The Bone of Contention
I recently had a brief comment conversation with fellow eBaumer and technologically proficient amphibian Frogbob. It was spurred over his stated theory that atheists cannot, technically, exist in his blog "atheists don't even exist". He used what I'm certain he felt was a clever strategy of relying on Merriam-Webster's dictionary to cherry-pick definitions for various words and string a fallacious line of logic to determine that atheists aren't real. There were heated words between Frogbob, a faceless named nitemare0, and myself in which nitemare0 and I attempted to highlight the inherent flaw to the argument.
nitemare0: "you should make sure you are quoting the right definitions first. the "Being" you refer to, is not the "being" as in it exists, the correct definition of that word IN THAT CONTEXT is "Living; being alive." meaning a person or animal, this is confirmed by the use of the words "Creator" and "Ruler" both of which refer to a "Person that creates something" and "A person exercising government or dominion.", Respectively.Furthermore, if we work backwards and examine your definitions as is, I could very well worship the all mighty Photoshop God, for bringing a picture of the universe in to existence. if you're trying to outsmart someone with a free mind and thought (anyone not bound by backwards thinking of a "god" religion), you must first examine your own beliefs and arguments for flaws, or you will fall victim of your own shortcomings." [sic]
smb275: "Did Faceless just take you to school? " [sic]
Frogbob: "being means having existence, I even dictionaried it for you. A creator can be anything credited for making something, such as an explosion. Really only arguments I'm getting here are "uhhhhh you don't have free thoughts uhhhhh your definitions are wrong retard uhhhhhhhhhhh" [sic]
smb275: "Bro, Faceless is right. You're using the word "being" out of context. You're using it as a conjunction and not a noun. Not to mention the logical fallacy that constitutes your entire argument in the first place. If X then Y, then Y equals Z isn't appropriate." [sic]
Frogbob: "How is my argument wrong? How is nature and man different since we're stuck on the notion that being can only mean some person or thing that can reason. This isn't the definition in the dictionary, yet most assume thats its meaning." [sic]
smb275: "Don't recall saying anything like that. I accept your definition of the word. What I don't except is your logical fallacy. You've found this idea somewhere and you think it's neat and genuine and as it upholds your own belief structure you lose the ability to comprehend the inherent flaw. Your forced assumption that since the universe began somehow, was created somehow, means that everyone alive must believe in its existence/BEING. Hence no atheists. You're making gross extrapolations of reality, here." [sic]
smb275: "Your name is Frogbob. Name is defined as "a word or a combination of words by which a person, place, or thing, a body or class, or any object of thought is designated, called, or known." Your avatar is a frog. Avatar is defined as "an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life." Ergo you are a frog. See what I did there?" [sic]
Frogbob: "You say you disagree with my logic yet you don't really explain why. You just say its flawed, okay then why is it. And I came up with this on my own. Although you could argue that no thought began with the thinker." ... "Your counter-argument is weak, as are your erections." [sic]
nitemare0: "I don't think you are understanding us, nature cannot be considered as a god/creator/ruler, because those are all definitions, when broken down to a simple common denominator, are willful acts of influence. "nature" as you put it, is not alive and cannot have a willful influence. (and since you are in favor of strict definitions, "Willful: Intentional; deliberate." In reality, "nature" should probably be more accurately referred to as "The Universe" mearly follows a set of rules laws that govern how matter, energy, and forces interact with each other (called the laws of physics, and quantum mechanics) it does not judge, it does not choose, and it does not have a "will". I am perfectly happy to have a civil discussion with you, as i am confident that my argument is based on facts, logic, and most importantly, and understanding of facts and logic. Although I can see by your choosing to attack something completely unrelated to this conversation, such as sexual function, I can only conclud" [sic]
Frogbob: "if nature has no influence what does, also how does this prove me wrong?" [sic]
nitemare0: "again, you are taking things out of context, your whole argument is based on a claim that nature is a god/deity, to which I respond that nature does not have a WILLFUL influence, anything can have influence, but whether it is willful, meaning done with direct purpose, or if it is an effect of a indirect cause, meaning the it was not intentionally influenced, is what this is about. so I will be a little more clear for you. nature is simply a set of rules, that describe how everything in the universe interacts with each other, it does not think, it does not make a choice, it simply describes how one thing will lead to another, which leads to another, and eventually this large, extremely long chain of one think interacting, with another, eventually leads to you, effecting your life in one way or another (as well as the reason you are alive). it is not a WILLFUL act on anyones part, nature does not "rule the universe", the universe simply interacts with itself. I will also give you an exam " [sic]
So, do you see the problem? While it isn't my intention to cause offense, I'm sure I will. It's like arguing with a brick wall. I mean... am I wrong? Am I missing something? And with as much text space I've devoted to it, this conversation isn't the only example. It is, to be honest, just a drop in the bucket. This back-and-forth has taken place a million times in a thousand forums and venues, and has there ever been true resolution? Has either one side ever bowed to the logic or eloquence of the other?
Not that I've ever seen.
I have, in fact, seen quite the opposite. One or both will walk away confident and secure in the myth of their victory over the other. Frogbob, for example, has gone on to say, "...there's no reason to take it out on the winner of the debate we had." I stumbled over that statement for a bit. It is not my intention here to seek absolution of who won the argument, only to say that, in my opinion, I won. I wasn't able to comprehend his points and counter-points, I was glaringly aware of his logical distortion, and grew more and more frustrated with his refusal to actually address any counter-point made. On the other hand, though, it seems he logged off with similar feelings. Perhaps his stated points were just beyond my ability to grasp and I was the one to fall short. Maybe I failed to effectively state my opinion and spoke gibberish. I can only speak for myself in this, but I'll reiterate that I could have sworn that Frogbob was a grammatical and analytical disaster.
I think this is indicative of great atheist/theist debate that rages across the internet like an underground coal fire. Realistically, I'm forced to accept that regardless of how well phrased an argument is, no matter how reinforced by logic and realism, that most people won't willingly discard their own point of view. I came to my own identity as an atheist through a long and grueling path and formed it independently of any single conversation. It was, for me, the natural conclusion. But what about everyone else? What about Frogbob, who refuses to believe that I can even exist? We come to blades locked at the crosspiece. We come to the point in which neither one of us can accept the ideas of the other. We have forged our self-images and tempered them in the fire and ice of our own ideas. It is, as they say, the bone of contention. The more and more that I see this tired old game play itself out the more and more I come to a decision concerning it. I, myself, will never be able to convince the theists of the various online communities I inhabit to see it the way I do. Just as the banal recitations of the bible, admonitions against blasphemy, and promises of god's love will never convince me to recommit my life to christ.
My path was my own. Thus your path must be your own. All I can ever do is explain myself to the best of my ability. Will I make an atheist of you? Not likely. Will you make a believer of me? Equally unlikely. But can we potentially walk away sharper and smarter from the exchange? Can we, at least, better ourselves through our differences? The only thing I ask is that you take the intellectual leap and examine an idea without the need to accept it. Don't deny it outright. After all, what do you have to lose? More importantly... What could you stand to gain?
BONUS ROUND: Who's actually correct? Nitemare0 and myself or Frogbob?