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MrGrimm888's avatar

Atheists. What would it take for you to be a theist?

Asked by MrGrimm888 (16449points) August 10th, 2016

I frequently ask questions about people of faith, and why they adhere to their beliefs. Their motivation is interesting to me.

Recently , a flutherite compared or called atheism a belief, or religion of sorts. I never really thought about it like that. I kind of felt atheisim was a belief in nothing spiritual.

Anyway. Turn about is fair play.

Other than a diety showing up in Times Square, or your front door, is there anything else that would or could convert you into a religion?

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65 Answers

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Well, you eliminated about the only thing that would convince me. The meeting at the front door would evolve into and invitation to come inside for coffee. First, I have a lot of questions for this entity. Second, there would be a few miracles to be performed on my command before I believed in their godhood.

But, since you’ve eliminated this, the answer is no.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Without real evidence of their supernatural abilities and omnipotence and omniscience, no, I can’t think of anything that would convert me into a believer.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

Well, it’s money, benefits, or privileges. If people can be paid to become theists (whether for formality or real belief) then you’ll be sure that many will become one.

Setanta's avatar

For some people, I suppose, “atheism” constitutes a belief system. That would be those who assert that there is no god. They are called “strong,” or explicit atheists. However, if Religious Tolerance-dot-org is to be believed, the majority of atheists are so-called “weak” atheists, implicit atheists. That would be me. It’s not about believing anything. It’s about not believing the god botherers claims. I don’t believe that there is a god, and I don’t care.

For me to believe that there is a god, I’d need to be presented unambiguous, incontrovertible evidence of the “god.” Not evidence by analogy, not “it stands to reason,” or “it’s just common sense,” and certainly not that feeble crap in which a believer gives you the “just look around you” dodge. Without unambiguous, incontrovertible evidence, I ain’t buyin’ it.

flutherother's avatar

What makes you think a ‘deity’ showing up in Times Square or my front door would convince me. I have had a few representatives of the deity showing up at my front door already with poor results. Sending their boss round in person to give a display of cosmic fireworks will lead to me calling the police.

JLeslie's avatar

God showing up in Times Square would be the way to get me to believe in a God that can move mountains, judge people, and send people to heaven or hell.

If you use alternate definitions of God, I might fit into the definition. I believe there is an order in the universe so to speak. Some people define God that way, or that God is within each of us.

I’m an atheist, have been my whole life, but I feel I have a belief system. Not a system prescribed by others that has some sort of leader, but a belief in what is good and bad, and how my actions affect others and vice versa. A moral and ethical code.

Seek's avatar

Evidence. No more and no less.

Verifiable, testable, falsifiable, empirical evidence.

canidmajor's avatar

Edited: On second thought, never mind.

Seek's avatar

I will also state that it does not necessarily follow that, given evidence, I would worship said deity.

The fact that something exists doesn’t mean I have to like it, or follow its instructions, or attempt to please it.

NerdyKeith's avatar

I used to be an atheist and became a deist. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% convinced and could very easily pop back over to team atheist. I don’t think there is any way I’d ever be a theist in the sense of also belonging to an organised religion; as I don’t trust any of them and nor do I have a reason to trust them.

Believing in God doesn’t necessarily make you a theist. If a God exists in my view deism has a higher probability of being the more logical way of it.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I agree with @Seek 100%. Verifiable, repeatable proof.

ucme's avatar

An act of god…no, wait

kritiper's avatar

The appearance of this “God” before me, with absolute proof of who he/she really is.

Lemley's avatar

I don’t think anything could ever make me believe in any sort of deity. I’d love to know unicorns are real, though. And the tooth fairy, since I’m having trouble with my wisdom teeth.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I agree with @Seek. The existence of God is perfectly plauslible. The fact that He so perfectly “hides” would lead me to assume that he would prefer not be bothered. Clearly, God like patience would be required to tolerate the idiots of His creation with their endless slanders and stupid explanations of Him and His supposed rules. The way I look at it, the existence of God is fine. It’s religion, or the formalised worship of Him that is bullshit. Whether God exists or not, religions amount to the clearly hopeless effort on the part of markedly inferior beings to make sense of “His mysterious ways” It is only the arrogance on the part of His creations that allows them to claim that they know what He wants or requires.

