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Emmisal

The God Debate - Is it really about evidence?

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Mr Walker

You need to use your Heart. Forget your Brain. In fact throw your Brain away. The Heart has far more power to uncover truth.

My heart tells me you are one sarcastic fellow.

My brain instructs me to take you seriously in such posts, because that is how it is trained to take people and their expressed opinions..

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Sherapy

That does not wash.

I'm Atheist in that all the Gods worshipped through history are myths, and do not see any evidence for their existence.

I'm Agnostic in that even though I see no evidence for a God, I except there could be one. Untill evidence proves it, I do not believe in any God, or Gods.

Me too Darv., I am an Atheist/ Agnostic saying the same thing.

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eight bits

davros

There are two English homonyms agnostic. One of them means to be neither atheist nor theist, but to understand what information is sought by the question of God, and to answer responsively. The word was coined fresh in the Nineteenth Century by Thomas Huxley, and quickly caught on as an English word.

The other now-widespread usage was first attested in the early 20th Century, floated by a theologian seeking to discredit Huxley by reviving an obscure philosphical term long fallen into disuse. It means that human knowledge as such is impossible, and was never a common English word. It is also plainly not what Huxley meant, since he believed that human knowledge was possible, for example, mathematical and scientific knowledge.

I appreciate that you adopt the typical militant atheist stance that there can be no agnostics in the Huxleyan sense. I love the irony that this was originally a militant theist stance. We Huxleyan agnostics must be doing something right.

This,

I'm Agnostic in that even though I see no evidence for a God, I except there could be one. Untill evidence proves it, I do not believe in any God, or Gods.

is not what either homonym means, and is a category mistake. Whether a proposition is possible or not is an objective circumstance, not a personal attribute. It is logically possible that some god exists. You or what you think has nothing to do with it. Agnosticism has nothing to do with it.

The second sentence is simply a tautology. It is what "proof by evidence" means, that you come to believe something after observation. If there is evidence and you don't come to believe, then the evidence didn't prove the proposition. There is no special word for that, and the situation is equally true for theist, atheist, agnostic and those do not now answer the question of God for whatever reason.

Edited by eight bits
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Sherapy

davros

There are two English homonyms agnostic. One of them means to be neither atheist nor theist, but to understand what information is sought by the question of God, and to answer responsively. The word was coined fresh in the Nineteenth Century by Thomas Huxley, and quickly caught on as an English word.

The other now-widespread usage was first attested in the early 20th Century, floated by a theologian seeking to discredit Huxley by reviving an obscure philosphical term long fallen into disuse. It means that human knowledge as such is impossible, and was never a common English word. It is also plainly not what Huxley meant, since he believed that human knowledge was possible, for example, mathematical and scientific knowledge.

I appreciate that you adopt the typical militant atheist stance that there can be no agnostics in the Huxleyan sense. I love the irony that this was originally a militant theist stance. We Huxleyan agnostics must be doing something right.

This,

is not what either homonym means, and is a category mistake. Whether a proposition is possible or not is an objective circumstance, not a personal attribute. It is logically possible that some god exists. You or what you think has nothing to do with it. Agnosticism has nothing to do with it.

The second sentence is simply a tautology. It is what "proof by evidence" means, that you come to believe something after observation. If there is evidence and you don't come to believe, then the evidence didn't prove the proposition. There is no special word for that, and the situation is equally true for theist, atheist, agnostic and those do not now answer the question of God for whatever reason.

Interesting post, thanks for posting this. Happy New Year, Paul!

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Jungleboogie

I mean the one that is written in the Bible. You are speaking of G_d/God/YHWH etc., the Abrahamic deity correct?

The tiny science we have already contradicts the creation myth.

Why ask me? You are the one that made the generic statment 'the creation myth'.

I am asking you to be more specific. Which one?

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Rlyeh

Why ask me? You are the one that made the generic statment 'the creation myth'.

I am asking you to be more specific. Which one?

Pretty sure I just answered you.
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Rlyeh

davros

There are two English homonyms agnostic. One of them means to be neither atheist nor theist, but to understand what information is sought by the question of God, and to answer responsively. The word was coined fresh in the Nineteenth Century by Thomas Huxley, and quickly caught on as an English word.

