Friday, March 09, 2012

I need some help with a logical fallacy

Ok, fellow reasoners and free-thinkers, I need some help here. I need a simple riveting explanation for the logical fallacy that non-belief is a faith. The best analogy I've heard is, "Atheism is no more a faith than  not playing golf is a sport."

That's great, I love it, but it doesn't encapsulate the fundamental logical fallacy that underlies it. What I want to say is, just because I don't accept an unsubstantiated belief you have doesn't imply that what I think is also unsubstantiated. You can't tar me with the same brush.

Any thoughts you have on this subject would be appreciated. Thank you!


Blogger kirstenwright said...

Atheism, or any other belief system based on NON-belief is still a belief system. In fact, believing something isn't real is almost as powerful as believing something is.

Fri Mar 09, 02:08:00 PM PST  
Blogger Joe C said...

I think you're engaging in word play here. The word "believe" or "belief" is used in different senses. Saying I believe that the NY Giants won the Super Bowl is not the same kind of "believe" that the world was created in 6 days by a supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent Being. One is supported by evidence we all share in reality, the other isn't.

Fri Mar 09, 02:16:00 PM PST  
Blogger JessieLeigh said...

Whereas faith is utterly dependent on one's ability and desire to "believe," even if it requires the suppression of earthly facts, Atheism requires that one be willing to actively seek the very facts that make that need to "believe" unnecessary.

At least, that's how I view it. And can I tell you how odd it was to ponder this out as a devout Catholic? ;) But I'm also a thinker. And I don't mind thinking beyond my own world.

Fri Mar 09, 02:40:00 PM PST  
Blogger Steve W said...

Joe, there is no such thing as non-belief. There is only belief - in one set of things or another, one set of first principles or another, one method of drawing conclusions or another, one source of truth or another. The true differentiator is supernaturalism vs (pure) naturalism - the source of truth and reality is outside of our little human/earthly bubble, and imposed from a being greater than us; or we are left, in our own autonomy, to draw our conclusions from whatever surrounds us strictly in the natural realm. That STANCE, in each case, is a matter of faith.

Sat Mar 10, 05:17:00 AM PST  
Blogger Joe C said...

Steve! Thanks for chiming in.

First let's define some terms. "Belief" does not necessarily imply "faith". Just because I "believe" something, doesn't mean that it's based on faith. If I "believe" the sun is out today, it's because I can look up at the sky and see it. Unless you're prepared to argue that reality is simply an illusion, then your argument simply has no merit.

The definition of faith is "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". And how do we define proof? Proof is defined by reality that we mutually experience and logical consistency. If you believe something for which there is proof in reality, then BY DEFINITION it is not faith.

Tue Mar 20, 02:12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Steve W said...

Joe, we agree that logical conclusions (belief based on evidence) are at a different level from embraced first principles that cannot be materially proven empirically. Neither you nor anyone else can prove that the world came to be through strictly natural process - you weren't there and do not have definitive evidence that this was, in fact, the case (I'd argue that the empirical evidence is in favor of intelligent design, and that faith in a strictly evolutionary framework involves a leap into irrationality). Your first principle - the exclusion of God - is a matter of faith. We can agree, by empirical evidence and scientific deduction, on the law of gravity as a foundation stone of how our physical world "works." What is is a matter of faith is whether that law is subject to a lawgiver (and therefore malleable in the hands of a higher power), or not. I hold that your first principles are indeed a matter of faith.

Tue Mar 20, 02:30:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Joe C said...


First of all, I don't "exclude" gods out of hand. That would indeed be making an assertion about something which, by definition, neither I nor you can know. As I may have mentioned in a past discussion, I consider myself more of a "Teapot Agnostic" after Bertrand Russell's Mars-orbiting-teapot thought experiment.'s_teapot You might also say I'm a Missouri Agnostic. You've got to "show me".

And my assertion would be, so are you. I dare say you don't lose any sleep over the possibility that just like me, you are destined to spend eternity after death in Islam hell. I dare say you reject their claims to the divinity of Mohammed and the historicity of the Koran for the same reasons I do. Simply stated, there's no good reason to think they're true. I'd submit that not believing something for lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary is NOT a matter faith, it's a matter of facts. It's that old burden of proof thing again. :)

In fact, I'd go a step further and say that it's not really a god you have faith in, it's faith that you have faith in. You think (ie reason) that believing in something without proof is a valid way to conduct your life. How can you use reason to justify leading a life without it?

If someone ever gave me some reason to believe in their supernatural deity, I would certainly have to consider it. The thing is, no one ever does. It always comes down to insisting that I take it on faith. And if I should take your particular interpretations of a holy book on faith, why not anyone else's? Why are you a Christian of a certain denomination (Congregationalist, I think you said?) and not a Catholic or a Methodist or a Lutheran or a Jew or a Moslem or any one of a literally uncountable number of different supernatural belief systems?

There are, I think you'd agree an infinite number of possible but unprovable supernatural entities. Why should I believe, or more importantly, why do you believe in the one you do? I dare say it's because you think there's a reason to. So, from that point of view, you're just as much a rational heathen as me!

No, faith is belief in something without reason. Not believing something for a good reason or because there's no reason to believe it any more than an infinite number of other things that can't be proven is simply not faith. It's precisely NOT faith.

I suppose at the end of the day, I'd have to say that I think what I think because there are good reasons to. And further, I don't believe what you believe because there good reasons not to and there aren't any good reasons to believe it either on its face or over any other unprovable beliefs.

I push back on your assertion that what I think requires faith because I know where it's going. It's the premise to the conclusion that, "well since they're both based on faith, mine's as good as yours." But in the real world, it's not as good as mine. Mine works. Mine, through research and a dogged, unrelenting commitment to facts and reason and by the way on the evolutionary context of your mammalian brain, produced the drug that you so rightly value for saving you from depression. You rely on reasons and evidence, too. The difference is, I rely on them all the time.

Thu Mar 22, 01:44:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Jeriel said...

Shifting the burden of proof.

Mon Nov 12, 08:56:00 AM PST  
Blogger Jeriel said...

Steve W's comments are full of ___ it's funny. I was looking for what fallacy is the "you weren't there" argument and was led by the almighty Google here. Do you know what fallacy it is?

I'll bookmark this page to answer Steve W's comments tomorrow. I need to sleep.

Mon Nov 12, 09:05:00 AM PST  

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