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View Full Version : Tell me what sort of literary and/or film portrayals of atheists that you hate.



Plot Device
08-06-2008, 06:17 AM
I'm looking to avoid duplicating the erroneous assumptions of writers past.

SPMiller
08-06-2008, 06:18 AM
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HollywoodAtheist

Ruv Draba
08-06-2008, 09:40 AM
The only ones I hate are the atheists who aren't really atheists. They're either Defiant Agnostics daring a god to exist, or Naughty Apostates defying a god that they know must exist, or Megalomaniacs trying to be a god, or Lost Sheep who aren't really atheists but just converts Awaiting The Right Message.

I don't hate characters for being those things; I just hate authors who believe that those things are atheism.

Aside from that, I don't mind. For all the hilarious examples of Hollywood Atheism referenced by SPMiller, such people really do exist: the Straw Vulcans, the Raving Ratbags, the Bitter Cynics and many more. They're fun to write and read about.

But as Vein pointed out in another thread, there are also atheists who are none of those things. Just ordinary people. They're good to write about too. :)

Albedo
08-06-2008, 10:55 AM
Subtype: the hubristic scientist who defies nature. A particularly awful(ly hilarious) example is Kevin Bacon's character in Hollow Man. He really hams it up in the opening scene with lines like "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am God."

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 01:29 AM
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HollywoodAtheist


I am still digesting this. Thanks for the link.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 01:30 AM
The only ones I hate are the atheists who aren't really atheists. They're either Defiant Agnostics daring a god to exist, or Naughty Apostates defying a god that they know must exist, or Megalomaniacs trying to be a god, or Lost Sheep who aren't really atheists but just converts Awaiting The Right Message.

I don't hate characters for being those things; I just hate authors who believe that those things are atheism.

Aside from that, I don't mind. For all the hilarious examples of Hollywood Atheism referenced by SPMiller, such people really do exist: the Straw Vulcans, the Raving Ratbags, the Bitter Cynics and many more. They're fun to write and read about.

But as Vein pointed out in another thread, there are also atheists who are none of those things. Just ordinary people. They're good to write about too. :)


Wow. I am feeling very philologically challenged at the moment with all these colorful titles you've offered up. Again, I need to digest.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 01:31 AM
Subtype: the hubristic scientist who defies nature. A particularly awful(ly hilarious) example is Kevin Bacon's character in Hollow Man. He really hams it up in the opening scene with lines like "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am God."

Rats. I missed Hollow Man.

But I think I get your drift here.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 01:31 AM
Okay, guys, after I am done digesting these big new words I have learned, I will be back for more questions, clarifications, and group opinions.

Thanks for what you've given me so far.

Marian Perera
08-07-2008, 11:52 AM
I can't stand the portrayal of atheists as inherently mean, nasty, foolish or evil (there are people who hold this opinion, that most atheists are inferior in some moral way to theists, but there's enough bigotry against atheists in real life that I don't want to encounter it in fiction too). It's not much fun when the author goes in the opposite direction either. I've read a book where the atheist character was so brilliant and hypercompetent that it was just as impossible to identify with him.

Atheists are just people.

Maryn
08-07-2008, 06:39 PM
Yeah, what Queen said.

I'm weary of atheists being portrayed as people who have no ethos, no moral compass of any kind, and no conscience. I can't remember the last time I stole something because I wanted it, much less killed a toddler whose crying was bothering me.

Too many writers (and non-writers) seem to believe that if we are not instructed by our faith on how to be good people, we cannot make the same choices about our behavior people of faith would make.

Maryn, who thinks she'll broil a kitten for lunch

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 01:15 AM
Okay, guys, help me overcome the following prejudice I personally hold toward atheists. It's a prejudice rooted in an unconfirmed assumption. And this assumption stems from the very over-simplified way that the whole thing was explained to me as a kid.



On the one hand, you have agnostics.

On the other hand, you have atheists.

I put it in quotes to try and separate those words from "me." But this is how it was originally presented to me. And because it was so long ago, and because I was so young, I am still to this day having a hard time separating it all.

Sarpedon
08-12-2008, 01:53 AM
Why would you call someone who disagrees with you philosophically 'closeminded' when you haven't inquired as to why they disagree?

To put it another way; to simply label atheists as closeminded is to unfairly generalize; especially as most religious people don't bother to actually find out why we disagree.

Who is being closeminded?

Unique
08-12-2008, 02:03 AM
[B]Tell me what sort of literary and/or film portrayals of atheists that you hate.


Stereotypes.

There are as many different atheists as there are Buddhists, Christians, or any other 'religious' or 'non-religious' types. It bugs me. Humans are like snowflakes - you have to search darn hard to find two that are even similar, let alone identical. YMMV.

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 02:08 AM
Why would you call someone who disagrees with you philosophically 'closeminded' when you haven't inquired as to why they disagree?

To put it another way; to simply label atheists as closeminded is to unfairly generalize; especially as most religious people don't bother to actually find out why we disagree.

Who is being closeminded?


Which is exactly why I need some help here.

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 02:10 AM
[b]

Stereotypes.

There are as many different atheists as there are Buddhists, Christians, or any other 'religious' or 'non-religious' types. It bugs me. Humans are like snowflakes - you have to search darn hard to find two that are even similar, let alone identical. YMMV.


Okay. What are a few of the many shades of atheism?

veinglory
08-12-2008, 02:11 AM
Plot, what exactly is that quote? Because it is pretty damn insulting and I think this would go better if you actually deleted it. See sticky post: "do not directly, or by implication, required atheists or non-theists to defend the rationality or virtue of their beleifs". I think saying 'some people think you lot are closed-minded and judgemental' might fall in that general area.

Also that defintion is just too inaccurate to be useful. I suggest tossing it out and starting from scratch.

