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The burden of proof

The "burden of proof" is a legal term. It means when you assert something, you have a duty to provide appropriate evidence. Now, I have always considered myself to be agnostic. This basically means that I believe it is not possible to know one way or another the truth about God or the Creation. I am 99% certain that the events dictated in The Bible are total hokum, and for what it is worth I'm not certain I'd want to believe in a bloodthirsty "caring" God who:
  • Happily wipes out thousands of disbelievers - Noah survived in the Ark. How many died in the floods?
  • Turns annoying people to pillars of salt.
  • Rains plagues and pestilence on those who irk him.
  • Leads the chosen ones in circles across a desert, lets the poor bloke in charge see the Holy City but has him drop dead before he ever reaches it.
  • Won't stop at seeing his own son killed... for something lost in translation.
And we're brought up to believe that Satan is bad?!?!
Furthermore, I totally do not believe in the Creationalist theory of the origin of the world. The Bible is, by and large, a huge mathematical error. People never lived for 600-odd years. Maybe 600 months, but reaching the age of 50 was probably rare in those days.
But God, whatever God is perceived to be. That is not a question that it is possible to answer. Oh, sure, there are hundreds who claim to have the answer. Those who 'talk' to Jesus or their favourite saint, those who claim to walk the path of enlightenment, those who just plain simply say I'm an ass and I'm completely wrong.

Well, my friends, the burden of proof rests with you. You say God exists, prove it. No bibles, no churches, no faith. Solid actual proof.
But you cannot. There is no proof. Not for any God by any name. For if there was, we would not having people dying pointless stupid deaths over differences in theology.

By the same token, those who call themselves atheists should also carry that same burden, for the basic fact that their assertion is that there is no God. Now it is a known scientific fact that a theory can be disproven as well as it can be proven. In fact, some complicated theories have been proven based upon their inability to be disproven, when the actual method of proving them is beyond our capabilities. But, just as the confirmed zealot cannot show me God, the confirmed atheist is no better at disproving God.

This is where it is good to be agnostic. Apart from sounding like the name of a medieval ale, agnostics have to prove nothing, for all we are saying is "I don't believe you". It isn't our duty to prove or disprove anything. We'll patiently wait for those who claim to know, one way or another, to come up with the goods.

This is why it seems extremely bizarre when a website is spreading some rather interesting factual errors - here are two quotes from the FAQ page at www.positiveatheism.org:

  • The definition for atheism that we use, put simply, says that atheism is the lack of a god-belief, the absence of theism, to whatever degree and for whatever reason. The one thing that all atheists have in common, according to this definition, is that they are not theists.
  • Atheists do not necessarily assert that "no gods exist" (though some do).

Sorry guys, that is bollocks.

The word atheist is defined as átheos from Greek which means "godless", with the -ist prefix meaning "somebody who", like "novelist".
Don't take my word for it, look at:

Spot a trend? The general picture is that an atheist is somebody who believes that God does not exist. You can break it down as a-theist, where the 'a' (ἄ) means without and the 'theist' (the same word used for a believer) is from 'theos (θεος) which means god.

Now, you can argue that the English language exists as it is used, rather than as it is written in a tome or two by stuffy overqualified professors. That would be a valid argument if it wasn't for the fact that there is already a term for somebody who isn't sure... agnostic!

The question I have to ask is why are some atheists attempting to redefine what the word means? Perhaps it is because they have realised that it's a smarter world in which we live and it is no longer 'cool' to disbelieve in the existence of God because somebody could easily say "prove it", yet it is perhaps the need for a shared identity that keeps them as atheists. Perhaps it is because the term agnostic is not so widely understood? When the Jehovah's Witnesses used to visit in the UK, I would say "sorry, I'm agnostic" and I could see them looking at me as if to wonder if that's some sort of "trendy" eastern belief they haven't come across yet.
Whatever. There is a much more pleasing way to look at the issue. Atheists cannot disprove God any better than the Pope can prove him/her/it. Clever people like Richard Dawkins can drag it kicking and screaming into the realm of science (where it belongs, for the question of a creator is not a question of faith) and mount plenty of intellectually satisfying reasons who there should not be a God, but none about why there isn't a God. Because it can't be (dis)proven. In attempting to redefine the meaning of the word atheist in order to shuck the responsibility of making evidence to back up their assertion, atheists are admitting only one thing. That they have already lost the argument.

