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Melisande
07-16-2011, 09:25 PM
I am what some people prefer to call an Atheist. Myself, I prefer 'non-believer', mainly because I feel that the word 'atheist' has such anti-Christian connotations.

I respect all religions, and all believers, though I can not even begin to fathom the concept of having a religion or having a faith.

I am just curious to know if other non-believers care what they are called, and what word they prefer to use when presented with the question what they believe.

GLOOMCOOKIE
07-16-2011, 09:34 PM
The term 'Atheist' means that you don't believe in deities, not that you are anti-christian.

I have respect for portions of the teachings of most of the religions I've encountered, but I dislike the concept of religion as a whole. When I am asked what I believe, I say that I adhere to a personal system of ethics and values I have derived from many different teachings and personal experience. I prefer not to be labeled when it comes to my beliefs, but I am an atheist, by the given definition.

Cybernaught
07-16-2011, 09:38 PM
It seems to me that Atheists go to conventions to listen to people like Dawkins and gather with one another and talk about religion as much as theists do. Non-believers, on the other hand, just don't care to talk about religion at all. I prefer being considered the latter.

DeaK
07-16-2011, 09:44 PM
I'm an atheist. (I don't go to conventions, and I've never read a book by Dawkins, though.) I don't understand the word to hold anti-Christian connotations. However, I'm also a feminist, and I don't understand that word as being in any way anti-men, but a lot of people seem to perceive it as such. To be frank, whatever I call myself it's probably going to offend these people who wish to think I am 'anti' whatever it is they believe. I need to believe what I believe, and I need to identify myself as such – so I put my needs before theirs. ;)

I don't actually like the term 'non-believer' because it is very unspecific. If it was 'non-believer in gods' (which is what atheist means), maybe I could get behind it, but as it is, to me it seems to encompass all spiritual and existential matters – and I certainly believe something about life and the universe.

Sarah Madara
07-16-2011, 09:53 PM
Atheists specifically believe that there is no God. A non-believer simply doesn't believe that there is a God. Atheism is a belief. Non-belief is absence of belief.

A non-believer might be an atheist, or an agnostic, or someone who believes his or her own version of things.* Most religious people would call me an atheist, but I'm not. I'm agnostic. However, if I were a betting woman, I would put my money with the atheists. There's a difference between having a skeptical appreciation of the odds and choosing to adhere to a belief.

*ETA: I agree with DeaK that non-believer is not a good term. I said a non-believer might believe his or her own version of things because someone who does not believe a specific doctrine will be labeled a "non-believer" by those who do believe the doctrine, but it is not an accurate term when applied broadly.

Cybernaught
07-16-2011, 09:54 PM
Nevermind, I misread it.*

Melisande
07-16-2011, 10:39 PM
Atheists specifically believe that there is no God. A non-believer simply doesn't believe that there is a God. Atheism is a belief. Non-belief is absence of belief.

Thank you for clarifying, and to make myself a lot clearer, I am still a non-believer according to the definition you have given here.

veinglory
07-16-2011, 10:44 PM
I think atheist is fine -- it means:
A -- absence of
Theism -- belief in god

Sarah Madara
07-16-2011, 11:17 PM
I think atheist is fine -- it means:
A -- absence of
Theism -- belief in god

This is absolutely correct. However, I believe modern usage is favoring a narrower definition that associates atheism with a positive belief in the absence of deities. While that twists the word origin around, it seems to be the more common meaning these days. That's why I distinguish atheist from non-believer or agnostic.

Atheism may suffer from having been co-opted by the "New Atheism" movement of Christopher Hitchens and others who do take a decidedly anti-religious view.

veinglory
07-17-2011, 12:12 AM
I disagree. I think the word continues to have it's face meaning. Some within that meaning have stronger views as well as a-theism . The term includes but is not limited to anti-theism. I would hope that atheism won't borrow from theism and invent the need to have doctrin schisms. Any one not theist is atheist. Whatever else the might be is just an optional extra

MimiAngel621
07-17-2011, 01:01 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

DeaK
07-17-2011, 01:31 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

I like this question :D

I grew up in a family where we didn't talk about spiritual beliefs. We went to church (Lutheran) on Christmas day, that's it.
I didn't really think about 'god' or where I'd come from, etc, until I was a teenager, and then the religious teachings I was exposed to made no sense to me.

Good and evil, to me, are not from another world or other sources. Humans are animals, and animals do good things for bad ('evil') reasons, bad things for good reasons, good things for good reasons, and bad things for bad reasons. Sometimes the outcome is tragic, but it is never not from this world (pardon the double negative).

I think morals are great because, really, they just help you live a good life. If I am good to others, they are good to me (it is just cause and effect).

I am much more of a nature girl than to believe that the universe was created by god. Stuff happens and that causes other stuff to happen, and so on. I don't know what the first thing to happen was - my feeling is that there was no first; there was always a cause. Umm, I can't explain it, and I feel I don't need to. I don't think it was the decision of something all powerful, though.

The primary principle of life/nature seems to me to be perpetuation. I don't know why it is like that, only that it balances another feature of life, which seems to be that stuff dies.

Hope that makes sense. I don't think about this stuff, or discuss it very often.

I haven't done a lot of philosophical reading (maybe that's obvious), but I expect it could help someone who is unsure about this stuff. I don't feel unsure.

More and more as I get older, I don't have time to worry about these things. I'm too busy trying to do what I want to do with my life. It's short, but can be completely fulfilling, I believe.

/rambling post

The Unseen Moon
07-17-2011, 02:41 AM
It seems to me that atheist can be different than non-believer. Because a non-believe can be someone like Thomas Jefferson, who hated the supernatural elements of Bible and wrote his own version as a guide to morality without the supernatural events in it. Or it could be a person who simply doesn't believe in the same deity as the believer, because technically if you believe in a different deity then you don't believe in the one the other guy believes in. Or you could still believe that God exists but for some reason have lost your faith in God.

An atheist is someone who simply has a lack of belief in deities and/or the supernatural.

Dawnstorm
07-17-2011, 03:40 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

The way this question is phrased is exactly why some of us feel the need to distinguish between Atheist and Non-believer. It sounds like "believing" is the default, and if we don't believe we must have slipped from a state of believing into a state of non-beliving.

For me, that's not really true. Stopping to believe in god was simply part of growing up, for me. As a very young child I'd believe in the "Christkindl" and the Easter Bunny. I always loved animals, so I pretty soon caught on to the fact that a bunny can't really hold a brush and colour eggs. So I sort of slipped out of believe here. I don't remember any details, but at some time I remember being surprised that people actually believe in God, and then I was worried that if others found out that I didn't believe they might be hurt.

No single thing made me a non-believer. God just never really made sense to me in the first place, and I was never the sort of child who would believe people just because they were older. As I started making sense of the world, God just sort of faded out as something that didn't make sene. Much like the easter bunny, but less precise.

That means: I can honestly say that I don't believe the Easter Bunny exists. I do not understand the concept of God at all - it makes no sense to me - so if I say that God doesn't exist, I don't really know what that sentence means. I usually use this sentence as an ad-hoc shield against an assumed authority that I don't accept. So, if anyone insists on telling me that God doesn't want me to do something, even after repeatedly being told that I don't believe in God, I might end up making the statement that God doesn't exist. I keep joking that I'm an agnostic five days a week, and an atheist on Sunday.

blacbird
07-17-2011, 07:42 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

The religious practices I was subjected to as a child, and the people who did the subjecting.

caw

GLOOMCOOKIE
07-17-2011, 08:45 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

I thought nobody would ask.

Although I was writing a much longer version of this post, for some reason I was mysteriously logged out of the site while doing so. I'll make it more concise this time...

*looks around suspiciously*

I was raised christian, but was kicked out of the church when I began to ask questions that the elders of the church couldn't answer. I studied sever other religions afterwards, and came to the conclusion that organized religion wasn't for me. I compiled my own system of beliefs that involves understanding that all deities are imaginary, correct living through a personal set ethics and values, and knowing that modern science can explain most any perceivable phenomena.

Hope this has been revealing for you.

Al Stevens
07-17-2011, 09:03 AM
George Carlin's "religion is bullshit" sums it up. I don't care what I'm called.

I don't believe; I speculate. I don't disbelieve; I doubt.

Invincibility
07-17-2011, 09:15 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)
Logic.

Her Dark Star
07-17-2011, 09:27 AM
As a kid I wanted to believe in something, my father was a Buddhist, my mum and grandparents vaguely Christian, my best friend is Muslim so I had a broader upbringing than many. However nothing I looked at made any sense, though I met some very intelligent and respected theologians, none of them really seemed to have any more answers than anyone else. Everything just seemed to be a way of avoiding saying 'I don't know'. In most of the various teachings I encountered there were parts I liked, however they were generally principles and values that I already held. I simply found that religion didn't offer me anything I needed. Well, being declared a heretic by a priest who ran a youth group I went to may not have helped either :-)

Albedo
07-17-2011, 10:07 AM
'Atheist' is a fine, succinct, neutral common noun for someone who does not believe in gods. I'll be damned before I wipe it from my lexicon because people might associate me with Dawkins or Hitch. That would be like Christians prefering to call themselves 'pro-Jesus' to avoid being associated with Pat Robertson or the Pope. IMO.

Albedo
07-17-2011, 10:09 AM
That said, my pro forma response to being proselytised is 'sorry, I'm not religious'.

mccardey
07-17-2011, 10:24 AM
I am just curious to know if other non-believers care what they are called, and what word they prefer to use when presented with the question what they believe.

I honestly don't define myself by whether I believe in God or a god or not. Nor do I care whether other people claim to. Or not.

Just - since you asked ;)

frimble3
07-17-2011, 02:49 PM
I'm a non-believer. In religion, among other things. And atheism may be the correct term, but, to me, it suggests someone who's thought about the whole 'religion' thing, and has a rationale for their beliefs. I just think the whole thing is sort of silly. Like the easter bunny or the tooth fairy.

veinglory
07-17-2011, 04:24 PM
The things 'atheist' is specific about what is not believed. I am fond of words that mean what they say. I am atheist, not a-believing -- there is stuff I believe.

fireluxlou
07-17-2011, 04:54 PM
I'm more an Apathetic agnostic (irreligious) these days rather than atheist I don't really give a rats arse about it anymore ... more meh.

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

The Unseen Moon
07-17-2011, 09:13 PM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)


My road began early. I was raised a Christian. But then I started seeing really bad and deplorable behavior from other Christians and I didn't want to be associated with them, and it shook my faith that God demanded this kind of treatment of other people and that they could see nothing wrong with the things they were doing. I saw people being bullied into submission, horribly teased, discriminated against, and insulted to no end. Simply for having different beliefs.

It was also before I knew anything about critical thinking. Then I discovered critical thinking and reread the Bible and discovered all the traps and pitfalls that the Bible actually has, and how badly people abuse it in order to justify their beliefs and interests.

And then I eventually came to realize that I simply could not believe in God not in the existence of god any more (the belief in God is very different thing than the belief in him).

It was a slow road in coming and took a few decades to discover that though.

Melisande
07-17-2011, 09:50 PM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

A long life, lots of thinking, childhood disappointments I guess, many discussions and finally the absurdity of it all.

veinglory
07-17-2011, 11:34 PM
What 'made' me an atheist is being born. It is not like we are born religious and have to lapse to get to an atheist state

Fulk
07-18-2011, 12:39 AM
Atheists specifically believe that there is no God. A non-believer simply doesn't believe that there is a God. Atheism is a belief. Non-belief is absence of belief.


No, no. The definition of atheism, as specified earlier, is "absence of a belief in gods" (and occasionally, the supernatural is also mentioned). The most accurate description of terms is described like this:

Gnosticism and agnosticism refer to knowledge. Atheism and theism refer to belief. One who is an agnostic atheist is someone who does not believe in god, but does not assert absolute certainty. Likewise, a gnostic atheist would lack belief in gods and have absolute certainty of it. Likewise, gnosticism and agnosticism could be applied to theists.

All that said, I identify as an atheist (or specifically, an agnostic atheist). I do not believe in any gods or the supernatural, but don't claim any absolute certainty. However, I would consider myself 99% certain--pending evidence to the contrary.

I use terms like non-believer (and heathen) humorously and self-deprecatingly, as they convey to me a theistic view of belief--someone who has yet to be converted or willfully denies something.

This thread alone is evidence of the weird misconceptions people have of atheisms or the negative portrayals. I call myself one in order to dispel that ugly impression of the word.

I could also think of far worse people to be compared to than Dawkins or Hitchens.


What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

My deconversion is derived from four forks: Personal, Moral, Logical, and Scientific. They're not necessarily mutually exclusive, either.

When I was a Christian, I had a hard time reconciling official church stances on many social issues versus the stances that I felt were appropriate, compassionate, or aligned with the facts. I had to pick and choose so much that I felt I had, in essence, created my own interpretation of Christianity. When I became aware of that, I shed it in favor of deism. After some time, I determined that a deistic point of view was also not only irrelevant to the natural world, but lacking in scientific support. At that point I stopped believing in it altogether, so I was then an atheist.

I have yet to hear a compelling argument or evidence for believing in any god (and those I believed were compelling when I was Christian fell apart under examination), so I don't.

Veinglory also has it right--we're all born atheists, so in that sense, I just discarded something I had been taught without any basis in reality.

pegasus
07-18-2011, 01:07 AM
I am just curious to know if other non-believers care what they are called, and what word they prefer to use when presented with the question what they believe.

Hi, Melisande. I consider 'atheist' to be a pejorative still. It's not so bad as it once was -- with 'atheist' defined in major dictionaries as evil-doers or immoral folk -- but one still takes a risk accepting the label these days.

I tend to answer that my religious beliefs are personal and blah, blah, blah. In other words, I refuse to be labelled one way or the other.

Sarah Madara
07-18-2011, 01:08 AM
No, no. The definition of atheism, as specified earlier, is "absence of a belief in gods" (and occasionally, the supernatural is also mentioned).

I agree with everyone that this is a perfectly valid definition of atheism, and perhaps the most correct definition. However, there are many people who do use the term "atheist" to mean a positive belief in the absence of any gods. Online dictionary definitions (such as these (http://www.onelook.com/?w=atheism&ls=a)) seem about split between putting the narrower no-god definition first or second. Regardless, "the doctrine that there is no god(s)" is one of the definitions of the word atheism.

Language evolves. The term "atheist" used to be an accusation against those deemed "ungodly."

Because atheism has multiple definitions that differ in scope, it can be problematic when one seeks precision in one's language.

pegasus
07-18-2011, 01:15 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

I'm an atheist regarding the Biblical God because I see no good evidence that those ancient writers knew anything more about God than I do.

I don't accept the Bible for the same reason that most Christians don't accept the Book of Mormon or the Quran.

veinglory
07-18-2011, 01:44 AM
Hi, Melisande. I consider 'atheist' to be a pejorative still. It's not so bad as it once was -- with 'atheist' defined in major dictionaries as evil-doers or immoral folk -- but one still takes a risk accepting the label these days.

I tend to answer that my religious beliefs are personal and blah, blah, blah. In other words, I refuse to be labelled one way or the other.

I don't see atheist as pejorative at all. A person can say it with hate or disdain like any word, but I see and hear it used as a neutral descriptor on a daily basis. I see no comparison to insult words invented to be used as insults. This word was invented, and is used, to mean what its parts semantically add up to. Someone uncomfortable with bald statements need not use it, but it works just fine as a category label for those happy to use it as such.

Sarah Madara
07-18-2011, 02:17 AM
I don't see atheist as pejorative at all.
I don't, either, but I have certainly heard it used pejoratively. The reason it doesn't bother me is because we have religious freedom and are not living under the Spanish Inquisition, for example. There are plenty of times in history when I would not have donned the label so proudly.


This word was invented, and is used, to mean what its parts semantically add up to.
I'm not sure that's true. Is there a linguist in this thread? From what I've read, the ancient Greek word may have been used to mean ungodly or impious. Godless, thus, in a pejorative sense ;)

The modern era during which people have been able to deny religion without risking (too much) persecution is only a small sliver of history. The U.S. is highly unlikely to elect an atheist president, still....

pegasus
07-18-2011, 02:24 AM
I don't see atheist as pejorative at all. A person can say it with hate or disdain like any word, but I see and hear it used as a neutral descriptor on a daily basis.

Hi, veinglory. We'll have to disagree about the current attitude toward 'atheist' as a descriptor. Of course it can be used in non-pejorative ways, just as 'nigger' or 'asshole' can be. But I don't believe that a candidate for president or any other major office would have much of a chance if he claimed to be an atheist.


I see no comparison to insult words invented to be used as insults. This word was invented, and is used, to mean what its parts semantically add up to.

I'm not sure I can agree with that, either, although I've never made a study of its history. People were called 'unbelievers' as a pejorative throughout history. I'm pretty sure that Islam still uses it that way.


Someone uncomfortable with bald statements need not use it, but it works just fine as a category label for those happy to use it as such.

Sure. Lots of people are comfortable calling themselves atheists.

veinglory
07-18-2011, 02:32 AM
I mean the word atheist. It's etymology is direct and descriptive. It is not a like 'fag' but like 'homosexual'.

I am sure that if you live in a place where most people hate atheism you will get used to hearing it used in a hateful way -- but any new word would just acquire the same meaning if used openly. I see no advantage in changing a perfectly good and semantically neutral word that is used the world over, mostly on a clear and helpful way. Atheist is likely to remain the core word for the purpose of describing those who are not theist ( the category of exclusion).

The only place I can see a new word having use or purpose would be to cover the assertive disbelieving subset sometimes called a new or militant atheist. This I group who are emergent, could claim and bring into parlance a new term, and have an approach not fully captured by the existing term. The non-militant 'rump' does not seem, toe, to need or to be likely to benefit from a new term or indeed even get one widely used

benbradley
07-18-2011, 02:32 AM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)
Long story, I've posted parts of it before (but I've made many posts to easily go find links), but it'll be an integral part of my memoir.

Atheists specifically believe that there is no God. A non-believer simply doesn't believe that there is a God. Atheism is a belief. Non-belief is absence of belief.

No, no. The definition of atheism, as specified earlier, is "absence of a belief in gods" (and occasionally, the supernatural is also mentioned).
I've read quite a few definitions over the years, and I'm tempted to jump in with you and Sara over labels and sublabels, but perhaps Wikipedia sums it up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism) with:

Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism, ...Mostly due to my experience with other "labels" I've had (see my future memoir), I tend to eschew all labels except, as I used on Google+, "human being."

Much like political labels of democrat/liberalprogressive or republican/conservative, people read it and think they know just about everything there it to know about you.

veinglory
07-18-2011, 02:37 AM
I think not using labels is totally cool, basically being religion-queer. But using labels can also be cool, essentially being out and proud

pegasus
07-18-2011, 03:06 AM
I'm not sure that's true. Is there a linguist in this thread? From what I've read, the ancient Greek word may have been used to mean ungodly or impious. Godless, thus, in a pejorative sense ;)

Hi, Sarah. I'm not a linguist, but it was my field of study at college -- for whatever that is or isn't worth.

I think that 'atheist' is an especially troublesome word because we can so easily see its roots, and people tend to grapple with it in mathematical terms. They see 'without' and 'God', do their math, and come up with its meaning.

But language doesn't actually work that way. There's no necessary correlation between a word's etymology and its current meaning. Instead, words mean what a majority of users in the linguistic culture think they mean.

Sorry if that all sounds kinda like a lecture. I had to sit and listen to it all those years, so now it's payback time!:)

The Unseen Moon
07-18-2011, 03:21 AM
It's not a troublesome word.

All it means is a lack of belief in God.

That's it. Nothing more.

I don't understand why people can't understand that.

It's the same thing as not believing in Santa Clause or Unicorns.

pegasus
07-18-2011, 04:25 AM
All it means is a lack of belief in God.

That's it. Nothing more.

I don't understand why people can't understand that.

Hi, Unseen. If you'd like to understand why I don't see it quite so simply, I can propose an experiment.

You can question me about my beliefs. I'll answer all questions honestly. At the end of your examination, you can tell me whether or not I'm an atheist.

Whatever your answer, I'm guessing that others here will disagree with you. Some will see me as an atheist, while others will think that I'm not one.

pegasus
07-18-2011, 04:33 AM
Much like political labels of democrat/liberalprogressive or republican/conservative, people read it and think they know just about everything there it to know about you.

Hi, Ben. Yeah, that's the problem with it. People have an unseemly belief in labels. They think they know who you are if they can see your label.

I like to ask this question: Can I be both a conservative and a liberal at the very same moment?

Of course I can, in my opinion. So what can a person know about me by hearing me labelled as a liberal?

Amadan
07-18-2011, 05:24 AM
<= Has degree in linguistics.

The etymology of the word atheist ("not a theist"), unfortunately, will not resolve the arguments that happen every time the precise meaning of "atheist" is debated. Which is why if you read up on atheism, you'll find that there are all kinds of hair-splitting distinctions between agnostics and atheists, both of which are classified on a "weak/strong" axis.

I'm content to call myself an atheist, but technically I am a "weak atheist" (a term I don't like because while "strong/weak" is a specific philosophical term referring to the form of a hypothesis which one adopts, the implication most people read into it is "not really sure about your atheism," which is not true).

To put it simply, what most people think of as "agnosticism" is really atheism, and most agnostics are actually atheists who just don't want to call themselves that because they've been convinced of the fallacy that "atheists are asserting as an absolute proven statement of fact that there is no god." Which is only true of "strong atheists," and even they will not use the word "absolute."


What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

I grew up Christian. Unlike a lot of ex-Christian atheists, my churches were not abusive or dogmatic and I don't have bad memories of them. But about the time I was a teenager, I looked around at the big sanctuary with the modern sound system and the lights and all the pretty trappings, and the Sunday school classes and the youth groups and singles gatherings and church camps and so on that the church, like most such churches, hosts, and realized that I had never actually felt a single spark of divine/supernatural presence (and it wasn't from lack of trying), and that I only believed because I thought the idea of a benevolent omnipotent deity who loves all of us is a nice thing to believe in.

And I was pretty sure that almost everyone else who goes to church feels the same way, at least outside of evangelical circles. Oh sure, in some abstract way they believe in God and Jesus and maybe there were some miracles way back when, but nobody really believes in a non-material world. It's just a comforting thing they tell themselves they believe in because death being a big blank nothing is scary to a lot of people. It has no actual impact on their lives, their decisions, or their worldview.

Moreover, for the most part, they did not choose it as a result of any sort of soul-searching or an objective evaluation of all the available theologies whereby they chose the one that seemed most true and logical. They believe in whatever church they were raised in, or the one where they most liked the people when they went "church-shopping."

That second part is the other realization that gnawed away my faith as a teen. Religion doesn't actually change anyone's behavior. Nobody chooses not to do something they'd rather do, especially if it's something that doesn't feel wrong to them, because they think God doesn't want them to do it. They either construct a justification for why it's okay for them to do it, or they do it anyway and feel guilty about it so they pray for forgiveness. Likewise, believers don't do things that seem wrong to them. Whatever they think is wrong, they are convinced God also thinks is wrong. This convenient correspondence between an individual's morality and God's morality is almost universal across all religions.

