Cussing God Out
At A River Bank
Terry Peck

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "The Peck's"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, September 12, 2000 7:34 PM

All belief systems are human-made belief systems. Some are wrought more carefully than others, and some are based upon human tradition whereas others are based upon human reason and careful observation combined with stringent public scrutiny.
 

I don't understand why anyone would "cuss out God." If He is or if He is not, doing this would not accomplish anything outside one's own mind, and in either situation, the act would not be honest.

However, I can see how doing this while already having faith could impact one's outlook, and I can see this without any god existing. I certainly wouldn't let a feeling such as this constitute convincing evidence that a god exists, because what you describe happens to people all the time, and it can usually be chalked up as a purely emotional experience that has no objective reality.

I appreciate your story, though.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Serving those without theism for five years

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "The Peck's"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2000 10:14 PM

This is but one of many ways to write off your "experience" as something other than hallucination. What you have done here is a variation on the False Dichotomy. By limiting your definition of "emotional experience" (my original wording which you have changed to "emotionalism," which is something completely different from what I said), you have defined your experience into a corner that excludes all possible explanations except your own: "unexplainable."

My personal policy includes absolute respect for people's right to hold any religious view they wish to hold. However, you wrote to this forum making specific claims about your religious experience with the goal of tarnishing the credibility of atheism's occasional attempts to discover what may be going on when someone claims they have had a religious experience.

In addition to this, you attempted to smash the credibility of your fellow religionists through a wholesale generalization of the entire group:
 

Here is the main difference that I see between you and I: My approach is to listen to all religious claims with a skeptical ear because I have encountered a vast number of religious claims that have turned out not to hold water. Meanwhile, it is impossible for me to disprove a religious claim directly (one cannot disprove a claim for the existence of something: try disproving my long-standing claim that an invisible green leprechaun lives under my Chicago Cubs hat). Thus, all I have to go on are the merits of the claim and the evidence and arguments brought forth by the one making the claim. Since religious claims are, by nature, untestable, I do well if I can test the credibility of the one making the claim by seeing if they are fair and truthful regarding matters that are testable.

You, on the other hand, have not only made bold claims, but have employed dishonest rhetorical devices in order to bolster your claim by tarnishing both my credibility and that of your fellow religionists. You claim "He is real" which is an untestable claim. So, all I have to go on is your word. If I can show that you have used dishonest rhetorical techniques, or have made claims that can be tested, then I can know whether to take your untestable claim seriously. Your use of dishonest rhetorical techniques (as described above) shows me precisely how seriously I should take your claim.
 

All people start out as atheists, and then most are later taught theism by their parents or others. I wouldn't say that theists become atheist, but rather that atheists become theists.

Meanwhile, I haven't encountered a religious creed that is not dogma. Even your explanation of your experience forces you to conclude what you have concluded rather than allowing you the option of further scrutinizing your observations and sensations and feelings, perhaps comparing your story with those of others who may or may not have had similar experiences, and always holding open the option that all claims of fact are subject to revision and possible overthrow by new information.

This is the difference between dogma and liberal scientific method. I prefer to subject all of my ideas to the scrutiny of others, and to abide by the results of that scrutiny whenever I can see what they are saying. Ultimately, I must see something before I will go about telling others that it is true, but with the process of public discussion and the scrutiny that results, I am more likely to even see something -- not to mention more likely to see with greater accuracy.
 

As far as I can tell, all thought is ultimately the result of the structures and processes of our nervous systems. True, I am the one who attaches meaning to my thoughts and observations, but the vehicle for those thoughts ultimately lies within the human nervous system. I have yet to hear an argument that there is something else, in addition to that, going on, and have lived long enough and endured enough mental impairment to be relatively certain that the physical health of my body affects my thoughts and my interpretations of those thoughts.
 

I had a similar turning point, but in a different direction. All I had previously thought was reality crumbled before me in an instant, and I started seeing myself as the atheist I have always been. Somebody else might have seen this as a message from God, but that's not how I saw it. I soon started reading the classic Freethought literature and the popular scientific and philosophical writings, which verified the instantaneous interpretation I had in that single moment. I eventually wrote about that experience in a piece called "Monument To Lost Faith" which also advocates against allowing religious symbols to be erected upon public property along publicly owned roads.

Still, the perspective that I gained that day, though it continues to be supported by my studies and observations, is always and forever up for grabs. This is the difference between dogma and liberal scientific method, which I choose to practice even in my philosophical studies.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Serving those without theism for five years

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

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