Coloma's avatar

If Jesus came floating down, robes fluttering, engulfed in a misty peach colored cloud, well..that would do it. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen. Otherwise, if I had an instantaneous answer to a prayer , like 5 million dollars fluttering down from the sky. That would do it as well.

Yep, I think Manna from heaven would be a pretty convincing. haha

Darth_Algar's avatar

A younger Marisa Tomei appearing in my living room willing and eager to do anything I please.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You guys have left me with nothing to say. Sniff.

Coloma's avatar

@Dutchess_III Don’t forget the angels and trumpet music and if Jesus could turn my water into wine, well…now we’re talkin’!

Dutchess_III's avatar

But can he turn my water in to beer? I don’t like wine.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

To get out of jail for good behavior , but it would just be lip service.

Coloma's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 Are you in jail? ;-p

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Coloma No. Just keeping my bases covered.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I’ve wondered about the numbers of folks here due to some sort of confinement, not necessarily of a legal nature, but also illness or disability. I mean you could wind up “hooked” here from dabbling while recovering ftom surgery or even surfing while bedridden with the flu.

Coloma's avatar

@stanleybmanly I have a good amount of free time in between my tasks here but no illness or disability. I’m here early mornings and then late afternoons/evenings.
I got hooked discovering Fluther after flying back from Asia in 2010 and recovering from serious jet lag. Longest case of jet lag in the history of humankind. lol

flutherother's avatar

Those who ask for “proof” that God exists how can there possibly be more proof than the fact the universe exists? Maybe this isn’t enough proof but there can’t possibly be more. Miracles to me are less convincing than the sheer unassuming ordinariness of the world.

Seek's avatar

The universe is proof that the universe exists.

Haleth's avatar

I’ve drifted from atheism to my current stance, which is “spiritual, not religious.”

Not having a religion has allowed me to have a personal spirituality. Every major religion seems to insist that it is the one true path, and to rigidly lay out a belief system. That is incredibly off-putting and turned me toward atheism at an early age.

Atheism does something similar. What science actually says is that it can’t prove the existence of a god, that the burden of proof is on the one making the greater claim, and therefore the existence of a god is not provable or likely. But many atheists I know insist that there is no possibility of a god, because science. It’s a subtle difference but it’s important.

The one religious stance that’s truly backed by science is agnosticism. I’m a big fan of Neil Degrasse Tyson’s “agnostic atheism.” He lives his life as an atheist, in the belief that there is more than likely no god. But this belief system also says that if science someday discovers evidence of a god, he will change his views. Agnostic atheists don’t consider this especially likely, but are willing to admit that the existence of a god can’t be definitively ruled out.

I think NDT also once compared science to a circle of light that keeps expanding. Humans, with science as a tool, can definitively answer a lot of important questions. Right now the god question isn’t one of them. We can come close to a probable answer, which is where agnostic atheism comes in. But anyone who says they know, whether they’re religious or an atheist, is deluding themselves.

I’ve been all over the map in my religious beliefs and hung out in the agnostic atheism camp for a while. It’s a good spot, and I think if more atheists presented their beliefs this way, more people would be willing to consider it.

More recently, I’m starting to get curious about the stuff outside the circle of candlelight. I think there’s something incredibly special about scientific inquiry and the creative process, and they’re both part of a larger human search for meaning. Learning about the history of science, art, literature etc. is basically tracing the path of human breakthroughs. And sometimes there are overlaps, like Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot quote. Nature itself is incredibly special, and can instill a sense of awe if you stop long enough to notice it. Mostly I’m just rushing around dealing with everyday life, but we’ve probably all had a few experiences with art, literature, nature, etc that knocked us off our feet.

I’m really curious about where these “wham” experiences come from. At some point I realized I wasn’t exactly an atheist or an agnostic anymore, but that I didn’t feel comfortable in any particular religion either. It feels more like a path of asking questions and trying to learn, guided by intuition.

