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iamthemob's avatar

Are atheists kidding themselves?

Asked by iamthemob (17121 points ) August 31st, 2010

Provocative way of phrasing, but after hearing a lot of arguments for atheism, or by atheists, it seems like atheism is as dogmatic and faith-based as any religion. It is also, as far as I can tell, based on faith. The basic idea that God does not exist cannot be proven through any scientific means, or any philosophical argument. The reliance on evolution as evidence of the faults of “deism” is also faulty. For instance, evolution explains in a general sense why we have biodiversity, and how in different areas organisms with common ancestors developed different characteristics. At the same time, there are huge gaps in the information regarding the development of certain traits. The answer provided by atheists leans on sporadic mutation, and if there is no evidence, “Science will find one…because there’s a rational explanation there.” The intelligent design answer states that these traits, which seem to pop up perfectly formed to serve the purpose for which they’re used, show that there is some form of intention in the design, and evolution is not based wholly on chance. Creationists would say “See? God!” All answers require faith.

So, why is atheism not a belief system, a religion even, like any other?

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309 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Have you been paying attention?

Show me the evidence, and I’ll consider God as a relevant part of the world. Until then, I’ll use more likely explanations to predict what might happen next.

Faith has nothing to do with it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Here we go again.
I will answer for myself, an atheist – I don’t believe I’m kidding myself and my being an atheist has nothing to do with faith because faith in a god is so irrelevant to my life that whether god exists or not (and it follows whether or not its existence can be proven) is not in the scope of things I care about because, to me, other things are more important to worry about.

talljasperman's avatar

because religion leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

jaytkay's avatar

Evolution is not a refutation of religion. It is a refutation of the idea that the entire Bible is literally true.Even the majority of Christians do not believe the entire Bible is literally true.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jaytkay I don’t think that’s what evolution is – it has nothing to do with the Bible.

iamthemob's avatar

@wundayatta

But what is faith BUT belief in something that has not (or cannot) be proven? Proving that a god exists is pretty much impossible…most likely because the universe as we understand it ensures that we can’t understand what happened pre-big bang.

So, what’s the difference, since neither side can be proven RIGHT, between saying “There is no God” and “There is a God.”

Saying that you’ll believe it when you see it is more about ambivalence than atheism.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

But atheism isn’t about not caring – atheists believe that there is no God. Faith can be separated from any belief in God – you can have faith in yourself, for instance. Again, not really caring either way is more about ambivalence right? (plus…I bet that you really, really would care if it was proven that there’s a god there – that would just be crazy in general).

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t have “faith” that god doesn’t exist.

I just have no reason to believe that god does exist.

iamthemob's avatar

@talljasperman

But religion is not belief. Religion is the structure of laws and rituals surrounding the belief. And religion therefore is as much a tool of the power-hungry as it is the charitable.

Blackberry's avatar

I understand what you’re asking, but I don’t think you’re saying it in a clear way: Yes, it is inaccurate to say I know god does not exist.

Concerning evolution and all other fact based things that determine our beliefs: this is not faith based, we have determined our belief about god based on all of these facts, which leads us to the conclusion that it is more likely a god does not exist.

lynfromnm's avatar

Atheism isn’t a belief. It is fact based. There are no facts which support belief in a god or gods. There is no reason to have a belief in a god.

ftp901's avatar

I’m an athiest because I’ve never seen god.

I’ve heard of god from other people but never seen anything in my own life that would make me believe that such a thing existed. I don’t tend to believe in things just because other people tell me about them.

So, no, I don’t think faith is involved in being an athiest. Imagine you lived solitary on an island and never met anyone else your entire life. Would you make god up in your head or would you just believe that the things you see around you (water, trees, sand) are all that the world consists of. In that situation, you would be a clean slate without other people influencing you and telling you that fake things exist and that you should believe in them, so you would probably be an athiest.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob Nope, atheism, for me, is about lack of religion and about not caring if there is a god (it just doesn’t come up as something that means anything to me) – maybe it’s hard to believe that one could care less about this matter but it’s possible. I am not ambivalent – I need to god in my life.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Of course they are, but why should they get off any easier than the rest of us? : D

iamthemob's avatar

@jaytkay

True – but many making the atheist argument (I think mostly of Richard Dawkins) state that the chance basis of evolution shows that stuff happens just because it does, negating the argument that there is anyone in control of it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley What do you mean by ‘get off easier’? I’ll ignore the snark remark about fooling ourselves because, I suppose, I think the same about believers so it’s all good.

ftp901's avatar

My belief in evolution is not rock solid either. I don’t think being an athiest means you have to believe in the evolution theory whole heartedly – it’s just a theory like everything else.

iamthemob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie

At the same time, have you been given any reason to believe that God does NOT exist?

josie's avatar

The onus of proof is on the person who asserts the fact. If someone says “there is a God”, they must prove it. If no proof exists, then anyone can conclude that there is not a God. It is the same reason that the prosecution must prove guilt in our legal system.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

Different beliefs, same boat. : )

iamthemob's avatar

@Blackberry

I don’t understand how that information provides us evidence in favor that God does not exist, though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley Right, yes, boat…I get it…what do you mean by ‘get off easier’?

jaytkay's avatar

@iamthemob many making the atheist argument (I think mostly of Richard Dawkins)

Richard Dawkins is one man. There is an assumption we build our lives around opposition to religion. Wrongo. It’s not a concern.

Atheism is a faith like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

It’s often more difficult to believe in a creator than it is to be an atheist.

iamthemob's avatar

@lynfromnm

But you’re logic is flawed there, I believe. I have been told that India exists, and there are a bunch of people that swear it does. But I’ve never been there. By your argument, that’s proof that India does not exist.

More seriously, no evidence proving the fact is not evidence disproving it, if that evidence does not help prove the opposite.

lillycoyote's avatar

The ruts in the road that you are all waking down on this thread are so incredibly deep I can only just barely see the tops of your heads from here.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley I don’t buy that – belief is a choice, no one is forcing you to undergo this ‘difficulty’. And I do hope you don’t mean that we, as atheists, lead an easier life ‘cause we don’t answer to anyone and don’t care about any morality, etc ‘cause that’s bull, as well. I find it is more important to live a life without fear of sinning or of being shamed or being preached into ‘correct action’.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@iamthemob why would I believe in something that I have no reason to believe exists? Feels backwards to me. I don’t see why the burden of proof would fall on the ones that are saying “this whole concept appears to have been pulled out of thin air”, why shouldn’t it be the other way around?
If you want to tell me that you own a fully functional time machine that also makes you breakfast.. I shouldn’t have to prove that you don’t. You should have to prove that you do. I’m not the one making outrageous claims.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

Please don’t put words in my mouth, hon. It’s bad enough when I put them there! I meant none of those things. I just mean intellectually it’s easier to be an atheist than it is to be one who believes.

iamthemob's avatar

@ftp901

The island logic requires a huge logic leap. You can’t say in that situation what one would believe.

Also, see my responses before about being given no reason as proof that it’s wrong. Sure, you’ve been given no information. However, again, no evidence has been presented to suggest that there is no God. It’s just been framed as proof otherwise, which is more rhetoric than anything.

jaytkay's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir @jaytkay I don’t think that’s what evolution is – it has nothing to do with the Bible.

True, evolution is not about the Bible. But Bible literalists cannot abide evolution. It refutes the idea that all species were created in seven days.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley How is that? I think I just need more clarification – I just don’t get what that means, ‘intellectually easier’. How is it easier?
@jaytkay Oh, I see – makes sense.

jaytkay's avatar

@iamthemob At the same time, have you been given any reason to believe that God does NOT exist?

I have a million dollars I will give you if you send me $100.

Since you have not been given any reason to believe I do NOT have a million dollars, I expect your check to arrive in the next week.

Good doing business with you.

Blackberry's avatar

@iamthemob It’s an all encompassing concept. Let’s forget about all religion for this.

Essentially, no one knows what we’re here for, we aren’t any different when we die than a dead squirrel on the road, everything we have established on this earth was and is by us and us alone (every species and resource on the planet). There is simply no sign of anything else out there.

It’s just us out here in a vast sea of chaos, and we’ll live and die only affecting each other and it will go on like this until we’re wiped out or the sun explodes etc.

It’s just the way some of us see the planet, it’s just hard to believe any higher power had any hand in it.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

So you’re a broad sense Atheist. However, many of the arguments that claim atheism is better than religion focus on facts that they say are “contrary proof.”

So if atheism should be considered broadly, incorporating those who don’t care, can you argue with certainty that there is no God? If not, do you have equal respect for those with a deist belief system, and consider their choice as considered as yours?

Ron_C's avatar

I find it irritating that the religious try to make everything about religion. Atheism is the opposite of faith and religion. There is nothing for an atheist to believe, hence the name.

There are, however, many things to disbelieve like the “Truth in the Bible” , the existence of an omnipotent god or gods, saints, miracles, “priestly power”. Or you could look at Scientology, for instance, that tries to believe that we are special favorites of Alien benefactors.

The best part about being an atheist is that there are no weekly meetings, or collection plates. Speaking personally, I never, never donate to a religion and especially to “Missions”. I do donate to causes like the ACLU, certain political campaigns, and charities that help children, cancer victims, and people with MS. It is very easy to do good without a religious belief. It is very easy to do evil with a religious belief, look at the suicide murders.
I believe that atheists are realists and the religious are kidding themselves.

iamthemob's avatar

@ftp901

I wouldn’t focus too much on evolution – I use it as one example and one that has been the focus in many of the arguments I’ve heard.

So what evidence would you base belief in no god on?

Rarebear's avatar

Is this a question about atheism or evolution? They are entirely separate subjects.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

I think I need more clarification too, hon! Heh! Not really sure of this argument in my head yet. It’s more something I sense than I can rationalize. I love science, and when there’s an apparent conflict between science and belief, I will usually go with science, particularly if it has little or nothing to do with my beliefs. But, sometimes it’s easier to bend belief to the strictures of science than to bend science to conform with belief.

By saying that being an atheist seems easier than being a believer, I am just extending this argument a bit further.

Blondesjon's avatar

Anyone who participates in a religious debate (argument) is fooling themselves in to believing that they are going to sway the opposite side.

Either side is looking for followers (those who think they are right). Pretty much two sides of the same douchey coin, in my opinion.

religion/atheisim=politics

DominicX's avatar

Many theists look at the “default” position as having a belief in God, so atheism is a deviation from this default and thus is another belief system altogether. But the default position is really a lack of a belief and people don’t change this until convincing arguments persuade them to take up a belief. Atheism is a lack of a belief in God. Theists believe in something that cannot be proven. Atheists do not see any reason to believe in this thing that can’t be proven.

jaytkay's avatar

@Ron_C The best part about being an atheist is that there are no weekly meetings, or collection plates.

You’ve been SKIPPING THE MEETINGS?! You’re gonna owe a crapload of delinquent tithes!

CaptainHarley's avatar

@jaytkay

The tithe is no longer in effect. Jesus showed that all we are and have is God’s, giving back a tenth is superfluous.

Ron_C's avatar

@jaytkay good luck collecting them. I’m across the border now and you’ll never catch me.
Thanks for the laugh though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob Oh! Yay, I’m glad you found what I am – that makes things easier, doesn’t it? I don’t care what category of atheism I fall into – what I do care about is people thinking it’s necessary to tell me that the burden of proof is upon me when as @TheOnlyNeffie nicely pointed out, it isn’t, whatsoever. I am not saying atheism is better than religion, I’m saying I don’t need a religion. I can’t prove with certainty there isn’t a god but that’s ridiculous to say, on the other hand, because I can’t prove with certainty there isn’t a dragon outside my window right masturbating to me fluthering but I’m 99.9% sure it’s not there – same with god…perhaps there is a ‘higher life’ or a ‘higher energy’ out there that we can’t yet conceptualize of but it is certainly nothing like the gods humans created. As to whether I have to respect what deists believe – kind of hard to do that on a question asking if I’m kidding myself but nice try.

@CaptainHarley Well, when you deepen the argument, I’d like to hear it.
@Blondesjon I agree with you but I don’t think I’ve ever told a person to not believe in a god. Have you ever told a person to believe in one?

iamthemob's avatar

@josie

Yes, the onus of proof is on the person making the claim. But atheists who argue that god does not exist claim it’s based on facts when the evidence presented is really just stuff that happened which is neutral to the argument. So each side being equal, belief in one side is as much faith-based as the other.

The legal example is really apt I think. A person not convicted is found “Not Guilty,” which is NOT stating the person is innocent. In fact, people wrongly convicted face as many (if not more) proof issues as a prosecutor in the initial trial attempting to prove guilt.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir . . . Folks will only believe in what they want to believe in. I don’t tell anyone what that belief should be.

ain’t none of us gonna find out ‘til we die anyways

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

I will. It just hasn’t jelled in my mind yet. : )

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Blondesjon Right so since you don’t and I don’t, that makes two people who aren’t ‘trying to get people to their side’, right? I just really think most people (fluther not being like real life, often) don’t go around telling others to stop or start believing. Otherwise, I agree with your last point.

jaytkay's avatar

@CaptainHarley People still tithe. I’ve known people who do it (give a tenth of their income to the church). They were members of the Church of God (which always seemed odd to me, isn’t EVERY church “of God”?). I think Mormons tithe.

Obviously I am not an expert, we may be referring to different specific practices.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob “So each side being equal, belief in one side is as much faith-based as the other.” this is the part of your statement where we part ways. I agreed with everything else. The idea that believers and atheist are just two sides of a faith base coin is just wrong. The religious have a set of “god given” beliefs, the atheists do not.

Belief can be religiously based. The absence of belief is just that, there is no correspondence. If you don’t believe, you’re out of the loop.

iamthemob's avatar

@jaytkay

I have a million dollars I will give you if you send me $100

Well, I can prove whether or not you have a million dollars. Following that, a contract can be drawn up guaranteeing that I would get that million upon payment. If one could not be clearly drafted, I would then have to decide whether or not I should give you my money based on the likelihood of receiving the promised reward. That’s based on belief, the essence of faith.

Interestingly, this brings up the concept of risk…what are the payoffs associated to not believing in god as opposed to believing in it? Cause I think it’s (to some) much the same as your example…knowing that you have a million dollars, not having faith that I’ll get my payoff only costs a hundred dollars. Not having faith means I have to wonder forever if I really, really missed out.

zophu's avatar

There’s a vaguely dogmatic vibe to a lot of atheists’ personal expression. But, it’s not something one subscribes to. It’s something one is considered to be because one doesn’t subscribe to a belief of one or more gods. An atheist doesn’t necessarily believe there can’t be a god or gods, they just don’t believe in any for sure. As opposed to an agnostic who believes there is a god, just doesn’t attach any presumptions to it. (I know the conventional definitions for both of these words are different than mine, but it’s what I see in culture surrounding the two. Well, the atheist culture on the internet is a special case but that’s mostly due to angst. I’m taking the atheist word for myself, regardless, and I’m open to the belief of a god if I am ever to sense one in any definitive way. Otherwise, I don’t believe there is one, if there was one I believe he would want it that way. No, that’s not an agnostic belief.)

It’s quite prejudice, to consider atheism a belief-system. The only reason Christians can uniformly believe infants to be something other than atheists is because they have contingencies built into their system. The only dogma attached to atheism is from religions that hold it to be something evil or otherwise significant. We wouldn’t even need a word for it if it wasn’t for that.

It’s disturbing, the fact that the very meaning of the word is so conventionally disrespected. It makes sense that it would be, I guess, since the whole point is to reject the grandest convention on the planet. (Well, the grandest next to nationalism and money, but people will get to those eventually. It’s not like they’re unrelated. I’m sure we’ll have powerful, misused words for those individuals as well.)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob The payoffs are imagined whether negative or positive for all people regardless of whether or not they’re believers.

earthduzt's avatar

“If the general picture of the Big Bang followed by an expanding Universe is correct, what happened before that, was the universe devoid of all matter and the matter somehow suddenly created? How did that happen? Many cultures customary answer is that God or Gods created the Universe out of nothing. But if we wish to answer that question courageously we must of course ask the next question. Where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question why not just save a step and conclude that the origin of the Universe is an unanswerable question, or if we say that God always existed, why not save a step and just say that the Universe just always existed? There’s no need for creation, it just always here.” <Carl Sagan>

That’s how I feel about it, so it is not a “faith” or “religion” to me.

It just doesn’t matter to me. I often thought about if there was a God or Gods, why didn’t s/he or they just make us the center of the Universe? Why did they stick us in some obscure place that really doesn’t matter in our Galaxy. For that matter why did they even make other galaxies? Why did they make everything so far from us that right now it’s next to impossible for us to even explore past out own solar system? How is it possible that every religion has it’s own God or Gods? Is it the same God? Or is there like a God’s round table somewhere where they all sit? I don’t mind people believing in what they want to believe in, but to me it does not matter, to me thinking some supernatural being DEFINITELY made this universe we live in and just ignore science is just too far fetched for me, I like to take the easiest path and that to me Carl Sagan’s quote up there sums it up nicely for me.

Sometimes I wish to tell creationists, when they tell me “God” will take care of it if you pray. I say OK then if you ever get stricken by a disease of whatever sort..please don’t go see a doctor and get any sort of scientific treatment and just pray…let’s see how far that REALLY takes you.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob I tend to agree with your premise. That’s why I am an agnostic.

This much is crystal clear to me. Man has, throughout his history believed in a long list of different Gods, and most of those believers were convinced that their God/s and ONLY their god/s was the true god/s. So a great many of them had to be kidding themselves. I also notice from the way a lot of those who claim to believe actually conduct their lives, that they either do not really believe or they are completely clueless about what their god supposedly requires of them.

talljasperman's avatar

@iamthemob and your point is?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@ETpro I think we are technically all agnostic. None of us know for sure.

