful equivocation, isn't it?

The hapless Sweden-denying knuckle dragger can't grasp is the concept of evidence. Evidence exists to suggest Sweden in fact exists. Jeebus doesn't enjoy that luxury.

A more fatal flaw in the analogy is equivocating non-belief in X with belief in not-X.
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#4  Postby Calilasseia » Jan 02, 2018 7:55 pm

Religious apologists ... fabricating dishonest and banal pseduo-arguments since the dawn of civilisation ...
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#5  Postby romansh » Jan 02, 2018 9:12 pm

I think many if not most atheists do have beliefs about God. Generally they (I know I certainly do) disbelieve in an Abrahamic God, especially of the literal kind.

Now my disbelief in deistic type gods including panentheism I will be certainly a little more suspect about. A lot of the argument posted in the blog is confounding a revealed God versus some unspecified nebulous concept of god.

Now I live my life as though there is no deistic god, but I am not sure how my life would look differently if I believed actively in an unrevealed god.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#6  Postby Blackadder » Jan 02, 2018 9:13 pm

Strictly speaking, his logical position is identical to the atheist position. Except of course that showing his position to be wrong, using evidence, is trivially easy. ASwedenism is therefore not sustainable, given the evidence. His logic may be valid but it is not sound, because like you know, evidence. Fucking evidence, bitches. Sit on it.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#7  Postby CdesignProponentsist » Jan 02, 2018 11:14 pm

Well, Sweden only exists because people believe in it. Remove that belief and there is no Sweden. Kind of like believing in gods.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#8  Postby Thommo » Jan 03, 2018 6:48 am

Yeah, that's true. The nation state of Sweden is a social construct, although the Geographical nation of Sweden and many of the instruments (e.g. government buildings, passports, other documentation) attributed to that social construct are identifiable directly through the senses.

I did follow the link in the OP, I was genuinely amazed that someone would write quite so many words on such a turgid subject. His entire central thesis can be summed up in a couple of sentences. It's still irrational to not believe in something when there's an abundance of independent, direct physical evidence for its existence. This is true of Sweden.

Nonetheless if someone asks me for evidence of some arbitrary non-belief I hold, e.g. whether there is intelligent extraterrestrial life within one billion light years - there's bugger all evidence one way or the other so I don't believe it.

I think the truth is that I (and perhaps others) am not strictly neutral about any and all god claims, that on some of them I have greater doubts than others - e.g. miracle working gods that suspend the laws of nature in arbitrary ways, despite us having the evidence that natural laws have held throughout human history. But the key difference there is that shift from neutrality is still driven by evidence perceptible by the senses - we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste natural laws in action.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#9  Postby CdesignProponentsist » Jan 03, 2018 7:21 am

That's the difference. There are many important reasons to believe in Sweden. I can't think of any for believing in God. :wink:
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#10  Postby Mazille » Jan 03, 2018 9:03 am

Someone sat down to write this, finished it, read it again and told themselves "Yeah, this is good enough.".
That's actually hilarious.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#11  Postby MS2 » Jan 03, 2018 11:02 am

Thommo wrote:Yeah, that's true. The nation state of Sweden is a social construct, although the Geographical nation of Sweden and many of the instruments (e.g. government buildings, passports, other documentation) attributed to that social construct are identifiable directly through the senses.

I did follow the link in the OP, I was genuinely amazed that someone would write quite so many words on such a turgid subject. His entire central thesis can be summed up in a couple of sentences. It's still irrational to not believe in something when there's an abundance of independent, direct physical evidence for its existence. This is true of Sweden.

Nonetheless if someone asks me for evidence of some arbitrary non-belief I hold, e.g. whether there is intelligent extraterrestrial life within one billion light years - there's bugger all evidence one way or the other so I don't believe it.

I think the truth is that I (and perhaps others) am not strictly neutral about any and all god claims, that on some of them I have greater doubts than others - e.g. miracle working gods that suspend the laws of nature in arbitrary ways, despite us having the evidence that natural laws have held throughout human history. But the key difference there is that shift from neutrality is still driven by evidence perceptible by the senses - we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste natural laws in action.

At least intelligent extraterrestrial life is a sensible concept. So you can say that there could be evidence for it, albeit there is bugger all evidence that you know of. I don't think that is equivalent to god claims. Or at least the modern god claims I have heard, where the concept itself breaks down on examination. If no sensible concept can be made out in the first place that itself might be reason to think 'it' doesn't exist and also to say we don't know what evidence for 'it' could look like
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#12  Postby Thommo » Jan 03, 2018 11:20 am

Yes, that is a fair point MS2.

We know that there is such a thing (and therefore that such a thing is physically/metaphysically possible) as intelligent life, but we do not know there is such a thing as a creator of universes. This is again an evidence based distinction. I would, however, slightly agree with the theist here that such things do technically need to be pointed out if we want to make a distinction between our strength of non-belief or confidence of non-belief on the one issue rather than the other.

