Godlessness and Gumballs


Gumballs: anything more complicated would confuse some of you.
  Using gumballs (scroll down to the jar of gumballs to get to the focus of this post), I shall illustrate how atheism is not necessarily the claim that a god doesn't exist but is considered by many to be the rejection of the claim of the existence of a god (or gods.)  There is a similar example that makes the same point using a courtroom and how "not guilty"  "innocent" (innocence is not what the jury is asserting, only guilt is being addressed.)  Atheism is, simply, not theism- something that should be obvious to anyone with basic, elementary etymological understandings- but in this post I will be discussing the personal defenses/applications of the label.  
    Starting off, some of my wording and the fundamental imagery of this write-up are borrowed from former president of the Atheist Community of Austin, Matt Dillahunty.


Matt Dillahunty: eating babies and taking names.
  Former almost-a-Baptist-minister Matt Dillahunty is the host of the cable access show The Atheist Experience, a co-host of the Internet show The Non Prophets, and is the founder of the counter-apologetics wiki Iron Chariots.org.  Matt's style can be a little harsh at times, but overall I'm a huge fan and I recommend the above shows (I ingest them in netcast form) and website.  I do have my personal reservations about some aspects of the show (and several objections to how some people treat the show material) and I'll likely make a post about my beefs in the near future.  

  Before we talk of gumballs, we will first discuss why this illustration is relevant and what problem(s) it aims to address.


  Fellow atheists, raise your hand if you've ever heard one of these silly statements 
  (theists, raise your hand if you've ever uttered one of these unflattering assertions):
"it takes more faith to be an atheist"
"atheism is a religion in and of itself"
"the burden of proof lies on the atheist to disprove god"
"everyone secretly believes in a god"  

  There are plenty of other folks who have worded responses to these vapid sayings so I won't go beyond the gumball object lesson today in addressing a particular vein of ignorance concerning atheism.  

-----------------------------------------   NOTE:
  Since I've written this article, I've since expanded upon my definition and explanation of "atheism."  For the most part, my views written below are moreso compatible- but in a future post I will attempt to elaborate upon the results of my philosophical inquiry about my reflections on the burden of proof, the definition of the label "atheist" itself, ect...
  I try to word my stances with clear intent and as honestly as I can through an alphanumeric medium.  Should I later do a write-up furthering my thoughts on "atheism" I'll provide a link to such in this post.  

-----------------------------------------

  In the question of theism/atheism, which is the default position?  Atheism is.  This doesn't suggest the truthfulness of a/theism one way or the other- it's just the rational starting point when considering the questions this particular vein of -ism raises.  
  When discussing the existence of the Loch Ness Monster or invisible robot unicorns or even a friend telling you he found a suitcase filled with $2 bills, diamonds, and nude photos of Carmen Electra, what's the default position to take:  belief until proven false or disbelief until proven true?  The rational answer is "disbelief until proven true."  The default stance is unbelief (to withhold belief, to use gentler terms.)
  "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." -Carl Sagan.  While true, it's more useful to say that "extraordinary claims require good evidence."  A snack-sized way to think of it can be done with Hitchen's Razor, "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."  
  If a claim ("Elvis went on a date with my brother" "God exists" "Undetectable gnomes live inside of electrons") is unfalsifiable or unable to be investigated then it is not only without value, any claims as to the philosophies that claim may or may not suggest are baseless speculation.  Appeals to faith concerning foundational, grand claims are virtually always an indication that an argument is false, a miscommunication, completely hearsay, or a display of ignorance, as pretty much every religion- along with their mutually differing sects- make appeals to faith with the same conviction as their "heathen" neighbor.  
  When theists preach about their god, when a theist puts forth their claim that a god exists (usually followed by a list a demands and expectations), the burden is upon them to demonstrate that the divine figure they're telling us about is true.  This is done by presenting a falsifiable definition of the god and its deeds and authority and then providing evidence of such.  However, nearly everything you'll hear in the presentation of reasons for belief in a religion are merely unsubstantiated claims: 
Does the fact that other religions use the same justifications... raise any grey flags?
  