Blackberry's avatar

Plus…..the word ‘Atheist’ just sounds cooler

Blondesjon's avatar

@Blackberry . . . really? do you prefer ‘atheist slater’ or ‘christian slater’?

that’s what i thought

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir perhaps there is a ‘higher life’ or a ‘higher energy’ out there that we can’t yet conceptualize of but it is certainly nothing like the gods humans created

But why isn’t that part of the conception of god that people are thinking of here? Why is there focus on the versions of god that people have already created, or the structures of religion already there. Belief in god is belief in something, greater than ourselves, guiding us in purpose.

“Why not believe in that?” is not asking for proof that their position is right…it’s asking what’s better about it than the alternative.

DominicX's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie

But are atheists claiming to know God doesn’t exist? It seems to me that atheists are saying “I do not think God exists, given the evidence (or lack thereof)”, not “I am certain God does not exist”. I think most people will agree that as humans, we can’t know if something exists on another plane of existence that’s beyond our comprehension. By the very nature of this “other plane of existence”, we can’t know anything about it.

Blondesjon's avatar

‘sister atheist’ or ‘sister christian’?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@DominicX right, that is why we adopt the label “atheist” instead of “agnostic”. But we are all technically agnostic if we are honest with ourselves, we have no proof either way. @iamthemob is right about that.

I just don’t feel that I should be the one required to do the proving from my side of the fence. Again, I am not the one making outrageous claims.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C The religious have a set of “god given” beliefs, the atheists do not

Okay. But belief in god does not require religion. Therefore, atheists claiming there is no god and those believing in god are equally strong in their faith…I would argue that the atheists making the “no god” claim are in fact the more stubborn and mislead, since they can’t admit the proof is not really proof either way

jaytkay's avatar

@DominicX we can’t know if something exists on another plane of existence.

That’s pretty much the definition of agnosticism Kinda wishy washy if you ask me.

Atheists have more certainty.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Blondesjon Christian Dior or Atheist Dior?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob “belief in something, greater than ourselves” – I do believe in that but that has nothing to do with god or religion – what we consider as ‘something greater than ourselves’ is different, for different people. I don’t quite understand your last sentence – I don’t ask ‘why not believe in that?’...I don’t ask ‘why believe in it’?’ either – I know (people have shared with me) why people believe and they know why I don’t – that’s enough for me. Also, following up on your later comment, I don’t need a religion nor a god…there are people who have a personal relationship with god minus religion and that’s fine for them…I, as an atheist, have no need for either.

Ron_C's avatar

@DominicX we are not saying, specifically that god does not exists, just that if there is something worthy of being called god, it is not important enough to bother with. There is no personal god, there is no omnipotent god from the bible, there is especially no 3 in 1 god that can make your head explode while thinking about it.

Atheists are just dismayed by the excess energy and resources people waste on religion.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@iamthemob how do theists admit that the proof is not proof? The “proof” that I usually hear from that side of the argument is “just look around you! How else can you explain all of this beauty?” etc etc etc.
I have heard plenty of theists trying to offer up their version of proof that god exists. I certainly don’t try to tell anyone that I can prove that god doesn’t exist.

Jeruba's avatar

I think any atheist who presumes to speak for all atheists or generalize about atheism is making a mistake. Atheism comes in many flavors, much as religious belief does. There’s a basic split between those who “don’t believe in God” and those who “believe there is no God,” and there are many refinements to both views.

I am fine with any brand of atheism a person wants to claim, but I don’t want some other atheist speaking for me and making broad declarations about what atheism is or must be for all. Let each speak to his own beliefs or lack of them and not assert a right to speak for others.

In other words, fellow atheists, I suggest you say “I,” not “we.”

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu

But there are a lot of atheists who argue vehemently for their position, dismiss the faithful as uninformed, and close off to arguments as equally valid as their own.

My problem with the arguments for atheism. There are many who advocate atheism as an alternative. If people make the choice to be atheists, that’s fine. But it’s a choice out of thin air. If it works for you, though, kudos. But it’s a belief, nonetheless…and for some, an extremist-style faith.

Blackberry's avatar

“I’m an atheist.” Or “I’m a christian.” The former sounds better huh lol?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob I don’t know any atheists who advocate for atheism over people’s religious beliefs – they might be defending their ideology because people don’t like when people say they’re atheists but that has nothing to do with ‘making other people atheists’. As to whether ‘extremist-style faith’ comes from atheism or religion, I don’t get how you can’t possibly pick correctly as to where that more often originates. And if you believe in god, kudos to you, no one is telling you not to. Not this atheist and not any atheist above me in this discussion. I’m not the one telling you your beliefs are made out of air.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob the point is that the theist argue that particular environments or organisms are proof of god’s existence, the atheists just say “nah”.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Atheists don’t make claims and offer no proofs. They do, however take extreme pleasure in debunking the extraordinary claims. Maybe that’s not nice, but it isn’t a form of belief or religion.

Blondesjon's avatar

when you bang your thumb, ‘cheese and rice!’ or ‘jesus christ!’?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Blondesjon I gotta say, you’re right there – cursing using christ incarnations and phrases feels much more satisfying

zophu's avatar

@iamthemob I hope you realize you just told someone they pulled their beliefs out of thin air. If I were religious, I might of been deeply offended. Well, my offendedness might at least get a reaction, so I’d be able to milk it for all it’s worth. But, since that’s not the case, I guess I’ll just take it.

Blondesjon's avatar

would you rather the byrds sang ‘jesus is just all right with me’ or ‘a great, all encompassing nothingness is just all right with me’?

zophu's avatar

@Blondesjon I deeply pity anyone who looks at the unknown and sees “all encompassing nothingness.” Would be kind of cool if I heard birds singing about it, though.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

The last sentence is mostly about choice. If being an atheist is just about not being part of the debate…then why call yourself an atheist? That basically ensures you’ll be part of the debate, advocate the position, etc.

Defining oneself as an atheist means you deal with being associated with everything that is associated with the atheist position. Same thing with saying your a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist. People form x opinion of your beliefs. Through discussing your position as one of these…you can dispel to what extent your commitment goes.

But what you’re saying sounds much like “I don’t know what’s out there…I choose not to contemplate it.” Why not just say that…it seems very different from a lot of atheism.

Blondesjon's avatar

@zophu . . . i agree. they sadden me in the same way folks with no sense of humor do.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

Dismay at the energy wasted on religion is understandable. But if spent property, it’s not wasteful. And there is no energy spent on believing that there’s some form of god, and knowing that you can’t have any idea what it’s plan is for you, so you just have to do your best.

zophu's avatar

@Blondesjon I was in a serious mode, what can I say, I tried to save it though with an edit.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob So that the default belonging to a religion/god isn’t assumed about me – it’s not about advocating, it’s about giving you correct facts about myself. And no, that’s not what I said at all (in fact, I don’t get how you got that out of my comments) – I contemplate a lot about much and I have, in the past, contemplated about god and religion and simply moved on from these topics because I found them to be irrelevant to my life – I think you put more value on them and I put none so it’s kind of a difference in paradigms – which is always the issue in these situations.

Blondesjon's avatar

@zophu . . . no problym

iamthemob's avatar

@Jeruba Let each speak to his own beliefs or lack of them and not assert a right to speak for others

But then why associate with atheism at all? Stating “I am an atheist” is, again, associating with a group…it’s a way to communicate your ideas in short hand in essence. Stating everyone has their beliefs is a premise I stand by…however, then atheism is a belief. Belief is agreeing with something not proven.

So…is there a benefit then with claiming that you’re an atheist?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob Stating ‘I’m an atheist’ is only a beginning like stating ‘I’m a Christian’ and then specifying one of the hundreds of denominations or adjustments. I state ‘I’m an atheist and to me it means….’ – that’s what Jeruba was talking about. After all, you don’t want me to think things of you based on what another person believes, right? Otherwise, why would anyone say they’re religious, ever?

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob you are correct, good works are not a waste of energy. I would say that feeding the hungry or volunteering at a hospital are not morally equivalent to raising money to improve the church’s parking lot. To me the latter is a waste of energy and probably environmentally unsound.

I really can’t stand the idea that some entity, with the power to torture me eternally, has a plan for me. I see good people suffer terrible things and genuinely evil people live a happy, enjoyable life. The myth that the evil will be punished in the afterlife is not a comfort. It in no ways justifies the suffering of the good to believe that they will be rewarded in the next life. If there is any proof at all that there is no caring loving god, that is it.

kevbo's avatar

IMHO it’s a case of throwing the bathwater out with the baby, but that’s the extent of my arguing the matter.

jaytkay's avatar

@Jeruba Let each speak to his own beliefs or lack of them and not assert a right to speak for others

@iamthemob But then why associate with atheism at all?

Whoa, yellow card on that one.

dis·in·gen·u·ous
Definition of DISINGENUOUS
: lacking in candor; also : giving a false appearance of simple frankness

ETpro's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie Regarding our all being agnostics, I have to get back to that pesky thing called a dictionary and see what the word atheist means.

a·the·ism  [ey-thee-iz-uhm]
–noun
1.   the doctrine or belief that there is no god.
2.   disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

There is certainly a distinction between the meanings of the words, atheist, agnostic and theist. I know full well I am an agnostic. The definition fits me to a tee. If people who are really agnostic are calling themselves something else for whatever reasons, that is their affair.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I contemplate a lot about much and I have, in the past, contemplated about god and religion and simply moved on from these topics because I found them to be irrelevant to my life – I think you put more value on them and I put none so it’s kind of a difference in paradigms

What gives you the impression that I have committed much of my time to the subject. Admittedly, a fair assumption, but I don’t believe I’ve said anything here that advocates for belief in god instead of a belief in no god.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob I suppose nothing gives me the impression – just a hope of mine that you did, that’s all.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

And you said above: I state ‘I’m an atheist and to me it means….’ – that’s what Jeruba was talking about. After all, you don’t want me to think things of you based on what another person believes, right?

Indeed, that’s how you introduced yourself in the first answer…and yet, by making contrary arguments, I’ve been associated with a group of people believing the opposite.

PS – SUPER not religious here. :-)

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

You said: I really can’t stand the idea that some entity, with the power to torture me eternally

That’s not part of a belief in god. That’s a part of some of the religions – some of the one’s responsible for a lot of the particularly disdainful acts of humanity’s history.

This is part of the reason why I’ve asked this question – I feel like a lot of atheists are really mostly a-religious more than anything else.

And after that, I feel like (and this is my position) a belief in a greater power can be beneficial to my life. It’s sensible to believe that there’s an order…and if there’s an order, there should be an order-er.

My concern with atheism (generally, and not associated with people) is that it can lead as much as religion to mass harm. A belief that there is no guiding force and overall purpose can translate into belief that nothing really matters in the long run (after all, if we have no part to play in life, then when we’re gone and our people are gone, no one will notice)...so what responsibility do you have to anything but making yourself as happy as possible? That could mean doing some dangerous stuff.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@iamthemob human beings have the potential to be dangerous with or without god. The thing is that atheists usually don’t believe in an afterlife… so the only thing most of us have to cherish is right here, right now. I think that makes us less likely to destroy it than someone that is being promised an eternity of happiness for something they do to this world (which might seem awfully sad and small in comparison to heaven.)

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob I’ve been to AA meetings (part of a previous job) and the belief in a higher power helps people overcome addiction. Often times the higher power is the substance to which they are addicted and acknowledging that power helps keep them straight. There is noting wrong with that belief but it is not necessarily religious.

Many people thing, and I guess you do too, that atheist can’t have morals or humanitarian feelings. I find the opposite true. Look at someone that is famously atheist, Christopher Hitchens. He has spent countless hours trying to help end conflicts in eastern Europe, tried to help people understand and change the regressive attitudes fostered by religion in the middle east. He has even protected Salmin Rushdi who was sentanced to death because some cleric didn’t like his depiction of Mohammad. He has worked for the U.N. and even consulted with the Vatican. We need more atheists like Hitchens and fewer true believers like Pat Robertson, or Osama bin Ladin.

Ron_C's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie great answer!

zophu's avatar

@ETpro

atheist, noun
someone who believes that God or gods do not exist

Compare:
agnostic, noun
someone who does not know, or believes that it is impossible to know, whether a god exists

http://dictionary.reference.com/

Compare:
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/ (for your future peskiness, I suggest this dictionary)

I believe that God does not exist as as It has been defined. To be agnostic, I would have to believe that which has been defined exists but is actually undefinable and therefore can not be known to exist. Seems like a cop-out to me.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

You said: Many people thing, and I guess you do too, that atheist can’t have morals or humanitarian feelings

Why would you guess that? Did I post something that stated or suggested that I thought people who were athiests wouldn’t be capable of having a moral or humanitarian belief system?

And sure, there have been charitable athiests. There have been charitable agnostics, and charitable christians. I stand by your point but would remove the label qualifiers. I just think we need more charity.

Coloma's avatar

What I never understand is why the demarcation line always falls between the polarities of ‘religious’ and ‘atheist’...there are many, many, other ‘spiritual’ philosophies in between.

My leanings lean towards the eastern philosophies,. There is so much to explore between these two polarities…the bearded god of christianity and the nothingess of athieism.

iamthemob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie

A belief in no afterlife doesn’t dictate that a person will cherish there time here, now in a productive manner…nor does a belief in an afterlife dictate that a person will do harm in order to ensure it. Both, however, can be interpreted in a manner which could make people do bad things. (I would point to the ridiculous and yet profound two-part episode of South Park where atheism had taken over in the future…you have to see it).

It seems we agree at least on either one being used to rotten ends. I don’t see, however, that you can assume that a belief in no afterlife is certain to produce a value in life generally. I can only see that being based on an assumption because (as I assume) you cherish your life here, knowing that that’s it.

I’ll throw out this, though – knowing that you only have these years to be alive, and that after that you’re gone, can make you greedy for survival and for ensuring the longest life possible. Can you cheat your way to the top of a donor list, knowing that because you do someone else will die instead of you? Better them than you. Do you want to be rich now knowing there is no rich afterlife? Exploit foreign labor to make millions of dollars.

Again, believing there’s no afterlife doesn’t guarantee that happening. However, true belief in punishment for such behavior in the afterlife would help prevent it. So again – there seems to be a balance between the harms.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@iamthemob that is precisely why I started by saying that we have the potential to be dangerous with or without god.
People that are going to do extreme, violent, hateful, and stupid things… will do so with whatever excuse happens to suit them the best. Sometimes that is religion. Maybe sometimes it is the lack thereof. On a daily basis it is something else entirely. I would venture to guess that in all cases it is desperation.

I haven’t seen it, but I guess I will have to look it up.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I can’t say believing in atheism is silly as much as flawed. Science is not the end to all end, because though mankind can believe he can bend rules of nature he cannot break any of them. Many are as much a mystery now as they ever was. Man has not been able to reanimate life, some may appear to be dead but they were not dead they were brought back to consciousness before life left them.

If you are an atheist you won’t believe in the Bible so that is a non-starter. Science change, it sure has from when I was a child and that to me is worse than to be unproven is to be proven wrong.

However it come down atheist better hope they are right when they die or they will have a very interesting conversation as to why they did not believe in Him. If I follow the Bible and it is not true at least it was a manual on how to live life in a peaceful less chaotic way, but I would not want to not follow the Bible and end up having that conversation.

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

Exactly. In fact, many of the responses here seem to claim atheism because of a lack of belief in the tenants of Christianity (not all, just so there’s no confusion).

iamthemob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie

You have to see it…totally hilarious.

And sure, that’s why i acknowledged that was your position. But you also suggested that based on the afterlife issue, atheism was more likely to be less harmful. That is a different argument from the “with or without” one…it distinctly pulls out atheistic beliefs as the better option. That’s why I disagree…(noting, of course, that I don’t agree with the opposite either ;-)).

Winters's avatar

I’m a borderline atheist/agnostic, I just simply feel that man conjured “God” as a manifestation of his Superego, and “Satan” of his Id. The ultimate good and the ultimate evil. As for a higher power, still believe in one, but that is teetering to the edge of non-belief.

But I would never say that either side is kidding themselves, let’s just all lead our natural lives, die and find out who’s right then. Trying to prove each other wrong on a matter that can’t be proven or solved by modern man seems so silly.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

You bring up an interesting point, which I am surprised is new…that if a religion has an after life, and disbelief causes condemnation, why not follow it? As long as the rules are such that you would lead a good life by following them, you’re good. The risk there is minimal. If you don’t believe, well then, that’s some scary stuff.

Of course, there are a few problems:

(1) You can only pick one of the religions…you pick one of the wrong ones, you’re in the same position as none.

(2) You have to follow the right rules. If you choose a denomination that misses one of the key ones, you’re again SOL.

(3) You have to really, actually believe. Going through the motions just to be safe, well…I’m betting that the God of that religion can probably tell that’s what’s up (consider repentance…you have to really repent.)

So I don’t really think that adds a potential benefit to believing in god…it kind of demonstrates, however, on how religion can just get messy.

DominicX's avatar

@iamthemob

You have to really, actually believe. Going through the motions just to be safe, well…I’m betting that the God of that religion can probably tell that’s what’s up

And that is just one of the many problems with Pascal’s Wager. “You better believe because you’re fucked if it turns out to be right.” If you don’t truly believe, it’s going to be hard to get into a state where you actually believe it and aren’t just going along with it because you’re afraid of going to Hell.

Blackberry's avatar

@blondsjon Yes, you’re right, it does sound better, I say ‘jesus christ!’ all the time lol.

ETpro's avatar

@zophu wrote: “To be agnostic, I would have to believe that which has been defined exists but is actually undefinable and therefore can not be known to exist. Seems like a cop-out to me.”

That does not even begin to flow out of the dictionary definition you provided. I am an agnostic. That does not compel me to believe in any of the millions of different definitions various people have developed for a god or gods. It simply says that I know that I don’t know on the subject of a supreme being or beings as a creator/s ruler/s of the Universe.

iamthemob's avatar

@Winters

Are you assuming that the question about “kidding themselves” was about whether they were kidding themselves about it being the right choice based solely on what they want to do?