For the most part, I think of believers of the non-fundamentalist sort as well-intentioned people who are generally very nice, and who would be just as nice if they were atheists. Likewise, the asshole believers would be just as obnoxious as non-believers. I have seen people convert from atheist to religious, and from religious to atheism, but I've never seen anyone who became a nicer or less nice person, or more or less moral, as a result of the conversion, either way.

The realization that religion was all a game of "let's pretend" and that even among those who actually believe in it, it doesn't affect behavior, is how I left it, realizing it neither made sense nor was it necessary.

juniper
07-18-2011, 05:59 AM
I am what some people prefer to call an Atheist. Myself, I prefer 'non-believer', mainly because I feel that the word 'atheist' has such anti-Christian connotations.

The only people I know who use the term "non-believer" are Christians, and they're talking about other people who aren't Christians.

I've never heard someone who doesn't believe in Christianity use that term to describe himself, unless jokingly. As on the day earlier this year when the believers were supposed to ascend, and us non-believers made dinner plans.

Language is interesting, eh? Regional differences, cultural differences (even within the same country), socioeconomic differences - all contribute to how someone speaks.

Sarah Madara
07-18-2011, 06:16 AM
The only people I know who use the term "non-believer" are Christians, and they're talking about other people who aren't Christians.
To the people who knock on my door at the most inopportune times, I usually just say "I'm all squared away with God, thanks." Many Christians I run into seem to shy away from "non-believer" these days, I think because it implies that they've chosen a side in a debate rather than simply recognized an absolute truth. While many would call me "unsaved," I prefer "damned."

Maxx
07-18-2011, 07:55 PM
<= Has degree in linguistics.

The etymology of the word atheist ("not a theist"), unfortunately, will not resolve the arguments that happen every time the precise meaning of "atheist" is debated. Which is why if you read up on atheism, you'll find that there are all kinds of hair-splitting distinctions between agnostics and atheists, both of which are classified on a "weak/strong" axis.

I'm content to call myself an atheist, but technically I am a "weak atheist" (a term I don't like because while "strong/weak" is a specific philosophical term referring to the form of a hypothesis which one adopts, the implication most people read into it is "not really sure about your atheism," which is not true).

To put it simply, what most people think of as "agnosticism" is really atheism, and most agnostics are actually atheists who just don't want to call themselves that because they've been convinced of the fallacy that "atheists are asserting as an absolute proven statement of fact that there is no god." Which is only true of "strong atheists," and even they will not use the word "absolute."



I grew up Christian. Unlike a lot of ex-Christian atheists, my churches were not abusive or dogmatic and I don't have bad memories of them. But about the time I was a teenager, I looked around at the big sanctuary with the modern sound system and the lights and all the pretty trappings, and the Sunday school classes and the youth groups and singles gatherings and church camps and so on that the church, like most such churches, hosts, and realized that I had never actually felt a single spark of divine/supernatural presence (and it wasn't from lack of trying), and that I only believed because I thought the idea of a benevolent omnipotent deity who loves all of us is a nice thing to believe in.

And I was pretty sure that almost everyone else who goes to church feels the same way, at least outside of evangelical circles. Oh sure, in some abstract way they believe in God and Jesus and maybe there were some miracles way back when, but nobody really believes in a non-material world. It's just a comforting thing they tell themselves they believe in because death being a big blank nothing is scary to a lot of people. It has no actual impact on their lives, their decisions, or their worldview.

Moreover, for the most part, they did not choose it as a result of any sort of soul-searching or an objective evaluation of all the available theologies whereby they chose the one that seemed most true and logical. They believe in whatever church they were raised in, or the one where they most liked the people when they went "church-shopping."

That second part is the other realization that gnawed away my faith as a teen. Religion doesn't actually change anyone's behavior. Nobody chooses not to do something they'd rather do, especially if it's something that doesn't feel wrong to them, because they think God doesn't want them to do it. They either construct a justification for why it's okay for them to do it, or they do it anyway and feel guilty about it so they pray for forgiveness. Likewise, believers don't do things that seem wrong to them. Whatever they think is wrong, they are convinced God also thinks is wrong. This convenient correspondence between an individual's morality and God's morality is almost universal across all religions.

For the most part, I think of believers of the non-fundamentalist sort as well-intentioned people who are generally very nice, and who would be just as nice if they were atheists. Likewise, the asshole believers would be just as obnoxious as non-believers. I have seen people convert from atheist to religious, and from religious to atheism, but I've never seen anyone who became a nicer or less nice person, or more or less moral, as a result of the conversion, either way.

The realization that religion was all a game of "let's pretend" and that even among those who actually believe in it, it doesn't affect behavior, is how I left it, realizing it neither made sense nor was it necessary.

I have virtually no degrees to speak of.+++>

It seems to me that to start with atheism is to start with a a negative theology such as PseudoDionysius the PseudoAeropgagite describes in such moving (apparently, but I've no real idea since I don't read 5th century Greek) terms. It seems to me to be the most valid possible starting place either for a theist or a non-theist. If you don't start with atheism, how can you proceed to a valid theism or Theology?
Anyway,being a moderately logical person, I started out as an athiest and I haven't seen any reason to modify that basic notion: God is so radically other and/or non-existant that athiesm is the purest form of faith.

pegasus
07-18-2011, 07:59 PM
The etymology of the word atheist ("not a theist"), unfortunately, will not resolve the arguments that happen every time the precise meaning of "atheist" is debated. Which is why if you read up on atheism, you'll find that there are all kinds of hair-splitting distinctions between agnostics and atheists, both of which are classified on a "weak/strong" axis.

Hey, Amadan. I have sat through interminable debates over the 'true' meaning of atheism, agnosticism, etc. Hostile, self-righteous, even furious disagreements.

All of which sounded pretty silly to me. Words mean what we think or agree that they mean... that's all.

In my experience, the average person believes that words have meaning in a transcendent sense -- as if God's Own Noggin is filled with the actual meanings of words, and we can suss out those meanings if only we work hard enough at it.

I mostly blame it on the dictionary.

Maxx
07-18-2011, 08:05 PM
In my experience, the average person believes that words have meaning in a transcendent sense -- as if God's Own Noggin is filled with the actual meanings of words, and we can suss out those meanings if only we work hard enough at it.

I mostly blame it on the dictionary.

Why believe in a Nogginless God?

JimmyB27
07-18-2011, 08:09 PM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)
The correct question is: Why are you a believer?

pegasus
07-18-2011, 08:55 PM
Why believe in a Nogginless God?

A noggined God can open a wormcan, drop you in, weld it shut and put out the story that you went to visit some relatives in Tortuga.

I'm more comfortable with a nogginless God.

The Unseen Moon
07-18-2011, 09:00 PM
Sigh. Everybody has to have their own take on what something means.

Melisande
07-18-2011, 09:12 PM
However, there are many people who do use the term "atheist" to mean a positive belief in the absence of any gods.

--- snip ---

Because atheism has multiple definitions that differ in scope, it can be problematic when one seeks precision in one's language.

This is exactly what troubles me!

What I am trying to explain, though the words elude me, is the fact that when I say that I am a 'non-believer', I actually mean precisely that! I am not denouncing any God, because if I did I would acknowledge that same God also. I am simply saying that the whole 'God-concept' whichever it might be, is nil to me; that the whole idea of supernatural godly creations are ... I don't know a good word, ( :rant: how I hate to be at a loss for words) ...maybe void might be right. Please tell me.

Devil Ledbetter
07-18-2011, 10:10 PM
'Atheist' is a fine, succinct, neutral common noun for someone who does not believe in gods. I'll be damned before I wipe it from my lexicon because people might associate me with Dawkins or Hitch. That would be like Christians prefering to call themselves 'pro-Jesus' to avoid being associated with Pat Robertson or the Pope. IMO.Exactly!

There is nothing "negative" about atheism, and atheists who go about calling themselves "non-believers" in attempt to sound "softer" or "less confrontational" or "less radical" only make the problems of ignorance about and prejudice against atheists worse. They also make it sound like belief is the default. The fact is, all humans are born without beliefs. Beliefs are instilled in children by their families/cultures. Which is why the majority of believers (yeah, I know, not all, I said majority) believe something very close, if not identical to, what those who raised them believe.

Atheism doesn't mean I think I can prove there is no god. It doesn't mean I hate Christians. All it means is I don't hold to any theism. Period. Silly how many folks don't hold to any theism yet are loathe to refer to themselves as atheists.

Atheism is not a belief any more than my not believing there are invisible unicorns sipping mint tea on my front porch is a belief. Those who claims it's a belief don't understand what atheism is.

pegasus
07-19-2011, 12:00 AM
Sigh. Everybody has to have their own take on what something means.

We're a cantankerous lot, ain't we?:)

I wouldn't have it any other way. Cantankerousness is next to godliness.

pegasus
07-19-2011, 12:39 AM
Atheism doesn't mean I think I can prove there is no god. It doesn't mean I hate Christians. All it means is I don't hold to any theism. Period. Silly how many folks don't hold to any theism yet are loathe to refer to themselves as atheists.

Hi, (Mr.) Devil (Sir). I agree with everything you say but would add that there are reasons other than philosophical for refusing the atheist label. If you own a business in a small American town and call yourself an atheist, your children will not only go hungry but will likely be ostracized. They'll suffer. I'd rather name my son 'Sue' than admit to atheism in a small town.

Devil Ledbetter
07-19-2011, 01:11 AM
Hi, (Mr.) Devil (Sir). I agree with everything you say but would add that there are reasons other than philosophical for refusing the atheist label. If you own a business in a small American town and call yourself an atheist, your children will not only go hungry but will likely be ostracized. They'll suffer. I'd rather name my son 'Sue' than admit to atheism in a small town.That approach, although practical, is a huge part of the problem. As long as bigots are shielded from the reality that most atheists are safe, friendly and moral people, the prejudice against atheists will continue. The bigots can maintain their belief that atheists are amoral and dangerous, because they are never shown otherwise by good, "out" atheists.

Those who refuse to be part of the solution remain part of the problem.

Dawnstorm
07-19-2011, 03:47 AM
There is nothing "negative" about atheism, and atheists who go about calling themselves "non-believers" in attempt to sound "softer" or "less confrontational" or "less radical" only make the problems of ignorance about and prejudice against atheists worse.

Hm. I don't exactly like confrontations, so I thought that maybe the source of my confusion might actually be my harmonising drive. On the other hand, I'm also a nitpicker (look at grammar posts), and I can talk any problem away, so that only the terms remain.

What I said upthread ("I keep joking that I'm an agnostic five days a week, and an atheist on Sunday") certainly points toward me choosing "agnostic" over "atheist" for its non-confrontationalism. But I wonder.

Certainly, my a-gnosticism is more expressed than my a-theism. In real life situation I tend to say things like "I'm an atheist, or maybe an agnostic. Not sure." And yet I don't think the terms are mutually exclusive (see Fulk's post for details). Here's the thing:

I know I don't believe in "God". But, more than that, I think that the mysery inherent in the term is empty. Thus "God" is an inherently subjective term, impossible to objectivise or operationalise, and hard to communicate. If you don't get it, you don't get it. To me, whether God exists or not is not as important as the subjectivity I think is necessary to give the term meaning. Clearly, we can debate about borderline issues with all terms; but I think that terms like "God" (as well "soul", and some uses of "love") have an inherent emptiness to allow for subjective experience, and that it is easy to mistake that subjective content for the meaning of the term, when the term is deliberately vague enough to allow for the addition. So what's annoying to me is when others try to push their concepts on me, and it's even more annoying when they "punish" me for not getting it.

In simpler words: I'm not so concerned with whether God exists or not. What I'm concerned with is a theists claim that, assuming God exists, they know better than you what he/she/it wants. That they're willing to fill the emptiness in the term God with their own content doesn't entitle them to tell me what to do. So what I really take issue with is "Gnosis", the secret knowledge available to the in-crowd, not "God".

It's actually easier to resort to the term "atheist", because if you tell them that you don't believe in God, then they'll get that God's word doesn't hold much authority. Agnosticism leads to explanations that tend to bore both me and the believer. (And I'm actually more likely to use the term agnostic with people I know well than with strangers.)

Agnosticism is not, in the end, less confrontational. It's actually, if you take it seriously, more risky. You go from "God doesn't exist," to "You're claiming to have knowledge that you - if you're a human being - can't have." It's true that agnosticism, my brand at least, implies that I can no more know whether a God exists or not than you do. But that's only non-confrontational if you focus on what that says about me.

Luckily, most Believers don't turn the terms around when talking God. I'm the focus of attention, the deviation from the default. I'm the curiosity. And it's in the terms: "a-theist", "a-gnostic". All those things I should be buying but don't. (For a change, go around calling people "amaterialists" or "anaturalists". Should be fun.)

Yeah, I'm an agnostic. I admit that I have no priviledged knowledge that allows me to say whether or not a God exists. But, dear Mr. Believer, if you wrest that admission from me, I'll ask the same from you. You, too, have no priviledged knowledge that allows you tell whether a God exists or not. That is agnosticism to me.

Cybernaught
07-19-2011, 04:00 AM
I think most of us are trying to skate uphill here. It's not easy trying to provoke a positive spin on Atheism when politicians outright call Atheists Un-American. (http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/ghwbush.htm)

There's a lingering stigma that won't disappear merely because we believe ourselves to be rational or logical or devoid of any religious associations, and it doesn't help matters much when census radicals still list "Atheist" as a religion in itself. (http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2010/07/atheism-is-religion.html)

small axe
07-19-2011, 04:33 AM
I think atheist is fine -- it means:
A -- absence of
Theism -- belief in god

The issue then, though, is if someone asks "WHY do you have an absence of belief in God (however one defines that), gods, etc."

And they wouldn't mean some personal biographical story, akin to "Why I hate spinach and/or polka music" ... How someone was raised by a family of polka playing hypocrites who forced spinach on them until they were sixteen, then they rebelled, etc.

It is a sign of respect and open-mindedness for a Theist to ask an atheist "On what facts do you base your non-belief?"

But that respectful question asks for an answer, based upon fact or intelligent reasoning ... or else it's fair to say "Their atheism is merely their BELIEF" imo.

Belief (pro or con the existence of God, gods, etc) is fine and acceptable ... but should intelligently be recognized to be (and intelligently admitted to be) what it is: BELIEF.

imo :)

Another issue was raised in the first comment: whether atheism is 'anti-Christian' ... (I don't accept that it needs to be) ... But even suggesting that seems to invite an issue of cultural close-mindedness.

Does any commenter SEE their 'atheism' ONLY in terms of their own limited culture's bias?

One may be seen to reject "gods" and "religions" they are intelligently familiar with ... but how can one call oneself an 'atheist' against ALL definitions and understandings of God, gods, etc ... when no one can be familiar with them all?

If we see that even an 'atheists' non-belief is a belief, unless based upon fact ... and then understand that no one can possess ALL the possible facts concerning the existence of god, gods, etc ...

Isn't 'atheism' then revealed to be a conclusion arrived at prematurely? Lacking the facts?

To the extent that 'atheism' is a conclusion that CAN NEVER be supported ... other than by mere belief / faith?

I think those are fair issues to be addressed here.

Amadan
07-19-2011, 04:52 AM
It is a sign of respect and open-mindedness for a Theist to ask an atheist "On what facts do you base your non-belief?"

On what facts do you base your non-belief in Santa Claus? Unicorns? Bigfoot?

I don't need to individually analyze and reject each and every religion that anyone has ever imagined to intelligently conclude that belief in supernatural beings and a non-material world has no logical or factual foundation.

Your argument is just trying to set up infinitely-moving goal posts. "Well, how can you claim to be an intelligent, fact-based atheist when there might be Religion X somewhere in the world that you haven't investigated yet?"

benbradley
07-19-2011, 05:13 AM
If you don't want atheism to be thought of as a religion, it might help not to capitalize it. If anything, the capitalization of deities in English would suggest it's the t that should be capitalized.

But for those who seriously say atheism is a religion, do they call agnosticism a religion? Is there anyone whom they would say is not religious?

But yes, as far as skating uphill ... with the George H. W. Bush comment, and with polls showing atheists at the bottom just about any category of whom people would vote for for President, it's quite an advance that President Obama said this in his Inauguration speech:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.

The Unseen Moon
07-19-2011, 06:17 AM
To the extent that 'atheism' is a conclusion that CAN NEVER be supported ... other than by mere belief / faith?

Hmmmm the same argument can be used against people who don't believe in evolution. If a lack of belief is invalid because it can never be supported, then a lack of belief in evolution and that means a person must be a believer.

EVOLUTION WINS!

ResearchGuy
07-19-2011, 06:23 AM
. . . I am just curious to know if other non-believers care what they are called, and what word they prefer to use when presented with the question what they believe.
I sometimes have refered to myself as a "lapsed Baptist" (clarifying, American Baptist Convention, not Southern Baptist). These days, it might be "secular humanist," although depending on audience I might add, "the polite term for atheist." Sometimes, "nondogmatic atheist," as I don't feel the need to convert believers to my position -- other than to irritate pushy religionists occasionally by pointing out the absurdities of, say, biblical literalism. No one calls me anything in particular in that regard, though, as I do not seek to get into those discussions.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
07-19-2011, 06:31 AM
To the people who knock on my door at the most inopportune times, I usually just say "I'm all squared away with God, thanks." . . .
I point to my No Soliciting sign. If that does not suffice, I give them my handout that includes statement that soliciting includes proselytizing for or in any other way representing any religion whatsoever. But the No Soliciting sign seems to keep them away. The occasional commercial soliciter, though, that is another story. Those people can be terminally dense. I give them a copy of the handout and close the door. Some are apparently unable to read, though.

--Ken

wheelwriter
07-19-2011, 07:53 AM
That approach, although practical, is a huge part of the problem. As long as bigots are shielded from the reality that most atheists are safe, friendly and moral people, the prejudice against atheists will continue. The bigots can maintain their belief that atheists are amoral and dangerous, because they are never shown otherwise by good, "out" atheists.

Those who refuse to be part of the solution remain part of the problem.

I have mixed feelings about this. People who know me well know I'm atheist, but I don't broadcast it. I don't like it when companies mix religion with their business (there's a furniture store a few towns over that's closed on Sundays, and it says something like, "I'll see you in church" on the sign - I'm not so drawn to purchasing furniture there). I don't see a need to spread my atheism any more than I want someone to spread their religious beliefs.

Although I don't personally value religion, I respect the importance it has in many peoples' lives. And I do believe that because people who are religious think it's true, and it gives them strength, it is True for them, just not for me. Hopefully that ugly sentence made sense.

In my day job I'm a hospice social worker, so I tend to keep my beliefs to myself. I support whatever gives my patients and their families comfort, and try to pitch to the chaplain if needed. I'll read the Bible to them, play hymns, or call a priest for the sac. of the sick. My deep philosophical motto - different strokes for different folks.

zornhau
07-19-2011, 11:33 AM
I think most of us are trying to skate uphill here. It's not easy trying to provoke a positive spin on Atheism when politicians outright call Atheists Un-American. (http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/ghwbush.htm)

There's a lingering stigma that won't disappear merely because we believe ourselves to be rational or logical or devoid of any religious associations, and it doesn't help matters much when census radicals still list "Atheist" as a religion in itself. (http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2010/07/atheism-is-religion.html)

Not so good to give ground either.

And, it's important to stand up and be counted in a census, otherwise you're handing a mandate to theocratic politicians.

Nagneto
07-19-2011, 12:21 PM
Respect should never be a given but earned. Religion promotes too many horrible things to turn the other cheek.

Maxx
07-19-2011, 03:25 PM
Isn't 'atheism' then revealed to be a conclusion arrived at prematurely? Lacking the facts?


What facts are you talking about? It seems like it is only logical to start from the position that unless you observe something, its not there, otherwise you have to catalog every possible infinite number of non-existent things every second and that's not even possible. So if something isn't observed then the only sensible starting point is that it isn't there.

small axe
07-19-2011, 03:50 PM
On what facts do you base your non-belief in Santa Claus? Unicorns? Bigfoot?

I don't need to individually analyze and reject each and every religion that anyone has ever imagined to intelligently conclude that belief in supernatural beings and a non-material world has no logical or factual foundation.


If you claim to be (or expect us to credit you with) intelligently basing your position on evidence or fact ... yes, you do.

YOUR OWN 'Conclusions' must be intelligently supported ... or you shouldn't be
1) making them or
2) be defending them here. :)

Pointing to the other guys' supposed wrongs simply ( yet logically) do not support your own unsupported /unsupportable 'conclusions' ...

Honestly, I've had this debate enough to know when the other side is grasping at straws, and when they don't even have a straw to grasp at!

YOUR 'conclusions' need YOUR support of fact or evidence ... or they're defective 'conclusions.'

But you're welcome to your BELIEFS! :)

small axe
07-19-2011, 03:54 PM
To the extent that 'atheism' is a conclusion that CAN NEVER be supported ... other than by mere belief / faith?

Hmmmm the same argument can be used against people who don't believe in evolution. If a lack of belief is invalid because it can never be supported, then a lack of belief in evolution and that means a person must be a believer.

EVOLUTION WINS!

Again: YOUR conclusions demand YOUR support (of evidence or fact).

Pointing at another position doesn't support YOURS.

You could ALL be wrong. :)

I'm asking atheists for THEIR support (they should WELCOME the opportunity to prove their case) ... usually, sadly, I only get them pointing to someone else.

JimmyB27
07-19-2011, 04:02 PM
Small axe, you are missing the point by a few parsecs. As an atheist, I am not making a claim. Atheism is the absence of belief, the absence of any claim.
When you understand why you can't answer Amadan's questions about your absence of belief in Santa or Bigfoot, you will understand why we cannot answer your question about belief in god.

J.W.
07-19-2011, 04:23 PM
What made you guys atheists/nonbelievers? (Just curious to know.)

Breathing, blinking and thinking.

small axe
07-19-2011, 04:24 PM
What facts are you talking about?

I'm asking about the 'facts' (your facts) that support an atheistic 'conclusion' ...

I have no problem with anyone who admits "I don't know, so I cannot reach an intelligent conclusion about the existence of God, gods, etc"

I could have a problem with someone who defends an unintelligent or unsupported conclusion.

Atheists are in error imo when they attempt to claim that FAITH or a believer's SUBJECTIVE spiritual evidence needs the same sort of 'evidence' or 'support' that ATHEISTS fail at delivering.

Faith is the support the Faithful demand of themselves. They live up to the criteria their Faith positions demand.

What 'facts' does an ATHEIST position demand ... that ATHEISTS can supply?

Because if you cannot support your own position by your own criteria ... your position fails. :) Period.



It seems like it is only logical to start from the position that unless you observe something, its not there,


By that criteria, the need to 'observe or it doesn't exist' ...much of current quantum theory and astronomical theory must be rejected.

