Help With School Paper
Dear Mr. or Mrs. or PositiveAtheism.org,
Hello. My name is Laura. I'm an atheist also, and I was wondering if you could give some information about atheism. I'm doing a research paper in school on my beliefs and I need some ideas of things to write about and I was just wondering if you could help me out. Thank you very much and I appreciate the help.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "§ Laura §"
Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2000 4:16 PM
You could do a lot worse than reading George H. Smith's entire book, Atheism: The Case Against God.
We have posted the first chapter, "The Scope of Atheism." We also have Smith's wonderful essay, "Defining Atheism." These two essays should give you more than enough to work with, but you do well to get Smith's book. The main point is that it is the theist's job to make the case that a god exists. Always keep in mind that we are dealing with claims and that we are not discussing whether a god exists, we are always discussing the validity of the various claims that gods exist. If you can keep this element of the discussion in the forefront, you will be able to make a very strong case for the Burden of Proof. For more on arguments and fallacies, consult San Jose University's Critical Thinking WebPage.
Pay close attention to the Burden of Proof because the person making the claim always has the responsibility of proving it true; otherwise, we don't have to believe the claim. Some rationalists squirm when people such as Holocaust Deniers come along, but the burden of proof is nevertheless upon those who claim that it happened, not on the ones who claim that it did not happen (though a very strong case can be made that the Holocaust happened, and the arguments against it are very weak).
The second thing you will want to cover is Liberal Scientific Method, which is wonderfully covered in Johathan Rauch's very short book The Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Basically, science is an ongoing discussion wherein all claims to knowledge are up for grabs and nobody's claim to knowledge is exempt from critical inquiry. In science, we publish our ideas specifically for the purpose of offering them up to public scrutiny, and we agree to abide by the results of that scrutiny. Anything else is not science, but is charlitanery posing as science.
Finally, please study the ways in which hucksters and crooks misuse logic and rhetoric in order to convince the public of their case. We have put together a modest collection of articles on how to think and listed them in our Clues Section. We have assembled the entire gist of the articles in the Clues section and have posted them in our FAQ section, and the logical fallacies are listed by name in the index to "Discussing Athesim With Others." Any essay on atheism should show that atheists recognize the flaws in people's claims that a god exists and, out of a respect for honesty and truthfulness, refuse to acknowledge theism's claims as being truthful.
This FAQ is the product of years of study on logical fallacies and similar forms of dishonest argument, and it contains the best examples from the other articles listed. I wrote it specifically so that folks such as yourself may have a ready resource in learning this stuff, because many of the other writings on this subject are either tedious or flawed or both.
If you use any quotations as references, we prefer that you refer to the original work (if it is quoted in our FAQ and is enclosed within quotation marks); otherwise, if the material is not enclosed within quotation marks, it is ours: feel free to quote it, but please refer to the "Positive Atheism Magazine Frequently Asked Questions" and then the title of the section, which includes the section number, the subsection letter, and the sub-subsection number, etc. (e.g., "3. i. (1). Begging the Question"), and list the Positive Atheism main URL (www.positiveatheism.org) in your references or bibliography. All unsigned work is by Cliff Walker.
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