Because in the explanation, it is directed more at anyone that claims that being atheist doesn’t entail a belief in certain things which cannot be proven as a basis, and therefore is as valid as any other faith-based community.

iamthemob's avatar

@RomanExpert

You know that this isn’t about religion, right?

iamthemob's avatar

@DominicX

Awesome – and thanks for the “Pascal’s Wager” reference. I’m sure that I’ve heard about the argument referred to that as before…and forgot it. Or, you know, I thought of it and then disproved it on my own cause I’m whoa smart.

Either or…prove me wrong one way or the other. (ahh, sarcastic references to the problematic nature of the question in question).

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Other people have given great answers, but I feel I need to add my own thoughts too.

Atheism is not a belief system, because it is a lack of belief. The Pope and the Cardinals can debate Catholic dogma, and eventually must agree, but Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris can disagree as much as they like because there is no atheistic belief system to define atheists by.

Evolution is a major blow to many religious interpretations, but it is by no means the basis of atheism. Everyone has their own reason for being an atheist, so again there is no distinct basis. I don’t believe in gods for the same reason Christians don’t believe in Odin and Muslims don’t believe in Ishtar – I just think every theory of gods is inadequate, and that the universe can be explained better in the absence of gods than if we propose their presence. My own personal reasons actually have little to do with evolution, because I was a Creationist Christian before I became an atheist, and only accepted the truth of evolution after I was convinced that gods are not a part of reality except as memes. Only then did my serious research into the process of evolution start, and only then did I see it for the amazing tool that it is. Besides, the majority of Christians now accept evolution too.

Neither is atheism based on faith. We do not have faith that there are no gods, because faith is belief that goes beyond what you would rationally expect based on the evidence. The Bible says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). As an atheist, I cannot be sure of what I hope for, since hopes are not in any way related to reality, and I cannot be certain of what I do not see, because without evidence all is speculation. I have no faith in anything, (unless you want to include assumptions based on probabilities, such as “my chair is not about to collapse underneath me”) therefore I am a materialist and an atheist.

Saying science will find the answers to scientific conundrums is not faith, because science has proven itself to be useful in such scenarios. We have no reason to look elsewhere for answers, unless the scenario isn’t a scientific question to begin with. Science has a track record, so it is not merely a hope or something we have no evidence of, and therefore trusting science to come through does not equate to faith.

I’ve got to go to class now. Since this thread is so long, I would appreciate it if any replies were in PMs. Thanks!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob I think you might find this interesting:
Don’t assume that any one atheist speaks for all atheists. Unlike most varieties of theism, atheism has no sacred text, central authority, or hierarchical organization. Atheism is not a movement organized around a single source, but a diverse group of individuals, most of whom came to that conclusion independently of each other and often for different reasons.

Further reading: http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/hownot.html
http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/theistguide.html

Winters's avatar

@iamthemob

Yes I am, it just seems to me that there have been some people trying to argue one way or another on this question and I felt like just simply targeting them.

But then again, I may be misunderstanding some of their posts, I can’t tell right now. I may have mad cow at the moment, so it just may be the mad cow talking.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Winters Denny Crane!

I know it’s OT, but I can’t help myself. Feel free to remove…

daytonamisticrip's avatar

Oh my gosh i think we have a new record for most comments on a single question.

Winters's avatar

@papayalily Hahaha! good one!

But no, I’m pretty sure I’m too young to be having an onset of Alzheimer’s

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@daytonamisticrip Some of the old ones got way up there. I’m pretty sure they’re all archived now.

ETpro's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I appreciate your sharing your view. I disagree, however,with your contention that, “the universe can be explained better in the absence of gods than if we propose their presence”. I have never seen the Universe explained. If it has been, please point me to the explanation, because that is the one answer would truly love to learn before I give up this life.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

(1) The Pope and the Cardinals can debate Catholic dogma, and eventually must agree, but Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris can disagree as much as they like because there is no atheistic belief system to define atheists by

But what about the protestant reformation? England’s break from the church in order to approve the divorce of Henry VIII? The Quakers or the Amish? They all disagree with each other, but believe in some of the same tenants. And that’s not to mention the Jewish/Christian/Muslim split.

You’re using religious structures as a synonym for a belief system. Rather, religious structures grow out of a belief system. Atheism dictates that you have certain beliefs. It is not a belief in no belief…that is not possible. That’s what I mean when I say I think it is a belief system. Otherwise, someone who believes in a god can claim to be an atheist, and no other atheists can argue.

(2) Evolution is a major blow to many religious interpretations, but it is by no means the basis of atheism.

I never claimed it was the basis, though…I said that the reliance of some atheists on evolution as evidence that God does not exist is faulty, because it proves nothing either way. There are of course other beliefs that come into play…but nothing I’ve ever heard about atheism is based on objective proof, but on an interpretation of facts based on an assumption already accepted.

(3) We do not have faith that there are no gods, because faith is belief that goes beyond what you would rationally expect based on the evidence. The Bible says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)

I don’t know why the Bible is being brought into the conversation again, to be honest – but that is one definition of faith. It is also certainty or trust in a thing absence proof of it, or belief in a thing absent proof. Since there is no proof, but atheists hold firm to their belief, how is that not faith? And saying that there isn’t faith in science by basing the fact that science has proven useful time and time again in answering certain questions doesn’t work, I think. Human knowledge has developed through science to prove something and then disprove it. So much of the universe is admittedly not observable with the tools we have now that we have two different theories to explain the macroverse (relativity) and the microverse (quantum mechanics), both of which cannot exist if the other is true. A unified theory is beyond us right now…and the heisenberg uncertainty principle pretty much just says that we can say that this is how it works, but we can’t really look at it without changing it, so it’s really just a super-good guess that’s been right so far. Science refines how we understand things…and it’s been accurate so far. But we go with it because we have faith in the way it models the universe…not because what science has shown us has proven to be the full truth of everything.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

Hmm…again, I think there’s a semantic problem here. A belief system as I posit it is simply a group of beliefs. You must share the beliefs or you do not belong to the group. Atheists have beliefs that are shared by the group. These cannot be proven. Therefore, it is equivalent to other systems where a belief without proof is shared…most of them being found within the structures of religion. I feel like a solid analogy is comparing the statement “Atheism does not have a belief system” with “Anarchy is not political.”

iamthemob's avatar

@Winters

Ah! No…no mad cow. That indeed was a lot of the trend of the thread.

I don’t understand, though, how so much of the argument has been “I’m not kidding myself about not having a belief system, or that I have faith in the concepts of atheism…prove me that I’m wrong!” And not understand that is a faith-based argument.

Those who say they are atheists, and simply aren’t sure about whether or not there’s a god or something and so choose not to think about it or be a part of the debate…to be honest…if you’re not part of the debate…you’re not part of the debate, right? The question is never about whether atheism is better or worse…it’s just that there’s a belief system shared by them.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

The Denny Crane comment can be as off topic as you like…this is the social room, after all! :-)

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro

Good show – I’ll believe science before most anything when it shows me the results and data. However, science has often been compared to religion on many levels – and rightly so, considering that I mostly take what the scientists tell me on faith – I don’t know what the hizell they’re saying when they try to explain it in depth.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob You’ve got a good point there,

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily & @daytonamisticrip

Dudes…now I want to know what the record is, cause “let’s do this thing.”

I heart me some record taking. :-)

daytonamisticrip's avatar

I don’t know the real record but I’m guessing that this is it.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob Then by your definition, atheism is not a belief system but a lack there of (or, for almost all atheists, a lack of a belief system based on God/gods/deities.)

The thing is, I think you may be assuming that a belief in a deity is the default setting, and atheists are rebelling. And for many, that’s true. For many, that’s how they started out, but then as they evolved in those beliefs, that stopped being true – many who get their first tattoo at 16 are rebelling, but many who continue to get them at 45 are no longer rebelling. But for others, including myself, it isn’t at all like that.

For instance: Take the Cheshire Cat. While Alice In Wonderland doesn’t proclaim to be any kind of scripture, pretend that a tribe in Aboriginal Middle Of The Earth possessed an intro that claimed it was. But to the rest of the world, it was just a story a man made up for his lover friends daughter. You might come across the AMOTE’s, and they might term you an atheist in their native tongue, but that wouldn’t really mean anything about your belief system except what it is not.

For me, believing in God or any deity is like the Cheshire Cat – I ask “why would I believe in him” not “why would I not believe in him”.

Consider someone who grew up in the woods, with no animals raising them. They have no concept of government. You might consider them to be anarchist (I just realized how easy it is to mistype that as “antichrist”...) but to them, government wouldn’t be the default.

Atheism is not a group. It is the term for everyone NOT in the group. It is not a definition of a belief, but simply a denotation of what is NOT included in those beliefs.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

I feel like that’s a prime example, though, of the “fooling themselves” that I’m talking about. My attitudes about the way god could be conceptualized, or if god exists, are truly ambivalent. I just don’t know, a lot of the times. But a lot of the times I feel like I do. However, I am not an atheist. If anyone called me an atheist, I would disagree – not because I have anything against it, but I haven’t committed to the idea that there isn’t a god. I can’t claim a belief…so I can’t really be an atheist.

When you say it’s not a belief system, are you saying that there is no one thing that atheists believe in? If so, it has no meaning. If you’re saying that it’s a belief that none of the religions are right, so you don’t believe in any of them…that’s more like an agnostic. If some atheists believe that there could be a god, then they shouldn’t really call themselves atheist (they have the right to, but they’re just going to confuse a bunch of people).

You recognized that your assumption about me was an assumption, so I’ll clarify…no, I do not believe in a default setting. I do not claim that atheists are rebelling against the idea of god in order to rebel or as a reaction to a former belief in god.

Drawing on that person, though, let’s make an analogy – someone used to believe in god. After time, they figured out there were many different religion, all with different ideas of what god was or wanted. Learned about atrocities committed in the name of god. Saw bad stuff happen for no reason. Saw good people leading lives committed to god, but unable to tell him how they KNEW god was there. After a while, being given nothing that could show him god was a reality, decided that there was no such thing. And adhered to that belief. People may try to convince him that there is a god, but can offer no proof. But he has no proof that there isn’t a god…nothing shows him that. He is an athiest because he believes, he does not know, that there is no god.

The same boy, as a child, was told by his parents about Santa Clause. In school one year, he hears people say that Santa Clause doesn’t exist. He asks his parents who tell him that he’s right, there is no Santa. He’s sad, but Christmas comes all the same. But there’s no more cookies and milk (presents all the same). He’s super naughty one year…no coal. No footprints in the ash of the chimney. He starts his own family. The only presents under the tree are the ones he buys. One year he doesn’t put any under the tree – his kids are furious, but nothing magically appears. Full explorations of the north pole reveal no workshop, no one’s ever seen an elf, and the physics of reindeer flight to children all over the world (except for non-Christians) is, as scientists show him, whoa impossible. This man knows that Santa Clause isn’t real…if he believes otherwise, it’s irrational.

So, there is a unifying belief that is shared by all atheists. Otherwise, athiests are just people. Belief that something is NOT true, without reasonable proof that it is not, is belief based on nothing. That is pure faith. Atheism is not a term for everyone in the group – I would like to see a definition that stated atheism was “not something” without including the word belief (or variation). Stating that atheism is not a belief in god begs the question what is it? Saying an atheist is someone who does not believe in god is begging who is he or she? Saying that atheists do not believe in god, but they do not believe in no god, is mind-boggling.

As for the AMOTEs – well, for one, you’d have objective proof that their beliefs were based on fiction. Also, if we were to translate their word into our language, it would probably be something more like “heathen” or “disbeliever” or “heretic” – something that described you as someone who was not one of the faithful – because, regardless of whether in their language they think it means someone who doesn’t believe in god, we would know that since there are other religions it means only someone who doesn’t believe in their god. Even if the word were translated as you suggest, once it was explained most people would be “oh…so they just don’t understand that there are other religions…” We had several words in the old colonial world for religious and spiritual people that weren’t Christian – not a one was atheist. So if they believe the Cheshire Cat is real, they may not try to convince you that he is. If they do, it’s a colonial “convert the native” approach in reverse. But you can’t say that your belief is more valid then their’s – unless in the hypo you know that AIW is a fictional book and who wrote it. In that case, you have objective evidence about the veracity of their claims. Athiests claim there is no god…they believe there is no god…there is no objective evidence to the veracity of that claim.

The anarchy example you give has the same problems. I assume the woods-person was completely alone. Yes, that person would have no concept of government. That person is not an anarchist. That person has never had their beliefs CHALLENGED. That person has also never lived with another person. People in groups tend to form organized structures…sometimes a heirarchy (well often), sometimes flat. But people together will always tend to separate out the labor in a manner they think is the best (or sometimes told to, with poor results). We would have absolutely no concept of how that person related to the world…to try to say how that person would relate to people after a life of unheard of isolation is like asking how we’d act if dropped into a silicon-based life form with a super-advanced form of wormhole energy making it run, no concept of currency or organization of individuals but mostly because they share a hive mind. If you’re asking through this or showing me that there’s no default if people are raised without the influence of others…well, I’m not convinced, since societies always seem to find a way to create a god-force. However, I’ll bow to that. But the argument is moot…no one lives outside the influence of others. Maybe there will be a point where children will feel the absolute liberty while growing up to make a decision later on about whether they believe there’s something behind all this, a god of sorts…and maybe we’ll have thereafter an even mix of people who believe that there’s a god and people who don’t. That’s cool But both viewpoints will be based on the same amount and kind of information – we can’t explain this, we don’t know what happens after death, and we don’t know exactly why we’re here. You believe whatever you want, but you believe something.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

136 responses…. wait, now it’s 137. We must hit the 200 mark.

zophu's avatar

@ETpro I can’t know for sure that there is a god or not. I don’t know for sure if there is extraterrestrial life or not. I don’t even really know for sure if a big-foot species exists or not. I don’t believe in the existence of any of these things. That makes me a disbeliever of these things. Within the context of theism, people consider me an atheist.

As a non-believer, I believe that If big-foots exist, they would probably be less intelligent than humans. If extraterrestrial life exists, I bet it would raise huge scientific questions. If God exists, we probably wouldn’t be able to know it, let alone understand it.

I don’t mean to insult the spirituality behind the idea of agnosticism. I’m saying that spirituality exists within the realm of atheism, unless the agnosticism implies an actual belief of god(s). I suspect agnosticism only became popular because it has less stigma attached to it, because it’s intentionally vague and harder for people like @iamthemob to antagonize. “I want freedom of belief, but don’t worry I’m all spiritual and whatever so I wont be so challenging to your beliefs like those asshole atheists.” Again, I’m not insulting any spirituality you associate with the concept, I’m just saying it’s not essentially different than atheism in relation to theism unless it includes the belief in one or more deities.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@iamthemob
(1) You can only pick one of the religions…you pick one of the wrong ones, you’re in the same position as none. Who ever said there was only one? I am not God so I can’t say which religion or division in those religions will make it to Paradise or not. I am fully aware of what course I take and how the mechanic works.

(2) You have to follow the right rules. If you choose a denomination that misses one of the key ones, you’re again SOL. You know the rules? I know which is the core rules I need follow because I believe the Bible and in different words I am sure other religion’s books have the same core rules, there are not that many. Denominations are an invention of man, it fosters certain doctrine but doctrine don’t make a belief in God.

(3) You have to really, actually believe. Going through the motions just to be safe, well…I’m betting that the God of that religion can probably tell that’s what’s up (consider repentance…you have to really repent.) That would be as silly as trying to act gay when you are not Gay. You can maybe fake it with those who do not know you but those who do and certainly God who is way wiser than all of us, it will be seen more complete than Mt. Rushmore on a crystal clear day.

So I don’t really think that adds a potential benefit to believing in god…it kind of demonstrates, however, on how religion can just get messy. Belief in God is just that. I can believe if I was not apart of any religion, religion is man’s way to tell which believer is following what doctrine. If religion is messy it was man who did it not God.

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu
People like me try to antagonize? Really?

I’m not criticizing atheism (if you read my posts). I’m asking how it’s not simply an act of linguistic gymnastics to say that atheists share a core set of beliefs…even if it’s a single belief that there is no god. I would assume that would coincide with a belief that there is no afterlife.

I don’t need evidence that it’s the right perspective at all…but if you claim it’s not a belief in something, then how is it anything at all defineable? There must be a defining characteristic or group of characteristics. A belief in nothing is a belief in something – nothing as a concept. If you really believe in nothing, then you accept what has been proven and reserve judgment on anything not proven.

However, if that’s the case, I again am confused why people in that case would say they’re atheists, which specifically relates to god and has a history behind it with nothing to do with the above general statement…instead of, for example…an empiricist.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob OK…

Fooling themselves about what, though? (If you answered this earlier, I didn’t read all the posts before I jumped in, so apologies). I mean, the term “fooling themselves” is derogatory in nature, so people who might agree with you aren’t going to because then it’s a bad thing. If I were the one labeling you, I would call you an agnostic. Although, really, I don’t care what you call yourself.

So here’s my understanding of the difference between atheist and agnostic: Atheist: There is no god. Agnostic: I don’t know. Yes and no, atheists do and don’t believe in any one thing: What they believe in is that there ISN’T a god.

Yup, atheists are just people – did I say they were Klingons again? (Again, with the snark…. damn filter juice keeps evading me…). Yes, atheism is, to a certain extent, faith that God isn’t there. Most atheists feel that there is reasonable proof that there isn’t God, since each person determines what is reasonable for themselves. It is a belief, technically, but since it is defined by what it is not instead of what it is, the word doesn’t have quite the same meaning as a belief that is based on what people do believe.

Saying an atheist is someone who does not believe in god is begging who is he or she? Saying that atheists do not believe in god, but they do not believe in no god, is mind-boggling. Restate please. The triple negatives and dangled participles are screwing with my comprehension

I would not have to have objective proof. Why would I? I’m not trying to convert them. Nor am I saying my beliefs are more valid. I believe mine are the correct ones, by virtue of them being, you know, mine, and if I didn’t think that, they wouldn’t be my beliefs, but I think their belief is just as valid. Also, you may be mistaking the trees for the forest, so don’t go to far with that analogy – it is, after all, something I came up with after midnight. Same goes for the anarchist analogy, but more, because I feel that I did a piss-poor job of explaining that, and am about 13x less proud of it.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

I am so confused by your response…especially to (2). My post was saying no rules were the right ones, but the ones that have the threat of damnation have a defined set of rules for you to follow, and you can’t believe in all the gods simultaneously. So that was addressing the argument “why not believe because if you don’t you’re in trouble.”