You could not accept historical accounts of events you cannot observe. (or if you accept them, you then must explain how you reject religious accounts by witnesses of religious events)

HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS itself is reduced to mere subjective hallucination.

Do that if it's what you need to hold your conclusions together.




otherwise you have to catalog every possible infinite number of non-existent things every second and that's not even possible.


I do understand your point. However, I could as easily destroy your point by saying: THAT is exactly WHY you cannot intelligently reach your atheistic conclusion. :) 'It's not even possible' to quote you.

I could say "And if you were thinking straight, you'd realize you hold an unsustainable conclusion." Which calls your thinking (and your position) into doubt.

I don't mean to insult YOU there, but I'm offering a direct counter-argument to your statements.


So if something isn't observed then the only sensible starting point is that it isn't there.

Again, accepting THAT extreme position damages any materialist argument concerning a huge spectrum of human experience.

You cannot 'observe' any other human's subjective human awareness.

But does that mean you think YOU are the only self-aware being on this planet, and everyone else is merely an automaton robot presenting you with 'observeable' stimuli? :D

I think right there is where we start backing you away from the validity of your rebuttal above.

I'm happy to continue the discussion.

But I ask for THEIR EVIDENCE to support anyone's "no god exists" position.

If they fail to give it, they fail by THEIR standards, not mine.

Because by my standards, you're ALL creatures of FAITH ... and when folks claim evidence but only support it with their atheistic faith ... that supports MY position!!!

J.W.
07-19-2011, 04:35 PM
(there's a furniture store a few towns over that's closed on Sundays, and it says something like, "I'll see you in church" on the sign - I'm not so drawn to purchasing furniture there). I don't see a need to spread my atheism any more than I want someone to spread their religious beliefs.

They advertise on TV using their kids. The kids are dressed in white shirts and ties and at the end of the commerical they're smiling at the camera and say, "I'll see ya in church!"

Even though I'm an atheist, I think it's cute.

Devil Ledbetter
07-19-2011, 04:42 PM
I'm asking about the 'facts' (your facts) that support an atheistic 'conclusion' ...

I have no problem with anyone who admits "I don't know, so I cannot reach an intelligent conclusion about the existence of God, gods, etc"

I could have a problem with someone who defends an unintelligent or unsupported conclusion.

Atheists are in error imo when they attempt to claim that FAITH or a believer's SUBJECTIVE spiritual evidence needs the same sort of 'evidence' or 'support' that ATHEISTS fail at delivering.

Faith is the support the Faithful demand of themselves. They live up to the criteria their Faith positions demand.

What 'facts' does an ATHEIST position demand ... that ATHEISTS can supply?

Because if you cannot support your own position by your own criteria ... your position fails. :) Period.



By that criteria, the need to 'observe or it doesn't exist' ...much of current quantum theory and astronomical theory must be rejected.

You could not accept historical accounts of events you cannot observe. (or if you accept them, you then must explain how you reject religious accounts by witnesses of religious events)

HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS itself is reduced to mere subjective hallucination.

Do that if it's what you need to hold your conclusions together.




I do understand your point. However, I could as easily destroy your point by saying: THAT is exactly WHY you cannot intelligently reach your atheistic conclusion. :) 'It's not even possible' to quote you.

I could say "And if you were thinking straight, you'd realize you hold an unsustainable conclusion." Which calls your thinking (and your position) into doubt.

I don't mean to insult YOU there, but I'm offering a direct counter-argument to your statements.



Again, accepting THAT extreme position damages any materialist argument concerning a huge spectrum of human experience.

You cannot 'observe' any other human's subjective human awareness.

But does that mean you think YOU are the only self-aware being on this planet, and everyone else is merely an automaton robot presenting you with 'observeable' stimuli? :D

I think right there is where we start backing you away from the validity of your rebuttal above.

I'm happy to continue the discussion.

But I ask for THEIR EVIDENCE to support anyone's "no god exists" position.

If they fail to give it, they fail by THEIR standards, not mine.

Because by my standards, you're ALL creatures of FAITH ... and when folks claim evidence but only support it with their atheistic faith ... that supports MY position!!!You've succeeded in completely derailing this thread, the point of which was to discuss the use of the label atheist v. non-believer.

A. Atheists do not owe you any explanations.
B. If we give you any, you will continue to twist and underline and bold and nail Jell-O to the wall. I'm unimpressed.
C. What JimmyB27 said.

small axe
07-19-2011, 04:57 PM
Above there is this:

Those who claims it's a belief don't understand what atheism is.

and then this:


Small axe, you are missing the point by a few parsecs.

Forgive me if the defense of "We're correct, you just don't understand why we're correct" falls short of the evidence I and others ask for and expect, to support someone's position of atheism.

"We're misunderstood" ??? Desn't work when the challenge is to explain.



As an atheist, I am not making a claim. Atheism is the absence of belief, the absence of any claim.


Your 'claim' (spoken or not) would be that your position is factually valid.

If you're just saying you're an atheist in the same way that you like the colour blue best of all ... fine. Then it's not a claim.
It's a WHIM.
It's a FEELING.

But then atheists seem to argue alot against folks whose whims and feelings are merely different from their own. Atheists file lawsuits to make sure no one mentions their love of the colour Godly GOLD in classrooms rather than the atheistic luv of the colour Blue?! :)

I think most atheists take their atheism more seriously than to call it nothing but an aesthetic FEELING.

They may think they are talking about the FACT (spoken or not) of God's non-existence.

That's a claim then of FACT ... and their position demands SUPPORT.

Atheism demands fact; agnosticism IS its own fact. "I dunno if God exists ..."


When you understand
Or do you mean: when I say I agree with you?


When you understand why you can't answer Amadan's questions about your absence of belief in Santa or Bigfoot, you will understand why we cannot answer your question about belief in god.

Here's the thing: I'm too intelligent to rule out the existence of Bigfoot. Some folks say they've observed Bigfoot. Giant primates are KNOWN to have existed in the past, and could still survive today. That's your Bigfoot.

I'm too much the open-minded scientist type to not say "Let's GO LOOK for evidence of Bigfoot"

I don't pretend to hold a position that I know I do not have evidence to support about Bigfoot, that Bigfoot cannot or does not exist.

*shrug*

I don't see Atheists being as open-minded about GOD as I can intelligently be about BIGFOOT.

So the limitation of 'understanding' may not be my limitation, in the discussion here.

Devil Ledbetter
07-19-2011, 05:02 PM
Above there is this:


and then this:



Forgive me if the defense of "We're correct, you just don't understand why we're correct" falls short of the evidence I and others ask for and expect, to support someone's position of atheism.

"We're misunderstood" ??? Desn't work when the challenge is to explain.



Your 'claim' (spoken or not) would be that your position is factually valid.

If you're just saying you're an atheist in the same way that you like the colour blue best of all ... fine. Then it's not a claim.
It's a WHIM.
It's a FEELING.

But then atheists seem to argue alot against folks whose whims and feelings are merely different from their own. Atheists file lawsuits to make sure no one mentions their love of the colour Godly GOLD in classrooms rather than the atheistic luv of the colour Blue?! :)

I think most atheists take their atheism more seriously than to call it nothing but an aesthetic FEELING.

They may think they are talking about the FACT (spoken or not) of God's non-existence.

That's a claim then of FACT ... and their position demands SUPPORT.

Atheism demands fact; agnosticism IS its own fact. "I dunno if God exists ..."


Or do you mean: when I say I agree with you?



Here's the thing: I'm too intelligent to rule out the existence of Bigfoot. Some folks say they've observed Bigfoot. Giant primates are KNOWN to have existed in the past, and could still survive today. That's your Bigfoot.

I'm too much the open-minded scientist type to not say "Let's GO LOOK for evidence of Bigfoot"

I don't pretend to hold a position that I know I do not have evidence to support about Bigfoot, that Bigfoot cannot or does not exist.

*shrug*

I don't see Atheists being as open-minded about GOD as I can intelligently be about BIGFOOT.

So the limitation of 'understanding' may not be my limitation, in the discussion here.Oh look. More thread derailing with Small Axe underlining and bolding about his superior intellect and demanding more explanations from atheists. Zzzzzzzzz.

small axe
07-19-2011, 05:05 PM
You've succeeded in completely derailing this thread, the point of which was to discuss the use of the label atheist v. non-believer.


Respectfully, I'm not 'de-railing' anything.

I'm replying to comments made in direct discussion by others TO me or to my comments.

Discussing and defining our terms and terminology (what is atheism? And are those claiming to represent it accurately presenting it HERE, in the context of this thread ... or NOT accurately representing it?) is a legitimate evolution of the original topic.

Atheists here are invited (by the thread itself) to explain their meaning of 'belief' ... 'non-believer' ... etc

I and others are exploring exactly that.

Devil Ledbetter
07-19-2011, 05:13 PM
Respectfully, I'm not 'de-railing' anything.

I'm replying to comments made in direct discussion by others TO me or to my comments.

Discussing and defining our terms and terminology (what is atheism? And are those claiming to represent it accurately presenting it HERE, in the context of this thread ... or NOT accurately representing it?) is a legitimate evolution of the original topic.

Atheists here are invited (by the thread itself) to explain their meaning of 'belief' ... 'non-believer' ... etc

I and others are exploring exactly that.No. You are a believer demanding atheists "prove" to your satisfaction that god doesn't exist. It is not a legitimate evolution of the discussion of atheist v. non-believer. It is your self-aggrandizing attempt to prove atheists are ignorant and wrong to not believe as you do. And it doesn't belong in this or any discussion on a board where RYFW is the rule.

small axe
07-19-2011, 05:17 PM
Oh look. More thread derailing with Small Axe underlining and bolding about his superior intellect and demanding more explanations from atheists. Zzzzzzzzz.

Well, I quoted you then you changed your approach ... so now I have to reply to the new comment too?

Here's this:

I'm discussing the topic of the thread.

You're de-railing it by making it ad hominem and
complaining about mere form
(underlining? boldface? so what?)
over content
(the sincere questions I'm posing to atheists who have commented to me.)

Here, just so the mods won't lock it or erase valid questions I've asked (which still ask to be answered, on topic, not merely complained about or lamented about how someone 'doesn't understand' etc) ...

I'm out of this thread, it's cool by me.

Like I said: I know when the answers to my questions can no longer be gotten.
I've made my point.

It's sad it always turns ad hominem, though, as someone's last desperate defense.

:Sun:

And you've replied again while I wrote ...


No. You are a believer demanding atheists "prove" to your satisfaction that god doesn't exist.

A strawman argument, since you cannot read my mind, but an attempt to characterize and paint my honest questions ... with the poisoned motive of YOUR choosing?


It is not a legitimate evolution of the discussion of atheist v. non-believer.

Yes, it is. Really. It's exploring the meanings of the terms we're ALL using in this discussion.



It is your self-aggrandizing attempt to prove atheists are ignorant and wrong to not believe as you do. And it doesn't belong in this or any discussion on a board where RYFW is the rule.


Again ... stop with the attempts at mind-reading my motives. It's NOTHING but a few sincere questions asked in pursuit of the thread's discussion. Questions are not attacks, not insults, nothing to fear or be upset by here.

Maxx
07-19-2011, 06:34 PM
By that criteria, the need to 'observe or it doesn't exist' ...much of current quantum theory and astronomical theory must be rejected.



I only said that if something can't be observed then there is no reason to assume it is there. If you can't start by assuming that what isn't observed isn't there, then you have to spend every attempt at thinking by making an infinite catalog of what isn't there. So you would never form a single thought. Obviously, since one does form thoughts, one is in fact always starting from the assumption that the unobserved isn't there and there's no reason to form an infinite catalog of the unobserved every moment. So the mere fact that one can form thoughts at all proves conclusively that there is no God.

JimmyB27
07-19-2011, 06:48 PM
Your 'claim' (spoken or not) would be that your position is factually valid.
Actually, my only claim is that your position (as a god believer) is not factually valid.

Maxx
07-19-2011, 06:56 PM
It's NOTHING but a few sincere questions asked in pursuit of the thread's discussion. Questions are not attacks, not insults, nothing to fear or be upset by here.

It is very hard to believe that you sincerely want to keep going over the same vacuous argument that atheism makes some special claims. In fact atheism makes no claim at all except that thinking is thinking -- nothing more and nothing less.

JimmyB27
07-19-2011, 06:56 PM
I only said that if something can't be observed then there is no reason to assume it is there.
I would like to add to this by suggesting that 'observing' something does not simply mean 'seeing' it. We cannot see a black hole. But we can observe its effects on nearby matter.
http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/Cyberia/NumRel/BlackHoleHowSee.html
From this evidence, we can infer the existence of a black hole. Without this evidence, we do not infer the existence of a black hole.
Without evidence, I do not infer the existence of a supernatural being who created everything.

Maxx
07-19-2011, 06:58 PM
I would like to add to this by suggesting that 'observing' something does not simply mean 'seeing' it. We cannot see a black hole. But we can observe its effects on nearby matter.
http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/Cyberia/NumRel/BlackHoleHowSee.html
From this evidence, we can infer the existence of a black hole. Without this evidence, we do not infer the existence of a black hole.
Without evidence, I do not infer the existence of a supernatural being who created everything.

Yet if I don't see any sign of a black hole, then I don't have to catalog why it and an infinite number of other things are not there in the space of my observation.

Albedo
07-19-2011, 07:15 PM
Small axe, either you're enormously oblivious of how offensive you're being, or you're trolling. And yes, it is offensive to be repeatedly told in a condescending tone that our collective positions are indefensible, unless we comply with ridiculous demands to ply you with evidence to prove a negative, whilst you passive-aggressively refuse to engage with any counterarguments. I strongly suggest you take a step back and a breather, and think how you can approach the nonbelievers in this subforum without coming off like a troll. Again.

Maxx
07-19-2011, 07:24 PM
Yes, it is. Really. It's exploring the meanings of the terms we're ALL using in this discussion.


Except that you suggest that atheism is a "cultural bias" (whatever that is) and that it makes some
special claims. It's very odd that making no claim
(ie nothing observed when nothing is observed) is
supposed to be both a special claim and a cultural
bias at the same time.

veinglory
07-19-2011, 07:31 PM
I don't see Atheists being as open-minded about GOD as I can intelligently be about BIGFOOT.

The limit may be in your understanding of the rules of this sub-forum which are not hard to find or understand, specifically, and bolded for you convenience:

"Broader discussions will naturally arise and will not be considered off topic so long as:
--they do not directly, or by implication, require atheists or non-theists to defend the rationality or virtue of their beliefs, and
--they do not bash, rant about, or morally disparage any mainstream philosophical or religious position."

These posts are indeed off topic for a thread about the semantics of atheist vs. non-believer and any such digression by any user or reply to such posts beyond this post will be separated and locked.

JimmyB27
07-19-2011, 09:29 PM
So a lack of belief in something, make that anything, has be factually valid before it can be a lack of belief or it can not be a lack of belief and therefore must be a belief instead?

???
I have no idea what you mean here...

The Unseen Moon
07-19-2011, 09:37 PM
I have no idea what you mean here...


In math, a negative times a negative becomes a positive in multiplication.

Because if a lack of belief in something is invalid because there is "supposedly" no facts, what else is there then?

And if everything is invalid because there are no facts, all that does is create a huge mess.


I don't see Atheists being as open-minded about GOD as I can intelligently be about BIGFOOT.

I can be open minded. I just want to see actual evidence, rather than just claims and argumentation.

Al Stevens
07-19-2011, 09:38 PM
Back to the original question: The OP prefers to be called "non-believer." That's a safer haven. Believers demonstrate and legislate against atheists and apply the term as a pejorative. "Non-believer" is a soft euphamism for the same thing. In the popular view from the believer's perspective, atheist = heathen, whereas non-believer = philosopher.

If I fit that description, which would I call myself for the benefit of others? It would depend on the company at hand and whether the scent of tar and feathers was in the air.

Fulk
07-19-2011, 09:48 PM
Getting back to the discussion, the wonderful thing about labels is that more than one can fit us. 'Atheist' aptly describes my position towards religious and supernatural claims. I am a secular humanist as a consequence following from that position, as well as following from political ideology and other factors, which describes my worldview and sense of ethics.

It's fair to say, judging from the thread and other discussions, that the definition of the word varies from person to person in their understanding. And if people would rather call themselves lapsed or humanists or nonreligious or whatever, that's their prerogative. However, in my mind, and in recognizing that language changes--it doesn't help to avoid using the word. If it is used as a pejorative, or someone misunderstands, avoiding it reinforces the taboo (as Devil put it). Look at any social movement and they have often taken the negative words and reversed them. (It's also worth noting that "ACLU," "secularism," and "humanist" are also often dirty words in the vocabulary of people who take issue with atheists).

Here's the other thing, if someone is asking your position or what your religious beliefs are, chances are they are curious enough to know what that position is and why you believe it. That is an opportunity to clarify the definition of the word, or clarify your outlook on things if there's a misunderstanding (presuming, of course, that you even want to have that discussion).

There's really only one or two situations where I would suggest caution in being upfront about one's atheism: 1) if you are a dependent of a religious family, and have little or no means to support yourself, 2) if you live in a repressive theocracy.

Devil Ledbetter
07-19-2011, 09:50 PM
Back to the original question: The OP prefers to be called "non-believer." That's a safer haven. Believers demonstrate and legislate against atheists and apply the term as a pejorative. "Non-believer" is a soft euphamism for the same thing. In the popular view from the believer's perspective, atheist = heathen, whereas non-believer = philosopher.

If I fit that description, which would I call myself for the benefit of others? It would depend on the company at hand and whether the scent of tar and feathers was in the air.I refuse to let bigoted believers paint me into the compromise corner of euphemisms. There is nothing shameful or dirty about not believing in God. The more we come out as neighbors, friends and coworkers who happen to be atheists, the more we shatter the negative stereotypes that are used to hold us down.

veinglory
07-19-2011, 09:51 PM
My general rule to to try and go with what people want to be called. When referring to groups I try and go by the term that is most mainstream and frequently used by that group to describe themselves. It seems the safest approach. I think for the total group of exclusion (those not theists) 'atheist' is still that term. As an individual it is also my term of choice but I don't think that is the only basis for my perception.

serabeara
07-19-2011, 10:46 PM
I've always preferred atheist to non-believer.

Non-believer just seems more like a default religious term, something a believer would call me, not what I would call myself. Not that it would offend me or anything.

wheelwriter
07-20-2011, 12:47 AM
I don't want to start anything that will get locked or flogged by angry computer hampsters, but I have an on-topic thought.

There was an assertion that one could not call oneself an atheist because there is a chance that one's lack-of-belief is wrong, and atheist = an absolute. I think of myself as an atheist, but I also believe that there is a small chance I'm wrong and, opps, there is a God. I think I'm right, so I don't consider myself agnostic. To me, agnostic is unsure about whether or not there is a God, so more neutral than atheist.

Do people think being an atheist means leaving no room for fallibility?

veinglory
07-20-2011, 12:57 AM
I, personally, think atheist tends to be: with no proof I have no faith. It is a position not free from potential to change and in some cases some doubt. Agnosticism tends more towards doubt or disinterest than absence or faith.

It is a continuum though. I am pretty comprehensively without faith but if an angel popped down to pass a message to me I would, of course, have to rethink that. I see that more as being consistent in my position re: need for proof, than being wishy washy.

JimmyB27
07-20-2011, 01:03 AM
Do people think being an atheist means leaving no room for fallibility?
I prefer a more graded definition, such as Dawkins's seven point system. In this, a 1 is someone with absolute, unshakeable, cast iron belief that a god of some description does exist. A 7 is someone with absolute, unshakeable, cast iron belief that no god of any description exists. A four would be someone entirely unsure.
In such a system, I would put myself at somewhere between six and seven. Pretty damn sure, but still accepting I could be wrong. And I call myself an atheist (see the definition of the term I use in my last post above).

tl;dr - No, I don't.

Dawnstorm
07-20-2011, 01:47 AM
Non-believer just seems more like a default religious term, something a believer would call me, not what I would call myself. Not that it would offend me or anything.

I don't see a-theist as different in that respect. Both describe what you're not, rather than what you are. Either you're not a believer, or you're not a theist.

As an analogy: I'm a non-bird. But the term includes molluscs as well as the mammal that I am. See?

Take "secular humanist", which has come up before. This term is partly descriptive of what you believe: "humanism" is a specifiable set of believes. We have the descriptor "secular", since not all humanists are that. But that's a sub-divisor of the set, a secondary set of traits.

I don't consider myself a "secular humanist". I haven't really found a positive label to apply to myself. I'm probably closest to a naturalist, but not quite. But I do know what I don't believe, and I'm certainly an atheist. I think I'm also an a-humanist, but some of what I seem to take for granted sheds doubt on that.

The only reason that I would call myself by a name that describes what I'm not is that I wish to point out that I'm different from a sort-of default. Thus, I think identifying with the term "atheist" is a sort of trap - you concede ground, you admit that "theism" is the default. It shouldn't have to be an identity marker; it should remain a communication tool. Thus "atheist" or "non-believer" - to me - is a non-issue, as I'll use either, if I think it'll further my goals.


I honestly don't define myself by whether I believe in God or a god or not. Nor do I care whether other people claim to. Or not.

See? This. Exactly this.

Btw, I was interest to hear that "atheist" pops up in questionnaires under religion. Around here (Austria) we ask for formal group membership in our demographics section, and thus there's the acronym "ORB" ("Ohne Religösem Bekenntnis" - "Without Religious Denomination"); I always figure as Roman-Catholic, because I haven't left the church yet (mainly to please my parents, but also out of laziness, I suppose).

pegasus
07-20-2011, 05:58 AM
Those who refuse to be part of the solution remain part of the problem.

Well, OK. If it's that important to you, I think it's great to be an activist. I'm pretty sure you'd be unable to live in a small town and maintain a business, though.

Mr. Anonymous
07-20-2011, 06:04 AM
nvm.

The Unseen Moon
07-20-2011, 06:21 AM
Those who refuse to be part of the solution remain part of the problem.

Hmmm... you're either for us or against eh?

How novel.

veinglory
07-20-2011, 06:28 AM
Personally I would rather have closet atheists in power in intolerant communities than none in power at all. You can have that and activism to chip away at things from both ends.

pegasus
07-20-2011, 06:40 AM
Personally I would rather have closet atheists in power in intolerant communities than none in power at all. You can have that and activism to chip away at things from both ends.

I agree. And I think we probably have a bunch of them. We've had presidents, I'm sure, who were atheists by most people's standards.

Devil Ledbetter
07-20-2011, 03:59 PM
Well, OK. If it's that important to you, I think it's great to be an activist. I'm pretty sure you'd be unable to live in a small town and maintain a business, though.Well, you're mistaken about that. I do live in a small town (so small we don't even have a single Starbucks). Our company president is an out atheist as well. I'm sure he'd be stunned to learn he's "unable" to maintain this business. It seems to be doing quite well.

However, we don't think of ourselves an "atheist" company. Many folks from various religions work here and we all get along.

