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roundsquare's avatar

Atheists: Why are you so sure?

Asked by roundsquare (5512points) June 20th, 2011

To the atheists out there who are sure there is no god (not just no Christian or other specific god, but no god at all), how can you be so sure?

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161 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Please tell me that you understand that this is a stupid argument.

wundayatta's avatar

Not sure of nuthin. God is possible; just very unlikely and there is no reproducible evidence to show the existence of such an entity. At least, not that I know of. Show me some, and I’ll incorporate God in my world view.

Jude's avatar

What JP said.

tom_g's avatar

edit: I was typing a response, and then realized that JP nailed it.

Who’s sure? How about formulating a question that makes sense? Do we have to get into pascal’s wager, methods for determining truth, science, the burden of proof, etc?

I am an atheist, and I only know mostly atheists. I have never met one that is sure about anything. That’s not how atheism works (for many of us).

Lightlyseared's avatar

The only difference between an atheist and a religious person is the atheist disbeleives in one more god.

Blackberry's avatar

Our little human brains are pretty limited, and most of us are going to pick a side eventually. I used to be agnostic. I was very reasonable and was the first to say “no one knows so our arguments are futile”, but as time passed, it just seemed more and more unlikely (to me) there was any god/force/entity.

Dawkins said that of course atheists can’t say 100% there’s no god, but we can still be 99.9% sure, and that’s good enough for me lol.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m NOT sure. Belief that there is no god is based on the same thing as that belief that there is a god: Faith. Now I have to say I’m agnostic, wishy-washy, weak minded, and faithless.
I see no evidence that there is a god.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Hey easy guys. I don’t think it’s a stupid arguement/question. It’s a pretty good question. How do you know for sure?

roundsquare's avatar

@johnpowell What argument? Lots of atheists here sound very sure, so I was asking them why they were so sure . At the worst, I was misinterpreting what I’ve read in previous questions.

So, to be more clear:
1) I assume there are atheists that are sure.
2) To those atheists who are sure (maybe not 100%, but lets say 99%, or more) why are you sure?
3) For those atheists who are not sure, you are not the target of this question (at least not in the first instance, though you are, of course, welcome to respond to other answers).

I apologize for writing the question poorly, I thought the explanation of it was pretty clear but I will strive to be more clear in the future..

JilltheTooth's avatar

What @Adirondackwannabe said.
And, @roundsquare, I understood you perfectly. It was not unclear.

obvek's avatar

There was an informal poll a while back that revealed that many Fluther atheists are of the same Myers-Briggs personality type (maybe INTJ, but I don’t remember). I’m guessing there’s an innateness at play based on this.

tom_g's avatar

@roundsquare: “1) I assume there are atheists that are sure.”

This is an incorrect assumption. Plus, we’re now wading into what certainty and how we determine what the nature of reality is. This is a decent topic, but not helped by the assumption.

@roundsquare : “2) To those atheists who are sure (maybe not 100%, but lets say 99%, or more) why are you sure?”

Just as sure as you are that when you fall asleep at night, invisible bears don’t walk around your living room. The invisible bears thing is just as plausible as the god hypothesis. There is also the same amount of evidence. You do know what it feels like to be “sure” of your disbelief in something for which there is no evidence.

@roundsquare: “3) For those atheists who are not sure, you are not the target of this question (at least not in the first instance, though you are, of course, welcome to respond to other answers).”

Fair enough. Although it seems that the strong/weak atheism basics are required to dive into this conversation at all.

Blackberry's avatar

@roundsquare The same can be asked about theists. There’s many reasons why people choose to believe or not believe. For example, the complexity of the universe: one thinks it’s so complex there must be a creator, another thinks it arose from the right conditions etc.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Wait…what? @tom_g I’ve been leaving cookies out for those bears!

tom_g's avatar

@JilltheTooth – You must leave invisible chocolate chip cookies with walnuts. No joke. They love those.

JilltheTooth's avatar

White chocolate chips.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m 99.99999% sure there are no deities. Why? No proof. No reason. No need. I can’t say with absolute certainty that gods do not exist, because I have no proof of nonexistence either.

jrpowell's avatar

@roundsquare :: Argument doesn’t always mean fighting. Look it up.

nikipedia's avatar

Ok. I’ll take a shot.

I am about as sure about the nonexistence of god as I am that gravity exists or that neurons communicate through electrical potentials. I believe in all of these things because they are consistent with my experiences of the natural world.

Each time I have made a prediction based on these assumptions, I could count on it coming true: if I drop something it falls to the ground; if I stimulate a nerve I can record electrical changes throughout it; if I ask god to make something to happen, that thing will happen at exactly the same rate as if I hadn’t asked god for it.

Beyond that one example, a belief in god would require much of what we understand about the natural world to be untrue. The existence of any supernatural force or being would require a complete overhaul of how we understand science. But no credible evidence at all supports the existence of anything supernatural.

roundsquare's avatar

“This is an incorrect assumption”
Is it? It might be, and if so, I’ll find out soon enough from this question. But I’d be surprised to find out that there are no/very few atheists who are sure of themselves. I’m pretty sure I’ve run into a few before. If it turns out I’m wrong, this will be an enlightening questions nonetheless.

“Plus, we’re now wading into what certainty and how we determine what the nature of reality is. This is a decent topic, but not helped by the assumption”
It is, indeed, a decent topic. But again, unless I’m completely wrong about there being some atheists who are sure, I don’t see why my question can’t produce interesting/useful/thought provoking answers. I think we can have a reasonable discussion about why people are sure about things without needing to delve, right away, into the philosophical preliminaries you bring up (though, if they become necessary, that’s not a problem). It appears you have a particular approach to religious discussions that this question does not jive with… hopefully as more answers come in you’ll find it interesting.

“Just as sure as you are that when you fall asleep at night, invisible bears don’t walk around your living room”
Invisible bears, for any reasonable definition of bear, would leave easily discernible evidence of some sort. There are, however, reasonable definitions of god for which we would find little to no easily discernible evidence.

@Blackberry I agree, it can. I’m neither an atheist or a theist, but I thought it would be interesting to get some specific answers on this question from atheists.

To all: Please feel free to dispense with the normally obligatory “I’m not 100% sure” remark. Let it be understood that all who answer this question are not 100% sure of their position unless they say otherwise.

Blondesjon's avatar



Blackberry's avatar

@roundsquare I think @nikipedia‘s answer was very good, too.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m not sure. Neither are you. To me, either position is irrelevant. Whether there is a god or there isn’t is irrelevant to my life. That’s why I’m an atheist. Not because I’m sure. Because it doesn’t matter.

Cruiser's avatar

I am 100% sure because almost all religions have sanctioned murderous acts all in the name of their God and a “real God” by all the same religions own definitions is all loving. IMO a bunch of hypocrites they are.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Ah, but @Cruiser , many theists, such as myself, have no affiliation whatsoever with any organized religion. To assume a theist is “religious” is to severely limit the scope.

tom_g's avatar

@roundsquare: “Invisible bears, for any reasonable definition of bear, would leave easily discernible evidence of some sort. There are, however, reasonable definitions of god for which we would find little to no easily discernible evidence.”

Attempting to parse this statement. Could you explain?

roundsquare's avatar

@obvek Interesting. I hadn’t considered that correlation, I’ll try to find that poll.

@nikipedia Can you give me specifics? I agree with your methodology but not with your conclusion. I don’t think that the existence of god would necessarily require such a huge overhaul of things we see on a regular basis. I’m using a wide definition of god where it includes a god who set things in motion and is just watching, who only interferes rarely with the world, who sets up very small things that butterfly effect their way into making a large impact, etc… A lot of these are effects we would not see to begin with. Also, we can consider the possibility of a god that doesn’t really give us what we ask for. I’m not limiting the definition here to that of a loving god or anything like that.

In other words, you analogy would seem to work for some definitions of god, but I think there are others, which are not silly, which it doesn’t seem to work for.

