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religion on the train?

 
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Note to moderators: If anyone feels this is inappropriate, feel free to compost. My intent is not to have a thread about religion. It's to try to understand something. However if it doesn't sound that way, or goes in another direction...

Some New York City train stations are going to have ads up about atheism. Source - cnn According to the dead tree newspaper I read, this has caused controversy.

I don't understand the controversy. There's a church that runs ads on the trains. How is that any different? I'm hoping someone from a more religious part of the country/world will have some insight into this.
 
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I would say that's precisely the point. One logical position is that it is the same thing, but there will be people who say it's not. I think the point being made is that the people who don't think it's the same thing aren't thinking the same way that the advertisers do. The advertisers want to highlight that different way of thinking, because they're actually selling a way of thinking themselves: rational empiricism. They want you to notice the folks who don't subscribe to that way of thinking about the world.

That's my take, anyway.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I don't understand the controversy. There's a church that runs ads on the trains. How is that any different? I'm hoping someone from a more religious part of the country/world will have some insight into this.



Like it or not, the United States was founded on the Judeo-Christian principles and continues to operate as such. The references to these principles are in the Constitution, the legal system, the public health and welfare system, the armed forces, and in the prescribed mentality of what constitutes "a good citizen", which is a charity giving, married with two children, heterosexual, law abiding and God fearing Christian. A campaign for atheism is therefore seen not as just another fashionable trend, but as a threat to the core that holds the country together. Thus the controversy.
 
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John Smith wrote:Like it or not, the United States was founded on the Judeo-Christian principles and continues to operate as such.



At least, that's what the people who think there is a controversy would like you to think. There are many others who would point to the part of the constitution which bars government-sponsored religion.

a charity giving, married with two children, heterosexual, law abiding and God fearing Christian



And the people who think there is a controversy say this sort of thing to imply that atheists are none of those things. Although in real life atheists do all of those things too... except the "God fearing" business which is replaced by personal responsibility.
 
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JS: a charity giving, married with two children, heterosexual, law abiding and God fearing Christian

Exactly. According to the Gallup poll atheists are last in line to the White House, behind, women and homosexuals:
http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/black_president_more_likely_than_mormon_or_atheist_/

to New York subway for their educational efforts.

P.S. The ad at the bottom of this page says "Church of Scientology. The Only Major Religion To Emerge in 20th Century." Do we really want to promote this organisation on JavaRanch?
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I don't understand the controversy. There's a church that runs ads on the trains. How is that any different?



Well, what do you expect from people who believe in supernatural beings? On the other hand superstition probably has evolutionary value, otherwise it would be gone by now. So one shouldn't be too hard on people. There's still very much ape in us. I for example believe in the existence of this,

I strongly believe there is,
an implicit reference called this.
There must be something this is pointing at.
I pray it is like that.
 
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I think the 'atheist' religion gets a lot of flack as a side effect for how it has to be presented. You can't advertise or recruit for atheism without negatively advertising against other religions. If you were recruiting for any other religion you can talk up the 'god', 'prophet', or 'principal' of that religion. But atheism there really isn't a 'positive' force to talk up, you have to trash your opponents, which of course makes them mad, causes ill-will, and leaves those not inclined to the atheist faith easily offended. I don't have any problem with atheism, I just see this as a fundamental flaw in their ability to recruit or advertise (after all nobody really likes negative ad campaigns except politicians).

Here is an example from the website those ads are referencing:
"All Big Apple CoR organizations share common ground -- promoting wider acceptance of a more rational and realistic view of the universe"
So unless you are atheist you are not just wrong (all religions say that) but also irrational (doesn't that sound like a fallacy of some sort?).

"Some advocate for scientific knowledge, reason, and skeptical inquiry."
If you believe in god you are non-scientific, and unreasonable.

"Some focus on the promotion of dogma-free humanist ethics, and an appreciation for life and the lives of other persons."
If you believe in god your ethics are is question, and you do not appreciate your life or the life of others.

