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The Boston Atheists Meetup Group Message Board › Since atheists may be wrong, should we share or views or keep them to ourselves?

Since atheists may be wrong, should we share or views or keep them to ourselves?

Zachary B.
Boston, MA
Post #: 219
BA member Corey writes:
This is ridiculous. The fact of the matter (regardless of beliefs) is that no one knows definitively what happens after you die.Everyone has their own theory. With over 5000+ religions in this world, somebody is going to be wrong. It could be us.

In the future, just ignore or thank someone if they say they are going to pray for you. No one likes to hear an indignant rebuttal about how their beliefs are wrong and you're not going to change their mind.

I agree: no one knows what happens after we die. No one knows, either, definitely, what a rock is thinking on a Tuesday. BUT... this only makes sense if we understand "know" to mean "know by experience". There are other kinds of knowing, such as deduction, induction, intuition, and so on. In this case, since we can't venture into death and back to make a report, we are allowed to make informed judgments based on the available evidence. This allows me (for example) to state with reasonable confidence that rocks (for example) aren't thinking anything at all on a Tuesday. For similar reasons, I can state with reasonable confidence -- that is, I can assert rationally -- that "after I die" I shall not be thinking in any way.

The position that "it is impossible to know such things as X" is example, I'd say, of pseudophilosophy. If we were to apply it to other examples, we'd soon find ourselves confronting patent absurdities. For example: "No one knows definitively whether the moon is made of green cheese." Over at the SciAm podcast, you can listen to Steve Mirsky reporting on a presentation made by physicist Sean Carroll at the ScienceWriters2011 conference this past October. Carroll's argument was that we need not sample the moon to know it's not made of cheese.

You write that, "With over 5000+ religions in this world, somebody is going to be wrong. It could be us." Well... "us" is a rather broad term. Among the BA group, I know of people who, as well as believing in the nonexistence of gods, also believe in an afterlife. I like to talk about personal beliefs, not group identities. If you mean by "it could be us" that I myself could be wrong in not believing in the existence of gods, let's talk about it. If you mean, alternatively, that you think YOU could be wrong, I'll only say, that's a useful and rational way to think. I think I could be wrong all the time. That's part of my motivation for seeking out new information about matters that matter to me -- science, economics, language. It's a way of productively responding to my awareness that people are prone to self-deception.

I have to say, I don't agree with your suggestion that we ignore (or thank!) someone who says that are going to pray for me (or us). Member Jenna D, in a private message to me about your email, supposes that Christopher Hitchens' response to this argument would have been impatient. If "we" (let's say this refers to materialist atheists) don't say anything at all, we're passing on the opportunity to challenge irrational views. If we don't defend our view in the marketplace of ideas, we've no right to complain when our neighbors raise their children in the Christian Science tradition, depriving them of medical care; or when voters in the next election elect a fundamentalist warmonger to office; or when the local school board evicts basic science from the high school curriculum.

I did not respond to Julie from Georgia as I did because I thought she would *like* what I had to say. I wrote as I did because I thought she *needed* to hear what I had to say. And accordingly, I pitched my response in the way I thought would be most likely to get through to her. I can't say if I made a difference; probably no, right? But I don't pass up on any opportunity to try and make that difference.
Eric N.
user 15344061
Boston, MA
Post #: 1

I doubt peoples ‘indignation’ would be because of the technicalities of agnosticism. They were having a dialogue on the morality of the persons semantic idea. Also, they might not like to hear a rebuttal but that should be expected upon making a questionable remark.

On I side note: Atheism > Agnosticism Lol

Eric N.
user 15344061
Boston, MA
Post #: 2
No bites yet, huh. *sigh* and today is a slow day for me.

Yours in bordem,
Boston, MA
Post #: 25
In general I get pretty annoyed if people claim to "pray" for me - in whatever religion or to whichever God(s) of their belief.
My pet response is, "Why? What do you care about my "soul" - I don't believe in a soul, far less God(s) or prayer." I think Zach just elaborated on it ...