The third point is most relevant to your exact assertion, which was, as I believe, the statement that if you don’t believe in god you might have to explain yourself in the afterlife but if you do believe in god you don’t have to worry, so believing is a better option.

However, this isn’t a workable argument to belief because of that third point – if you’re dealing with a god who really cares whether you believe or not…you can’t believe because maybe he’s there and you don’t want to take the risk. That’s not believing – that’s gambling. There has to be something more to inspire actual belief…

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ETpro I never said the universe can be explained. I am quite sure we will never have all the answers. I said the universe can be better explained without gods in the equation, meaning that to date secular hypotheses are more successful than theistic hypotheses.

@iamthemob Thanks for your feedback.
1. Fair enough, my analogy was inaccurate. However, I maintain that atheism is not a belief system. You can have atheist Jews, atheist Buddhists, and secular atheists like myself. I do not care for the rituals associated with religion, but other atheists are still somewhat religious despite their lack of belief in the back story to the rituals.
2. I apologise if I misinterpreted your point. I personally believe that theistic evolution is contrary to the Bible, which is why I was a creationist when I was a Christian, but that is not the point since most Christians can reconcile the differences in their minds. Atheism isn’t based on objective facts, it is based on the absence of them. The most basic atheistic statement is that there probably aren’t gods, because there is no reason to suggest that they are. I have shared my personal reasons elsewhere, and I don’t think this is the place to do so again, so PM me if you want the full story.
3. “Since there is no proof, but atheists hold firm to their belief, how is that not faith?”
It is not faith because the burden of proof rests on the theist. The null hypothesis in every logical scenario is that there is nothing. For example, if you get statistical fluctuation in the weather, the null hypothesis is to assume measurement errors. Once that has been excluded, you can look for trends. The null hypothesis with regard to the supernatural is that it doesn’t exist, and since that assumption has never been conclusively refuted there is no reason to look further.
Atheists don’t have to have faith in the lack of the supernatural any more than you have to have faith that there isn’t a sniper trained on your head – there is no evidence to suggest that there is, so there is no point ducking behind kevlar every time you go near a window.
“But we go with it because we have faith in the way it models the universe”
Faith is belief that is not based on solid evidence. We don’t have faith that the sun is hot, because there is overwhelming evidence that it is, so we consider it theory or fact. The scientific has a proven track record of consistently bringing us closer to answers all the time, so there is enough evidence for the success of the scientific method that we no longer call it faith.

lillycoyote's avatar

Wow! You guys haven’t settle this one yet? I can’t believe it! Everyone back to their corners and get ready for round 127,300,173 of Atheists vs.Theists.Yes, I know I’m annoying. Yes, I am.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Atheists don’t have to have faith in the lack of the supernatural any more than you have to have faith that there isn’t a sniper trained on your head – there is no evidence to suggest that there is, so there is no point ducking behind kevlar every time you go near a window.
Oh, nice. I second this. Very well put. Also the part about the burden of proof being on the theist.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

Yeah, I wanted it to be a little enflaming. Did you read the details portion though? Let me know…the first sentence admitted that.

Onto the argument – you said: Atheist: There is no god. Agnostic: I don’t know. Yes and no, atheists do and don’t believe in any one thing: What they believe in is that there ISN’T a god.

I think, based on the rest of the post, that the one thing they do believe in is that there is no god. I wonder if you know of an atheist who thought that there was an afterlife – I feel like that’s another shared belief. However, practically yes – that’s the only thing I’ve ever thought about atheism.

Your post is actually in complete agreement with everything I’ve said. Atheists need not prove anything – but they can’t claim that what they share is not a belief. The triple negative monstrosity was my response to the attempt to do so. Saying that you don’t have a shared belief, it’s just that none believe in god. If that’s different than saying that atheists believe in god, I really need a clear explanation why…

…you seem to agree that atheists believe in something that cannot be objectively proven. If so, awesome. I think you’re right, and everyone has that right. My quibble is when atheism attempts to show how this isn’t a belief, or isn’t the same as faith. I think a couple said that it was difficult make up how there was a creator or a god behind all this with no proof and easier to believe that there’s nothing there. Considering the mysteries of the universe, and yet how perfectly things turned out to make us (Einstein found a greater understanding of the wonder of the universe made it impossible not to believe in god), I would say that’s not exactly accurate. But I would say that at times it requires one to expend effort. That effort is based on the shared belief. As long as there is a group with a belief of something shared between them…they share a belief system. It’s the same as my belief, or usual belief with bouts of doubt…that there’s something is a belief I share with agnostics for the most part. I think that there’s a more firm and rigid belief system with athiests because there are those who do wish to prove it correct (Richard Dawkins I would reference again cause he’s the most notorious). He uses various scientific discovories and proofs as evidence of the lack of a creative hand. Of course, the proof he uses proves only that certain claims of various religions are false. Religion is not god. A belief in god is a belief in something…and a belief there is no god is a belief in something. Both therefore imply there’s a system or network of people discussing or refining the belief, regardless of how it was come to or the level of organization of the discussion.

Reading through the posts, there’s a repeated refusal that atheism is a belief, and that the atheist is one who believes in that concept. That’s faith. It’s not religion, but again, faith.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@iamthemob However, this isn’t a workable argument to belief because of that third point – if you’re dealing with a god who really cares whether you believe or not…you can’t believe because maybe he’s there and you don’t want to take the risk. That’s not believing – that’s gambling. I am not believing because I am gambling that He will be there and I don’t want to chose wrong. I truly expect to find Him there and hope I measure up. In my opinion you are the one gambling. If I die and there is no God I guess I will never know because if there is no God I will just fade away into the great white zephrum or wherever, I will just cese to exist. I would not even know I was dead. So athiest should be the bravest people on the planet because death would be nothing literally and figuratively to them.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh
(1) there are lots of different atheists as well as there are lots of different Christians, sure. They participate or don’t in rituals, sure…there’s comfort that needn’t be associated with belief. But there is a central belief in atheists: there is no god; as there is among people who say their Christians: Christ was the son of god who came to earth to save us from sin. To what measure every Christian believes in what the bible says, or how much they follow Christ’s teachings…that cannot be described. But both atheism and Christianity are based on a belief.
(2) Atheism isn’t based on objective facts, it is based on the absence of them. The most basic atheistic statement is that there probably aren’t gods, because there is no reason to suggest that they are. No religion is based on objective facts, but exists despite them. The problem is that you’re saying that you don’t need proof BECAUSE you have no proof. An absence of facts doesn’t suggest one thing or another…therefore, making a claim on what that absence mean is, essentially, ludicrous – and one claim as much as the other. “I have no proof about what created the universe, how it was created, why we’re here or where we’re going…but I believe god was involved with it all” should sound just as ludicrous or just as reasonable as “I have no proof about what created the universe, how it was created, why we’re here or where we’re going…but I believe no god was involved with any of it.”
(3) it is not faith because the burden of proof rests on the theist. The null hypothesis in every logical scenario is that there is nothing.
Again, no one is trying to prove the contrary – neither can be proven or disproven for exactly the same reason. The problem with discussing a null hypothesis is that the questions for which atheism takes one stand and “theists” take the other don’t have observable characteristics. What caused the universe to happen? We can trace it back so far, but once we get back to the cosmic eggs, all laws of physics break down. What’s the null hypothesis in a situation where there’s nothing to measure, and no means to measure it. What happens when we die? Same problem. Why are we here? Same problem. We can answer the how for some stuff…but whether there is a god behind the mysteries doesn’t need objective proof because it needs none. Atheism can’t say there should be nothing that happened to crack the cosmic egg – if there was no impulse, there’s no universe…but they do say “It wasn’t god…whatever it was.” Neither side needs proof to the other cause each are as plausible where there is nothing that is observable and no way to observe it. The scientific method cannot be applied to such phenomenon – and maybe one day it can be. But considering that we have nothing in our toolkit to say that it remotely could be, we cannot base it’s ability to do so on past success. We have never tried to scientifically determine the nature of the pre-universe material. We have no history of doing so. The laws of both are so different, it’s like saying, “I’m a great pianist, so I’m probably a bang-up swimmer. I’ve proven myself enough as a pianist in the past to think that.”

That’s what I mean when I say it’s all faith. No one has got to prove anything to the other…but if you’re going to tell me that the fallback is more sensibly saying there is no god, you should have some better or different evidence than the person saying there is.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob I did read the details, just not the entire thread. I may have written “post” when I should have written “thread”. I’d really like to blame the hour, but I do it all the time…

Um, maybe. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone who called themselves an atheist but believed in an afterlife, but I don’t think I’d argue if they did. But that may be because I don’t care – their saying they are an atheist doesn’t change my beliefs.

I AM AWESOME. That’s why you think that.

You seem to be using the broadest definition of faith and belief, while they have taken on a much narrower definition for every day, colloquial use that most others are using. So both of you are correct.

zophu's avatar

Concerning this.

@iamthemob That’s the prejudice I am referring to. Atheists don’t believe in “nothing” in place of deities, they just don’t believe in deities. Do you believe in my pet dragon, Melon? Melon does all these amazing tricks with fire and stuff and I love him so much. He’s the perfect pet and everyone should have a pet as good as him, or else their missing out on something intrinsic to life itself. Now, does the entire world actively believe in nothing in place of my dragon? Do you even believe in nothing in place of my dragon, or do you just believe that this dragon is a figment of my imagination? No, you must be an adraconis, a member of those in the sect of people who believe in the dragon-nothing instead of dragon-dragon. Even if you did believe that my dragon could be real, but you were uncertain, you would still be among the adraconis. But feel free to come up with another word for yourself since you’re not quite as bad as they are completely.

It seems absurd, what you’re saying. I come up with an imaginary dragon to express how absurd it seems. Try to understand what I’m saying. I’m being painfully sincere. The lack of belief does not constitute a belief. Is that really so hard to understand?, the concept is literally spelled out for you. No-belief does not equal belief.

I could disbelieve evolution and then (somewhat ironically) believe I am a member of the extinct bearsloth species and . . . that citizens of a distant planet democratically determine all occurrences in the universe. And yet I would still be a full-blown atheist. And most other people would be anti-anti-evolution (I wouldn’t believe in creationism either, we actually birthed ourselves from the lost souls of other-dimensional crystal butterflies). Perhaps every other person would be an abearslothist and almost everyone would be anti-Farvablonicaro-Xism. Would it be dogma to disbelieve these things? I don’t even really know if I’m actually a member of the bearsloth species seeing into the future through the perspective of a human.

My personal principles do not include atheism, it is only a byproduct.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

I’m not saying your gambling…I was stating that the someone, anyone, who decided they should believe in god because the risks were greater not to wouldn’t be fixing the problem. I am not saying anything about you…

That argument can’t really convince anyone is all I mean. You believe that you’re in a better position because you believe. Of course, that’s not WHY you believe. However, saying that is unconvincing to someone who believes there is no god. And after all, I think it would be a little petty, personally, of whoever was in charge to put us down here, give us no evidence that it was there, divide life into a corporeal and then non-corporeal part…and then make each person interview for that second part, and if they didn’t randomly find a way to believe in it, they get the ax.

That’s just mean.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

I would argue faith has taken on a more and more broad meaning colloquially. I do think it’s mostly attached to intangible things…but it’s a lot of different things. I have faith in myself, faith in your abilities, faith that everything will turn out fine…etc. I am concerned because there appears to be, especially in this thread it seems, a tendency to say that there is no faith basis to atheism because it is a belief in the opposite of what others believe because their position has not been proven.

I feel like this assumes an argument where there needn’t be one – and dangerously places atheists in a position of smug superiority. They demand proof, and say they needn’t offer any themselves. You have to show them why you’re right, and then they will say they’re wrong.

But this is wholly counterproductive. Atheism and theism come from exactly the same place, and they’ve chosen to assume opposing positions. Each side, however, is based on a faith that they’re right. Neither can prove the other wrong. Neither can show that they’re right. So why would it be the work of anyone believing in god to give their reasons for doing so, and the job of the atheist to listen if their reasons are good enough? By saying that atheism is not based on faith, on a belief of the unproven (which is faith), and at the same time trying to say that they’re not saying everyone else is wrong is contradictory. If it’s not based on faith…then you have something to show as to why you’re right.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I don’t think atheists are any more smugly superior than theists. Some (lots, really, just tons) people are smug, regardless of their beliefs. The burden of proof is often on the theist, because the burden of proof is on whoever is trying to convert the other, and many religions demand conversion of others, while because of the de-centralized nature of atheism, if an atheist tries to convert a theist to atheism, it’s of their own accord, not because they got marching orders. Also, I know that it’s VERY common for theists to try to convert atheists, so there’s often a feeling of “I’m tired, go away”. Really, I think it’s very comparable to a parent who has to explain for the 300th time to their child why they must brush their teeth every night – chances are, they’re not going into the whole thing after the first couple of times, and if the neighbor’s kid asks, even though the parent hasn’t explained it to this kid before, they aren’t going to launch into the whole spiel.

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu

If you don’t believe in “nothing” in the place of deities, and you don’t believe in deities, then you believe in something instead of deities, correct?

But you can’t give a description of what that something is, and can’t show me any evidence of what it is or why it’s there, right?

Again, this is the prejudice that I think is aimed at non-atheists. You produce these examples of ridiculous fancy, like the “flying spaghetti monster,” as part of the argument when the concept of what it is you believe is not the issue at hand. The examples you give don’t address the issue because they are things that, if they were tested in the real world, could be proven or disproven. I could attempt to meet your dragon. If for some reason that dragon was always sick, or for some reason couldn’t be produced, well, we’d just wait until it died or you died and it entered probate as part of your property. At some point, we’d have reasonable proof, if not objective absolute proof, that that thing didn’t exist. If no one could see it but you…we’d have proof by observation of others that it didn’t exist.

And whether or not you believe in evolution isn’t an issue. Again. It’s not. It was an example of one of the pieces of scientific evidence that some atheists have pointed to as proof that they’re right.

And again, you’re arguing not based on logic, but language. You can create hypothetical situations that show there’s a difference between belief and disbelief, true. But that applies generally, and the situation is unique. The existence of god cannot be proven or disproven by any means available or imaginable to us. The fact that the universe exists is baffling. We have no way to know what our consciousness means. We cannot know what happens to that consciousness by means conceivable after we’re dead. If it cannot be observed, or measured, or tested, one explanation is as good as another, all are beliefs, and so statements such as “there is no god” or “there is a god” are based on faith.

Again, if you don’t believe in nothing, and you don’t believe in god, but you do believe that something, just not anything that could be called god, is behind these things we cannot explain with reason or science, you still believe in something, and you believe it with no proof.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

It’s not commonly theists who try to convert athiests. I’d gather it’s people of a certain religion. Theists who believe in something they frame as god and not really much else, who have a loose understanding of their spirituality, have as few meetings and marching orders as atheists. And anyone of them attempting of conversion surely would be acting on their own accord.

But the fact that they attempt to convert you doesn’t mean that the atheist position isn’t based on exactly the same ability to assume a certain result from a lack of evidence. Athiests assume no…theists assume yes. But what I think is the wonderful thing about that approach is that, both sides understanding it, no one gets to speak from a position where they think they’re right.

The problem with an atheistic stance where it’s not a belief is that, from the atheist position, as shown by many posts here, you have some sort of onus or proof before they’ll take you seriously.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob Well, that’s it for me tonight. I’m going to go make love to my bed and show it that it is the only bed in my life, no matter what the mattress stains on my collar says or the lingering scent of a a different fabric softener suggest.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily

Ooooh, I’m gonna tell it. ;-)

But until I do sleep well.

zophu's avatar

@iamthemob

“It seems like atheism is as dogmatic and faith-based as any religion . . . so, why is atheism not a belief system, a religion even, like any other?”

No, atheism is not dogmatic, nor is it a belief-system or religion. It’s a lack of belief, which may only be brought to articulation as a belief. (You know, since we’re holding use of language to be independent of logic.) But it does not require the belief to be an atheist. That is what I am defending, not my belief that no gods exist, but that the raw lack of belief is what defines an atheist.

If I had no concept of deity, than I would be an atheist and not have to believe I don’t believe any thing to pull it off. So, I don’t have a concept of deity. It’s a word, it brings to mind a cartoonish image of Zeus or some other over-sized old man, but I don’t believe that is what people who believe in deities generally see. I don’t put anything in it’s place. Others’ very beliefs concerning deity are mysteries to me, let alone what an actual deity might be. I don’t have to put anything in the place of deity to not believe in it. It is intrinsically-irrelevant in my mind, (beyond a basic social context.)

Here’s a more natural example of what I’m talking about. It’s language based, but maybe you’ll consider it valid, since it’s an entire language.

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu

So…if you don’t have a belief that any one single concept of god is correct, but you believe in god (without explaining what that is), you are an athiest?

To say “I am this” requires that it has meaning…if you can’t really delineate what an atheist is, then it’s not really anything at all. Saying that a lack of belief is the common trait of atheists is not clear, because everyone has a lack of belief in something.

I have absolutely no concept of what god would be, because I believe that anything that is god is beyond understanding as I am now. Am I an atheist according to your argument.

I would ask also…what do you attribute or believe is the cause of the beginning of the universe?

zophu's avatar

@iamthemob You are only an atheist within the context of theism. And I have no idea about how existence began. I’m not motivated to go far with the concept since it seems like “beginning” itself exists within existence and therefore can not have much influence over it, especially not definitive influence.

ucme's avatar

….& boom goes the dynamite!! Oh & i’m going to have to say no, they’re almost certainly not.

