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RE: [XTalk] Anomalies vs. Miracles

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  • David C. Hindley
    ... COMMITTED TO A LACK OF BELIEF IN GODS. Atheists, in my experience, have simply come to the conclusion, after examining the available evidence, that gods
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 2, 2003
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      Guy M. Townsend says:

      >>HOWEVER, I vehemently quarrel with Michael's assertion that an atheist is
      COMMITTED TO A LACK OF BELIEF IN GODS. Atheists, in my experience, have
      simply come to the conclusion, after examining the available evidence, that
      gods do not exist. (As opposed to the spineless agnostic, who acknowledges
      the lack evidence of the existence of gods but lacks the courage to draw the
      obvious conclusion.) To say that atheists are "committed to a lack of
      belief" suggests that they are closed minded and not receptive to any valid
      new evidence which might suggest that gods DO exist, which simply is not the
      case. Michael is, perhaps inadvertantly, making the (invalid) theist
      assertion that atheism is just as much a matter of faith as is theism. But
      faith has nothing to do with it. It's all about
      evidence--or, in this case, the lack of evidence.<<

      Guy, no need to be so defensive! Atheists, like theists, come in all
      varieties. There *is* a quite vocal community of people who consider
      themselves atheists who bristle at any concept of "god," however benign.

      Personally, what I think most all atheists can agree on is that there are no
      "personal" god or gods. By "personal" I mean one that is described primarily
      in anthropomorphic terms, however abstract or metaphorical. If he/she cannot
      be described without terminology that requires him/her to have emotions or a
      personality, then they would object to it as representing a real entity.

      "Agnostic" also covers a lot of ground. It is possible to believe that there
      is "something" behind the order of the universe, and even imagine that there
      is some sort of purpose to it, but not be sure that a face can be assigned
      to it. They may see the various gods worshipped in the world as faces to
      this nameless "something." Hey, the Christian God has three faces! Allah has
      one. I would not say that it means they are spineless. Taoists did not even
      attempt to personify it, and simply call it "(the) Way (it is)." Even when
      they say that Tao treats things like straw dogs, it is not to imply intent,
      only effect.

      How this all might apply to the focus of XTalk is this. The modern world
      view is based upon an empirical understanding of things. By limiting our
      analysis to things we can observe and especially manipulate, we have
      substantially increased our understanding of the physical laws of our
      universe and of the matter it is composed of. I do not see any reason why
      this "naturalistic" method cannot also be productive when investigating
      historical events. All historical analysis starts with historical evidence.
      If ancient or modern historical narratives (which are essentially
      explanations for sequences of data) conform or do not conform to our present
      understanding of how the world works, then we feel safe to accept or reject
      them. This is the principal of analogy, and it is really the only
      interpretive principal we have to connect the modern to the ancient world.

      For the historian committed to understanding the world in a naturalist
      manner, the metaphysical element can still come into play. However, I would
      recommend that it only weakens a historical explanation unless it only comes
      into play to communicate its relevance. That is, narratives that say Jesus
      walked on water or miraculously healed blind people or raised them from the
      dead flatly contradict our modern naturalistic understanding of the world,
      but if a historian acknowledges that s/he can also say that as a matter of
      faith s/he believes that it did happen, s/he is signifying that God has in
      some way transcended the norms of nature to achieve some aspect of His/Her
      plan. Something like this was actually the practice of the inventor of the
      modern historical method (now known as "historicism"), Leopold von Ranke
      (taught between 1825 & 1886).
      http://www.bartleby.com/65/ra/Ranke-Le.html

      Respectfully,

      Dave Hindley
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    • sdavies0
      ... I have run into athiests who fit Michael s definition. One such comes to most or all Jesus Seminar meetings. He s a member of the American Athiests society
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 2, 2003
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        --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "townsendgm" <townsendgm@c...>
        wrote:
        > I vehemently quarrel with Michael's assertion that
        > an atheist is COMMITTED TO A LACK OF BELIEF IN GODS.
        > Atheists, in my experience, have simply come to the conclusion,
        > after examining the available evidence, that gods do not exist.
        > (As opposed to the spineless agnostic, who acknowledges the
        > lack evidence of the existence of gods but lacks the courage to
        > draw the obvious conclusion.) To say that atheists are
        > "committed to a lack of belief" suggests that they are closed
        > minded and not receptive to any valid new evidence which might
        > suggest that gods DO exist, which simply is not the case.
        > Michael is, perhaps inadvertantly, making the (invalid) theist
        > assertion that atheism is just as much a matter of faith as is
        > theism. But faith has nothing to do with it. It's all about
        > evidence--or, in this case, the lack of evidence.