I don't consider being out with my atheism to be particularly bold, just honest. I am who I am, and I won't let a fear of ignorant opinions keep me in the closet.

Melisande
07-20-2011, 04:58 PM
I thank you all for having participated in this discussion, which really has opened my eyes.

As a newcomer to the english language I find it full of traps. Makes it very interesting to learn, but also very hard. I have been living under the assumption that 'non-believer' instead of 'atheism' is a better way to express hard atheism. How wrong I was.

The reason why I brought this up, was the fact that my Beloved Hubby and I were asked to join the local Eagles fraternity. I was rejected, of course, because I made it quite clear that I am a person completely devoid of any kind of belief in any kind of 'supreme being' as they chose to put it.

My Hubby had warned me about using the word atheist, simply because we have moved to a very small village of about 600 people in an area in the US that is part of the so called 'Bible-belt'. He was worried that I wouldn't be able to be accepted anywhere around here, where they have some 40 different churches, but only one grocery store.

I called myself a non-believer, not realizing that it is a softer version of atheist. That will change as of now.

Once again - Thank you all for your inputs.

The Unseen Moon
07-20-2011, 07:31 PM
Yeah, people really love to get hung up on labeling other people rather than getting to know them personally, don't they? Labels are very easy.

veinglory
07-20-2011, 09:19 PM
Well, to be fair--this is a thread about labels.

But if you think it is possible to do well as an out atheist in all small towns, well, i would disagree with that. There are some real doozy towns out there in the world. I mean towns that a huge issue with females taking part in governance or commerce, let alone godless (presumably satanist) females.

The Unseen Moon
07-20-2011, 09:55 PM
But if you think it is possible to do well as an out atheist in all small towns

Not all, just some. I've had some very negative experiences for being an atheist in one small town.

So yes, I do know what you mean.

pegasus
07-20-2011, 11:07 PM
But if you think it is possible to do well as an out atheist in all small towns, well, i would disagree with that. There are some real doozy towns out there in the world. I mean towns that a huge issue with females taking part in governance or commerce, let alone godless (presumably satanist) females.

Yep. I'd guess that small towns in the South and Midwest are quite different than those in California and New England. My son had a semester at Dartmouth -- when Katrina chased him out of New Orleans. He came back shaken in his views about small-town America.:)

Devil Ledbetter
07-21-2011, 12:40 AM
Yep. I'd guess that small towns in the South and Midwest are quite different than those in California and New England. True, but even that is a stereotype. My tolerant small town is in the Midwest. Yet two towns over we have a rather intolerant small town: white crosses on every lawn, if you're not a white Christian don't even think about moving there, famous for its Christmas stores and Bavarian-themed everything, etc.

It does depend on the town itself, and I do understand why some folks would downplay or be secretive about their atheism in some places.

pegasus
07-21-2011, 03:06 AM
It does depend on the town itself, and I do understand why some folks would downplay or be secretive about their atheism in some places.

Imagine being a gay atheist in small-town Pakistan. Yikes. We still live in a primitive world. Come quickly, oh Lord.

Melisande
07-21-2011, 04:20 AM
True, but even that is a stereotype. My tolerant small town is in the Midwest. Yet two towns over we have a rather intolerant small town: white crosses on every lawn, if you're not a white Christian don't even think about moving there, famous for its Christmas stores and Bavarian-themed everything, etc.

It does depend on the town itself, and I do understand why some folks would downplay or be secretive about their atheism in some places.

The little village we now live in is in the South.

The Unseen Moon
07-21-2011, 06:45 AM
Yep. I'd guess that small towns in the South and Midwest are quite different than those in California and New England.

Not really. The town I live is a very Christian town of about three thousand people and the people do get upset at non-Christians

The town to the south, well, it's pretty much a new-agey style town with a fair amount of shops that sell crystals to focus spiritual power and a lot of tie dyed shirty kinds of people.

One person tried to open up a shop in the local Mercantile that sold those kinds of crystals, but she was pretty much driven out. While there was no overt protesting and hostility against her, nobody bought any of her store's crystals and things because the majority of them thought it was a cult shop.

So no, just because its California, don't judge the entire state by one city.

No matter where you go, there's plenty of bigotry to spread around.

PrincessofPersia
07-21-2011, 07:37 AM
No matter where you go, there's plenty of bigotry to spread around.

+1.

Nick Blaze
07-21-2011, 09:38 AM
I used to be a Christian, but I didn't quite like how bloodthirsty the god was and how any and all non-believers should convert or die.

That aside, it was more so just logical. I'm agnostic, like many people in this thread, as it's the most logical choice. There sure could be a God. There also sure couldn't be. I don't know, so I'm not going to make the guess. Why worry myself over something so trivial? I don't care why we all came to be-- I just want to live as best as I can and worry about death and what may come after it later.

Regardless, I used "athiest" to describe me many, many years ago before I truly knew what it meant. I am not an athiest and wasn't back then, either. However, I know I would prefer to be called "athiest" were I one, rather than a more politically correct term, "non-believer". The first says I don't believe in a theism. The second almost insinuates I don't really believe in anything.

That said, I think this country would do far better if there was an atheist or agnostic president, and more politicians as well. But that's only wishful speculations. Humans are humans regardless their beliefs.

Devil Ledbetter
07-21-2011, 04:52 PM
However, I know I would prefer to be called "athiest" were I one, rather than a more politically correct term, "non-believer". The first says I don't believe in a theism. The second almost insinuates I don't really believe in anything.

A fun thing to tell door-to-door proselytizers is "I'm an atheist. I don't even believe in the moon."

Not true, but the crestfallen reaction is hilarious.

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 01:04 AM
The correct question is: Why are you a believer?

First off, I completely forgot about this post. Going back to read it now, I saw so many people replying to my question which I didn't expect. Why I'm a believer? I'll try to be simple since this is an Atheist forum so I guess you don't want my views on this thread! Anyway, I noticed that when you guys say "religion" you only mention Christianity. So when I say I believe in God, you assume I'm Christian. I'm Muslim.

Even though I was raised Muslim all my life, I later decided to think for myself and see if it really is the true religion. I think you Atheists are smart for thinking for yourselves instead of taking what someone else said and not thinking about it! I agree that many religious people don't know how to explain what they believe because someone told them what to believe and they just accepted it without trying to think logically about it. Islam is misunderstood as terrorism, which isn't true. Why else is it the fastest growing religion? They accuse us of bombing things when in fact, Christians have been terrorists from time to time but the media doesn't acknowledge it. The media picks and chooses what they like. We believe in one and only God instead of a trinity. That's why alot of you quit Christianity, because one thing that doesn't make sense is the trinity. How can God have a son? If Jesus is the son why do they seem to worship him only?

A lot of you quit because people were taking the laws of religion and used it to their own will, like preists molesting little kids in the name of God. And alot of you dislike religion because I think that some of you didn't take a look at all the other religions. Just thought Christianity was wrong, so everything else is wrong. Give every other belief a chance too, if you haven't. Think about this: our roads have laws, right? Green is go, slow down at yellow, and stop at red. Drive at a certain limit. These laws were put there for a purpose: to mantain harmony. But people misuse those laws, because people are flawed, and they use it to their own advantage. They speed up when the light goes yellow, they exceed the speed limit. Are you going to tell me that because people are misusing the driving laws, driving laws are incorrect? That is a flawed human's fault.

Our Holy Book, the Qur'an, was written over 1,000 years ago and it has scientific miracles. If God was so all knowing, wouldn't he tell these people scientific facts about the world? Long ago Christianity stated the world was flat, and people said God told them it was. But the Qur'an talks about the earth being a globe, how we orbit the sun, the 7 layers of the atmosphere, etc. There is so much more things that is impossible for a human 1,000 years ago to think up of. Would you believe that the Qur'an even describes the stages of growth in a fetus, that it starts like a seed? Only recently (last century) did we discover how that works.

I have more to say but I'm going to close off now because I don't want to ramble on too long, but that's part of my answer. I respect your opinions because you think for yourself, and that's good for you. Since this is an Atheist forum, I think I'll just run away now since you don't want me crashing in on your party! But maybe I'll stop by again and see if I get some replies.

(By the way, I understand how you feel when religious people try to push their views on you. A long time ago I used to dislike Atheists because they didn't see what I saw, but now I see that Atheists are usually the smart ones in situations. Religious fanatics can be embarassing. Don't worry, I won't bash on you if you don't agree. That's another teaching of Islam: we never force people into anything. We inform, explain, and move on. We are taught to respect people no matter what.)

The Unseen Moon
07-22-2011, 01:43 AM
I'm sorry, and I don't want to seem like a troll, but Mimiangel, would you format your post better please?

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 01:54 AM
I'm sorry, and I don't want to seem like a troll, but Mimiangel, would you format your post better please?

It's formated badly?
Okay, I'll go and edit it.

EDIT:
Kay, the paragraphs are shifted better.

Dawnstorm
07-22-2011, 02:56 AM
It's formated badly?
Okay, I'll go and edit it.

EDIT:
Kay, the paragraphs are shifted better.

Hi,

What the Unseen Moon meant was, I think, that you should insert a blank line between paragraphs, which makes it easier to read:


There is no space between paragraphs.
This is harder to read.


There is a space between paragraphs.

This is easier to read.

Now to your post:


I'll try to be simple since this is an Atheist forum so I guess you don't want my views on this thread!

Not true. If there weren't theists around, we wouldn't be atheists in the first place. There's no point in talking about atheism if we exclude theists.

In here, we don't want to have to defend or justify not believing in God/s; that's all. It's obvious that you're not attacking us, so things should be fine.

Welcome. :)

As for the rest, I'll keep it brief, because this thread is about labels not about the reasons for believing. But:

I'm talking about Christianity because that's what I grew up with. But from an atheist's point of view, the differences between Christianity, Judaism and Islam aren't really important, when it comes to the existance of God. For example, an atheist drops out long before the question of the Trinity even comes up. I, in particular, drop out even before the question of Monotheism vs. Polytheism pops up.

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 03:47 AM
Hi,

What the Unseen Moon meant was, I think, that you should insert a blank line between paragraphs, which makes it easier to read:





Now to your post:



Not true. If there weren't theists around, we wouldn't be atheists in the first place. There's no point in talking about atheism if we exclude theists.

In here, we don't want to have to defend or justify not believing in God/s; that's all. It's obvious that you're not attacking us, so things should be fine.

Welcome. :)

As for the rest, I'll keep it brief, because this thread is about labels not about the reasons for believing. But:

I'm talking about Christianity because that's what I grew up with. But from an atheist's point of view, the differences between Christianity, Judaism and Islam aren't really important, when it comes to the existance of God. For example, an atheist drops out long before the question of the Trinity even comes up. I, in particular, drop out even before the question of Monotheism vs. Polytheism pops up.

Oh I get it! I've put blanks in between. No one is really replying to the actual content of the post, which I was hoping for. Maybe I need to wait longer.
So you're saying you're Christian? I thought you were Atheist but I looked closely and saw you were Christian, right?

pegasus
07-22-2011, 04:56 AM
No one is really replying to the actual content of the post, which I was hoping for. Maybe I need to wait longer.

Is there anything in particular which you'd like answered?

I don't believe in religions or scriptures because I see no reason to think that ancient guys knew anything more about God than I know. Why would I think so?

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 05:19 AM
Is there anything in particular which you'd like answered?

I don't believe in religions or scriptures because I see no reason to think that ancient guys knew anything more about God than I know. Why would I think so?

Yes, I posted something long but no one ever got back to it. It was a reply to someone who asked, "Why are you a believer?" I just want to see what you think.

-------------------------------------------------------------


First off, I completely forgot about this post. Going back to read it now, I saw so many people replying to my question which I didn't expect. Why I'm a believer? I'll try to be simple since this is an Atheist forum so I guess you don't want my views on this thread! Anyway, I noticed that when you guys say "religion" you only mention Christianity. So when I say I believe in God, you assume I'm Christian. I'm Muslim.

Even though I was raised Muslim all my life, I later decided to think for myself and see if it really is the true religion. I think you Atheists are smart for thinking for yourselves instead of taking what someone else said and not thinking about it! I agree that many religious people don't know how to explain what they believe because someone told them what to believe and they just accepted it without trying to think logically about it. Islam is misunderstood as terrorism, which isn't true. Why else is it the fastest growing religion? They accuse us of bombing things when in fact, Christians have been terrorists from time to time but the media doesn't acknowledge it. The media picks and chooses what they like. We believe in one and only God instead of a trinity. That's why alot of you quit Christianity, because one thing that doesn't make sense is the trinity. How can God have a son? If Jesus is the son why do they seem to worship him only?

A lot of you quit because people were taking the laws of religion and used it to their own will, like preists molesting little kids in the name of God. And alot of you dislike religion because I think that some of you didn't take a look at all the other religions. Just thought Christianity was wrong, so everything else is wrong. Give every other belief a chance too, if you haven't. Think about this: our roads have laws, right? Green is go, slow down at yellow, and stop at red. Drive at a certain limit. These laws were put there for a purpose: to mantain harmony. But people misuse those laws, because people are flawed, and they use it to their own advantage. They speed up when the light goes yellow, they exceed the speed limit. Are you going to tell me that because people are misusing the driving laws, driving laws are incorrect? That is a flawed human's fault.

Our Holy Book, the Qur'an, was written over 1,000 years ago and it has scientific miracles. If God was so all knowing, wouldn't he tell these people scientific facts about the world? Long ago Christianity stated the world was flat, and people said God told them it was. But the Qur'an talks about the earth being a globe, how we orbit the sun, the 7 layers of the atmosphere, etc. There is so much more things that is impossible for a human 1,000 years ago to think up of. Would you believe that the Qur'an even describes the stages of growth in a fetus, that it starts like a seed? Only recently (last century) did we discover how that works.

I have more to say but I'm going to close off now because I don't want to ramble on too long, but that's part of my answer. I respect your opinions because you think for yourself, and that's good for you. Since this is an Atheist forum, I think I'll just run away now since you don't want me crashing in on your party! But maybe I'll stop by again and see if I get some replies.

(By the way, I understand how you feel when religious people try to push their views on you. A long time ago I used to dislike Atheists because they didn't see what I saw, but now I see that Atheists are usually the smart ones in situations. Religious fanatics can be embarassing. Don't worry, I won't bash on you if you don't agree. That's another teaching of Islam: we never force people into anything. We inform, explain, and move on. We are taught to respect people no matter what.)

Dawnstorm
07-22-2011, 05:24 AM
So you're saying you're Christian? I thought you were Atheist but I looked closely and saw you were Christian, right?

Well, here's the gist of it. I am an atheist; I do not believe in God. But I'm the son of Roman Catholic parents: I've been baptised and confirmed in the name of the Lord, and I have not yet left the fold. So in any census, which asks for group membership rather than belief, I will show up as Roman Catholic. But I'm really only staying because I don't want to upset my parents. My parents know I don't believe in God, but they'd still like me to be a Church member. So as long as they live I'll be "paper-Christian atheist" - Christian in name only.


No one is really replying to the actual content of the post, which I was hoping for. Maybe I need to wait longer.

I would, but not in this thread. This thread is about labels, not belief, and replying in detail would be a derail. (If you open a box of chocolates, you don't want to find grapes inside, even if you like grapes.)

pegasus
07-22-2011, 05:34 AM
Yes, I posted something long but no one ever got back to it. It was a reply to someone who asked, "Why are you a believer?" I just want to see what you think.

Yes, I read it. I'm just not sure if you're asking something in particular or what. Most of your message just didn't relate to me. I didn't drop religion for any of the reasons you mentioned, for example.

And I don't see any particular scientific insight in the Quran.

If there's anything specific, though, you're welcome to ask.

Nick Blaze
07-22-2011, 05:48 AM
I would like to add that I find it funny the people who calls themselves Christians on the surface because they were baptized/whatever, but when further asked, they say they don't know if they believe in God, or are in fact atheist. I've encountered this situation a few times.

Dawnstorm
07-22-2011, 06:02 AM
I would like to add that I find it funny the people who calls themselves Christians on the surface because they were baptized/whatever, but when further asked, they say they don't know if they believe in God, or are in fact atheist. I've encountered this situation a few times.

There's a difference between what you believe exists and whether you place your stakes in organised religion. I've met a couple of people who don't consider themselves Christians (nor Muslims, nor Jews) but read all the scripture and believe in God. They merely dropped organised religion. There are plenty of people who like ritual aspect of church life enough to consider themselves churchmembers, but they don't really believe in God.

Labels. Not as complex as life.

shelleyo
07-22-2011, 06:23 AM
I haven't read this entire thread so maybe it has been mentioned--if so, apologies.

Anyone interested in disbelief on the whole might find an old BBC documentary fascinating. I did. It's called Jonathan Miller's Rough History of Disbelief (sometimes it's called Brief History instead of Rough).

I think the whole thing is available on Youtube.

Also, there are 6 episodes that I know of called The Atheism Tapes, that were stuff from the cutting room while making the show. In each, he has a conversation with one person, of which bits were used for the original show. Playwright Arthur Miller is one. Richard Dawkins is another. The original show and the conversations are fascinating (or they were to me). The Atheism Tapes is instant streaming on Netflix, and may be on Youtube, too.

Jonathan Miller never liked the word atheist to describe himself, because atheism seemed to be taking a stand on whether or not there was a god, when it was something that never entered his mind at all.

I dislike non-believer for myself (if we're going to start labeling me according to the things I don't do, that would be ridiculous) and prefer atheist. I believe there is no god, and that religions, from ancient to modern, are mere superstitions that served purposes once upon a time. Miller believes that, but apparently never thought of himself in any sort of theism or non-theism context until around the making of the documentary.

Shelley

Sarah Madara
07-22-2011, 07:17 AM
I would like to add that I find it funny the people who calls themselves Christians on the surface because they were baptized/whatever, but when further asked, they say they don't know if they believe in God, or are in fact atheist. I've encountered this situation a few times.
I once mentioned to a Catholic friend that I thought Jews were fascinating because it was the only religion you could really belong to without having to believe the theology. (Apologies for what is probably a gross oversimplification.) She said "No, I don't believe in God and I'm still Catholic." And I said, "Uh, no you're not." Then things got awkward, because she was genuinely offended that I would try to strip away her Catholic identity based on beliefs. I didn't pursue the argument. If you want to self-identify as a Catholic atheist, go for it. No skin off my back.

Yes, labels are funny.

benbradley
07-22-2011, 08:16 AM
I once mentioned to a Catholic friend that I thought Jews were fascinating because it was the only religion you could really belong to without having to believe the theology. (Apologies for what is probably a gross oversimplification.) She said "No, I don't believe in God and I'm still Catholic." And I said, "Uh, no you're not." Then things got awkward, because she was genuinely offended that I would try to strip away her Catholic identity based on beliefs. I didn't pursue the argument. If you want to self-identify as a Catholic atheist, go for it. No skin off my back.

Yes, labels are funny.
I can see where that can happen where church becomes such a part of life that it's more than religion. In smaller towns in the South there's a church almost on every corner, and the majority are Baptist. There's not just the Sunday morning worship service, but there's also Sunday School usually before the service, potluck lunch after the service, Wednesday evening/"vesper" service, and likely other activities at church during the week. Churches may well be the only social outlets in town, and if you don't attend church you don't meet anyone in a social context. Thus one may be "Baptist" even when beliefs have no correlation with what the Bible or the preacher says. Sitting through the service is just the price being paid to be able to socialize with others.

What this appears to have in common with Catholics and Jews is the idea of "growing up" in the church (being insular in that you don't often meet people outside your own religious background), all the people you meet and know outside the family are from the church. In this way you're a member of the church in the same way you're a resident or citizen of a town, for little or no other reason than you were born into it.

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 08:33 AM
I would, but not in this thread. This thread is about labels, not belief, and replying in detail would be a derail. (If you open a box of chocolates, you don't want to find grapes inside, even if you like grapes.)

I knew it was about labels, but then I stopped by and asked everyone, "What made you guys Atheists?" Then someone replied to me, "A better questionw would be, what made you a believer?"
Threads tend to stray off topic and mold into different conversastions, just like in real life when people talk. For example, my cousin and I went from talking about Catholics to how the population in India is rising.

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 08:35 AM
Yes, I read it. I'm just not sure if you're asking something in particular or what. Most of your message just didn't relate to me. I didn't drop religion for any of the reasons you mentioned, for example.

And I don't see any particular scientific insight in the Quran.

If there's anything specific, though, you're welcome to ask.

Maybe you never saw any scientific insight because you never studied it?

MimiAngel621
07-22-2011, 08:39 AM
I would like to add that I find it funny the people who calls themselves Christians on the surface because they were baptized/whatever, but when further asked, they say they don't know if they believe in God, or are in fact atheist. I've encountered this situation a few times.

I can understand why you're Atheist. It's ridiculous.

Devil Ledbetter
07-22-2011, 04:54 PM
That's why alot of you quit Christianity, because one thing that doesn't make sense is the trinity. How can God have a son? If Jesus is the son why do they seem to worship him only?

A lot of you quit because people were taking the laws of religion and used it to their own will, like preists molesting little kids in the name of God. And alot of you dislike religion because I think that some of you didn't take a look at all the other religions. Just thought Christianity was wrong, so everything else is wrong. Give every other belief a chance too, if you haven't.
You will mainly hear U.S. atheists critiquing Christianity simply because it's the dominant religion here. Muslims, Jews and Buddhists don't come pounding on my front door to "share the good news." Nor do they assume I'm Muslim, Jewish or Buddhists unless I explicitly state otherwise. This is why, from me at least, statements about "why I don’t believe" may be mainly directed at Christianity.

But the reality is, I'm an equal opportunity disbeliever. If it's a spiritual belief based on what one is told is true (via a holy book, religious tradition, pourquoi story, holy man or mystic) or what one just feels is true (angels, souls, everlasting life, ghosts, black magic, aruveda, reincarnation, chakras, reiki, superstitions) or what one has some personal "experience" with but no proof of, I don't see a reason to believe. If a belief is about what one feels rather than what's demonstrably real, I can't get onboard with it.

By demonstrably real, I don't mean attributing something natural (say, a tsunami) or scientific (a life saved by medical intervention) to "god." Most all non-scientific beliefs are based on attribution, assertion and tradition.

I can't prove the non-existence of "spiritual" things, but each of them comes up empty-handed when tested scientifically. And each falls to pieces under close logical examination. Those are the things I can't believe in, and that's my approach to atheism. It isn't a reaction to Christianity.

I also don't think Muslims are terrorists. Religious extremists of any brand are prone to terrorism, and that includes Christians.

veinglory
07-22-2011, 06:01 PM
I think there is a difference between people identifying with their religious culture regardless of personal belief and it being a "lie". There are lots of examples like that. A good proportion of people who identify as vegetarian eat some kind of meat some of the time. People are complex. Their identifications are not just a matter of logic.