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu

So it can’t be god that was the cause of the universe, but it could be either something…or nothing changed to cause the universe to begin?

ratboy's avatar

@Jeruba, I’ve consulted with the Elders concerning your statement. I regretfully inform you that you are hereby excommunicated for heresy. I suggest you become a Unitarian.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob You certainly address every point, and for that I respect you, but I think you are making a few key errors here.
Atheism dose not necessarily entail a positive assertion that there are no gods. Infants are all atheists by default, because no one has suggested to them that there may be gods. They don’t believe in gods, but don’t positively assert that there are no gods.

I apologise if I have been slipping into jargon that suggests this is a debate between theism and science. There is a lot more to atheism than science, but I am a scientist (of sorts), so I tend to approach things from a scientific point of view if possible.

I think your big mistake here is to assume that various hypotheses for unknown phenomena have equal probabilities. I don’t know why I just heard a bang outside my window, but it is more likely to be the neighbour’s car backfiring than it is to be a methamphetamine lab exploding. We cannot conclusively prove whether or not there are gods, but we are aware of certain pieces of evidence and logic that diminish the possibility of gods existing, and these skew the associated probabilities accordingly.

We know there are infinite combinations of gods and demi-gods, while there are relatively few orders of the universe that would not include any deities. If, ignoring evidence for the moment, we assume that the gods/no gods issue is a dichotomous one, then it follows that the probability of a particular pantheon or god existing is 0.5/n, where ‘n’ is the number of possible pantheons and deities. Assuming humans have thought of them all, that number is in the tens of thousands. It is probably more. In contrast, the probability of there being no gods is potentially 0.5/1, or half. Therefore from simple probability, with no evidence whatsoever, atheism is more likely than any specific religion by about one to 5,000. Considering that, for example, modern Christians disagree with medieval and ancient Christians on the nature of God (whether he supports slavery, massacres, beating of wayward children, subservience of women etc.), the probability of one particular interpretation being true shrinks even further.

You also mistook my statements on the null hypothesis for nihilism. Atheism is not nihilism, except in the context of the existence of a deity or not. There was an impulse at the start of the Big Bang, but it probably wasn’t a deity with jumper leads. I cannot prove it, obviously, but a lack of information is no reason to invent stories to fill the gaps.

zophu's avatar

@iamthemob I mean, if you have any sort of belief in a god, you can call yourself a theist. I could call myself a theist without altering my spiritual views by much, I would just need to label something as god. It would need to be complex and a little abstract to justify it to myself at all, but I could do it. But, to do it, I would have to accept what I intuitively and objectively see as presumptions others hold about the necessity of an existence of god. As principled as that is, I feel the reason I hold it is because to label something grand as anything is to limit its grandness, including perception. So, I could take my grandest perception, and use no word for it but the grandest word “God,” and that would be disrespectful, my intuition tells me. I would be respecting the conception, before the perception. It seems backwards to me.

There’s not context for me to even begin considering the beginning or cause of existence since beginnings and causes are a part of existence. It’s an absurd subject. It would be like me asking which one of my organs gave birth to me, it’s very strange. This also seems backwards.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

I think I’m gonna go backwards –
(1) I didn’t mistake null hypothesis for nihilism. I would ask how a null hypothesis can be applied to a phenomenon or phenomena generally that has or have no observable characteristics to measure. You used the following example: For example, if you get statistical fluctuation in the weather, the null hypothesis is to assume measurement errors. Once that has been excluded, you can look for trends. The null hypothesis with regard to the supernatural is that it doesn’t exist, and since that assumption has never been conclusively refuted there is no reason to look further. But that assumes that you can determine the fluctuations – that it was observable at point or time A through, at regular intervals until, or later at point or time B, that the observations were of the same or similar nature, that there were tools to measure the myriad variables involved in the phenomenon, and that the measurement yields comprehensible data which can be converted into some representation of the change, or lack thereof. We can’t conceive of how to observe, the time frame necessary, the tools needed, or the nature of the data that could be collected if we were to examine the universe before the big bang through the big bang. The same goes to “supernatural phenomenon” (although that assumes that it is not a natural phenomenon that we simply do not have the ability to perceive). If you can explain how a hypothesis that you’ve explained through it’s relationship to observable phenomenon can provide a rational assessment about the likelihood of the existence of something that we don’t know if we’re observing, can’t measure, and don’t have a history of behavior for…please do.

(2) I don’t understand how you attributed the values in your equation. You attribute n to the number of possible conceivable gods. And you attribute there is a possibility that there is no god to one. Why? If it’s dichotomy, either there is either a god or god-like force, why does the nature of what it is create a multiplicity of equally likely possibilities? Why is it not simply that there is a universe where there is a god or god-like force and one where there is not one. Both get one. Alternatively, why is there only one kind of universe where there is no god? The claim seems to be that there are many different varieties of athiesm that don’t share any specific beliefs, just a non-belief of the theist policies. Wouldn’t each of these be as likely? It seems you want to say “athiests are non-believers in a variety of ways and don’t believe in any one thing” as well as “athiests believe that there is one kind of universe.” Aren’t those mutually exclusive?

(3) This is just the intro to your equation, I’m sure, but I want to respond for fun…and relate it to your claim re: the null hypothesis. You can attribute likelihood of a car back firing or the meth lab exploding because you’ve had experience enough, in your life and in your home, to know that cars pass by often and sometimes backfire, but rarely do meth labs explode in your neighborhood. To claim that analogy relates to the question of the existence of God is to claim that we have a history of observing the existence of god in the same manner.

THANK YOU so much for responding and clarifying your arguments! Greatly appreciated and I hope you continue a bit!

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu

You said: There’s not context for me to even begin considering the beginning or cause of existence since beginnings and causes are a part of existence. It’s an absurd subject. It would be like me asking which one of my organs gave birth to me, it’s very strange. This also seems backwards.

But we have strong theoretical evidence that allows us to trace back in time to a point where all the matter of the universe was condensed, and at some point there was a rapid expansion, and cooling, of the atoms which began to settle into more complex atoms, and then molecules, and then form greater masses of matter.

Our rules break down before that point, and that’s where we have no context, true. But it was different when it started expanding and cooling than it was before. And how long was it that way before, we don’t know. Beginnings and causes are part of existence as we understand it now, but not in that period before. How is it absurd to ask what happened to make the thing which had been not the universe to change and allow the universe to function as it is now?

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu

Why do you have to incorporate others’ notions of what god is into your belief that there’s something that you cannot accurately describe, but feel like is there as the guiding force, or reason, or steward of creation? Why do you see yourself forced to marginalize god in order to claim that it exists you others?

If it’s all a case of just not believing in what everyone’s said so far, and you just don’t see the need in thinking of things that are theoretically perceptually and cognitively inconceivable, or question the big “Whys” unless it’s a point where there’s new evidence showing one thing or another conclusively…how can you be part of the theoretical debate? That leaves only discussions regarding (admittedly fascinating) physical discoveries.

zophu's avatar

@iamthemob I can have theories, but I don’t think I should hold them as beliefs when I don’t have to, when I can help it. And I feel the same way about other people. What would naturally be the passion of a few eccentrics is the obsession of hundreds of millions apparently due to social conditioning, specifically the induced need for escape and the solace of encouraged absolute belief. I’ve got stake in the theoretical debates, like everyone else does.

iamthemob's avatar

@zophu
Sure, you can have theories. But I don’t think you can recast a belief about the nature of god or a divine force as a theory. Theory implies the ability to test the theory and by observable results obtain an accurate answer as to the correct answer.

And when you say “What would naturally be the passion of a few eccentrics,” what are you talking about?

Coloma's avatar

Theories, concepts and beleifs based on heresay all miss the mark.

It is in ones experience of ‘God’, the universe, spiritual connection that one finds their own truth and universal truth as well.

This is why the rift between those whom have never had experience cannot fathom those that have had direct experience with the mystical.

To find one must seek, the groceries do not deliver themselves, if you want pie you must go in search of pie. The same applies to every experience, one either has it, or one does not, and words are not the expereince and can never be so. They are only pointers.

I could spend all day explaining the taste of chocolate to a person who has never experienced the taste of chocolate and while they may have a concept of certain descriptive words, such as ‘sweet’, they still, without actually experiencing the chocolate, will be unable to grasp the full experience of the totality of chocolate.

This is why any attempts to express the experience of ‘God’, a higher power is an exercise in futility. One has to WANT to have the experience, and as always, when desire surpasses stubborn resistance, be it in any life arena, the mind and soul is prepped, opened, to experience what it most desires.

When the student is ready the teacher appears.

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

That sounds dangerously close to testifying…are you saying that there can’t be a reason-based discussion of the existence of god? I think that precludes a lot of productive dialogue.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

I am saying, that of course, discussion can be discussed. lol

But..as with anything, without direct experience, discussion can only go just so far. Discussion is merely words, not the direct experience of something itself.

What I am saying is, we all know if someone wants something badly enough they find a way to get it. This is a truth. One can determine anothers seriousness in achieving a certain something by their willingness to take action in the direction of the goal expressed.

I can discuss childbirth with a pregant woman but until she has the direct expereince of birth the words are merely words, empty of direct experience.

iamthemob's avatar

Sure…but the discussion can cover everything until the point of “I believe in god because I feel god inside me” or a more specific description.

I would like to think that no one is arguing one side of the issue or the other…but we can get at some of the assumptions that people make about systems of religions in the discussion. No one’s going to feel the holy spirit here (lord, not after this never-ending thread).

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

Agreed, just tossing another bone to the pack.

Just saying that one must have an experience to speak rationally of something.

There is the concept of ‘God’ and there is the experience of ‘God’...apples & oranges.

Without experience discussion remains one dimensional whether one is discussing chocolate, Ferrari’s or God. lol

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

I’ve never experienced death. Can I not speak rationally about it?

Coloma's avatar

@jamthemob

No, you cannot.

You can see that death appears to mean a cessation of living.
No more living body, no movement, no engagement.
But without the experience of death you cannot know the truth of death, or discuss death itself, only the concept.

Bottom line we know no-thing for certain, but, I have had far too many EXPERIENCES that defy logic and while some could be rationalized away in a logical manner, what cannot be rationalized is the perfect TIMING, contingent, no doubt, on my receptivity.

I have no doubt that when one is properly aligned in mind and heart and spirit that one attracts the events and energies needed in the moment.

Thats all, nothing else for me to contribute. :-)

JustmeAman's avatar

I have experienced death and was brought back. I know there is a life after this one from personal experience though it convinces me alone, it will not convince another. We are what we are and we question things as it should be. Until a person actually experiences things for himself he will not truly believe and cannot say for sure. We can all have faith in many things and rightly so but faith is relative to our personal experiences and where and how we are brought up. For instance if you were born in an Islamic nation the chances of you having beliefs in that envoirnment would be strong you would take on the Islamic belief system. It is not always the case but it is the majority. I think most will find that through our own personal experiences comes our greatest convictions though personal experiences also have to do with the enviornment one lives in. I do believe in a higher being or beings but what does that mean? I think mankind has been helped along its progression from these higher beings. Personal experiences again tell me that.

So in response NO the atheist is not deceiving themselfs they are doing what we all do based on what they have experienced in life and what they can accept and have faith in.

iamthemob's avatar

But you claim they have faith…faith is a belief without proof. Many atheists tend to say they do not have a belief, but they just don’t believe what others do…which seems to me is coming from much the same place as a belief…

zannajune's avatar

I don’t have time to read through the 100+ answers so I don’t know if something similar has been said.

I consider myself to be agnostic. I don’t feel I can believe or not believe in a God because I have no proof either way. I feel that if you claim to know either way, then you are claiming that you know all about the universe which you clearly do not. Athiests don’t know any better than Christians do.

iamthemob's avatar

@zannajune

It seems the atheists would claim your an atheist, if that’s what you’re beliefs are.

zannajune's avatar

@iamthemob I was under the impression athiests claimed to believe there is no God. I claim to not know either way. Maybe I don’t understand what an athiest is.

JustmeAman's avatar

Faith is just a word and really has meaning only to those who use it. I think and believe we all have faith in some things. Faith in a person and therefore we tell that person our personal most intimate experiences and you believe that person will keep that sacred to themselves and you trust that is what I would call faith.

iamthemob's avatar

Atheist’s claim that they don’t believe in god, which is not a belief in some of their opinions.

But that’s kind of the debate in the other hundred posts. :-) (not scolding, of course – I just can’t really rehash it all here…let’s say that I think that it constitutes a belief that’s shared in the group…many disagree.)

Neutral's avatar

I didn’t read all the reply’s, but I don’t understand something. God is the unknown. How can anyone say anything about the unknown when the unknown is unknowable?

The only rational choice here is an agnostic, which the way I understand it, holds by what I just said.

If the atheist claims that agnostic is one in the same as the atheist, then why is there a separation between the two terms?

iamthemob's avatar

@Neutral

Yeah..I think the definitions don’t really seem to define in that case.

zophu's avatar

‘And when you say “What would naturally be the passion of a few eccentrics,” what are you talking about?’

I mean to say that “theoretical debates” are not generally what cause people to be theists. Generally, the idea is drilled into people’s heads when they are children. And, generally, when even an adult seeks spirituality in their community, it wont be theoretical debates that they find first—it will be theism. If debated theory was all that caused people to be theists through genuine inspiration, there would be a whole lot less. It’s sickening to me how people seem to assume the belief in a god or gods is somehow innate to all human cultures. It’s seemingly innate to every culture with vast class separation, but not necessarily to cultures where rulers don’t benefit from population’s spiritual sense of servitude. Theism, in itself, is not a problem as long as the belief is come to creatively. I don’t think the only right way is to not believe in god but I’m opposed to the hollow reasons people generally use when encouraging the belief, actively or passively.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob The null hypothesis can be applied to any factual claim. The existence or lack thereof of deities is a factual claim whether it can be measured or inferred or not. It is not a philosophical claim until you start exploring the implications of each potentially factual scenario. The proposed existence of gods is the same as any other unfalsifiable claim about reality, in that there is no reason to accept it until there is evidence to say that there is.

Have you ever noticed that religion seems to evolve at the exact rate required to stay one step ahead of implosion? The Pope accepted evolution just in time, but over one hundred years after it gained prominence in secular circles. The Anglican Church agreed to ordain gay priests just in time, but a few decades after homosexuality was decriminalised and anti-discrimination laws were drafted. The early Christian church adopted pagan rituals and started worshipping on Sunday to stay ahead of Roman challengers. That makes it an unfalsifiable, untestable set of beliefs, because every time it is challenged it evolves to stay ahead.

My overly simplistic probability was largely referring to the fact that many religious descriptions of gods are mutually exclusive. Jesus can’t coexist with Athena, and Odin can’t contend with Cronus. If you are going to hypothesise the existence of deities, you must specify which one(s), and therefore you must further limit your probability of being correct. I said atheism restricts the number of possible universes because as far as I know all atheists look to science for answers in the physical realm. The spectrum of atheistic beliefs are philosophical and relate to people, not the structure of the universe and its causative forces.

Coloma's avatar

@JustmeAman

I had thought of bringing up NDE but figured it most likely would go down the catch all path of brain misfire. I appreciate your sharing and courage to bring up your EXPERIENCE. :-)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central What I don’t get is why people think that atheism is automatically aligned with science as it’s ‘faith’ – science, like religion, is just another subject – you can be religious and understand science and you can be an atheist and have no clue about biology or what have you. As to the conversation when I die, I can tell you with complete confidence that I will not come out of it a loser – the way I live my life is enough for any deity to understand me and if it is a deity that cares for whether or not I believed in it over how I treated others, I want to be as far away from it as possible….as in life, so in death.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob Oh I see – so you just used inflammatory language (atheists kidding themselves, getting beliefs out of thin air, etc.) for what purpose, exactly?

Coloma's avatar

I don’t believe in an all punishing christian god, but I do believe in wisdom when I hear it, feel it, whether Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, or the Dalai lama.

Most people believe that there have been UFO sightings and even more intense experiences of this nature. Many report NDE and both of these situations are well documented by ‘science.’.

Many believe in paranormal activity and there are plenty of unexplainable documentations of such encounters and phenomena.

If one is open to all of these then one must be open to the potentiality of a ‘spiritual’ connection.

If anyone gives even a modicum of credibility towards this phenomena, they must be able to, at the very least, make some space for the mystical and divine as well.

Has to be.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Coloma What if you don’t give a shred of credibility to any of these?

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

But don’t the parameters of the null hypothesis have to be refined accurately in order to make it useful? If so, it requires relevant measurements…which we cannot have.

Also, you assume that God can be factually proven. I don’t. I think it can’t be, in fact. So you seem to be applying the tools you want from science in a realm that they are unsuitable to use.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

Inflammatory language as an attention grabber – but it was also me being honest to myself.

If you incorporate uncertainty into the atheistic concept…then why posit it as a “not belief” instead of a “undecided” vote, and say you see both sides of the issue?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob Every god I am aware of, with the exception of the deist god, has some sort of interaction with humanity. Therefore if every human activity were to be documented and a probable cause identified, the existence of gods may be inferred to bridge the gaps. However we know too little to do this, and it is too early in human development to jump to conclusions like that.

The null hypothesis is not dependent on measurements. All you need is a phenomenon to investigate and an alternative hypothesis, and the null hypothesis becomes evident.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

Alright – so how do you investigate the phenomenon in this instance?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob I think you have misunderstood me. There may or may not be ways to investigate, but until there is evidence to the contrary there is no reason to reject the null hypothesis.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Some mutations are good. Others are bad (diseases, defects, unpleasant traits). Yah, God would add good traits, but why would he add bad traits? Why would we need orthodontia, for example? Deaf and blind people? What was God’s plan for them? My ingrown toenail? Childbirth? That’s all reason to me why there isn’t a God, mutations can be chance, but would God risk chance?

And if your answer is “God tried but there were some errors” I suggest you consider joining the Grand Atheist Faith.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir What I don’t get is why people think that atheism is automatically aligned with science as it’s ‘faith’ – science, like religion, is just another subject – you can be religious and understand science and you can be an atheist and have no clue about biology or what have you. I don’t think I commented on if atheism was a belief equal to a religious belief or not. To me it is really a non-starter. I do believe no mater what, if you are into it you have to believe in it, or else why do it? Whether or not atheist are aligned with science, mythology, gambling of scratchers it makes little difference to me.