Main Entry: athe·ism
Pronunciation: -th-iz-m
Function: noun
: the belief that there is no God

SPMiller
08-12-2008, 02:15 AM
Atheists are, by and large, "open" to the possibility of there being some great divine power. However, given the universe we live in and what we know about how it works, there doesn't seem to be any room for a magical all-father looking down kindly from the heavens. We simply don't see any reason to believe in your God, or in any other for that matter.

It's not difficult to compare theism to any other belief in unproven phenomena. You might say many atheists have what could be described as a thoroughly skeptical worldview.

And so, if you can produce hard evidence that there's a God, I for one would be quite willing to change my position on the matter. But so far, well, let's just say that evidence is lacking...

escritora
08-12-2008, 02:19 AM
Another defination: On the other hand, you have a religious person. And a religious person is someone who is dead certain there is a God, and so he is therefore NOT open, and so he is therefore NOT open-minded, and so he is therefore autmatically closed-minded about the whole thing with a stubborn and don't-even-try unbudgableness. And he's also very judgemental about it all.


help me overcome the following prejudice I personally hold toward atheists.

Whatever steps you took to overcome your prejudice of those who believe, apply each to atheists.

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 02:30 AM
Plot, what exactly is that quote? Because it is pretty damn insulting and I think this would go better if you actually deleted it. See sticky post: "do not directly, or by implication, required atheists or non-theists to defend the rationality or virtue of their beleifs". I think saying 'some people think you lot are closed-minded and judgemental' might fall in that general area.

Also that defintion is just too inaccurate to be useful. I suggest tossing it out and starting from scratch.

Main Entry: athe·ism
Pronunciation: -th-iz-m
Function: noun
: the belief that there is no God


Okay. But can anyone offer a clear separation between atheism and agnosticism?

It was an attempt at such a distinction that caused such a destructive seed to get planted for me.

SPMiller
08-12-2008, 02:32 AM
Whatever steps you took to overcome your prejudice of those who believe, apply each to atheists.That sort of reminds me of a saying, courtesy of Stephen F. Roberts:


I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

SPMiller
08-12-2008, 02:37 AM
Okay. But can anyone offer a clear separation between atheism and agnosticism?

It was an attempt at such a distinction that caused such a destructive seed to get planted for me.It's pretty simple, at least for a certain subset of us...

Agnosticism: There is no proof; therefore, I refuse to say either way.

Atheism: There is no proof; therefore, I do not believe.

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 02:38 AM
Another defination: On the other hand, you have a religious person. And a religious person is someone who is dead certain there is a God, and so he is therefore NOT open, and so he is therefore NOT open-minded, and so he is therefore autmatically closed-minded about the whole thing with a stubborn and don't-even-try unbudgableness. And he's also very judgemental about it all.

Well then, since you put it THAT way, I guess it just goes to show that mathematical inversion is everyone's friend when trying to apply straight up logic to sorting out a concept that hails from philosophy and is embodied almost entirely in written language.



Whatever steps you took to overcome your prejudice of those who believe, apply each to atheists.

Now THAT is a head-twister-and-a-half. Believe me, I had to get past a LOT of pre-conceived notions about people from other religions. But there was always the assumption that such a sorting had to be done at the exclusion of atheists and agnostics. There was this assumption that they needed a different treatment. Can you see how deeply it runs?

This stone that needs moving is proving far larger than I anticipated.

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 02:50 AM
It's pretty simple, at least for a certain subset of us...

Agnosticism: There is no proof; therefore, I refuse to say either way.

Atheism: There is no proof; therefore, I do not believe.

That is pretty simple.

Dawnstorm
08-12-2008, 11:12 AM
That is pretty simple.

In theory, yes. Try being either an atheist or an agnostic and figure out which; it's not all that easy.

First, I agree with SPMiller's definition. To add onto it:

Atheism is about the existance of God.

Agnosticism is about what we can know about the metaphysical.

Question:

Does (do) God (gods) exist?


Answer:

1. Atheist:

No.

2. Agnostic:

a) Nobody knows.

b) This cannot be known.

c) The question is irrelevant.

Since you can believe in God while accepting that there is no rational grounding to your beliefs, it's quite possible to be theist agnostic. A theist agnostic would recognise his/her own belief in God as irrational. Similarly, an atheist agnostic does not believe in God but accepts that his believe in the non-existance of God is irrational. Both theistic and atheistic agnostics would probably hold a relativist theory of what belief entails ("I believe because I grew up that way.")

But a "pure" agnostic neither believes nor doesn't believe in God. Rather, they think that God is outside the realm of human knowledge (or even human knowledgeability), and thus it doesn't matter what we believe about Him. They'd think that investing emotion or any sort of energy into God's (non-)existance is a waste of said energy, though they might find the resulting debate intellectually stimulating.

In practice, from a Christian point of view, atheists and agnostics may look quite the same, especially if they hold an if-you're-not-with-us-you're-against-us position. The problem is that the response to the Christian "missionary impulse" is quite the same. I keep joking that I'm an agnostic six days a week but turn into an atheist on Sundays.

Neither atheists nor (atheist or pure) agnostics allow God's word any authority, for example. Neither pray - although they might go through the motions.

Finally, while a theist's morals and ethics are perhaps bound up with the existance of God, an atheists or agnostics morals are not bound up with their respective believes. They will have independent ethical theories to guide them: compassion, rational choice, utilitarianism, whatever strikes their fancy. This means that, while God's existance is very relevant to the Christian believer on a daily-life basis, God's non-existance is rarely an issue for atheists and (especially) agnostics. It usually only comes up when they clash with "missionaries".