@tom_g Sure thing. If there were invisible bears in my room when I slept, there is a high likelihood I would find some evidence of this. Ripped up clothes, bite marks on myself, etc… However, depending on what definition of god you use, you may not find much evidence. So, I don’t think that the analogy holds up completely.

tom_g's avatar

@roundsquare: “If there were invisible bears in my room when I slept, there is a high likelihood I would find some evidence of this. Ripped up clothes, bite marks on myself, etc… However, depending on what definition of god you use, you may not find much evidence. So, I don’t think that the analogy holds up completely.”

You just don’t understand the true nature of these bears. They do not make any messes or any leave any evidence of their existence.

See, this is where I think we can understand each other. As absurd as the bears thing may seem to you, the god thing seems to me. There’s nothing exotic about it really. Every day you wake up and not believe in billions of things. Why? Because there is no evidence for those things.

My invisible bears and god are hiding in the same place.

nikipedia's avatar

@roundsquare, I think any definition of god requires him to be outside the laws of nature. If something exists outside the laws of nature, that undermines everything we have observed to be true about the physical world.

At the point god stops being a supernatural force, I stop having a problem with it, but I also don’t think “god” is an appropriate term anymore.

Rarebear's avatar

I only know things for sure that are proven to me. You can’t prove a negative, so therefore I don’t know for sure.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I think @nikipedia has a point: ”...but I also don’t think “god” is an appropriate term anymore.” The word “god” is infused with so much preconception that it taints the concepts being discussed here.

roundsquare's avatar

@nikipedia Can you give me an example? I don’t think I agree with you but I’m not sure exactly what you mean. “Everything” is too broad.

@tom_g If you add enough caveats to the invisible bears, then I have no reason to believe it doesn’t exist (or reason to believe it does exist),. Not believing in something is very different from believing something doesn’t exist.

@JilltheTooth True. Sadly, I don’t have another word to use because I want some of the connotations the word brings but not all of them.

josie's avatar

Same reason I am sure there are no unicorns. Only evidence is ancient campfire stories. And no evidence added to that for thousands of years.
Conclusion-no God. No unicorns, no tooth fairy, no God.

roundsquare's avatar

@tom_g Sorry, one more thing to add (inspired by @josie‘s answer). There are fairly reasonable definitions of god out there for which have both a) god affecting the universe and b) us not recognize those effects being the work of god. E.g. the god who affects probabilities in small ways in quantum mechanics.

poisonedantidote's avatar

How To Be Sure There Is No God – The Final Nail In The Coffin.

By: Jolly P. Trickalory

In order to be a god, you must be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These qualities are the core definitions of any god. Unfortunately for believers, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, is about as logically possible as sticking your rear end out a window so you can run outside to throw stones at it.

If god is omnipotent he is by default also omniscient and omnipresent. If god is omnipotent he can do anything, but if he is omnipresent and omniscient he has limitations and is therefore not omnipotent.

Before we get started, we can already see that the existence of gods is logically impossible, but lets push the boat out a little further.

None of you reading this can name one single thing that you are 100% sure I am holding in my hand. However, everyone should be able to name at least one thing they are 100% sure I am not holding in my hand. Such as: The moon, your eyes, the smell of the color red, etc…

If we try and name things we are 100% sure did create the universe, we will have a very short list, just like the list of things we are all sure I am holding. But if we make a list of all the things we are 100% sure did not create the universe, we start to have a fairly longer list. One of the things on said list, would be omnipotent creatures and entities, such as gods.

On top of this, we have the fact that every single day more religious concepts and beliefs are shattered by science.

A few 1000 years ago, some uncivilized mammalian creatures had a shot in the dark at why they existed. They came up with the concept of the magic man in the sky. What are the odds that they where right? What are the odds that camels, donkeys, bushes, trees, snakes, men who come back to life, bread, blood, sacrifices, chanting, funny little hats, or anything else we have come up with, has anything at all to do with the truth of it all.

Is it not just a tincy wincy tiny bit suspicious, that god used to live in the sky, until we made telescopes. Then he lived in the stars, until we trained astronauts, now he lives all the way outside of time and space.

C’mon, all we have had is thousands and thousands of years of excuses and evidence to the contrary. Why would anyone seriously believe this stuff at this point?

The moon is not made of light, the earth is not the centre of the universe, the earth is not flat, the sky is not a solid, animals evolve, red shift, big bang, protons, quarks, dark matter, DNA, etc… etc… etc… How many times does religion need to be punched in the face before it finally admits it is defeated. While we probe the stars and map the human genome, where is the voice of god? Where are all the miracles?

You can claim allegory and metaphor all you like too, we all know that originally it was all believed to be literal.

Also, don’t you find it a touch strange, that all religious texts are laced with immature and under developed attempts at psychological manipulation, get out clauses, and blatant pre-emptive excuses to their poorly thought out plots. Things such as “the unbeliever wont believe the truth even when you give them the proof”.

Also, lets not forget, the biggest bullshit alarm bell of all. “You have to be dead to find out for sure!” What a laughably convenient little way for things to work out.

nikipedia's avatar

@roundsquare, I think I actually mean everything. The way we understand science is that things are physically interacting in some way to cause other things to happen. If some exception to that rule exists, that violates every single piece of evidence I have about every single cause/effect relationship in nature. This does not mean that the supernatural exception doesn’t exist, just that it seems so improbable that the most reasonable conclusion to draw is that it’s not happening.

When you talk about god as a force that affects probabiliites in quantum mechanics, this sounds to me like the god we had to invent to explain the sun rising every day before we understood the solar system.

_zen_'s avatar

This is an interesting book;


Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., who is an astrophysicist and author of over 130 scientific publications. He served as a scientific editor of the Astrophysical Journal for ten years, and was Principal Investigator on several NASA research projects. After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Haisch did postdoctoral research at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. His professional positions include Staff Scientist at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory; Deputy Director of the Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley; and Visiting Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Extraterrestrische Physik in Garching, Germany. He was also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. Prior to his career in astrophysics, Haisch attended the Latin School of Indianapolis and the St. Meinrad Seminary as a student for the Catholic priesthood. The God Theory is his first solo book. He is married, with three children, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Marsha Sims.

In it he writes:

Is there an intelligence behind the origin of the Universe? Bestsellers by Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have denounced the evils of religion and proclaimed that science has shown that there is no God. Their angry accusations are partially correct. Religions have been used to justify crimes against humanity: witness the Inquisition of centuries past or the sectarian slaughter in the Mideast today. But the human misuse of religions and the existence of God are very different matters.

A remarkable discovery has emerged in astrophysics: that key properties of the Universe have just the right values to make life possible. Most scientists prefer to explain away this uniqueness, insisting that a huge, perhaps infinite, number of unseen universes must therefore exist, each randomly different from the other. That way ours only appears special because we could not exist in any of the other hypothetical universes.

I propose the alternative that the special properties of our universe reflect an underlying intelligence, one that is consistent with the Big Bang and Darwinian evolution. Both views are equally logical and beyond proof. However exceptional human experiences and accounts of mystics throughout the ages do suggest that we live in a purposeful universe. In The God Theory and The Purpose-Guided Universe: Believing In Einstein, Darwin, and God I speculate on what that purpose might be… what that purpose means for our lives… how it might explain the riddle of evil.

tom_g's avatar

@roundsquare: ’ Not believing in something is very different from believing something doesn’t exist.”

Bingo! We’re in agreement now. I am without belief in god (a-theist). This is all that is sufficient to be an atheist. However….

@roundsquare: “If you add enough caveats to the invisible bears, then I have no reason to believe it doesn’t exist (or reason to believe it does exist),”

When you walk outside, you act as though the bears do not exist. You base your decisions and live your life as though the bears do not exist. I could come up with a million different absurdities without evidence and demand that you believe in them. However, the fact is that if I argue my way out of any measurable evidence (my bears are hiding), then we can say that a universe with the existence of the invisible bears is indistinguishable from a universe without the bears.

edit: I just saw your latest post….@roundsquare: “There are fairly reasonable definitions of god out there for which have both a) god affecting the universe and b) us not recognize those effects being the work of god.”