The burden of proof is one of the most important features of a logical argument.
  Here are several links that touch on the burden of proof:

  Your logical fallacy is: burden of proof
  (this website touches on a wide variety of logical fallacies)

  The Atheist Experience 438: Shifting the Burden of Proof
  (a caller attempting to shift the burden of proof)

  QualiaSoup: The burden of proof 
  (4:28 - 6:08 is more focused on my point)

  Conventional Logic & Shifting the Burden of Proof
  (a popular Internet image used to illustrate the absurdity of dodging the burden of proof)

  Now that the necessity of the burden of proof has been established, now that non-belief is a clearly established default position (a fact that threatens nothing except for stuff where good evidence is non-existent) we can move on.
  
  On to the gumballs!

Correctly guess how many OR SUFFER

  A god either exists or a god doesn't exist (focusing on the more prevalent monotheism).  Let's take that and apply some gumballs.
  Scenario: you're at a party and there's a jar of gumballs on a table- there's a grand prize for whoever can guess the correct amount of gumballs.  You and another guest have spent a moment to try and guess how many are in the jar.  There are only two possibilities, the number of gumballs is an even or odd integer.
  Guest B looks at you and says "there is an even number of gumballs in that jar."
  Being as there's been no reason given to you to believe that guest B could possibly know that to be true, you (guest N) respond, "I do not believe that you know that there is an even number of gumballs in that jar."
  You do not know how many gumballs are in the jar, but saying you don't believe guest B's claim to be true does not mean that you are stating his claim is false.  You are not claiming that there are an odd number of gumballs in the jar, you simply have not been convinced that the number of gumballs is even.  The default position to take on the number of gumballs is neutral.  This isn't necessarily a directly useful example in relation to Pascal's Wager as it is a/theism being discussed here, not atheism vs [specific theistic system.]  

  Atheism = "the absence of a positive belief in a god (or gods.)" (sans theism)
  That's it.  Atheists simply acknowledge that a burden of proof has failed to have been met in relation to theistic claims for a god.  Atheism isn't a prescriptive label- it's not a worldview- it's simply the label that defines the characteristic of lacking a positive belief in a god.  
  Now, some atheists do take take the "a god does not exist" stance and I've seen some personally compelling arguments presented by them.  The "there is not a god and, according to the definition presented by theists, can't be such a god" is how many atheists choose to word their sans-theism.  There are plenty of flavors for both sides of the discussion.  As far as I go, my stance is "I do not believe that a god exists.  I have yet to be convinced that theism, especially of the Abrahamic faiths, is likely to be true."  
  There is a possibility that a god exists (gives no indication as to which god or what properties it would possess), but along that same super-generous train of thought it's also possible goblins, ghosts, elves, robot unicorns, fairies, and other such unproven entities exist.  All that to say, there's no rational, logical, justified reason to believe in anything until good reasons and evidence of [thing] are presented and proven to be true or likely.  No good, convincing reasons or evidences for theism have been presented to me and in my earnest seekings for such I have yet to find any.  
  I was once a believer in the teachings of Christianity, of the Bible- my atheism wasn't a reckless, hasty realization.  I'll happily confess that making the decision to apply my skeptical inquisitiveness to my religious beliefs was one of the greatest choices made in my entire life, however that's solely my opinion and also a story for another time.

  A saying I've recently discovered wraps up my sentiments rather nicely:
An all-knowing god knows the evidence I need to be convinced of his existence.
An all-powerful god is able to provide that evidence.
An all-loving god would want to.

  In closing, here is a fantastic QualiaSoup video describing the absence of belief on the part of an atheist:


Lack of belief in gods
(for mobile browsers: http://youtu.be/sNDZb0KtJDk)






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