I want to be clear I am not picking on any particular atheist organization or atheists in general, I am just saying they have a PR problem because their message is entirely negative and it is hard to promote it in a positive light without being (at least subtly) offensive.
 
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Martha Simmons wrote:
P.S. The ad at the bottom of this page says "Church of Scientology. The Only Major Religion To Emerge in 20th Century." Do we really want to promote this organisation on JavaRanch?



It's just what Google Ads comes up with for the keyword "religion". We could filter it out if there were a reason, but I really don't think there's any point. I've got an ad for Calvinism, too!
 
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Steve Luke wrote:

I want to be clear I am not picking on any particular atheist organization or atheists in general, I am just saying they have a PR problem because their message is entirely negative and it is hard to promote it in a positive light without being (at least subtly) offensive.



Well, yes and no. In the same way, you could say that ads for Clairol (your grey hair is bad), Tegrin (your dandruff is bad), Jenny Craig (your fat is bad,) Stanley Steemer (your dirty carpets are bad,) University of Phoenix (your lack of education is bad) and many others are all negative too. Why is "your belief system is bad" so different?
 
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Steve Luke wrote:I think the 'atheist' religion gets a lot of flack as a side effect for how it has to be presented. You can't advertise or recruit for atheism without negatively advertising against other religions.


Atheism is not a religion.

And atheism is not negative at all. On the contrary, many religions are very negative, they threaten you with hell and eternal damnation if you don't believe. Atheism is freeing your mind from irrationality.
 
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Jesper Young wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:I think the 'atheist' religion gets a lot of flack as a side effect for how it has to be presented. You can't advertise or recruit for atheism without negatively advertising against other religions.


Atheism is not a religion.



I think this is a bit of semantics. The fourth definition on Merriam Webster a religion is "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." Atheism fits that bill as much as anything else. It is hard to make the 'organized religion' distinction lately as well, with organizations like CoR.

And atheism is not negative at all. On the contrary, many religions are very negative, they threaten you with hell and eternal damnation if you don't believe. Atheism is freeing your mind from irrationality.


Yeah, I wouldn't say atheism is negative (or more negative than other religions). I would say its harder (or maybe impossible) to promote atheism without being negative (or at least appearing negative). These other religions don't have to say XYZ religion is bad for this and that reason. They can strictly concentrate on their own belief system. They have something unique they can offer (a distinguishing feature, if we are talking products, which I am). With atheism, there is no distinguishing feature - you can get scientific reason and rational behavior, strong, self-driven ethics, belief in individuality, etc... and still believe in a god/supernatural being. So the only thing atheism can do to recruit would be to explain why belief in god is bad unto itself. For the like-minded that isn't a problem. For the majority who (even if not actively religious) have some concept of deism, it is a bit offensive. So it is hard to recruit for atheism from deist communities. Like I said, it is more of a PR problem than anything else.
 
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:

I want to be clear I am not picking on any particular atheist organization or atheists in general, I am just saying they have a PR problem because their message is entirely negative and it is hard to promote it in a positive light without being (at least subtly) offensive.



Well, yes and no. In the same way, you could say that ads for Clairol (your grey hair is bad), Tegrin (your dandruff is bad), Jenny Craig (your fat is bad,) Stanley Steemer (your dirty carpets are bad,) University of Phoenix (your lack of education is bad) and many others are all negative too. Why is "your belief system is bad" so different?



These commercials do in fact say all that. The differences is:
1) Dandruff, grey hair, fat, dirty carpets, lack of education are generally considered bad by the general public. You don't offend the majority by saying those things

2) Many of those things can be 'objectively' measured as bad - fat kills, lack of education closes doors, dirty carpets cause disease in kids and pets - or have 'socially' observable badness associated with them already - gray hair and dandruff is a turn off to the opposite sex, dirty carpets look bad and people will say things etc...