Good point (not the “reasonable” part). Once you have a claim that the god is not hiding full-time, then you have something to work with. I can actively disbelieve specific claims presented to me about a god. But on the question of does any god or gods exist, or does a god exist that manifests in no way at all – a simple lack of belief (a-theism) is sufficient.

roundsquare's avatar

Argh… its 1:00 AM here. I intended to post this and look at the answers in the morning. Oh well, thanks all for the fun debate! I’ll come back to post more later.

crisw's avatar


The anthropic principle has been debunked many times.

As to the original question.

I operate on evidence. If there’s no evidence that something is true or something exists, then I don’t accept it. The burden of proof is on those that state that something exists. I could be wrong- but I am willing to change my mind should I get the evidence I seek.

Most people follow this line of thinking for most things. We don’t accept that dragons or unicorns or storm giants exist because we have no evidence that they do. I really, really wish that werewolves actually existed, and it would be so cool if they did- but I have no evidence that they do. However, the nonexistence of werewolves is nonfalsifiable.

So could I be wrong? Sure. Could werewolves exist? Sure. Do I have any evidence that they do? Nope. Is it likely they exist? No, not at all. Can I prove they do not exist? No, I cannot.

People are reluctant to test the existence of their gods in the same way I test the existence of werewolves. Religious beliefs are familiar and give them comfort. However, the standards are no different. Treating beliefs about gods any differently than beliefs about werewolves is inconsistent and illogical.

So could I be wrong? Sure. Could gods exist? Sure. Do I have any evidence that they do? Nope. Is it likely they exist? No, not at all. Can I prove they do not exist? No, I cannot.

_zen_'s avatar

Did you just “debunk” my astrophysicist/preachers book with someone’s blog?

Haleth's avatar

The burden of proof is on the believer. There’s no evidence that a god exists, so therefore the default is to not believe in a god. Atheism is not a belief, it’s a lack of belief.

Qingu's avatar

For the same reason you are sure that there are no fairies.

Not just Navi from Zelda, but any fairies at all.

(Because the entire concept, as “fairy” is traditionally defined, is nonsensical and clearly the creation of humans.)

You can redefine “fairy” to mean something vague, like a natural law or some unknown force of nature. This is often how “God” is defined in spiritual circles. I’m not certain that natural laws don’t exist—in fact I think they do. I just don’t think this definition has anything to do with what most people talk about when they say “fairy” or “God.”

Qingu's avatar

@zen, your astrophysics professor’s argument is imbecilic. The universe is not fine-tuned for life! Have you looked around the universe? Have you noticed that the only life we have found is clinging to the tiny sliver of biosphere on a single random rocky planet out of countless billions in the vastness of space?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Truth of the matter is they don’t. They just fear they are wrong that is why they try so convincingly to tell me that the God I follow is equal to the Tooth fairy, or the Easter Bunny, and my belief is on par with a 5yr old. They act like they are 100% sure. Yet there is really little difference logically to believe in a Black Hole which no one has seen, encountered, etc outside of theory to be 100% true based off conjecture they derived from mathematic composition they created or devised.

If they are right no one of us will ever know. If we of faith are right, everyone will know it. It will be quite an interesting conversation, as they explain to God why they did not think he existed.

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Qingu's avatar

@zen, I understand that you feel like life… because you are alive.

You are also living on Earth, an unimaginably tiny pinprick of matter in the vastness of lifeless space. And you’re a single unlucky asteroid strike or gamma ray burst away from extinction.

crisw's avatar


“Yet there is really little difference logically to believe in a Black Hole which no one has seen, encountered, etc outside of theory to be 100% true based off conjecture they derived from mathematic composition they created or devised.”

There is a huge difference, as I explained in my post. We have actual evidence from many disciplines that black holes exist. Based on this evidence, we can make theories about black holes and test them, and show that our theories are sound. None of this is true of gods.

You’re shooting the messenger. Don’t like my source? Then refute it with evidence by showing why the arguments are unsound rather than simply using ad hominem attacks.

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Hibernate's avatar

Interesting question ^^ though I’m not atheist so I’ll let them reply here :)

Blackberry's avatar

I hate when answers are modded, I wanted to see what they were :(

FutureMemory's avatar

@Blackberry Me too =/

What’s the difference between God and Bigfoot?

Bigfoot has been spotted.

josie's avatar

@Blackberry There should be a “Recycle Bin” for modded answers. They would be off the thread, but you could go to the place where they were banished and check them out. Call your mod buddies and tell them that is what they ought to do.

Blackberry's avatar

@josie That’s a great idea.

dannyc's avatar

Atheists do not know, believers do not know. That is for sure! And we will never know, but as always attempts to be sure are entertaining. In my mind, thus the question is always good if it propels thought.

Qingu's avatar

If you can’t “know” that Zeus is imaginary, you can’t “know” anything.

I think people who trot out the agnosticism are more interested in feeling superior to both sides than with actually figuring out what we know and what we don’t know.

tom_g's avatar

Agnosticism is really a subset of atheism, but most people do see that term as something altogether different. It’s considered the “reasonable” position, which completely avoids the concept of belief.
The quest for a “reasonable” position that lies somewhere in between any two opposing positions is a real shitty one that seems to be popular among some younger folk I have met.

everephebe's avatar

Link the click.
“What if I’m wrong?” Dawkins

_zen_'s avatar

All I know – is the more I learn, the less I am sure of. The more I question, the less answers I have. The older I get – the less I am certain about things. And what if I’m wrong about something? So what. I listen to all the scientific explanations about evolution and such, from microbes to humans in 3 billion years flat. The dinosaurs and the zillions of planets. Some I understand, some I don’t. It makes sense – in a billion years kind of way.

Sometimes I’ll believe someone who says they were abducted, other times it seems ridiculous. Sometimes I’ll believe someone saw an alien craft (some jellies even) and other times I won’t.

But there is something bigger than us. I don’t care if it’s Phil, I don’t care if it’s called Jill. For conventional purposes – I like to call him God. Why? Probably tradition.

What if I’m wrong? I dunno. I don’t really care what anyone thinks. What if you’re wrong?

See ya on the other side.

WasCy's avatar

I’m not “sure” about much of anything, not even whether or not I’ll make it home after work tonight or that the sun will go down as it always has for billions of years. But I’m working on that assumption.

I have a working hypothesis that there is no divine actor. It seems to be holding up so far. If you have evidence to falsify my belief, then I’m all ears.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@zen : Thanks for the nod to my true self, buddy! Pancakes for you on the other side!

WasCy's avatar


It would be easy to explain to God why I never believed in It. “That’s the way You made me.”

_zen_'s avatar

It’s called free will. Some people misinterpret that to mean be a fucking idiot. But I digress.

fundevogel's avatar

@roundsquare That agitation you’re stirring up is scores of atheists rolling their eyes at the memory of every time a theist has suggested that they’re really just a bit narrow minded for not believing in God until his existence is 100% disproved.

Imagine what it would be like if you were regularly asked why you were so sure there weren’t any fairies? What do you tell a person that needs you to justify not believing in fairies?

ninjacolin's avatar

Blah, sometimes I grow impatient with atheist impatience myself. If there’s a question you’ve heard/answered before and don’t care for, why not just leave it to others? hmm.. Oh well, if you post in social I guess that gives atheist a chance to vent so that’s cool too. But just don’t take it too seriously one way or the other. But atheists, you’re gonna hear these questions again likely in the next month. If I may suggest: Get better at answering it concisely and effectively.

@roundsquare i don’t mind diving in. I don’t have a concise answer for you but it really does start with question: “What is certainty?” or, as I would prefer it: “What is knowledge?” After that, comes a question of what specific things I know that seem to be the sticking points, which I hope/believe your question to actually be about, I’ll answer that after.

What is Knowledge
I recently refined my personal understanding of the term Knowledge. I’ll repeat it here for you keeping in mind that this is my personal understanding which leads to why it is I would place my bet that there isn’t a God rather than place my bet that there is a God.

Knowledge seems to be simply what I remember to be true. Remembering something is true doesn’t seem to imply that it necessarily is true. Sometimes I remember exactly where my car “is” parked only to find out when I get to that location that it was towed away 2 hours prior.