Dawnstorm
07-22-2011, 06:03 PM
I knew it was about labels, but then I stopped by and asked everyone, "What made you guys Atheists?" Then someone replied to me, "A better questionw would be, what made you a believer?"
Threads tend to stray off topic and mold into different conversastions, just like in real life when people talk. For example, my cousin and I went from talking about Catholics to how the population in India is rising.

I know that these things happen. Which is why I usually make an effort not to go too wildly off topic. But, well, why not do it once in a while? So, on to your post:


Anyway, I noticed that when you guys say "religion" you only mention Christianity. So when I say I believe in God, you assume I'm Christian. I'm Muslim.

I'm talking about Christianity because that's what - through my upbringing - I'm most familiar with. I really don't make too many assumptions, mostly because - as I have said before - there is no relevant difference between the three big monotheistic religions when it comes to believing in God. As an atheist, I simply don't believe in supernatural beings, whether they be all-powerful or not, whether there's one or many, or whether there's one who's partitioned. It doesn't matter. None of it makes sense to me, beyond story telling. I'd talk about Quetzalcoatl, if I knew enough about him.

It doesn't actually start with "God" or "gods". I don't believe in an afterlife. I don't believe in souls. I think love is little but a fuzzy term for a range of very real feelings... Me being an atheist is really just the tip of the iceberg. When I was a teenager I thought I might be a nihilist, but that doesn't really pan out.

So, no, I didn't assume you were Muslim Christian (got confused, sorry). I was just talking on a level where the differences between Islam and Christiandom don't matter.


I think you Atheists are smart for thinking for yourselves instead of taking what someone else said and not thinking about it!I may or may not be smart, but I'm an atheist because the concept of God doesn't make sense to me. I don't think much about it, if I don't have to, so being smart has little to do with me being an atheist. If anything, I think may lack some kind of understanding that theists have.

It's just the underlying world view, I think. Different people make different sense of the world. Which is why I've never tried to convince anyone that God doesn't exist. It's pretty clear to me that the God-concept is quite fundamental to a lot of people. Take that away and everything might stop making sense. Of course, conversions happen (both ways). But I wouldn't want the responsibility for such a change.


I agree that many religious people don't know how to explain what they believe because someone told them what to believe and they just accepted it without trying to think logically about it.I don't know. I think that with concepts as abstract as "God", you have to do some "thinking" before you even understand it (or else you need to fill it with the way you make sense of the world). You can do as you're told (e.g. you can inherit an aversion to behaviour others tell you is "sinful"), but you have to integrate it with the way the world works for you yourself. Nobody else can do that.

In my case, "God" made no sense, and thus I abandoned the concept altogether, feeling guilty towards my parents. But as the concept made no sense to me, there was nothing else I could have done.

Not being able to explain your beliefs, I think, is pretty normal, since there are many, many things you take for granted without realising. As you can probably guess, I don't trust rational thought too much: much of it is rationalisation, rather than conclusion - you've made your decision already, but wonder how to put it into words in the least attackable way. Atheists and theists are no different in that respect.

Yet, I also think that rational thought is a very powerful tool when used for inquiry rather than rationalisation. The difference, however, isn't always immediately apparent, so you need to be on guard.

I don't think it's fair to assume that people who can't explain their beliefs are just repeating what others told them. They may just be more "immediate" people; more comfortable with doing/believing than with talking.


Islam is misunderstood as terrorism, which isn't true. Why else is it the fastest growing religion? They accuse us of bombing things when in fact, Christians have been terrorists from time to time but the media doesn't acknowledge it. The media picks and chooses what they like.Terrorists are terrorists, no matter what they believe. Where people want similar things, they group together, and where there are groups, there will be sub-groups more radical than the rest. They hit the news.

Maybe it's my atheist sensitivities, but I'm fully aware of abortion clinic bombings, or blowing up of cinemas that show "blasphemic" movies. The further back you go, the longer the list.

I don't think you have too much to worry about in here on that account.


We believe in one and only God instead of a trinity. That's why alot of you quit Christianity, because one thing that doesn't make sense is the trinity. How can God have a son? If Jesus is the son why do they seem to worship him only?God must be a man. Why? Easy. Jesus is his son. Mary was Jesus' mother. She couldn't possibly have given him the Y-chromosome... Sorry, couldn't resist.

Honestly, if God is person-like (but not a person) he can as well have a son that isn't really a son but himself. If I took Hindu terminology, rather than family-hierarchy metaphors, I might say Jesus is Gods avatar. If God wants us to understand him at least a little bit, it helps to take a form we can understand.

I'm not impressed. A single without a tagged on trinity is no more plausible than what I've grown up with. It's one of those differences I consider pretty irrelevant to whether I believe in God or not. I wonder how many Christian-culture-derived atheists were bothered by the Trinity? I don't think it's too many.


A lot of you quit because people were taking the laws of religion and used it to their own will, like preists molesting little kids in the name of God. And alot of you dislike religion because I think that some of you didn't take a look at all the other religions.The child molestation scandal of the Catholic Church, for example, led many people to quit the Catholic Church. But quitting church is different from not believing anymore. Some may have converted to protestantism. Some may have turned into private believers. And some may have been atheists all along - and given the push.


Just thought Christianity was wrong, so everything else is wrong.I grew up with Roman Catholic parents. I grew out of believing in God the same way I grew out of believing in the easter bunny. It just stopped making sense. The same attitude makes all that God-stuff implausible. It's variations on a theme.

Some believe systems may be more attractive than others, but that's not enough to make me believe.


Give every other belief a chance too, if you haven't.Why should I? I'm fine the way I am now. I do look, read up, listen. But I'm not going to search for a believe system just because I haven't got one right now. I simply don't feel the need. If one should cross my path that convinces me, sure. Actively looking? There are only so many hours in a day, and I have other ways to spend them.


Think about this: our roads have laws, right? Green is go, slow down at yellow, and stop at red. Drive at a certain limit. These laws were put there for a purpose: to mantain harmony. But people misuse those laws, because people are flawed, and they use it to their own advantage. They speed up when the light goes yellow, they exceed the speed limit. Are you going to tell me that because people are misusing the driving laws, driving laws are incorrect? That is a flawed human's fault.No, I'm telling you that driving laws are arbitrary, but if we don't all follow the same ones, they're pointless. I don't have to believe in anything to follow driving laws. If I do, the roads are safer.

I now have the odd image of divine driving laws: it is dextrous to drive on the right side of the road, but sinister to drive on the left...


Our Holy Book, the Qur'an, was written over 1,000 years ago and it has scientific miracles. If God was so all knowing, wouldn't he tell these people scientific facts about the world? Long ago Christianity stated the world was flat, and people said God told them it was. But the Qur'an talks about the earth being a globe, how we orbit the sun, the 7 layers of the atmosphere, etc. There is so much more things that is impossible for a human 1,000 years ago to think up of. Would you believe that the Qur'an even describes the stages of growth in a fetus, that it starts like a seed? Only recently (last century) did we discover how that works.I haven't read the Qur'an, so this isn't something I can comment on. But it wouldn't surprise me that the Qur'an contains different lore than the Bible. But neither would it surprise me if the language were abstract enough to look different in light of recent discoveries... I've seen people talk like that about the Bible, too, and wasn't impressed either.

***

I can't speak for all atheists, but I simply don't want to invest emotional energy into intagible "truths". That leads to lots of rationalisation, which is a waste of my thinking-time. I know because I tend to do that on occasion, and when I catch myself I feel embarrassed about it. For now, I'd rather work on some personality problems; and I can really do without the additional strain of a belief system.

Melisande
07-22-2011, 06:23 PM
And alot of you dislike religion because I think that some of you didn't take a look at all the other religions.


For me, being atheist is not synonym with 'disliking religion'. I don't. I just don't care.

I think religions and the concept of God/Gods are fine for the people who chose to believe.

It is sad to me, though, that so many people of faith seem to believe that atheists are actively opposed religion.

ResearchGuy
07-22-2011, 06:29 PM
. . . It is sad to me, though, that so many people of faith seem to believe that atheists are actively opposed [to] religion.
Some atheists ARE actively opposed to religion. Sometimes very publicly so. Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett come to mind (all atheists as far as I know). That is why I think of myself as a "nondogmatic atheist." I just don't want religion pushed in my face and I abhor organized religion's history of murder, war, and torture. But I don't feel the need to convert believers to my views, which took decades of study to reach.

--Ken

Devil Ledbetter
07-22-2011, 06:30 PM
I may or may not be smart, but I'm an atheist because the concept of God doesn't make sense to me. I don't think much about it, if I don't have to, so being smart has little to do with me being an atheist. If anything, I think may lack some kind of understanding that theists have.What atheists "lack" isn't understanding, but credulity.

Years ago I went through a very open a questioning period re: god beliefs and every time I reached a point with believers where they couldn't adequately explain something they believed, they'd declare "That's the mystery!" Like the "mystery" was the good part. To them "the mystery" was what made God great. It was what belief/faith was all about, and they reveled in the illogical aspects and were proud of their "childlike" belief.

They didn't possess some true understanding of God, just credulity.



Why should I? I'm fine the way I am now. I do look, read up, listen. But I'm not going to search for a believe system just because I haven't got one right now. I simply don't feel the need. Exactly.

pegasus
07-22-2011, 08:05 PM
Maybe you never saw any scientific insight because you never studied it?

Over the years, I've heard every religionist claim that his scripture contains startling scientific insight. Christians, Baha'is, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, etc.

But I've never seen a good case made for such a belief. In your own claim, you said something about the belief that the earth was flat when Muhammed produced the Quran.

But that isn't so. And unless you have a noteworthy example of scientific insight, I don't feel energized to look into it.

Sarah Madara
07-22-2011, 08:11 PM
What atheists "lack" isn't understanding, but credulity.

I suspect that it boils down to brain chemistry, or brain activity. Religious experience is demonstrable on fMRI (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007272) and SPECT. (http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/behavior/brain-religion1.htm)

Personally, I feel like I'm missing the God part of my brain, and for me it does feel like a lack of something but I can't do anything about it. If they had a "believe in God" pill, I'd probably take it. (Well, depending on the side effects. It would probably turn out to ruin your sex life, and I think I'll pick good sex over a false God.)

I go through periodic "this is all pointless" existential crises that totally suck. But I can't make myself believe in God any more than I can make myself believe in fairies, so it is what it is.

shelleyo
07-22-2011, 08:24 PM
I suspect that it boils down to brain chemistry, or brain activity. Religious experience is demonstrable on fMRI (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007272) and SPECT. (http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/behavior/brain-religion1.htm)

Personally, I feel like I'm missing the God part of my brain, and for me it does feel like a lack of something but I can't do anything about it. If they had a "believe in God" pill, I'd probably take it. (Well, depending on the side effects. It would probably turn out to ruin your sex life, and I think I'll pick good sex over a false God.)

I go through periodic "this is all pointless" existential crises that totally suck. But I can't make myself believe in God any more than I can make myself believe in fairies, so it is what it is.

The brain scans are interesting, but I dislike the conclusion people seem to make that some people are almost destined to believe while others aren't. It doesn't all boil down to brain chenistry.

I believed once upon a time. Fervently. Now, I'm an atheist. Hardwiring aside, we make our own choices about some of it. No matter how hardwired my brain was to make me able to believe in something I had no proof of, common sense, in my opinion, eventually overrode that.

Shelley

Sarah Madara
07-22-2011, 08:30 PM
We believe in one and only God instead of a trinity. That's why alot of you quit Christianity, because one thing that doesn't make sense is the trinity. How can God have a son?
Actually, Christianity contains a range of beliefs about the nature of the trinity, from the Lutherans' "three distinct persons" to Unitarianism. (Old-style Unitarians were basically Christians who rejected the trinity; they were not as liberal, theologically, as the modern UU.) Many Protestant religions view the trinity not as three distinct beings, but as three aspects of one god. I'm not qualified to comment on Catholics' beliefs here.

My point is that there are too many variants of belief, even within the limits of Christianity, to make claims about why anyone leaves the church. Rejecting one aspect of one church's doctrine does not automatically make someone an atheist. Atheism is bigger than "the trinity doesn't make sense."


A lot of you quit because people were taking the laws of religion and used it to their own will...
You don't really want anyone to respond to that, do you? I'm not aware of any major religion that could cast the first stone on this one...

Dawnstorm
07-22-2011, 08:46 PM
What atheists "lack" isn't understanding, but credulity.

Years ago I went through a very open a questioning period re: god beliefs and every time I reached a point with believers where they couldn't adequately explain something they believed, they'd declare "That's the mystery!" Like the "mystery" was the good part. To them "the mystery" was what made God great. It was what belief/faith was all about, and they reveled in the illogical aspects and were proud of their "childlike" belief.

They didn't possess some true understanding of God, just credulity.

Oh, I run up against the "mystery" all the time. What I'm wondering is merely whether the "mystery" translates to a type of experience I don't have. I do think that theists have a better understanding of God than I have. But that doesn't necessitate the conclusion that God is real.

Unlike my bad sense of direction, my non-sense for God doesn't incapacitate me in daily life. It's a minor nuisance when communicating with theists about religion; that's pretty much it.

Sarah Madara
07-22-2011, 08:47 PM
The brain scans are interesting, but I dislike the conclusion people seem to make that some people are almost destined to believe while others aren't.
I don't believe brain chemistry is predestined, although I do believe that it is shaped by both genetics and environment, and that it remains plastic throughout life but that patterns can become more entrenched over time.


It doesn't all boil down to brain chemistry.
This is a philosophical problem that haunts me. Depression can be treated by either cognitive therapy (using thoughts to change chemistry) or by medication (using chemistry to change thoughts). It is a loop. You can control your brain to a certain extent, but your brain also controls you.

I've experienced dramatic changes in my worldview from taking antidepressants. It's creepy. When it first happens, I don't know who I am. Who is the true me? The medicated one, or the depressed one? There's no way to say for sure. There's no way to say which beliefs are my "true" beliefs. Do I really believe that life is utterly meaningless, and I've now medicated myself into something false? Or was that a disease talking? It certainly felt real. It felt authentic.

I guess I believe it does boil down to brain chemistry, but some people have more success using conscious thought to manage their chemistry than others.

veinglory
07-22-2011, 09:40 PM
I think we constantly fall prey to a false dichotomy that springs from the persistent concept of the soul.

From my point of view: I am my body. To say i control my body and it controls me is to say: I controls me. It is equally true to say other things and actions control me as well.

We are a physical thing with the property of sentience. There are many ways to change the properties of the thing (words, drugs, poking it with a stick etc) and thus impact its sentient experience.

Devil Ledbetter
07-22-2011, 10:45 PM
I go through periodic "this is all pointless" existential crises that totally suck. But I can't make myself believe in God any more than I can make myself believe in fairies, so it is what it is.
Here is how I think of existence: Matter cannot be created or destroyed. All the matter that ever existed in the universe has existed since the beginning. But only comparatively infinitesimal amount of matter ever achieves consciousness, and it does so only for a comparatively minute fraction of time.

When matter achieves consciousness, a tiny bit of the universe gets to look back out at itself and wonder. Each of us is one of those tiny bits. To me, that is more amazing than any notions of "god" or "purpose" or "eternity" that my temporary scrap of consciousness could ever dream up, or buy into.

It doesn't need to last forever to be awesome. It's the fact that it doesn't last that makes it so special.

shelleyo
07-22-2011, 10:54 PM
All the matter that ever existed in the universe has existed since the beginning.

We are made of star stuff.--Carl Sagan

Shelley

zornhau
07-25-2011, 02:06 PM
I suspect that it boils down to brain chemistry, or brain activity. Religious experience is demonstrable on fMRI (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007272) and SPECT. (http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/behavior/brain-religion1.htm)

Personally, I feel like I'm missing the God part of my brain,

Oddly, the "god" part of my brain is very strong indeed... I experience strong "mystic" feelings of the connectedness of everything, of Time and History itself etc etc.

Bracken
07-25-2011, 03:40 PM
I am what some people prefer to call an Atheist. Myself, I prefer 'non-believer', mainly because I feel that the word 'atheist' has such anti-Christian connotations.

I respect all religions, and all believers, though I can not even begin to fathom the concept of having a religion or having a faith.

I am just curious to know if other non-believers care what they are called, and what word they prefer to use when presented with the question what they believe.

I don't think "non-believer" sounds great, either. I believe in plenty of stuff; just not magic invisible deities in the sky.
I typically present myself as "not religious" or "non-religious", if somebody actually needs to know... however, I wouldn't shy from the word "atheist" either, which means- literally- "not theist"; connotations be damned.

emmyshimmy
07-25-2011, 04:34 PM
I am agnostic-I don't know vs no no no- but most people (Christians in particular) call me an Atheist anyway.

The Unseen Moon
07-25-2011, 09:28 PM
I'm considering converting to Pagan and worshiping THOR!

Sarah Madara
07-25-2011, 09:37 PM
I don't think "non-believer" sounds great, either. I believe in plenty of stuff; just not magic invisible deities in the sky.
I typically present myself as "not religious" or "non-religious", if somebody actually needs to know... however, I wouldn't shy from the word "atheist" either, which means- literally- "not theist"; connotations be damned.

I typically describe myself as "not religious," also. I've never used the term "non-believer" to describe myself, and I generally don't say I'm an atheist because I'm much more agnostic than most atheists I know.

cethklein
08-11-2011, 02:21 PM
I am agnostic-I don't know vs no no no- but most people (Christians in particular) call me an Atheist anyway.

Actually, most of the people I hear miss-using the term "atheist" are actually atheists. Many atheists I've come accross like to clump agnostics into their own belief system. Atheism is essentially claiming that you KNOW there are no gods or religions. Agnosticism is, as you stated, claiming not to know. Athiesm is really jusy another religion and is, despite what most atheists would tell you, NOT based on any more sound logic than any religion is. No atheist can prove their beliefs any more than a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian can.

JimmyB27
08-11-2011, 02:43 PM
Actually, most of the people I hear miss-using the term "atheist" are actually atheists. Many atheists I've come accross like to clump agnostics into their own belief system. Atheism is essentially claiming that you KNOW there are no gods or religions. Agnosticism is, as you stated, claiming not to know. Athiesm is really jusy another religion and is, despite what most atheists would tell you, NOT based on any more sound logic than any religion is. No atheist can prove their beliefs any more than a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian can.
A-theism. 'A' meaning 'without' (like amoral, without morals). 'theism' meaning 'belief in the existence of a god or gods'.
So, 'atheism' means 'without belief in the existence of a god or gods'.
Agnosticism is more than not knowing, it is the belief that it is impossible to know.

shelleyo
08-11-2011, 02:58 PM
Actually, most of the people I hear miss-using the term "atheist" are actually atheists. Many atheists I've come accross like to clump agnostics into their own belief system.

Really? None I know do this. Agnostics have a quite different view. Atheists that think agnostics believe essentially the same thing are wrong, or they don't really know what atheism and agnosticism are.


Atheism is essentially claiming that you KNOW there are no gods or religions.

That doesn't even make any sense. Of course there are religions. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god, typically based on the fact that there is no evidence to prove the existence of any god.


Athiesm is really jusy another religion and is, despite what most atheists would tell you, NOT based on any more sound logic than any religion is.

Atheism is not just another religion. That's like saying not-smoking is just another form of smoking. Religion is based on faith, not logic. While each person may come to a lack of belief for different reasons, many do so because of the facts and the lack of evidence. That's more sound logic than faith.


No atheist can prove their beliefs any more than a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian can.

The burden of proof is not on people who don't believe a claim that flies in the face of logic and facts, but on those that do. You're right that no one can prove that a god doesn't exist. You should read Carl Sagan's "Candle in the Darkness," specifically his part about the dragon in the garage, to understand why this is true, and why that means nothing.

Shelley

Marian Perera
08-11-2011, 04:34 PM
Athiesm is really jusy another religion

Could you tell me some of the tenets and practices of this religion I didn't know I followed? For instance, who is the atheist savior, and what is the atheist holy book?

Devil Ledbetter
08-11-2011, 04:48 PM
Atheism is essentially claiming that you KNOW there are no gods or religions. Agnosticism is, as you stated, claiming not to know. Athiesm is really jusy another religion and is, despite what most atheists would tell you, NOT based on any more sound logic than any religion is. No atheist can prove their beliefs any more than a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian can.
As an atheist, my disbelief in gods is as solid as my disbelief in fairies, unicorns, Santa Claus, ghosts, chakras,the Easter Bunny, astrology, gnomes, brownies, angels, vampires, and werewolves.

How do I *know* these things don't exist? Golly, I can't prove there is no Easter Bunny, can I? Do you believe in the Easter Bunny? If not, can you prove he doesn't exist? And since you can't prove it, do you keep your mind open that the Easter Bunny just might exist? Or are you one of those close-minded, arrogant people who think you *know* the Easter Bunny doesn't exist and you dismiss the possibility?

Not believing in the Easter Bunny is as much a "religion" as atheism, by your definition.

Proving the non-existence of something is impossible. Not believing in something I see zero evidence for is not a belief or a religion.

Maxx
08-11-2011, 04:54 PM
As an atheist, my disbelief in gods is as solid as my disbelief in fairies, unicorns, Santa Claus, ghosts, chakras,the Easter Bunny, astrology, gnomes, brownies, angels, vampires, and werewolves.

How do I *know* these things don't exist? Golly, I can't prove there is no Easter Bunny, can I? Do you believe in the Easter Bunny? If not, can you prove he doesn't exist? And since you can't prove it, do you keep your mind open that the Easter Bunny just might exist? Or are you one of those close-minded, arrogant people who think you *know* the Easter Bunny doesn't exist and you dismiss the possibility?

Not believing in the Easter Bunny is as much a "religion" as atheism, by your definition.

Proving the non-existence of something is impossible. Not believing in something I see zero evidence for is not a belief or a religion.

I don't see why this idea that non-existence is impossible to prove keepst coming up. With ordinary everyday criteria, it is easy to show that there is a huge array of things that there is no reason to check for when making up your mind to do something upon which they might theoretically impinge (though they never actually do because -- for all practicle purposes -- they don't exist).

Devil Ledbetter
08-11-2011, 05:04 PM
I don't see why this idea that non-existence is impossible to prove keepst coming up. With ordinary everyday criteria, it is easy to show that there is a huge array of things that there is no reason to check for when making up your mind to do something upon which they might theoretically impinge (though they never actually do because -- for all practicle purposes -- they don't exist).Right. And for atheists, God falls into that category of "things I don't need to check for" or "things that won't theoretically impinge." We don't have to prove to ourselves that these things don't exist before we can go on our merry way. There is no "belief" required in not believing in these things.

Maxx
08-11-2011, 05:36 PM
Right. And for atheists, God falls into that category of "things I don't need to check for" or "things that won't theoretically impinge." We don't have to prove to ourselves that these things don't exist before we can go on our merry way. There is no "belief" required in not believing in these things.