Coloma's avatar

@Haleth I think the “wham” experiences are a rise in consciousness. Truly seeing, or seeing something with new eyes, so to speak, from an agnostic atheist POV here.

Seek's avatar

@HalethBut this belief system also says that if science someday discovers evidence of a god, he will change his views. Agnostic atheists don’t consider this especially likely, but are willing to admit that the existence of a god can’t be definitively ruled out.

I agree with NDgT that agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. One refers to knowledge while the other refers to belief. I am not a gnostic atheist.

I do argue, however, that the concept of “god” needs to be defined before it can be tested. The question “does God exist?” is meaningless by itself. Which God? Yahweh? Buddha? Vishnu? Thor? Quetzalcoatl? What are its parameters? Where does it live? Where did it come from? What does it eat?

Darth_Algar's avatar

To me the existence of “god” is a fairly useless question. If some great creator of the Universe does exist it is nothing like any of our concepts, doesn’t care if we worship or believe in it, and isn’t observable anyway. So why fret over questions that cannot be answered?

kritiper's avatar

“Agnostic Atheism.” If that isn’t a major laugh! You are either Agnostic or you are Atheist.
Agnostics are “Atheists” that hold out some hope that a god might somehow exist in the great, wide unknowns of the universe, even though all current logic suggests otherwise.
Atheists do not believe in “God.” Period.
If by some fantastic event a god should expose itself, then there would be no Agnostics or Atheists.
“Agnostic Atheism!” If that is a joke it is not funny or behooving to Mr. Tyson. If he’s serious, then his notion is an insult to himself.

Seek's avatar


Agnostic: a = without, gnosis = knowledge.

Atheist: a = without, theos = god(s).

Knowledge and belief are two different things.

kritiper's avatar

@Seek Explain that to the Agnostic, of whom I know two. They believe as I described. They talk like Atheists until the question of “Gods” actual existence comes up, and then they balk!

Seek's avatar

I would refer to them as agnostic atheists. They do not claim knowledge that no god exists, but they do not actively worship a deity. Agnostic atheists.

Richard Dawkins outlines a 7-point continuum between theism and atheism that is also helpful.

1: Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”

2: De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”

3: Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”

4: Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”

5: Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”

6: De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

7: Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

He also describes two types of agnostics: Permanent Agnostic in Principle demands there’s no way to know whether a god exists, there will never be any way to know whether a god exists, and thus we should all be adamant that we will never know. Temporary Agnostic in Practice states that while we don’t know anything for certain now, we might know more someday.

I used to be a hard 1 – a gnostic theist. I believed in God because I knew it was real. Then I became more of a 3 – an agnostic theist. I believed God existed but I didn’t like him very much, but I still felt trapped by religion. Now I’m like a 6.8.

Response moderated
Seek's avatar

Believe in what, exactly? I believe the concept of god suffers from a lack of definition. I certainly can’t decide whether I believe in something if I don’t know what it is or what evidence there is for it. That is why I cannot be a 7 on the Dawkins scale.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@kritiper think of it more as a “leaning toward” thing like North Northwest.

kritiper's avatar

It still doesn’t matter to me if someone wants to rate their belief on some scale. There are really only three choices:

1. Full-blown Theist = You believe. 100% No questions asked.
2. Agnostic = You’re not sure. You question, like an Atheist might, but you just can’t bring yourself to make the final determining stand on the issue of belief. (You could figure your measurement of belief on a scale of .1% to 99.9% but you would still be in this group.)
3. Atheist = You don’t believe. No friggin way! You have decided what must be the final overall ultimate determination.

And it’s just that simple.

(How did that blank space ^^^ get in here???)

Seek's avatar


Whatever. Good thing you’re not the high priest of atheism or some shit.

kritiper's avatar

I like things to be simple.

Seek's avatar

So do religious people. “You either believe you you don’t” “No true atheist”... blah blah.

You do you, I’ll do me. Deal?

kritiper's avatar

To each his (or her) own. I have what suits me.

Coloma's avatar

Well, clearly, God has forsaken me the last few years, but that’s okay, if God does exist he is a sociopath. Toying with his mortal creations just because, he can. Talk about a power trip. lol

kritiper's avatar

@Coloma There was a time when I fancied the universe as some kind of giant terrarium where “God” would/could look in on it when he was bored to see what was going on for a bit of entertainment.