Notice how my memory, being that it lacks an update about my car’s present location, coerces my use of the term “is” vs the technically more appropriate past tense usage “was.” In fact, it only changes for me once I finally discover that the car “is” not where I remembered that it “was.”

Similarly, it may be that there actually “is” a God out there. Perhaps even your God. Maybe his name is Jeff. But simply because I don’t remember that being the case, that’s why I also can’t say that I “know” that God to exist.

I’ll add one other layer of understanding to it: Sometimes I remember where my car is not because I parked it there but because I lent it to a friend who parked it on a street that I can remember the layout of. A friend who I remember being generally trustworthy and who I don’t remember as having a reason to deceive me about the whereabouts of my vehicle. He might have even given me specific information such as “two cars past the corner” which I remember him saying.

All this unproven but remembered information serves as evidence that coerces me to “know” where my car is. My knowledge of my car’s location is still heavily memory based even when I don’t have directly observed memories of the thing I believe I know to be the case. Literally, it’s my lack of memories to the contrary that allows me to believe so easily a thing like the location my friend left my car.

On a topic like God, however, especially ones named Jeff or whatever you call your god.. I happen to hold a lot of memories to the contrary that restrict my ability to believe so easily in your theoretical concepts of what is true. I happen to remember better explanations of reality that, while they aren’t 100% perfect, they ring more of truth than do the claims I’ve heard about any of the various potential gods.. including Jeff.

Berserker's avatar

Gods don’t do a good job of masking themselves from actually being man’s desire for peace, guidance and security, all turned into a set of actions that reinforce the belief. (going to mass, offering someone’s heart to the Sun)
Gods are too human. It’s obvious that they’re something people made up. I made up gods in my head when I was a kid without even knowing it.

That doesn’t mean I’m sure. I don’t believe in gods, but they may be out there. Not believing doesn’t mean I’m right.

But I highly doubt it. And if there is anything out there that resembles a ’‘god’’, I doubt it’s like much of anything we define as ’‘god’’.

ninjacolin's avatar

What do I know about the universe that makes belief in a god difficult

First of all, in general the universe and the world seems to make enough sense without requiring a God creature. I just don’t need one to be there for me to think that the various paradoxes and miracles of existence were at all possible. The universe seems somewhat infinite and we seem to be living in a fraction of it’s infinite set of possibilities across time. That’s good enough for me. That answer seems satisfactory.

As for specific Gods.. Any God that judges based on behavior or “heart condition” seem impractical. Humans behave according to the information content of their brains. They would act good or bad or whatever as long as their fallible shortsightedness allowed for them to see that as an option. That is, the burden of proof that some behaviors are better than others is on that God. He has to convince people to behave however he wanted them to UNLESS they might behave his way simply by chance alone. Which isn’t fair because everyone who fails to follow his way will have failed by chance alone. Humans don’t have a choice about what they believe to be true. They either believe they should act one way or else they believe they should act another. They only ever act according to their perceived best interests so judgement-God will have to beef up his marketing to make sales. It’s not anyone’s fault if they don’t buy what he’s failing to demonstrate the value of.

Every other god out there, doesn’t seem to want or need anything from us. As long as the aren’t judging us on anything then whatever. Would be nice for them to drop in and let us know what services they have to offer. Otherwise, I don’t see what the point of them is. Life is pretty swell without them. If they can make it better then show yourselves and pick up a bucket. So far.. I see nothing.

_zen_'s avatar

Those who are so cocksure about something they have no proof of, one way or another, should take a second to ponder this:

If Earth’s life was compressed into one year, then humans would have been around for only 2 seconds.

Berserker's avatar

@zen Really? Man, do we humans suck or what. Two seconds…sad, dude. XD

tom_g's avatar

@zen: “If Earth’s life was compressed into one year, then humans would have been around for only 2 seconds.”

Why are you so cocksure about this?

Berserker's avatar

That makes me wonder about something I’ve been thinking of a lot lately. Do you think that like, all the stuff inside us, like blood cells, bacteria, and all that stuff…maybe they like, have their own civilizations and universes inside our bodies. Maybe they’re sentient, and are kinda like people, but in some different way. Their purpose as we know it is, to them, something else entirely. Like how we believe in stuff, but if Darwin is right, that is only used as a complimentary factor for survival.
Maybe atoms and other forms of energy/molecules/matter/whatever, too. Maybe the nucleus is a god, a planet, or like, San Fransisco.

Berserker's avatar

…damn. :D


@Rarebear If you don’t know for sure, then you’re an agnostic, not an atheist.

Rarebear's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES I’m not going to get into splitting hairs with you as to whether I am an atheist or agnostic. It’s really not that important. If you want to be technical about it, I’m an “agnostic atheist” as opposed to a “gnostic atheist”. as noted in this article.

If someone were to give me verifiable evidence of a deity I will happily change my self label to a gnostic theist. But the proper scientific point of view is not to believe in something until you have verifiable evidence. To be fair, I don’t believe in, say, the multiverse theory for the same reason, and there is much more evidence (mathematical, not experimental) for that.

AdamF's avatar

Mystics, religions, and their devotees have had millenia to provide compelling evidence that gods exist. And yet, the best they seem to ever do is (not coincidentally) rely on the most fallible of sources…anecdotal accounts that Joe had a revelation, defended under the nonsensical pretence that it is virtuous if the most formative questions in life embrace the answer with the least supportive evidence.

It’s perfectly reasonable to now accept that this is and has always been an intellectual dead end, and as such (finally!) substantial numbers of us are moving on.

WasCy's avatar

I wish we could, or at least would, stop arguing about this. It’s pointless. The fact is that the existence of god or gods can’t be proved. If it can’t be proved, then it also can’t be disproved. We each have our beliefs, fantasies and ideals. Those who believe in god or gods don’t all believe in the same one. Those who don’t believe don’t all disbelieve in the same way. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

mattbrowne's avatar

@roundsquare – I think you should understand that there are different types of atheism. Maybe you find this classification useful as it touches on the levels of certainty.

- Implicit Atheism

Implicit atheism is the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it. Weak atheism (sometimes also called negative atheism) refers to any other type of non-theism, wherein a person does not believe any deities exist, but does not claim that same statement is false. Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of the existence of deities and spiritual beings are unknown. There are non-spiritual explanations for the nature of physical reality and the meaning of good and evil.

- Spiritual Atheism

The cosmos might have a purpose and a deeper meaning, but the reason for this would not be related to divine power. There is a solid scientific understanding of our cosmos. Science can explain phenomena which are observed within our universe or multiverse. There is no magic within our world, which means the supernatural doesn’t exist. Being superstitious is wrong. Atheism must not claim exclusive rights in defining truth and it is best seen as one world view among many. There is no reason why religion cannot be compatible with reason or with the main body of accredited human knowledge. Antireligionism and antireligious dogmas are rejected and seen as counterproductive, but any religion worthy of belief should be consistent with human reason and knowledge.

Being spiritual does not necessarily mean being religious. In spiritual atheism in-group/out-group morality models are discouraged. A human-centered spirituality should be articulated in which atheists, agnostics and believers can feel equally at home. To live in a spiritually healthy way, people must be allowed to be authentically themselves, to realize their full potential, and to make their own moral and lifestyle choices. The focus is on human dignity and acting in good faith, bringing out and rehabilitating the innate goodness of humankind. The core values of enlightened atheism also include spiritual growth, compassion, generosity, nonviolence, humility, as well as inner and outer peace.

- Explicit atheism

Explicit atheism is the absence of theistic belief due to a conscious rejection of it. Strong atheism (sometimes also called positive atheism) claims that the statement ‘there is at least one god’ is false, which means gods or the God does not exist. There is nothing that cannot be understood at least in principle is a true statement. The reasonable nonbelief in God is based on the lack of evidence. It is therefore irrational to believe in supernatural beings. People believe in God, not because he exists, but because of other reasons. God memes offer a good explanation where memes are seen as elements of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which are transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The gathering of all relevant knowledge is accomplished by employing the scientific method. Strong atheism shares many values with humanism, rationalism, materialism and naturalism. Atheism is seen as superior to religions.