If believers want to bark their irrational beliefs/ superstitions/ faith onto me by claiming to "pray" for me, I think a non-believer has every right to point out the fallacies and irrationality of it all.

David M
user 8343504
Jamaica Plain, MA
Post #: 23
This is ridiculous. The fact of the matter (regardless of beliefs) is that no one knows definitively what happens after you die.Everyone has their own theory. With over 5000+ religions in this world, somebody is going to be wrong. It could be us.

Everyone knows what happens after your die. Your body decays. Pretty simple and obvious.

The # of religious is irrelevant. It isn't as if the chances of a religion being correct decrease as you add a new religion. Assuming the 'us' being referred to is atheists, atheism is not a religion. It is at its core nothing more than the lack of belief in a god. For most of us, this also means not believing in anything supernatural and respect for the maxim "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

Any statement that says "no one knows definitively" should be looked at with caution. This is a question of epistemology and what it means to "know". We do not know *anything* definitively if we want to be nit pickers. Nevertheless, it would be ridiculous to not make inferences just because they are not fully justified. We can never know definitely that we are not in the Matrix or that gravity will not turn into a repulsive force tomorrow, but so what?

I do not have a strong opinion on how to react to a comment "I will pray for you". If it is not meant to be condescending, I would likely let it pass. Unless they are praying to the wrong god, making the real god mad at me. biggrin
Eric N.
user 15344061
Boston, MA
Post #: 3
As far as agnosticism goes, which I think is what this post is referring to at its heart, I believe that the debate over the technicality of epistemology is the most asinine pieces of rhetoric that’s come out of the human brain since religion. Just the very proposition of saying “I know that I don’t know” is an egregiously bad use of logic – if you really think that you don’t know, then technically you don’t know if you’re unable to know the truth. Yet, what I like to call classical agnostics, like to throw this pseudo-philosophy around with a pious grin, and a fervent “belief” that they have deduced the fundamental truth of ‘existence’. A truth that’s apparently so fundamental that given any mundane scenario, such as losing 10$, they’ll of course accept that they lost it and forgot, than that they were pick pocketed by Elmo. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that agnosticism doesn’t deal in practicality and it’s more of a semantic technicality but my problem is: if that’s the case – then stop swearing to the heavens that my view of an objective reality is wrong. Because, in the end, you already started off by saying you don’t know. Now, this might stir up a hornet’s nest since a lot of fenced atheists like to call themselves an agnostic, so just understand, I’m more talking about people that follow the philosophy than simply use it as a loophole shield.
user 58066992
Boston, MA
Post #: 1
It is my opinion that you should always be honest when engaging in a conversation regardless of the topic. If religion is what you are talking about and you are atheist then you have to say why or you are selling the other person short. It shows a lack of respect for their intelligence and their equality to yourself as a human being.

I think we should have some empathy when talking to religious people. In their mindset saying, "I'll pray for you," means they care about your welfare and honestly think they can help. Just because prayer doesn't work doesn't mean you should attack the sentiment. Thousands of people (and I hope some atheists) attended the Wisconsin funeral for the victims of the Sikh temple shooting. No matter how many people attend to show their condolences the dead aren't going to rise. As an atheist I think of prayer as being similar to attending a funeral. A useless activity to convey good intentions. It is an outlet for good intentions in the face of powerlessness.

I think we should tell religious people why we don't believe what they believe but you are always going to have a better chance of helping religious people see reason if they feel like you are debating rather than attacking. Speak to them as if their ideas are untrue rather than wrong. That is just my opinion on the matter.

Part of any marketplace, including the marketplace of ideas, is trying to win. Right now atheism is losing because everyone thinks we hate what they perceive as good things. Even Bill Maher admitted to praying in moments of weakness fairly recently in his religilous movie. Attacking prayer shuts the door in their minds to more important discussions about things like accepting others who aren't of your religion, not making gay marriage constitutionally illegal, teaching children about medical science like blood transfusions or genetics and evolution. Good generals pick their battles to win the war rather than fight every battle that is possible.
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