The other now-widespread usage was first attested in the early 20th Century, floated by a theologian seeking to discredit Huxley by reviving an obscure philosphical term long fallen into disuse. It means that human knowledge as such is impossible, and was never a common English word. It is also plainly not what Huxley meant, since he believed that human knowledge was possible, for example, mathematical and scientific knowledge.

If neither means to lack knowledge of God(s), then isn't there a third meaning?
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eight bits

Riyeh

If neither means to lack knowledge of God(s), then isn't there a third meaning?

Yes, there are three distinct responsive answers to any categorical contingent question, to affirm, to deny and to decline to profess.

Example Will the Boston Celtics be the 2016 NBA champions?

Hell yes. No way. Beats me.

ETA Or did you mean to ask about non-responsive answers? (What's an NBA champion? What's a Boston Celtic?)

Edited by eight bits
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Rlyeh

Riyeh

Yes, there are three distinct responsive answers to any categorical contingent question, to affirm, to deny and to decline to profess.

I was referring to a third meaning of agnosticism.
Example Will the Boston Celtics be the 2016 NBA champions?

Hell yes. No way. Beats me.

However "Do you believe you possess a million dollars?" is a Yes/No question. "I don't know" is effectively "No, I do not hold the belief". Edited by Rlyeh
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eight bits

Riyeh

However "Do you believe you possess a million dollars?" is a Yes/No question. "I don't know" is effectively "No, I do not hold the belief".

No, "I don't know" only implies, not restates, that you do not hold the belief. "I don't know" conveys different information, additonal information within the scope of the question, from "I don't believe."

I can think of reasons why I'd only be interested in people who affirm that they are millionaires, and anybody who doesn't simply doesn't. However, I can't think of why I'd only be interested in people who affirm a belief in god(s).

But that's me. Maybe you think believing in god is something special, like having a million dollars. Well, of course you do, it's your example.

So unless somebody has a belief in gods, they belong in a custom-made category for that reason alone? Cool. English already has a word for that: non-believer.

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Liquid Gardens

No, "I don't know" only implies, not restates, that you do not hold the belief. "I don't know" conveys different information, additonal information within the scope of the question, from "I don't believe."

I do struggle a bit with the lines between these terms as well as why they are relevant, outside of course from not wanting to be referred to in a way that you don't want to be referred. A lot of it seems to be a game of how the questions and statements are phrased. If the question is, 'do you believe in God?', "I don't know" I think counts as a 'no'. I'm not even sure how to parse and what it means to say, "I don't know if I believe x", believing may not be voluntary but it's still a question for the consciousness, so I'm not sure what it means to say that someone actually believes or disbelieves something like this and they just don't know it. If we change the question and take the 'believing' out of it and just ask, 'is there a God?', "I don't know" is easier to parse, but still results in meaning that you don't currently have a belief in God, which does overlap with some common definitions of 'atheist'.

I agree that 'I don't know' provides additional information that are within the scope of the question generally, but it is the questioner that usually has the most say in the scope of the question and to them this additional detail may not be relevant, to some you need just as much proselytization as I do (not that I'm a hard atheist, I may even be an agnostic according to your definitions; I don't believe in God but I don't know that I'd go as far to deny he exists, but then I'm not sure about that either because I think I'd deny that leprechauns exist and I don't see the two propositions that differently).

So unless somebody has a belief in gods, they belong in a custom-made category for that reason alone? Cool. English already has a word for that: non-believer.

And infidel.

Just curious, in the Abrahamic religions, is there any distinction made between an atheist and an agnostic? I self-identify as 'atheist' not necessarily because of my certainty but more because of pragmatism; if it even comes up the main question is whether I believe in God or not, not how certain or whether I know he does. Actually, looking into Huxley, he puts it better than I:

I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel.

Cool chap Huxley, I'll have to try and check out more by him. Reading a little more he seems to say that atheists, like theists, had 'more or less,... solved the problem of existence'; he's obviously speaking from a different time but I think he probably means 'atheist' in a narrower way reflecting more certainty than maybe we or I do today.