- Atheist fundamentalism

The cosmos we observe has precisely the properties we should expect and there is no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. God or any other deities do not exist. Natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations. Natural science is capable of describing all reality and knowledge and when doing so it clearly leads to atheism. Therefore the belief in God is a delusion while religion should be seen as a obscurantist, dictatorial and oppressive force and the world would be a better place without it. Atheist fundamentalists typically reject classifications of atheism. They often also reject classifications of various forms of religions, as they are seen as minor variations of the same religious delusion. They argue that atheism and spirituality cannot coexist, because any concept of spiritual atheism is fundamentally flawed. The word spirit refers to the supernatural and has therefore to be rejected.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Sunny2's avatar

@WasCy is correct. There isn’t going to be and can’t be a conclusion to this discussion. It’s great for those who enjoy arguing, but it’s basically and “Are too!’ “Am not!” back and forth forever.

Cruiser's avatar

@Sunny2 I see this as one of those opportunities to see the wide variety of perspective and perceptions of a very interesting element of the human spirit. @JilltheTooth expanded my understand of theists views of their God not necessarily being automatically pigeon holed with some set Religion. Without this question and all these answers my own perspective would have remained narrower than it now is today. Truthfully I love these questions!

JilltheTooth's avatar

Since language usage seems to be being discussed here a bit, let me clarify. I’ve just learned the difference between theist and deist. I thought they were the same. Based on the Wikipedia descriptions, I seem to be a deist with some theist tendencies. Learning something new every day!

fundevogel's avatar

@JilltheTooth All deists are theists, but not all theists are deists.

So long as you believe in a god you are a theist. Deists believe in a particular type of god, a non-interventionist creator.

lillycoyote is a deist.

Qingu's avatar

I think deism is functionally indistinguishable from atheism.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I…..find……myself….agreeing with @WasCy, get me my defibrillator. I second the ideal though, each to his own belief and we drop it and go our own way.

fundevogel's avatar

@Qingu and pantheism is usually atheism with a coat of paint.

Sunny2's avatar

@Cruiser I think you must be much younger than I. I applaud your searching for answers and discussion. I’m just saying that this discussion will go on forever as each generation searches for answers to the unknowable.


@Rarebear From the sound of it, you’re more of agnostic than an atheist. If you’re not sure, and if you are holding out for more evidence, that means you share a “hope” with other agnostics. That very uncertainty makes you an agnostic, not an atheist. Atheists do not believe in anything, and do not want or expect evidence. It’s okay to be an agnostic my friend. Nothin’ wrong with that. ;)

tom_g's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES – First of all, read up on agnosticism and atheism. Please. Here is a great description.

@MRSHINYSHOES: “Atheists do not believe in anything, and do not want or expect evidence.”

Please don’t come in here making comments like this. You are either unable to read anything from the many atheists that post here on fluther or you are intentionally trolling.

Rarebear's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Again, splitting hairs. I am not “holding out” for more evidence of a deity any more than I am “holding out” for evidence for an alien intelligence on another world. Mine is a purely empirical scientific point of view. I don’t believe in anything that there is not verifiable evidence. I have not seen verifiable evidence of a deity, therefore I don’t believe in a deity. I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus either. If you want to say I’m agnostic about the Tooth Fairy then that’s fine.

And your statement “atheists do not believe in anything, and do not want or expect evidence” is not only blatantly wrong, but it’s insulting. I agree with @tom_g. You are either ignorant or you are trolling.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – Yes, deism is functionally indistinguishable from implicit atheism. Just the wording differs a bit. God. Universe. Ultimate force. Ultimate explanation. Deists don’t talk about being absolutely certain. And neither do implicit atheists the way I understand it.

Enlightened theism goes beyond deism, though. It contains rituals and explores questions of morality, way of life, community, purpose and a meaning, and posits that we all are part of something bigger than ourselves. Deism is not concerned with these questions.

Qingu's avatar

I guess I don’t understand how the enlightened theist’s rituals and questions of morality, life, community, etc tie in remotely to their understanding of god.

What exactly is the difference between a deist/atheist who also explores these questions and comes up with similar answers as you do (such as myself), and an enlightened theist such as yourself?

mattbrowne's avatar

Deism is about the existence of God as the ultimate explanation of nature and its laws. It’s not about how people live their lives and how they interact with each other. And neither is atheism. So, yes, both are almost identical.

Now people can come up with frameworks for morality, life, community and so forth. An example is humanism. It lacks the rituals, but this must not necessarily be so, as explored by Neal Stephenson’s in his book Anathem (which you recommended to me a couple of months ago). In my opinion, a deity is not necessary to define or justify such frameworks. Buddhism would be another example of such a framework. Communism another one.

Enlightened theists are deists who also rely on the evolving traditions of religions which include questions of morality, life, community, and also rituals and a rich world of metaphors and symbolism. Enlightened theism shares more common values with humanism than with fundamentalist theism. A good example is the opposition to all theories of universal determinism, fatalism, or predestination, and the belief that human beings, while conditioned by the past, possess genuine freedom of creative choice and action, and are, within certain objective limits, the shapers of their own destiny.

One difference between the two is the part that there’s nothing beyond nature. Another difference is that the world of symbolism is seen as something valuable and helpful enabling theists to explore deeper values and meanings by which they live.

But all in all, I’d say your views and mine overlap at least 98%. I feel that’s a good thing.

Rarebear's avatar

I agree with @mattbrowne. Personally, I really don’t care whether someone is a deist or a theist or even very religious. Most of my friends are not atheists. What I care about is that someone does not deny science or scientific explanations. If someone wants to use God as an explanation of something that is not yet explained naturally (like, for instance, how the Big Bang started), that’s fine, as long as that belief does not hamper scientific exploration.

mattbrowne's avatar

Thanks, @Rarebear – Yes, I also care about not denying science or scientific explanations. I also care about whether people have a good heart or not. I don’t see any correlation with atheism, agnosticm or theism here. One small observation about your comment:

Deism is not about using God as an explanation of something that is not yet explained naturally. Deism is not about any gaps. It’s about an ultimate explanation. So for example if we come up with a proven multiverse theory in the year 2040 explaining the big bang, the issue of the ultimate explanation still remains. What explains the multiverse theory? What explains the explanation of the multiverse theory? And so forth. Again it boils down to this impasse:

‘The impasse is then that the two critical aspects of a Theory of Everything, comprehensiveness and finality, conflict with the fundamental principle of noncircularity. A comprehensive theory which explains everything must explain itself, and a final theory which has no deeper explanation must, by the principle of sufficient reason, have some explanation; consequently it too must be self-explanatory. Rescher concludes that any Theorist of Everything committed to comprehensiveness and finality is bound to regard noncircularity as “something that has to be jettisoned”. But how, he asks, can a theory adequately substantiate itself?’

fundevogel's avatar

@mattbrowne If a deist expects naturalistic explanations for the workings of the universe which are presumed to be in some way set in place by a god at what point does god become necessary to explain anything? Is it all naturalistic back to when god set things in motion? And if so, why expect naturalistic explanations up to that point? Why is a magical explanation expected here but here but dismissed elsewhere?

It just seems inconsistent to me. If it’s merely a matter of deists not being able to come up with an acceptable naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe they do still have a god of the gaps. They’ve just managed to limit themselves to one gap.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is no particular point, @fundevogel – We can always try to stretch our understanding of the laws of nature. Perhaps a proven multiverse theory of 2040 can be explained by a superhyperverse theory in the year 2080 and a supergigahyperverse theory in 2110 . Doesn’t change a thing. The ultimate why question always remains open.

JilltheTooth's avatar

And here I thought I was a deist/theist just cuz grass is so pretty.

fundevogel's avatar

@mattbrowne “The ultimate why question always remains open.”