 

Citation needed

We have Jehovah's Witnesses visit here in France. One is a nice lady who permits mom to read from her ancient bible. The other, who visits less often, is a man who is the more, shall we say, devout JW? I used to take part in the lecture, with the JW bible in one half of the screen and the online King James in the other half, basically comparing the two side by side. It seems to me there are a number of (possibly deliberate) translation differences, but I'm not that interested as it will take more than that to make me into a believer.
I asked mom to reschedule for afternoons when I was at work, partly because I was dead tired after a morning shift, and partly because I don't need my belief system prodded.
The bloke, the more intense one, wants to meet me. This could be interesting. I have a lot of time for the lady as she does let mom ask questions relating the JW teachings to her past religious teachings (as a Methodist, so no half-baked CofE nonsense! and before any CofE people complain, I was "confirmed" while at boarding school, what church would bother to confirm an agnostic, especially a brat such as I was who made no bones about saying that to the face of the vicar who did a pretty appalling job of explaining what the whole God thing is about!). Anyway, for a belief system which seems to me to be near-cultish in outlook, it was pretty impressive that the woman didn't push their version of the bible too strongly.
The man? Let's just say that from what I have heard, we could get into quite a heated discussion. Not too much pointing out my views, but deconstructing his.

I'll give you a head start. "What does the bible really teach?". It is full of linked references, but only linked to the JW version of the bible, where the selected bit of scripture will appear as a pop-up. In multudinous other cases, references are used merely as "some say" or "it is said" or "according to some", yet in none of these cases is a source mentioned. I'm afraid if it was a Wikitext, I would go through and plaster "Citation needed" all over the publication.

If you're interested, that text is online, here.

 

The sad gits

I despise Facebook, mainly because in order to see anything, you have to sign up and sign in. This is why I made a profile on MySpace. I can choose to keep stuff private (though at the moment nothing is), but equally I can share stuff with the world without them having to log in to anything. For this, MySpace gets my vote, and Facebook... doesn't.

Enter a company called USocial. BBC News said, and I quote:

  • On micro-blogging site Twitter, followers can be bought in blocks starting at £53 for 1,000. The biggest block USocial is selling is 100,000 people.
I'm sorry, what? How sad must you be to actually pay to have followers?

The full BBC article is here. Laughing is good for you. Enjoy!

 

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Rob, 23rd November 2009, 22:19
Not quite true re Facebook. You can choose to reveal all to anyone, even not-logged-in guests. It's just that the default settings are not to allow it. Probably just as well for the hoardes of kids whom get into enough trouble accepting anybody who contact them as a friend, and revealing all to them!
Rick, 29th November 2009, 19:14
Thanks for the clarification re. Facebook; however on the "outside" the default for FaceBook is nothing while MySpace at least permits the showing of a basic biography. Thus, if a person uses only the defaults...

How this translates in end-user terms is I have Googled for the names of people I remember from school. I found one on MySpace and some details so I could confirm it was who I was looking for. There were others on FaceBook, maybe, but all I kept getting was a request to login/signup. So I thought "hmmm, forget that...".

I guess it comes down to how approachable the system is, and if the default is to present a person with a login/signup page, it doesn't seem very open - especially when Google appears to be able to see things a normal user can't (mmm, I wonder if it would be possible to see deeper into some sites by faking being the Google spider? :-) ).

Robin, 10th April 2010, 13:44
Facebook actually just changed their privacy settings, you can now choose what non-friends, friends and whoever else can see.  
 
Ugh, I know what you mean though, people pester me to join these sites all the time, and in the end I have to, so I can see some album they put up or something. On Facebook the privacy issue put me off so much I went by the fake name Leroy Jenkins for like 2 years.
Rick, 10th April 2010, 15:45
I was "forced" to join Facebook to see if a person I knew from school was the same person (it wasn't). I like my profile - it points to my MySpace page. 
I believe the CEOP (or something like that) is screaming to get a "Report" button added to Facebook, and while Facebook has numerous issues of privacy and who your data is shared with and the policies of third parties and what they do with your data once they have it... you aren't going to protect children by pasting "Report" buttons all over the place. But, hey, read my 6th April page for another aspect of these nonsense laws.
Rick, 10th April 2010, 15:53
Though, to be fair, after the Lily Allen heyday, MySpace seems to be considered by many to be the forgotten little brother now it is owned by News Corp. Odd, though, there still seems to be stuff going on so it isn't dead. It isn't quite "MySpace OR Facebook", though many try to simplify it as such.
Rob, 10th April 2010, 18:31
MySpace seems to have carved itself a niche for those interested in the Music industry, whereas Facebook is trying to be a bit more serious. Personally, I can't stand the absolute mess that most MySpace profiles are in, so have never bothered with it. I might have an account there, not actually sure any more!
Robin, 11th April 2010, 02:46
lol, almost all my details are fake on there. People who I want to be able to, can find me, that's good enough.  
 
But yes, it is odd how the fad of Myspace became the fad of Facebook. The messy profiles were probably a big part of that. Anyone could download a profile layout that makes your processor chug along like a 1962 diesel tractor.

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