The more "missionaries" you meet, the more likely you'll turn your atheism into a active shield against these attempts. Agnostics may not really hold to atheism, but they could still use atheist discourse to counter the missionary impulse, simply because they are annoyed with the conversion attempts. So, basically, you might the same kind of response to your quesitons from both atheists and agnostics, with the difference that atheists mean them, while agnostics may be merely striking out in frustration.

The emotional baggage that comes with conversion attempts makes it hard for me to tell whether I'm an agnostic or an atheist. I honestly don't know. The thing is this: when I'm down, or drained of energy I really don't want to hear about God. Thinking about what God might mean takes energy I don't have to spare. Unfortunately, this is also when people are most likely to suggest "God" as a solution.

So here's the thing: if you want to convert me, bring up the topic when I have the strength to consider it, say, after we've watched a movie with relevant themes. Don't wait until I'm drained. I will have little patience for what you have to offer. No doubt I won't come across as open minded in my response. But, see, it's just bad timing.

I suspect that I'm, perhaps, an atheist agnostic. I maybe do believe that God doesn't exist, but I don't think that believe of mine matters much. It feels more like a question of taste: I don't eat bananas, I don't wear orange, I don't believe in God. But then again I haven't yet figured out what it is that I supposedly believe doesn't exist.

JimmyB27
08-12-2008, 02:57 PM
Okay. But can anyone offer a clear separation between atheism and agnosticism?

It was an attempt at such a distinction that caused such a destructive seed to get planted for me.
I like the way Richard Dawkins explains it in The God Delusion. He uses a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is absolute faith in the existence of God, and 7 is absolute faith in the non-existence of God. I consider myself as being a number 6 - ie, I don't believe God exists, but I don't have absolute faith that he doesn't.

As for portrayals of atheists I hate, the worst one is the formerly religious person who has suffered some sort of personal tragedy, usually someone close to them died, and they subsequently lose all faith in God, because what loving God could do something like this?
I'm sorry, but no. Did you not realise that people suffered such tragedies until it happened to you? Are you really so self centred that you couldn't see all the tragedy and upset everywhere in the world around you? Is your faith really so weak?

Marian Perera
08-12-2008, 04:20 PM
As for portrayals of atheists I hate, the worst one is the formerly religious person who has suffered some sort of personal tragedy, usually someone close to them died, and they subsequently lose all faith in God, because what loving God could do something like this?

One person whom I debated on this topic did some research on my old posts, found out my mother had died of cancer and suggested that this was the defining event in my deconversion. I replied that I'd become an atheist when I was 19 and she'd died when I was 28. Kind of a long time after the effect for the cause to occur.

As for replying "no" to the question of whether a god exists, I would probably ask how the person defined "god". After all, if someone defines "god" as some kind of powerful being, well, maybe there are extraterrestrial creatures who fit this definition, a la Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud.

So "powerful extreterrestrial being" is a maybe, because I see no evidence for it and no evidence against it. "The being described in the bible" - highly unlikely, because I haven't seen any evidence for it.

Plot Device
08-12-2008, 07:09 PM
Atheism is about the existance of God.

Agnosticism is about what we can know about the metaphysical.

Question:

Does (do) God (gods) exist?


Answer:

1. Atheist:

No.

2. Agnostic:

a) Nobody knows.

b) This cannot be known.

c) The question is irrelevant.



Wow. I have NEVER seen anyone make this distinction before. I assumed that BOTH positions were about certainty/uncertainty of personal knowledge. But you have here repositioned them as being about entirely different aproaches to knowledge itself.

This changes a lot for me because it effectively derails the original stipulation laid out for me years ago.



Since you can believe in God while accepting that there is no rational grounding to your beliefs, it's quite possible to be theist agnostic. A theist agnostic would recognise his/her own belief in God as irrational. Similarly, an atheist agnostic does not believe in God but accepts that his believe in the non-existance of God is irrational. Both theistic and atheistic agnostics would probably hold a relativist theory of what belief entails ("I believe because I grew up that way.")

But a "pure" agnostic neither believes nor doesn't believe in God. Rather, they think that God is outside the realm of human knowledge (or even human knowledgeability), and thus it doesn't matter what we believe about Him. They'd think that investing emotion or any sort of energy into God's (non-)existance is a waste of said energy, though they might find the resulting debate intellectually stimulating.

In practice, from a Christian point of view, atheists and agnostics may look quite the same, especially if they hold an if-you're-not-with-us-you're-against-us position. The problem is that the response to the Christian "missionary impulse" is quite the same. I keep joking that I'm an agnostic six days a week but turn into an atheist on Sundays.

Neither atheists nor (atheist or pure) agnostics allow God's word any authority, for example. Neither pray - although they might go through the motions.

Finally, while a theist's morals and ethics are perhaps bound up with the existance of God, an atheists or agnostics morals are not bound up with their respective believes. They will have independent ethical theories to guide them: compassion, rational choice, utilitarianism, whatever strikes their fancy. This means that, while God's existance is very relevant to the Christian believer on a daily-life basis, God's non-existance is rarely an issue for atheists and (especially) agnostics. It usually only comes up when they clash with "missionaries".

The more "missionaries" you meet, the more likely you'll turn your atheism into a active shield against these attempts. Agnostics may not really hold to atheism, but they could still use atheist discourse to counter the missionary impulse, simply because they are annoyed with the conversion attempts. So, basically, you might the same kind of response to your quesitons from both atheists and agnostics, with the difference that atheists mean them, while agnostics may be merely striking out in frustration.

The emotional baggage that comes with conversion attempts makes it hard for me to tell whether I'm an agnostic or an atheist. I honestly don't know. The thing is this: when I'm down, or drained of energy I really don't want to hear about God. Thinking about what God might mean takes energy I don't have to spear. Unfortunately, this is also when people are most likely to suggest "God" as a solution.