Not everything has a purpose. Sometimes stuff just happens. I rather doubt our existence of the universe has any grand purpose. That’s fine with me. I don’t need to be part of some grand scheme to find value and beauty in my life and the universe.

mattbrowne's avatar

@fundevogel – The belief in God and the belief in “sometimes stuff just happens” is not that different. They are characterized by “beyond our understanding”.

josie's avatar

People-my beloved Jellies

To “know” requires an epistemological standard of evidence. If there is no evidence, there is nothing to know. Thus, in a particular context, no evidence means there is nothing. If evidence exists, then knowing inherits gradually increasing epistemological status- Possible, probable, certain, etc.

No evidence means nothing is there, since nothing leaves no evidence. You can hope, dream, anticipate, wish, hallucinate and all that all you want. Nothing leaves no evidence. Until the evidence appears, there is nothing there.

The only evidence of God is that some people believe it and say so.

That is not evidence. In a criminal trial, that would be dismissed as hearsay.

ninjacolin's avatar

Testimonial evidence is evidence. It’s just not very great evidence.
regardless, @josie: golf clap.

In this 10 minute discussion Neil Tyson tackles the value of testimony (aka. hearsay/game of telephone) vs the scientific method. He does such a great/hilarious job.

fundevogel's avatar

@mattbrowne “The belief in God and the belief in “sometimes stuff just happens” is not that different. They are characterized by “beyond our understanding”.”

Not really. Belief in god is to accept a mystical assertion about the way the world works. To say “stuff just happens” isn’t much more than an acknowledgement that the universe doesn’t seem to have any cosmic purpose and that’s probably because it doesn’t.

One is based on asserting the existence of a higher power the other is extrapolated from observing the apparent chaos of the universe.

@ninjacolin good link Colin. I love Neil.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, @josie, there is something there. A world running on very reliable natural laws. But ultimately we can’t explain conclusively why this is so.

And the only evidence of “sometimes stuff just happens” is that some people believe it and say so.

That is not evidence. In a criminal trial, that would be dismissed as hearsay.

fundevogel's avatar

@mattbrowne “And the only evidence of “sometimes stuff just happens” is that some people believe it and say so.”

“That is not evidence. In a criminal trial, that would be dismissed as hearsay.”

As opposed to all the evidence for god which would hold like a steel trap in court?

When I said “stuff just happens” I meant stuff happens without purpose or intention. That should have been clear. It is in keeping with a naturalistic understanding of the universe. That’s what you get with a swift application of Occam’s razor.

The world functions according to natural laws. Natural laws are entirely mechanical and govern without concern for the outcome, good, bad or neutral. Thus, theorizing the universe has purpose or is governed by the intent of a deity for which there is no quantifiable evidence is a violation of the law of parsimony. It needlessly introduces new, unverifiable elements to explain things which can be explained with more economy.

Additionally, making the happenings of a seemingly indifferent universe the work of a loving god (as so many are wont to do) leaves religious people struggling to justify why god allows horrific things to happen and why they are “a part of his plan”. Frankly it’s disgusting to hear the faithful attempt to find justification for natural disasters and personal tragedy. It’s indecent in my opinion.

roundsquare's avatar

@WasCy @Sunny2 @Hypocrisy_Central I don’t expect to get a final answer here. Nor do I expect this debate to change anyone’s mind. I’m still thinking about this and so I keep looking to see what people say. I enjoy getting information/points of view this way rather than through other methods so i use fluther for this. That being said, I don’t really agree with the whole “let everyone believe what they want” view. This doesn’t mean I want to shove my view down people’s throats, but when people are open to it, its good to expose your views and see if people can poke holes in them.

@mattbrowne Thanks for the explanation. Here, I’m only referring to explicit and fundamental atheism (since the other two types are not “sure” in any sense of the word).

On disproving things: There IS a way to disprove the existence of god (for any given definition of god). Find something that must be true if god exists and show that is is not true. In more general terms, find something that probably should be true and show that it is (probably) not true. This is really what is behind the whole “how can god let this happen?” argument.

A) If there were a loving all-powerful god, there would (probably) not be horrible violence.
B) There is horrible violence.
C) Thus, there is (probably) not a loving all-powerful god.
People disagree with A, but that’s the debate.

Unless I missed it, I don’t see anyone giving an equivalent for A that disproves the existence of a more generic definition of god.

@fundevogel On the law of parsimony, its only useful if your explanation really explains everything. The deist explanation puts something at the bottom of all the turtles.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@roundsquare : Gee, as a deist/theist I prefer this turtle reference… ;-D

roundsquare's avatar

@fundevogel Or maybe not. It might just create a new turtle problem since you can ask “who/what created god?” (Elephants below the turtles, if you will). I’m not sure since I’d need to look more into pure deism to see what they say…

@JilltheTooth Now I want some green eggs and ham.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@roundsquare : What’s your preference? On a boat with a goat? Or our special today, in a box with a fox?

WasCy's avatar

Oh, well. If we’re poking holes in silly beliefs @roundsquare, then…

How can a human judge that God is “good”, “just”, “merciful”, “kind” or any other (human) attribute (including the reverse of any of those things)? If God is to humans as humans are to, say, a colony of bacteria (and really, the gulf – if it exists – is far larger than that, isn’t it?) then how can we possibly make these evaluations that are so common to most religions?

How can humans believe that a thing is “God’s will” when they try to accept the (usually bad) things that happen to them – and still try to change the things that are? It must also be God’s will that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are a couple of the richest men in the world, isn’t it? And God’s will that I’m an atheist?

What gives you or anyone the right to question that or argue against it – if things are as you suppose in the world, and God rules?

roundsquare's avatar

@WasCy I don’t think I indicated that I believe God exists.

mattbrowne's avatar

Enlightened theists never make any claim that there’s scientific evidence for the existence of an ultimate force or ultimate explanation or God (whatever we want to call it). But the belief in it, isn’t entirely foolish either. Only fools think it’s foolish. And only stupid people don’t want their ideas and beliefs to be critically examined. Christianity even developed a method called higher criticism. Scholars built on the tradition of enlightenment and rationalist thinkers.

Most emotions around the subject have the following root cause in my opinion: fundamentalist evangelicals in the US telling everybody else they are wrong. In a harsh and unfriendly way.

And a few atheists (clearly a minority) on Fluther sometimes fall into the trap of out-group homogeneity bias which relies on the perception of out-group members being more similar to one another than in-group members.

I share at least 95% of my views with humanists and probably less than 5% with fundamentalist evangelicals.

So, please, let’s not get carried away once again. Some debates in the past were rather unpleasant.

And please be also emphatic and patient with fundamentalist evangelicals, especially young ones. They are human beings too, as both humanists and Christians would argue.

I still remember the case of that new Jelly who was driven away from our community within three days when the combined wisdom and IQ of the veterans here hit her like a category 5 hurricane.

It turned out she grew up in trailer with an abusive mother and some evangelical took pity in her, telling her that evolution was wrong. She never had a chance here. It was very sad.

Lessons learned for me and I quote:

“We should guard our lips so we can guard our lives too, knowing that speaking rashly can ruin everything.”

Somebody wrote this 3000 years ago. Pretty remarkable I think. I’m sure you know the source.

So let’s show positive appreciation of diversity and be tolerate all tolerant worldviews and beliefs and have a friendly debate.

It still is friendly. Let’s keep it that way. That would be great.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Everything I’m about to say has been covered above, but I wanted to contribute, anyhow.

1. I have never seen a shred of evidence or proof that I have personally found to be sufficient in supporting the existence of any higher being. I have done a lifetime of searching for such evidence, because like most people, I have an innate desire to be a part of something bigger. To believe that there is more to it than just what is right before my eyes. I have simply concluded that I, personally, have no reason to believe that such a thing exists.

2. I am sure for the same reason that believers are sure. I just feel it. That doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than anyone else’s. I just feel in the very core of my being that “god(s)” is complete and utter nonsense. I don’t mean that to sound offensive, but that’s my honest opinion. It feels archaic and unnecessary, to me, and I struggle to understand how anyone can believe it. Probably very much in the same way that most believers would struggle to understand how I do not believe.

I think the biggest one for me is #3: I am not afraid of being wrong. I know that there is a difference between spirituality and religion, but for the majority of history it has been preached that there are consequences for not acknowledging or accomodating god(s.) When I first began to question my faith I was terrified. I knew that asking questions like that was going to get me sent straight to hell! And then it faded. And faded. And vanished. And it occurred to me that once I let go of the fear of what might happen if I didn’t believer, that nothing was left to keep me believing.