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eight bits

LG

A lot of it seems to be a game of how the questions and statements are phrased.

You phrase questions to elicit the information you want to find out. Sometimes questions are well focused, other times not focused enough. "Hi, I'm from the American Secular Society, and I'm asking you to donate $5 to help place advertsing placards on buses which promote secular sentiments. Are you secular?"

"Yes, I am. What do the placards say?"

"There's probably no God."

"I don't agree with that. Perhaps you'd have better luck approaching atheists, rather than everybody who's secular."

I really don't see that this unexplained mystery is a stumper.

I'm not even sure how to parse and what it means to say, "I don't know if I believe x", ...

Self-knowledge is not a free good. There's no reason why you would know all the things you believe, and considerable evidence that people typically don't. And that's even before we bring Carl Jung into the mix.

However, I happen to have noticed that I am a non-believer. If that's what you want to know, then swell. Just don't ask me if I'm a non-believer and then pretend that I've told you whether I'm an atheist.

... to them this additional detail may not be relevant...

I agree that in casual conversation people ask for information they don't want and fail to ask for the information they do. Thank God we can negotiate.

Leprechauns

To me, leprechauns are specific hypothetical beings like jinn or like the pantheon of voodoo. I believe that none of those exist, but it turns out that if the phrase supernatural being is taken seriously, then I can't resolve the ontological tangle as a general proposition.

infidel

That, too. But that's a different category, and concerns religion rather than ontological opinion: some believers are infidels (polytheists, for example) relative to some faiths (Islam, for example).

Just curious, in the Abrahamic religions, is there any distinction made between an atheist and an agnostic?

As regards "final destination?" Not that I've seen. Those Abrahamics who require assent to propositions only seem to care whether the assent is given. For Abrahamics that don't depend on propositional assent anyway (Judaism, Catholicism, ...), the distinction doesn't even come up within the religions' doctrines.

I think he probably means 'atheist' in a narrower way reflecting more certainty than maybe we or I do today.

Likely so. Epistemology, even narrowly scientific epistemology, is vastly different than it was as recently as 100 years ago. Huxley also thrived during a temporary low in the scholarly popularity of Laplace's notion of graduated belief, and that influences Huxley's language, too.

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Liquid Gardens

"I don't agree with that. Perhaps you'd have better luck approaching atheists, rather than everybody who's secular."

I really don't see that this unexplained mystery is a stumper.

There's a bigger gulf between secular and atheist then there is between 'don't have a belief in', 'don't believe', 'disbelieve', 'deny exists', etc.

Self-knowledge is not a free good. There's no reason why you would know all the things you believe, and considerable evidence that people typically don't. And that's even before we bring Carl Jung into the mix.

I'm not very familiar with Jung's thoughts outside of the usual skeptic targets, but it seems to me that in order to believe something you must cognizant of it; 'I do believe it but I just don't know it yet' doesn't quite sound right to me. Is this because beliefs are actually determined in the un/subconscious?

However, I happen to have noticed that I am a non-believer. If that's what you want to know, then swell. Just don't ask me if I'm a non-believer and then pretend that I've told you whether I'm an atheist.

For some people you have; you can choose valid dictionary definitions for all the relevant words to make atheist=non-believer.

To me, leprechauns are specific hypothetical beings like jinn or like the pantheon of voodoo.

Are you differentiating those from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

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Davros of Skaro

davros

There are two English homonyms agnostic. One of them means to be neither atheist nor theist, but to understand what information is sought by the question of God, and to answer responsively. The word was coined fresh in the Nineteenth Century by Thomas Huxley, and quickly caught on as an English word.

The other now-widespread usage was first attested in the early 20th Century, floated by a theologian seeking to discredit Huxley by reviving an obscure philosphical term long fallen into disuse. It means that human knowledge as such is impossible, and was never a common English word. It is also plainly not what Huxley meant, since he believed that human knowledge was possible, for example, mathematical and scientific knowledge.