I think that if I attempt to evaluate how surprised I would be if tomorrow (a) Sweden was shown without a shadow of a doubt to exist, (b) Intelligent alien life was shown without a shadow of a doubt to exist or (c) The Catholic God was shown without a shadow of a doubt to exist, I can easily rank them in order of which would surprise me the most.

The argument in the OP is so superficial though that I doubt any conversation starting from it would ever achieve even that shallow depth.

PS: Hyphens only included on the off chance Fallible passes through. :shifty:
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#13  Postby MS2 » Jan 04, 2018 12:37 am

Thommo wrote:Yes, that is a fair point MS2.

We know that there is such a thing (and therefore that such a thing is physically/metaphysically possible) as intelligent life, but we do not know there is such a thing as a creator of universes. This is again an evidence based distinction. I would, however, slightly agree with the theist here that such things do technically need to be pointed out if we want to make a distinction between our strength of non-belief or confidence of non-belief on the one issue rather than the other.

I think that if I attempt to evaluate how surprised I would be if tomorrow (a) Sweden was shown without a shadow of a doubt to exist, (b) Intelligent alien life was shown without a shadow of a doubt to exist or (c) The Catholic God was shown without a shadow of a doubt to exist, I can easily rank them in order of which would surprise me the most.

That assumes it is possible to show without a shadow of a doubt that the Catholic God exists. Whereas I was trying to say that god-concepts (hyphen specially added!) don't make sense (at least the ones I know about). If that's right, it is difficult to conceive how such an 'impossible thing' could be shown to exist.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#14  Postby Calilasseia » Jan 04, 2018 2:39 am

Thommo wrote:Yeah, that's true. The nation state of Sweden is a social construct, although the Geographical nation of Sweden and many of the instruments (e.g. government buildings, passports, other documentation) attributed to that social construct are identifiable directly through the senses.

I did follow the link in the OP, I was genuinely amazed that someone would write quite so many words on such a turgid subject. His entire central thesis can be summed up in a couple of sentences. It's still irrational to not believe in something when there's an abundance of independent, direct physical evidence for its existence. This is true of Sweden.

Nonetheless if someone asks me for evidence of some arbitrary non-belief I hold, e.g. whether there is intelligent extraterrestrial life within one billion light years - there's bugger all evidence one way or the other so I don't believe it.

I think the truth is that I (and perhaps others) am not strictly neutral about any and all god claims, that on some of them I have greater doubts than others - e.g. miracle working gods that suspend the laws of nature in arbitrary ways, despite us having the evidence that natural laws have held throughout human history. But the key difference there is that shift from neutrality is still driven by evidence perceptible by the senses - we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste natural laws in action.


Actually, the whole problem here, isn't the nature of Sweden as a social construct (albeit one with an empirically verifiable geographical entity associated therewith), it's the bullshit apologetics peddled around the word belief. Which in turn stems from the fact that the word 'belief' is used, mistakenly in my view, to cover both uncritical acceptance of unsupported assertions (which in my view, should be the only meaning attached thereto), and acceptance of conclusions by inference from insufficient data. Which is why I continue to insist that we should be rendering this duplicitous weapon useless, by proper insistence upon rigorous analysis of the concepts involved.

Quite simply, I regard the word 'belief' as referring only to uncritical acceptance of unsupported assertions, and exhort others to do the same, precisely to kill off duplicitous apologetics of the sort we've seen above at source. When one has data to work with in order to guide one's thoughts about a statement, even if that data is currently insufficient to support a rigorous conclusion, then belief does not enter the picture from that point on, and in my view, this is the case by definition. Properly, one regards statements as true or false, and if said regard is based upon data, then from that point on, the position in question has nothing to do with 'belief'. Proper expunging of the misuse of the word 'belief' will destroy much apologetic drivel before it's even launched, which is why I commend this approach.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#15  Postby Macdoc » Jan 04, 2018 12:53 pm

I agree.

The word should be "understanding" for scientific purposes. My understanding is that Sweden exists which carries the implication of evidence.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#16  Postby Calilasseia » Jan 04, 2018 6:42 pm

Macdoc wrote:I agree.

The word should be "understanding" for scientific purposes. My understanding is that Sweden exists which carries the implication of evidence.


Bingo.

Thanks for the update. :)
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#17  Postby DavidMcC » Jan 04, 2018 8:16 pm

I have been to Sweden several times over the years (due to Swedish girlfriend), and it never once struck me as a place that doesn't even exist!
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#18  Postby Newmark » Jan 04, 2018 10:22 pm

I know that this technically would be anecdotal evidence, but given my daily first hand experience of the place, I am firmly convinced that Sweden exist.

Or it is a vast conspiracy that has brain washed me to believe so. Yeah, that's probably it.
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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#19  Postby Rumraket » Jan 05, 2018 5:50 pm

Obviously this idiot believes the existence of God is as secure as the existence of Sweden. That's funny. I've been to sweden many times. I've never seen God.

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Re: Another straw-man atheist story

#20  Postby quas » Jan 06, 2018 8:10 am

Except that you can prove that there is no god.
God, of the Judeo-Christian variety, contradicts all the historical and scientific understanding that we have. It even violates common sense and basic logic.

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