There's no "strong belief" required to be an Atheist (which is part of the many pleasures of being an Atheist) -- to use a term apparently used to distinguish a belief for which there is no evidence (strong) from a weak belief (as in I believe that as I drink this cup of coffee it will not suddenly turn into ice). Weak belief is actually much stronger than strong belief. Weak belief is what enables you to cross a room without constantly checking for the invisible presence of an infinite number of non-existent beings. Strong belief is what makes one often compulsively profess the possibility that there are invisible, undetectable things influencing things in invisible undetectable ways.

Sarah Madara
08-11-2011, 06:24 PM
A-theism. 'A' meaning 'without' (like amoral, without morals). 'theism' meaning 'belief in the existence of a god or gods'.
So, 'atheism' means 'without belief in the existence of a god or gods'.
Agnosticism is more than not knowing, it is the belief that it is impossible to know.
OED defines atheism as "disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God."

While this is similar to a mere absence of belief, I would say that is a weak interpretation of "disbelief" and an incorrect interpretation of "denial."

Etymology does not equal definition.

Maxx
08-11-2011, 06:34 PM
OED defines atheism as "disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God."

While this is similar to a mere absence of belief, I would say that is a weak interpretation of "disbelief" and an incorrect interpretation of "denial."

Etymology does not equal definition.

Yes, but weak disbelieve is behaviorally stronger than strong disbelief, so etymology may be a better route to
comprehension than the OED in this case.

JimmyB27
08-11-2011, 06:46 PM
And arguments like this are exactly why I prefer Dawkins's scale of belief (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=6346778&postcount=99)

Sarah Madara
08-11-2011, 06:52 PM
Yes, but weak disbelieve is behaviorally stronger than strong disbelief, so etymology may be a better route to
comprehension than the OED in this case.

I didn't quite follow, sorry.

Merriam-Webster:
1) a disbelief in the existence of a deity
2) the doctrine that there is no deity

Disbelief: mental rejection of something as untrue

I'm really not trying to argue with people who use atheism to mean merely an absence of belief. I do think that's a legitimate usage. I just don't believe it is the only or even most common usage.

Etymology describes the origins of a word. Dictionaries, while not perfect, attempt to describe current meaning of a word. As much as purists may complain about it, language is not only fluid but ultimately defined by the masses. Once upon a time, a kid was only a baby goat. Now, it's a child as well - because that's how people used it.

Once the dictionaries caved, the battle was over. Purists could no longer say "kid" for "child" was incorrect, because incorrect according to whom? If we could only use words according to their etymology, our language would look much different, and dictionaries would only add words, never revise them.

Bit of a derail, sorry. I'll shut up now.

JimmyB27
08-11-2011, 07:06 PM
I think there's also potentially a cultural thing. Most of my friends, I suspect, would agree with my definition of atheist. Whether that's because most of my friends are atheist, or because of a UK/US divide, I don't know.

Maxx
08-11-2011, 07:06 PM
I didn't quite follow, sorry.

Merriam-Webster:
1) a disbelief in the existence of a deity
2) the doctrine that there is no deity

Disbelief: mental rejection of something as untrue



I am in a state of disbelief about disbelief's requiring much of a mental act. The absence of a mental act seems to imply more disbelief than the presence of a mental act. If I never-ever see anything resembling object X, then the action of rejecting the existence of object X is much weaker than if I actually thought I saw Object X at some point.

I think this weak thought about the weakness of simple disbelief due to non-experience is parallel to the definition of weak belief as being the belief in the coherence of the everyday world. Since weak belief governs all of my actual actions it is stronger than what is specified as strong belief which is the realm of beliefs about things that I never actually experience.

So the etymology of the "a" in atheist is actually a better indicator than the OED in terms of what simple disbelief or weak non-belief actually signifies.

benbradley
08-11-2011, 08:10 PM
I'm a strong adherent to the doctrine of aufoism. :D

Maxx
08-11-2011, 08:13 PM
I'm a strong adherent to the doctrine of aufoism. :D

But "ufo" isn't pseudogreek so your "a" prefix doesn't work in terms of etymology. I guess the -ism does since in the name of comedy if nothing else you can put an ism on anything: as in "put-an-ism-on-anything-ism".

Sarah Madara
08-11-2011, 09:23 PM
Perhaps the etymology could equally be atheos (godless; without God) + ism = belief in godlessness.

Just being difficult.

veinglory
08-11-2011, 09:44 PM
An atheist is only with God, if God is assumed to exist. Not exactly a neutral neologism.

Maxx
08-11-2011, 09:54 PM
Perhaps the etymology could equally be atheos (godless; without God) + ism = belief in godlessness.

Just being difficult.

Nice. What about aplatytheosism: belief in being without a flat god? or belief in flat godlessness.

Or its hellish antithesis: Platytheism: belief in flat gods

Rebekkah
08-11-2011, 10:49 PM
I don't like to define myself as an Atheist because I'd get annoyed by the looks people would give me. So I just say that I've done a lot of research on theology and I don't believe in organized religion. I also sometimes say that the God in the Bible is bascially a human with lots of power, and if I'm feeling bold at that moment, I say that he's an asshole because he is. I tell them that I do believe there's something out there, but we don't know what that is, just that it ''is' and I'm okay with that. :)

Devil Ledbetter
08-11-2011, 11:28 PM
I don't like to define myself as an Atheist because I'd get annoyed by the looks people would give me. So I just say that I've done a lot of research on theology and I don't believe in organized religion. I also sometimes say that the God in the Bible is bascially a human with lots of power, and if I'm feeling bold at that moment, I say that he's an asshole because he is. I tell them that I do believe there's something out there, but we don't know what that is, just that it ''is' and I'm okay with that. :)You're worried about annoying looks over the label "atheist," but then you call the god they worship an asshole?

Uh, wow. Okay. Whatever works for you.

zornhau
08-13-2011, 03:00 AM
What about that thing where this forum is a place where we don't have to continually defend our stance and terminology from clever nibbles around the edges?

I wouldn't go onto the Christian forum and say, "Since by being Christian you disbelieve in more gods than you believe in, - tada! - you're all actually atheists."

Or drop in on a gay forum, "Hey, you're only provisionally gay. You just haven't met the right member of the opposite sex yet."

Might I suggest that as general rule of the thumb, anybody who clames "atheism is a religion" be directed to another board?

Devil Ledbetter
08-13-2011, 05:52 PM
What about that thing where this forum is a place where we don't have to continually defend our stance and terminology from clever nibbles around the edges?

I wouldn't go onto the Christian forum and say, "Since by being Christian you disbelieve in more gods than you believe in, - tada! - you're all actually atheists."

Or drop in on a gay forum, "Hey, you're only provisionally gay. You just haven't met the right member of the opposite sex yet."

Might I suggest that as general rule of the thumb, anybody who clames "atheism is a religion" be directed to another board?I think our mods & admins have been pretty good, actually great, about defending members of this forum from various inquisitions. I know the last guy who went too far in demanding explanations was given a permanent vacation from posting in this forum.

If you have a problem with a post, you can report it.

I think Cethklein's assertion of atheism=religion is an extremely common misconception and one I didn't mind putting the smackdown on with logic. I think it's just one of those things believers like tell themselves ("Atheist also believe in stuff they can't prove, like 'there is no God,' so that's a "belief system" too.")

Shadow_Ferret
08-13-2011, 06:46 PM
Hi. I just noticed this thread, so pardon me for being so late, but...
I am what some people prefer to call an Atheist. Myself, I prefer 'non-believer', mainly because I feel that the word 'atheist' has such anti-Christian connotations.

This sounds silly. Sort of by definition -- not believing in God -- we're anti-Christian, no matter what term we use. And why should you care about the connotation? Are we here to placate the Christians? Or any religion for that matter?

And why define yourself anyway? I don't understand that. I'm an atheist, so what? Who needs to know? I define myself by things I do, things I believe in, things I love. I certainly don't define myself by the lack of a belief or I'd be calling myself an anti-Santa, anti-Easter Bunny, anti-Big Foot, anti-Yeti, anti-Loch Ness Monster, anti-UFO... and so on.

And if we're discussing proofs, and who needs to prove their point of view, it isn't up to the atheist to prove NON-existence. That's just a silly concept. The burden of proof is upon those who believe. Just as in a court of law, the burden of proof of a contract between two people isn't up to the person disputing the contract, it's up to the person claiming there is a contract to show proof of its existence.

Maxx
08-13-2011, 07:35 PM
I think Cethklein's assertion of atheism=religion is an extremely common misconception and one I didn't mind putting the smackdown on with logic. I think it's just one of those things believers like tell themselves ("Atheist also believe in stuff they can't prove, like 'there is no God,' so that's a "belief system" too.")

I think it is worth noting that -- for all practical purposes -- propositions of the form "There is no X" can be shown to be more strongly demonstrable (as "weak belief" -- ie beliefs that are not part of any system) than any strong belief.

People are reluctant to look at what structures their own actual day-to-day behavior because (somewhat paradoxically) outside of fairly extreme philosophical derivations "from first principles" there's no rhetorical take on what day-to-day behavior is like and how it relates to beliefs of various sorts.

Shadow_Ferret
08-14-2011, 08:48 PM
Huh?

veinglory
08-14-2011, 09:18 PM
Made sense to me.

1) the null hypothesis (don't believe anything until you see reasonable evidence) is not a strong belief to which one need to be dogmatically devoted.
2) What we believe at the meta-level possibly/probably has very little to do with how most people actually conduct themselves in any given situation.

Dawnstorm
08-14-2011, 09:52 PM
Huh?

Imagine we're quarreling about whether God exists or not. If we're in a room, we probably both take for granted that the ceiling won't suddenly collapse. If we didn't take that for granted, we'd have better things to do than quarrel about the existance of God, like checking the ceiling for cracks.

Thus things we take for granted have more influence on our daily lives than things we debate. But at the same time, things we take for granted are not as "true" to us.

To take for granted that ceilings don't collapse is common, but all it takes to make us worry that they do is someone warning us (or cracks appearing, or...).

Also, since ceilings do collapse, some unfortunate people will find out that taking such things for granted is not fool-proof. Yet taking things like this for granted allows to lead normal lives.

Take a line like: "Planes don't crash." This is demonstrably untrue, but there are different attitudes towards flying out there. Some have "fear of flying"; they cannot take that sentence for granted. Some board planes with no second thoughts; they do take it for granted. Since the empirical evidence is obvious (planes do, on occasion, crash), these positions do not solidify into two poles with social positions attached to them. Someone who only worries when the plain begins to shake doesn't have to either identify as a safetyist, or as an a-safetyist. He's just a guy who generally doesn't worry about crashing planes, but sometimes does. Nobody sees anything wrong with this.

But more abstract concepts tend to cause more problems this way. For example, it's possible that there is something that atheists take for granted that theists don't. Or that theists take something for granted that atheists don't. But we won't find out what this is, if we're always going to be arguing about whether God exists or not. What's important is what God means to either of us. (And that's usually more important to the theists; if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have to worry about this at all.)

Amadan
08-15-2011, 02:39 AM
But more abstract concepts tend to cause more problems this way. For example, it's possible that there is something that atheists take for granted that theists don't. Or that theists take something for granted that atheists don't. But we won't find out what this is, if we're always going to be arguing about whether God exists or not. What's important is what God means to either of us. (And that's usually more important to the theists; if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have to worry about this at all.)

I don't think your analogy works. Everyone knows that ceilings do sometimes collapse and that planes do occasionally crash, so when someone says "Planes don't crash," they really mean "99.999% of the time, planes don't crash," while being fully aware that it is not only possible but empirically proven for planes to crash.

Atheists don't say "There is no god" while believing that every once in a great while a god actually shows up, or just taking it for granted that gods don't exist except for when they do. If you mean some atheists might think it's 99.999% likely that there is no god while holding onto a tiny probability that they might be wrong, that fits into the "No belief without evidence" paradigm. Unlike planes crashing, gods either do or do not exist. The uncertainty is not over which will be true in any given instance, but over which is true in all instances.

Dawnstorm
08-15-2011, 03:59 AM
Sorry for being vague and confusing. First, I didn't intend to make an analogy. I believe that the emotional state of not worrying about plane crashes is similar in some ways to the emotional state of believing in God, or in a random universe, for example. For example:

Show footage of planes crashing on the screens of a long distance flight, and see where this gets you. I think that for some theists the presence of people who shrug at concepts they hold dear might be a similar experience. But: there is a problem, and that's language.

A crashing plane is a crashing plane. Even in my acutest moment of psychotic denial I have a very clear image of what a crashing plane is. I know what a crashing plane looks like on TV, for example.

But God? If I say, I don't believe in God, I do not have the same clarity. In fact, I have no image at all, or more accurately: the conceptions of God I do have have all been countered by theists, with a "it's not that simple," or "that's a caricature of my belief."

So, no, I'm not talking about probability.


Unlike planes crashing, gods either do or do not exist.

Actually, the equivalent to "Planes don't crash," would be something like "God doesn't love you," but only if the word "God" is meaningful to the adressee.

Let me now go back to the image of plane-crash footage on a long distance flight. There will be people who take it in stride; there will be people who get slightly worried; there'll be people who haven't worried up to now, who'll show symptoms of fear. And people who have been afraid all along?

What is the context of this footage? First, we know what planes are - we are in one. Second we know what a plane crash is, and almost all of us would rather avoid one. Because all of this is very concrete at that moment, most people would rather not face such footage. (Assumption alert!) Similarly, a sentence such as "Don't worry, planes may crash, but this one won't," aren't likely to be statements of fact. Rather, they're - pragmatically - appellative. You're supposed to calm down and behave in a way that lets you live life as normal.

I wonder whether - if you take away the easily verifiable context - a generalised feeling of threat remains, and we all respond to it differently. For example, what does it mean when believers say that "God loves you?" I doubt many people said that about the Greek pantheon, for example. These were Gods you placated (or you tried your best to stay off their radar).

Once you start abstracting, what counts as "evidence" for the existance of God is not quite as clear. You have a total and unspecified situation.

However, the debates about the existance of God are situational. It makes a different if I, an atheist and stanger, say to a believe that "God doesn't love you," or if the priest of your church tells you the same thing. But the drive of the sentence is the same, because of what God means to you.

I'm thinking that the difference between the two of us (if there is one) might be that you're saying:


The sentence "God doesn't love you," is meaningless because God doesn't exist.

But I am saying:


I say that "God doesn't exist," because sentences of the like "God doesn't love you," are meaningless to me.

benbradley
08-15-2011, 04:23 AM
So, there's really no such thing as fear of flying, but some people have an elevated fear of being in a plane that crashes?

I KNEW I'd eventually learn something from this thread...

Jessianodel
08-15-2011, 04:45 AM
Personally, I'm agnostic. I just never grew up religious. I celebrate Easter and Christmas, but to me those aren't religious holidays, they're family holidays. I celebrate them for Santa and the Easter Bunny more than I do for Jesus or God. The main problem I've had with Gods in general is that I don't want to spend my whole life worshiping something, only to die and find out it doesn't exist. If proof comes to me, then I'll change my views.

Plus there was the whole fact that as a kid, church was really really boring.

Dawnstorm
08-15-2011, 04:51 AM
So, there's really no such thing as fear of flying, but some people have an elevated fear of being in a plane that crashes?

I KNEW I'd eventually learn something from this thread...

If you say you "knew", do you mean...

...ah...

Sorry.

Seriously, though:

I think that people who have fear of flying will be angry at people who confront them with plane crashes.

Similarly, people who have no fear of flying may be annoyed by other peoples certainty that this plane won't crash, even though they probably turn out right.

And now transpose these kinds of conflicts onto a more abstract realm that has "everywhere" and "always" as contexts...

Maybe I should try different language:


1) the null hypothesis (don't believe anything until you see reasonable evidence) is not a strong belief to which one need to be dogmatically devoted.

I don't think "God doesn't exist," counts as a null-hypothesis, because the term God has no operational definition. It makes the system crash; and in my experience, many theists agree on that. God is not empirical, and that appears to be part of the definition. (Beyond that I'm confused.)

Amadan
08-15-2011, 03:21 PM
I'm thinking that the difference between the two of us (if there is one) might be that you're saying:

The sentence "God doesn't love you," is meaningless because God doesn't exist.But I am saying:

I say that "God doesn't exist," because sentences of the like "God doesn't love you," are meaningless to me.

I guess that is the difference between us, because your second statement doesn't make much sense to me. My belief or lack thereof in any supernatural being isn't predicated on whether or not he loves me, lives on Mount Olympus, takes the form of a cow, or whatever.

"God loves you" is pretty specific to Christianity. (Other religions, particularly Judaism and Islam, might hold that God loves people too, but it's not the "personal relationship with Christ" that is such a feature of Christianity.) But I don't just disbelieve in the Christian god, I disbelieve in all gods.

Sarah Madara
08-15-2011, 05:46 PM
Personally, I'm agnostic. I just never grew up religious. I celebrate Easter and Christmas, but to me those aren't religious holidays, they're family holidays. I celebrate them for Santa and the Easter Bunny more than I do for Jesus or God. The main problem I've had with Gods in general is that I don't want to spend my whole life worshiping something, only to die and find out it doesn't exist. If proof comes to me, then I'll change my views.

So - just curious - does that mean you believe in *something* more than just this life? Most atheists I know think that when you die, poof, you're gone. No more consciousness. In that case you would never ever find out that you were wrong.

Now, finding out you picked the wrong God to worship and the right one is mad about it... that's a real concern ;)


Plus there was the whole fact that as a kid, church was really really boring. I only went to church a handful of times as a kid - my parents never even baptized me, although my dad always felt guilty about it. When you get to a certain age and your father starts muttering about how he still means to get your unchurched ass baptized, it creates the same feeling as having him say you're not too old for a spanking. Anyway, church makes my skin crawl and my psyche itch because it's like visiting a foreign country where everyone looks the same and seems to be speaking English but all the customs are different. Very Twilight Zone.

veinglory
08-15-2011, 05:53 PM
I don't think "God doesn't exist," counts as a null-hypothesis, because the term God has no operational definition.

I disagree. The philosophy of science covers material beyond that which can be directly studied. For example, the axiom that 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.'

The null hypothesis acts at a conceptual level. The fact that God cannot be operationalized is exactly the reason why he fails to exist: his followers refuse to allow him to be falsifiable.

i.e. Something that cannot be studied scientifically even by its most indirect/trace effects... does not exist.

Dawnstorm
08-15-2011, 07:45 PM
I guess that is the difference between us, because your second statement doesn't make much sense to me. My belief or lack thereof in any supernatural being isn't predicated on whether or not he loves me, lives on Mount Olympus, takes the form of a cow, or whatever.

"God loves you" is pretty specific to Christianity. (Other religions, particularly Judaism and Islam, might hold that God loves people too, but it's not the "personal relationship with Christ" that is such a feature of Christianity.) But I don't just disbelieve in the Christian god, I disbelieve in all gods.

Whenever I say that "I don't believe in God," it's a political move to get theist appellations off my back; whether the claim is true about what I actually believe, I don't know, because "God" doesn't make sense to me. I belief that all meaning starts with selective attention, and I think it might be like that with God. So what do people who actually believe in God pay attention to when they say that they believe?

When I say that I don't believe in God, I do indeed mean the Christian variety, but not because of any features of said "God" - the reason is that the context is created by the Roman Catholic Christians I most often have to defend myself against. That doesn't mean that I believe in other Gods, just that my verbal behaviour is geared towards that rhetoric.

I find saying that "I don't believe in God," exhausting, because I like to understand what I say, and it that case I don't.


The null hypothesis acts at a conceptual level. The fact that God cannot be operationalized is exactly the reason why he fails to exist: his followers refuse to allow him to be falsifiable.

Which makes "Him" immune to science, not non-existant. Assuming "immune to science" is "non-existance" makes methodological sense, but it's not productive if I attempt to understand theists. Which I try on those occasions when they do not annoy me with divinely legitimised appellations.

shelleyo
08-15-2011, 08:58 PM
i.e. Something that cannot be studied scientifically even by its most indirect/trace effects... does not exist.


Which is why everyone should read and think about Carl Sagan's example of the dragon in the garage. I don't have my book handy and am paraphrasing.

I have a dragon in my garage!

Oooh, let me see it.

You can't see it. It's invisible.

Then let me walk around with my hands out until I bump into it and feel it.

That won't work; you'll walk right through it and never know it's there.

Let me get a thermal device so I can see the heat of its invisible fire

It has no heat; that won't work.

Let's set up a recorder so I can hear it moving around.

It's silent.

Then let's spread flour on the floor of your garage so I can see its footprints.

It floats.

It goes on a little longer, until finally the person given the extraordinary claim asks the person claiming it:

If there's nothing that can be done to actually show the existence of a dragon in your garage . . . then how do you know it's there?


The answer to this claim as with many extraordinary claims is "Well, I just know."

The problem with that is that a claim that cannot be made false under any circumstances (meaning there is no test that could dispute it, ever) is a worthless claim. All possible tests are brushed aside as "not working" when in fact those tests would simply prove the lack of a dragon in the garage by no visual clues, no heat, no form, no sound,etc.

If someone said it was raining, and you saw no rain (they said it was invisible), felt no rain (it's formless), saw nothing wet (it's dry rain), saw no clouds (it forms from nothing) and went on until you couldn't think of another test of this rain that would work, and you asked the person, "Then how do you know it's raining?" and that person said, "Oh, I just know" then you'd know the claim of rain was simple bullshit.

But if you said, "If I look out and the sidewalk is dry, does that mean you're wrong and it's not raining?" and they say "of course" then you have an actual test of the claim that can prove it false (even if it doesn't) so you have a reasonable way to weigh it. If every possible circumstance in which a claim could be proved false is brushed off as impossible to work, then the claim is meaningless and doesn't even need to be tested.

Sagan's "A Candle in the Darkness: The Demon-Haunted World" should be required reading for everyone, IMO, in part because he makes concepts so accessible for almost everybody willing to think about them, and in part because it's brilliant.

Shelley

Shadow_Ferret
08-15-2011, 10:09 PM
Ok. I give up. When you guys want to talk in ordinary terms, let me know. I haven't understood a word for several posts now.

pegasus
08-15-2011, 10:10 PM
But I don't just disbelieve in the Christian god, I disbelieve in all gods.

I take it a step further. I don't even know what 'god' means.

But for me, that's fun. It means that I can be an actual prophet of God and an atheist -- by which I mean that I can take either position and argue it with an entirely straight face.

veinglory
08-15-2011, 10:14 PM
Ok. I give up. When you guys want to talk in ordinary terms, let me know. I haven't understood a word for several posts now.

If a discussion is not working for you, but working fine for the people having it, the polite response is to not participate. There are plenty of threads for everyone and if there is something specific you really want to talk about you can start a new one.

veinglory
08-15-2011, 10:18 PM
I take it a step further. I don't even know what 'god' means.

But for me, that's fun. It means that I can be an actual prophet of God and an atheist -- by which I mean that I can take either position and argue it with an entirely straight face.

I can't find the new article but last week there was coverage of a church in Scandinavia somewhere where the minister was atheist and treated the Bible as a helpful metaphor.

benbradley
08-15-2011, 10:26 PM
"Sure, I know what 'orbit the Sun' means, but what's a teapot?"