I appreciate that you adopt the typical militant atheist stance that there can be no agnostics in the Huxleyan sense. I love the irony that this was originally a militant theist stance. We Huxleyan agnostics must be doing something right.

This,

is not what either homonym means, and is a category mistake. Whether a proposition is possible or not is an objective circumstance, not a personal attribute. It is logically possible that some god exists. You or what you think has nothing to do with it. Agnosticism has nothing to do with it.

The second sentence is simply a tautology. It is what "proof by evidence" means, that you come to believe something after observation. If there is evidence and you don't come to believe, then the evidence didn't prove the proposition. There is no special word for that, and the situation is equally true for theist, atheist, agnostic and those do not now answer the question of God for whatever reason.

Thanks Paul. I was not thinking of it like that. I think my reasoning was from a Richard Dawkins belief scale.

For now on I'm just an Atheist.

David Silverman was right.

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Davros of Skaro

I don't believe in an antropomorphic God so I think you got me all wrong.

I am actually areligious so guided by my own observation of nature, reality and experience in life.

Oh, you are filled with the Holy Dopamine Spirit. You just don't know it.

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Rlyeh

Riyeh

No, "I don't know" only implies, not restates, that you do not hold the belief. "I don't know" conveys different information, additonal information within the scope of the question, from "I don't believe."

Additional information that does not answer the original question. Of course if you can hold a belief in something but not know that you do, that is some cognitive dissonance. Edited by Rlyeh
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eight bits

LG

There's a bigger gulf between secular and atheist then there is between 'don't have a belief in', 'don't believe', 'disbelieve', 'deny exists', etc.

Could be. Riyeh's issue was whether there is any gulf at all among non-believers. There is.

Is this because beliefs are actually determined in the un/subconscious?

Some are, IMO. But that's only part of the problem. Another chunk is deductive closure: everything I believe has other beliefs it implies. I cannot even inventory those implied beliefs, they are too numerous (maybe properly infinite). Another chunk is belief maintenance. I change my beliefs all the time as experience accumulates. I do not necessarily "update" all my beliefs that are affected by the new knowledge.

Lol, I don't even know all the ways I don't know all my beliefs.

For some people you have; you can choose valid dictionary definitions for all the relevant words to make atheist=non-believer.

Unfortunately, dictionaries are descriptive, not legislative. Suppose we now declare that atheism means any kind of non-belief in gods. Peachy, then we still need a word for somebody who doesn't believe-that and doesn't believe-that-not... and you have just ruled that non-believer is unavailable for that purpose.

Expect resistance. In reality, every linguistic community develops the words it needs to conduct discourse at an acceptable cost. That's what Huxley contributed: he identified a credal situation common enough to warrant the expense of learning a new word. I think he was surprised how common the opinion was; the word he coined was intended simply as a self-description, it seems.

We can always change the words, and often do. The credal situation persists, however. Those of us whose credal state it is will want to talk about it. Calling me an atheist doesn't make me one.

(A theist word lawyer can play the same game, BTW. I think it is Levi-seriously-possible that some god exists. That is a belief of a kind, favoring to whatever extent the existence of gods. I am therefore a theist. Same BS, different bulls' butts.)

Are you differentiating those from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

As far as I am concerned, that specific god claim is resolvable by arithmetic using fingers. It's not even a claim, it's doubletalk. Tripletalk, if you prefer.

At least leprechaun is a well-formed claim. I reject it on contingent grounds. I think there are folk-tale mechanisms that account for leprechaun stories, and that those mechanisms have operated in that case. That is an affirmative belief-that-not, based on evidence.

Happy New Year.

davros

I think my reasoning was from a Richard Dawkins belief scale.

The Dawkins scale is based on Laplace's notion of graduated confidence (more often called "Bayesian"). The difficulty with that is that neither Laplace nor his successors have a consensus theory of belief formation in the absence of evidence. That's the situation with the general question of God, in my estimation, no unambiguous evidence.

Agnosticism, then, isn't necessarily a "place" on the Dawkins-Laplace "scale," but can be a recognition that the task of placing oneself on such a scale is unfinished. IMO, that's a situation likely to persist, speaking of and for myself.