As to the conversation when I die, I can tell you with complete confidence that I will not come out of it a loser – the way I live my life is enough for any deity to understand me… Isn’t part of the point of atheism is no belief in a deity that will judge you or an afterlife? If there really is no afterlife the moment one’s brain is dead they will just be nothing. They will not even know they are dead. So, why worry about death or anything from that point on? It would be like trying to worry about where the wind started and where it stopped. Should I die and the Bible al had been some big hoax it still would have served as a blue print on how to life a life with les conflict and trouble. even if I will never know it because upon death I will just disappear into the great white zephum, Never, neverland or wherever. But if there is an afterlife, which I believe I don’t want to stand before the Creator and have to explain why I did not believe in him. I don’t do that because I just want to escape damnation or whatever I also want to have eternal life in a place much better than here.

Al the fuss over which is which when your heart stops you will know, or not if there is no God, there will just be nothing. What one believes they should just go with it then and not care what anyone says. ;-)

I love ya no matter what <hugs>

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

I’m not sure I am. Let’s assume, though, that until there is evidence to the contrary, there is no reason to reject the null. Alright – but is there reason to accept it? Tell me if I’m not understanding the null hypothesis, but it seems that it is useful only when it can be tested. Unless there are some statistical calculations that can be made, or phenomenon that can be observed, it is not any sort of hypothesis because we are not applying any testing to it.

You seem to be privileging the negative conclusion by using a model that is only useful when there are observable, measurable phenomenon. When has the null hypothesis (or hypotheses in general) been applied to situations where there is no real concept of what the measurable phenomenon is?

iamthemob's avatar

@sliceswiththings

You’re assuming that these things are objectively negative because you think they’re negative. This is particularly insulting when you say that deaf or blind people are mistakes. But regardless, you’re claiming that there is no benefit overall to these participants…that’s a little short sighted.

And that’s the problem with these arguments – you’re saying that bad stuff happens…so there is no God. That’s not evidence. That’s assuming god doesn’t want this to happen, or it’s not part of a plan. It’s also assuming the interactive nature of God. It’s not evidence to say “I don’t think that God would let this happen, so there can’t be a God.” It’s an opinion and belief…and therefore no more or less valid than the contrary.

ETpro's avatar

@zophu What spirituality attached to agnosticism? I am open to the possibility of spirituality. It may even be senior to materiality and the modus operandi behind this Universe. But I have no belief system built around that. As much as everyone seems determined to redefine the word to put this square peg in a familiar round hole, I mean agnosticism exactly as Merriam Webster defines it.

@FireMadeFlesh I completely disagree that the Universe can be better explained by current cosmology and physics than by various other means. None explain its existence based on anything beyond idle speculation. We cannot see beyond the event horizon of the first singularity and into its origin. We haven’t yet established the foggiest idea why there may have been a Big Bang.

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro

Spot on my friend…the assumption that evidence that has allowed us the how of the universe is applicable at all to the why of it is where I think I end up banging my head up against the wall.

I now apologize for the banging comment. :-)

Coloma's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

Then you don’t.

I don’t believe there is an explanation for everything, there is plenty of unexplainable phenomenon.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob See my sniper example above. We privilege the negative all the time, when there is no convincing reason to suggest otherwise.

@ETpro You may be interested in this video and its sequel. We have some ideas about how and why the Big Bang occurred; we just can’t verify them yet. We’re doing a hell of a lot better than and then a miracle occurs.

Jabe73's avatar

@daytonamisticrip I think this question broke the record http://www.fluther.com/92053/what-is-god/.

@TheOnlyNeffie Your assumption that only atheists are the only ones likely to cherish what happens with this life and planet shows how little you really know about different religious/spiritual beliefs. Your statement is most likely true with the Abrahamic religions, especially because they emphasise faith in their particular religious belief over good works but many eastern religions, Wicca, Spiritualism and others believe in a system of “karma” where everything you do has a boomerang effect. If the bad you do does not come back at you this life than it most likely will during the afterlife or even in a future incarnation. In fact most eastern/spiritual religions emphasise taking care of the earth, enviroment and unconditional love of fellow man. Almost on par with secular humanism. These so called “religions” do not state they are the only way to god like Christianity and Islam do. Wiccans have a great saying, “whatever good or bad you do will come back to you threefold”. With spiritual beliefs you attain a better plane of existance in the afterlife by good actions, not faith. Higher spiritual vibrations put you on a higher vibrating afterlife sphere where conditions are better. Spirits with lower vibrations go to lower planes of existance (hell is real) but not eternal. Many spiritual religions have just as much motivation to cherish life (in fact more so) to try to do good both for people and the enviroment.

ETpro's avatar

@Coloma I wouldn’t go as far as saying there are plenty of unexplainable phenomena. We have no way of knowing that is true. Rather, there are plenty of unexplained phenomena. Many we have yet to even observe.

@FireMadeFlesh Thanks for the link. Take a look at this question, which covers Dr. Stephen Hawking’s new book discussing how our understanding of the Big Bang is increasing.

JustmeAman's avatar

This world was organized by Universal Law and those laws govern this planet. God has nothing to do with the functioning of this planet. Do you think that there is a being that controls and maintains all the trillions of galaxies, planets, orbits, moons, stars or the Universe? The entire Universe was organized as it always has been and the laws of each galaxie, planet or anything that exists are governed by those principles and laws. We are a physical planet existing in the 3rd dimension and are governed by the laws and principles of that existance.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

Again again again (sorry, but I have to), the sniper explanation is not applicable because regardless of whether there is a convincing reason there is a possible method of determining the truth.

I’m asking you to tell me if it can be used in a situation where there is no way to measure anything or provide data about it. If there is no evidence either way, in essence – evidence being something that demonstrates a causal link to something else in a manner proving a theory.

If you can’t, than it’s not useful. Or, you need to show how it’s useful even so. All explanations so far have involved observable phenomenon with a observable result.

iamthemob's avatar

@JustmeAman

Your universal law statement doesn’t provide support in either way. It’s conclusory…stating “God has nothing to do with the functioning of this planet…Do you think that there is a being that controls all the trillions of galaxies…” is stating “There is no god because it’s impossible for there to be such a thing as a god.”

If the world is governed by the universal law, and it governs all things, what caused there to be a universal law? Did something at all?

If something did cause it, show me evidence. If it always was that way, show me evidence. If it was something but not god, show me evidence.

If you can’t show me evidence, than your argument is as likely as any other. If it’s not based on evidence causally linked to your argument, it is based on belief.

Therefore, you ascribe to a belief system.

Q.E.D.

JustmeAman's avatar

@iamthemob
You are correct I do have a belief system and it comes from my own personal experience. What I say is just what I say and nothing more. I’m not trying to convince or argue any point at all. Have you seen the movie Contact? That movie is closer to how I believe than just about anything mankind has come up with. Do I believe in a God yes but not as many perceive him to be. He is a higher being which we are capable of becoming through long experience and life. How can anyone give evidence to these questions? Answer they simply can’t in either direction so it leaves it up to the individual to find their own answers and I shared a little of mine. That is all I am about and not in the market to convince or change anyone else.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob Let me level with you: I understand what you’re talking about..especially about the notion of uncertainty…sure, god can exist like many other unknown things can…it is simply an aspect of my atheism that it doesn’t matter to me where it does or doesn’t..you say that’s not real atheism because that, to you, is about a certainty that there are no gods..you can then consider my atheism to be more about a complete disregard for religion as an institution (that’s completely culturally and socially constructed around the notion of an entity that may or may not exist and which I don’t think exists in the way we’ve described it, if at all), primarily and about considering the topic of god’s existence irrelevant to my life as a secondary, less important, aspect.

iamthemob's avatar

@JustmeAman

THANK YOU, JustmeAman! If you look above, you’ll see that many believe that evidence runs the way of “no god” without saying how. I appreciate your comment.

However, you put forward: _Do you think that there is a being that controls and maintains all the trillions of galaxies, planets, orbits, moons, stars or the Universe? _ If purely rhetorical, just note that it sounds argumentative when placed in context of you saying “This is what the world is” as if you’re saying “This is the answer…can you even think any differently?” It sounds like an argument even if it’s not intended to be.

JustmeAman's avatar

@iamthemob

Sorry for making you feel that way. The reality of my world is as I stated. I also believe that the God of this world is also restrained by those Universal Laws of which I speak.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

I’ll admit that I was working under the assumption that atheists believed there was no god. People who are uncertain and looking around at what’s going on for clues I appreciate as well…I would personally think it’s dangerous to claim to be atheists (regardless of the appropriateness of it) unless there is some way to make atheism as ALL about that, and kick out the “no god” folks, because they are very, very different positions.

Thanks for clarifying…your contribution was enlightening on that front. If you could know help me try to figure out how those who adhere to the belief in “no god” (let’s say “strict atheists”) are not submitting to a belief I’d be infinitely grateful…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob They are submitting to a belief, in its general sense, but not to a faith, in its strict sense. Everything we think can be called a belief, can it not?

iamthemob's avatar

It can. But this most obviously so – I don’t think there’s a need for a general sense. There are beliefs that pretty much are inseparable from anything we consider knowledge (e.g., I believe there are atoms because I have been told they are so…but I can probably figure out how to prove their there with enough study and they are incorporated into my reality in the same way as everyone else’s). The belief in “no god” is the purest form of belief – that without any objective evidence supporting or finding against.

But why can it not be described as a faith? What is the strict sense of faith? And why is the strict sense the most applicable?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob I’d think the ‘purest for of belief’ would be one that has most facts associated with it, not the other way around. Anyway, you have to look at it this way: the concept of god is no different (to this atheist, anyway) than the concept of unicors or centaurs (other creatures humans created but that there is no evidence for or against), whatsoever. It’s just that some people (believers) seem to think this entity is somehow more important and inherent to talk about when it isn’t – when believers feel this way, they have a faith that this entity somehow is more probable than any other and that’s why it can be ascribed a faith. When non-believers disregard god as much as they disregard Harry Potter being real (though I haven’t given up hope), they don’t ascribe any special meaning to god and therefore don’t have a faith or lack of faith surrounding this one random entity because it’s just one out of millions they disregard. As I’ve said before, I don’t go around discussing this unless someone assumes I’m a believer and it has a bearing on the conversation. The only reason my atheism matters is because theism does.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

HA! I think you’re right about my definition of belief! Things generally deserve belief.

However, this sort of goes against your argument about faith I think. Your examples regarding unicorns or centaurs doesn’t really work because we have the ability to, if we took all our resources, to hunt through the world to find if they existed in the manner conceived. You’re looking for something that we believe as perceivable in a finite space.

God, however, is not defined in such a narrow manner. You are trying to determine if there’s something that could exist as anything on any plane at any time anywhere in the universe or is always-already everything. Therefore, the concept of god is VERY different than the unicorn from a belief standpoint. The non-belief of the unicorn is understandable because the belief can be shown as so unlikely.

However, a belief there is no god cannot be supported in such a manner. Therefore, oddly, I think that you’ve helped show that strict atheists have FAITH in their belief!

Blondesjon's avatar

didn’t clinton do all of this when he was arguing what the definition of “is” is?

iamthemob's avatar

@Blondesjon

Clever. :-)

Are you saying there is no benefit, though, in nailing down terminology in this context? Or did you think there was in the former…?

jerv's avatar

tl; dr

I have always been curious as to why Agnostics (like me) get lumped in with Atheists. I was recently called a “jerkwad” because I responded to the question, “Do you believe in God?”, by saying, “Define God.”

I agree that actively disbelieving something makes you as delusional as those who actively believe, but in our society where shades of grey or third-party thoughts are considered a sign of weakness and/or mental deficiency, I think Agnostics have it a bit rougher than zealots on either side. Is it wrong to believe that humanity has limits to what it is able to comprehend and that the nature of the divine is one of those things, therefore any argument either for or against [insert deity of choice] is just a lot of pointless dick-waving?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob I already stated above that I disagree with you on that point, and there is evidence that can be used to increase or decrease the probability we assign to the god hypothesis. In any case, a god or pantheon that cannot be measured or inferred has nothing to do with humanity, and is ultimately superfluous.
It seems you are defending agnosticism, if you say there cannot be evidence either way – why then was this question aimed at atheists instead of theists?

@jerv “Jerkwad”? Seriously? My, they come up with some ridiculous insults…..

jerv's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I guess he was too clean-mouthed to use my actual title of “asshole”.

As for aiming this question at Atheists rather than Theists, I can think of a couple of reasons.
1) We all know (or at least think we know) how that would end.
2) This question has been aimed at Theists for a long time, and @iamthemob decided to break up the monotony a little.
I may be wrong on either/both of those, but those are my thoughts.

Blondesjon's avatar

@jerv . . . i’d have called you a jervwad . . .

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@jerv Fair enough. Maybe it is time we were put on the back foot.

@Blondesjon Good one!

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

You have not shown any evidence that makes the “no god” model better than the “god” model. Evidence that does not support one theory or another is not evidence.

If you can show me a causal link between any piece of information that science has revealed that shows that a universe with no god is more likely than one with a god, and how it shows that, I swear to the universe at large I will submit. I swear.

The null hypothesis as I said has only been used in experiments calling for measurement. Stating that we privilege the negative all the time outside the world of the physical, the metaphysical, is strange considering that so many have answered the “why are we here” with an answer involving god.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

The question can easily be aimed at theists who understand that their belief is based on the absence of evidence, and therefore faith. Those who say evidence exists on an objective level for their position are missing the point as much as atheists who say so…the question is directed specifically at those atheists who claim that they don’t have a belief because there’s evidence that supports their position more than the contrary one.

Those that say so are ignoring that the evidence cited doesn’t mandate their interpretation, and doesn’t suggest anything at all regarding the existence of a god of some sort. Those are the ones who I wonder about, who can’t seem to admit that they have a belief based on a lack of any supportive evidence that they adhere to faithfully nonetheless.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob Before any evidence either way can be given, you need to define which god you are talking about. As I said above, religion has a history of evolving one step ahead of the evidence and intellectual zeitgeist, so the god hypothesis cannot be approached as a whole concept.

“The question is directed specifically at those atheists who claim that they don’t have a belief because there’s evidence that supports their position more than the contrary one.”
I also said more than once that I am not a part of that group, because my objections are philosophical rather than scientific. I readily acknowledge that science is a tool that can be used with equal potency by either side.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, there are eight meanings of belief. Meanings 1–3 are about having faith (trust, confidence) in a person, concept, statement or doctrine. Meanings 4–8 refer to giving credence to an idea, or to be of a certain opinion. In the sense of having confidence in a person, concept or doctrine, there must be an antonym in which there is a lack of confidence. In the context of spiritual belief, that antonym is atheism. Atheists do not have confidence in the god hypothesis, and in that sense it is not a belief.
In terms of giving credence to an idea, or to be of a certain opinion, atheists do in a manner of speaking have beliefs. While we do not give credence to the idea of gods, by default we must give credence to various materialistic theories of reality. We are of an opinion that the universe does not involve the concept of gods. I think this is what you have been getting at, but I have been operating under the first few definitions.

So yes, as a result of my atheism I must have a belief in a materialistic universe, and to be an atheist I must believe that this is more likely than the god hypothesis. However I still cannot accept that this makes atheism in itself a belief. It implicates other beliefs that must also be held, but in my opinion these do not come under the umbrella of the term “atheism”.

iamthemob's avatar

Before any evidence either way can be given, you need to define which god you are talking about. As I said above, religion has a history of evolving one step ahead of the evidence and intellectual zeitgeist, so the god hypothesis cannot be approached as a whole concept

Why are you still talking about religion? Side one – there is a god behind the unexplained and potentially unexplainable mysteries of the universe. Side two – no there’s not.

Both equally acceptable. What’s the difference…no religion involved, at all.

The null hypothesis can be applied to any factual claim.

This is something you stated earlier. Neither of those can be stated as a factual claim. Facts can be proven in a generally acceptable manner. Therefore, the null hypothesis can’t be applied, so you can’t bring it in here. Therefore, it seems that an argument that we generally accept the negative, using this as support, falls short.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, there are eight meanings of belief. Meanings 1–3 are about having faith (trust, confidence) in a person, concept, statement or doctrine. Meanings 4–8 refer to giving credence to an idea, or to be of a certain opinion. In the sense of having confidence in a person, concept or doctrine, there must be an antonym in which there is a lack of confidence. In the context of spiritual belief, that antonym is atheism. Atheists do not have confidence in the god hypothesis, and in that sense it is not a belief

Okay. By that logic, there are those who believe there is no god. Therefore, there is the antithesis of those who lack confidence in the idea that there is no god. In the context of spiritual belief, that antonym is theism. Theists do not have confidence in the godless hypothesis, and in that sense it is not a belief.

While we do not give credence to the idea of gods, by default we must give credence to various materialistic theories of reality.

In this case, you’ve essentially stated that you believe in a state of the universe where the fact of a god becomes unlikely, and therefore the existence of god is unlikely. This is saying “I will say that it is unlikely for dogs to exist in New York. Therefore, it is likely that dogs do not exist in New York.” By saying that your concept of the universe is one that makes god unlikely doesn’t mean that you get to say because of that you don’t have to say that therefore your assumption god doesn’t exist isn’t a belief. You’re attempting to shift your beliefs about god to that of the nature of the universe, and then make it causal that because you believe in that kind of universe, your subsequent assertions aren’t beliefs but reasoned determinations based on an earlier assumption.

And besides, materialism doesn’t negate the existence of god. God is utterly plausible in a materialistic universe, particularly because we don’t have a full concept of the nature or existence of the subatomic structure of the universe. Theories of the existence of certain subatomic particles leave plenty of room for a whole bunch of weird, unlikely stuff…like, for instance…the god particle. ;-)

Science has no concept of how much more there is to discover in a materialistic universe. This allows for potential infinite exploration. On that scale, there isn’t a more likely conclusion than another.

