Determinism: The basis of all knowledge

Cause and effect is everywhere and without this understanding, there is no science or philosophy. When something happens, we automatically expect there to be a cause. There must be a cause for believing or disbelieving something. When someone tells me something, I don’t automatically believe them. To believe every claim someone makes is a dangerous thing to do.

To convince me that something is true takes more than just saying it is true. I require examples of things that I can see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. Another way of saying it is that something is either physical or it does not exist. But what about stuff in the distant past that happened long before I was born? Who do I believe when they tell me about historic events?

In short, I don’t really know which humans I can trust or which history books are true. So you may wonder what method I use to test things. I will explain one such method.

Determinism and God

I generally will believe someone who understands determinism over someone else who things things happen acausally or randomly. Any event that happens must be caused or how can it happen?

All my beliefs must be caused by something. Otherwise I would never believe them. Supposing that I grew up in a society where the word “God” was never used. I would never believe in God just because I had never heard the word.

Supposing that some time later, I encounter a theist who tried to convince me that I should believe in God. I would ask: “What is God”? The theist might tell me that God created the universe. I could then ask: “What created God?”

The usual answer I get to this question is: “Nothing created God because God always existed?”. My response is: “What if the universe always existed and was never created?”.

This is perhaps one of the reasons that the debates between theists and atheists will never end. The debate about God is a lot like the debate about Free Will.

Why does the debate about Free Will continue? I think it is because the compatibilists have tried to redefine Free Will into something that is compatible with Determinism.

I have already written about why Free Will is impossible in my book: “Free Will and Abortion Denial”. The reason I mention this though is to point out that the God debate is similar to the Free Will debate. Atheists have no justification for believing that we can choose independently of prior causes. Theists have even less reason to believe so.

There are two attributes of God that are commonly defended by Christians and Muslims. They are omnipotence and omniscience. First if God is omnipotent(all powerful), what keeps him from making everyone believers of the same religion. To suggest that humans can choose their religion suggests they have an ability that can overpower God and prevent him from doing something. Second, if God is omniscient(all knowing), does that imply God knows what will happen in the future? God’s foreknowledge is a widely debated topic that amuses me. Either way you answer the foreknowledge question causes problems.

The Determinism Test

Answer the following question with a yes or no:

Does God know exactly what I will eat for breakfast tomorrow?

If your answer is yes, then you are a determinist because you understand that the future is already written. Determinism is required for God to predict the future. If your answer is no, what is it that keeps God from accessing this knowledge?

That is the determinism test which reveals what people believe about the concepts of God and determinism.

Some theists redefine omnipotence by saying that God can do anything except that which is not logical. That means that a five sided triangle is not something God could draw because such a thing by definition cannot exist.

Others try to redefine omniscience in an absurd way. They say God knows all possible things that could happen and therefore knows every possible future event even though he can’t know when, where, or if the event will take place. Briefly translated, God doesn’t have a clue what will happen.

Of course this assumes both that God exists and that there are alternative possibilities. This would most likely require time travel.

Either way, my question is why would God need to predict the future if he had the power to create any type of future he wanted?

Another method theists use to maintain their belief in God is to simply drop the attributes of omnipotence or omniscience. This raises the question of what power or knowledge God does have. For the atheist, the answer is of course none at all. God is seen as an imaginary person only has as much power or knowledge as the humans who write the holy books or theology books.

You may wonder: What is the point of me writing all of this? The point is that you need to understand the process someone like me goes through to reach my conclusions. People don’t randomly become atheists. Many of them navigate the chessboard of religion only to find themselves checkmated. At some point, they are in a position with no way out. I lost the game of religion.

When I say I am an atheist

When I say I am an atheist, it does not mean I hate whatever god/goddesses you believe in. It also does not mean that I hate the believers of any religion nor do I desire to kill them. It does not mean that I am pretending that a god does not exist so that I can “sin” without “consequences”.

Theists don’t really know what atheism is. It is not a worldview or a religion. We all have a worldview but our religion or lack thereof is only a small part of what we believe or do. If I had to pick from one of the religions of the world, I would pick Jainism because of the non-violence principle. This is not necessary though because I already disliked violence before I had heard of Jainism or Ahimsa.

My atheism is a description of the conclusion that I have come to after examining the religion I grew up in. When people talk about “evidence” of God’s existence, what they often mean is “I had an experience that I can’t explain. It must have been caused by God!”

Okay, if you believe that, fine, but I disagree. Rather I would say I don’t know what you experienced nor am I in a place to explain your whole life experience. This does not mean that I accept your explanation or that I even understand your explanation.

I am a very practical man. What I can’t use I simply dismiss. If I ever meet God, Jesus, Allah, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or The Invisible Pink Unicorn, I imagine I will have to ask them some questions. Until then nothing that a human says will convince me.