It is thus accurate to say that I lack a belief in gods, but an error to say that I believe that there are no gods.

Happy New Year.

Riyeh

Additional information that does not answer the original question.

Regardless of the form of the question, it is unsound to infer atheism, a specific situation, from a profession of non-belief, a more general situation.

Of course if you can hold a belief in something but not know that you do, that is some cognitive dissonance.

No, the issue is the inferential nature of self-knowledge. A person can be surprised when made aware of her beliefs, as has been understood since at least the time of Socrates. Cognitive dissonance refers to incompatible combinations of beliefs or of belief and knowledge, a different problem.

Happy New Year.

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Mr Walker

I was referring to a third meaning of agnosticism.

However "Do you believe you possess a million dollars?" is a Yes/No question. "I don't know" is effectively "No, I do not hold the belief".

Good example.

The agnostic response to this question is, "I neither believe, nor disbelieve, that I have a million dollars."

Why?

"Well, perhaps some kind uncle left me that amount in a will, but until l have proof either way, my answer is, I chose not to believe that I have, but I also choose not to disbelieve that I have. Rather , I will wait until I can check my bank balance, and then i will know."

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Rlyeh

Good example.

The agnostic response to this question is, "I neither believe, nor disbelieve, that I have a million dollars."

Why?

"Well, perhaps some kind uncle left me that amount in a will, but until l have proof either way, my answer is, I chose not to believe that I have, but I also choose not to disbelieve that I have. Rather , I will wait until I can check my bank balance, and then i will know."

It's not asking for proof or if you actually have a million dollars. The question is "Do you believe you possess a million dollars?".

If you chose not to believe, the answer is no. If you chose not to disbelieve too, the answer is still no.

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Mr Walker

It's not asking for proof or if you actually have a million dollars. The question is "Do you believe you possess a million dollars?".

If you chose not to believe, the answer is no. If you chose not to disbelieve too, the answer is still no.

You totally missed the answer I gave, perhaps because you don't accept it. An agnostic can (and by definition WILL) say, in answer to your question.

"I don't believe, and/but, i don't disbelieve, either."

It is very simple.

That response is NOT saying he doesn't believe he has a million dollars, it is deliberately saying "I choose NOT to choose either to believe or to disbelieve. It is theoretically possible either way, but i have no information on which to give an answer, therefore I will wait until i have evidence, and hence knowledge, rather than construct a belief based position which might be either right or wrong. .

Belief and disbelief are both, by definition, deliberate, conscious constructs, formed after consciously weighing the answer to a question.

The agnostic says, " I refuse to be pinned down to a yes or no answer on something which requires a belief construct, so i won't form either construct "

He is absolutely NOT saying he disbelieves that he has a million dollars'

He is also absolutely NOT saying he believes he has, either.

Your example is good, because it has nothing to do with religious belief, and relates to a concrete example of a person choosing NOT to chose either belief or disbelief about a mundane thing like possessing a million dollars

You do understand how a person can not know if he has a million dollars i suppose? And if he doesn't know, he can refuse to guess or believe, either that he does, or that he does not.

Its not quite the same as not caring, either, but the result is similar. .

I could really care a lot whether i had a million dollars, but not say yes or no to your question.

Here's a real example. Today i bought a ticket in a 50 million dollar lottery.

I MIGHT posses 50 million dollars right now. (The draw was a couple of hours ago)

Or i might not.

I am agnostic. I will not choose to believe i do, and i will not choose to believe i don't. I will wait until 10 am when the local newsagent opens briefly on new years day, and check my ticket, and then i will know.

Right now. I don't believe i have won, but i definitely don't disbelieve i have won, either.

To make it very simple. Choosing NOT to actively believe is NOT choosing to actively disbelieve (even though this might seem counter intuitive to those who see it as an either or proposition) There is a third option. Choose neither.

Edited by Mr Walker

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Rlyeh

You totally missed the answer I gave, perhaps because you don't accept it. An agnostic can (and by definition WILL) say, in answer to your question.

I don't believe and/but i don't disbelieve either. It is very simple.