Setanta's avatar

An agnostic can be an atheist, and, in fact, is an atheist unless and until they decide that they know there is a god.

kritiper's avatar

@Setanta Agreed. And, by the same token, an Agnostic is a Theist.

Coloma's avatar

Personally, I like Gary Larsens God cartoons best. The guy walking under the high rise apartment building as a piano is being lowered and God at his computer with his finger poised over the “Smite” button. Gary Larsen IS God, IMO. haha

kritiper's avatar

Which sets me to thinking: What might Mr. Tyson say was the difference between agnostic atheism and agnostic theism? Why one instead of the other? (Both questions being purely rhetorical!) Hmmm…

Seek's avatar

Agnostic theism would be a religious person who questions whether their God is real.

I was an agnostic theist for over two years.

An agnostic atheist makes no positive claim about the nonexistence God, but lives as though there isn’t one.

Setanta's avatar

I find it interesting that recent surveys of religious adherents in which those claiming membership in a certain church are asked if they believe in god—about ten percent of those professing a religious confession say that they don’t believe that there is a god.

kritiper's avatar

If “agnostic theism” is what @Seek says, them how is that different from just being agnostic? If that was an actual term, it would be in the dictionary.
I would say the same about “agnostic atheist.”
Both of the terms are contradictorily nonsensical.
I think “agnostic” is the source of the confusion and thus requires further definition. Basically, it is a person who questions the existence of God. There is neither belief or lack of belief. So it would be both “a religious person who questions whether their God is real” and a person that “makes no claim about the existence of God.”

Seek's avatar

It’s not different. They are two different words.

I’m an American woman. The fact that I’m American doesn’t tell you that I’m a woman, and the fact that I’m a woman doesn’t tell you whether I’m American.

Likewise, my theistic status doesn’t necessarily reflect on my Gnostic status.

kritiper's avatar

But they are not real, true, generally recognized and accepted terms. And these terms may only apply to you in your reasoning. So, like I said previously: To each his (or her) own.

JLeslie's avatar

@Selanta What country? And, did the study specify which religions were sampled?

MrGrimm888's avatar

Thank you all for your contributions. I find it very interesting that atheists, and agnostics feel the need to be fractured, or divided into so many different types.

I always thought it was odd that religions did that. But apparently it’s not a religious thing.

Setanta's avatar

The countries surveyed were the United States and Canada, and the polling organizations were, respectively, Pew Research and Ipsos. Both were general surveys of religious affiliation.

Seek's avatar

@MrGrimm888 – atheism is not a religion, and neither is agnosticism. The only thing all atheists have in common is the fact that they do not believe in God. The only thing all agnostics have in common is that they make no positive claim about the existence or nonexistence of God.

That said, the discussion between myself and @kritiper was a semantic one. Anyone who remembers the Clinton impeachment hearings knows such disagreements are not limited to religious discussion.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@MrGrimm888 ” I find it very interesting that atheists, and agnostics feel the need to be fractured, or divided into so many different types.”

You mean the “one size fits all” principal isn’t applicable to people? Shocking.

Setanta's avatar

Hehehehehe . . .

Good one, Darth.

Coloma's avatar

The great Pussy God brought my lost Pussy home this morning. There is a God, he/she has whiskers, gold eyes and a fluffy tail. haha

JLeslie's avatar

Regarding atheism coming with various different labels and categories, I never feel like I need to define my atheism, except when I’m in a specific discussion about the topic. It’s like being Jewish, I just say I’m Jewish. I don’t bother to say which type of Jew, or how religious, unless there is a specific reason to. On Fluther it’s a little different, because we generally are picking things apart, but in real life I’m not so specific.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@JLeslie. Yes, if there is a more detail oriented group in the world than Fluther,I have yet to encounter them.

@Darth Algar, I’m learning sir….

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I would be grateful if Gods children accepted me for my chronoskiming and other spiritual gifts. It would help me to go back into the fold. I would consider changing my religion to Match my mates religion.

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