So here's the thing: if you want to convert me, bring up the topic when I have the strength to consider it, say, after we've watched a movie with relevant themes. Don't wait until I'm drained. I will have little patience for what you have to offer. No doubt I won't come across as open minded in my response. But, see, it's just bad timing.

I suspect that I'm, perhaps, an atheist agnostic. I maybe do believe that God doesn't exist, but I don't think that believe of mine matters much. It feels more like a question of taste: I don't eat bananas, I don't wear orange, I don't believe in God. But then again I haven't yet figured out what it is that I supposedly believe doesn't exist.


Okay. This is a LOT. But I can tell it's good.

More digesting.

Sarpedon
08-12-2008, 07:44 PM
Oh, one cliche portrayal I HATE is that the atheist is one who has a poor relationship with his father...granted, I've never seen it in a movie...but I have seen it in books, I suppose, (although, granted, in my very favorite book). And its another one you hear ad naseum on teh internets.

SPMiller
08-12-2008, 07:55 PM
Oh, one cliche portrayal I HATE is that the atheist is one who has a poor relationship with his father...granted, I've never seen it in a movie...but I have seen it in books, I suppose, (although, granted, in my very favorite book). And its another one you hear ad naseum on teh internets.Ah, good old father issues, straight from the Book of Jesus. Christians don't often realize that what they're expecting from such atheists is an Atonement with the Father (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth).

Although to be fair, I'm flattered by the comparison to their Son of God :D

kuwisdelu
08-12-2008, 09:44 PM
In practice, from a Christian point of view, atheists and agnostics may look quite the same, especially if they hold an if-you're-not-with-us-you're-against-us position. The problem is that the response to the Christian "missionary impulse" is quite the same. I keep joking that I'm an agnostic six days a week but turn into an atheist on Sundays.

That and the rest of your post describes me perfectly. I'm a lot more open to God than most "believers" will ever know, simply because it's so annoying when they try to convert me. I'm also a lot more atheist than "true" atheists see, simply because I like the idea of there being more out there. Faced with either, I'll usually end up arguing whenever someone tries to convert me. Of course, this happens a lot more with "missionary"-impulsed Christians than anyone else, so--despite their "good-intentions"--they consistently push me further and further away from "God." Like you said... don't come on so strong next time.

As far as my own beliefs go, really I'm a lot like Mulder. As it turns out, there's more evidence for aliens and bigfoot than there is for God. Doesn't mean I dismiss God.... but I don't run into him much. (Of course, when I'm in an ancient church, surrounded by history and holiness and beauty...I get pretty religious, pretty fast. It works both ways.)

Dawnstorm
08-13-2008, 10:32 AM
Wow. I have NEVER seen anyone make this distinction before. I assumed that BOTH positions were about certainty/uncertainty of personal knowledge. But you have here repositioned them as being about entirely different aproaches to knowledge itself.

At least that's how I see it.

A-theist: No god

A-gnostic: No gnosis (approximately, hidden real meaning, accessible only to believers.)

Philosophically, the distinction is clear to me. But in practice...

***

Could you, perhaps, explain what you mean by "both were about certainty/uncertainty of knowledge"?

***


As far as my own beliefs go, really I'm a lot like Mulder. As it turns out, there's more evidence for aliens and bigfoot than there is for God. Doesn't mean I dismiss God.... but I don't run into him much. (Of course, when I'm in an ancient church, surrounded by history and holiness and beauty...I get pretty religious, pretty fast. It works both ways.)

That we're still talking about "God", I think, also shows the extent to which atheists/agnostics let monotheists determine the discourse. The thing is that there's a whole bunch of gods around I happen not to believe in (as in absence of believe rather then presence of believe in non-existance). What about Zeus, Shiva, the Monkey King, the dreamers of Dream Time, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Loki, Quetzalcoatl...? I also don't believe in all the Gods (demi-gods, demons or god-like figures) nobody has thought of yet.

On the atheist side(s), I don't much hold with naturalism or secular humanism. I find to believe in nihilism is inconsistent, which appeals to me in some ways, so that I - on occasion - refer to myself as a nihilist, but nobody buys that, heh. I guess, the best label for me would be "social relativist". I'm certainly not a solipsist constructionist, either.

Interesting comment about the churches. The impact of church architecture on atheists/agnostics would be an interesting topic for a study. Personally, the architecture that affects me most (in something what I suppose must be a spiritual matter) would be older Romanic models. Simple, thick stone walls, little ornamentation. Gothic churches appeal to my sense of the grotesque, which is inspiring pretty much the opposite of piety. Baroque churches are probably my least favourite.

JimmyB27
08-13-2008, 01:09 PM
On the atheist side(s), I don't much hold with naturalism or secular humanism. I find to believe in nihilism is inconsistent, which appeals to me in some ways, so that I - on occasion - refer to myself as a nihilist, but nobody buys that, heh. I guess, the best label for me would be "social relativist". I'm certainly not a solipsist constructionist, either.
On nihilism -
http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/nihilism.png (www.xkcd.com/167)


Interesting comment about the churches. The impact of church architecture on atheists/agnostics would be an interesting topic for a study. Personally, the architecture that affects me most (in something what I suppose must be a spiritual matter) would be older Romanic models. Simple, thick stone walls, little ornamentation. Gothic churches appeal to my sense of the grotesque, which is inspiring pretty much the opposite of piety. Baroque churches are probably my least favourite.
I always find a sense of wonder in big churches, but it's a sense of wonder at what man's ingenuity can create. Nothing divine in it.

shebitme
08-13-2008, 05:56 PM
Regarding portrayals of atheists that bother me:

I dont like it when people assume that atheism = science. The two are completely distinct (atheism is a belief; science is a set of rules for observation and experimentation). They are not necessariliy mutually exclusive, either. Scientists can still believe in god, and atheists can still be skeptical of science.