        I have run into athiests who fit Michael's definition. One such
        comes to most or all Jesus Seminar meetings. He's a member of the
        American Athiests society (I think that's the name) and he's a
        propagandist for their views. In fact, he's a proponent of the idea
        that not only is God a fiction, but also the HJ, which, when I knew
        him, I thought was nutty. Now, not. Indeed, I wonder if non-theist
        wouldn't be a better word for someone who has come simply to the
        conclusion you specify, reserving athiest for one who is committed
        to that view. Still, it's almost always a waste of time to try and
        revise the general language and we are presumably stuck with what we
        have. You are quite right, then, to point out that the term athiest
        does not necessarily have the connotation of commitment.

        Steve Davies
      • townsendgm
        ... ... conclusion, ... the ... to ... might ... member of the ... idea ... knew ... non-theist ... to the ... committed ... what we ... Guy
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 2, 2003
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          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "sdavies0" <sdavies@m...>
          wrote:
          > --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "townsendgm"
          <townsendgm@c...>
          > wrote:
          > > I vehemently quarrel with Michael's assertion that
          > > an atheist is COMMITTED TO A LACK OF BELIEF IN GODS.
          > > Atheists, in my experience, have simply come to the
          conclusion,
          > > after examining the available evidence, that gods do not exist.
          > > (As opposed to the spineless agnostic, who acknowledges
          the
          > > lack evidence of the existence of gods but lacks the courage
          to
          > > draw the obvious conclusion.) To say that atheists are
          > > "committed to a lack of belief" suggests that they are closed
          > > minded and not receptive to any valid new evidence which
          might
          > > suggest that gods DO exist, which simply is not the case.
          > > Michael is, perhaps inadvertantly, making the (invalid) theist
          > > assertion that atheism is just as much a matter of faith as is
          > > theism. But faith has nothing to do with it. It's all about
          > > evidence--or, in this case, the lack of evidence.
          >
          > I have run into athiests who fit Michael's definition. One such
          > comes to most or all Jesus Seminar meetings. He's a
          member of the
          > American Athiests society (I think that's the name) and he's a
          > propagandist for their views. In fact, he's a proponent of the
          idea
          > that not only is God a fiction, but also the HJ, which, when I
          knew
          > him, I thought was nutty. Now, not. Indeed, I wonder if
          non-theist
          > wouldn't be a better word for someone who has come simply
          to the
          > conclusion you specify, reserving athiest for one who is
          committed
          > to that view. Still, it's almost always a waste of time to try and
          > revise the general language and we are presumably stuck with
          what we
          > have. You are quite right, then, to point out that the term athiest
          > does not necessarily have the connotation of commitment.
          >
          > Steve Davies

          Guy responds:

          Indeed. John Ruskin's observations about "masked words" (in
          Sesame and Lilies") comes to mind.

          Guy M. Townsend
        • Horace Jeffery Hodges
          Guy M. Townsend wrote:
          Message 4 of 6 , Aug 2, 2003
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            Guy M. Townsend wrote:

            <Atheists, in my experience, have simply come to the
            conclusion, after examining the available evidence,
            that gods do not exist. (As opposed to the spineless
            agnostic, who acknowledges the lack evidence of the
            existence of gods but lacks the courage to draw the
            obvious conclusion.)>

            This would be a subset of atheists. Some folk are
            raised without religious views and are atheists by
            default rather than by reasoned, critical reflection.

            As for the "spineless agnostic," there are undoubtedly
            some (as there are 'spineless' of all sorts), but
            there are also principled agnostics.

            Jeffery Hodges

            =====
            Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges (Inv.) [Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley]
            Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
            447-791 Kyunggido, Osan-City
            Yangsandong 411
            South Korea

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