3) People aren't trained to think any one of those things are good. Parents, society, TV, whatever don't pick you up as a kid and indoctrinate you that gray hair is good, lack of education is the only path to happiness, etc... Even if you do believe in those things as being good, chances are it isn't felt so strongly as religion is.

4) There may be a minority of people who are offended by Clairol commercials because they think gray hair is just fine, thank you. But these minorities are so small that they can be ignored.

The PR problem atheism has deals with how it is perceived from the majority, a majority such that they are going against social norms, are going against indoctrinated beliefs, and are tackling a subject which can't be objectively defended one way or the other.
 
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There was a recent story on NPR about the schism between atheists who want to be more confrontational with religion, "atheist fundamentalists" if you will, and those who take a subtler approach.
One of my friends is an in-your-face atheist. I think it's funny that he's co-opted the habits that I find most repulsive in fundamentalists of other varieties, like constantly interjecting how great his belief system is into unrelated conversations.

 
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:I've got an ad for Calvinism, too!



And his prophet Hobbes?

John.
 
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Joe Ess wrote: I think it's funny that he's co-opted the habits that I find most repulsive in fundamentalists of other varieties, like constantly interjecting how great his belief system is into unrelated conversations.[/img]





I personally don't care what other people believe in (or don't,) until it colors my interactions with that person in some way. In other words, I don't care if you're a vegan, and I don't want to hear about it, until the day comes when I invite you to dinner. Then you better spill.
 
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I'm in a class all day, so my access is limited. I do know that in Great Britain not too long ago, there was a bus advert campaign something like "There is no God. Deal with it."

The woman who organized it recently came out with a book called "The Atheist's Guide to Christmas".

I think people who believe in god are OK with, if they don't agree, someone saying "My god is just a LITTLE different from yours, but we basically believe in the same things like kindness, compassion, etc.". They tend to freak out when they hear "I reject your fundamental principle (i.e. god), but we basically believe in the same things like kindness, compassion, etc".

Rejecting the core, fundamental, guiding idea behind much of what they believe freaks them out, regardless of how much other stuff you agree on. That principle is the foundation for their beliefs. So they can't see how if you take that away, you can end up with the same stuff in the end.

This is my uneducated, personal opinion based on what I've seen, not on any actual evidence.
 
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John Smith wrote:

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I don't understand the controversy. There's a church that runs ads on the trains. How is that any different? I'm hoping someone from a more religious part of the country/world will have some insight into this.



Like it or not, the United States was founded on the Judeo-Christian principles and continues to operate as such. The references to these principles are in the Constitution, the legal system, the public health and welfare system, the armed forces, and in the prescribed mentality of what constitutes "a good citizen", which is a charity giving, married with two children, heterosexual, law abiding and God fearing Christian.



Most of our founding fathers were not Christians but Deists. Believing in a higher power but this higher power didn't worry itself with us sad little humans. In fact, they wanted religious freedom. That didn't mean freedom to be a Christian. It meant freedom not to be. And a lot of what we see in our legal system, constitution, armed forces, etc were amended and tacked on years if not decades later by folks that wanted the country to be more Christian based. For example, the phrase "under God" wasn't added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954. The pledge itself was composed in 1892. You do the math. And do a little research before making false statements.

For the record, I am a Christian, born again, Bible thumper, Jesus Freak....you name it. I don't shove my beliefs down anyone's throats no more than I want yours shoved down mine. So I get really bothered when folks want to do things like force prayer in school and the like. My kids pray in Church and at home. I get bothered when folks try and change history to their liking as well.
 
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Back on track here....I understand the controversy. As a Christian I'd rather not see ads telling me God doesn't exist. As a Christian I don't believe said ads. And as a US citizen those ads have the right to be there.
 
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Gregg:

Well said!

John.
 
fred rosenberger
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Gregg Bolinger wrote:As a Christian I'd rather not see ads telling me God doesn't exist.