I also dont like it when people assume that atheists are rapid zealots who will DEMAND, to the bitter end, that god DOES NOT exist!

most atheists, if they are honest, will admit that god COULD exist. (This is especially true if the atheist is also a scientist, becaus a true scientist will admit that you can never truly KNOW anything. you can only have strong observational and experimental support for a conclusion, but you could always be proven wrong at a later time.).

So why are they still called an atheist (rather than an agnostic)? Well, just because you admit something COULD exist, doesnt mean you BELIEVE it does.

example: Lets say i strongly believe that aliens/extraterrestrials DO NOT exist. But i'm willing to admit that they COULD, i simply do not believe that it is at all likely, not even remotely. But hey, it's possible.
Then you could say i'm an atheist with respect to aliens, because i dont believe in them. If you were to ask me what the chances are that they exist, i'd give you an infintessimally small number. i just dont believe in UFOs or aliens, and no amount of circumstantial or second-hand evidence can convince me that aliens exist. only direct, first hand evidence would convince me.

In my view, many atheists believe that the explanations that humans have come up with to explain the world are erroneous. (i'm talking about religions--greek mythology, christianity, islam, egyptian gods... it's all the same to an atheist.) Atheists believe that all religion is man-made, imperfect, and based on superstition or error. Most athiests dismiss the "evidence" of religion as unlikely or as second-hand, indirect evidence. They dont believe that Moses parted the sea, they dont beliefe that Jesus healed people instantly, they dont believe that Mary was a virgin, and so on. Most atheists probably believe that even if Jesus did exist, he was just a man. Most atheists realize that the catholic church has been wrong about many things over the years (the earth is round, not flat; the earth is older than 4000 years old; Dinosaurs came before adam and eve; etc.). And other religions have been similarly proved wrong about many things (lightning is not caused by a god named Zeus, it is caused by static electricity).

Thus, while many atheists (if they are honest) will admit that there COULD be a god-like being somewhere in the universe, there's certainly no reason to BELIEVE in one, without any evidence. And there's no reason to believe that human beings would know anything about this "god," or that our man-made religions accurately describe him. Thus, atheists have to reject man-made religions and assume no god exists (until proven otherwise).

i guess the difference between agnostics and atheists then would be that atheists have a stronger assumption that there is no god, because they probably believe that most of the religions, at least, are wrong. (this is just my opinion. there is no official rules of atheism)
whereas agnostics try to stay neutral and dont want to say that any belief is "right" or "wrong." Agnostics dont like to say they "believe" in something that is obviously not provable.

Higgins
08-13-2008, 06:23 PM
At least that's how I see it.

A-theist: No god

A-gnostic: No gnosis (approximately, hidden real meaning, accessible only to believers.)

Philosophically, the distinction is clear to me. But in practice...


I have to confess...one thing about how Atheists are described that bugs me is the idea that atheism is a big deal in terms of metaphysics...whereas...as Huxley -- the inventor of the term "agnostic" says -- conservation of energy is a lot more impressive and interesting and metaphysical.

I think one can be an atheist and yet quite religious and not see the absence of God as much of an issue. As far as I'm concerned God's non-existence is profoundly un-interesting. He doesn't exist. So what? People still worship Him and that is a basic fact. People also have all kinds of other impossible hopes and fears. Are they ever invalid because they are delusory? Isn't something more purely a hope or a fear if it has no basis in reality?

Or to put it another way: the delusion that God exists is just the tip of an iceberg of delusions. I don't think it is necessarily more crucial than other delusions.

I have to add that distinguishing atheists and agnostics seems like a lot of work to suggest a very slight shade of meaning. Here's an interesting (though apparently slightly misleading) thing on Huxley:

http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/huxley.htm

Or was it in 1869?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic

Alpha Echo
08-13-2008, 06:45 PM
Another defination: On the other hand, you have a religious person. And a religious person is someone who is dead certain there is a God, and so he is therefore NOT open, and so he is therefore NOT open-minded, and so he is therefore autmatically closed-minded about the whole thing with a stubborn and don't-even-try unbudgableness. And he's also very judgemental about it all.


People who believe in God aren't openminded. You're right. They are certain in their faith because that's what they believe and that's what their faith requires. Though I know some people who are religious and judgemental, not everyone who believes in God is. However, they follow their faith, and if that faith says that only Jews are the chosen ones or Jahova Witnesses go to Paradise or Christians go to Heaven...they're following their faith! Not being judgemental, just following the guidelines of their religion. there's a difference. Most Christians I know don't say, "You're going to hell because you did something I think is wrong." They say, "This is what I believe. this is how I believe you get to heaven." And they leave the rest up to you.

But to get back to the OP - I can't think of anything specific. But I do hate protrayals of atheists that make the person out to be evil and heartless. This isn't the case in real life, as far as I've discovered. There are some very evil and heartless Christians in the real world as well.

Dawnstorm
08-13-2008, 07:15 PM
http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/huxley.htm


Interesting link. The problem is, though, to figure out what "demonstrable" means. Doesn't mean the same thing, necessarily, to a theist, atheist or "agnostic".


I have to add that distinguishing atheists and agnostics seems like a lot of work to suggest a very slight shade of meaning.

Hah, yes.


Or to put it another way: the delusion that God exists is just the tip of an iceberg of delusions. I don't think it is necessarily more crucial than other delusions.

I have a problem with the word "delusion", here. I do not understand what people believe in when they believe in God, so I can't really say whether they're deluded or not. It seems, I don't speak their language.

Higgins
08-13-2008, 08:31 PM
I have a problem with the word "delusion", here. I do not understand what people believe in when they believe in God, so I can't really say whether they're deluded or not. It seems, I don't speak their language.