If I ever have some experience that makes me a believer in some religion, the last thing I would try to do is convert other people by telling them my experience. Can I even prove that I had an experience? No I can’t. I can’t even prove that my favorite color is white or what I ate for breakfast last week.

Most historical events cannot be proven or disproven. They are just assumed to be true because they are written in a book somewhere.

But you may wonder, why don’t I believe in the traditional gods of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism? The short answer is because I don’t have a reason to believe they exist. The detailed answer is a little more complex but I can explain.

One of the arguments for the existence of a god is the “first cause argument”. Basically it is asserted that everything has a cause, but then an exception is made for the first cause. It must be uncaused or it cannot be the first. But this raises the question, if something can happen without a cause, then there is no need for the first cause at all!

It all goes back to the ancient chicken and egg problem. The eggs come from chickens and the chickens hatch from the eggs. You can claim there was a first chicken or a first egg, but how did it come to exist if it is the first.

The very concept of a beginning blows my mind. I don’t believe in a first cause because I am a hard determinist and therefore am of the opinion that everything has a cause. This requires an infinite regress of cause and effect that had no beginning and will have no end.

I think I am right about this(as nearly everyone thinks they are about their own beliefs), but even if uncaused events were possible, then it simply means that at any time, anything could happen and there is nothing we can depend on. Acausal events of that sort would be unexplainable because there would be no cause by which we could explain it or test our theories.

So either determinism rules out a first cause or indeterminism allows some uncaused events which could produce gods, chickens, unicorns, or anything else. It would be like a cartoon because usual laws of nature such as gravity would not always apply. So in short, I don’t know how to believe in a first cause without believing in all sorts of wacky things which sound equally nonsensical.

There are two types of people. Those who believe in a first cause and those who don’t, but there can be atheists in both groups. Even if the first cause existed at some point, it could have been the tooth fairy. It would not necessarily be the god of Christianity or Islam.

Does this all sound like nonsense to you? It does to me too and this is why I dislike the subject of trying to explain events that happened before I existed.

The truth is, in July of 2013 I finally admitted that I did not believe in the Christian god of the bible that I was taught to believe in since I was a child. I thought maybe it was all a bunch of lies but I was still looking for some evidence that there could be a god that was different. Back then I was sort of a deist who thought maybe a god created the world and then committed suicide after becoming depressed at the mess he started.

Additionally, the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence described to God were in conflict with each other. An omnipotent god could change the future into whatever he wanted therefore there would be no use for omniscience nor would there be any room for human “free will”. I later learned that free will was a false and nonsensical believe and published a book related to that.

Anyhow, I still don’t know how to make sense out religious traditions or the people who spend their time and money promoting them. I tried to explain to people why I no longer believed in god. That was a terrible mistake. I had no idea how much hatred I would get from the Christians who did not like their beliefs challenged.

So why did I tell people I am an atheist? Because I see the harm that comes from believing in things which are either false or bad.

I think the belief in an afterlife causes more bad than good. If you believe your next life will be better than this one, why not kill yourself? If you believe that you are going to burn in hellfire after death then how can you be happy and enjoy this life? Either heaven or hell sounded like something that would lead to depression and suicide.

On the other hand, if this life is the only life we get, then it is our one shot at doing whatever we want to do. I think we should live in peace and be happy.

Sadly, religion gets in the way of this. When I say “religion”, I am generally referring to the major world religions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. Defining what these religions are is an impossible task but if you grew up in one of them, you might see a problem.

There are many differences between the religions and the different sects within each religion. There are however two major things common to them.

1. The idea of gods/goddesses who are described mostly as being like humans who either created the world or are believed to be controlling some part of it.

2. The idea of an afterlife. A life that you experience only after death. The common ideas are heaven, hell, or reincarnation.

If it were possible to prove the existence of a god or goddess, my behavior would not change. I would not offer animals as a burnt sacrifice. I would not start a war to kill the infidels. I would not do anything it tells me unless I have a reason for doing that act. If I have a reason for doing something, I would do it without a divine command.

If it were possible to prove the existence of an afterlife, then it is possible that my actions would change with that knowledge depending on what living things experienced in that afterlife. When I say living things, that includes all animals. I see no reason to exclude dogs, cats, hamsters, cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, or any other species.

I view all forms of life as being equal and therefore think that all of us who can should go vegan to reduce suffering of the types of animals that live painful lives only to be killed and eaten. One thing that I have noticed about a lot of religions is their special focus on humanity as a special species. The vegetarians and vegans stand in opposition to this and therefore are enemies to the anthropocentric nature of some religions.

To be continued

Atheist vs Agnostic

The term agnostic is usually referred to someone who is unsure about the existence of gods/goddesses or something like that. I think that it could easily be applied to being uncertain about any claim to knowledge.