Would you feel the same way about an ad for a Christian church, including your own? (I don't know what church you belong to or if they advertise).

I have no problem with any belief system advertising. I am free to ignore any and all ads I come across. I actually enjoy seeing ads for things I don't believe/support, because I feel they in some way educate me, and help me re-think my position on whatever issue is at hand.
 
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fred rosenberger wrote:

Gregg Bolinger wrote:As a Christian I'd rather not see ads telling me God doesn't exist.

Would you feel the same way about an ad for a Christian church, including your own? (I don't know what church you belong to or if they advertise).

I have no problem with any belief system advertising. I am free to ignore any and all ads I come across. I actually enjoy seeing ads for things I don't believe/support, because I feel they in some way educate me, and help me re-think my position on whatever issue is at hand.



No, I wouldn't feel the same. That is why I understand the controversy. Do I like ads promoting atheism? Absolutely not. Would I like to see them removed? On some level, sure. Would I fight for it? Nope. They are protected by the Constitution which I fully support.
 
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Steve Luke wrote:

Jesper Young wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:I think the 'atheist' religion gets a lot of flack as a side effect for how it has to be presented. You can't advertise or recruit for atheism without negatively advertising against other religions.


Atheism is not a religion.



I think this is a bit of semantics. The fourth definition on Merriam Webster a religion is "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." Atheism fits that bill as much as anything else. It is hard to make the 'organized religion' distinction lately as well, with organizations like CoR.


I disagree. Atheism isn't held to with faith - atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). It doesn't take faith to be an atheist.

Saying that atheism is a religion is like saying that not having a hobby, is a hobby...
 
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Jesper Young wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:

Jesper Young wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:I think the 'atheist' religion gets a lot of flack as a side effect for how it has to be presented. You can't advertise or recruit for atheism without negatively advertising against other religions.


Atheism is not a religion.



I think this is a bit of semantics. The fourth definition on Merriam Webster a religion is "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." Atheism fits that bill as much as anything else. It is hard to make the 'organized religion' distinction lately as well, with organizations like CoR.


I disagree. Atheism isn't held to with faith - atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). Saying that atheism is a religion is like saying that not having a hobby, is a hobby...



Until you make it your hobby to denounce hobbies. Which is what we're talking about here. If your agenda is to denounce someone else's beliefs it becomes a bit more than simply not believing in something. One definition of religion is "the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices". If one believes there is no God, that is a belief. And if folks come together to spread this belief, one could argue it is a religion based on that loose definition. I just don't believe it is so cut and dry as you described.
 
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I would agree that atheism is just as much a faith as any religion.

We have had that sort of advert in Britain before; about a year ago buses had "There's probably no God: enjoy life" (or similar) on the back.
 
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Ok, so you say it depends on what your exact definition of the word "religion" is. I think that when you mention "religion", most people will associate that with faith and believing in whatever god or gods that religion tells you to believe in, and worship. But you are talking about a much more broad and much less literal meaning of the word "religion".

I don't think it's a good idea to call atheism a religion, because that's placing it on the same line as Christianty, Judaism, Islam or any other religion. Saying "atheism is a religion" is just a very small step away from saying "atheism is just another religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.".

You can call it a lifestyle, but it's not a religion in the most common sense of that word.

Campbell: No, religion is not about faith at all. What do atheists have faith in?

The UK bus campaign slogan was: "There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." We had a similar campaign here in the Netherlands, but not on buses but on a billboard along the highway.
 
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Paul Clapham wrote:

John Smith wrote:Like it or not, the United States was founded on the Judeo-Christian principles and continues to operate as such. The references to these principles are in the Constitution, the legal system, the public health and welfare system, the armed forces, and in the prescribed mentality of what constitutes "a good citizen", which is a charity giving, married with two children, heterosexual, law abiding and God fearing Christian. A campaign for atheism is therefore seen not as just another fashionable trend, but as a threat to the core that holds the country together. Thus the controversy.



