Philadelphia Atheists Meetup Message Board Philosophy and Critical Thinking › Hey, I'm a deist now.

Hey, I'm a deist now.

Dave J D.
Davjdag
West Chester, PA
Post #: 1
Almost suddenly, everything I've been learning since leaving my church as an agnostic clicked last night and I think I am completely through with the Christian god. Among many other points, the final blow was some Atheist Experience excerpt I saw a bit ago, where the host pointed out that he could hire someone to beat his dog so that the dog would love him more, but that it's still horribly immoral. I guess I'm somewhat of a deist now, still due to the existence of matter/whatever and the problem of consciousness (trust me, it's a problem for me), but following this trend I should be past even that in no time. Anyway without further adieu, Fuck the holy spirit, and I am not afraid.

Also, I've already shared this with Ed who's been keeping up with me via email, and I just want to say that this group warms my heart! Dave
A former member
Post #: 137
So Daghead, on what evidence are you basing your recent conversion to Dieism, or is this a spontaneous ephemeral god of the gaps position? I am not sure I understand how the existence of visible matter, that we all have noticed takes up 4% of the universe, has anything to do with a deity. Steven Hawking in his recent book, The Grand Design, indicates how matter can be created without a god. As to the problem of consciousness, I am not sure what you are troubled by. Is that like when our ancestors said they might be atheists but for the weather problem, death, or the sun evolving around the earth?

Good luck in your exploration of different world outlooks. On this planet, there should be more conversions to rationality.

John Z
Susan L.
Leeps
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 6
Hello, Mr. Daghead. I can see that you’ve really put a lot of thought into this. It interests me to see how everyone’s experience differs. My own transition from passive belief to firm nonbelief happened in an instant, like the lifting of a curtain. I had not been seeking this knowledge or even thinking about it at all at the time. I appreciate that it must be more of a challenge for you since you were, apparently, an active church-goer. Something must have made you doubt, though, and I applaud you for your careful examination of your beliefs.

With regard to Deism, I’m not sure I fully grasp it on the most fundamental level. Even if something did, hypothetically, create the universe, why would that thing necessarily qualify for god status? The Christian god, in books written by man, refers to his own god-status and demands to be worshiped. From what I understand, Deism does not go as far as to credit the god with mind-reading omnipotence or the desire to threaten and punish us like the various ‘revealed’ gods. Why label it a god at all? Humans, it seems, are ever-eager to add a layer of mysticism to an already vague situation. Personally, I have no explanation for the creation of the universe. I recognize several possibilities, and a god/creator is not at the top of my list with regard to plausibility.

Isn’t it awfully liberating, by the way, to be rid of that creepy “holy spirit” peeping and spying all the time?
Dave J D.
Davjdag
West Chester, PA
Post #: 2
All I need is time, guys. Give it another year. Thanks for recommending The Grand Design which sounds very interesting. Now I just need to get around to reading that and the others I've been recommended recently.

Despite growing up in a fundamentalist church, the holy spirit and Jesus never really meant anything to me. I've only been afraid of god as a whole and rationalized for him compulsively. It will be truly liberating when I get the hell out of my house and can totally speak my mind without worrying about coming off as a threat.
Anne H.
thebat137
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 148
Daghead, congratulations on getting most of the religious nonsense out of your head. Have no fear, in time you'll discover that the appeal of deism will wither away as well, and then you'll attain complete freedom from useless superstition. To help you with this, I've listed below some important points to contemplate in considering the validity of deism.

First of all, what does it explain to postulate a universe-creating "god" (whatever exactly that's supposed to mean) that we cannot already explain? (This is as per Laplace's probably apocryphal quote in regard to Napoleon's suggestion that a creator should be invoked in the explanation of celestial mechanics: "Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.") How does deism avoid a simple infinite regress of, "Well, *something* must have created the universe, so that's God. But where did God come from? Well, *something* must have created God, so that's Ultra-God," and so forth? If you want to postulate that the creator god is self-creating or logically necessary, or something else equally dodgy, why is it that the same might not be said for the universe itself?

And then there's the question of what exactly the properties of this creator deity are supposed to be. Does it have a personality? Thoughts? Knowledge? If so, how did these come about, and how can we say that the self-creation or necessary existence of such a complex entity is a "simpler" explanation for the way things came to be than an explanation based entirely on natural forces? Conversely, if the deity does not have personality and thoughts and the like, then why are we calling it a deity at all, as opposed to simply a different kind of natural force?