My WordWeb dictionary has two noun definitions of “agnostic”.

1. Someone who is doubtful or noncommittal about something
2. A person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist)

I fall under both categories given that I can’t claim 100% certain knowledge about everything that exists or not. Technically I can’t know that I don’t live in a Matrix where everything is all an illusion, but I dismiss this because there is nothing I could do about it if it was true.

I am what I like to call a practical atheist. When it comes to ideas such as the supernatural, spirits, gods, or an afterlife, there is not really anything I can do about these things even if they were true. I have countless reasons for thinking they don’t exist such as the fact that none of them can be clearly defined by the believers in them.

So when a pantheist says God is the universe, then fine, I believe God exists because it has been defined as the universe. However, this is not what a Christian, Jew, or Muslim means when they talk about God. They describe a person with thoughts, emotions, intentions, etc. What I think they are doing is just taking all their own thoughts, emotions, and intentions and combining them all into a blob named “God”.

I used to do the very same thing. I used to think: “I like ketchup so God must like ketchup. I am sad when babies are aborted so God must be the same.”. There came a day when I realized what I was doing. God was nothing more than a clone of my personality. I stopped believing in hell because I didn’t want anyone to burn forever so I figured that God must not be that way either. I was a universalist type of christian for awhile believing that everyone went to heaven after they died.

So what changed? I realized I had not one shred of proof for this. I could not convince anyone that my beliefs were true. Another problem is that I had another internal conflict that was going on. I became increasingly upset at the abortion situation and wondered why God didn’t just turn everyone pro-life, remove their reproductive organs, or just turn everyone asexual.

Of course by this time I already had dismissed the bible as a bunch of lies. I wanted to believe in a nice God instead of the one that demanded animal sacrifices and struck people dead for certain sins. It all sounded so crazy so I quit basing my beliefs on the bible and instead was entirely emotionally driven.

Perhaps I still am a slave to my emotions an what I want to believe, but I have come to understand that is what everyone is doing. What I mean is that we are all biased and have reasons for believing things based on what we believe the consequences are of believing those things.

Think about it this way, people who believe in Free Will do so because they WANT to believe they are in control of their own destiny and what happens to them. At the same time, people who believe in God WANT to believe they have an imaginary friend or heavenly father/mother that will take control over their lives and help them when they screw up.

There is no escape from our desires that compel us to believe or disbelieve certain things. I have come to see believe in God in much the same way as belief in Free Will. It may be a nice thought to believe there is someone to help you when none of the humans in your life care about you, but that does not make it true.

So could I be wrong? Could there be some type of personal guiding force or creator that people have been referring to as “God”? I suppose so, but until I meet this force I will think the concept is just something that mankind started believing to help them overcome their fears about death.

So I am agnostic about this but I use the label of atheist because belief in something is binary. You either live by it or you don’t. I will live this way until I am proven wrong or until I die.

I wasted the first 25 years of my life in christianity and I have come to hate the way it causes people to shut their brain off and just live in a state of perpetual drunkenness. I think of religion as a sort of drug that makes people feel happier but later causes them great pain.

Exploring the Illusion of Free Will 17

anti-choice determinist

Exploring the Illusion of Free Will 17

This is the seventeenth of a series of posts where I will be sharing the transcripts of George Ortega’s show which he has so generously made available on his website.

I will share both the link and copy the text as well. This is convenient for those who subscribe to my blog by email. You can read without visiting the site, but I highly encourage you to visit the link and see what else George has on his website.

Episode 17. Revitalizing Religion through Transcending the Illusion of Free Will

Let’s talk about revitalizing religion through transcending the illusion of free will. Before we do that, I just want to go briefly through what we generally mean when we say that we have a free will, why that’s impossible, and why this question of human will matters.

The belief in free will…

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Response to Compatibilist

anti-choice determinist

Below is a paragraph from one of the comments I received.

“First, though, I want to make it clear that free will is us making choices on our own, without being coerced by someone else to do something against our will. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is a mental process located within a biological organism within a physical and deterministic universe. It is, in fact, present in any animal with sufficient neurological evolution to imagine more than one option, imagine the outcome of choosing one over another, and to act upon the choice that seems to produce the best result. It is totally consistent with a deterministic view.” – Marvin Edwards site:

I think I understand what you mean by this. Because there is no physical person outside of me moving my fingers on this keyboard, this is done of my will. However I do not call it a…

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new book: “Free Will and Abortion Denial”

anti-choice determinist

The paperback of my new book: “Free Will and Abortion Denial” is available.

It is a very small book and can can probably be read easily in less than an hour even for slow readers. I already know I will take tons of criticism for writing this because people have an emotional need to believe in Free Will and to justify abortion. That is precisely why I want to bring both topics to their attention.

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