Any idea can be posited as the lack of belief in the contrary idea. There’s nothing special about that that doesn’t make it a belief itself.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob Why are you still talking about religion?
Because different gods are mutually exclusive, and therefore evidence regarding the existence of gods must first define which god.
Neither of those can be stated as a factual claim.
Both are factual claims. If there are gods, whether or not it is measurable, it is a factual claim. A non-factual claim would be something to the effect of “dogs are better pets than cats”. For that, there is no answer. For the issue of gods vs. no gods, there is a factual answer whether or not that answer is unknowable.
“Materialism doesn’t negate the existence of god.”
I was using materialism to indicate a natural universe, as opposed to supernatural. I’m sure you are intelligent enough to know my meaning.

I will respond to your comments on opposing hypotheses when you indicate whether you are actually being serious or not.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Gadzooks! This thread is still going? The only ones I thought would fight this hard were pro choicers Wow…..

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

Why are you, again, assuming that I have to define which god I’m talking about? You keep focusing on god as religions have defined them. That is exactly the same as me asking you to define the concept of there being no god how one of the various god-based religions has done.

We’re past the scientific model argument, so I’m going to pass on factual claims.

You’ve separated out the natural and supernatural universe. If god exists, it’s a part of the natural universe. If god exists, then how can it not be part of it?

jerv's avatar

@Blondesjon Why? Are you the type of person who signs contracts without reading them? Personally, I like to know what I am agreeing to before I agree, and I’ve heard too many interpretations of God to answer such a question without clarification.

Jabe73's avatar

@iamthemob Well to answer what seems to be the core of your question atheism is considered to be a lack of belief but to me it is a belief system of its own. If you do not believe in god you still have that “belief”. Most atheists are materialists (or maybe more accurately physicalists). Physicalism is in itself a belief. Some atheists prefer to be called naturalists. Either way it is still a belief system. A belief in dualism or a belief in physicalism. I balk at the term “naturalist” for atheists however because (even if it takes the very distant future) dualism concepts may actually be proven down the road. If this is true then “dualism”, (which by the way does not have to be a part of theism) would be considered a law in the natural order of the universe thus added to the term “naturalism”. Physicalism allows science something to work with however so taking the path of least resistance here seems very plausible.

I am a theist myself but the way I see it science does not set out to try disprove theist concepts (for the most part) but just wants to know the truth of everything. If this truth was in line with a 6000 year old earth then I am sure science would embrace this. The earth is not 6000 years old so I do not find any fault with all the different fields of science that embrace this concept as well as evolution. I can’t believe I am saying this (as a theist) but physicalism does seem to be the more reasonable of the paths because you have something to work with so even though this is still a belief system itself it seems to be the more plausible one. I have my own reasons for being a theist (and it isn’t because of Pascal’s wager either) but I do not expect others to share my beliefs. I will at times give my point of view but in the end (according to my spiritual beliefs) it is irrelevant for anyone to be required to share my beliefs because it is what you do as a person that matters the most to me, not what your religious beliefs were. There is no such thing as no belief. Everyone has a belief in something.

jerv's avatar

@Jabe73 There is a difference between a lack of belief and an active disbelief.
If I read correctly, you make the same mistake many others do by confusing lack of belief (Agnosticism) with active disbelief (Atheism).

Jabe73's avatar

@jerv I never make mistakes. LOL. I didn’t mention agnostics here. The question was if atheism was a belief system within itself. It is impossible to say you do not have any “belief” in something. Atheists do have a belief in physicalism, they have a belief there is a natural, physical explaination for eveything. I am not condemning this but I can as a theist play this same game. If you can say atheism is a “active disbelief” then you are saying an “active disbelief in god or higher authority”. A deist can make this same argument. As a deist I can say I have an active disbelief in natural selection as the possibilty for everything to have existed. I have an active disbelief in abiogenesis. It does not matter how wiki or any dictionary defines the term “atheist”. When you look at the overall picture atheism is a belief system in itself. A belief there is no god or higher power and physicalism can explain everything. I never said nothing about agnosticism.

jerv's avatar

@Jabe73 Well, I guess I misread :P

Jabe73's avatar

@jerv Just out of curiousity why not just become a full fledged atheist or theist? Surely you (and other agnostics) have some belief. I never fully understood why some term themselves agnostics. Is it because we have no way of knowing? Most agnostics seem atheist to me anyway. Why not just call yourself an atheist or even a nontheist?

jerv's avatar

@Jabe73 Because I wholeheartedly believe J.D.S. Haldans and Sir Arthur Eddington when they said, “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”
Theism implies that you know more about reality than I believe is humanly possible whereas Atheism… well the same deal only on the other side of the coin. I have a hard time with blind faith, and since I haven’t seen any compelling evidence on either side, I feel that Agnosticism is the only viable option.

Of course, there is such a thing as a Theistic Agnostic; one who believes that there is some sort of higher power out there that we cannot comprehend. My beliefs fall somewhere in there mostly since I do not believe that the Universe created itself, but cannot really grasp the entirety of something bigger than the Universe.

Jabe73's avatar

@jerv Fair enough explaination.

Blondesjon's avatar

@jerv . . . If you don’t get the gist of what I’m saying an explanation won’t help.

zophu's avatar

Adhering to the seemingly most conventional definitions of the word may seem proper, but in this case it is socially irresponsible. The culture surrounding atheism is not a culture of certainty, but of rebellion against certainty.

atheism – the belief that no god or gods exist” is most commonly used by people who consider themselves atheists to mean: ”atheism – the lacking of the belief in god or gods.”

The notion that a lack of belief is belief is incoherent. The notion that certain uncertainty is certainty is also generally incoherent even though it does imply a belief in a non-thing more powerfully than the previous concept implies a belief of anything. But let’s acknowledge the basic imperfections of our language concerning positive-negatives and try to look at what the word actually means culturally. Believe in a negative is the same as not believing according most people’s rhetoric, even if it is incorrect in a practical sense. Especially with this subject because it is so distinctly impractical.

The real problem, I think, is that the term was born out of and has developed within extreme controversy. When atheists express certainty it is usually done out of defensiveness. Even when the certainty is held consistently it probably usually isn’t what drives the the rebellion against the opposing certainty. Ironically it is almost always the rebellion against the theistic certainty that causes the atheistic certainty and not the other way around.

Regardless, many people who thoughtfully consider themselves atheists do not hold true certainty that gods do not exist, but just firmly lack the belief that they do, (and are usually very certain of their right to do so.) It is much more common for people to lack the belief because they are critical of theistic claims and skeptical of our ability to discover the existence of god thus proving the hypothetical fact, than to lack the belief because they hold a dogma that requires them to do so.

Edit: As far as online dictionaries go, you’ve got everything from ”godless and Immoral” to ”theory of non existence” and ”absence or rejection of belief of existence.” A use of the word disbelief is also sometimes used instead of describing a belief in a negative.

Come to think of it, this is a subject for an encyclopedia, not a dictionary. I feel stupid. . .

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob What terms would you like me to use? You are obviously intelligent to understand my meaning, so there is no reason to pick on semantics.

jerv's avatar

@Blondesjon You really don’t know me, do you?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob People have different concepts of god and what that entity looks like or can be like and where it exists. The kid of god made up by Abrahamic religions can’t exist, imo, any more than a unicorn. As to a power bigger than us (not even one connected to us) in ways that we can’t yet conceptualize, that might exist and we might never get to prove or disprove it – that, however, isn’t god to me.

JustmeAman's avatar

What a mass of confusion and good intent… LOL God cannot be proved for or against and the only evidence that some will accept is our limited scientific evidence which is so very limited. We live in a 3 dimensional world of physical attributes, therefore our science can only measure things relating to its existence. If there is more than just the physical and there are worlds in other dimensions which we cannot measure what then?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JustmeAman Nothing then, that’s the thing – it doesn’t matter because we’re not where we can study any of it.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@jerv I think the ‘jervwad’ comment was just a fun play on words with no real meaning or relevance to the discussion.

ETpro's avatar

@Jabe73 Here we are again discussing whether it is proper to conflate atheism and agnosticism. Here is a good discussion of it. I would only take issue with this author on one point.

He writes: “Similar in concept to atheism, agnosticism also promotes a solid disbelief in deities; however their similarities stop there. The big agnosticism claim is that there is, nor ever will be, anyway [sic] to prove beyond a responsible doubt that a God does or does not exist…” Unlike @jerv I do not feel safe in saying we can never know, just that we don;t know right now whether God exists or not. If there is a God and she reveals herslef to us tomorrow, then we can and will know.

So there I am, agnostic about even that. I do not know if God exists, and I further do not know whether we will ever know if God exists.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

God is a she? Good Lord, why would she have the Bible refer to God as he “God the Father”? And if man decided to change the gender would they not have been smoted? God as a “she” that was a good one, might even have many fooled. Har har har….....

Jabe73's avatar

@ETpro Did you comment on that forum under a different user name? Most atheists I did know even left open a small possibilty they could be wrong about a higher authority but say it is very unlikely so until evidence proves otherwise they will stay atheist. They do not call themselves agnostics. Most atheists I knew did not have an absolute disbelief in some form of god but very high doubt. Even many theists have doubts.

Maybe everyone really is an in-the-closet agnostic without being aware of it. There are many atheists religions (like Buddahism) that still believe in dualism. Technically you can be an atheist and believe in the supernatural. Technically you can be a theist (such as a deist) and not believe in anything supernatural (outside of the creation of the laws of the universe). Like I said most self professed atheists are physicalists however so they do not believe in dualism.

The term “god” can have a varied meaning. It does not have to be tied to an omnipotent old man spirit hiding above the clouds or beyond the universe like many people have implied to me. God to me means an eternal male/female great spirit or divine force which we are all connected to that exisis within this universe but in a higher dimension beyond way beyond our physical perceptions of reality. I am a theist because to me it would be more miraculous for life and everything else to have evolved from random chemical reactions within the short 14 billion year time frame. The force of the explosion of that initial singularity from this “Big Bang” would of had to be within a super small fraction for the conditions for not just physical matter but life itself to even have a chance to form. Everything is some form of belief, even atheism, theism and agnosticism. I wouldn’t call atheism or agnostism a “religion” however but they are in themselves a belief system. You do not have to be religious to be a theist either. Yes I seem to get myself sucked into these types of discussions.

jerv's avatar

@ETpro You are less cynical than I am, so it stands to reason that you have more faith in humanity than I do, and thus feel that our species is less limited than it really is. C’est la vie.

ETpro's avatar

@Jabe73 Very well, call me an atheist if that suits your definitions. I avoid personal definitions and prefer to rely on dictionary ones, as conversation becomes meaningless when words mean to each of us whatever we want them to.

You don’t know how long 13.75 billion years is till you have lived a few bullion years and think about it. I do share Einstein’s views when it comes to the wonder of the universe.

He wrote, A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”

And in The Merging of Spirit and Science he wrote, “The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sewer of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.

To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

Perhaps in knowing that such words resonate with me, you will see why I opt for the self description, agnostic instead of the more spiritually restrictive atheist.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob maybe there is a god and he’s pissed. This is my second attempt to summarize what I have read in this thread and I was thrown out of Fluther.

Anyway, what I was attempting to say is that after reading all of the answer (most were very well thought out arguments) I believe that I can summarize the content:

Theists have a vested interest in proving that their concept of religion is correct because if they picked the wrong horse in this race they’re doomed to the same fate as the non-believer.

Agnostics like to hedge their bets. The want to believe that there is some kind of higher power but are reluctant to place their money on a discrete brand.

Atheists are a bit touchy about theist calling their non-belief, a belief system. I have to admit that is makes my head explode also. They also (myself included), are upset with the theist belief that since we believe that this life is all we have we would have a tendency to be selfish, self centered and likely to cheat to prolong this life. After All, they say, if this is all there is and there is no punishment after, why not claw your way to the top? I find this a particularly disgusting speculation on atheistic behavior.

Sorry for the editorializing, this was supposed to be a summary.

I think @jamthemob that you did a great job stirring thoughtful discussion. By the way is this on the final exam?

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

Ha! That was amazing. In the most superficial way, I think you’re spot on. It was the “my heads going to explode” belief point that I was just flabbergasted about.

I hope nothing I did is got you kicked out of Fluther. That would be lame of me.

Thanks for the summary and acknowledgement.

Oh, and PS – if there was a final exam, you totally would have just aced it.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob thank you very much, now I am going to look at pictures of kittens and puppies. Some very smart people answered your question and I need a little time for my brain to cool down.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C I don;t choose Agnosticism out of hedging my bets. It truly expresses what I know. On the topic of “Is there a creator?” I absolutely know that I do not know.

jerv's avatar

@Ron_C How about this?

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv cute, @ETpro do you choose agnosticism or do you just fall into it? I didn’t choose to be an atheist, I just can’t believe any description of god or religion, There just may be some initiating force that started creation but I wouldn’t consider myself an agnostic just because I acknowledge the possibility I know that the possible initiator is not god as described by any religion.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C I fall into it. According to the dictionary definition, it fits my belief system pertectly

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@jerv Was that the cat Schrodinger shut in the box?

Jabe73's avatar

@iamthemob I think this question broke the record.

@ETpro I was trying to distinguish between an atheist agnostic and hardcore atheist because several on here have very similar views to you but call themselves atheists. To me atheist always meant “there is no god or higher authority” and “there is no possibilty for anything paranormal to exist”, physicalism will explain every phenomenom. Agnostic (at least the few I knew) usually would say “well there is no evidence of god or a higher authority but it may very well be possible because there are many things science can’t explain at this current time and may never will” or “it is very possible paranormal events are real but until hard evidence comes forward I will keep open to the possibilty of this phenomenom being real but not accept it as fact until proven otherwise”. Using layman’s terms here did I hit it? Without getting into theist agnosticism or atheist agnosticism.

There is a catch here however because everyone has some doubt (whether they admit it or not), dam with everything that personally happened to me I even have a doubt. Even the most hardcore theists I’m sure have a doubt so where is this line crossed at how much doubt needs to exist before crossing from agnosticism into atheism?

Ron_C's avatar

@Jabe73 I know that you addressed your question to ETpro but I would like to add my theories to the conversation.

I have been recently reading about other dimensions that we can’t perceive that may account for the “dark” matter that should exist in the universe, The multi verse theories in quantum mechanics, and even the possibilities that electrical storage in the environment that could explain people seeing ghosts.

None of these phenomena need a higher power to be explained; all they need is more advanced science and math. Possibly UFO sightings can be leakage from one universe to ours. Any technology sufficiently advanced appears as magic to the uninformed.

Unfortunately the religious do not wait for the science to catch up to the observations, therefore they are doomed to ignorance.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

Unfortunately the religious do not wait for the science to catch up to the observations, therefore they are doomed to ignorance

I’m with you there. But I think that nowadays, people believe just as often that there’s a rational explanation and that, eventually, science will “show us the way.”

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob you think so? Look at this: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/sarah-sands/sarah-sands-scientists-have-physics-licked-but-they-cant-grasp-the-divine-2070658.html

Evidently some people of faith intend to fight back because they think scientists are evangelists.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

Yeah. That’s what I was saying. I haven’t read the new Hawking book, but even if I did I probably wouldn’t fully understand it. That article sums up my thoughts on the issue pretty well. But the scientists stating there is no god ARE evangelizing as much as any pastor. That’s what one does when they state a theory or a belief as a fact, as far as I’m concerned. But it’s not being doomed to ignorance to say, “Yup. That could be the way it happened.” I reserve judgement until it’s all concrete, laid out before me, and explained step by step so everyone can understand.

ETpro's avatar

@Jabe73 I’ll just respond with what the dictionary says. I fully accept it as authority on what words mean.

Definition of AGNOSTIC

1—: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
2—: a person unwilling to commit to an opinion about something <political agnostics>
— ag·nos·ti·cism

Definition of ATHEIST

1—: one who believes that there is no deity
— athe·is·tic or athe·is·ti·cal adjective
— athe·is·ti·cal·ly

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Ron_C “Possibly UFO sightings can be leakage from one universe to ours.”
That sounds like pure speculation to me, with a little scientific language thrown in to sound more convincing. The multiverse interpretation is not even the most popular, and there are no solid theories about the nature of those universes except to say many of them are nearly indistinguishable from our own.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob “I reserve judgement until it’s all concrete, laid out before me, and explained step by step so everyone can understand.” I hope you live that long. I, personally, don’t think that I will live long enough to hear the complete explaination.

Ron_C's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh of course the idea of “leakage” is mostly speculation but that is what scientists do. They speculate, test, develop theories and often shoot down their own theories. Then you take the Intelligent design people. They mix in a little science with the bible and come the the conclusion that the earth is 6K years old and condemn anyone that think differently and insist that their pseudo-science be taught in schools on an equal basis with researched and real scientific theory.

Scientists can be over-bearing especially when they have solid proof of their theories. The persons of belief insist that everyone accept their speculations as science without a single grain of proof. The best they do is point to missing pieces of a scientific and declare it proof that their speculations are correct. It is the arrogance that really bothers me, not the ignorance.

Neutral's avatar

I think what I wrote in another thread Link can be applied here to those who are discriminating between models(scientific method model, or God model, or any other model)

The problem with these models, is the problem of knowledge (epistemology). The limits of language; the complex nature of the reception of knowledge; the social constructedness of knowledge and the political and ideological nature of research.

All models are wrong, but can be useful. This makes only one thing certain, that nothing is certain. All is uncertain. Science is a no better or worse of a model to show “proof” then religion, due to the same uncertainty.

You want details on all this? Do your own research. Check out some of the works of these people. Paul Feyerabend, Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Gaston Bachelard, Thomas Kuhn, Martin Kusch, Bruno Latour, Anselm Strauss, Lucy Suchman, Harry Collins, Mike Mulkay and Steve Fuller, John Tukey.

Furthermore, “In its widest definition, reality includes everything that is and has being, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible.”

So, anything goes. All is equally wrong, but it can be useful, nonetheless. Just don’t discriminate, lest you be a hypocrite.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

But that’s the whole point! :-)

We won’t, therefore at a certain point we just have to believe, information is taken on faith, etc. In many ways, having Stephen Hawking explain quantum mechanics and black hole theory is like listening to priests give a sermon from the bible when it was only in latin. You just accept what they say is right, at a certain point.