The bottom line here is that we really have no scientific consensus on where exactly the universe "came from", assuming that's even a valid question to ask. The reason there is no scientific consensus is because there are still a lot of concepts in this area that we're not very clear on how to define, and even if we defined them, we're not clear on how to test them. So the only honest answer to the question of where the universe came from is that we really just don't know. Putting a deity in there, or a creating intelligence, or whatever you want to call it is, as John said, a "god of the gaps". It's a way of comforting ourselves by pretending that the unknown is known. Unfortunately shutting down our honest uncertainty in this matter also shuts down any investigations into that uncertainty which might lead to actual knowledge.

I know that some philosophers, particularly religious philosophers, will try to pretend that we *do* have knowledge in this area, using a lot of vague wibbling with ill-defined terminology and "proof by definition" (see the kalam cosmological argument for an example of this). But the truth is that we just plain don't know right now, and it's dishonest to pretend that we do, no matter how comforting it might seem to believe that somebody/something started this off for a good reason and is watching over us and caring about us even if it's not participating in events any more. Simply put, we have no meaningful evidence that anything in the universe has ever happened other than through the unguided action of a set of very simple rules, and we have no evidence that there is any intelligence in the universe that is not derived from the emergent complexity which those simple rules produce (see Conway's Life, Wolfram's cellular automata, and other such emergence demonstrations).

I know of nothing so erosive of religious perspectives as the study of evolutionary biology, emergent phenomena, nonlinear dynamics, statistical mechanics, other fundamentals of physics, cosmology, modern neuroscience, and the field of computational complexity, so I strongly encourage you to take these up. Reading about the sociology and anthropology of religion (e.g. Pascal Boyer's "Religion Explained") may also be useful to you.

I wish you luck with this and I'm happy to offer more reading suggestions or discuss these questions with you further if you are interested.
Anne H.
thebat137
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 149
Also, I forgot to mention, if you are interested in thinking about about how consciousness works, you might try (for a fairly scientific discussion) neurologist Antonio Damasio's "Descartes' Error", or, for more speculative discussion founded in computer science, Douglas Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach", or "I Am A Strange Loop". Don't take Hofstadter's stuff as gospel, but he does give some perspective on how emergent (as opposed to top-down) intelligence might be possible, and offers some interesting thought exercises. Oliver Sacks' "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat" might also give you some more neuroscience perspective.

Again, good luck.
A former member
Post #: 178
Dave i appreciate your openness with the group. I also like your nice, curious, and energetic manner. I feel for how difficult your living situation sounds. i hope this group can be helpful in your efforts to cope.

I am also glad that others have tried to help Dave in his understanding of different perspectives.

Best wishes and efforts, Scott(y)
Dave J D.
Davjdag
West Chester, PA
Post #: 3
Wow Anne, thanks so much for the rich feedback! ...and more great sounding literature to add to the list!

Thanks Scotty. My life has actually been awesome, and my parents are really pretty tolerant (I think more than they themselves are comfortable with). I just have lots of dopey anxieties and am ready to be an adult.

Returning to Leeps' reply, I actually left my church suddenly because I was guilt-stricken about secretly not caring anymore about god and his crap, and having "sin problems", despite the strong fear of hell. For the following year I was careful to be honest, but not an antichrist/ian. Then I quit my previous job and was an unemployed loser for six months, and as they say "idle hands make the devil's work" and I got really into The Atheist Experience which got me to where I am now. Actually before seeking an Atheist meetup, Zinnia Jones inspired me to attend an LGBT meet-up thing at the local university which I would have if it weren't out for the season :D

Hey I found the AE video I mentioned.
Susan L.
Leeps
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 7
It sounds as though you had a major conflict going on. I hope you are able to get comfortable with the decisions you've made because they sound to me like positive decisions. I really hope you can let go of the feelings of guilt and sin that may have been instilled in you by religion. I think the concept of sin is just something religion throws in your way to stop you from enjoying your life. Don't let that happen.
A former member
Post #: 180
Dave i feel you. i am glad this group has the potential to help you in making your transition to full adulthood. My hunch is that you will be much happier when you can get out from under your parent's roof.

Mrs. Leeps, i luv you. I think your advice is awesome!

Best wishes and efforts, Scott(y)


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