Scooby's avatar

My mother told me many years ago…. She never lies.

Hibernate's avatar

@Scooby at some point you need to realize that everyone lies even if they don’t intend to lie.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Not @Scooby‘s mom. Not ever.

Scooby's avatar

That’s right @JilltheTooth. “Not ever” ;-)

roundsquare's avatar

I have faith in @Scooby‘s mom.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Is this the part where we all clap cuz we believe in @Scooby‘s mom?

mattbrowne's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf – I don’t like the utter nonsense part in your comment. To me this a form of violent communication. It is also a form of aggressive atheism and incompatible with the values of humanism.

I value non-violent communication. And I wish there was more of it in our world.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

‘Violent’ and ‘aggressive.’ I’m not sure that I see how you can come to the conclusion that either of those things are true, when I don’t care a bit what anyone else believes as long as it doesn’t affect me or cause them to behave in a dangerous manner. I might understand how you would find what I said to be aggressive if I were preaching it on the streets or just going around telling people how nonsensical I think religion is. However, when being questioned about what I believe I feel like I should be honest. And the truth of the matter is that I really do struggle to understand how people can believe it, because it really does seem that far fetched to me. If you want me to pretend that I believe that I think it is a reasonable thing to believe, when I don’t, I simply can’t do that. And when someone asks what my opinion is, I’m going to tell the the truth. If that makes me violent and aggressive, well, I don’t even know how to respond beyond what I’ve already said.

mattbrowne's avatar

I experience it as violent and aggressive and offensive, because ‘utter nonsense’ are two very powerful words. To me it is not utter nonsense to believe in God as the ultimate explanation for our natural laws. I have the need to make you aware of this, because I respect you.

roundsquare's avatar

@mattbrowne While my instinct is to agree with you, I have to ask: is there a way to accurately express such a strong feeling without it coming off as aggressive?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t have control over how you experience what I say. I’m sorry that you’re offended, but you should notice that I specifically said that was not my intention. Frankly, I’m not sure if you’re offended that I said it, or that I believe it. I was just being honest. I am still being honest. I answered the question to the best of my ability while being truthful. I think that calling it violent or aggressive is simply incorrect.
As for your desire to make me “aware,” this is not a conclusion that I’ve come to lightly. And, while I appreciate what I believe is a sincerely good intention, I am really not interested in having you try to change my mind.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Wow, Through the Looking Glass, indeed! @ANef_is_Enuf and @mattbrowne having that exchange? Again, wow.

mattbrowne's avatar


I read the words ‘utter nonsense’ (referring to a belief in God). I felt angry and disappointed. I have a need for respect and fairness. Would you like to share your need in this discussion? Is it perhaps clarity about our universe?

I don’t want to change anyone’s mind when it comes to beliefs. I shared with you the effect of the words utter nonsense. I totally respect your beliefs. I’m concerned about particular forms of communication. How human beings interact with each other matters a great deal to me. I have a need to work toward a more peaceful world. Would you like to join me in this quest?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@mattbrowne how would you prefer that I communicate my belief that it nonsense? I would be happy to use a phrase with the same honesty and meaning, that is less upsetting for anyone that might happen to read it.
Again, I am sorry that you felt angry and disappointed. I’m still uncertain about how you would like me to convey my beliefs truthfully without stepping on any toes. If you have a functional suggestion, I would genuinely love to hear it. In the meanwhile, I stand firm that what I said is truly what I believe.

I am not looking for clarity about our universe in this discussion, no. I am, however, looking for the same respect and fairness that you are. I feel that being able to openly and honestly express what I believe in regards to the question being asked is quite fair, but it seems that we are not seeing eye to eye. So by all means, if you have another way for me to accurately express what I believe without it coming off as violent, please share. I would appreciate that very much.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf – How about: “The belief in God doesn’t make sense to me. I find it hard to understand why there are people who believe in God, even though there is no scientific evidence for it.”

To me there’s a difference between saying “it doesn’t make sense to me” and “it is utter nonsense”. The latter can easily be understood as a judgment of people, even when this effect wasn’t intended. It also creates a division between two large groups of people. One group believes in meaningful things. The other group believes in nonsense. It’s a breeding ground for conflict and violence.

Words can be powerful tools. They can open doors and they can close doors.

tom_g's avatar

Sticking my nose in where it probably doesn’t belong…
@mattbrowne – I think you are being unreasonable in requiring @ANef_is_Enuf to communicate her beliefs in a way that does not offend you. “Utter nonsense” is a term we use all the time to describe claims for which there is no evidence. It doesn’t have to be a “judgement of people”. I think you’re choosing to be offended here. Relax. This is no place to hang out and discuss adult topics if you have a thin skin. People have different ideas and all different kinds of ways of communicating.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t mean to pick.. but aren’t “nonsense” and the absence of sense the same thing? Is there a difference in the definition that I am unaware of?
I just feel like I made it very clear that I was only expressing my personal beliefs… not projecting a judgment. I feel a bit like you’re reading between the lines, but I appreciate your suggestion.
I feel like this is a very fine line. I certainly don’t go around telling everyone my (admittedly extreme) opinion on the matter, but I really feel like I should have a right to honestly express what I believe when asked. Beliefs that we hold dear to our hearts will always be grounds for controversy, as long as there are people who disagree. Regardless of how much you sugar coat it. I personally feel like intent is far more significant than semantics. I also hesitate to censor myself, which is very much what this feels like. Being part of a minority group, even if I do tend to lean toward the more extreme end of it, being discouraged to express myself honestly feels threatening.

Of course, I’m positive that your intent was not to threaten me, so I haven’t mentioned it until now. You have no control over how I react to what you’re saying, but I am trusting that your intentions are good. I hope you can see where I am going with this. Perhaps we can come to a mutual understanding on those grounds.

mattbrowne's avatar

“Utter nonsense” is not a term we use all the time to describe claims for which there is no evidence, @tom_g. There is no evidence for Max Tegmark’s level 1, level 2 and level 4 universe. Reasonable scientists don’t call his ideas to be utter nonsense. Some call it speculation. Others call it a hypothesis. Even for the level 3 multiverse there’s no conclusive evidence apart from the fact that the outcome of the double slit experiment still can’t be explained properly and a lot of people feel uneasy about the Copenhagen interpretation.

No one can offer an ultimate explanation of our natural laws. You can’t. Others can’t. Science cannot without applying circular reasoning. But I don’t want to rehash earlier comments.

FutureMemory's avatar

Atheists: Why are you so sure?

Because the idea of some all-powerful Daddy Sky Wizard is completely ridiculous.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I think this argument has been rehashed several times already. @nikipedia pretty much summed my thoughts.

The new development comes from two people I respect: @mattbrowne and @ANef_is_Enuf . There seems to be a misunderstanding or offense taken regarding the use of Nef’s words “utter nonsense”. She was simply stating her belief. She clarified by saying “It feel archaic….” That is her belief. She answered the question the OP asked and is entitled to state how she feels. That is the beauty and strength of Fluther.
I’m pretty certain the original question or multiple answers won’t change the opinion of anyone here.
Maybe we can agree that a poster has the right to answer a social question honestly.
(I wish I could type faster.)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

This has gotten a bit out of hand, to me.
I would imagine that almost anyone that knows me even a little bit would vouch for me in saying that I certainly didn’t come into this discussion with the intention of offending anyone. I didn’t anticipate being put in a position where I felt that I needed to be defensive as a result of what I said, and I think it is unfortunate that it turned out the way that it did. I fear that we may not be able to come to an amicable agreement, so I think perhaps now is a good time to agree to disagree.
I would rather not retract my words, because I still hold them to be a genuine representation of my feelings, and I have not been presented with a response that I feel suitably replaces what I was trying to say in an accurate manner.
However, I am sincerely sorry that you were offended by what I said. I am not the type of person that gets any type of joy out of offending or upsetting anyone. Again, I have no control over the reaction people will have to what I say in any setting, and that includes discussions here on Fluther, which unfortunately means that I may offend someone on occasion. I hope that I’ve been clear in illustrating my intentions and you are able to see that I meant no harm by what I said.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf – Yes, my intentions are good. Your intentions are good. I’m investing time to make you aware of what kind of effects words can have. There are multiply ways of expressing oneself honestly. That’s what I’d like to point out. I’m no longer angry, but I will continue to try to influence how we communicate. It matters to me.

