Kimberly Nicholas

Graphic Rule

From: "Cliff Walker" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kimberly Nicholas"
Subject: Re: abusive???
Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 20:53:34-0700

Regarding your option with Gora's philosophy (only part of which is summarized by that quote), I think I could never word it better than Joseph Lewis did:

"With this recognition of the finality of death, no one should willingly withhold acts that would bring benefits, joy or happiness to others."
-- from "An Atheist Manifesto"

To me, murder is inconsistent with the self-consistency that Gora advocates here: If I don't want to be murdered, then I begin this act of self-consistencey by refraining from murder and by supporting anti-murder legislation.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Cliff Walker" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kimberly Nicholas"
Subject: Re: abusive???
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 17:37:26-0700

To me, the self-consistency inherent in the philsosophy of Positive Atheism would prompt one to consider the finality of death when making choices.

Atheism does not necessarily set up individual rules for different people. This is a very popular lie that is used to discredit atheism. Every individual, atheist or theist, decides which morals he or she will follow and which he or she will reject.

Atheism is simply the lack of a god-belief.

There is no universal creed tying all atheists together any more than there is a universal creed tying all women together. Some atheists have addressed this situation by offering philosophies of various sorts. A part of my contribution to this discussion is my attempt to make some elements of Gora's Positive Atheism more available to those in the West.

One person is homosexual: that is truth for him. Another person is a Catholic nun: that is truth for her. Etc. I don't think the term "individualized" is fair to use in this discussion, as it displays bias against the atheistic position.

I did not deem that remark worthy of comment. I don's see it's connection to our discussion.

First, I like architecture as an art form because it necessarily incorporates the restraints you mention and others you do not mention. Though it does not prevent ugly building from appearing (such as the Portland Building where I live, and others), it does tend to produce very useful buildings.

Secondly, I am not an architect, but I do know enough about architecture to know that your statement about it is patently false. Most buildings that utilized the cornerstone had not one, but four or more cornerstones. The building I am in at this moment has no cornerstones. The architecture that uses cornerstones is passé here in earthquake country, where some large buildings are even erected upon a springy foundation. The corner springs in the building where I am were damaged during the Salem earthquake six or seven years ago. They did their job, though, because all the second-story windows (4×8') escaped damaged.

Again, truth, here, is individualized to suit a particualr context. In California, buildings that did not meet the 1933 earthquake standards were routinely razed and replaced during the 1970s per California law.

I am willing to settle for truth. Whether that truth is positive will come later. Is a claim cannot be shown to be true, I have no business believing it, and certainly have no business propogating it as truth.

I have heard numerous god-claims that either make no sense or don't hold water. I have heard all the popular god-claims, but I'm sure there are some obscure ones I have not heard yet. Therefore, I am still open to listening to god-claims.

Are you willing to present to me a god-claim that either makes sense or holds water? Are you ready to give an answer to the questions this man has about your god-claim (II Pe. iii. 15.)? I have made this offer and it still stands: I will discuss your god-claim with you and will convert to theism if you make your case with me. All I ask is that you agree beforehand that should you not make your case with me, you agree to renounce your faith. Under these conditions, I will discuss the issue with you for two years if that is how long it takes to sort out the truth from the fiction.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

Cliff sends an afterthought:

From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Kimberly Nicholas
Subject: Re: abusive???
Date: Tuesday, May 18, 1999 3:48 AM More on self-consistency:

An ethic of self-consistency (I do what I say and I say what I do), combined with the ethic of full disclosure (I keep no secrets) would, I think, prevent someone from committing murder (contrary to what you suggested in an earlier e-mail). If my policy is to do what I say and say what I do and keep no secrets, then, if I were planning a murder, I would necessarily issue a press release (a murder being a newsworthy event) and would also need to warn the victim (since that person is involved).

Murder is so far removed from how I normally think, that it is difficult for me to apply this hypothetical situation to the philosophy. I'm just not sure that a person who practices any semblance of Gandhi's satyagraha would be in a mind-set to commit murder, or to rob someone, or rape or steal or commit fraud. The last two times someone attacked me, looking for a fight, I curled up into a ball. It is not even in my instinct to fight back, though I like to think that I would be able to risk my life and health on behalf of someone who was weaker than I who was being victimized.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism"

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Kimberly Nicholas
Subject: Re: abusive???
Date: Sunday, May 23, 1999 1:45 AM

I don't understand. Please explain.

If a question needs to be clarified, I agree. However, if I see a statement as invalid or erroneous or untruthful, I insist on the right to point that out.

This is true in architecture, but this principle does not apply the same way in music. Therefore, an analogy from architecture to music using this principle would be invalid.

Architecture itself is an example of men and women interfering with natural conditions and making what they think are improvements in their environments.

What is your point, here? Your next paragraph changes the subject. Please answer my objection with your use of architecture to make a point (but then never made any point).

This is not what I said at all. I said:
"There is no universal creed tying all atheists together any more than there is a universal creed tying all women together." I said nothing about Positive Atheism in this statement. On the contrary, Positive Atheism is atheism that does have additional creeds attached to it. I told you about Positive Atheism's sense of integrity, but you objected to the notion of integrity, suggesting that a personal policy of integrity would not, to use your example, prevent someone from committing murder.

On the second comment: Tangible or not, a woman is a type of person. An atheist is also a type of person. This is a valid example in both cases because the categories are binary: a person is either a woman or not a woman (a man); a person is either a theist or not a theist (an atheist). You cannot discern a person's opinion about, say, the death penalty, based solely on the fact that she is a woman. Neither can you discern a person's opinion on any matters (other than the existence of gods and the supernatural) because that person is an atheist.