Amadan
08-16-2011, 03:07 AM
Ok. I give up. When you guys want to talk in ordinary terms, let me know. I haven't understood a word for several posts now.

Exactly which terms did you not understand? I don't see anything particularly esoteric being discussed here.

Dawnstorm
08-16-2011, 07:07 AM
The problem with that is that a claim that cannot be made false under any circumstances (meaning there is no test that could dispute it, ever) is a worthless claim.

I tend to agree, in the sense that setting the claim true has the same practical consequences as setting it's negation true. It doesn't matter at all, whether or not I have an imperceptibe dragon in the garage. That's exactly what makes the meaning of such terms hard to figure out. It's sort of like saying: "I managed to pull off a division by zero, but it's impossible to express in the language of maths."

Sarah Madara
08-16-2011, 07:37 AM
Exactly which terms did you not understand? I don't see anything particularly esoteric being discussed here.

I can't speak for the Ferret, but I got lost around here:


I think it is worth noting that -- for all practical purposes -- propositions of the form "There is no X" can be shown to be more strongly demonstrable (as "weak belief" -- ie beliefs that are not part of any system) than any strong belief.

People are reluctant to look at what structures their own actual day-to-day behavior because (somewhat paradoxically) outside of fairly extreme philosophical derivations "from first principles" there's no rhetorical take on what day-to-day behavior is like and how it relates to beliefs of various sorts.

I understood the words, I understood the clauses, and after much concentration I think even technically understood the sentences. But I never quite understood the whole of it.

shelleyo
08-16-2011, 07:43 AM
I tend to agree, in the sense that setting the claim true has the same practical consequences as setting it's negation true. It doesn't matter at all, whether or not I have an imperceptibe dragon in the garage. That's exactly what makes the meaning of such terms hard to figure out. It's sort of like saying: "I managed to pull off a division by zero, but it's impossible to express in the language of maths."

I'm not really sure I understand what you mean by the meaning of the terms being hard to figure out. I think we're agreeing, but I'm not sure about that part. A divison with any numbers has to be expressable in math, or it couldn't be a division with numbers. It would be something else, and wouldn't actually be a division by zero, if that makes sense.

To say there's an imperceptible dragon in the garage, which was what I expressed before from Sagan's example, is a statement that automatically cancels itself out.

If it's imperceptible, then how does the person claiming it to be there actually know it is? The statement implies that the person making the claim can perceive it, therefore it cannot be imperceptible. So there must be some test that can demonstrate the basis for that perception.

If every possible test that could show the existence of the dragon is brushed off and it's announced there's no test that could be done, even hypothetically, that could under some circumstance, even if not present, show a negative result (just as people claim in the idea of proving the existence of god) the claim falls apart without much scrutiny.

Shelley

Sarah Madara
08-16-2011, 07:51 AM
To say there's an imperceptible dragon in the garage, which was what I expressed before from Sagan's example, is a statement that automatically cancels itself out.

If it's imperceptible, then how does the person claiming it to be there actually know it is? The statement implies that the person making the claim can perceive it, therefore it cannot be imperceptible. So there must be some test that can demonstrate the basis for that perception.

If every possible test that could show the existence of the dragon is brushed off and it's announced there's no test that could be done, even hypothetically, that could under some circumstance, even if not present, show a negative result (just as people claim in the idea of proving the existence of god) the claim falls apart without much scrutiny.


It seems to me - and as I noted already, I'm a little lost - that we are mixing up the ideas of perceiving something vs. testing it. Many, many religious people claim to have some perception of God. Maybe it's a feeling, an emotion, or even an experience that they can't explain any other way. There are people with near-death experiences that they believe demonstrated an afterlife. People who think they saw angels. People who have prayed and felt a peace come over them they'd never experienced before. Yada yada yada.

Anyway, you can't test that stuff. The religious person has some sort of experience, comes up with an explanation that defies Occam's razor, and claims it to be true because faith can't be tested. But they are not saying it can't be perceived, psychologically. The two are not the same.

I think the analogy would be better if the imaginary, immeasurable dragon created some emotional response in the person who claimed it was in his garage.

shelleyo
08-16-2011, 08:14 AM
Anyway, you can't test that stuff. The religious person has some sort of experience, comes up with an explanation that defies Occam's razor, and claims it to be true because faith can't be tested. But they are not saying it can't be perceived, psychologically. The two are not the same.



But a mentally ill person's hallucinations also can be perceived by that person psychologically but not tested externally. That really doesn't hold up as a measure of the existence of a god.

Anyway, you can't test that stuff.

And you can't test it precisely because it exists in the mind of one person.

I think the analogy would be better if the imaginary, immeasurable dragon created some emotional response in the person who claimed it was in his garage.

I assume it does. The person believes a dragon is there because he has faith that it is there. But regardless of what comes with that faith or what caused it, it's an individual feeling and not a fact, which is kind of the point. It's not verifiable because it's only a feeling. There is no scientific way of perceiving the dragon, or showing that it's not there, which makes it a void claim.

This will sound silly, but bear with me. If I had faith that a potato in the kitchen was named Joe and wanted to take me to the movies, and I had a strong emotional reaction to this idea and told you about it, you probably wouldn't believe it based on my feeling that it was true.

A chief difference between the dragon and the amorous potato and the idea of god, is that people don't start telling their children about the existence of the garage dragon or the dating tater when they're young and impressionable. No one indoctrinates children with the idea of the dragon or the potato, but many are taugh to believe in a supreme being from the time they're small.

Faith springs from that repetition. IF the child had been born in a house where they were warned from toddlerhood to watch out for smooth-talking potatoes or garage dragons, and this was kept up even into adulthood, more adults would have faith in those ideas, too. And by their sheer numbers they could influence those who weren't raised that way into thinking that maybe there was something to those potatoes and dragons. You could take a small child and make them believe anything in this way, however. After all, kids believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny until they're told by classmates or parents that they don't exist, or they reach a certain age where they realize it's silly.

God is drilled in, though, as something you must believe or you'll go to hell or suffer in some other way, depending on the believe system. I guarantee that if more children were taken to a building to sing songs to Santa every week for making them live forever, and warned that if they doubted they'd be cast into a fiery pit, people would have an emotional reaction and faith in him, too.

Shelley

Sarah Madara
08-16-2011, 08:48 AM
But a mentally ill person's hallucinations also can be perceived by that person psychologically but not tested externally. That really doesn't hold up as a measure of the existence of a god.
I agree.

However, I don't see why measures of the existence of a god matter unless you start pushing your god on other people. Many, if not most, people walk around with a fundamental sense of self-worth. Based on what? Why shouldn't they kill themselves tomorrow? Where does that sense of wanting to live come from? Or of thinking, perhaps, that you would choose your life over a stranger's? Over an enemy's? It is all in psychology, all in our perceptions. Your morals, your values, your sources of joy and pain - they exist in your head.

If you were the only person alive and you thought there was an invisible dragon in your garage, would it matter? If you lived in modern society and believed that, and you believed that the dragon was the source of your greatest strengths and a source of solace in hard times, but you never told a soul about it, would it matter? I don't see how it does. Your dragon is my humanism is someone else's God. Who cares? You have a sense of value that comes from somewhere, and there is no rational explanation.

(Of course the rational explanation is evolution. But that ultimately strips everything of meaning, if even meaning itself is only a figment created by the selfish gene. So I'm not going there....)


This will sound silly, but bear with me. If I had faith that a potato in the kitchen was named Joe and wanted to take me to the movies, and I had a strong emotional reaction to this idea and told you about it, you probably wouldn't believe it based on my feeling that it was true. No, I wouldn't. But the analogy breaks down a bit because of the implicit expectation that the potato will take you to the movies eventually.

If you don't expect Joe the potato to ever actually take you to the movies, you just think he wants to, and if you feel a little prettier because of it, and if you're okay with Joe either getting eaten or rotting, then I say more power to you. Your doctor will feel differently, though, so I'd keep it to yourself. But for most people with that sort of hallucination, there are negative consequences. Like devastation when Joe sprouts, causing our hypothetical crazy person to go on a murderous rampage in the grocery store.


A chief difference between the dragon and the amorous potato and the idea of god, is that people don't start telling their children about the existence of the garage dragon or the dating tater when they're young and impressionable. No one indoctrinates children with the idea of the dragon or the potato, but many are taugh to believe in a supreme being from the time they're small.

Faith springs from that repetition. IF the child had been born in a house where they were warned from toddlerhood to watch out for smooth-talking potatoes or garage dragons, and this was kept up even into adulthood, more adults would have faith in those ideas, too. And by their sheer numbers they could influence those who weren't raised that way into thinking that maybe there was something to those potatoes and dragons. I agree with you about that - with some limitations to the potato analogy, as noted.


I guarantee that if more children were taken to a building to sing songs to Santa every week for making them live forever, and warned that if they doubted they'd be cast into a fiery pit, people would have an emotional reaction and faith in him, too. Actually, my four-year-old insists on hearing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" every night before bed, and asks at least every other day if Santa is watching his every move.

I feel very guilty about answering yes. Very, very guilty. It's just that he's so sweet, and it works so damn well...

Dawnstorm
08-16-2011, 09:18 AM
I'm not really sure I understand what you mean by the meaning of the terms being hard to figure out. I think we're agreeing, but I'm not sure about that part. A divison with any numbers has to be expressable in math, or it couldn't be a division with numbers. It would be something else, and wouldn't actually be a division by zero, if that makes sense.

"Meaning" is an interesting thing. Things that don't exist can be meaningful. If I take your example, I'm pretty sure I could tell an imperceptible dragon apart from a sweet-talking potatoe, when I come across them in fiction. That's meaning for you.

Semantics separates:

- The symbol ("dragon")
- The concept (whatever it is that makes you recognise a dragon, if you see one)
- The referent (the "thing" in the world that corresponds to the concept)

An imperceptible dragon differs in concept from a non-existant dragon. But by the nature of the concept you cannot tell the difference when faced with either an impecptible or a non-existant dragon in real life. (It's silly, because something that is there occupies a specific time-space, and is absent everywhere else. Something that's non-existant is absent everywhere. But something that's imperceptible appears to be absent everywhere.)

Thus, as far as I get the component meanings of an imperceptible dragon, I also get the meaning of an imperceptible dragon.

God is different. Clearly, I can't start with the referent, as I could with some animal I didn't know exists but is now right in front of me. So, to understand what I could be looking for, I have to start with the concept. And here's my problem: whatever concept I can up for for the "symbol" God doesn't seem to match with the concept that believers have.

Thus there is a difference between me seeing "imperceptible dragons don't exist," and "God doesn't exist". I understand pretty well what I'm saying with the former; I'm unsure with the latter.

Let's take a sidestep and look at the word "society". "Sciety's" referent is not a thing. It's a set of relation between things; the concept of society helps us tackle the relations. But because it's not easy to pin it down in space and time, there's some vagueness attached to it. Basically, you can study "society" even though it's not a thing in the world. Why? Because it relates to people who are easy to pin down in time space. Because it relates to artefacts, who are also easy to pin down in time and space.

If the concept of "God" has a similar function to the concept of society to believers, but not to non-believers, because their brains work differently, and if being able to pin down the component referents would make the concept of "God" useless (the way that being able to pin down the component referents for "society" makes the concept useful), then I wonder how I can say "God" doesn't exist and know what I mean by it. All I can say is that a believers concept of "God" holds no power over me whatsoever (which is not to say that the referent of "God" holds no power over me, just that whether He does or not, is no of concern to me). I do usually say that God doesn't exist, because that's the most efficient way to make missionaries go away. And that is also why the Catholic God dominates in my atheism. Quetzalcoatl tends to leave me alone, so I leave him alone, too.


God is drilled in, though, as something you must believe or you'll go to hell or suffer in some other way, depending on the believe system. I guarantee that if more children were taken to a building to sing songs to Santa every week for making them live forever, and warned that if they doubted they'd be cast into a fiery pit, people would have an emotional reaction and faith in him, too.

I wonder. I grew up to be an atheist, despite a Catholic upbringing. Others do not. Why?

I do think it has something to do the way we organise meaning. No perception is neutral. Communication works because of the things we have in common, but if there's something we don't have in common it becomes hard. What I'm saying is that a simple "God doesn't exist," impedes communication. But us being people in a complex world with limited cognitive resources, we have to make choices what we spend our time on.

As I am an atheist, understanding what "God" means is not a priority. But it does range over a lot of things. For example, I prefer to try to understand God to trying to learn to play football.

I'm a stronger agnostic than I am an atheist: I believe that saying that "God doesn't exist," is ceding ground - acknowledging a meaningless concept. But I'm also living in a world where I have to deal with theists; and I know I have blind spots. (For the same reason I can't say that God exists or doesn't exist without feeling silly, I could say "I love you," without feeling phony, for example. That's just how I plug into this world.)

Dawnstorm
08-16-2011, 09:24 AM
Actually, my four-year-old insists on hearing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" every night before bed, and asks at least every other day if Santa is watching his every move.

I feel very guilty about answering yes. Very, very guilty. It's just that he's so sweet, and it works so damn well...

Tell him Santa needs glasses and won't get them until tomorrow, and see what he makes of it. :evil

Maxx
08-16-2011, 05:46 PM
Anyway, you can't test that stuff. The religious person has some sort of experience, comes up with an explanation that defies Occam's razor, and claims it to be true because faith can't be tested. But they are not saying it can't be perceived, psychologically. The two are not the same.

I think the analogy would be better if the imaginary, immeasurable dragon created some emotional response in the person who claimed it was in his garage.

This is why (I'm told) philosophers distinguish between strong belief (beliefs about things that are experienced outside of day-to-day experience) and weak belief (beliefs about things that you encounter as you go about your business in the day-to-day world). No matter what a person says about their emotions, if they duck, dodge and weave around things that are not there, then they are having a problem relating to the day-to-day world.
There's another problem: people seem to have a hard time relating strong beliefs to their day-to-day behavior. This is made all the more problematic because of the odd fact that there are no rhetorical paradigms for dealing with how the day-to-day world relates to ordinary behavior (outside of specialized philosophies that have noticed this problem). All of our actual day-to-day rhetorical training tends to make everything cosmic as quickly as possible. Yet another paradox, I suppose.

Sarah Madara
08-16-2011, 06:00 PM
This is made all the more problematic because of the odd fact that there are no rhetorical paradigms for dealing with how the day-to-day world relates to ordinary behavior (outside of specialized philosophies that have noticed this problem). All of our actual day-to-day rhetorical training tends to make everything cosmic as quickly as possible. Yet another paradox, I suppose.
This hurts my pride, but I'm going to buck up and ask for help here.

Huh?

Maxx
08-16-2011, 06:20 PM
This hurts my pride, but I'm going to buck up and ask for help here.

Huh?

It's hard to be helpful on this topic. I'll give you as good a hint as I can: if you ask yourself,"What do I really do when I ask myself what do I know about what is in the garage?" you will be doing phenomenology:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/

pegasus
08-17-2011, 01:51 AM
"Sure, I know what 'orbit the Sun' means, but what's a teapot?"

A container for brewing tiny tempests, is how I like to think of it.

shelleyo
08-17-2011, 02:56 AM
However, I don't see why measures of the existence of a god matter unless you start pushing your god on other people.



But people do that, so it does matter a great deal.

But I think it's important to distinguish between some vague personal idea of god and a sanctioned god. If someone wants to walk around thinking they have a dragon in their garage or a lovelorn potato in their kitchen, and it's just a feeling they have or an idea, I really don't care. IAs you said, if it makes them feel better and helps them, that's their business. It's their personal delusion that doesn't affect me. I'll admit to thinking it's a shame, because I think rationality and reality are preferable ways to exist, but that's my truth and not theirs.

When that person is elected to public office and decides that people shouldn't eat potatoes just in case, and that a dragon tax must be paid (because if he has a dragon, everybody must) it matters to me. Look at the public policy that the government mandates based on someone's idea of what a Christian god does or does not command. Look at the zealotry in the right extreme, in the name of "God." These people have a specific god with a specific agenda. These people are running for President of my country. This matters to me.


Many, if not most, people walk around with a fundamental sense of self-worth. Based on what? Why shouldn't they kill themselves tomorrow? Where does that sense of wanting to live come from? Or of thinking, perhaps, that you would choose your life over a stranger's? Over an enemy's? It is all in psychology, all in our perceptions. Your morals, your values, your sources of joy and pain - they exist in your head.

My self-worth is actually based on a number of tangible things. What I contribute to society, what I teach my child, what I might do for another person, and the fact that I'm kind, compassionate and that I try to do good and treat others well. Perception, perhaps, but based in the tangible.

I could say the same about morals, joy, and pain. These are experienced in my head, but based on real, tangible things, not at all like a belief in god.


If you were the only person alive and you thought there was an invisible dragon in your garage, would it matter? If you lived in modern society and believed that, and you believed that the dragon was the source of your greatest strengths and a source of solace in hard times, but you never told a soul about it, would it matter? I don't see how it does.

It wouldn't matter in any practical way, no. But that would be what I consider someone's personal notion of a god, more a personal talisman or delusion rather than belief in "God."


Your dragon is my humanism is someone else's God. Who cares? You have a sense of value that comes from somewhere, and there is no rational explanation.

I do disagree about the sense of value. I think most people's sense of that comes from many tangible sources.


(Of course the rational explanation is evolution. But that ultimately strips everything of meaning, if even meaning itself is only a figment created by the selfish gene. So I'm not going there....)

Well, evoluton is a rational explanation, but I wouldn't agree it strips everything of meaning. I think that's another discussion, though. I actually think we've gone off the rails in this thread even, but I think it's a worthwhile discussion.


No, I wouldn't. But the analogy breaks down a bit because of the implicit expectation that the potato will take you to the movies eventually.

It really wouldn't matter what fantasy I believed about the potato--that's taking the analogy past the point I tried to make. I could believe anything about anything, and it can be real to me, but that doesn't make it true. If it can't be verified by any reasonable means, no one should be expected to believe my stories. That god is in the sky and there's a heaven and a hell and all the doctrine that goes along with the Christian god, just as one example, can't be tested anymore than the dragon in the garage can be. Logically, that presents a problem with the claim.





I feel very guilty about answering yes. Very, very guilty. It's just that he's so sweet, and it works so damn well...

See, to me the idea of a god is much like Santa Claus. I didn't try to dissuade my daughter from believing in either when she was small. In fact, I didn't even try to convince her that god didn't exist when she was older. I simply presented the other side of the argument when the discusssions came up.


I'm probably the only atheist I know who let her child go a few states away two summers in a row for a week-long church camp. She wanted to go, so I let her. I let her go to church in the Wednesday night youth group for a few years, all while never hiding the fact that I didn't believe in god.


But she wanted to go, and I didn't have the heart to take away the fun of it or the comforting idea of a god that cares for people who have died and who wants the best for us. I didn't know how to take that idea away from an 8-year-old, nor did I think it was necessary.

I trusted that she would make her own conclusions as she matured, and she did. She's 15 now and she doesn't believe in god, and she arrived at that through her own thinking, which makes me prouder than even the conclusion she came to.

I guess to bring this back to the OP's question, I dislike the term non-believer, becuase it does make the assumption that the believer is the norm and the non-believer goes against the grain. Much like non-smoker. It assumes or implies that smoking is the natural state, and if you don't partake you need a label. I'm perfectly fine with calling myself an atheist. The same argument could be made for that term, I guess, but it seems a bit different to me.

Shelley

shelleyo
08-17-2011, 03:19 AM
An imperceptible dragon differs in concept from a non-existant dragon.

In that a non-existent dragon does not exist anywhere, and an imperciptible dragon may exist but in a way that we cannot perceive it.

If God exists but in a way that I cannot test for his existence to verify it, and I cannot perceive him, that would make the believer someone granted this special gift of perception I do not have. My problem with this is it's the concept religions use to justify the death of people who don't agree with them. They believe themelves to be special and chosen, and justified, all based on a thought they have that others don't have.


I do usually say that God doesn't exist, because that's the most efficient way to make missionaries go away. And that is also why the Catholic God dominates in my atheism. Quetzalcoatl tends to leave me alone, so I leave him alone, too.

I think we have very different ideas of the concept of god, then, maybe because you've said that you're a stronger agnostic rather than just an atheist, which makes me think you're simply agnostic and not atheist--they really don't blend well, I don't think.

My lack of belief is quite simple. I don't believe in the Christian god, the god of islam, Zeus, Mithras, Ra, Santa, wood elves that fix my shoes at night or the Great Pumpkin, all with about the same level of disbelief. I feel confident in saying that none of these things exist.


I wonder. I grew up to be an atheist, despite a Catholic upbringing. Others do not. Why?

So many raise their children indoctrinated in this way that many will go on to believe that and continue the cycle. That holds that there will be a large population of people groomed to believe, even if every single one doesn't.

Some children from good families with good childhoods end up in prison, while kids from bad homes end up heroes. Some raised without religion will find it while others raised with it will stop believing. My point was that the majority, however, will believe what they were taught as children, no matter what it is.

Shelley

Maxx
08-17-2011, 03:50 PM
"Sure, I know what 'orbit the Sun' means, but what's a teapot?"

Just to zip through a little phenomenology -- knowing what "orbit" means is different from knowing what a teapot is.

For the teapot, you have direct experience of some set of teapots. For "orbit", you have direct experience of seeing years go by, seeing the zodiac change and observing nearby planets BUT the concept of "orbit" is a term that exists in various specialized sublanguages in different ways -- for example, orbit as something that causes seasonal changes or orbit as defined by Newtonian celestial mechanics.

JimmyB27
08-17-2011, 04:02 PM
Just to zip through a little phenomenology -- knowing what "orbit" means is different from knowing what a teapot is.

For the teapot, you have direct experience of some set of teapots. For "orbit", you have direct experience of seeing years go by, seeing the zodiac change and observing nearby planets BUT the concept of "orbit" is a term that exists in various specialized sublanguages in different ways -- for example, orbit as something that causes seasonal changes or orbit as defined by Newtonian celestial mechanics.
Or as a publisher (http://www.orbitbooks.net/). ;)

TheWordsmith
08-18-2011, 01:22 AM
Technically, an atheist believes their is no god. Period. It is an active concept. "I believe ..." as opposed to "I do not believe ..." There is a big difference in not believing in a god and believing one does not exist. For a difference consider the agnostic who does not know.
Consider the root "Gnos" - Greek for to know. The agnostic professes that there is too much possibility in any direction to say for certain whether there is or is not a god. Therefore, he simply says he does not know. Beyond that we have mono-theistic and poly-theistic belief systems.

So we go from the atheist who declares with absolute certainty there is no higher power than man in the universe and everything is the result of chaos theory to the poly-theist who declares there is too much wonder in the world for one all-powerful entity to have been responsible for it.

Bottom line? We're all still trying to figure it out and none of us will know - with any degree of certainty - until we die.