And because I “believe” that none of us will see the day where this stuff is answered in that manner, and because the answer to the question is a personal issue I think about, talking about it should never really be for the purpose of discovering who’s right or what’s more likely. When people claim that they have a better position it’s an assertion that I can’t understand.

iamthemob's avatar

@Neutral

Could you provide a link to that thread? Thanks!

Neutral's avatar

I did. I edited the reply.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob I get your point but find it hard to picture scientists evangelizing. Of course, I’m an engineer and more or less understand science. I wouldn’t expect, an artist, for instance, to have the same outlook.

My personal classification for people categorize them as engineers, artists, or sociologists. They all have their strong and weak points, I will admit that I envy artists.

JustmeAman's avatar

You are all making it very hard… Life is what it is and God or no it only helps to know that there are others trying to help… God bless

iamthemob's avatar

Of course, I’m an engineer and more or less understand science.

Sure. But I would wager I more or less understand science as well (it was a significant part of my undergraduate study…I kind of miss lab work). But very, very few of us can claim to have the depth necessary to fully grasp the concepts of the most complex physical aspects of the universe someone like Hawking (or Dawkins or Greene, for that matter…Einstein, etc.) has. But because of that, what happens when we hear and accept statements from learned, respected, and arguably megabrilliant men and women is that we take on faith they know what they are talking about. And because so much of it is theoretical, we can’t say that it’s true. We don’t have the tools to show it. Therefore, the lecture or published article is functionally equivalent as to it’s absolute Truth as a sermon, and instead of speaking from the pulpit, they do it from the podium.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob I understand what you are saying but, of course disagree. In science you can disagree, you are encouraged to disagree and find a way to disprove what was presented in previous theories. With evangelical pronouncements, disagreement is considered apostasy and in some religions is punishable by death. Even if the death sentence isn’t carried out, the assumption that disagreement condemns you to eternal damnation.

Edit; by the way there is seldom a collection plate at a scientific lecture.

That’s the beauty of science, you can disagree without going to hell. That is also why I disagree with comparing scientists to evangelicals.

Neutral's avatar

@Ron_C wrote, “That’s the beauty of science, you can disagree without going to hell.”

How do you know that you’re not going to hell if you disagree with science? Science told you? Science doesn’t know the unknown, do you know the unknown? :)

Ron_C's avatar

@Neutral maybe I should have said “condemned to hell by scientists”. Of course I don’t believe in hell. Why would a rational god create humans with less than perfect understanding and send them to eternal punishment for small things like failure to believe in him or the precepts of a particular religion. If there was a real, caring god, wouldn’t it make itself known? All it would have to do is write in the clouds “I am watching you” occasionally. Instead this purported god is supposedly introducing himself through thoroughly flawed books like the bible, koran, and torah. No god, no hell, no heaven, no way.

Neutral's avatar

There you go again. Do you enjoy contradicting yourself? How do you apply why(reason) to the unknown? Tsk, Tsk. You just said we are limited in our knowledge, then why are you attempting to tell me what the unknown is or isn’t on a logical level?

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C

You’re obsessed with my comments being about religion…this is about a belief in one view of the universe versus another. But if we’re going to have to do religion…

Okay. Let’s do that. People with different faiths disagree with each other’s lessons all the time. Members of one religion cannot, nowadays in the democratic U.S. or the free west generally (since we can’t really talk about how dissent of any sort is handled elsewhere) kill one another, but the can judge and assume the other’s going to hell. In scientific circles, they belittle and assume they’re condemned to stupidity and ignorance. Therefore, they’re actually more similar than I thought (even today, there are people looking at alternative theories that are drummed out of universities, fired from teaching jobs, etc., because of mere research into a particular area – in the U.S.).

Also, the last time I was at a scientific lecture, professional membership fees were required unless you were already paying tuition. I don’t remember required payments the last time I was at church. Although that was years ago (god…was I seven?).

Seriously. Scientists who hold different theoretical viewpoints (academics generally) are the most close-minded people I’ve generally met. They can also be babies about doing their own research…;-) (sorry, I had to…)

Ron_C's avatar

@Neutral and @iamthemob first of all I really don’t care if you are religious or not, that is none of my business. What I object to is what I see as your moral equivalence between science and evangelicalism. The evangelical assumes that he is absolutely correct, the scientist hopes that he is correct and defends his conclusions.

To both of you, I agree that scientists and academics can be petty, stubborn, and just plain human. That, again, is in now way comparable to the religious person that condemns and assumes that all that disagree will be eternally punished.

Normal the fact that I suggested that if a god existed it would reveal itself is not a contradiction of anything that I said. I just wondered if there was this all important involved god, why would it keep itself hidden and allow conjecture and assumption to distort its image.

And tto @iamthemob academics being drummed out of a university for proposing a dissenting view is very rare. One the other hand, some like Michael J. Behe make an ass out of themselves with pseudo science that even a Judge and lawyer can see are junk science are sometimes allowed to retain their post. There is such a thing as tenure.

In my experience, many professors and teachers are just plain bitchy. It seems that they concentrate so much in their field, they loose their “people skills”.

As to the collection plate issue, it was small attempt at humor. I’ve seen too many preachers more concerned with church finance and the 80o number scrolling under the screen than the well being of their congregation. The academic ego is no match for the clerical ego. I have met a few priests and preachers that are truly moral people. I suspect that most evangelical preachers in the Mega churches and on television are on an ego and power trip. It was to them the quip was addressed.

Neutral's avatar

@Ron_C wrote, “The scientist hopes that he is correct and defends his conclusions.”

What do you call a scientific law? That’s still “hope” as you call it?? You sure that’s not absolute truth? Seems like absolute truth in my book and theirs as well. If you still say it’s not absolute truth, then what possible position are you in to discriminate amongst other models such as the God model? Both models are based on uncertainty.

@Ron_C wrote, “Normal the fact that I suggested that if a god existed it would reveal itself is not a contradiction of anything that I said. I just wondered if there was this all important involved god, why would it keep itself hidden and allow conjecture and assumption to distort its image.”

You’re suggesting something about the unknown. You’re wondering about the unknown. You’re using your limited mind and applying it to the unknown. How and why are you doing this when the unknown is unknowable to you? If you have anything to say about the unknown that’s fine, but in doing so you’re taking one side or the other on the unknown. This is exactly my point as to why there is a difference between an atheist and a agnostic.

iamthemob's avatar

why would it keep itself hidden and allow conjecture and assumption to distort its image

God doesn’t need to prove itself to you. :-)

On an a note that is my personal philosophy, I don’t think that our spiritual development would be as rich if we were given the meaning. If we’re meant to be here to learn something, we can’t really be given the instruction book. (this is also why I don’t believe in scriptures…).

And evangelical megachurches are the scariest thing since McCarthy. Have you seen Jesus Camp?

Ron_C's avatar

@Neutral come on now, a law is proved repeatedly by people other than the theorists. There is no hope involved there. Where is the absolute truth in the bible. There may be some in some parts but there are more records of genocide and corruption than absolute truth. The bible is not comparable to a proven scientific fact.

You absolutely lost me on the last comment about knowing and the unknown. I just stated that if this god thing existed it is unlikely that it would avoid providing evidence of its existence..

@iamthemob “God doesn’t need to prove itself to you. :-)” is absolutely true but I think that is a typical statement because there is no proof of its existence. Christopher Hitchens suggested that if god, as described in the bible, did exist and you met him when you died, and he asked “why don’t you believe in me”. The proper answer would be “because you gave no proof of your existence”. A loving and forgiving god would be more likely admit that person into heaven than one that blindly accepted a preachers word on god;s existence.

As to the Jesus Camp, that was one of my questions. I was appalled and it was one of the few television programs that brought tears to my eyes. Brainwashing children is a crime against humanity and the parents and camp owners should be tried at the Hague. It is on the same level as female circumcision.

I truly hate people that hurt children. Besides, I have always said that the bible should be rated R. Now I understand why there was no bible study in the Catholic school I attended.

ETpro's avatar

@Neutral We live in a probabilistic universe at the most fundamental level. You are right to state that no scientific law is 100% certain, any more than a theistic statement is. You are wrong to conflate them and say their accuracy is of equal probability

I will now invent a cosmology. There was no Big Bang. The Tooth Fairy created the Universe with her magic wand after getting bored standing for countless eons on the back of an elephant standing on four sea turtles swimming in a sea that stretches from eternity to eternity and back again.

The Tooth Fairy poofed background radiation and the expansion fo the Universe into existence to confound us humans into believing in a Big Bang that never happened. We can’t see any evidence of the Tooth Fairy or the elephant, turtles and giant sea because they exist in the universe of supernatural thought, where human perception breaks down.

Now, which is more probable, the Big Bang theory or my Tooth Fairy theory?

Neutral's avatar

@Ron_C wrote, “come on now, a law is proved repeatedly by people other than the theorists. There is no hope involved there. Where is the absolute truth in the bible. There may be some in some parts but there are more records of genocide and corruption than absolute truth. The bible is not comparable to a proven scientific fact.”

This is where you’re wrong. You’re assuming that the scientific method is the best model to prove facts. As I mentioned in this thread, this is not true, due to the problem of knowledge (epistemology). The limits of language; the complex nature of the reception of knowledge; the social constructedness of knowledge and the political and ideological nature of research. Even within the science itself, qauntum physics shows there are no absolutes. If you scroll a little up I gave you a list of the most notable scholars who tackle this issue in detail. Thus, the scientific method model is a model of uncertainty just like the God model. You’re in no position to say “My scientific model is facts, while your God model is not” That’s called being a hypocrite.

@Ron_C wrote, “You absolutely lost me on the last comment about knowing and the unknown. I just stated that if this god thing existed it is unlikely that it would avoid providing evidence of its existence.”

Look what you just wrote “I just stated that if this God”

You don’t see what you’re doing wrong here? You stated something about God who is unknown. How can you ever state anything on something unknown? If you do state something on the unknown, then you’re taking a side of the unknown. We have two terms for when one takes a side of the unknown, atheist and theist. Since you’re making statements based on a limited mind based on nothing, you’re no different then a theist. You’re also a believer since you’re commenting that the unknown is unlikely to exist without any certainty.

Neutral's avatar

@ETpro,

Neither is more probable, hence, the uncertainty. Uncertainty allows all possibilities. This also fits in with the widest definition of reality which I wrote above.

“In its widest definition, reality includes everything that is and has being, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible.”

All because of uncertainty. You’re telling me “one uncertainty is better then the other uncertainty”? How does that make any sense?

Ron_C's avatar

@Neutral now I get it, we are talking about two different things, science and philosophy. I am sure that a clever philosopher can use an apparently logical sentence to prove the big truck down the road does not exist so that if I stand in the middle of the road, it will not harm me. Of course it is a scientific fact that when the truck arrives, I become road kill. That’s the difference between science and philosophy.

Two different ways of looking at the world that sometime coincide but in this discussion are worlds apart.

Neutral's avatar

@Ron_C,

Apparently you didn’t understand a word I said. I’m sorry, but forget it. I give up.

Duke it out with @iamthemob, maybe he can explain it again on behalf of me.

Ron_C's avatar

@Neutral o.k. I think you are right, we are not speaking the same language.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C You are quite right. @Neutral appears to be talking in terms such as Zeno’s [ Arrow paradox while we are talking about the world we live in. Notice that while Zeno “thought” he had proved arrows cannot move, he never tested his postulate by having a skilled archer try to kill him.

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro good, I thought I was stupid. I truly thought the comment about the truck running me over would get us all on the same page. I was talking about a real truck and he was speaking about a metaphorical truck. If I have to get run over by a truck I prefer a metaphorical one.

You will notice that neither of us resorted to bad language or name calling even if the implications were that one of us was an idiot. I would be happy to talk to Neutral again but we have to pick a language first. I’m old and a little slow, I didn’t get it until I did a little research on his philosophical mentors.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C & @Neutral Kudos for remaining civil. Indeed you were talking about two different dimensions of thoughts.

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro

I say kudos as well! But what say one more so that we can get this thread to 300? (btw – that’s kind of ridiculous!)

Jabe73's avatar

@Ron_C I agree with you about orthodox religion. If a “god force”, ghosts, spirits and anything paranormal do exists than it would be perfectly natural for them to be a part of science. Like I said the future of everything in my opinion is with quantum physics. Unfortunately there are materialist scientists out there aleady trying to condemn quantum physics as nonsense without even a great deal of research into it. Well I’m done with this thread.

BoBo1946's avatar

It’s amazing to me, that the people who don’t believe, spend so much time trying to convince the ones who believe that it’s a “crock,” fairy tales, etc. I’ve never told an atheist, “that is a crook!” My philosophy is be nice to everyone regardless of their belief. Don’t really understand why this upsets people, other than, they are not secure with their beliefs.

BoBo1946's avatar

uh, excuse me…loll..should read, never told an atheist, “that is a crock!”

iamthemob's avatar

@BoBo1946

Yeah, but I find more and more that people who are atheists (again, not all atheists, but I’m beginning to completely dismiss them as I have become frustrated at the apparent lack of ability to listen) are ready to dismiss anyone else’s idea as a crock, without discussion, as clear in this thread.

BoBo1946's avatar

I gave you a lot of lurves for having the guts to express your beliefs….I’ve found the best approach here is to answer questions that pertain to religion rather than ask questions. And, at all cost, i never take a direct approach. I just tell my story and allowing others to take what they think makes sense out of it. By all means, I don’t have all the answers…and above all, don’t want to turn others off totally off to what i think is true. I love others too much to do that.

AdamF's avatar

Just a thought…I haven’t read everything, just putting my views down.

There’s a semantic loophole that might need to be filled.

Everyone, whether an atheist or not, has “faith” (ie in this case the word means more like trust) in what they hold to be true, is true. But let’s not use the word faith here in that sense…it gets too confusing.

That discussion is separate to the more important underlying issue (which is what atheists are generally talking about) of whether or not the worldviews we hold are based on supportive evidence or not. In this regard faith = a belief “not resting on logical proof or material evidence”.

Religions and alternative medicine are two areas where this worldview appears to be embraced as a virture, rather than as the vice it is seen as in other aspects of life. Frankly, I think this is a virtue of necessity, because both areas aren’t viable without making a virtue out of “belief without evidence”.

Atheism, is simply the disbelief in god or gods. There is no claim inherrent to atheism that god or gods don’t exist, merely that the supportive evidence for god(s) isn’t sufficient to justify active belief. This position is entirely malleable depending on the evidence available. If this is not the opposite of faith, as defined here, then what is?
In contrast, a faith based position can be dogmatically adhered to, regardless of an overwhelming weight of contradictory evidence available…(ie young earth creationism).

If the word faith is so encompassing to equally describe the evidence based world views of atheists, and concurrently, the non-evidence based worldviews of scriptural literalists, then the word “faith” ceases to have any useful meaning and we may as well discard it.

iamthemob's avatar

There is no claim inherrent to atheism that god or gods don’t exist, merely that the supportive evidence for god(s) isn’t sufficient to justify active belief. This position is entirely malleable depending on the evidence available. If this is not the opposite of faith, as defined here, then what is?

This is a good distinction. I do think, however, that there are a good amount of atheists who believe that there’s no god. There are also a lot of “theists” (or believers, whatever) who simply believe that there’s some sort of god. Those in between are all subject to having their beliefs altered (and should, idealistically, be open to that), I believe that faith applied in any of the in between contexts can be destructive, and therefore if the person admits “I know it’s unreasonable…but I believe it nonetheless…and if my belief can be shown to be doing harm, I will have to question it,” they are taking a reasonable position because it changes with new evidence.

Faith that there is a god (and only that there is a supreme being of some sort, without giving it particular characteristics) of that there is no god are, in my opinion, unassailable positions. Neither is falsifiable, and neither belief has, by necessity, a significant impact on how the person will live his or her life, as there is no way to determine the wants/desire/plan of an unspecified supreme being on one side and there ARE none on the other.

So I don’t see any reason in the argument “There is no god” (which is not the “universal” atheist argument). There’s no reason in the contrary argument. They are purely faith-based.

I think important atheist work might be, I think, to inform the public that by “god” they generally don’t mean “any concept of god.” Rather, they mean gods that have been created by man in texts, and therefore are subject to falsifiability. The statement “I don’t believe in god” is shocking as it sounds to many, including me prior to further analysis, like the person is saying “I reject the notion of any concept of god,” which is a mind-boggling thing for anyone with any sort of belief in a higher power to understand.

AdamF's avatar

“I do think, however, that there are a good amount of atheists who believe that there’s no god.”

Yeah, but that is still on entirely sound empirical footing, whereas active belief that there is a god is not. If that sounds unfair, it isn’t. Frankly its how we always try to approximate reality. For isntance, it is no different from stating that belief that there is no Yeti, is justifiable, whereas belief that there is a Yeti is not.

We have to be precise with our terminology.

“I believe there is no god”, is not the same as stating categorically that “there is no god”. So when an atheist states this, they are not being dogmatic or demonstrating a faith based position. It is indistinguishable from stating that “There is insufficient evidence to justify a belief in god”. I for instance do not believe in god..ie I believe there is no god, but I am agnostic with regards to the existence of any god imaginable.

To be honest, I have never met an atheist who claimed to “know” that there was no god (I guess there are some…). The nonexistence of any entity, no matter how silly, can never be known. That said, this is hardly a sound basis in itself for justifying the flip side…ie No one can prove that there isn’t a universal loving energy, is not in itself supportive evidence for the existence of such a vague fuzzy god.

More importantly perhaps, I am entirely in agreement with you that if a theist says to me that it has nothing to do with actual existence, ie “They believe in universal loving energy because it makes them happier to believe”, then I wish them well. Such an approach is the most reasonable justification for holding a non-evidence based belief I can think of….with the associated caveat that you raised, that such belief does no harm.

graynett's avatar

I would like to answer this question but I can’t I’m water at 4° (less dense then 5°)

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