This is true within any given religion, but religion as a whole is far from unified. (This disunity among religions is the basis for the Argument from Nonbelief, a powerful argument against theism.) In this sense, religion has absolutely no advantage over atheism. However, atheism does have one advantage over theism in this respect, because atheists acknowledge that we are on our own to develop morel systems that work. This is not necessarily true for theists, though many theists of late have acknowledged what atheists have said all along: we must develop our own moral systems.

Wrong again. As I stated above, atheist simply acknowledge that humankind must develop its own system of morals (without appeal to the supernatural). This is why one of the primary topics of discussion for this magazine and forum is the subject of ethics, or morals.

It is the concept of Liberty, as set out by Thomas Paine (a Deist) and the other founders of the United States of America (almost all Deists), that trusts the individual to make the best decisions, though it reserves the right for the society to make laws about certain important issues, such as theft, murder, etc. Though Liberty, as a concept, is popular among atheists in America and Europe, it is not a common denominator within atheism or among atheists. Many atheists (particularly Communists) disagree with Paine's the concept of Liberty. I am one atheist who so wholeheartedly agrees with his concept of Liberty that I would forfeit my finite life if I knew that doing so would further propagate the principle of Liberty and further establish it as standard practice among humans.

This (again) shows that atheists are atheists simply because they lack a god-belief. To add something to that definition is to describe something other than atheism (e.g., Communism; Positive Atheism; Humanism).

Au contraire! All theists ultimately decide whether to follow their religion's creed. I have yet to meet a Christian who, on biblical grounds, refuses to wear mixed-fiber clothing, although this is up there with the Bible's ban on homosexuality. According to the story, Ezekiel himself objected to a direct commandment from God in Ezek. iv. 12 (cf. Ezek. iv. 14, 15). If a Roman Catholic decides that Mariolatry is wrong, he or she may switch to Protestantism, or Hinduism of Janism or atheism, for that matter. It's that easy. People do it all the time.

In this sense also, theism has no advantage over atheism. In fact, atheism, by acknowledging that we all build our ethical systems from the ground up, seems to me to have an advantage. At least no atheist will say, "God said it; I believe it; that settles is," that all is said and done, and thus we should stop looking for answers.

Does calling it is your opinion somehow shelter the idea from criticism?

I don't think so.

If you, a theist, are speaking about atheists, and if you speak falsely, you commit slander against atheists.

I have been very carefully choosing my words to try to tell you that this notion is not necessarily true about atheists; it does not naturally follow from atheism. Though it may be true for some atheists, it is also true for some theists who pick and choose which commandments to use and decide, based upon convenience, what a given commandment means. Do you know any long-haired Christian men (I Cor. Xi. 14.)? Who, besides the Mormons, baptize the dead (I Cor. Xv. 29.)? How many Christians wash each others' feet (Jn. Xiii. 14-16.)?

Why are you so hot to trot to paint all atheists as Freewheeling Franklins, simply because we reject the Koran as a source for morals? I mean, just because the Baghavad-Gita was clearly written by men and not by a god, therefore (according to you) we atheists are free to accept or reject an ethical stance based purely on personal choice. Are you saying that because we atheists believe Quetzalcoatl was a false god and never existed, we get to choose whether we are going to murder someone today?

Whence cometh all the hard, grueling work that I have done developing an ethical system that I think is worthy of my name? My ethics weren't handed to me on a silver platter. I didn't get to read them out of a book. I had to think long and hard -- years and years of introspection -- in order to come up with a system that I think I can live with, so I can face myself in the mirror each morning.

"Oh, but it's individualized, it is based simply upon your personal choices! But our system is not based upon our own whims!"

No. Your system is based upon someone else's ideas, not upon your own research into yourself and your world. You choose to use someone else's system. Worse, you choose the system of someone who claimed to be speaking for God but is probably lying to you. (Probably is used here in the statistical sense: over 5,000 different deities claim human endorsement. Which of these 5,000 or so deities do you choose to call The One True God? Which god is best individualized for your personal choices?)

I will not have that for myself. The ethical system I use is too important to place into the hands of someone who is arguably a charlatan. The alleged word of a god, via a prophet, is not good enough for me because -- at minimum -- we cannot verify the prophet's god-claim to be true. (Else, why would we need a prophet to tell us that gods exist?)

When did I say this?

True, some theists seem to be empty-headed, but then, so are some atheists.

I do disagree with most theists on the issue of where we should look for moral guidance. That does not mean I think any of them are empty-headed. I disagree with Thomas Edison on the nature of biological life, but that does not mean I think Thomas Edison was a dunderhead. (Although he did, one time, get tired of reporters smoking his cigars, so he had his tobacconist roll up some phony cigars out of paper bags to teach them a lesson. He then put the phony cigars in a box on his desk. Months later he opened the box only to realize that he had smoked them all himself!)

Robert Ingersoll has, as a prose stylist, been compared with William Shakespeare. Yes, it does show blatant bias, but not against "the theistic position."

The Garden of Eden story is so clearly a myth that only a few Christian sects in the United States still think it literally happened. Most American and almost all European Christians think it is a myth or an allegory. Even the early Christians, particularly Jerome and Clemens Alexandrinus, taught that Ezra (Ezdras) wrote the Pentateuch and the Chronicles after the Babylonian captivity. The "Fall of Man" was an allegory until the time of Anselm, who first popularized the notion that the Garden of Eden story is a work of history.

Nevertheless, I have changed my e-mail signature.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292

"As soon as you're born
     They make you feel small..."
                -- John Lennon (1940-1980)

"Changes take place, not independent of
     man's will, but on account of man's wills.
     Civilization has progressed by man's
     interferen ce with material conditions.
               -- Gora (1902-1975)

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.