Version 1:
A belief in God is utter nonsense.
A non-belief in God is evil.

Version 2:
A belief in God makes no sense to me.
A non-belief in God makes no sense to me.

I prefer Version 2.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I agree that version 2 sounds much more pleasant. I don’t believe that it has the same meaning, however. I don’t feel like this is actually about words, but rather it is about the meaning behind the words.
Claiming that it makes no sense to me implies that I am ignorant. And vice versa. A person who genuinely believes that not believing in god(s) is evil, really believes that it is evil. Not that it doesn’t make sense. On the contrary, whether or not anyone agrees with me, I believe that I have made a well thought out decision about what I believe to be true.
Saying that I believe something is nonsense… and saying that it doesn’t make sense to me, don’t have the same meaning. Of course the second statement sounds much nicer. I completely agree with you, there. But I don’t think that it portrays what I believe as accurately as the first statement.
You want peace, and I do too. I’d like to rest on that sentiment, if that’s okay with you.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Neffie’s statement has rocked the very foundations of the coelenterate world. Only a God would have that power. Therefore, Neffie = God, thereby disproving her own atheism.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth I wish I were close enough to hug you. Not just because of that statement, mind you. :)

JilltheTooth's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf : You just want to get your hands on my black booby shirt… ;-)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Little bit.

Schroedes13's avatar

Wowzers…...I’m glad I stayed out of this one so far! I’m a Christian. When it comes down to it, you have your beliefs, I have my beliefs. I am willing to discuss many things concerning theology or religion with almost anyone. I think it’s good to get ideas and concepts out there, but I think it’s also appropriate to try and not argue about ideas and concepts. That is all!

mattbrowne's avatar

We are not arguing about ideas and concepts related to theism and atheism right now. It was my intention to argue about communication styles, feelings and needs.

Blackberry's avatar

@mattbrowne I think that would make a great question; someone should ask it lol.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Then surely, @mattbrowne , you must understand the rather large difference in nuance between ”...makes no sense to me” and “utter nonsense”. I think Neffie expressed her views exactly as she meant to. I disagree with them, yet took no offense whatsoever, because I understood that she was speaking about herself.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@FutureMemory Because the idea of some all-powerful Daddy Sky Wizard is completely ridiculous. I agree, the idea of some all-powerful Daddy Sky Wizard would be ludicrous, because there is not one of those, God didn’t create one.

However, the point is still the same, atheist can be as sure as they want to be. Even they will never know if they were right. Once dead their soul, no quite sure what they would call it, will go off into Never Never Land, Cloud 9, the great white zephrum, or wherever. They will never know it because one second past death, they exist no more, I guess except those who hang around as ghost. One the other hand, if they are not right, they will surely know about it and that will be quite interesting. I would

mattbrowne's avatar

@JilltheTooth – I’d like to quote Aristotle:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

My thought was about different communication styles. Of course I know that Neffie expressed her views exactly as she meant to. I also know that many religious zealots have the view that the non-belief in God is evil. Well, I disagree with both their view and their choice of words. It is my experience that most atheists are open to any kind of intellectual debate with plenty of new thoughts. My thought here is that we can have meaningful debates choosing our words more carefully and more wisely. That’s how I feel. And I know that not everybody here will accept my views. Which is fine. But we can still try to entertain the thought. I hope.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, for heaven’s sake, @mattbrowne , it’s just silly to take this so far. We get that you don’t like how Neffie worded a sentence in a post. All this kerfuffle you’ve created about her mild statement really isn’t worthy of your or my, for that matter, intellect. I give up.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

This wasn’t meant to be a debate. I am fully capable of having a discussion with someone from an opposing viewpoint without ever saying things as strongly as I did here in this thread.
What I did here was say what I felt, uncensored, because I was answering a question… not debating. I’ve tried every approach that I can think of to meet you in the middle, and it appears that shy of doing exactly what you want me to do, we aren’t going to be able to come to an agreement. I use my own judgment to gauge when it is and isn’t appropriate for me to be open about my personal beliefs, and I don’t believe I’ve made the wrong decision in this case. I am not going to censor myself in a public discussion, a discussion with directly relates to my beliefs (however unconventional they might be), just because I might potentially upset someone that happens to see it. The question was directed at atheists, which makes me feel like I should have the right to speak openly about what I feel.
I was never under the impression that this discussion was meant to be a debate. It was a very specific question about what I believe. Not whether or not people agree with what I believe. If the tables had been turned, and this was a question anywhere else being asked of Christians… and I reacted the way that you have, I would be scolded and considered to be intolerant. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
I don’t think that it would be a stretch to call myself a nice person. I always try to remain aware and considerate of what other people are feeling, and do my best to be easy to get along with… but my patience with this discussion has worn very thin. You are picking a fight with me because you don’t like what I said, and although I have tried to find a common ground, you have not. That concerns me greatly, and with that I will end my part in this discussion, because I no longer feel like it is or will be constructive. I’m sorry that we were not able to resolve this, but I feel very much like I am the only one willing to make accommodations, and that’s just not how I roll.

And, @JilltheTooth, thank you.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m sorry. Now it was me who upset you. I feel that I’m being misunderstood here. I guess I failed to communicate properly. All of this isn’t about fighting. I’ll give it a rest. Again, I’m sorry how this turned out.

_zen_'s avatar

Anyone for a game of scrabble?

JilltheTooth's avatar

Hi, Zen, glad to see you! Would you please change your name again so we can red you? Those silly underscores really screw with the whole highlighting thing… ;-)

Welcome home, Darlin’, we missed Picard!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Hey zen, glad to see you!

rOs's avatar

I think Gandhi puts it best in his own words:

It may be a product of my heated imagination. If it is so, I prize that imagination as it has served me for a chequered life extending over a period of now nearly over fifty-five years, because I learned to rely consciously upon God before I was fifteen years old.

Charitable critics impute no fraud to me, but suggest that I am highly likely to be acting under some hallucination. The result for me, even then, will not be far different from what it would be if I was laying a false claim. A humble seeker that I claim to be has need to be most cautious and, to preserve the balance of mind, he has to reduce himself to zero before God will guide him. Let me not labour this point.

Could I give any further evidence that it was truly the Voice that I heard and that it was not an echo of my own heated imagination? I have no further evidence to convince the skeptic. He is free to say that it was all self-delusion or hallucination. It may well have been so. I can offer no proof to the contrary. But I can say this, that not the unanimous verdict of the whole world against me could shake me from the belief that what I heard was the true Voice of God.

Nobody has to my knowledge questioned the possibility of the inner voice speaking to some, and it is a gain to the world even if one person’s claim to speak under the authority of the inner voice can be really sustained. Many may make the claim, but not all will be able to substantiate it. But it cannot and ought not to be suppressed for the sake of preventing false claimants.

For me the Voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth, or the Inner Voice or ‘the Still Small Voice’ mean one and the same thing. I saw no form. I have never tried, for I have always believed God to be without form. But what I did hear was like a Voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the Voice. The hearing of the Voice was preceded by a terrific struggle within me. Suddenly the Voice came upon me. I listened, made certain it was the Voice, and the struggle ceased. I was calm. The determination was made accordingly, the date and the hour of the fast were fixed…

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Also, check out these other great minds that might be called delusional.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I came across this video today. Those interested in the atheist perspective might find it interesting if you actually have the time to watch it, or even just to skip through it.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Certainly enteresting. It also bolstered the thought I had. I did not get to view it all, I will get back to that later, but trying to explain away stealing and murder, even these suppose greater smarter minds short-reached. They certainly can’t or didn’t come to me with any scientific reason why men don’t steal, or why men do murder.

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