At least, that's what the people who think there is a controversy would like you to think. There are many others who would point to the part of the constitution which bars government-sponsored religion.

The two do not contradict each other. The bar to government-sponsored religion in no way contradicts John's points.

As an analogy, for the sake of productivity and to limit health insurance costs, my employer encourages "Wellness" -- e.g. good diet and exercise -- and might do so even if the founding directors of the company were themselves couch potatos. That said, my employer does not dictate employees' diets nor mandate engagement in any specific sporting activities (though I suppose, if asked, the company nurses would admit a preference for cross-country skiing over snowmobiling).

Even with a law prohibiting my employer from dictating my diet and hobbies, I would be seen as subversive if I advocated that free time all be spent watching TV while eating candy.
 
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Jesper Young wrote:Campbell: No, religion is not about faith at all. What do atheists have faith in?



Faith is simply a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Believing there is no God or gods is no more provable than the belief in God or gods. We can argue semantics and "most common" all we want. But faith does not always imply God nor does religion. Satan is not a god by any definition I know of. However, no one has a problem calling the Church of Satan or satanism a religion. And they have faith that Satan exists.
 
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I'm impressed that this thread is still here a day later. And witch such rich discussion.

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:I've got an ad for Calvinism, too!


I got a "religious studies" and Calvin ad. They are certainly on topic for the thread.

Joe: I love the cartoon.

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:In other words, I don't care if you're a vegan, and I don't want to hear about it,


I think it's interesting to hear about sometimes. What I don't want to hear about is why I'm evil for eating meat.

Gregg Bolinger wrote:For the record, I am a Christian, born again, Bible thumper, Jesus Freak....you name it. I don't shove my beliefs down anyone's throats no more than I want yours shoved down mine. ... That is why I understand the controversy.


This is precisely why I posted this. You understand it and were able to explain with examples. I kind of suspected someone who lives in certain parts of the US would - just from the larger numbers of "religious people" and the affect it has on culture. Thank you Gregg!

Gregg Bolinger wrote:Back on track here....I understand the controversy. As a Christian I'd rather not see ads telling me God doesn't exist. As a Christian I don't believe said ads. And as a US citizen those ads have the right to be there.


And I'd rather not have to listen to someone preach for 5 minutes on why I am evil and going to hell for not being an uber-religious representative of ____________. This isn't me censoring against who does it. I honestly don't remember which religion does this regularly. At least an ad one can choose not to look at. It's hard to block out the verbal part. Needless to say, the ads for a Church I'm fine with.

[edited to fix misplaced quote]
 
Paul Clapham
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Gregg Bolinger wrote:But faith does not always imply God nor does religion.



That's right, for example Scientologists have faith in whatever it is they have faith in, but it isn't a god. Same with Buddhists.

But I submit that the ad linked to in the original post, which says "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?" isn't in fact promoting atheism at all. That word was just attached by the headline writer and (as often happens with headlines) doesn't describe the facts of the article properly. You don't have to be an atheist to be "good without God". You can be an agnostic (who doesn't know if there are any gods) or an apatheist (who doesn't care if there are any gods), for example. Neither of these are faiths; for example I don't know or care if the Loch Ness Monster exists but that isn't an article of faith in any way.
 
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Jesper Young wrote:Ok, so you say it depends on what your exact definition of the word "religion" is. I think that when you mention "religion", most people will associate that with faith and believing in whatever god or gods that religion tells you to believe in, and worship. But you are talking about a much more broad and much less literal meaning of the word "religion".

I don't think it's a good idea to call atheism a religion, because that's placing it on the same line as Christianty, Judaism, Islam or any other religion. Saying "atheism is a religion" is just a very small step away from saying "atheism is just another religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.".



Why is it important to distinguish "atheism is a religion" and "atheism is just another religion?" I am missing the point you were trying to make here...
 