I've never believed in God so I have a hard time knowing what is being described there as well. The best analogy I can think of is something like
the mental state I had when I was 11 and had a terrible crush on a girl but had not reached puberty quite so the whole thing was kind of...immaterial. The levels of delusion in that case where monumental and probably approached a religious dimension of some kind. I think I learned a lot from the experience and even the almost daily face-to-face reductio ad absurdum that the object of my crush learned to deliver in her mysteriously calm and icy way.

Anyway, it seems to me that believing in God is a fairly mild and often quite harmless delusion and not really worth a separate complex terminology for the non-believers (eg, atheists and agnostics), lapsed heretics and so on.

Ruv Draba
08-14-2008, 02:09 AM
Okay, guys, help me overcome the following prejudice I personally hold toward atheists. It's a prejudice rooted in an unconfirmed assumption.

You're hardly to blame for that prejudice, PD. It's built into a lot of social attitude, and you can even find it in dictionaries. Type 'define:atheism' into Google, and here's the first definition you'll get:
the doctrine or belief that there is no God
Do you see the problem with this?

'God' is in caps. It's a person, not an idea. Atheists are therefore attacking a person rather than rejecting an idea or a way of thinking. Ergo, we're haters of God and theism and theists and theistic institutions... Which surely means that we're arrogant, amoral, intolerant, materialistic sybarites and doubtless anarchists too. :)

Atheists can have quite diverse beliefs, but here's one way to get a feel for it - and it may help you design credible atheistic characters.


First strip your world of imaginary people peering at you from behind clouds, fairies at the bottom of the garden, meaning in the births or deaths of people around you. Let each object stand for just itself without regard for its purpose, destiny or significance and see how it looks.

You may find that it looks pretty much the same as it did, but you may also feel a growing sense of panic as you wonder what it's all for and what it all means.

Keep breathing until you get over any anxiety, then laugh and let the world look after its own metaphysics instead of trying to be its custodian.

Go about your daily business and love people even though they're going to die and you'll never see them again. Make each moment count like you'll never get it back. Live bravely and be responsible for your own actions. If you break something, try and fix it rather than seeking absolution. If someone hurts you, try and get over it rather than consigning them to an imaginary hell. If you want something, try working for it instead of praying for it. If you don't get it, try acceptance rather than seeking justification.

Most of all, try creating human dignity because you want to, rather than because you're told to. Just decide that people are worth caring about and respecting, and act accordingly.


If when you do this, you find that you're living a moral, caring, meaningful life without getting any value from deities and superstition then you're living as an atheist.

But the world may not be treating you as an atheist yet, so how about the following...
You may also find that the ceremonies, customs and beliefs of the theists around you begin to look a bit weird. Contrived. Even manipulative. Maybe you'll wait respectfully when your hosts say grace at dinner, but decline to go to christenings or head off with the family for Carols by Candlelight. You might choose to give presents on birthdays, but not for Yule. You're not trying to offend anyone or change the world - you're just living in integrity with your beliefs. You've chosen to live without superstition, and so you're living by that.

But people may begin to look at you strangely. You're antisocial, they may say. You're not getting into the spirit. You're ruining everything.

You may find increasing pressure placed upon you to believe certain things, conform to certain customs, behaviours and language. At school or at work, maybe you'll have to write 'god' in caps, or write 'Jesus' (meaning 'salvation') when you really mean 'Joshua ben Joseph' - the Christian prophet who was born in Bethlehem. You may have to constantly defer to beliefs that make no sense to you or risk giving offence.

You may find that people blame or reject you if you don't need or want the same beliefs they do. You may learn that they need your conformity more than you need their mythology. You may find them trampling your petunias on the weekends to get at you and change your mind. You may find that theists are allowed to preach, but that you're not allowed to express disbelief. You may find that evangelists can't believe that you don't want what they're selling... You may find them talking louder at you like you're deaf or smirking condescendingly at you, like you're stupid.

You may find yourself the victim of preposterous metaphysical threats intended to debase your dignity, return you to a state of panic you'd long ago left behind (or else never had), and conform you to a shared delusion that has no value to you. You may find your family demanding that you baptise your infants, since 'It shouldn't matter to you anyway' - even though you might find magical ceremonies quite disturbing. You may find yourself blamed for all manner of social ills, from teenage pregancies to violence in schools.


In short, you may find that it's okay to live as an atheist as long as you talk and act Christian.
When you're living a fundamentally decent life and holding other beliefs in respect, yet they're not respecting you, try to be tolerant. Remind yourself that people have very different minds. Not everyone can breathe through their anxiety.

Some need to panic at you.

SPMiller
08-15-2008, 01:37 AM
Ruv, you left out physically and verbally violent persecution, which I at times experienced. Not to mention systematically legal persecution in the United States--which, granted, few directly encounter--including seemingly simple things such as being pressured or even forced to swear on some holy text at court.

Fortunately most true evangelists aren't thugs, and I haven't encountered violence after grade school.

Ruv Draba
08-15-2008, 02:49 AM
Ruv, you left out physically and verbally violent persecution, which I at times experienced.I'm sorry that you have, SPM. I hope that it's not typical.

My intention was not to snipe at anyone but to answer Plot Device's question culturally and psychologically rather than simply philosophically. My point is: this is what it's like to be an 8% minority that largely rejects magic, in a culture that not only embraces it, but frequently demands it.

There's nothing special about atheism in this. Pick any other minority that thinks or acts differently - theistic or otherwise - and I bet that they'll encounter some bizarre and occasionally xenophobic interactions.