TheWordsmith
08-18-2011, 01:25 AM
My lack of belief is quite simple. I don't believe in the Christian god, the god of islam, Zeus, Mithras, Ra, Santa, wood elves that fix my shoes at night or the Great Pumpkin, all with about the same level of disbelief. I feel confident in saying that none of these things exist. Shelley

Whaat? I've gotten over having to take my shoes to the shoe shop for repair but ... You don't believe in Santa Claus?

pegasus
08-18-2011, 01:54 AM
Bottom line? We're all still trying to figure it out and none of us will know - with any degree of certainty - until we die.

Actually, most atheists figure that we will never know, not even when we die.

shelleyo
08-18-2011, 01:57 AM
Actually, most atheists figure that we will never know, not even when we die.

That's agnostic, not atheist.


Whaat? I've gotten over having to take my shoes to the shoe shop for repair but ... You don't believe in Santa Claus?

Okay, you got me. When it comes to Santa . . . I WANT TO BELIEVE.


Shelley

veinglory
08-18-2011, 02:02 AM
Actually, most atheists figure that we will never know, not even when we die.

As an atheist I am expect that being dead will involve not knowing anything at all forevermore.

Sarah Madara
08-18-2011, 02:28 AM
As an atheist I am expect that being dead will involve not knowing anything at all forevermore.

That's my first reaction, as well - atheism automatically entails believing you cease to exist when you die, therefore knowledge of any kind is impossible.

But now I wonder: is it possible to be an atheist and still believe in a soul? Does the concept of an afterlife or a continuing consciousness have to include some higher power?

While I don't personally know a single atheist who believes death to be anything but The End of consciousness, I wonder if the definition of atheism automatically excludes such a belief.

Discuss or ignore, as you please. That was completely off-topic.

JimmyB27
08-18-2011, 02:36 AM
Technically, an atheist believes their is no god. Period. It is an active concept. "I believe ..." as opposed to "I do not believe ..."
Oh jesus, I fucking give up.

Sarah Madara
08-18-2011, 02:52 AM
Debates about the "correct" definition of words that have multiple definitions go nowhere. Everyone is right, everyone is wrong, can't we all just get along?

shelleyo
08-18-2011, 03:21 AM
But now I wonder: is it possible to be an atheist and still believe in a soul? Does the concept of an afterlife or a continuing consciousness have to include some higher power?

I don't think it does have to go along with the belief in a higher power/supreme being/god or however one defines it.

I'm an atheist. I don't believe in the afterlives as depicted in the religions I'm familiar with. But I don't think I believe death is an absolute end. Every ending is the beginning of something else in nature--nothing really ends so much as changes form and function.

When something dies in nature, it's eaten and becomes part of other animals and/or rots and gives lives to multiple microbes, insects and other things. It goes into the soil in various ways. It's part of the natural life cycle.

Things only really change form, function and place. In that way, everything goes on. As far as consciousness going on, I think it does only as long as the brain is alive. Parts of that in the form of energy could be scattered to the wind--who knows. There have been some interesting coincidences with children able to do amazing things very young, and even seeming to have memories of people who had died. I see those as coincidences, and I suspect many of them are outright hoaxes.

But even if something like that could be verified and I was convinced reincarnation was real (which I'm not--fascinting concept, very flawed), unless presented with evidence that it was orchestrated by a higher power, I would still be an atheist.

I simply don't believe in things that I can't personally verify as existing, or that no one with an authority on the subject I trust can verify as existing. Because, frankly, that could be anything. A god is just one thing in a long list of things that are unproven that I also don't believe in. :)

Shelley

Melisande
08-18-2011, 03:29 AM
So we go from the atheist who declares with absolute certainty there is no higher power than man in the universe .

Exsqueeze me?!?!?. As a hard atheist, non-believer, crass what have you person I have never, EVER, thought that there is no higher power than man in the universe.

I am stunned, STUNNED!

This is a topic, originally posted by me, basically about how to word ones (my) atheism. I had this notion that the wording
"non-believer" was actually a stronger way of putting my complete and utter conviction that the concept of "higher powers, deities, gods, supreme beings" or what not, is a man-made invention and something I have absolutely no faith in, do not believe in and can not even contemplate as anything other.

That you now suppose that it in any way means that I should believe that there is no higher power than man in the universe is really to stretch things, and to put words in my mouth, not to mention philosophical thoughts that have never entered my brain.

The powers of the universe (in my extremely limited understanding of it) are yet to be explored. Theories are out there, presented by brilliant minds. They might be right, they may be wrong. Whichever, I have not yet heard or read anything that suggests your interpretation of atheism.

I have, however, gotten the impression that humanity today is far more humbled by the universe than maybe ever before, simply because of the fact that the more we learn, the less we understand. (this of course is a personal reflection and it might be way off).

Furthermore; it is not an act to not believe. To believe (or to smoke -to borrow an analogy from a previous poster-) is an action. Not to do anything is not an action. It is the opposite thereof.

shelleyo
08-18-2011, 03:44 AM
Exsqueeze me?!?!?. As a hard atheist, non-believer, crass what have you person I have never, EVER, thought that there is no higher power than man in the universe.

I agree. On earth I think man has the most developed consciousness. But nature can make us seem like dust mites in a blink. We're hardly the "highest power."

I also think that saying man is the biggest and best in the universe requires a leap of faith I'm not willing to make. Given the vastness of the universe and and how little of it we really know and understand, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that there's other life out there.

Everything came together in such a way to foster life on this planet. Among the billions of other planets in the universe, it's bound to have happened at least another time or two. :)




I have, however, gotten the impression that humanity today is far more humbled by the universe than maybe ever before, simply because of the fact that the more we learn, the less we understand. (this of course is a personal reflection and it might be way off).

I think you're right. I'm humbled when I think of the vastness of space, an ocean, nature's cycles and even the perfect division of cells. These things are amazing. I don't believe they're guided by a deity's hand--which, to me, makes them even more amazing. Nature is wondrous, and it awes me regularly. I suppose I feel a similar sense of awe about these things as believers feel when they think of god, but with less fear.

Shelley

Sarah Madara
08-18-2011, 04:20 AM
I agree. On earth I think man has the most developed consciousness. But nature can make us seem like dust mites in a blink. We're hardly the "highest power."
Wow, this took an interesting turn :D

I'm having trouble believing that Wordsmith quite meant that the way it came out, but regardless, this elevation of man really strikes me as an idea that comes from thinking along religious lines as the default. Religion pretty much has God, then man, then everything else. (I don't understand angels. Is that a Catholic thing? Nevermind about them.)

So anyway, strip God away from the equation and someone with a religious perspective may think the atheist is trying to elevate man to highest power, when in fact the atheist sees no such job description.

(ETA: I'm referring to the Abrahamic religions. I don't know how the others do this stuff.)

So much of religion evolved during a time when we couldn't begin to conceive of just how vast the universe is. And so the Judeo-Christian creation story just doesn't acknowledge all this other stuff, the probabilities of other life, the sheer vastness of the universe, etc.


I suppose I feel a similar sense of awe about these things as believers feel when they think of god, but with less fear.I suppose I'd call myself a wishful agnostic, and in the brief times in my life when I've had some iota of belief in God, it has never been accompanied by fear. While many organized religions may emphasize fear, I think a lot of people believe in God without the fear stuff - especially the new-age types who read and re-read Conversations with God or A Course in Miracles or similar non-denominational stuff shelved in the Inspiration section of the bookstore.

Maxx
08-18-2011, 03:42 PM
Technically, an atheist believes their is no god. Period. It is an active concept. "I believe ..." as opposed to "I do not believe ..."

Technically, an atheist can simply not indulge in any strong beliefs (beliefs for which there is no associated day-to-day experience) so there is no need for any active "I do not..."
I don't spend all day thinking about every possible thing that is not in my garage and if that non-activity happens to include objects that other people have no reason to think are there, that seems like no action at all by anyone at all.

pegasus
08-18-2011, 09:26 PM
That's agnostic, not atheist.

If you'll forgive me saying so, I suspect that my experience with all things atheism runs a little deeper than your own. I've been a humanist organizer and have spent over 20 years debating matters of atheism.

Not trying to be ugly. Just saying that I have some pretty long-thought ideas about the meanings of atheism/agnosticism/etc.

pegasus
08-18-2011, 09:30 PM
As an atheist I am expect that being dead will involve not knowing anything at all forevermore.

Yep, that's my best guess. When I die, the lights will just go out. It will probably be like being put out for a surgery. No memories. No dreams. Just not here anymore.

TheWordsmith
08-18-2011, 10:20 PM
As a hard atheist, non-believer, crass what have you person I have never, EVER, thought that there is no higher power than man in the universe.

Sorry if I offended you but ... Again, by the very definition, an atheist actively believes there is no single higher power in the universe. Everything in the many universes (and there are more than ours, btw and even our galaxy is way out on the outskirts of our own universe) all occurred by chance - Chaos Theory. Everything slams together enough times and something happens. You may subscribe to a more flexible interpretation but that is the strict definition of atheism.

benbradley
08-18-2011, 10:42 PM
I suppose we'll have to update the dictionaries...

Sarah Madara
08-18-2011, 10:54 PM
Again, by the very definition, an atheist actively believes there is no single higher power in the universe.

Whoa! Hold on here, folks. My powers of perception tell me there may be a debate brewing in which people argue back and forth over completely different things because no one has defined "higher power."

As for people arguing the "correct" definition of atheism...

:deadhorse:

benbradley
08-18-2011, 11:03 PM
Well, there's the uber-vague Alcoholics Anonymous definintion, but that one actually capitalizes Higher Power, giving a strong hint as to what is meant.

This is surely hard to determine, but I wonder how influential AA has been in popularizing the term.

Maxx
08-18-2011, 11:49 PM
Sorry if I offended you but ... Again, by the very definition, an atheist actively believes there is no single higher power in the universe. Everything in the many universes (and there are more than ours, btw and even our galaxy is way out on the outskirts of our own universe) all occurred by chance - Chaos Theory. Everything slams together enough times and something happens. You may subscribe to a more flexible interpretation but that is the strict definition of atheism.

Adding strict and very to your arbitrary redefinitions doesn't make them more convincing. I guess, in a nutshell, that suggests why notions like "higher power" (no matter how strict you make it you can't add altitude or energy to that idea) don't strike me as even remotely interesting.

How do you actively believe something like "there is no single higher power in the universe"? None of the terms make any particular sense. Why would a higher power have to be single? How is it higher? Why can't it be lower? What does this not-very-clearly-imagined power have the power to do? There's no way to actively disbelieve in something that cannot even be coherently formulated.

Maxx
08-18-2011, 11:58 PM
Everything in the many universes (and there are more than ours, btw and even our galaxy is way out on the outskirts of our own universe)

How is it possible for a galaxy to be on the outskirts of a universe?

Observationally, the universe I'm in is the same in all non-timelike directions. There are no signs of any edges, no outskirts at all anywhere. Apparently your universe is quite different.

And what makes you think there are other universes?

pegasus
08-19-2011, 01:06 AM
You may subscribe to a more flexible interpretation but that is the strict definition of atheism.

There is no such thing as a strict definition of any word -- and most especially any word which tries to define the entire thought of a human being.

Would you like to examine the nature of words and their definitions with me?

It could be helpful in your smithing efforts.

pegasus
08-19-2011, 01:08 AM
I suppose we'll have to update the dictionaries...

You take the dictionaries. I'll work on the world's holy books.

pegasus
08-19-2011, 01:12 AM
As for people arguing the "correct" definition of atheism...

When will the world shake itself awake and recognize that all my definitions are correct and all disagreement is mud?

shelleyo
08-19-2011, 01:28 AM
If you'll forgive me saying so, I suspect that my experience with all things atheism runs a little deeper than your own.

Not trying to be ugly. Just saying that I have some pretty long-thought ideas about the meanings of atheism/agnosticism/etc.

Aww, it's not too cool to make assumptions about the experience of someone you don't know.


Actually, most atheists figure that we will never know, not even when we die.

That's still the textbook definition of agnosticism, and something I'd be surprised for most atheists to think. If you define your atheism differently than most after your extensive thinking and studying on the topic, that's fine. It doesn't change the standard definition in use, however.

Shelley

Sarah Madara
08-19-2011, 02:52 AM
Actually, most atheists figure that we will never know, not even when we die. That's still the textbook definition of agnosticism, and something I'd be surprised for most atheists to think.

I realize I'm a broken record here, but I'm just not sure everyone's being clear on how they are using certain terms.

My good ol' Webster's defines agnostic as: "one who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable."

Now, while I usually can clear most things up with a dictionary, this is a quandary. Unknowable by whom? If you interpret "unknowable" as relating only to human beings (which is how I always read it), then if it turns out there's a God and he greets you with a big smile when you die, that doesn't contradict agnosticism in life. When I self-identify as agnostic, that's what I mean. I'll never know while I'm alive. When I'm dead, maybe yes, maybe no.

However, if you mean that it is impossible for any human consciousness to EVER know God, even if there is a God, and even after death, then that makes agnosticism more like atheism. Frankly that's not how I've heard the term "agnostic" used in conversation among friends, but maybe philosophers have a more formal definition somewhere that includes post-death unknowability. If you're going to claim that, though, you'll need a link ;)

Atheists might easily think that we'll never know, not even when we die, if they think that there is no proof either way. (I guess these folks would be the softer lack-o-belief atheists, not the hard-liners who already believe they know 100% certainty that there is no God or afterlife, etc.) Since they can't disprove God during life, and many, many atheists believe they won't exist in any conscious form in order to possess any knowledge when they die, it follows that they will never possess certain knowledge, not even when they die.

pegasus
08-19-2011, 04:49 AM
Aww, it's not too cool to make assumptions about the experience of someone you don't know.

Actually that was just a curious little side issue. Instructing me in the proper meaning of ‘atheist’ vs. ‘agnostic’ is a bit like sitting the Pope down and explaining to him what a ‘Christian’ is.:)

But even if you’ve founded and served as president of three local atheist groups (against my two) and moderated atheist forums for thirty years (against my twenty), you still wouldn’t be in a position to instruct me on the meaning of ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic.’ That’s my major point here.

In fact, there is no ‘meaning’ of those words. There is only each person’s personal opinion as to their meaning. They’re just like all other words in that respect except they’re extremists. They’re philosophical words which try to encapsulate a whole human mind, and of course no word can do that. I’ll be glad to say more, but I don’t want to go on and on unless someone asks.



That's still the textbook definition of agnosticism, and something I'd be surprised for most atheists to think.

I’ve known hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who called themselves atheists and had deep discussions with them. Virtually every one of them has thought as I do about what happens at death.

Will you argue that they were not actually atheist?

Of course, when the discussion goes deep enough, they usually acknowledge that they are both atheist and agnostic. How do you handle that... when a guy claims to be both atheist and agnostic?

Me, I just shrug and say, “Yeah, they’re only words, after all.”


If you define your atheism differently than most after your extensive thinking and studying on the topic, that's fine. It doesn't change the standard definition in use, however.

There’s no such thing as an atheist, shelleyo.

Really. It’s just a word.

shelleyo
08-19-2011, 05:40 AM
you still wouldn’t be in a position to instruct me on the meaning of ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic.’ That’s my major point here.

In fact, there is no ‘meaning’ of those words. There is only each person’s personal opinion as to their meaning.



Of course, when the discussion goes deep enough, they usually acknowledge that they are both atheist and agnostic. How do you handle that... when a guy claims to be both atheist and agnostic?




No, I really don't understand how someone can both not believe in god and not know whether there's a god at the same time. If I don't believe in something, I'm not still wondering whether it exists. If I'm wondering if something exists, I can't say definitively that I don't believe in it.



There’s no such thing as an atheist, shelleyo.

Except I am one, by the commonly used definition of it. I'm not agnostic, but I have no problem if others are.

I also think communication hinges on commonly accepted meanings of words, so I do like definitions. Without some sort of accepted meaning, there's not much point in discussing anything.


I’ve known hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who called themselves atheists and had deep discussions with them. Virtually every one of them has thought as I do about what happens at death.

Will you argue that they were not actually atheist?


Not at all. But stating that no one knows what happens after death or at the point of death does not necessarily have anything to do with belief or disbelief in a god. I wonder if we're talking about the same thing. Maybe I misread what your quote about not knowing was actually referring to? If so, my bad.

I don't know what happens after death. I have suspicions, of course, in a general sort of way, but there is no concrete evidence since no one has been brought back from the dead with evidence of what happens. (People who are revived have all sorts of stories, but that's another matter entirely, in my opinion.)

I'm still an atheist. I don't believe in any type of deity, or that any type of higher power does anything after human death. There's far more that I don't know than I ever will know. But I do not believe in the existence of any type of god. By that definition, I define my disbelief as atheism, just as many others do. To me, and by the generally accepted definition, someone who doesn't know whether there's a god (doesn't believe, doesn't disbelieve) and doubts anyone can ever know this, is agnostic. These are basic definitions. Are they comprehensive, including every possible shade of meaning? Probably not. But there has to be a definition for there to be meaning and communication.




Really. It’s just a word.

The thread really came about based on the slightly different shades of meaning two words might have. If the different meanings of words didn't matter, verbal communication would devolve pretty quickly, wouldn't it?

Words are my bread and butter, and their meanings fascinate, perplex and feed me, literally and figuratively. As a writer, I never really get the 'they're just words' thinking, especially among other writers.

I think we probably disagree more on the fundamental principle of whether or not words can have a commonly agree upon meaning and what that might be than we do anything else.

Shelley

Jessianodel
08-19-2011, 05:56 AM
So - just curious - does that mean you believe in *something* more than just this life? Most atheists I know think that when you die, poof, you're gone. No more consciousness. In that case you would never ever find out that you were wrong.

Now, finding out you picked the wrong God to worship and the right one is mad about it... that's a real concern ;)



Sorry I'm really late with replying!

Well that's sort of my point, there are so many gods how do you know which one is right? I don't. I don't know if there is even a god at all.

As for finding out if I'm right, well if I die and that's it, then I'm right because truthfully, I do lean to the "no god" side. And if I die and suddenly end up in Hell, well then I guess I have my answer.

I have a rather vain hope that there is something after because I don't want this to be it, but I'm not going to waste the only time I have talking about something I don't know about for sure. Does that answer your question :)?

Sarah Madara
08-19-2011, 06:09 AM
No, I really don't understand how someone can both not believe in god and not know whether there's a god at the same time. If I don't believe in something, I'm not still wondering whether it exists. If I'm wondering if something exists, I can't say definitively that I don't believe in it.
Belief and knowledge are not the same. That is the fundamental distinction between agnosticism and atheism. You could think of them as X and Y axes of worldviews. A lot of people think that they know everything they believe, but you'll never catch me saying that people in general are reasonable.


But stating that no one knows what happens after death or at the point of death does not necessarily have anything to do with belief or disbelief in a god. I wonder if we're talking about the same thing.
I know this wasn't addressed to me, but I have to admit I'm wondering the same thing.

I wouldn't normally think of someone who believes in any hint of a shadow of an afterlife or continuing consciousness as an atheist, because I tend to think of atheists as rejecting all metaphysical ideas. But technically, you can believe in some mystical something without believing in any "gods" if you take a religion-based view of what the word god means. So I guess I see your point, although most people I know who embrace any sort of metaphysical anything don't call themselves atheists. Maybe it's regional. (Always a satisfying cop-out when arguing definitions :D )


To me, and by the generally accepted definition, someone who doesn't know whether there's a god (doesn't believe, doesn't disbelieve) and doubts anyone can ever know this, is agnostic.
You may be right about that being the generally accepted definition, but I do think there's value in making the distinction between lack of knowledge (agnostic) and lack of belief (atheist). It allows people to speak about a broader range of ideas with greater precision.

Sarah Madara
08-19-2011, 06:14 AM
Instructing me in the proper meaning of ‘atheist’ vs. ‘agnostic’ is a bit like sitting the Pope down and explaining to him what a ‘Christian’ is.:)
You've never met a Christian who'd like to explain the concept to the Pope? And you're in the South? Okey-dokey.


Of course, when the discussion goes deep enough, they usually acknowledge that they are both atheist and agnostic. How do you handle that... when a guy claims to be both atheist and agnostic?
That's the distinction between knowledge and belief, isn't it? Atheists tend to pride themselves on being reasonable, in my experience, which means that many won't claim knowledge they can't prove, no matter how absurd the ideas might sound.

veinglory
08-19-2011, 06:36 PM
If the conversation goes on long enough I normally say: okay, yes, whatever.

But I still don;t believe in god.

These labels are meant to describe how things are, not determine how they are. As such they are not used in a 'dictionary-based' or consistent manner.

Hence you have Catholics who don't believe in god, vegetarians that eat meat etc.

pegasus
08-19-2011, 07:26 PM
These labels are meant to describe how things are, not determine how they are. As such they are not used in a 'dictionary-based' or consistent manner.

Yes, that's pretty much my point. And they're usually used to describe how 'I' am. For myself, I won't deny that a guy is Christian if he claims to be Christian. If he describes/labels himself as a Christian, then he does.

And it's interesting that you mention 'description' that way. Maybe I'm just carrying over my indoctrination from linguistics study, where we are taught to accept description rather than to attempt to correct. We study and describe how people use words. We don't argue over the correct meaning of words.


Hence you have Catholics who don't believe in god, vegetarians that eat meat etc.

And you have people who deny that such folks are Catholics or vegetarians. But not me. I might call him an odd Catholic, but I wouldn't deny that he's Catholic unless Catholics, like 'Americans', came with certificates.

pegasus
08-19-2011, 07:33 PM
You've never met a Christian who'd like to explain the concept to the Pope? And you're in the South? Okey-dokey.

Umm... I've met many such Christians who believe themselves to own the only correct definition of 'Christian.' Not sure why you've guessed otherwise.


That's the distinction between knowledge and belief, isn't it? Atheists tend to pride themselves on being reasonable, in my experience, which means that many won't claim knowledge they can't prove, no matter how absurd the ideas might sound.

I see no distinction between belief and knowledge except that a knower usually claims greater psychological certainty than a believer -- though not always.

And I think that the word 'prove' has done more to confuse humanity than even the word 'god' and should be banned from all languages. Maybe mathematicians would be allowed to use it, but only if properly licensed.

shelleyo
08-19-2011, 07:35 PM
I understand what you guys are saying about the meaning of words, but there's a point where a word's meaning is stretched far enough that to accept it makes it meaningless to have the word to start with. I don't believe atheism and agnosticism have narrow meanings, but they can't encompass each person's individual interpretation and retain much meaning, either. A core, generally accepted meaning has to be there, which has been my point all along.

Otherwise, I could call myself stunningly beautiful, brilliant, thin and tall, and everyone would have to accept that.

Maybe I shouldn't be arguing against this concept.

Shelley

veinglory
08-19-2011, 07:45 PM
Yes, that's pretty much my point. And they're usually used to describe how 'I' am. For myself, I won't deny that a guy is Christian if he claims to be Christian.

Quite. When it comes to "identity" words I pretty much acknowledge whatever label the person sincerely feels applies to them.