I didn't miss it, I pointed out you didn't answer the question.

The question is NOT "Do you disbelieve you possess a million dollars?", it's "Do you believe you have a million dollars?"

Your answer (or two answers) "I don't believe" and/but "i don't disbelieve either" is still a no answer. All the question is asking is if you do believe.

Here's a real example. Today i bought a ticket in a 50 million dollar lottery.

I MIGHT posses 50 million dollars right now. (The draw was a couple of hours ago)

Or i might not.

And my question is asking neither.
Right now. I don't believe i have won, but i definitely don't disbelieve i have won, either.
The first part "I don't believe" answers the question, not the second. Disbelieve means unable to believe, no one is questioning whether you can believe or not. Edited by Rlyeh
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Stubbly_Dooright

Riyeh

No, "I don't know" only implies, not restates, that you do not hold the belief. "I don't know" conveys different information, additonal information within the scope of the question, from "I don't believe."

I can think of reasons why I'd only be interested in people who affirm that they are millionaires, and anybody who doesn't simply doesn't. However, I can't think of why I'd only be interested in people who affirm a belief in god(s).

But that's me. Maybe you think believing in god is something special, like having a million dollars. Well, of course you do, it's your example.

So unless somebody has a belief in gods, they belong in a custom-made category for that reason alone? Cool. English already has a word for that: non-believer.

You know, I wonder if we should have more respect for the 'words'. Believer and Non-Believer, both words could mean so much. It's not just a believer is a Christian, ( despite that I would see so many assume so quickly that's the case. ) and a non-believer would just be a non-Christian, ( again, so many assume just as much ). Of course, not true, I'm a believer, but do let others know, I grew up Secular. Atheist house hold? One would think, there really was no practices in religion. We must be Atheists.

No, but so many assume so much..................... to the point that they act. .............................. Which they shouldn't.

And we as a society act so quickly on the 'I don't know' response, that it's looked upon as 'ignorant'. Well, I'm feeling that way, based on the experience how I perceive it being said, and how some treat me, when I said it. I have come to learn, 'I don't know' could mean also, being honest, but ready to learn. But that depends on the individual.

It's not asking for proof or if you actually have a million dollars. The question is "Do you believe you possess a million dollars?".

If you chose not to believe, the answer is no. If you chose not to disbelieve too, the answer is still no.

Exactly. It's not a matter of choice, it's what you see at the moment, that is the evidence to have you believe or no believe. Edited by Stubbly_Dooright
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Podo

To make it very simple. Choosing NOT to actively believe is NOT choosing to actively disbelieve (even though this might seem counter intuitive to those who see it as an either or proposition) There is a third option. Choose neither.

The rockband Rush summarized this perfectly. Choosing to not choose is still making a choice.

From the song "Free Will":

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill

I will choose a path that's clear

I will choose freewill

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Mr Walker

The rockband Rush summarized this perfectly. Choosing to not choose is still making a choice.

From the song "Free Will":

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill

I will choose a path that's clear

I will choose freewill

Yes, exactly, but that is not what you said. You said there were only two choices, to believe or disbelieve, and that a person who did not chose, was choosing to disbelieve.

There is a third choice; choosing not to chose to believe, and choosing not to disbelieve . . This is NOT constructing a position of disbelief, so such a person is not a disbeliever. Nor are they a believer.

It i known as an active suspension of belief/disbelief. To appreciate this, one must understand how the mind consciously creates constructs of belief (including a construct of disbelief, which is still a form of belief)

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Podo

Yes, exactly, but that is not what you said. You said there were only two choices, to believe or disbelieve, and that a person who did not chose, was choosing to disbelieve.

There is a third choice; choosing not to chose to believe, and choosing not to disbelieve . . This is NOT constructing a position of disbelief, so such a person is not a disbeliever. Nor are they a believer.

It i known as an active suspension of belief/disbelief. To appreciate this, one must understand how the mind consciously creates constructs of belief (including a construct of disbelief, which is still a form of belief)

I think you have me confused with someone else. The last thing I posted on this thread was on page 5, and it contained nothing about choices.

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