Ruv Draba
08-15-2008, 03:05 AM
Oh, my atheism is an outright rejection of spirits, deities etc... in any form, but especially as spiritual authorities based on:

Inability to define them in logical, physical terms;
Inability to find evidence that anything like them exists or ever existed;
Utter confusion among their proponents about physical evidence vs mythic stories;
No evidence that if they existed, they're interested, active, benign or competent enough to be a spiritual authority for humanity (inasmuch as myths may be taken as evidence here, the mythic evidence lies to the contrary for me: All Invisible Things Act Badly, it seems);
Not persuaded that humanity requires a superior spiritual authority, or would benefit from one;
Evidence that such belief is frequently emotionally infantile and egotic;
Evidence that such belief is frequently manipulated;
Evidence that when people embrace superstition they often act inefficiently, ineffectively and/or badly to one another.Some of these points are agnostic points, but together they make me atheistic. Outside of forums like this, I never bother explaining such things to theists and mysticists because really, they don't want to hear it.

Like Dawnstorm I don't feel atheistic. I feel agnostic when I wander around in theistic subcultures: I think that theistic and mystical practice are bizarre and alien, but it doesn't matter what I think.

I only feel atheistic when someone tries to push their magic onto me - then I get increasingly bewildered and appalled. I sometimes wonder whether 'atheism' isn't more of a theistic definition stuck onto people who just ruddy-well won't convert. :)

Marian Perera
08-15-2008, 05:00 AM
Ruv, you left out physically and verbally violent persecution, which I at times experienced.

I don't know if this counts as persecution, but some Christian friends of my parents tried a religious intervention (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2490663&postcount=20) on me without my consent or even knowledge.

One reason I made tracks for Canada as fast as I could. It's good to be in a country where (so far) no one discriminates against me for not going to church, or seems to have decided beforehand that because I'm an atheist, I'm automatically less moral than a theist. I like having some distance between myself and that kind of bigotry.

benbradley
08-15-2008, 07:53 AM
I don't know if this counts as persecution, but some Christian friends of my parents tried a religious intervention (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2490663&postcount=20) on me without my consent or even knowledge.
I'm tempted to discuss the "reguar" alcohol-and-drug interventions and how they ultimately involve religion, but that's a separate rant...well, maybe not. The most common drug-and-alcohol treatment programs do promote religion through 12-step programs, even though the 12-step claim is they are "spiritual, not religious." Believers in non-mainstream deities as well as atheists take extra beatings in treatment and in meetings, though if you look at many movies involving treatment (such as "Clean and Sober," produced by 12-step members), this "spiritual angle" is hardly mentioned. This really deserves its own separate rant in its own essay or my memoir.

Rereading that thread (about how Americans are "more tolerant" than ever of others' religious beliefs) and in the light of the original topic of this thread, I'm reminded of the '60's movie "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" where a single woman brings a black man to meet her parents (and there's a song from the same decade on the same issue, "Society's Child"). A modern version (at least for the USA) involving the most shocking person possible to "bring home to meet the parents," would involve an atheist...

This very situation WAS covered in the 70's sitcom "All In The Family" where the son-in-law was the atheist (I looked up the show in in Wikipedia but didn't find mention of his atheism until I got to the talk page for the character (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Michael_Stivic)), but in episodes I recall where his atheism were mentioned, I think it was handled pretty well. But that was a quite unusual if not unique show, not just for its time, but perhaps for any time.

SPMiller
08-15-2008, 01:30 PM
I don't know if this counts as persecution, but some Christian friends of my parents tried a religious intervention (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2490663&postcount=20) on me without my consent or even knowledge.

One reason I made tracks for Canada as fast as I could. It's good to be in a country where (so far) no one discriminates against me for not going to church, or seems to have decided beforehand that because I'm an atheist, I'm automatically less moral than a theist. I like having some distance between myself and that kind of bigotry.Fucking terrible, but of course that doesn't surprise me. Can't blame you for getting out.

zornhau
08-15-2008, 05:24 PM
I don't know if this counts as persecution, but some Christian friends of my parents tried a religious intervention (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2490663&postcount=20) on me without my consent or even knowledge.

One reason I made tracks for Canada as fast as I could. It's good to be in a country where (so far) no one discriminates against me for not going to church, or seems to have decided beforehand that because I'm an atheist, I'm automatically less moral than a theist. I like having some distance between myself and that kind of bigotry.

Q: What makes atheists angry with theists?
A: Top of the list....

Marian Perera
08-15-2008, 10:55 PM
It actually didn't make me angry with theists, just with the ones who try to push their religion on me. I'm fine with the theists who live and let live, and I admire the theists who put into practice Jesus's words about feeding the hungry and taking care of the sick (without using this primarily as a chance to convert the hungry and the sick before, during or after).

It's the intolerant ones, the ones who have made up their minds beforehand that most if not all atheists are inferior or immoral beings, who annoy me.

zornhau
08-16-2008, 02:10 AM
Yes, it's the duplicitous ones...

oscuridad
08-18-2008, 01:37 AM
To get back on topic, the worst ever was Mel Gibson in 'Signs'. He loses his faith when his wife is killed in car crash. Inexplicably her last words are 'tell bubba to hit out' or something like that.

Years later, as GIbson and Bubba are about to get probed or greased, or possibly both, by extra-terrestrials, the meaning of her last words becomes clear - Gibson tells Bubba (or whatever his name was) to get his baseball bat off the wall and twat the alien over the head, which he does.

Gibson's faith is restored, as his wife's death was obviously necessary, and all part of God's great plan, so that his moron brother in law could be TOLD to hit the alien over the head with the baseball bat.

D'oh!

As Homer Simpson would say: 'Jeebus save me!'

veinglory
08-18-2008, 02:01 AM
Wow, I'm glad I missed that movie.

oscuridad
08-18-2008, 02:44 AM
It was a real stinker, and given Gibson's well known anti-semitism I am just surprised the aliens didn't wear homburgs and quote from the Torah.

Zoombie
08-18-2008, 11:32 AM
God, Signs was terrible.

Well!

Athesim, for me, is almost absurdly, and I do mean absurd, simple.