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Jesper Young wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:

Jesper Young wrote:

Steve Luke wrote:I think the 'atheist' religion gets a lot of flack as a side effect for how it has to be presented. You can't advertise or recruit for atheism without negatively advertising against other religions.


Atheism is not a religion.



I think this is a bit of semantics. The fourth definition on Merriam Webster a religion is "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." Atheism fits that bill as much as anything else. It is hard to make the 'organized religion' distinction lately as well, with organizations like CoR.


I disagree. Atheism isn't held to with faith - atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). It doesn't take faith to be an atheist.



I think it is misleading to say that atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). Atheism, as normally defined, is the belief in the lack of god(s). Notice the subtle difference. If you have no belief for or against, you are an agnostic, as Paul said. But atheism is a positive belief that there is not a god. Since there isn't any proof then that belief is a matter of faith.
 
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Steve Luke wrote:Since there isn't any proof then that belief is a matter of faith.



Hm, seems like someone said that already. ;)
 
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I have a lack of belief in pink elephants. You could even say I have a positive belief that there are no pink elephants in the world. I have no proof that they don't exist, other than the utter lack of credible evidence for them worldwide. I guess, since there's no proof, my belief must be a matter of faith.
 
Steve Luke
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Mike Simmons wrote:I have a lack of belief in pink elephants. You could even say I have a positive belief that there are no pink elephants in the world. I have no proof that they don't exist, other than the utter lack of credible evidence for them worldwide. I guess, since there's no proof, my belief must be a matter of faith.




 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Paul Clapham wrote:But I submit that the ad linked to in the original post, which says "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?" isn't in fact promoting atheism at all. That word was just attached by the headline writer


It is in the press release from the group doing the ad. It is also the text of the ad. I'm not seeing the added word.

edited to add - Oh - you mean the word atheism. Got it.
 
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Steve: You crushed Mike's belief system. Oh no!
 
John de Michele
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Steve Luke wrote:I think it is misleading to say that atheism is a lack of belief in god(s). Atheism, as normally defined, is the belief in the lack of god(s). Notice the subtle difference. If you have no belief for or against, you are an agnostic, as Paul said. But atheism is a positive belief that there is not a god. Since there isn't any proof then that belief is a matter of faith.



As an atheist, I would disagree with that assessment. Strong atheism is the belief in a lack of god/gods/whatever. Weak atheism posits that there is a lack of evidence for the existence of god/gods/whatever. Given the difficulty of proving a negative, such a position is naturally tentative. On the other hand, the burden of proof is not on atheists to disprove the existence of god/gods/whatever.

John.
 
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John de Michele wrote:On the other hand, the burden of proof is not on atheists to disprove the existence of god/gods/whatever.

John.



The burden of proof is on no one to prove/disprove the existence. It cannot be proven nor disproven, in my opinion. The burden lies on getting others to believe the same as you (not you as in John). That is, if you care what others believe.
 
John de Michele
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Gregg Bolinger wrote:The burden of proof is on no one to prove/disprove the existence. It cannot be proven nor disproven, in my opinion. The burden lies on getting others to believe the same as you (not you as in John). That is, if you care what others believe.



I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, then :). That's fine, though. Life would be boring if everyone thought the same :beerchug:

John.

Edit: emoticons seem to not be working
 
Gregg Bolinger
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John de Michele wrote:

Gregg Bolinger wrote:The burden of proof is on no one to prove/disprove the existence. It cannot be proven nor disproven, in my opinion. The burden lies on getting others to believe the same as you (not you as in John). That is, if you care what others believe.



I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, then :). That's fine, though. Life would be boring if everyone thought the same :beerchug:

John.



Well, let me restate this a bit. As an atheist you think that proof is required. As a Christian, it's all about faith. I can ever prove to you God exists. At least not like proving to you that JavaRanch exists. So yea, we just have a different point of view.
 
My first bit of advice is that if you are going to be a mime, you shouldn't talk. Even the tiny ad is nodding:
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