No God. That doesn't mean I take any less sheer unadulterated JOY in EVERYTHING except for hangnails and jerks.

Basically, I'm that guy climbing up the tree.

Really, I don't see why having a god or a heaven and hell should change how we talk too and interact with people. See, we all are immortal, in a way.

We're immortal due to...<dramatic pause> THE RIPPLE EFFECT

What is the Ripple effect? Well, I'm about to tell you.

Let us say I act in a good way for my entire life. I die and cease to exist. A dumb...I mean a nihilist would say that my actions were without meaning: I am no longer around to enjoy them. And that's cause a nihilist is infinitely self centered! For, though I am no longer around to enjoy the fruits of my labors, the people who I effected (or was it affected, can never keep those straight) CAN!

But, says the nihilist, those people will die as well.

Aha, but this is where the RIPPLE EFFECT gets *really* fun. An act of kindness inspires acts of kindness. I help a man, so someday, they may help another man. Another ripple starts. And thus, your actions live forever.

Here are some dramatic examples!

Adolph Hitler's actions continue to effect the world in minute and massive ways.

Ghandi's tale of personal heroism and non-violent resistance inspires and ennobles millions.

Jesus Christ, whether he was the son of God or not, is still changing the lives of billions of people daily.

Now, tell me, how is this not immortality? You would have to destroy the whole human race to erase that kind of impact.

So that's the kind of atheist stereotype I hate the most: The one that is bitter, mean, and isn't happy because there's no heaven waiting for him or her.

I know what's waiting for me, in the end. Its kinda gross, but I accept it...got one life, better do the best I can with it.

So, no more atheist grumps!

Sarpedon
08-18-2008, 08:51 PM
SOME of us are grumpy

Marian Perera
08-18-2008, 10:15 PM
/tickles Sarpedon

Zoombie
08-18-2008, 10:32 PM
<tackle hugs Sarpedon>

Sarpedon
08-18-2008, 10:59 PM
Oh My! thats just what I needed after turning 30.:D

Melisande
08-19-2008, 06:05 AM
especially as most religious people don't bother to actually find out why we disagree.



I'm still reading through this thread, but; "why I disagree?"???????

It's not that I'm disagreeing here. I'm just being indifferent! It has no value to me. This whole 'whether-this-or-that' kind of dicussion is futile to me.

I've said it before, and I'm going to continue saying it all over the place;

As a non-believer I don't even care as to how 'atheists' are being presented, because they all seem to be presented as opposed to some kind of 'god'-concept.


I'm a 'hard' (or true - if you wish) non-believer. To me - honestly - the whole concept of any kind of a higher 'power' is not only irrelevant; but completely unimportant.

The characters mostly presented in movies/books and such as being atheists are pictured as either 'opposed to' or 'desillusioned' for some kind of reason.

Now, my personal so called 'spiritual journey' has lead me to the conclusion that there are no gods, nothing spiritual or whatever people wish to call some kind of 'hgher power'.

Hence, I oppose - and loath - the stereotypes presented in movies and books because they are - stereotypes! And poor ones at that.

Bartholomew
08-20-2008, 04:10 PM
Doesn't the string theory suggest a dimension where everything that could exist, must exist? What does this mean for Atheism? Theism?

JimmyB27
08-20-2008, 04:13 PM
Doesn't the string theory suggest a dimension where everything that could exist, must exist? What does this mean for Atheism? Theism?
Who cares? What I want to know is, how can I get to visit Discworld?

Sarpedon
08-20-2008, 05:04 PM
Doesn't the string theory suggest a dimension where everything that could exist, must exist? What does this mean for Atheism? Theism?


Well, even if it is interpreted that way, it doesn't mean anything for atheism, because the generic concept of god these days is self-contradictory, so therefore, it can't exist.

Besides, why worship a god who's the mere product of a quantum fluctuation? It kind of contradicts the notion of a creator god.

JimmyB27
08-20-2008, 05:20 PM
Besides, why worship a god who's the mere product of a quantum fluctuation? It kind of contradicts the notion of a creator god.
Especially since, if god A exists somewhere, so do gods B-Z.

Higgins
08-20-2008, 05:48 PM
Doesn't the string theory suggest a dimension where everything that could exist, must exist? What does this mean for Atheism? Theism?

As far as I can tell, you keep referring to path integrals as if they
somehow "allowed" any imaginable thing to exist. I don't think that's the
case, but here is a view of path integrals in the context of superstring
theory:

http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/04/bert-schroer-vs-path-integral.html


I should point out that if the mere existence of a path integral formulation somehow allows anything at all to exist...why don't we see anything along those whacky lines just popping up all over?

Bartholomew
08-21-2008, 01:42 AM
I should point out that if the mere existence of a path integral formulation somehow allows anything at all to exist...why don't we see anything along those whacky lines just popping up all over?

Well, if everything else is inert, and then something starts moving, I'd say that fits the order fairly well. Life is pretty damn strange.

But, no - I know very little about String Theorum. I just really like the idea of a hyperchaotic 8th (12th?) dimension.

Higgins
08-21-2008, 05:04 PM
Well, if everything else is inert, and then something starts moving, I'd say that fits the order fairly well. Life is pretty damn strange.

But, no - I know very little about String Theorum. I just really like the idea of a hyperchaotic 8th (12th?) dimension.


Your guess is as good as mine about what might be happening in an unobservable dimension.

One possible answer is that something did happen: that chaotic symmetry was broken and as a result we have the universe we live in.

Any we may be in luck on the symmetry-breaking score since the smallest Higgs boson might be observed some time soon:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/08/lhc_preps_to_open_fire/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2046228644/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080820163243.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7512586.stm

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/Hbase/forces/higgs.html

http://www.phy.uct.ac.za/courses/phy400w/particle/higgs3.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080804111646.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson