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Atheism Is Not a Religion

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Some Atheists … assert that Atheism is not a religion but instead is the total absence of religion…. But this is like saying that "black," (which physicists define as the total absence of color) is not a color…. In common practice throughout the world, "black" is understood to be a color, despite the technical definition of the physicists. Likewise, "Atheism" is a religion, despite any technical definitions to the contrary. If black is a color, then Atheism is a religion.

—Rev. Bill McGinnis, The Religion of Atheism

You hear it regularly from talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter (whose latest 'book', Godless, is subtitled The Church of Liberalism), and you're only going to hear it more now that the War on Christmas season is upon us: atheism is a religion just as sure as Christianity is, and all these heathens want to do is foist their religion on the good, god-fearing folk of America.

There's always an undercurrent of defensiveness and desperation in this claim, as if one's own faith is invalidated by the existence of a genuinely different approach to life and the universe. In making their convoluted arguments, people who conflate atheism with religion actually weaken the foundations upon which their own belief is built. Atheism simply cannot be a religion unless that term carries essentially no meaning.

Here's a handy list of qualities shared by almost all religions that atheism lacks:

There Is No God

First things first. Atheists do not believe in a god or gods. This is a tautology, of course, since the term "atheism" itself carries that literal meaning. Some atheists have suggested that the term cedes too much to religious believers and argue for a new coinage that captures what atheists do believe rather than what they don't. The fact that there is no such suitable term is a strong argument against classifying atheism as a religion, as we shall see. The denial of god alone, however, is not sufficient proof that atheism is not a religion, since many belief systems do not believe in god. Some, such as Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto — even Scientology — are properly classified as religions since they meet many of the other criteria listed below.

There Is No Common Belief

Contrary to what the O'Reillys and Coulters of the world will tell you, atheists are bound by no common ideology or belief. An atheist is someone who does not believe in god. Period. Beyond that, things get a little murky. There are the dreaded secular humanists, there are logical empiricists, there are existentialists, there are skeptics, nihilists – you name it. Not all atheists believe in evolution or put their 'faith' in science. This is why no one term could positively describe the entirety of atheism. Atheists as a whole are bound by a common disbelief – and nothing else.

There Are No Laws

Most religions feature a set of laws or regulations, ranging from what not to eat for breakfast to who thou shalt and shalt not kill and or covet. In atheism, this is entirely lacking. This is not to say that atheism is amoral (see below), but to note that there exists no universal atheist code of standards, either vague or specific.

There Is No Church or Ritual

It has become fashionable to claim that the Church of Atheism is the editorial board room of the New York Times or the chambers of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but this is nothing more than sophistry based on the supposition that all atheists are cut from the same (non-ecclesiastical) cloth. In fact, this is far from the case. Atheists are everywhere, in all walks of life (watch out!). The idea of an organized church of atheism in which its rituals are practiced by gatherings of (un)believers is a non sequitur.

There Is No Unified Conception of Spirituality

Unlike atheist religions such as Buddhism, non-religious atheism has no spiritual credo. Some atheists may consider themselves 'spiritual', while a great many do not. Some may feel some sort of connection to nature or the universe while others may feel nothing of the sort. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud called this the "oceanic feeling", and saw it as the source of the religious impetus. He claimed to have never experienced this feeling himself. Whether or not atheists have experienced this oceanic feeling, it has never coalesced into anything that could be called a religion.

There Is No Scripture

Christianity has the Bible, Islam the Koran; Judaism has the Torah, Hinduism the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Atheism has no scripture or sacred text. Darwin's Origin of the Species, while held in high regard by many atheists, doesn't count. The very fact that scientists are continually building on and even refuting Darwin's claims is proof that his version of the truth is not considered to be inerrant or divinely inspired.

There Is No Priesthood

In addition to having no rituals, atheism has no ritualistic leaders. Unlike virtually every religion known to man, atheism has no anointed hierarchy to lead its 'adherents' closer to the truth. This is not to say that there aren't prominent atheists. There are. But, absent the sacred texts and rituals of religion — not to mention a proper congregation — they do not constitute a priesthood or clergy.

There Is No Tradition

All religions have a tradition and a history. Atheism has many, but no single one that sustains a movement over centuries, as you find in every major world religion.

There Is No Founder

Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, L. Ron Hubbard – most major religions have a founding figure or prophet. Atheism has no such figure. There are many old-timers like Galileo, for example, who rise to prominence, but none of these atheists 'founded' atheism and none commands the reverence accorded to the founders and patriarchs of the world religions.

There Are No Holidays

Most religions have holy days (still, despite the all-out assault on Christmas). Atheism has no holidays, and no framework to decide when such holidays would be or what they might commemorate. Festivus doesn't count.

There Is No Identifying Clothing

Yarmulkes, robes, veils, turbans, sacred underwear and other holy vestments hold great importance for the majority of religions. Atheism has no dress code, although comfortable shoes are recommended.

There Is No Concept of the Afterlife

Most religions attempt to answer the question of what happens to us when we die. Where do we go to be warmed in the loving embrace of the lord? Where do they go to be horrifically tortured? There's heaven and hell, of course, and reincarnation, nirvana and moksha. Atheists have no concept of the afterlife, except that, most commonly, there isn't one.

There Is No Creation Myth

Now wait just a minute! How is the Big Bang any less of a myth than Genesis? Keeping in mind that not all atheists believe in the Big Bang theory, it's different because it's a scientific postulate that can be tested and the effects of which can be empirically demonstrated. If in the end this theory does not stand up to scientific scrutiny, it will be chucked on the trash heap alongside the bodily humors and the Atkins Diet.

******

So, atheism shares none of the characteristics common to all belief systems commonly known as religions. Even widely-despised and derided belief systems like Satanism, Wicca, paganism and Presbyterianism are religions by these standards. Atheism is not. Arguing that it is means that faith in god, ritual, community, tradition, spirituality and theology are irrelevant. Religion then becomes an incredibly paltry thing. It is not a source of solace and spiritual wonder; it is not a vehicle for bringing symmetry to the chaos of life and meaning to the void – it's just the act of taking a position on the existence of god. That's it. How pathetic.

Those who would prefer not to do such grievous harm to the meaning of 'religion' have another argument at hand. Atheism may not be a religion, but it is a faith. Because the existence of god can be neither definitively proven nor disproved, atheism merely replaces faith in god with faith in science. While this argument is subtler, it poses no less of a threat to the underpinnings of religious belief.

There is a fundamental difference between faith and atheism that cuts to the essence of what religion is. A scientific-minded atheist believes that science can explain the world and the universe. This does not require that it already has explained everything; only that it can. This is a world view based on hypothesis and evidence. For most religions, on the other hand, faith in the absence of clear evidence is a virtue. Evidence (or at least purported evidence) is not entirely lacking from the religious world, but it is beside the point. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

Religious faith is a complicated thing. It involves the belief in god, but it goes much further than that. Faith is the trust in god and the acceptance of paradox and contradiction. It revels in the revealed truth and embraces the unknowable. In religious people, it is the umbilical cord to the soul. Science is not anathema to faith; it simply operates on a different plane of thought. Faith is 'belief', but it's not the belief in just anything. To say that atheism is a faith because it stakes claim to a belief is to denigrate all true faith. To have a faith and to hold a belief are two distinct things. All faith is belief, but not all belief is faith.

Another common misperception is that atheists merely put their faith in secular 'gods' and call them by another name. Richard Dawkins is a popular choice, as are Darwin and Carl Sagan. But whether an atheist is drawn to the ideas of these men or to Nietzsche or Frank Costanza, it is not proof of 'faith'. Plenty of people are widely admired, from the aforementioned thinkers to Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. We sometimes even use religious language and talk about how they are 'idolized' figures. But there is a difference between agreeing with someone or admiring them and having religious faith in them.

Without this distinction, the concept of faith is utterly worthless and the designation of 'god' is a meaningless banality. Certainly the religious faithful do not believe this to be the case. But there is no way to hang the mantle of faith on atheism without eviscerating one's own beliefs.

Once it has been established that atheists have neither religion nor faith, it is assumed that they must therefore believe in nothing. Atheism is then synonymous with amorality and chaos. It should be quite obvious that this argument is a fallacy based on a false dichotomy in which all the attributes of religious belief are necessarily absent from non-religious belief.

There is a facile assumption that morality belongs only to the realm of religion, and the codes of religious law are offered up as proof. Where would we be without the Ten Commandments? Coveting asses, no doubt. But there is plenty of historical and anthropological evidence to suggest that religious morality is simply a reflection of taboos and strictures that have developed over millennia and are intrinsic to all cultures, regardless of religion (or lack thereof).

******

"All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?"

"Brought peace!"

"What!? Oh… Peace, yes… shut up!"

—Monty Python, The Life of Brian

Once upon a time, Jesus said, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" I'm pretty sure that's a fancy way of saying, "What, you think your shit doesn't stink?" It's a little snippet of scripture that every atheist should know.

I'm aware that atheists are an embattled minority, far less likely to be elected to the presidency than Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, child molesters and Frenchmen. I know some of the vitriol and condescension of the true believers at Focus on the Family and FOX News is hard to stomach. That doesn't mean you have to return the favor.

One of the biggest selling points for the "atheism is a religion" trope is the common misperception that atheists know that there is no god. Certainly there are some who would say so, just as there are Christians who have no religious doubt whatsoever, but these are not (I hope) majority views. Insistence on the absolute correctness of your position is not a sign of either faith or rationalist purity; it's a sign of hubris and epistemological immodesty.

There's no question that certain religious groups would like to impose their narrow view of the world on everyone. These people need to be opposed at every turn. But this does not mean that religion as a whole should be denigrated or dismissed as irrelevant.

Religion has been central to the history of humanity and there's no reason to believe it won't continue to be. The wisdom of the Greeks and Romans survived the Dark Ages thanks to religion. Gutenberg designed his printing press to reproduce the Bible. Much of the greatest art and architecture in the world was inspired by faith. Religion has been central to movements for social justice, democracy, peace and charity for centuries. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, religion has been the cause of and solution to most of the world's problems.

That is not an endorsement of religion so much as it's an exhortation to intellectual honesty. All atheists are not represented by a jerk who wastes everyone's time with irrelevancies like trying to get "under god" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, just like all religious people are not represented by Ann Coulter or Ted Haggard.

So much of the atheism versus religion debate takes place at the intractable fringes where there are so rarely either hearts or minds to be won. If we can surge past this white noise, however, we may come to a place where differences can be honestly respected and ideas can be exchanged in good faith (if you will).

Despite our differences we must strive for common ground, for that's the only place where we all can live.

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  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I agree — to a point. It is true that athiesm is not a religion. But then, based on your arguments above, neither is theism! Theists believe one thing in common: there is a god (or gods). That’s all. Beyond that, they may have nothing in common.

    Theists break down into many groups, and most or all of those groups can accurately be labeled a religion. Similarly, would it be fair to say that atheism breaks down into many groups, most or all of which can accurately be labeled a religion?

    I suspect so. The secular humanists in one group over here, the existentialists in another group over here, and so on. Of course, most atheist will resist these categorizations, but it may not surprise you to realize that most theists would do the same.

    Despite the popular image of a monolithic religious right, pulling levers zombie-like for the Republican party, even when you drill down into a sub-sub-subr group like “evangelical Christians,” you still find quite a lot of diversity.

    So I agree — atheism is not a religion. It is many religions.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    I don’t think ‘theists’ would resist being separated into categories like Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc. In fact, they do so quite readily. Each of these religions has all of the characteristics of religion that I list above.

    None of the major atheist groups (excepting Buddhism, etc.) share these characteristics. Yes, there are people who may self-identify as ‘secular humanists’, but they have no god, no church, no priests, no sacred texts, no cohesive spiritual vision, no founder, etc.

    The one thing they do share, apart from not believing in god, is a common belief system (sort of). That doesn’t make it a religion or a faith. The whole point of my post was to argue that to say a religion need only be a belief system and nothing else makes a mockery of the concept of religion. Religion constitues so much more than that.

  • duane

    Well done, Pete. One of the best posts I’ve read here at BC. And a difficult topic on top of it all.

    One thing that I would like to have seen is some speculation as to why the faithful insist on labeling atheism as a religion. What’s their angle? I have a few ideas but I would like to get your perspective on this. I do agree with your comment that religionists weaken their claims to faith by arguing that belief in science is equivalent to faith. They know not what they say.

    The quote by Rev. Bill McGinnis is a fine example of sloppy thinking.

    One quibble concerning your moderately conciliatory position. You say

    Religion has been central to the history of humanity and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to be.

    Lots of things have played a role in the history of civilization. Religion, where it has done good, might be looked at as analogous to scaffolding under which a (somewhat) civilized society has been constructed. Eventually the scaffolding will be torn down. Slavery, just to take an example, has also played a crucial historical role in the building of civilization. We don’t need that anymore, either.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Well, whether we need religion and whether we’re going to have it are two separate matters. Considering that the vast majority of the world’s population follows a religion (as defined in my article), it’s safe to say that religion will underpin our civilization for a very long time to come. And that’s not all to the bad. Religion has always been a force of both good and evil; of both terrible ignorance and sublime illumination (in the non-divine sense).

    I hint at why some religious folks insist on labeling atheism as a religion at the beginning of my post. It has to do, I think, with self-validation, and is the sign of a quite weak and trepidatious faith. The same could be said of atheists who insist that religion is concomitant with stupidity.

    And there’s part of the issue. Religious folks are rightly offended when they’re told they are a bunch of slavering idiots (whether or not it happens to be true in any given case). The impulse for some would be to turn around and say, “oh yeah, well you’re idiots, too, and you just don’t know it”.

    Then there are those who simply cannot comprehend the possibility of a non-faith-based world view. They then assign a faith proposition to atheism based on an extrapolation from their own experience.

    Of course, there’s great variety among atheists (and religious people, too). There are some who choose not to believe in god, and some who simply cannot. Like Freud, they lack the ‘oceanic feeling’. Religious naysayers may err in assuming that all atheism is willful rebellion.

  • duane

    Thanks, Pete. You keep making comments that I wish I had made, such as

    They then assign a faith proposition to atheism based on an extrapolation from their own experience.

    I believe you’ve captured something there.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    –Rush

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    True, but a choice isn’t a religion. I chose to eat a donut this morning. Am I a member of the Church of Donuttery? Mmmmm…worship!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Damn, we need to get to work making atheism into a real religion. Let’s get some holidays and scriptures going. Otherwise the government might take away our legal status as a protected religion.

    Perhaps we could have ‘God is Dead’ day around easter time.

    Dave

  • duane

    Wait a minute. What’s going on here? I thought atheists were humorless nihilistic curmudgeonly pessimists. You know … like me.

  • D’oh

    IMHO, the religionists who constantly seek to frame atheism as a religion do so in order to couch their arguments legally as an issue of freedom of religion.

    To wit: by calling atheism a religion, they can now argue that the government’s approach to separation favors one religion (atheism) over another, thus giving them a leg to stand on in court when trying to do things like placing the 10 Commandments in public buildings.

    To my thought, freedom of religion also includes freedom FROM religion, if a person so chooses.

    So Suss in #6 nails it in a way.

  • Michael Alfaro

    Nice staw man Bill McGinnis. I think you should learn a bit more logic before you make extreme claims. What theist seem to forget is that their extraordinary claims need extrordinary evidence. To them, there is no need for logic as a medium because their religion prevents them from questioning.

  • http://www.archibaldmathadams.blogspot.com Trey

    Great article, Pete…
    I am actually a Christian, but I agree with you that atheism itself is not a religion. People can be religious about their atheism, just as people can be religious about anything they do or give credence to.

    Trey

  • http://www.archibaldmathadams.blogspot.com Trey

    Michael,
    You’re making a bit of a sweeping statement, don’t you think? Of course there are many theists that need more logic, but there are plenty of atheists that do to. There is this sort of bias against faith in our culture and in western culture that says scientists, atheists and agnostics should be taken seriously, but if you believe in the supernatural (especially in any specified way), you’re opinion and arguments lack logic.
    Of course, Michael, you and I both come to this argument with a definite presupposition and no amount of so-called logic will keep us neutral on this issue.
    The claims of an atheist are no more or less evidenced or “extreme” (to use your word) than a Christian, a muslim, or a Jew.

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    According to your description, if you are an American, you are part of a religion.

    There Is No God
    This doesn’t apply but then you said belief in God wasn’t necessary for a religion. More on that later.

    There Is No Common Belief
    American’s certainly have common beliefs. While there are differences, the vast, overwhelming majority subscribe to the beliefs listed in the Bill of Rights. We commonly believe in the rule of law, private property, and that bikinis should be a privilege not a right.

    There Are No Laws
    Ummm …. I’m pretty sure this one is obvious.

    There Is No Church or Ritual
    We have lots of rituals. We vote every two years, we pay taxes (tithe), we go to war every eleven years (roughly), and we argue endlessly over the designated pitcher rule. We have what amounts to the equivalent of churches with the White House, Capitol Building, Supreme Court, etc. Even the monuments stand out like religious sites requiring pilgrimages every few years.

    There Is No Unified Conception of Spirituality
    There is a unified concept of being an American. What that means exactly is up for debate but so is the concept of spirituality amongst religions and even in defined religions themselves.

    There Is No Scripture
    Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, Gettysburg Address, I have a Dream; the only thing we have to fear is fear itself….. should I go on?

    There Is No Priesthood
    President, Senators, Representatives, Justices, etc.

    There Is No Tradition
    Mom, Apple Pie, Norman Rockwell … come on! Actually there are many things that can be called traditions in America. Heck, don’t we all hate the French?

    There Is No Founder
    While you may not be able to say there is a founder, you can’t argue that there is a clear cut set of founders. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin … you could probably limit the amount of true founders to under 20 substantial men.

    There Are No Holidays
    There is one holiday expressly to celebrate America … July 4th. There are two holidays to celebrate their military heroes. There is one to celebrate the workers and one to celebrate a couple of their founders.

    There Is No Identifying Clothing
    But according to studies we all are obese. Do clothes from the Big and Tall store count as identifying clothing? Actually, this one can’t be used in all cases anyway. What are the different identifying clothes that separate a Methodist and a Baptist from the Atheist that lives next door?

    There Is No Concept of the Afterlife
    This does vary a little from American to American. Some believe that after America there will be a One World Order run by the UN. Others believe the world can’t survive without the shining beacon that is America and will crash into chaos and anarchy without it. Others, granted a minority, believe that a comment the size of Texas will come towards the Earth and only a valiant attempt by some space faring oil drillers will have any hope of saving us. If they fail … The point is although the beliefs may vary, all Americans have some vision of what life after America will be like.

    There Is No Creation Myth
    There is a universally accepted belief in the creation of America. It may not be called myth but then most religions believe their creation story is fact too.

    So you see there are three hundred million members of the religion of America. Some of these even claim to be Atheists, which I have clearly shown is impossible. Actually, I think you definition of religion and what makes it up is much, much too broad in some areas and too focused in others. You are picking and choosing those areas that best suit your argument. I hope the silliness above illustrates that point.

    All that beings said, while I do not believe you made a good case, I do agree somewhat with your argument. I agree that atheism is not a religion if you consider religion to be a regimented group that has hierarchies, etc. However, I can name many people that claim to be Christian but hate the very thought of “religion”. Would you classify these people who hate organized religions as “religious”? Is religion nothing more than believing and subscribing to some organized groups idea of whatever religion should be about?

    It might be better to skip the word “faith” as well. I would instead choose to use the word “belief”. In this regard, atheism shares many similarities with believers of various religious faiths. If you take out the dogma, which you try so hard to pigeonhole all religions into, the similarities jump out much more clearly. You “believe” until proved otherwise that there is no God (for whatever reasons). If God showed up and parted the Red Sea in front of you, I hope you would be willing to reconsider. Belief is the word that makes atheists similar (in some regards) to believers of various religious faiths. Religion is a bad comparison all the way around, even amongst the “faithful”.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Of course it depends on what the claim is. The atheism vs. faith argument is bogus to a point. The scientific argument requires evidence and the religious one does not because of the very nature of what they are.

    It’s as if religion and science exist in different intellectual dimensions—the rules of one don’t apply to the other. The problem is when people try to force the ‘truth’ of one dimension on the other. Christians demanding that Creationism be taught is science class is a perfect example of this conflict.

    There are plenty of religious people who have no problem with rationality and science—in fact, many scientists are themselves religious. They just have different standards of evidence for different kinds of truth claims.

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    In reference to D’Oh’s comment (#10) …

    The Constitution actually says …

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    I don’t see anywhere in there a case to be made for freedom FROM religion. What I see is that Congress can’t prevent the free exercise of religion or establish an “official” state religion. Where again does it say that you are free from all signs, symbols, references, and allusions to religion?

    I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. I do not believe that this implies the absolute removal of all references to religion in anyway shape or form. It simply means that you can’t be treated differently because you are a Jew, Muslim, Christian, or cattle rustler.

    Bringing it back on topic, can an atheist even complain about this at all since you are part of NO religion? If you look at it logically, you don’t even have this right UNLESS you are part of a religion.

    Bummer for you guys ….

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Bobby, you seem to imply that all belief is religious belief, which strikes me as degrading to both sides. Religious belief has a certain character: it is concerned with the spirit and, in most cases, with god. Americanism, by contrast, is concerned with America.

    Your version of America is, to use your term, a little too narrow. This country is hugely diverse, with millions of different beliefs in conflict with each other. We’re not all as similar as you claim.

    Of course, to an extent, you could argue that nationalism shares many things in common with religion. The one glaring difference is its purpose, which is rarely spiritual or epistemological in nature.

    Now you have to ask yourself, do you have a close, personal relationship with America?

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    Pete,

    My point was that your definition of religion (more specifically what religion isn’t) was too broad. Almost anything can be lumped under it, including half the religions of the world.

    As to my definition being to narrow, I disagree. You state that ALL religions have certain aspects to them that you then list in the negative. You are encompassing an incredible wide variety and “hugely diverse” spectrum to use your words and completely understate the problem. Half of these religions hate the others and their beliefs are almost always mutually exclusive. Yet you claim they all fall under the same category of “religion”.

    Thus I claim that all Americans can fall under the same category. Yes, its very diverse. Yes, they believe different things. Yes, they are in conflict with each other. How is this different than all the religions in your argument?

    Belief is belief, no matter what. I believe that my next breath will contain enough oxygen to sustain me. I also believe the moon will follow a set, predictable orbit from now until tomorrow at 2:55 PM (after that who knows?). I might believe that God is a big pink bunny with fuzzy black slippers. You might believe there is no God.

    We can argue whether beliefs are verifiable and then argue again over how verifiable and under what conditions. But we can’t argue that these are in fact beliefs. You can’t classify beliefs as spiritual, scientific, or whatever. I belief simply implies a “faith”, for want of a better term, that something is true. In some cases it might be more of a “hope” that something is true.

    For example, you enter a room in which you have never been before. You see a chair in the middle of the room which you have never seen. You sit in the chair and it holds your weight. Why did you sit? Because you “believed” the chair would hold your weight. A visual inspection of the chair seemed to show it in good condition. You had put your weight onto similarly shaped chairs in the past. Other people have told you about sitting in chairs. Based on this evidence, you sat. Now was it possible that the chair looked good but was rotten? Yes. Was it possible that someone had sawed the back legs to collapse as a practical joke? Yes. But you “believed” based on the best evidence available that the chair would work so you sat.

    Belief is belief the only thing different is the evidence used to support it.

    Are you implying with your last line that religion requires close personal relationships? According to your first point, not all religions even need a God. How do you have close personal relationships if there is no God figure? So, no, I do not have a close personal relationship with America. But according to your definition, its still my religion.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    I was making a joke with my last line. Sorry to raise your hackles.

    It was my hope that my defenition of religion would encompasses not just half but all of the major world religions. That was the whole point. And then I showed how atheism fails to meet each of the criteria.

    You are right to say that all Americans fall under the same category. Namely, they are Americans. All brown dogs are brown dogs. That doesn’t make it a religion unless ‘religion’ is a meaningless word.

    I strongly disagree with your statement that “belief is belief”. There are all kinds of different beliefs out there. One kind is “religious belief”. Atheism is not such a belief for reasons I outlined. To equate atheism with religion is to destroy the meaning of religion (purportedly in the attempt to bolster it…).

    The belief that a chair will support your weight is based on visual evidence and experience. It is a practical, banal belief. To say that belief is the same as a belief in a perfect and redeeming savior is absurd. Hence the use of ‘faith’ to describe such a belief. And hey, I didn’t invent that distinction.

  • Bliffle

    “One thing that I would like to have seen is some speculation as to why the faithful insist on labeling atheism as a religion. What’s their angle?”

    They want to drag atheism down into the same mud rasslin’ pit that they are in.

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    Sorry if it appeared my hackles were raised. Not so.

    I did indeed misspeak at the start of my last post as well. Touché. I meant to say that you could include almost anything under it including all religions. My bad.

    You aren’t arguing that beliefs are different. You are arguing that the belief can be verified in different ways. What if the perfect and redeeming savior suddenly showed up on your doorstep and proved it to you with visual evidence and experience? Would your belief in him still be different than the belief in the chair? Both beliefs would then be proved with the same method. How are they different?

    The only thing that separates beliefs is the proofs or evidence that can be used to support them. In fact, the evidence is usually the same. We separate “religious” beliefs because we feel it is unlikely that they will be proved in a visual, verifiable, reproducible manner. However, IF they were proved in that manner by God showing up, they would cease to be different than the belief that the moon orbits according to set physical laws.

    Thus the belief in and of itself is not different. The evidence is. In that regard, atheism is very much like a “religious” belief (let me again go on record as disliking the term religion as an application of spiritual faith. Many would say they hate religion but believe very much in God, etc.) Atheism can’t be proved anymore than religion can. Can you prove to me that God doesn’t exist? In a verifiable, reproducible manner? No more than I could prove to you that God does exist.

    Sure it seems likely based on what you know that a God may not exist. But you can’t prove it. You believe it based on the best available evidence to you AND your own personal bias. I might look at almost the same evidence, introduce my own personal bias and come to the opposite conclusion. In fact, we can probably use the exact same facts in our attempt to prove each other wrong.

    In that manner, your “belief” in atheism is very similar to a “belief” in a God. You are correct that atheism is not a religion but in many cases neither is a belief in God. I’m simply defining the argument different than your original post. Religion is the wrong way to compare their similarities. Belief is the better case.

  • Baronius

    Bobby – Very interesting.

    Pete – You write well. I don’t agree with a lot of this article, but you represented your cause admirably.

    I wonder, if you break atheism down to its major “denominations”, would you concede that some are belief systems? Marxism is a shoo-in. It has a founder, a creed, rituals, icons of its saints, and holidays. Darwinism is a tougher call, until you try to disagree with a believer. Nihilism has a pretty consistent ethos, and body art is both a uniform and a ritual for its followers.

    Also, would you accept the statement that atheism is a creed?

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    In reference to #20 …

    Not all “the faithful” do insist on such a label.

    However, I think the term is just being misused by both sides. As I have tried to lay out, religion is a bad way to compare. In some cases, neither side fits into the religion mold.

    I think the more appropriate term is to say that both are based on a belief system.

    Besides, maybe they don’t want to drag you into the mud. Maybe they want to pull you up for some spiritual square dancing?

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    To #23: Even if you could say both are based on a belief system (which I don’t agree with), you’d have to set the standard for “belief system” so low as to render it meaningless, which is evidently not the point religious people who see atheism as a religion (or belief system) want to make.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    To #22: I just don’t think the idea of atheist “denominations” means much. Certainly these denominations aren’t as well defined or coherent as actual religious ones are.

    Marxism (or Soviet Communism) was certainly a religion, but not because of atheism. There’s an excellent book of essays by communist apostates that came out in the 40s or 50s (I think) called The God That Failed. What made the Soviet system a “religion” was its faith in the perfectability of man through the process of dialectical materialism. It took many precepts of Christianity and stood them on their head (just as Marxism is an inversion of Hegel’s philosophy of history). So, yes, the Soviets tried to prop up their movement with the religious skeleton of Christianity, but athiesm was only a part of that.

    In addition to The God That Failed, Darkness at Noon illustrates this point nicely. Arthur Koestler is one of the contributing essayists for TGTF, by the way.

    I wouldn’t call atheism a creed because a creed, to me, is a positive belief. I believe in god the father almighty, etc. Atheism is, necessarily, a negative belief.

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    To #24 …

    Explain to me how atheism is NOT a belief system?

    Then, explain to me how particle physics is NOT a belief system? Quantum mechanics? The fact that Brit and K-Fed were doomed to fail?

    Science in general is based on beliefs. You might argue that these are proven beliefs, verifiable beliefs, but then we are arguing about evidence and not the belief itself.

    If the word “system” makes you uncomfortable, I gladly remove it from our discussion.

    That way you can just prove to me how quantum mechanics is not based on beliefs.

    And how does that set the standard for belief system low? What exactly is the standard and who is setting it? Does a belief system need more than one adherent to be a belief system? Does the belief system need to be judged valid by a committee or some group to be considered to meet the standard? If it just misses the standard can we call it a belief system in training?

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    To #25 ….

    Ding, Ding, Ding ….

    We have a winner. I belive you actully said that “Atheism is, necessarily, a negative belief”. Essentailly, you are saying that atheism is the belief in no God.

    How is that different than the spiritual believers belief in a God?

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    RE: # 22

    Pete,

    I think your grasp of the “religious” world is way to monochromatic. You seem to think that religions encompass these big blocks of everyone believing the same things. Even within similar faiths the “coherence” of groups is vague at best.

    Let’s take Christianity for the sake of argument, although you could apply this to ANY religion.

    The major groups break down fast … catholic, orthodox, protestant; you could even dive into Armenian if you wanted. Then take one of those groups. Protestant breaks down into a myriad of “denominations”. Some are so different as to barely be recognizable as protestant. If you take one denominations, say Presbyterian, you can break that again into at least three and maybe as many as five national categories. The Baptists are worse than that. Even strong denominations like the Southern Baptists (largest protestant denomination in America) are loosely organized. Even though their Creed as it were says they are against women pastors, at least 150 churches with women pastors belong to the demolition. Going back to Presbyterians, even the individual church, can have incredible variety in belief. Presbyterians are known as big sovereignty of God types, some would be good old fashioned Calvinists. However, you can have committed faithful members of a Presbyterian church who don’t believe in the sovereignty of God. How is that possible if these “denominations” have the coherence and definition you think they do?

    I don’t think that religions are defined as well as you think they are. I believe in fact they could be very similar to the atheist breakdowns that you use to illustrate atheism not being a religion. In fact, these breakdowns surface constantly as people alter their beliefs and swing from church to church to Temple.

    If I can, I’ll look into the books you mentioned. I’m always up for a good read.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    To answer 24 & 25 together, it is my contention that “atheism” as a whole is not a belief system because there’s no system. It is a single belief about a single unknown. After that, atheists believe any number of things that may or may not agree with what other atheists beleive.

    The difference between that and the “spiritual believers’ belief in a God” is what is at the heart of this thing we call religion. It’s all those other things I list in the post. It’s all these things that atheism lacks.

    Furthermore, the belief in god posits all kinds of things (in most cases) about the existence of the spirit and the soul, in the afterlife, etc. This is not true of atheism.

    Would you argue that there’s no difference, to give an absurd example, between believing that all human souls are the remnants of aliens executed on earth volcanos by a bastard named Xenu and not believing this?

    Do both positions require the same leap of faith? Of course not. If so, then the concept of belief is entirely relative and nothing means anything. And that’s a position I don’t think most people would be too eager to take.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    I don’t think that all religions are monochromatic and, having grown up in the church, I know well what you’re talking about. But despite the differences between all the religions and sects and splinter groups, etc., they have certain things in common. Those are the things I list atheism as lacking. Not all religions have all these traits, but they’re pretty consistently present in religious groups and congregations. This is just not true for atheism.

    Do read Darkness at Noon. It’s one of my favorite novels.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    RE #21: I think the belief in god and the belief in the sturdiness of a chair are totally different things. The former belief is not expected to be confirmed by the scientific method. It doesn’t need to be confirmed at all, hence the faith. The latter is a belief that must stand up to rational scrutiny and can easily be confirmed.

    Now, if Jesus shows up on my doorstep and offers some scientifically verifiable proof of his existence and divinity, then and only then are these two beliefs similar. That hasn’t happened yet.

  • Bernie of FreeGoodNews.com

    Great quote about the color black– makes perfect sense- great analogy!

    …Bernie

  • zingzing

    bernie needs to learn how to read.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    People can be religious about their atheism

    Not just religious about it, but downright fanatical. Which IMO defeats the whole concept of atheism. If your atheism originates in a hatred of organized religion rather than a lack of belief in deities – which is often the case – then you’re not so much an atheist as a disaffected religionist. Real atheists ought to have a more laissez faire attitude. People should have the right to believe whatever claptrap makes them happy and keeps them from killing each other.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    “People should have the right to believe whatever claptrap makes them happy and keeps them from killing each other”

    true. it’s just too bad that people like to kill each other over religion.

  • sr

    Old-Time Religion the song was sung in 1941 at what accademy award winning movie and who wrote the song?

  • http://del.icio.us/sporkyy Todd Sayre

    “Aunicornism is, necessarily, a negative belief”. Essentailly, you are saying that aunicornism is the belief in no Unicorns.

    How is that different than the spiritual believers belief in a Unicorn?

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    People can be religious about their atheism

    Again, this depends on what you mean by ‘religious’. Does that mean to believe something strongly? Or is it a specific way of believing something? I would be careful with this.

    Now, people can certainly be dogmatic about their beliefs (atheist or otherwise). I’ve already commented on the folly of that. But if ‘dogma’ and ‘religion’ mean the same thing, then haven’t we lost something?

  • Baronius

    Pete – I’m not sure you can separate Soviet and Chinese communism so easily. The two countries often worked together. Mao was supported by Stalin, and certainly used similar methods. The Russians tinged communism with a Christian hierarchical structure, where the Chinese approach resembled an Emperor’s court, but the systems themselves were deliberately and explicitly atheistic.

    I could build on Bobby’s groundwork of nationality-as-religion, but in the case of communism the similarities to religion are obvious. China has a “sacred” book and uniforms. The iconography of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Kim, and Che are well-known. Communism is more than a religion, as you note, but it definitely is a religion. You can’t subtract points from it because it’s all-encompassing.

    By ignoring communism, you’ve eliminated something like 80% of atheism. If I talked about religion, leaving out Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, you’d be right to call foul. I notice that you skip Buddhism yourself. So we’re talking about the non-Hegelian non-Buddhist atheists? I’ll put out two bags of Doritos, but I won’t open the second one unless all of the non-Hegelian non-Buddhist atheists come by.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    I don’t skip Buddhism. I mention it several times. It is an atheist religion. It’s also not at all typical of non-religious atheism, which is the topic of my post and what is meant by O’Reilly, Coulter et. al. when they talk about atheism.

    I do think that communism has many things in common with religion as I define it. But the mystical or ‘supernatural’ thing communists put their faith in was not atheism. It was dialectical materialism. It is quite easy to imagine communism without atheism, but it is entirely impossible (nonsensical, even) to imagine it without the dialectic. That, in my opinion, is the core belief of the communist ‘religion’.

    That said, neither Soviet nor Chinese communism is really pertinent to the debate at hand. Again, when fundamentalists talk about atheism as a religion, they’re not talking about communism. They’re talking about secular humanism and people who believe in evolution, etc.

  • Clavos

    Mr. Blackwell writes:

    One of the biggest selling points for the “atheism is a religion” trope is the common misperception that atheists know that there is no god. Certainly there are some who would say so, just as there are Christians who have no religious doubt whatsoever, but these are not (I hope) majority views. Insistence on the absolute correctness of your position is not a sign of either faith or rationalist purity; it’s a sign of hubris and epistemological immodesty. (Emphasis mine)

    Are you listening, Christopher Rose?

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Of course I’m listening, Clavos, but I’m certainly not persuaded.

    As you appear NOT to be listening, let me reiterate: I wish there were a god or gods, it would make a lot of things both easier and more satisfying on a spiritual level. However, with all the best will in the world, I can’t find any plausible evidence for the existence of any deities at all.

    I don’t feel either “hubris or epistemological immodesty” in saying that, rather a sense of disappointment that the old time stories are nothing more than that.

    I don’t insist on the correctness of my position either, indeed, I find it a tad lamentable. However, the universe is what it is and no amount of naive, simplistic creation stories or appeals to faith could persuade me otherwise.

    Atheism is absolutely not a religion, as has been shown above quite convincingly. It is an attempt by faithists to frame a discussion by defining non-believers thusly, to include them within an entirely unconvincing explanation of the miraculous universe that contains us.

    The final nails in the coffin of religion are the amount of hatred it promotes and the way it allows mean hearted people to attack others, all in the name of championing deeply held but entirely superficial views that do nothing to explain our common reality or address the sense of awe and interconnectedness that never ceases to amaze and humble me.

  • SHARK

    Dear Pete,

    Nice article. Thanks for writing it.

    You’re a brave man to enter the dangerous whirlpool of Semantics — followed by a bunch of articulate morons who defend their flimsy, imaginary Raft of Faith by suggesting that –Atheists Who Prefer Science and Curiosity in THE QUEST for Empirical Data– are made equally blind and dogmatic by their “beliefs”.

    And speaking of “If there is a God, will you please make him shut the fuck up”…

    Bobby Sprinkle: “We have a winner. I belive you actully said that “Atheism is, necessarily, a negative belief”. Essentailly, you are saying that atheism is the belief in no God. How is that different than the spiritual believers belief in a God?”

    Atheism is not a “belief” in no god; it’s a temporary working conclusion based on intellectual honesty coupled with a glaring Lack of Evidence.

    Faith/Religion is wishful thinking based on intellectual dishonesty, a lack of curiosity, and a conclusion drawn DESPITE the Lack of Evidence.

    PS: Yer ALL condemned to trace an eternal elliptical orbit in the lowest spiraled streets of Semantics Hell.

    Have a nice day.

  • S.T.M

    Atheists rule, by God!

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Atheism is not a “belief” in no god; it’s a temporary working conclusion based on intellectual honesty coupled with a glaring Lack of Evidence.

    For many, certainly. But this does not have to be the case. A person who doesn’t believe in god because their dog told them not to is an athiest, too.

  • http://clatch.blogspot.com A.L. Harper

    It took me years to understand that I didn’t believe in god. It wasn’t an easy struggle but a necessary one. When I was in Church and others would talk about their feelings about god or that feeling of power that was so palpable as to be almost tangible, I would know that I had never felt that; more than hadn’t felt it, I couldn’t help but think that it was impossible to feel and believe they were lying to themselves. My “faith” place deep inside me was empty. When I was 8 years old and mother told me I was going to be baptised into my faith I ran away because I knew it was a lie and I couldn’t say it out loud.

    Not believing in God isn’t something that I do one day a week. Where I go to some building and listen to some revered Atheist talk about why NOT to believe in god. I don’t believe one set of dogma or another I only know what’s right or wrong inside myself.

    And accepting that there probably isn’t a God isn’t easy. Believing in a magic man who will make everything right and just in the end is easy. But believing that some very bad people will never be punished, that justice will never be served for some, is sometimes overwhelming. And it’s not that I absolutely believe there is no god. I think that anything is possible. There might turn out to be a Big Foot or Loch Ness Monster but I think it’s highly unlikely.

    I don’t “believe” in anything in a faith way. I just don’t think there is anything out there. And no matter how hard I have tried in the past to believe, I know it’s a lie and I couldn’t live a lie.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Thanks for bumming us all out, A.L.

    :-)

  • SHARK

    A.L. Harper — I left the church the day I realized there wasn’t a passage in the Bible that said something like, “And lo, Jesus saw a gigantic fucking *lizard in the road!”

    *no dinosaurs in that Cosmic History Book — [quote courtesy the late, great Bill Hicks]

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    The fact that Bill Hicks died the way he did is proof that there’s no god. Or that god doesn’t have a sense of humor. The existence of Scientology strongly suggests that if there is a god, he has a very fine sense of humor, indeed. QED: no gee oh dee.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I would think that intellectual honesty would lead one to agnosticism at best. That’s where it led me.

    I find no epistemological proof of God or lack thereof, either way. I don’t believe that God exists as depicted in the Bible, but I’ve no reason to think that there’s not a creature of some kind in the universe whose relationship to life on Earth is NOT at least tangentially similar to a God’s.

    But then, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that atheists have had experiences that have led them to conclude with certainty that there’s no God. Experiences, that is, which I have not had. So intellectual honesty is a hard thing to gauge because even intellect is subjective.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Speaking of intellect-this thread is one of the most intellectual that I’ve ever had on Blogcritics. Aside from the silly potshots that pop up everywhere, most of the comments here are honest, thoughtful, and address the subject at hand.

    Perhaps we should all take pictures of this page or save it to our PCs so that we have proof that such conversations CAN exist on this site.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Agnosticism is a position where you neither believe in the existence or nonexistence of god, usually because the truth is thought to be “unknowable”.

    Atheism is not believing in god. That doesn’t meany you know there’s no god. It just means you believe there is not.

    By your definition, everyone on earth who hasn’t met or seen god personally would have to be an agnostic.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Sorry, Pete. That definition was actually a response to the one posited in Comment #48 (i.e., Shark):

    Atheism is not a “belief” in no god; it’s a temporary working conclusion based on intellectual honesty coupled with a glaring Lack of Evidence.

    I should have been more clear.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “… such conversations CAN exist on this site.”

    HERESY

  • AntiFate

    hahaha a redneck trailer trash must have wrote this,
    religion is a set of believe based on super natural superstition. by that, atheism is NOT a religion because it does not believe in the super natural.

  • Mark Saleski

    The fact that Bill Hicks died the way he did is proof that there’s no god.

    i always thought that the fact that egg nog wasn’t good for you was proof that there was no god.

  • Bobby Sprinkle

    Wow. I’ve been gone all night and most the next day. Where to begin?

    First, although it probably doesn’t warrant an actual response, SHARK …

    “Faith/Religion is wishful thinking based on intellectual dishonesty, a lack of curiosity, and a conclusion drawn DESPITE the Lack of Evidence.”

    Not knowing all those of faith at all, I’m curious how you can draw these conclusions. You make blanket statements about millions of people with little or no backing. Just because you have seen one, two, or even a million dishonest, non-curious, wishful thinking believers doesn’t mean that I or the next guy are. I refute everything you said in this quote. I defy you to show otherwise.

    Now onto more genial debaters …

    Pete ….

    In #30 you write that you don’t believe all religions are monochromatic. That may be but you are treating them that way. In fact you are rolling up all religions together. It isn’t fair to say all religions do such and such but you can’t say that atheism does because the forms of atheism are different and atheists believe so differently. According to you the only common theme among atheists is a belief in no God. You say religion is all the same. However you roll up all religions but leave forms of atheism separate. Let’s compare apples to apples, shall we ….

    Let’s compare forms of religion with forms of atheism and see how it shakes out. I’ll just pick a couple of your first list to keep things short.

    There Is No Founder

    You say that no one founded atheism. Well no one founded all religion either. Each form of religion had its own founder just like each form of atheism had its founder. Christ could be compared to Marx, L. Ron Hubbard to Darwin, etc. I may not have the best examples but you get my point I hope.

    There Is No Tradition

    You say that religion has common traditions and history but religion doesn’t have one common tradition, it has many. So each form of religion may have a tradition but so does each form of atheism. Marxism, Communism, Nietzschism, etc. all have common traditions within themselves. It is true that there traditions aren’t common across forms but neither is the Hindu tradition common to the Orthodox. The point is that each form has its own traditions.

    There Is No Scripture

    Again, all religions may have scriptures but they aren’t the same. Every form of atheism also has its scriptures. A Marxist may not recognize the works of Huxley as divine scriptures but neither does a Muslim recognize Dianetics as divine either. (Note: This is a slight cheat on my part as Huxley really labeled himself an agnostic)

    I could go on and on. The point is, as I stated before, that you are treating religion as a unified body but not atheism. They are both very clearly filled with widely differing views on a whole host of subjects.

    Atheists actually may be more monochromatic than believers as you define them. At least atheists are unified in their belief in no God. According to your definition belief in God isn’t required to be a religion. Therefore you can’t even say that all religions are unified in their belief in God.

    In #29 you claim that belief in God posits all sorts of things which atheism does not. I disagree. Why does belief in God posit afterlife or soul? You are picking a couple of religions and using their philosophies selectively to say something about all religion. I would argue that Buddhism is essentially atheist in that most Buddhists would deny the existence of a God. Yet, they certainly believe in something similar to the soul.

    As for your absurd example, to make it even more absurd, in the absence of any evidence at all, I would posit both beliefs are the same. You can only make one sound ridiculous by using an assumed amount of foreknowledge and evidence that you have worked up over time, education, experience, etc. If you didn’t have those to back you, what would make either proposition more believable? Again, the belief is no different, the evidence is.

    Finally, in # 31 you argue that “The former belief is not expected to be confirmed by the scientific method. It doesn’t need to be confirmed at all, hence the faith. The latter is a belief that must stand up to rational scrutiny and can easily be confirmed.” A couple of things about this…

    I think you are again letting your previous life, experience, knowledge, etc, interfere with the examples. You may think the chair should stand up to rational scrutiny but you don’t subject it to that. You just sit in it. You didn’t test the wood, use weights to tests its load limit, have several people sit in it to verify the results. You gave it a cursory examination and then sat based on “faith”. What you are saying is that the chair COULD stand up to the scientific method if the appropriate tests were done and the results were verified. Well I argue that God could do the same thing. You COULD subject God to the scientific method if he allowed it, the appropriate tests were applied and the results were verified.

    I would further argue that a belief in God with no confirmation is ridiculous. All beliefs with no confirmation are not worth much. The point is that the confirmation is subjective, based on personal experience, past history and bias. For instance, I could argue that my belief in God is confirmed the same way your belief in the chair was. I have had people tell me about God and what he does. People have told you about chairs and what they do. You have used chairs in the past. I have experienced God in some manner (dream, visitation, feeling, support, lightning bolt, whatever … enough to confirm it for me). Nothing in your visual examination of the chair contradicts your “faith” that it will hold you. Nothing in my experience or knowledge of science contradicts the presence of a God. Thus your belief that the chair will hold you would be based on roughly the same categories of evidence that my belief in God is based on.

    Clearly, this is not objective, scientific proof that can be reproduced in a lab for all to see. But it is proof nonetheless. I hold that rational people can believe in God. I do not hold that rational people can believe in something that has never been confirmed or proven to them. A rational person is also open to being proven wrong. Bias becomes huge here but as you say, if Jesus showed up at your door …

    P.S. When Jesus does show up at your door, let me know. I’ll be curious to see what proof he provides for divinity.

    # 36 ….

    The movie was Sergeant York with Gray Cooper. I have no idea who wrote the song.

    # 48 SHARK ….

    I can’t believe I’m referring to him again … You are confusing religion with Christianity. Why didn’t you convert to Buddhism or Hinduism when you realized there were no lizards in the Bible? You can’t argue that all religions are wrong because one is. You can’t argue that there is no God because the Bible is wrong. What about the religions that believe in God but not the Bible? I guess as long as there were lizards its ok?

    BTW, you are seriously screwed up in your timelines. Were such a quote to appear in the Bible it would read “And, lo, Cain saw a gigantic fucking lizard in the field!” There was probably no Jesus or roads during dinosaur days.

    # 50 Michael West

    I disagree slightly. Intellectual honesty doesn’t necessarily lead on to agnosticism. You leave out personal experience from the mix. Intellectual honesty should leave you open to being proven wrong but not necessarily into the “unknowable”.

    I too have greatly enjoyed these conversations.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Briefly on your first point with more to come: It’s actually the opposite. The O’Reilly/Coulter position is treating atheism like it’s a unified whole and a religion. My argument is against that. It is not a religion. I don’t believe it’s a bunch of diverse religions either. More on that in a little while.

  • Clavos

    Mr. Rose,

    You have said repeatedly that you know there is no god. In fact, you imply it once again in your #42 when you say:

    However, the universe is what it is and no amount of naive, simplistic creation stories or appeals to faith could persuade me otherwise.

    And you say:

    I don’t feel either “hubris or epistemological immodesty” in saying that…

    I didn’t mean to imply you FELT hubris; rather I’m saying you’re guilty of it in the way you present your beliefs.

    I’d like to remind you once again that I’m not arguing with your position of nonbelief. I don’t believe myself. In fact, if anything, you seem to have a more spirtual position than I, judging from what you write about the “interconnectedness” you feel, which I can’t even understand, much less contemplate.

    You describe the universe as “miraculous,” and I suppose that’s true if one believes in miracles. I think it just “is” (as you essentially also point out in #42, as quoted above).

    Finally, I think we agree more than we disagree, except that I think I’m more nihilistic about matters religious than you.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Bobby (re 57):

    You have misread, I believe: I’m not the one who used the word “unknowable” to describe my agnosticism. Pete Blackwell used it (#52), and even then he qualified it as being “often” the reason given for agnosticism.

    From my point of view, agnosticism simply means, “I don’t know.” And the reason I don’t know is not that it’s unknowable, it’s because there is currently not enough evidence to determine either way. (Nor is there evidence that it’s “unknowable,” for that matter.) If I saw evidence that there was a God, or that there wasn’t, I would probably change my thinking. But there isn’t, so I can’t.

  • http://www.clatch.blogspot.com A.L. Harper

    #47 Pete – I’m sorry I bummed you out. I think people think it’s easy not to be religious or spiritual that there are no morals involved. I just go out and shag anyone I want to and treat people bad and covet my neighbour’s arse (Ok I do that, but he has a very nice arse) but that isn’t how it works. I’m a good person. But I’m a good person because I am socially responsible NOT because I’m afraid I’m going to go to hell.

  • frank

    hey y’all
    here’s a comment from holland(europe, that is)
    seems like everybody around here is really focussed on describing what and what not atheism really is.
    Am I right? Definitions, semantics, all that.
    I don’t want to say it’s not important to define what one’s talking about, but here’s my point:
    I watch the news, only two groups around in the world, muslims and christians.
    I happen to disagree. Many people, way more than you might think, don’t fit in either category.
    Time we bundle our voices and let the religious guys and girls know there’s a lot of people that don’t dig their backward shit anymore. They want to do their thing, fine. They want to tell me what to do or not do, not fine.
    And hey, semantic fans, I think it’s perfectly OK to obey the law, just keep in mind, different countries, different laws. Some US people have problems grasping that concept seems.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    OK, back to number 57.

    If belief in a supreme being who created the universe and the worship of that being in a community of fellow believers is the same thing to you as believing that a chair will hold your weight, then atheism is a religion. So is assuming a glass will hold water or believing that you won’t melt if you go out in the rain. Every time you go outside assuming you won’t simply float off into the stratosphere, it’s a supreme act of faith.

    The only problem is that you’ve defined ‘religion’ out of existence. It then becomes an incredibly banal and even worthless thing. I can’t bring myself to think that you—or anyone who genuinely believes in god—would (or could) think such a thing. It is most definitely not the point the atheism-is-a-religion crowd is trying to make. Quite the contrary.

    I stand by my post and my comments thus far. While I agree that there is a great deal of variety in religious practice (and say so in my original post), all religions conform to the majority of the categories I laid out. Atheism as a whole doesn’t, but neither do any of the discrete atheist niches. (Putting Marxism aside, which is a faith primarily in the proposition that history is governed by dialectical materialism, not because of its atheism.)

    There’s really no such thing as Nietzscheism, per se. There are people who read his philosophy and admire his thinking, but no coherent congregation has sprung up in the name of it. There are no churches of Nietzscheism, etc.

    The same goes for Darwin, although he is far more well known (but probably not more widely read). There is a good reason why he looms larger: he is a scientist. Not only is he a scientist; he was the first one to pull at the biological thread that led to the hypothesis of evolution. He provided a rational explanation for the way life develops. That’s a pretty big deal. Still, while I’ve met plenty of people who admire Darwin, I’ve never met anyone who worships him or believes that his works on evolution are the first and last word on the subject.

    When it comes to belief in god, you’re playing a bit of a semantic game with the words ‘confirmation’ and ‘proof’. You say, Clearly, this is not objective, scientific proof that can be reproduced in a lab for all to see. But it is proof nonetheless. I would have to say that’s not proof at all, unless, as with ‘religion’, ‘proof’ has no meaning. It is ‘evidence’, and very subjective evidence at that, but it neither proves nor confirms anything.

    Except to yourself, which is the key.

    Proof is what you use to convince other people of the validity of a hypothesis. This word has no meaning if each person must experience the proof themselves in a subjective, and thus unconfirmable, manner.

    Religion, whether it’s man made or divine, has always been a palliative against fear of the unknown. Because they exists partly to serve this purpose, a great number of religions actually embrace the unknown. Fear becomes mystery, the void becomes spirit. Religious belief in the face of ambiguity and paradox—in the absence of proof—is praised as a sign of true faith.

    I’m not here to argue with that notion. My point is that this is something qualitatively different from atheism, however you want to break it down.

  • RedTard

    If gays can marry, why can’t atheism be a religion? It depends what the meaning of the word is is.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    If atheism is a religion, is bald a hair color?

  • RedTard

    No, but could it be considered a hairstyle?

  • http://www.iamdew.com Dew

    I feel the same way about non-denominational being called a denomination?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    If gays can marry, why can’t atheism be a religion?

    Is that comparison supposed to make sense?

  • RedTard

    No.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Just checking.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Pete: My compliments on one of the best religious posts I’ve seen, and the excellent discussion that followed.

    A few months ago I tried my hand at an explanation of agnosticism, and why it is not atheism and not antireligion. It’s not as well done as your piece, but I think it complements it quite well, similarly undermining the simplistic portrayals put out by certain commentators for whom religion is a cudgel to be wielded with abandon.

    Both are also evidence that mainstream believers have more in common with mainstream atheists and agnostics than they do with extreme elements of their own faith.

  • Mark Saleski

    one other thing that the “atheisim is a religion” crowd seems to miss is that their is a large group of people like me who are not only atheistic in their beliefs but…hmm, how do i put this?….religion plays no part in our daily lives.

    i hate to even use the word “group” because it comes close to conferring some sort of organization. there is non. religion exists, completely outside of my world.

  • Duh

    the question is not whether or not Atheism is a religion.

    Atheism, pure and simple, is reactionary philosophy. It’s irrational at it’s very core. There is no issue, concept, or scientific proof that a thinking person with Faith cannot agree on with an Atheist. I like how Atheists perch comfortably in this thread because they have a new premise that basically states this brilliant come back “chya right.”

    The quote “Atheism is a religion” is meant to galvanize emotions and thought, not to be taken literally. My retarded cousin knows that atheists don’t go to church. Cmon.

    It’s clear that “atheists” (whatever and whoever you are) just have personal issues that cloud their ability to think rationally. They think that Faith = irrationalism because it’s a convenient face-value answer for all da religious “haters” out there. It’s so much more complicated than this thread.

    No matter what happens in our lifetime. You ‘tards will keep arguing these points, and nothing will come of it. No greater truth will be reached. Until you learn to smile and love the blue collar baptist that lives down the street, your opinion carries little weight. Moreover, you KNOW you believe in God, you just hate that big all-encompassing thing called accountability. Everything else is a rationalization of why you shouldn’t feel guilty for the shit you make everyone else clean up. C’est la vie. (sp?)

  • duane

    Jesus Christ, can’t you believers get ONE thing through your thick skulls? See SHARK #43, and I quote,

    “Atheism is not a “belief” in no god.” NOT. Read it again.

  • Duh

    it’s reactionary philo whether belief is involved or not. It is an inferiority complex to a supposed threat. Typical. Its origins and discussions derive from an active and irrational distrust of people who claim publicly to have Faith. No matter how you slice it, it’s just another way for folks to point the finger at other “hypocrites.” The sad thing is that there is no such thing as Atheism.

    Atheism is simply a “side.” Cmon guys. You rail against other idiots that are outspoken about Faith. Neither side seeks truth, only justification FOR said truth. The actual truth is much more buried and mysterious than you baffoons would like to reveal in this thread.

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Clavos, sorry, not getting your point at all. I’ve stated my views, nothing more nothing less, don’t see the relevance of hubris at all.

  • SHARK

    Oh Dear Gawd; I’d rather have molten lead poured into my eyes than read another word game couched in the form of a doctoral thesis written by BobbySprinkle.

    SHARK said: “Faith/Religion is wishful thinking based on intellectual dishonesty, a lack of curiosity, and a conclusion drawn DESPITE the Lack of Evidence.”

    Sprinkle addresses SHARK: “I’m curious how you can draw these conclusions. You make blanket statements about millions of people with little or no backing… I refute everything you said in this quote. I defy you to show otherwise.”

    Here goes, babe:

    1) wishful thinking = living beyond the limits of your earthly existence; reuniting with loved ones, being “forgiven” your earthly transgressions [ie. guilt assuaged] — finally finding “eternal happiness” — which eluded you on earth.

    2) intellectual dishonesty + lack of curiosity = giving up on pursuing and/or finding potential solutions to questions re. the nature of Universe and some/all of its inhabitants by ATTRIBUTING unexplained events (etc) as acts of “God” — and then acting like that’s actually a realistic, satisfactory, and sufficient Answer.

    [see “creationist” vs Darwin for more; see also “infinite regress” argument]

    3) Conclusion Drawn DESPITE the LACK OF EVIDENCE = see any religion’s claim for the existence of a “god”. SHOW SHARK 1 tiny smidgen of indisputable evidence, and I’ll not only “convert”, but I’ll give Pope Benedict my next male child.

    ========

    As Richard Dawkins [et al] points out, if you claim there’s a giant teapot orbiting the earth, it’s not up to me the atheist to prove it doesn’t exist; it’s up to you, The Looney BELIEVER to prove that it exists.

    ========

    An agnostic is an Atheist with No Balls.

    ========

    And here’s my final, argument-ending, brain-freeze-inducing question to all believers in a “god” —

    WHO MADE GOD?

    =======

    ~NEXT!!!

    ======

    PS: Next departure for the Circled Streets of Sematic Hell occurs in ten minutes; please stow your brain in the overhead compartment, and don’t be caught without an Arbitrary Dictionary.

  • SHARK

    Dear BobbySprinkle,

    I’d love to convert you to my “Religion” —

    …in which we believe that

    BREVITY IS A MAJOR VIRTUE.

    Thanks in advance,
    Witnessing Shark

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Conclusion Drawn DESPITE the LACK OF EVIDENCE = see any religion’s claim for the existence of a “god”.

    Of course, lack of evidence that there IS a God evidence that there ISN’T a God.

    Therefore,

    Conclusion Drawn DESPITE the LACK OF EVIDENCE = see any claim for the nonexistence of a “god.”

    Sorry, Shark, old boy; with no proof either way, the best you can do is formulate a belief.

  • Clavos

    MJW #79:

    Bingo!!

    Well (and succinctly) put.

  • Clavos

    Christopher:

    I knew you wouldn’t.

  • duane

    Kurtz: “The numbness … the numbness.”

    Michael, old boy … oh, forget it.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I don’t know what you’re bitching about, duane. I didn’t say that atheism WAS a religion. I don’t think it is.

    I do think it’s a belief, though. That’s not the same thing as a religion. It’s a belief. I read Shark’s position and I am, in my comment, disagreeing with him. And you’ve not given me much reason why I shouldn’t.

  • duh

    Sorry, Shark, old boy; with no proof either way, the best you can do is formulate a belief.

    ’tis true. Claiming that there is definitively NOT a teapot orbiting the Earth based on a lack of evidence isn’t intellectually honest.

    One should simply say, “I dunno. I doubt its existence (disbelief) because a teapot in space seems unlikely.”

    So, there is NO burden of proof. As a believer, it’s not my responsibility to prove to atheists that God exists in any sort of mumbo jumbo explanation. If you don’t believe in God, it’s not my problem. It’s yours.

    And of course people believe in God because it’s convenient and reassuring, but these aren’t the only reasons. There are thousands of reasons that will never be articulated. I, however, rarely feel assuaged by an idea of Heaven. If anything, I fear the possibility of God, because it seems the power he yields is Just. And justice for any of us means pain.

    Regardless, I’ll repeat this again for people like shark who is particularly emotional about this subject. Faithists are not irrational. Big bang? no prob. millions of galaxies? no prob. children dying all over the world? no prob. Evolution? no problemo. I STILL believe in God, and that’s your problem. (it seems)

  • James

    Re #75: The concept that belief comes from emotion and emotional needs would neccessitate that the belief would desist if that emotion dissipated, or the emotional need was fulfilled. People seem to use this argument quite frequently without considering the implications. Human emotion and emotional circumstances change far more rapidly than our belief systems. I could be feeling intense distrust for religion one day, have a great experience with the honesty of another religion the next, and were my atheism based entirely on my emotional paranoia this would neccessitate that I subsequently convert to the second religion (and then back away when/if my distrust were to return).

    Likewise, if you are to argue that atheism stems from guilt, then there must neccessarily be no atheists that live according to religious values. Because of the wide variety of religions available to us, the liklihood that we couldn’t manage to continue to live our life the way we already do and conform to a set of religious standards somewhere out there is fairly minute, particularly if you’re talking about the entire atheist population of the world. I happen to know based on comparing myself to sociological data collected that I am in the top 50% with regards to Christian lifestyle within the American population. If I were to just add church I would probably be considered a good, or at minimum, adequate christian. I very strongly doubt I am the only example of this.

    I do not mean to criticize your logic based on your religious belief though. This is a form of logic that is often used similarly by atheists to accuse the religious of having purely emotional reasons for their faith, when in fact the rationally requisite implications of such a claim are absurd.

    Belief almost always comes from more than just emotion. Emotion, due to its shifting nature, will never be fully responsible for a lifestyle or belief.

  • duane

    Sorry, Michael. I apologize for being a shithead. Must … find … coffee.

    I reread your comments, and I think I more or less agree with you. I do think that you’re misreading Shark. He’s right on the money.

    Let’s start with the old chestnut

    Of course, lack of evidence that there IS a God [is not the same as] evidence that there ISN’T a God.

    which is usually stated in more general terms thusly:

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    And again, the burden of proof lies on the side of those making extraordinary claims, not with those who are skeptical of such claims.

    This is obvious, and does nothing to detract from Shark’s plain-as-day comments.

    Again, any rational atheist does not say “There is no God.”

    Trying to sidestep the quicksand of semantics to which these arguments usually devolve,

    Absence of belief is not belief of absence.

    Part of the problem is with definitions. You can find a definition of atheism that says

    “Atheism is the state either of being without theistic beliefs, or of actively disbelieving in the existence of deities.”

    I have always adopted the first of these two. Atheism is simply the absence of belief. Some people call that agnosticism. I think the definitions are fuzzy. That’s part of the problem with discussions like this.

    I want someone to tear down the definitions and put them back together so that the difference between atheist and agnostic is clear. Technically, I might fall into a new category — “militant agnostic.” I have no belief in deities, I make no claim that there are no deities, and I think you’re fooling yourself if you believe in deities.”

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    What we may have is a semantics problem, Duane.

    Look at it this way.

    1) “I do not believe in God.”

    2) “I believe that there is no God.”

    Do those two statements have two different meanings? Or are they the same thing?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Put another way, this is really where I disagree with Shark. He says (emphasis added):

    Atheism is not a “belief” in no god; it’s a temporary working conclusion based on intellectual honesty coupled with a glaring Lack of Evidence.

    Semantically speaking, this is not a conclusion, because it has no evidence to support it — only a lack of evidence to refute it. It is a temporary working hypothesis. A guess, if you will.

    Now, whether a “hypothesis” and a “belief” are the same thing, we can probably debate that all day.

  • duane

    Michael, that’s it exactly.

    The two statements convey distinct meanings.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    So the first one, I presume, means “I don’t think there’s a God but I’m not prepared to believe there isn’t one?”

    Again…that makes it a hypothesis. Not a conclusion.

  • duane

    Michael, statements like

    “I don’t think there’s a God but I’m not prepared to believe there isn’t one?”

    is so full of traps that it’s not easy to confirm or deny. If I say, “I don’t think there’s a God,” it could be construed as a conclusion based on a weighing of evidence. On the other hand, taken literally, “I don’t think there’s a God” is an exact expression of absence of belief.

    To clarify.

    Melissa: Is it cold outside?
    Skippy: I don’t think so.

    Melissa assumes that Skippy’s reply connotes a conclusion based on some kind of evidence. She goes outside, and it’s freezing.

    Melissa: I thought you said it wasn’t cold!
    Skippy: I didn’t say that. I haven’t been outside today.

    Skippy has an absence of belief based on his lack of experiencing coldness outside. He’s being literal.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I get what you’re saying, Duane, but once again, I’m going to use the word “hypothesis.”

    Melissa: Is it cold outside?
    Skippy: I don’t think so.

    In your example, Skippy has not been outside today. We don’t know what he’s basing his statement on, but there’s an implication here that he does not have any evidence on which to base his not thinking that it’s cold outside.

    So it is, at best, a guess. A hypothesis.

  • duane

    Michael, Skippy is a literalist. When he says, “I don’t think so,” he means “I do not think in that way,” which means that there is nothing in his experience at that moment that would cause him to think that it’s cold outside. An atheist, my kind of atheist, says “I do not believe,” which means there is nothing in his experience that would provide sufficient grounds to believe. Only in the colloquial sense does “I do not believe in gods” equate to “I believe there are no gods.”

    However, like anyone else, atheists usually speak colloquially, and believers usually hear colloquially, so the atheist should be aware of the popular connotation of the phrase “I do not believe,” when his intention is to denote in a precise manner something different, namely, that belief in deities is absent from his worldview.

    It requires no hypothesizing.

    Beatrice comes over to see Skippy and Melissa, and says, “Hey, if you eat kiwi fruit every day, you can increase your IQ. What do you think of that?” Skippy says, “I don’t believe that.” Melissa says, “”I don’t believe that.” Skippy is being a literalist again, taking the position that the effect of a daily kiwi ritual is not part of his world view. He makes no hypothesis. Melissa, the colloquialist, is saying that Beatrice is wrong. She makes a hypothesis.

    A proper atheist (in my opinion) makes no hypothesis concerning deities. The belief, one way or the other, is simply absent. Ask the atheist, “Do gods exist?” and he should say. “Beats me.” It’s the only intellectually consistent response. If an atheist says, “Gods do not exist,” he puts himself into the position of having to prove the assertion, which he can’t. From a logical standpoint, I think strong atheists are as misguided as believers. If the atheist says, “I doubt that gods exist,” then you have the start of long, long conversation (argument), if that doubt is founded upon anything substantive.

    Likewise, if a person of faith says, “Gods do exist,” I say, “How do you know?” If someone struggling with their faith says, “I’m pretty sure that gods exist,” I say, “Based on what?” and there’s another argument.

    Only the rational atheist, as opposed to a strong atheist, is freed from having to prove or justify his position. But it’s not just convenience. It’s the only sensible position … as far as I know.

  • Duh

    Likewise, if a person of faith says, “Gods do exist,” I say, “How do you know?” If someone struggling with their faith says, “I’m pretty sure that gods exist,” I say, “Based on what?” and there’s another argument.

    what if a person of Faith answers, “I don’t. I just believe based on my subjective experience.”

    Then, does the Faithist still have a burden of proof?

  • Duh

    also, duane, by your definition, it is possible to distinguish a strong faithist from a rational faithist.

    Henceforth, we could deduce that rational faithists and rational atheists are more congruous in principle than the “strong” of both philosophies.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Ask the atheist, “Do gods exist?” and he should say. “Beats me.” It’s the only intellectually consistent response.

    Then I think we have another semantics problem. Because as far as I’m concerned, answering “Beats me” to the question “Do Gods exist?” Is the definition of agnosticism. Because “Beats me” is a colloquial way of saying “I don’t know.” And there’s really no distinction in that regard.

    If an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in God, then his answer to the question “Do Gods exist?” should by any reasonable standard be at least “I don’t think so,” if not “Absolutely not.”

    In other words, Duane, I think that your definition of an atheist is most people’s definition of an agnostic. “Beats me” is certainly not the same thing as “I don’t think so.” Not by a long shot.

  • duane

    Duh, who needs a new alias, says:

    what if a person of Faith answers, “I don’t. I just believe based on my subjective experience.”

    Let’s hear the subjective experiences.

    Michael: Because as far as I’m concerned, answering “Beats me” to the question “Do Gods exist?” Is the definition of agnosticism.

    I’ve already pointed out the problem with definitions in #86.

    Let me quote myself:

    “Part of the problem is with definitions. You can find a definition of atheism that says

    ‘Atheism is the state either of being without theistic beliefs, or of actively disbelieving in the existence of deities.’ ”

    There lies the problem.

    But let’s at least admit that what this or that is called is not the main thing. It’s just us and others trying to establish lines of communication.

    “Beats me” is certainly not the same thing as “I don’t think so.”

    Well, yeah. If someone says, “I don’t think so,” and means “I believe deities do not exist,” then there is a need to justify the belief. I mean, if you want strict logical consistency. And I often do.

  • Mohjho

    I’m wondering if being atheist means that you have no concept of spirituality? What is the difference?
    It seems that Buddhists believe that a persons belief in god is an attachment, thus illusion. However, they have a very healthy understanding of spirituality.
    Any ideas?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Duane, you’re right. I should have referred more closely to #86, particularly where you say,

    Atheism is simply the absence of belief. Some people call that agnosticism. I think the definitions are fuzzy.

    Which largely resolves a lot of the discussion we’ve been having since. My apologies for not paying more attention the first go-round.

    My definitions of “atheism” and “agnosticism” are a little bit more cut-and-dried than yours, but probably not by a lot. In some respects it is an issue of semantics again, depending on what we mean by “God.”

    While I’ve no objective evidence either way, subjectively, it seems like vanity to suppose there’s no being in the universe higher than humankind.

    However, I am convinced that if there is such a higher being, it has little or nothing in common with the irrational, unjust, and unstable monster described in the Bible.

  • duane

    Michael: However, I am convinced that if there is such a higher being, it has little or nothing in common with the irrational, unjust, and unstable monster described in the Bible.

    That seems like a perfectly sensible poisition to me, not just because I agree with it. I can imagine other sensible positions, but I haven’t heard any yet.

    ….

    which is a nice segue to Mohjho’s #98 …

    Should we only have sensible positions? Or are faith and spirituality, which purport to knowledge of something beyond the senses, beyond logic, beyond rationalism, essential to a person’s … ummm … actualization?

    Mohjho: I’m wondering if being atheist means that you have no concept of spirituality?

    What is your concept of spirituality?

  • Bliffle

    Well, Pete, I admire your persistence in sticking with this issue, but I’m afraid that the tangle of suggestion, hope, dream and bullheadedness makes it impossible to deal with. There are two levels of shifting responsibility involved: first, the faithists shift the god-proof responsibility from themselves to others, thus creating the whole idea of “atheism”. As if “atheists” are the odd ducks, as if it is their burden to justify themselves. Second, they make it the “atheists” responsibility to prove this or that about themselves, like whether or not they cling to one of those tenuous “belief” systems. It’s a good trick if you can get away with it. But it is just a trick.

  • Aaron

    For myself, post #98 hits it on the head.

    Someone asking me: “Do you believe in God?”

    is roughly equivalent to the question:

    “Does the color red smell like 7+6?”

    It is an illogical and meaningless question, asked from a frame of mind which assumes a reality that (to my mindset) doesn’t exist.

    I’ve always thought rationalizing belief in God with “proof” does cheapen the concept of faith as a human experience. I seems similar to the question “How do you know your mother loves you?” Sure there is evidence, but really, don’t you just *know* (or don’t as the case may be)? It’s that indescribable feeling – a feeling I’ve never in my life had about God’s existence.

    Well anyway… thats what I believe. ;)

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    So you’ll be a faithist then, Aaron?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I seems similar to the question “How do you know your mother loves you?” Sure there is evidence, but really, don’t you just *know* (or don’t as the case may be)?

    I don’t know. Perhaps people whose mothers DON’T love them still think they just *know*. Besides–the whole reason we search for evidence on the God issue is because human emotional reactions aren’t quite trustworthy.

  • http://www.williamkwolfrum.com William K. Wolfrum

    Excellent stuff.

    My favorite quote about the “Atheism is a religion” BS is:

    “Atheism is a religion is like not coleecting stamps is a hobby.”

    –WKW

  • nugget

    you guys are talking in circles. It’s mildly entertaining to read.

    You either believe in God or you don’t. It really IS that simple.

    also, most Faithists are agnostic by principle. A thinking Faithist will compliantly admit that their is no scientific proof for the object of worship.

    A Faithist cannot be scientifically dishonest. I accept and love all science. True science yields truth. Science cannot refute truth or vice versa. It can only disprove false and “religious” doctrine based on assertions on that which can be physically observed.

    Science is one of the great tools of God. Science was created by
    God. Any man that observes the cosmos is observing the great creation.

    But what do I know??? nothing. I never claimed to. I’m not making assertions. I believe that God exists for subjective and emotional reasons.

    Oh, and, I like how you guys reword “belief”. A “working conclusion” hahaahaha. funny stuff. “working conclusion.” nice one.

  • nugget

    also: of course Atheism is not a religion. This “defense” against such a claim is just as delusional and strange as anyone who truly believe Atheism is indoctrinated.

    Either way, disbelief is belief, even if it IS based on a “lack of evidence.” Your “working conclusion” is still a belief.

    Why is that hard to understand?

  • sr

    Comment on this comment.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    It’s not hard to understand, nugget. What doesn’t make sense is your implication that any belief at all is a “religious” belief. I never said atheists were nihilists. They just aren’t practicing a religion by not believing in god.

  • nugget

    What doesn’t make sense is your implication that any belief at all is a “religious” belief.

    I think you’re misreading my post. Most people understand that Atheists are not practicing a “religion” by not believing in God, but they ARE practicing belief. They are practicing a Faith, not a religion. Yes I agree. Now you and Shark must admit that you are Faithists. You DO have Faith. Your “temporary working conclusion” is rooted in a belief or preference for that conclusion versus OTHER conclusions likewise with a lack of evidence.

    Atheists hate the word “believe” because:

    a) they hate the connotations and stereotypes that flood the mind when it hits the ear. Worst-case generalizations do not aid in your understanding of anything. I’d suggest you pay attention to thinking Faithists, not the crazy ones.

    b) they think it does not apply to them.

    Agnostics have it right because ANY conclusion, whether it’s temporary or working is NOT based on any proof. It’s based on a LACK of proof. Therefore you cannot make a conclusion. The rhetoric swallows itself.

    more breaking info: I’m an agnostic who just happens to believe in God. An agnostic cannot say for sure whether or not God exists, so I don’t, but I will say that I believe in God. There IS a difference.

    Pete, you are confused with the semantics here. People say “Atheism is a religion” because atheists typically havn’t thought too much about the implications of their often dogmatic assertions. I think you took the stab literally and at face value, so you felt the need to defend your philosophy. This is understandable and I don’t blame you. Extremely religious people are guilty of the same thing. They want to prove that God does exist by trying desperately to make him a physical reality. They crave the miraculous to justify their beliefs. In reality, they are sticking it to detractors and possible threats.

    Faith is tricky. On the surface it can reek of lackluster philosophy, one that has been ill-conceived and created out of mere convenience. Faith in principle, however, does not negate curiosity. A person with Faith can be just as curious as the most restless atheist objectivist.

    Again, the difference is almost too simple. You either believe in God or you do not. You cannot say that you’ve reached a “temporary working conclusion..” That’s a classic oxymoron.

    “temporary conclusion” = hardly conclusive.
    Case in point. You don’t believe in God and that’s ok. I do. Physical evidence has absolutely nothing to do with it.

  • george

    Sorry, Rev. Bill. A newborn out of the womb is not practicing the religion of atheism – he is simply nonreligious. And there’s no reason this nonreligiousness can’t continue into his adult life.

    Indeed, not collecting stamps is not a hobby, not playing hockey is not a sport and not practicing a religion is not a religion.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Nugget, first off, I never said anything about a “temporary working conclusion”. You’re confusing me with another commenter on this thread.

    I don’t think most atheists have a problem with the word “belief”. To the contrary, since atheism is the belief that there’s no god. What many if not most may balk at is the term “faith”.

    The two cannot be conflated. Faith is a type of belief, but belif is not the same thing as faith. If it is, then the whole concept of religion is meaningless (even to the believers).

    If I believe that the Bears will humiliate the Rams on Monday night, is that the same thing as saying that I believe in a supernatural being who created all life and, indeed, all of existence? I hope not, for your sake.

    It’s also not true that believing in god and not believing in god rest on the same burden of truth. An atheist does not need to resort to supernatural arguments to get to his or her point of belief. The lack of evidence in the existence of god is enough. A religious person may acknowledge that there is no verifiable evidence for the existence of god but believes nonetheless. That is the definition of faith.

    As a person claiming the existence of a supernatural being, the burden is on you to prove that he exists. It’s not my job to prove that he doesn’t. It’s as if I told you that all rainbows were actually made of Skittles. If you told me you didn’t believe that, it would be bizarre for me to say that your position is as tenuous as mine.

    Faith is a powerful and, for some people, wonderful thing. It’s not to be mocked and denigrated by comparing it to atheism. Faith is, by definition, a positive and transcendent belief. Atheism may be about a lot of things, but transcendence isn’t one of them.

  • nugget

    Faith is a type of belief, but belif is not the same thing as faith.

    Very true. This only serves the crux of my rants. Perhaps my my previous strawman should have been Shark. Shark clearly represents the atheist who is mostly reactionary. His emotions and hurtful experiences burden his clarity. He wishes only to smear those he sees as a threat.

    As a person claiming the existence of a supernatural being

    spare me. I think I’ve covered this. I havn’t claimed a thing. The burden of proof does not exist. That’s my whole point. Reread the last sentence in #110.

    Faith is a powerful and, for some people, wonderful thing. It’s not to be mocked and denigrated by comparing it to atheism. Faith is, by definition, a positive and transcendent belief. Atheism may be about a lot of things, but transcendence isn’t one of them.

    This is an excellent point. Please elaborate.

  • nugget

    Is it safe to say, Pete, that a belief in God is purely a subjective, emotional decision? I think we can agree on this.

  • nugget

    *add “or disbelief” in my last comment.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Faith is a subjective thing. The disbelief in god, for many atheists, is not. It’s based on the lack of objective evidence in favor of the existence of god.

    The emotions surrounding the theism/atheism debate really run the gamut. For some believers, rationality plays a big role in their religious belief. For some atheists, emotion helps inform their beliefs.

    I have been using the scientific atheism as my base point in these comments, but the point of my article is that this is only one way in which atheism is expressed.

    My point about transcendence is perhaps just a restating of my original thesis. Religion, in almost all cases, is about transcendence—whether of the earthly realm or of the trappings of the physical body. Atheism rarely is. In fact, atheists tend to believe that transcendence in a religious sense is not possible or desirable.

  • nugget

    The disbelief in god, for many atheists, is not. It’s based on the lack of objective evidence in favor of the existence of god.

    That’s only half true, because your disbelief takes root in so many subjective things. Belief, we agree, is not irrational, and because it is a very natural part of our existence, objective AND subjective stimuli are what mold our beliefs.

    You’d be dishonest if you said subjective experiences did not aid your conclusion. It’s not just based on a lack of physical evidence. It’s based on a lack of subjective evidence as well. I believe my dog behaves the way he does for objective and subjective reasons. I believe that there is extraterrestral life based on objective and subjective reasons.

    Astrophysicists, neurologists, psychiatrists, etc. with identical merited credentials as professionals may completely disagree on several salient issues. Who should we believe?? The scientist! ok they’re all scientists. We have a problem. We must believe one or the other. We must make a working conclusion based on just evidence? no, because you will never invest as much time and energy as either scientist in that field. Hell, you just read it in Time Magazine and will forget it in a week. Thus, you are forced to make a conclusion steeped in a juxtaposition of objective and subjective reasoning. We do this everyday.

  • nugget

    In fact, atheists tend to believe that transcendence in a religious sense is not possible or desirable.

    I think you said it for me.

    The real problem with MOST Atheists is this: they think they are being entirely objective and that everyone else is utilizing objectivity and rationality. This is NOT true for the reasons I have explained. I do not claim that God exists in physics. I state that I believe that he/she/it (something meta, outside of time, space, and logic) created all this for reasons beyond comprehension. I believe this for subjective reasons, just like atheists also believe that there is no such “God” for subjective reasons.

    To claim otherwise is like saying you’re not biased when you watch the news. Foxnews says the war is hunky dory. CNN says babies are dying. Are you going to go make the trek to Iraq to find out for yourself? That would be the objective thing to do. Feelings, instincts, hopes and fears will play a part in your final decision.

    I repeat: The burden of proof is superfluous! it’s a mere distraction!

  • nugget

    second paragraph, first sentence I misspoke.

    Atheist think that everyone else is NOT utilizing objectivity.

  • Nelson

    The commentors from the Top 100 guitarists think everyone here is wasting their time.

    HA-HA!

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    I don’t think you’re in a position to say how objective or subjective the basis for my belief is. If you believe in a supernatural being who created existence “for reasons beyond comprehension”, it’s not subjective for me to be skeptical.

    You’re the one with the fantastical claim and, objectively, such a claim should be considered to be erroneous unless proven otherwise. It’s not my responsibility to prove that the observable world is, in fact, the observable world.

    But, as you point out, your god exists above and beyond the strictures of objectivity and the concept of objective proof doesn’t make sense in your mind when talking about him. Fine. That’s a hallmark of religious faith. It’s your right to subscribe to such beliefs. What is intellectually dishonest is to claim that people who do not believe in your mystical extrasensory fourth dimension super being are somehow taking the same leap of faith that you are. It’s just not true.

    I will agree that it’s nonsensical to argue over which approach is “better”. One thing we can agree on, however, is that they’re very different. That was the point of my article. Religion and atheism are two entirely separate things. I would never argue that religious people do not or cannot think in the realm of objectivity. But there is nothing objective about religious faith itself.

    I think only a true solipsist would buy into your argument that objectivity means only believing things you have experienced directly. Truly, there is no such thing as perfect objectivity, since even our own brains can trick us into seeing things that aren’t there. That doesn’t mean you’re being subjective when you belive anything about which you have no direct experience.

    Have you ever been to Cairo? Let’s say no. Do you believe it exists, though, in a country called Egypt beside a river called the Nile? I hope you do. Now, you’re going to base your belief on a number of factors. You’ve certainly seen Cairo on TV. You have read about it in books. Perhaps you personally know someone who has been there or even lived there.

    You believe Cairo exists because of the concurrence of numerous eyewitness accounts (coupled with the complete absence of claims that Cairo is a myth) and, critically, because you know that if you could scratch together the cash, you could in fact go there and prove it to yourself, objectively, as it were.

    It would be not just unusual but outright objectionable to compare this kind of “faith” in the existence of Cairo with a religious faith in god. If they truly are the same thing, than what you pray to is so utterly banal as to be worthless—even by your own standards.

    Trust or belief in the scientific method is no different. It has a bias toward objectivity built into it. No finding is accepted by the scientific community unless it can be reproduced by other scientists conducting the same experiment. The recent fate of the poor Korean cloning specialist is testament to what happens when your research is fudged.

    Scientific conclusions are always being challenged and revised. This is how objectivity works. The scientists who merit the public’s trust are those who are open to challenge and revision, and who have as their end goal a greater scientific understanding of what they are studying.

    You can argue that it’s impossible to know who to trust, and maybe you’re right to a point. But if you push too far, you run into Occam’s Razor. Either science is a grand conspiracy of subjectivity masquerading as objectivity, or it’s what it appears to be: a good faith effort to increase understanding through the pooling of knowledge.

  • nugget

    You’re the one with the fantastical claim and, objectively, such a claim should be considered to be erroneous unless proven otherwise.

    not true. I have no objective claim. I have a belief. I have belabored this point. Subjectively, it is not to be considered “erroneous” because that would be absurd.

    Truly, there is no such thing as perfect objectivity, since even our own brains can trick us into seeing things that aren’t there. That doesn’t mean you’re being subjective when you belive anything about which you have no direct experience.

    That’s fair. I won’t argue this point.

    Either science is a grand conspiracy of subjectivity masquerading as objectivity, or it’s what it appears to be: a good faith effort to increase understanding through the pooling of knowledge.

    It’s not that simple. It’s both. Science faces the same accursed duality as any other field because it is run by men who are prone to mistakes. That’s not to say science is invaluable.

    Albeit I don’t know how to make it more clear to you that I am not making an objective claim when I talk about a “mystical extrasensory fourth dimension super being.” It’s a decision based on SUBJECTIVE experience. I don’t see a tree and think “hmmm, I wonder how that got there? I guess God did it cause how else???” Sorry, but this is your delusion about thinking Faithists. The origin of species, the evolution of man, the physics of Earth’s orbit, and anything the Hubble telescope can pick up has NOTHING to do with my subjective Faith. You could claim that Sodom was destroyed by natural causes, the world flood never happened, man evolved, and the Bible was written by a prostitute and I would laugh. It doesn’t shake my purely subjective resolve that God probably exists. For the last time, I’m not making any claim.

    You’re claiming that I’m making an objective claim. You are consistantly misrepresenting what I’m saying.

    Let me add that the minute you realize someone has Faith in a sky daddy, any credibility you might have warranted them previous to this knowledge is defenestrated. I can deduce this from the manner in which you speak about people of Faith in your previous post.

    If you post again, are you going to repeat that I’m making a claim that has no evidence to support it? Do you still think that’s what we’re arguing about??

  • nugget

    Furthermore. Why don’t you elaborate a little more about what you think of people with a Faith in a benevolent God? Do you think all the brilliant artists, doctors, lawyers, musicians of Faith just had a stupid switch??

    How can a man win a Supreme court case, perform open heart surgery, paint the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, write the Mass in B minor, the Brandenburg Concertos, pioneer movements in philosophy with a stupid “Faith” switch? I guess Michelangelo was missing some objectivity in his statue of David. Perhaps a disbelief in a silly God would have made up for all those mistakes.

    Finally, you said this: What is intellectually dishonest is to claim that people who do not believe in your mystical extrasensory fourth dimension super being are somehow taking the same leap of faith that you are. It’s just not true.

    Not the exact same one, just a different one.

    Someone says, “I don’t have any evidence that God exists, however I choose to believe that he does.

    You say, “I don’t have any evidence that God exists, thus I choose not to believe that he does.”

    Because the positive belief exists, the equally relevant negative belief must exist.

    If I believe that there are blue, asexual aliens who communicate by emitting a variety of odors, then you are challenged to believe or disbelieve. Objectivity plays no part because neither of us have proof. If you say you don’t believe these aliens exist, that’s fine. But it’s pointless to argue.

    Ridiculous? perhaps. Does the leap of faith exist on both sides? Of course it does. Your position is that it sucks to be in a position of believing or disbelieving because someone else believed first. you feel that it’s unfair.

    understandable, but it has nothing to do with you being more objective or rational. Nothing.

  • nugget

    This is my last comment until I hear from you again.

    Of course Atheism isn’t a religion. Of course. This is obvious.

    You believe God does not exist. You were forced into such a conclusion because someone said, not claimed or asserted, but said that they believed. Sucks for you? Well I dunno. I’m not here to give any guilt trips.

    I want you to be honest, Pete. You disbelieve in God for subjective reasons, not for objective reasons. Just be honest and say that. You can’t depend on evidence or a lack thereof for a conclusion to a subjective matter. I have dressed this point up in a neon jumpsuit for you to see. Belief and disbelief in God is subjective.

    I think what you mean to say is this, “it’s irresponsible for someone to believe in something they cannot see. It causes problems, controversy, and some people can’t handle such implications”

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Nugget, you obviously haven’t read my original post or you wouldn’t accuse me of believing religious people have a “stupid switch” or any of the other things you rashly accuse me of.

    In your first comment, you make my point for me. Religious faith is a subjective, personal thing. It is self evidently very different from atheism. That’s my point.

    Here’s the duality you propose: Someone says, “I don’t have any evidence that God exists, however I choose to believe that he does.

    You say, “I don’t have any evidence that God exists, thus I choose not to believe that he does.”

    There is a major difference here and it hinges on a single word. In proposition 1, you appropriately use the word “however”. In prop. 2 you use the word “thus”. I think the second sentence would be fine without “choose not to”, but you basically have it right.

    Prop 1 is a choice to believe something that runs contrary to the evidence. Prop 2 is allowing your belief to be informed by the evidence. Two strikingly different things.

    I never said anything about one position being right or wrong. I never said it “sucks” to have subjective beliefs. In fact, in my post, I credit religion with a critical role in building our civilization. I would appreciate if you wouldn’t put words in my mouth and I would especially appreciate it if you wouldn’t radically misrepresent my views in doing so.

    On the objective/subjective front: Do you believe that God actually exists? If so, then he must objectively exist. You can have whatever subjective belief you want, but you’re still making a claim. And I can objectively examine your subjective belief and try to determine if what you believe to be true is, in fact, true. There’s no contradiction there. You certainly don’t have to care what I think, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept what you think.

  • nugget

    Prop 1 is a choice to believe something that runs contrary to the evidence.

    no, it doesn’t. Proposition 1 doesn’t depend on evidence. It depends on feelings, emotions, instincts, and the inexplicable.

    On the objective/subjective front: Do you believe that God actually exists?

    yes.

    If so, then he must objectively exist. You can have whatever subjective belief you want, but you’re still making a claim.

    This is simply not true. I never said that I had proof. That is what your accusation hinges upon. If I said that I did have evidence, then yes, I would be making a claim, but I’m not. I believe God exists in all realms, but I never said that I could prove this. You are confusing “belief” with scientific theory.

  • nugget

    you are also confusing this statement,

    Belief and disbelief in God is subjective.,

    with your own version of how I believe God exists. I never said anything about the subjectivity or objectivity of God. I was talking about the belief and man’s approach to that belief.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    You believe god actually exists, which means he objectively exists even if you base this belief on no objective criteria. Now, I would be in no position to examine your subjective reasons for believing in god. I can, however, form a belief based on objective criteria for or against the objective existence of god.

    I’m not talking about proof. Nobody can currently prove or disprove the existence of god. Nor does anyone have any inherent right to challenge your subjective understanding of god.

    I can, however, examine the belief that god objectively exists as a real being in the real universe and form a judgement on that claim based upon the observable, verifiable evidence available to me.

    The difference between the two approaches to truth and reality is vast. Apples and oranges, as it were. And that was the point of my original post. Religion and atheism are not comparable. They’re two (to simplify) vastly different ways of looking at the world.

  • Leslie Bohn

    The question of God’s existence is a completely objective one: Either there is or there isn’t.

    Dawkins says it better than I:

    The presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference. God could clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science. Even the infamous Templeton Foundation recognized that God is a scientific hypothesis – by funding double-blind trials to test whether remote prayer would speed the recovery of heart patients.

    Treating these questions as though they are different from any other scientific questions is nonsense.

    Either Jesus rose from the dead, or he didn’t. Either Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse or he didn’t.

    Purely objective, purely scientific questions.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Agreed, but that misses the point. People who believe in god do so because of subjective factors. This is not usually true for athiests. Hence my point.

    The actuality of god’s existence is an unknown, objectively speaking.

  • nugget

    I can, however, form a belief based on objective criteria for or against the objective existence of god.

    yes, but you have to base that on proof or the lack thereof. Furthermore, you’re throwing in the “objective existence of God” as a red herring. We’ve been talking about the nature of belief, not the nature of or how I believe he exists.

    People who believe in god do so because of subjective factors. This is not usually true for athiests.

    You are wrong. You disbelieve in God for subjective reasons. If you disbelieve in aliens, you do so because someone put the idea of such into existence. It is impossible not to conclude something. Moreover, you must conclude based on a conglomeration of philosophical probabilities, NOT science because there IS no proof to back up if someone made an actual scientific claim. Luckily, no one is. It’s mere conjecture. Objectivity plays no part!!!!

    You make this point: If I subjectively believe in something that is objective, then I’m making an objective claim. This is not true. I never claimed to have evidence. I am not saying that God definitely exists.

    As long as my belief is subjective, there is no objective dishonesty. The “belief” is where it stops. You can’t weasel your way into saying that I’m making an objective claim when I am not.

    It will, however, be interesting to watch you try.

  • Leslie Bohn

    Of course, having a subjective belief (aka an “opinion”) about a question that is purely objective is completely useless.

    One may feel that 2 plus 2 is 4, or that the cure for cancer is lots and lots of gin, but such an opinion has nothing to do with the real answers.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Many atheists disbelieve in god for objective reasons. That is, not only is there no objective proof for god’s existence; there are verifiable scientific explanations for things explained differently in the various holy texts. That said, as much as you may not want to concede this point, the utter lack of evidence in favor of a proposition is legitimate grounds for doubt. Particularly when the claim touches on the supernatural. Now, I never said it’s conclusive, but it’s grounds for doubt nonetheless.

    You make this point: If I subjectively believe in something that is objective, then I’m making an objective claim.

    I never made that point. What I said was this: if you believe in the actual existence of god as a real being in the universe (which you do, as you said) then I can look at that claim and apply a scientific test to it. That does not mean I should assail the tenets of your belief or disparage your subjective understanding of god. Which I didn’t.

    Your belief in a real god is either true or not. Whether or not you arrived at your conclusion using objective methods, your claim is testable using objective methods. This is not to say that they will be fruitful, but such methods are a legitimate approach to determining whether a certain claim about the world is true or false. That’s it.

    I never accused you of any kind of dishonesty or anything of the sort. I think I’ve been perfectly polite and level-headed. I certainly never claimed that you said you had evidence or said that god definitely exists. These are all words you have put into my mouth.

    For the last time, the point that I’m making is that your approach to god is not based on evidence or proof; it’s based on faith. For most atheists this is not true. That’s the difference and that’s why atheism is not a religion.

  • nugget

    Pete: I’ll get to your post tomorrow.

    Leslie said: One may feel that 2 plus 2 is 4, or that the cure for cancer is lots and lots of gin, but such an opinion has nothing to do with the real answers.

    haha. what a cheap shot. This is hardly analogous.

    I could say to you, “One may feel that they are in love, but such is an opinion and has nothing to do with real answers.”

    Nice.

  • Leslie Bohn

    On the contrary, my examples are exactly analagous, as they are objective questions of science, like “Is there a god who created everything or not?’ or “Why do humans live on land rather than swim?” or “What does pi equal?”

    Your question is purely subjective, and as such one’s feelings about the answer are indeed valid. Seems like a pretty obvious difference between your example and mine.

  • nugget

    Leslie: Perhaps “analogous” isn’t the word. Relevant?? I’m saying you swept in and wrongly assume that someone somewhere said that God wasn’t a physical God. We are beyond this point. We’re talking about the nature of our beliefs and how we reached them. We’re not asking for a definition of objectivity. Your comments aren’t particularly relevant. We understand this and you’re not illuminating anything. That’s all.

    Pete: As far as I can gather, there is one principle difference between us that transcends everything else, and that is what method of experimentation we value.

    We have come to different conclusions, but have used similar methods to get there. I’m trying to find common ground here, so bear with me. Can you agree that you came to a belief that God probably does not exist not only on a lack of objective evidence, but on a few subjective reasons as well?

    I reached such a belief only on subjective reasoning. Are you basing your belief a bit more on physical evidence than I am? Yes. Are you using objective reasoning more than subjective reasoning? Yes.

    I tend to value the subjective side of life. I believe this is the spice of life. I do great on standardized tests, I improvise and compose music, I read incessantly, and I have many other hobbies, most of which include intellectual pursuits.

    But I value that which I do not understand. I do not wish to control it.

    Let me revert to your Cairo metaphor. You and I both conclude that Cairo exists. Let’s say that you and I have never been there. The possibility to visit Cairo is very real, BUT if you do not, then you are forced to believe second-hand that Cairo is a real place. Even television does not make it a realization.

    The same goes for the nuts and bolts in your car. The possibility to check that they are all there at all times exists, but only if you check them will you have sufficient evidence. You believe that the possibility to test such things negates the fact that you are reaching that conclusion by means subjective. You are only assuming these things to be true because you could theoretically test them. My point is, yes, you could. But you don’t. You’re not testing them. There are so many things that you’re not testing. You assume them to be true. Why? Gut instinct. One could say, “Well surely these things are true, because there is so much evidence that says that they are.” This is mostly an objective response, but it is also based on what you feel to be true.

    It is not in the nature of man to go around analyzing data like cyborgs. We think, rationalize, but we also feel and hope. You cannot escape this burden even if you tried. Just like you can’t escape your own bias when it comes to journalism or politics, and you cannot escape your natural inclination to approach such a decision as to whether or not there is a God.

  • Leslie Bohn

    Mr. Nugget:

    Sorry, but a definition of objectivity is exactly what you need if you think your analogy was equivalent to mine. Also if you believe your car-maintenance questions are “partly subjective.”

    Why do I “assume” that the nuts and bolts in my car exist? Because my car works.
    Gut instinct has nothing to do with it. You just keep insisting that atheists are using subjective reasoning because you are. I’m not. Neither is Mr. Blackwell, from what I read.

    I agree that you’re not making an objective claim about the existence of gods. And since it’s an objective question, I ask why should anyone pay attention to your subjective opinion on the matter?

    As for I’m saying you swept in and wrongly assume that someone somewhere said that God wasn’t a physical God. I just don’t have a clue what you’re talking about here. I made no such assumption — quite the opposite. I am talking specifically about a physical entity that created and cares about the universe.

    I too value the mysteries and uncertainties of the wondrous universe. I’m not sure how I could “control” them, but I know that just assuming there’s a god who does control them is no way to delve into them any further.

  • nugget

    Leslie: A car can work without you knowing everything about it. A car can run with a plethora of difficiencies of which you know nothing about. It’s not so simple as “cause it works.”

    but I know that just assuming there’s a god who does control them is no way to delve into them any further.

    nice characterization of thousands of years of theological debate, discourse, theorems, and honest conjecture. It’s no question what you believe, but try to be a little more fair and respectful. Dogma does not equate “just assuming there’s a God.”

  • Nancy

    Alls I can say is, thank God (or whatever) I don’t have to know how a car works, or I’d be up a creek! Actually that goes for most technology in my life…. ;T

  • Local mechanic

    “A car can work without you knowing everything about it.”

    Yes, but a car can’t work without anyone knowing everything about it.

    Rather than waste time in this philosophical circle jerk of semantics where no one is going to change their mind, why not use your time more productively and actually accomplish something? You could have said, “Nuh-huh” and gotten the same results.

    Honestly, no one cares what you believe, including God and its many definitions.

  • frank

    hey local mechanic,
    philosophical circle jerk……, I like that.
    I think it’s just a bunch of kids out here trying their hand on an intellectual macho game of who is right, who’s the smartest. haven’t read anything on here that relates to real life. That’s too bad, really, but hey they’re kids…..I hope.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    How clever and adult of you, frank.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~plutarch/atheism.html Zack

    I make similar arguments here:

  • http://tofangsazan-the.blogspot.com/ media_lush

    This is a pretty naive discourse and not really worthy of any considered comment….which in itself is a delightful contradiction.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Pete, I hope you don’t mind that I just put this on Digg and Reddit. Surprised that it wasn’t already there. The article is excellent, and it has drawn the most interesting set of comments I’ve ever seen here. Sorry I missed out until today.

  • Les Slater

    Nugget, I love ya. With believers like you we don’t need atheists. At least not for long. And I believe your beliefs are primarily derived through objective reasoning. The belief in God that you claim is not even absolute, you do hold out that God may not actually exist. You have boxed yourself into a very small corner.

  • Andreas

    I think the problem here is the interpretation of the word “religion”.

    The term “religion” just means that a group of people are bound together by similar beliefs or a way of thinking. Some people are bound by their belief in one or more gods (e.g. Christianity and Islam), others by their way of life (e.g. Buddhism), and others again by their belief in the randomness of our existence (e.g. Atheism).

    By saying atheism is no religion you are saying that atheism is not something that binds people together in a belief.

    But believing in “nothing” is still a belief! Or perhaps you suggest that atheism is no belief because it is “proven to be right”? Are you saying that there is no God is a fact, not a belief? Even though I share your conviction, what gives us the right to claim our way of seeing things is the one and only correct way? Couldn’t Christians also say that the existence of God is a fact, not a belief? Or Buddhists that the Four Noble Truths are fact, not belief?

    If atheists take the right to deny that their beliefs are a religion then what should stop Christians, Muslim, Buddhists, Hindus and Taoists to do the same? All of us think of our beliefs as facts.

    So, if we agree that Atheism is a belief in certain concepts (or the absence of such) then it is a religion just as all the other religions are: people are bound together by their beliefs.

  • Les Slater

    I am an atheist, a communist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist and a Hegelian.

    Atheism can be no more than transitory, it has a built-in contradiction which is the seed of its own destruction. It depends for its very existence on God, or at least a belief in God. If there never were a God or at least a belief in Him, there never would have been an atheism either.

    As is evidenced in Nugget, there is a trend toward defending God, or a supreme being, on the very narrowest of grounds. Not only has he boxed himself into a very small corner, but he brings God with him.

    As God withers, so will atheism.

  • duane

    #136: As far as I can gather, there is one principle difference between us that transcends everything else, and that is what method of experimentation we value. We have come to different conclusions, but have used similar methods to get there.

    I hope you’re not as confused as your writing.

    #147: But believing in “nothing” is still a belief!

    I skipped dinner last night, but that was still a meal. Broiled nothing, mashed nothing on the side, a good bottle of nothing, and for dessert, oven-warmed nothing with a heap of nothing on top … yummm.

    #148: Atheism … depends for its very existence on God, or at least a belief in God.

    And silence depends on the existence of noise, or at least a belief in noise … yeah … that makes sense ….

  • Les Slater

    “And silence depends on the existence of noise, or at least a belief in noise … yeah … that makes sense ….”

    This is nothing more than a reciprocal relationship. There is only one phenomenon, sound, not two distinct realities. Silence and noise are just quantitative differences of sound levels. It cannot be true that as one withers, so the other.

    Atheism is not a quantitative difference in the belief in God. Atheism stands in opposition to God, because of God, and the two will wither together.

  • troll

    Les – you give too much away…keeping things concrete yields::

    atheists stand in opposition to faithists because of their use of the concept of ‘God’…when faithists back off so will the atheists

    also – your idea of withering isn’t clear to me…what is it if not behavior that is quantifiable – ?

  • Les Slater

    “Les – you give too much away…”

    How so?

    “atheists stand in opposition to faithists because of their use of the concept of ‘God’…when faithists back off so will the atheists”

    What do you mean when you say ‘their use of the concept of God’? It seems you only object to, and therefore, your only criticism of religion, is in their ‘use’ of their concept of God. The essence of what you’re saying is that atheism is only a response to the abuse of faith. But it is only the fact of faith that is necessary for atheism to arise. The implication of your proposition is that quiet faith and quiet atheism could exist side by side, forever.

    This is a very complicated issue. First, you have to realize God is real, at least insofar as God is a creation of man, He has an objective reality. His direct and indirect agents have real power.

    The ethereal God has no objective manifestation, He cannot be what motivates men’s behavior, since He does not exist. His real existence is only a reflection of real social relations in a class-divided society.

    I like Nugget’s take on God because he is essentially making Him irrelevant. More and more people will question a legal finding when it concludes an ‘Act of God’. They are inclined to look behind the curtain to see where the real responsibility lies.

  • troll

    what you give away is a clear meaning what ‘is’ is…it might help me understand if you would give a few examples of things that are ‘unreal’ in the sense that you use the word ‘real’ to describe ‘God’

    *What do you mean when you say ‘their use of the concept of God’? *

    as in people using the concept to construct and justify those legal findings and ethical prescriptions for behavior

    *your only criticism of religion, is in their ‘use’ of their concept of God.*

    replace ‘religion’ with ‘the religious’ and that’s correct

    *The implication of your proposition is that quiet faith and quiet atheism could exist side by side, forever.*

    what principle requires that atheists and faithist cannot do so – ?

    the concepts are not actors independent of faithists and atheists…yield to your use of words and what isn’t is

  • Les Slater

    “…what you give away is a clear meaning what ‘is’ is…it might help me understand if you would give a few examples of things that are ‘unreal’ in the sense that you use the word ‘real’ to describe ‘God’”

    I am a materialist in the strict philosophical sense of the word. I am not an idealist or a dualist. Hence, there is no meaning to ‘unreal’, except as a reflection of the real. What many may describe as unreal has an objective reality.

    When I talk of a real God, I am referring to those reflections of social relations that are labeled God.

    *What do you mean when you say ‘their use of the concept of God’? *

    “as in people using the concept to construct and justify those legal findings and ethical prescriptions for behavior”

    Sure, but the point I am trying to make is that those actions, ultimately, are based on the social relations that give rise the ‘legal and ethical’ prescriptions, the same relations that give rise to God. The defenders of particular social relations may use the projected God as a justification for those very same social relations. Who’s behind the curtain?

    *The implication of your proposition is that quiet faith and quiet atheism could exist side by side, forever.*

    “what principle requires that atheists and faithist cannot do so – ?”

    The point I am making by using nugget as an example of a trend to defend God from the narrowest of perspectives is that it is indeed a trend. The narrowness of these defenses is getting narrower. There is less belief in the literal. The God that we all grew up with is being relegated to a fairy tale. God is withering. When God is gone then what reason for atheists?

    “the concepts are not actors independent of faithists and atheists…yield to your use of words and what isn’t is”

    The actors take part in the social relations and concepts are reflections of those social relations.

  • troll

    agreed – one can examine concepts – speculate about the social relations that they reflect – and attempt trend prediction

  • nugget

    sorry I’ve been gone for this long.

    Let me list some dictums that I believe ring true to the thinking person of Faith.

    1. MOST atheists are purely reactionary against the regional “God.”

    2. Many atheists pretend to think they reached such a conclusion by a mere “lack of physical evidence.”

    3. All atheists reach their conclusion that God does not exist by means of subjective emotional and indistinguishable reasons. Perhaps they dislike Christians, had a bad home life, had a bad experience with religion, hates the nature of men and the fact that a God would allow murder, rape, etc.

    4. Atheists are very dishonest about my last point. They like to pretend like they are being good objective scientists by simplifying the pretenses of their beliefs.

    5. Atheists, by default, are then inclined to believe that they are particularly more objective than 95% of Earth’s population. The rest of man reaches conclusions with irrational and hopeful predispositions.

  • nugget

    There is less belief in the literal. The God that we all grew up with is being relegated to a fairy tale. God is withering.

    some sweeping unrelated comments.

    You misunderstand. I still believe and hope that my car’s parts are in working order every time I get in and turn the key. The possibility to check every corner of my engine is real, but that’s not what my Faith depends on. My Faith depends on the fact that I don’t and will not look at my engine. Yes the possibility to do such is in my hands. But I dont. It has thus turned from something real into something very unreal. That’s how people operate. We don’t care much for physical evidence. We care about love, saving face, keeping up a reputation, justice, sex, getting what we want, feeling loved, respected, and understood. We are preoccupied with self-defense and living, not knowledge. Knowledge is a means for survival and truth. (these two are inextricably linked)

  • Leslie Bohn

    All of your foolish, insulting dicta are wrong. Each has been discussed at length here. Won’t waste pixels refuting them again. You’re completely unable to approach any of these issues outside of your realm of understanding. You are “projecting.”

    Because you don’t use reason with respect to these issues, you can’t even imagine others doing so, and insist they’re not.
    It’s also a pretty good bet that generalizing about a group of people is almost always wrong. You won’t see me spouting off about “faithists” and what “they” believe.

    Further, if you actually did any reading in philosophy or comparitive religion, you’d know how silly your “dicta” sound to people who have actually studied, pondered and done work in this area.

  • Les Slater

    nugget #157

    You are not convincing at all. You have more faith in the existence of Cairo than you do of God.

    Les

  • http://joelp.com Joel Pelletier

    It is my view that what all religions share are unique versions of the answers to the questions “why are we here, and is there more than what we see?”. This is a desire to know what is by definition unknowable (exstistential splitting of hairs aside – I know I DO EXIST, end of story). Each religion, faith, belief system (or WHATEVER) has concluded that they have THE answers to this (whatever that answer may be).

    As an atheist (I actually prefer the term Humanist), I accept that I do not know the answers to these questions, that neither I nor ANY OTHER human can ever know the answers, and that IT’S OK. I believe this is an essential part of any religion – THEY HAVE TO KNOW, and celebrate the fact that they do. Atheists have concluded (either consciously or at a gut level) that there are some questions (especially these) for which there cannot be answers, but that this does NOT make life less valuable or less worth living. In fact, it makes it more so, since it’s the only one we KNOW we’ll ever have. That is NOT a religion – it’s just reality.

    So, as Saint Rodney has asked, “can’t we all just get along?”

    However, as a Humanist, I celebrate humanity’s attempt to find these answers. We end of leaving quite a bit or science, art, achitecture, literature, philosophy, etc, behind in that search, which do help make life worth living.

    As far as the negative stuff religions have introduced throughout the eons, people would find plenty of other reasons to hate and kill each other if religion did not exist. We seem to be pretty good at this as well, which is also very HUMAN of us.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Or, perhaps, there are no answers to these questions.

    I often wonder, especially in flu season, whether human beings exist simply as nature’s most advanced method of transporting and propagating viruses. It sure seems to be what children are for.

  • sr

    If the existence of God/Creator was proven a fact tomorrow wouldn’t that put a cramp on life styles? No. An incovenance. Yes. Disrupt a multi-trillion dollar industry. Absolutely. We just cannot have God/Creator. Im not about to stop my rum consumption or anything else considered evil ways.

  • Les Slater

    Joel #160

    “why are we here, and is there more than what we see?”

    “As an atheist …, I accept that I do not know the answers to these questions, that neither I nor ANY OTHER human can ever know the answers…”

    Pete #161

    “Or, perhaps, there are no answers to these questions.”

    I’m an atheist and an optimist. I see no reason why these questions cannot be answered.

  • Les Slater

    sr #162

    “If the existence of God/Creator was proven a fact tomorrow…”

    So, you do not claim, or deny, the existence in God? If proven a fact, you wouldn’t have to change your behavior, just find a denomination that fit your lifestyle.

  • sr

    Les. What does a denomination have to do with anything concerning my comment. That you must agree would be a mute supisition.

  • Les Slater

    “We just cannot have God/Creator. Im not about to stop my rum consumption or anything else considered evil ways.”

    I am assuming that there is a denomination that does not strictly disapprove of a shot of rum to soothe the soul. What other evils? I am sure you could find a denomination to tolerate those too. If not, start one.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Let’s talk about awe and wonder for a second, kids. Two years ago, it took an event 10 hours to snuff out 300,000 lives. That is how fast the tsunami on Boxing Day moved.

    Afterwards, I searched the papers for any mention that there might be a force more powerful than the United States on the planet. Only one newspaper – one out of India – excoriated Man on his arrogance fo thinking that he was the master of the planet, when obbiously he was not.

    Plenty of others bitched “where was G-d?” etc., including more than a few clergymen.

    Fools, seeing thirty myriads of lives crushed out like ants under a roaring wave of destruction, did not know how to react to the occasional reminder of just how puny and unimportant we are.

    I return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

  • duane

    Let’s start a sea worshiping cult.

  • http://www.sosatan.org Rev. Michael S. Margolin

    HS,
    Atheism is not a religion but it is a belief, no more or less valid than any other belief and or religion.
    ISN
    Baphomet Rex 666
    The mad Poet Acbhb
    Rev. Michael S. Margolin

  • http://joelp.com Joel Pelletier

    Les #163:

    Just because there is no REASON for life, and for us to exist, does not prevent us from each individually searching for happiness, goals, validation and direction in THIS life (and learning to get along with one another, which is ETHICS). But the idea that there is some sort of universal instruction manual that answers these questions for everyone is trivial at best, arrogant at worst.

  • sr

    I only curious. All I wanted to know was if the existence of God/Creator was proven to be a fact would that put a cramp on your life style. And if so, why?

  • duane

    sr (#171), the answer is ‘yes,’ although “cramp” is not quite the right word for the effect it would have.

    Why? A complete upheaval of my perception of reality oughta be enough for a start. Are you asking if I would stop being a ‘sinner’? That all depends on the nature of the creator. I doubt that a creator worth his metasalt would hand down a bunch of silly rules. But that’s just me.

  • sr

    Duane. At least your perceptive and honest. No sir, Im not asking you to stop being a sinner. I sin enough just being me. Yes I do rant and rave, however Im not nor ever will be in a position of judgment. Of course without a God/Creator sin becomes erelivent. Then again what god do we speak of. The God of the bible or gods of one choosing? I will not comment concerning a creator with a bunch of silly rules because your focus is biblical in nature. I stand with my original comment. Thanks Duane for being truthful.

  • nugget

    anyone who thinks that they live by proof and proof alone is delusional.

    Someone prove to me that love exists.

    Someone prove to me that emotions physically exist. Give me the mathematical proofs. I’m not talking about colors and brain activity. I want to see the algorithms.

    This thread astonishes me.

    I will say that I couldn’t wait for my previous post to galvanize the lurking dissent. Just reelin’ em in baby. You can’t keep your eyes off of me.

  • nugget

    Joel P.:

    That’s an excellent comment. (160)

    However, you say this: I believe this is an essential part of any religion – THEY HAVE TO KNOW

    you believe wrong. anyone who understands the very basic precepts and axioms of Judaism, Christianity, or so many other religious doctrines is that it is not rooted in “knowledge” as we understand it. Does the tree of knowledge ring a bell?

    also this, So, as Saint Rodney has asked, “can’t we all just get along?”

    lol. Forgive me for seeming smug, but that’s an easy one. NO.

  • nugget

    Leslie Bohn:

    #158: I’ll paraphrase instead of copy and paste = “nu uh, I ain’t gonna waste my time. Yer wrong tho’. Peace.”

    Don’t waste my time with emotionally charged responses.

  • Leslie Bohn

    Dear nugget:

    You seem to just love to argue, and you do it very poorly, often resorting to silly analogies that you cling to even when it’s repeatedly pointed out that they’re hilariously inapt. You also don’t know what “dicta” are.

    It’s getting boring, because you just plain don’t understand half of what people post here, so I’m giving up.

    You just keep making comically wild generalizations and driving your magic car that runs on “gut instinct” and hope it gets you to Cairo.

  • http://joelp.com Joel Pelletier

    To Nugget #174:
    Yes, this thread astonishes me as well.

    You seem to missing the point entirely. I don’t need proof love exists – I know it does. I don’t require proof for everything to live my life, hence I don’t need to know if god exists to be ethical and kind, nor the “meaning of life,” who created it all, etc. It’s a common misconception amongst the secular science types that everything can be reduced to a math equation (it seems they may be simply projecting based on their personality type). My Atheism, which I call Humanism, is to me not just apathy over the whole “god” discussion, but a celebration of “the humanities”, which involve all creative endevours of the human race. Although science is part of this, so are the Arts, which rely on intuition, inspiration and other such intangibles. You can’t reduce Picasso or Beethoven to mathematical equations, and it would be as fruitless to try as it would be to try to “prove” god.

    It’s just as common for people of faith to think that, without knowing there’s a god, there would be no reason to be kind, ethical (they would probably prefer “moral”), etc. That says much more about them and their unspoken urges than it does me. I don’t WANT to kill anyone, steal anything, hurt anybody, etc (or even have sex with another man, for that matter, although if I did that would be OK). It’s the carrot vs. stick thing – do unto others because that is what you would want them to do to you, instead of obeying rules to avoid punishment (oh, that golden rule thing, imagine that? BTW, this was written and taught by many other theologies and philosphies centuries before Jesus is claimed to have said it, not a new idea, but Christians do like to take credit for it – whether they practice it or not).

    To sr #173:
    I keep seeing this question – “If I can prove god exists, would that change your mind?”

    Oh my…

    These hypotheticals are meaningless. The fact is you can’t. No one can. That’s why gods are metaphysical and supernatural by definition. If you could PROVE gods exist, then they would not be “gods”. And which god? Zeus? Allah? A loving forgiving god, or a vengeful terrible god? Do I get to choose?

    Put 10 “people of faith” in a room, ask them if god exists, and they would all say yes. Ask them which god, what he believes, and if everyone in the room is chosen to go to heaven, and less than 10 will leave the room alive.

    If a hypothetical gun was placed to my (hypothetical) head to force me to answer this hypothetical question, I would say that my life would change only if he/she told me it must, since I would be in the position to once and for all ask god about all the ethical/moral contradictions that exist between and within all world religions.

    BTW, if you’re setting up the meeting, I’m home from work tonight after 6pm. Maybe god can bring a nice dessert or something (I don’t drink wine).

  • Bertus

    religion – system of faith…
    faith – …belief without proof

    Since you cannot prove the existence or non-existence of god, then surely an unprovable belief in the non-existence of god constitutes a religious belief if not a systemised religion.

  • duane

    Around in circles.

  • D’oh
  • duane

    Good call, D’oh.

  • D’oh
  • Les Slater

    Joel #170

    “…the idea that there is some sort of universal instruction manual that answers these questions for everyone is trivial at best, arrogant at worst.”

    My #163 said the questions could be answered. The answer to, from your #160, ‘is there more than what we see?’, is, of course, yes.

    I am not exactly sure what you mean when you ask, ‘why are we here?’, but I am confident it can be answered. As we go into the future, as we know from our trip from the past, we will have answers to questions previously not answered. We will not find them in instruction manuals though.

    Les

  • XaurreauX

    The U.S. Constitution mandates separation of church and state whether or not the phrase specifically appears in writing. As with the issue of “Intelligent Design” which they disingenuously claim is another scientific theory, superstitionists understand that they can’t win the argument legally or scientifically so they label atheism as just another “ism” in an attempt to level the playing field.

    Secularism is for adults.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    “As a believer, it’s not my responsibility to prove to atheists that God exists in any sort of mumbo jumbo explanation. If you don’t believe in God, it’s not my problem. It’s yours.”

    If only more were so … enlightened. World history would be so different, and an interesting Thing to contemplate.

    “I don’t know” ? belief.

    I had a piece here on this subject sometime back, and I wrote it to see how I explain to myself why I have never held any interest whatsoever in following a religion or a belief in God. It’s good to test yourself to check yourself (TEmple STark).

    Also, the fact that aethists have trouble defining belief at all should tell you something. Ask me what belief is and I’d have to ask you.

  • http://religion-of-one.org/ Steve Brungard

    The absence of the criteria given to define a religion underscores the absence, among atheists, of anyone trying to manipulate the behavior of others or lever advantage from a pretense of knowledge that no one can disprove.

  • Tom Anderson

    Huh. I see atheism as a means for humanity to dissolve the borders between our animal selves and our human-side. Wouldn’t an an ancient philosopher along the lines of Plato or Socrates say the same?

    How could it be said differently than this?

    First of all, according to the introduction to this topic in the very top most post,
    it mentioned that, among other things, an atheist is to not heed a system of law, indicating that perhaps they have their own sense of disorder (rather than order) aside from legal boundaries.

    Really?

    The only reason (as I can whole-heartedly put it), that humanity has survived over the ages, is simply because of some amount of trust, whether it be through commerce or law, or some structural backing of any sort. Not just a friendship between two people, as a matter of speaking.

    What greater force other than Atheism can determine:

    A. how we act
    B. what we say
    C. what we think of
    D. what we believe/do not believe

    Pick a religion and tell me this, will it COMPLETELY (specified) affect all four of these attributes of our lives?

    I’m not picking cherries on this one either. Assume you have a man/woman who attributes to Islam, and that only.

    This man/woman would likely lean towards D, as I have learned that Islam is a matter of belief and dedication to that belief, which may or may not involve their emotion.

    Assume another person who attributes to Christianity, as it were.

    Since the days of the Puritans, who originated from the Old World, the Christians of the world would most certainly go with A, and B.

    The saying “your actions speak louder than your words”, may come into play.

    Many scholars, even the ones who do not back the Christian doctrine or faith, have observed the Bible reinforcing the idea that your actions/words are equally powerful.

    Whether you believe/know that they can bring you to some paradise or death is of your own destiny.

    Tom A.
    Web researcher

    Surely

    Tom

  • Hong Lei

    Is Atheism a Religion?

    What is a religion? A set of beliefs and practices often centred on specific supernatural and moral claims about reality (Wikipedia). The word’s original etymology carries the notion of what one relies on, or a particular system of faith. Faith is trust (not belief without proof, that’s credulity). So you might define religion as a particular system of trust.

    Now, is atheism not a religion because it trusts in nothing? No, in fact it makes specific claims about reality, holding them to be truth, e.g. there is no god or gods, everything eventually can be explained in terms of natural laws, the universe appeared uncaused and for no reason, life as we know it similarly appeared purely by undirected natural forces, etc.

    So we have specific claims about reality. Already we have enough information to categorise a particular system of belief, a religion. But how about supernatural? Supernatural refers to effects not produced by any explainable, re-producible laws: literally, “above” nature. As it happens, atheism makes specific supernatural claims too!

    Natural laws cannot explain how life came from nothing. Natural laws cannot explain how natural laws themselves arose from nothing! Therefore, big bang cosmology from which sprang matter, energy, time and all the laws of physics invokes the super-natural; dark matter and energy which shapes and binds the large-scale order of galaxies, super-natural; abiogenesis where life springs from chemicals without natural explanation, supernatural. All such components of belief live in a supernatural world!

    Of course, the atheistic answer is we don’t know yet, although we only know that the belief is right anyway. Although in fact, we actually don’t even know how to find out the explanations to big questions like how can living things pop out of non-living things, and what is known suggests that the belief is fragile at best. If you applied Occam’s razor to the resulting Darwinistic tautologies, there would be little if any meat left to chew on.

    So here we have a belief in explanations outside nature with specific claims about reality. A religion by any other name. (Atheism just suffers from brand snobbery!)

  • boggle`d

    “They get hung up on the last remaining absolute: Atheism is not beautiful. It is so depressing.

    If there is no God and this physical realm is all there is, life is pretty much pointless.”

    Was posted on this blog.

    Whos getting hung up on the last absolute? Without any gods life still seems pretty full of purpose to me looking after kids or doing whatever you got to do. Whats depressing to me is that without god these people would see no purpose. Amagine it !guess they`d just stop eating and stave the kids and mope around depressed if he didnt exist.

    Its just not easy with this godly mindset to believe non believers can be happy without needing a belief in any god. And they may be the actual ones that are getting “hung up on the last remaining absolute”.

  • Scott – South Carolina

    Athesim is NOT a religion! I know theists want to refer to it as one but it simply is not. It’s the lack of a religion.

    If a person does NOT collect stamps as a hobby, is there a term for that?

    How about a person that does NOT believe that the earth is flat?

    Atheism is the LACK in a belief in any god. The one of Abraham or all the ones that came before or after him/her/it.

    That’s all it is.

    Sorry Theists.

  • Hong Lei

    “Methinks the lady doth protest too much”
    —Hamlet, William Shakespeare

    The analogies you draw don’t fit because the person who does not believe the earth is flat still has a belief: that the earth is round, presumably! A person who does not collect stamps might collect something else.

    The term ‘atheist’ literally means “without god.” But it does not mean without “belief!” Quite the contrary. Atheists do have beliefs. They are not agnostics. Wikipedia describes it as “an explicit position” affirming the non-existence of gods or rejection of theism. In other words, atheism opposes belief in god.

    Actually, many atheists do not like the label since it defines their beliefs in negative terms, i.e. in terms of what they do not believe in—any higher intelligence or power. Instead they often prefer to describe their beliefs in terms of what they do believe in, e.g. humanist.

    But this just turns out to be a fallacy. In truth, atheist beliefs only exist to oppose belief in a god, typically a-priori. There is nothing about the natural world or human experience that automatically rules out rational belief in a higher power. That’s why most rational people do believe in a higher intelligence. Atheistic commitments to promisary materialism exist specifically to rule out intelligent causation for explanations of origins of life and the universe. But this commitment is based on subjective opinion and the resulting beliefs form a meta-physical position requiring considerable faith, even a religion of beliefs commonly known as atheism!

  • Brunelleschi

    Hong-

    Atheists don’t NEED to believe there is no God.

    All they need to know is you have no proof there is one, and no reason to believe something that is never seen, heard, or detected exists and has super powers. God is simply a myth invented by people.

    Natural history DOES explain how “life came from nothing.” It didn’t happen that way. It came from natural processes and did not require “design.”

  • bliffle

    “The analogies you draw don’t fit because the person who does not believe the earth is flat still has a belief: that the earth is round, presumably!”

    But I don’t believe the earth is flat nor that it is round. IMO it’s sort of squashed. I suppose you could say that I’m an Oblate Spheroidist.

    But that doesn’t work either, because the earth is not symmetrical.

    Oh dear.

  • Hong Lei

    Dear Brunelleschi,

    I agree with you, disbelief in a god is not needed. But it *is* wanted.

    Proof is an subjective concept. Only mathematics offers proof in the true sense. Belief that life came from natural processes (undirected) is only that—a belief, and one that requires considerable faith.

    The atheist puts his or her trust in something that cannot explain the origin of life. Evolution does not seek to explain the origin of life. Its supporters often ring-fence the problem to preclude explanation of the first life. Evolution theory assumes pre-existing life on which natural selection can operate. Hence the atheist must believe that somehow DNA appeared, carrying all the necessary digital information, and at the same instant appeared all the immensely complex cellular machinery necessary to decode the information, act on it and even to reproduce itself—code to reproduce the code. And all at the same time. Darwin proposed that lightning struck a mud puddle and presto! The first life. Chemical precursors of life do not exist except in the imagination. It takes a lot of faith to believe in them. So much so, I would argue it takes credulity not faith.

    To find an answer, the atheist must resort to just-so stories. It happened this way, or could have been that way. These make fallacious reasoning (formally called ad hoc fallacies). Such stories typically begin with “it *must* have happened this way…” But therein lies the issue: the conclusion simply restates the assumption. Yes, it must have happened this way because my devotion to materialistic explanations require it. That’s the atheist position.

    Origin of life notwithstanding, the basic problem with the “natural process can design stuff” explanation is that it hasn’t been demonstrated, or even shown how it can bridge the monumental distances between different kinds of living things.

    Within the cause-and-effect nature of the universe you can easily identify three possible causes: change, natural forces and intelligent agency. There’s a pile of leaves outside the door. Possible cause #1, wind blew them there—chance. Cause #2, they fell down by gravity from the tree outside—natural forces. Cause #3, someone put them there. Now, most open minded people would accept one of these explanations, even atheists. But atheists are forced by a-priori beliefs to reject Cause #3 as a possible explanation for life and the universe. This is not a rational rejection, but one born of subjective opinion.

    Note that natural selection is not a cause! Natural selection only selects, or more accurately de-selects, i.e. destroys. It kills those who cannot survive. It’s not called natural generation, it’s called selection. The designing process that atheism must attribute everything to is Cause #2, chance. But again the atheist runs into fallacious reasoning. Chance is not an explanation; actually, it amounts to blind faith in unique events that have no explanation and can never be repeated. Now, that’s a religion if ever there was one.

    Interesting discussion.

    Regards, Lei

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Lei,

    What you argue is true of some atheists, of course. But for others, it’s not a question of belief or disbelief, because the question of a god simply isn’t relevant. As I said on another thread, many people also do not believe there’s a planet-sized Ford Focus orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Why would they?

  • Hong Lei

    Dear Dr. Dreadful,

    I take your point. Useful comment and you are right, beliefs are very personal. Same goes for all systems of belief, atheism or any other. There’s a wide range of views within atheism, just as within Catholicism or Islam say. Wouldn’t you say that makes the point about subjectivity though?

    Holding the question of a god as irrelevant is an *agnostic* viewpoint, not an atheistic one. That is, the question cannot be resolved and therefore does not matter. That’s quite different from atheism which says that the question can be (or even is) resolved.

    I would argue that, at the very least, the question is open. I’d go further. There is now sufficient reason for any open, rational mind to conclude that life and the universe have an intelligent source.

    Chance and natural selection are woefully inadequate explanations. They don’t even begin to account for the origin of life; and consequently fail to meet a basic coherence test. The contemporary “scientific” account simply provides a creation myth for the atheistic faithful.

    By a substantial margin, atheism also tends to be the most bigoted of religions.

    Regards, Lei

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Hong Lei, may we assume that you are a faithist? In my experience it is almost always a faithist that tries to make the case that atheism is a religion. I guess that proves that misery loves company!

  • Hong Lei

    I’d be interested to read any replies to my arguments. Please correct my thinking if you reckon it needs adjusting, though I feel it’s pretty close to the mark or as close as one can get within limits. But I’m not keen to go down the ad hominem path with you. That typically occurs when you touch a nerve! My personal answers to the “big” questions aren’t the issue here, are they? Surely, they’re irrelevant.

    Not all atheists are so bashful about calling the spade, a spade. While trying not to over-generalise (Dr. Dreadful’s careful point) atheism requires irrational faith in the unseen, unfathomable, quasi-mystical forces of natural selection operating on random mutation to account for all life springing unbidden from chemical soup.

    Note that atheists are not the most rational folk on the planet. Quite the contrary. Statistically, empirically, they are among the least! See Wall St. Journal. As Chesterton put it, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything!”

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Hong, you are still both confused and confusing.

    Firstly, I didn’t make an ad hominem argument against you, so that comment is irrelevant.

    Secondly, as far as I can tell, you have just made a few unsubstantiated statements and provided a link to an interview with somebody who decided to become a faithist at the age of 81 on a site from a Christian university, which is not much of an argument.

    Thirdly, we can be confident that you are prejudiced, as you are clearly starting from a committed point of view.

    finally, atheism does not require “irrational faith in the unseen, unfathomable, quasi-mystical forces of natural selection”, it simply requires the ability not to believe in the assertion that the monotheistic god does not exist, a point which has never been proven in the 6 or 7,000 years that have passed since somebody came up with the idea.

  • Mark Eden

    Note that atheists are not the most rational folk on the planet. Quite the contrary. Statistically, empirically, they are among the least! See Wall St. Journal.

    Hong, please. Had the Gallup folks added the question: ‘Is there a God?’ (God being the prototypical paranormal actor) to their credulity study the results would have been dramatically different proving that ‘church goers’ are suckers for the irrational.

    Mark

  • Hong Lei

    Dear Chris,

    Thanks for your reply. Very quick! You must be on-line, like me!

    Anyway, whenever someone addresses issues relating to the person, e.g. by saying I’m confused, rather than addressing the question itself, i.e. is atheism really a religion? It misses the point. That’s what I’m referring to as the ad hominem path. You’re also falling into this trap when you refer to Flew as 81 and the university as Christian. Effectively, you invalidate any arguments based on the source. It’s a poor approach to reasoning.

    Finally, for Chris, atheism as opposed to agnosticism positively denies existence of a god or gods. Therefore, atheism does not simply require disbelief in a monotheistic god. You’re creating a false dichotomy. I’ve met people who disbelieve monotheism but aren’t atheists!

    Dear Mark,

    Thanks too. Only, “Hong please” is not very persuasive! The Gallup poll asked some pertinent questions: dreams foretelling the future; Atlantis existing; haunted places; communicating with the dead; big foot, Loch Ness monster, leprechauns, ghosts, etc. Agnostics and atheists “beat” others by roughly 4-to-1 for credulity.

    Finally, I’ll wait for some good reasons why faith in life and the universe popping into existence by accident does not constitute superstitious religious faith, before answering again. I’m quite open-minded about the question. But all you’ve convinced me of is that atheists remain rather irrational and respond somewhat emotionally when challenged.

    Bye for now, Lei

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Hong, It was you that put forth Flew and that Christian Uni as sources, I simply said that they lack credibility, which they clearly do.

    As to atheism, as I’ve said before, the word itself is part of the faithist armoury to define those who oppose these cults and is usually used to shape the debate. There is not really any need for such a word, just as there is no word for those who don’t believe in astrology.

    Agnostics are basically just wimps and want to avoid taking a position.

    You’re really just playing word games whilst ignoring the central truth here, that there is absolutely zero evidence to support any theory that any gods of any type actually exist.

    Equally, you are not showing that you do actually have an open mind nor are you really taking the words of either Mark or myself seriously. So far you’ve just dismissed them with unsupported statements like

    I’ll wait for some good reasons why faith in life and the universe popping into existence by accident does not constitute superstitious religious faith, before answering again. I’m quite open-minded about the question. But all you’ve convinced me of is that atheists remain rather irrational and respond somewhat emotionally when challenged.

    I’m not sure what you mean by faith in life but, just because we do not yet know what happened to trigger the Big Bang, does not mean it didn’t actually happen, nor does it support the emergence of gods billions of years later.

    Reacting emotionally to superstitious drivel doesn’t undermine an argument either. When people try to persuade me to take astrology more seriously, I am openly derisive too.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Atheism is not necessarily a religion. Simply not believing in God would be pretty much the opposite of religion.

    But for many people who use the word “atheist” to describe themselves, it very much is a religion in the practice. It provides the basis of an ideology and belief system. They are just as sure of their worldview and fit everything to it as any crazy Jehovah’s Witness.

    Madalyn Murray O’Hair, for example, was a devout believing atheist intent on imposing her (anti)religious vision on the country, suing NASA to try to prevent astronauts from reading the Bible in space. Our own BC alumni Brian Flemming is a militant believer in his Godless world. People getting their little panties all up in a bunch over a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn – they’re quite adamant about their religion, and not wanting to have their beliefs contradicted.

    And Ann Coulter is EXACTLY correct to label liberalism as a secular religion. Again, this does not necessarily describe everyone who votes Democrat – but the whole socialistic idea of making heaven on Earth is absolutely religious. There’s no missing the distinctly charismatic religious faith and fervor behind many supporters of Obama.

  • Brunelleschi

    Al

    Liberalism can’t be a secular religion. That’s an oxymoron, and Coulter simply is a moron…

    That’s like saying religions are made up of atheists that believe there is a god… sheesh

    “Liberalisms” dreams of heaven on Earth (if that’s what they are) don’t need religion. Every philosophy has come kind of concept of the ideal. God is not required. Maybe liberals just want to make the best of things here and now. Big deal.

  • Brunelleschi

    #195, Lei-

    That’s a lot of nonsense!

    It’s clear you don’t want to agree with or understand evolution, so you are free to get it wrong and make strawman arguments against it, but that doesn’t help your case.

    Religion’s contemporary attacks on science/evolution are foolish. Science is solid and it works, every day.

    If i thought you cared, i would pick apart what you have wrong, but I suspect it would be a waste of time.

  • Alyson

    I think that categorizing beliefs as separate because of the nature by which they proven are disproven is dangerous territory.

    A belief is a belief and in that sense, Atheism could be called a religion. But that in itself would detract from the meaning of the world religion. It wouldn’t hold the same significance.

    But anyway, my point is that you can’t label any random belief a religion without losing the significance of what religion is. By it’s most simple definition religion is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.”

    Atheism may even have a number of the qualities of a religion, but the argument that these similarities make it a religion does not hold water. If anything atheism is the antithesis of religion. Maybe I missed something important here, but those are my two cents.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Alyson, if you accept the idea that religion – or theism – is based on belief in a god or gods, then atheism is by definition not a religion.

    By the same token, someone who is apolitical cannot be said to have political views. That person simply doesn’t participate in politics.

    To be sure, some atheists do defend their position with the same degree of fervor as people of faith. A few even evangelize (for want of a better word)! But it’s not the same thing at all.

    Those who believe often have trouble grasping the notion that someone might not believe in anything. So they confuse belief with non-belief.

  • duane

    Of course, the latest one-liner that many evangelistic types are throwing around goes something like, “Those who claim not to believe in God are willing to believe in anything.”

  • benjamin

    i have been asked my religion multiple times. and when i tell that person im an atheist, i get a lecture about atheism not being a religion.according to most dictionaries, religion is a common belief or set of beliefs. the belief that there is no god is still a belief. its not so much that i disagree with you completely, its just that i tend to get pissed off getting a lecture from someone i barely know.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    A religion is a lot more than just belief. The members of Greenpeace also share a set of beliefs, but Greenpeace isn’t a religion.

    Actively disbelieving in a god does exist as a philosophy – as I observed before, there are atheists who act in ways that can only be described as evangelism – but for most atheists, not believing in a god is as creedless as not believing that there is a Ferrari parked in your driveway.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    It is so much fun watching atheists argue interminably over that which they do not believe in. Indeed, if there is a hell for unrepentant atheists, it will be arguing interminably over their common lack of belief – all the while not realizing that centuries are going by as they continue to rehash the same arguments – and get absolutely nowhere….

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Isn’t rehashing the same arguments and getting nowhere pretty much what Blogcritics is all about, Ruvy? :-)

  • duane

    Ruvy: It is so much fun watching atheists argue interminably over that which they do not believe in. Indeed, if there is a hell for unrepentant atheists, it will be arguing interminably over their common lack of belief – all the while not realizing that centuries are going by as they continue to rehash the same arguments – and get absolutely nowhere….

    I’ve heard this before [except for the reference to “centuries”(?!)]. You’re spinning your wheels, Ruvy.

    Why don’t we have an argument over whether or not it’s beneficial to argue? I’ll take the “pro” side. You first.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Duane writeth,

    Why don’t we have an argument over whether or not it’s beneficial to argue? I’ll take the “pro” side. You first.

    I’d be happy to…. But I have other wheels to spin. Four of them, in fact, will be spinning me off to the metropolis of J-lem in a little while to get me a haircut and get some bureaucratic business done, for example.

    The person you should have this proposed argument with was my father, z”l. He loved to argue, just for the sake of arguing – so unlike his son. But, as you may imagine, a man born in 1908 who passed to the of the veil in 1976 may be hard to argue with….

  • benjamin

    ok, i do agree with you, but if atheism is not a religion; then what is it? (im not trying 2 argue, hopefully i didnt sound like it. ive just been wondering that)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Benjamin,

    As I hinted at in my #211, it can be either an active philosophical position or it can be nothing. My nephews, for example, were brought up without a religion: I doubt it’s something they devote much thought to at all. They don’t have a religion in much the same way that you probably don’t have a favorite lacrosse team* – it’s just not a factor in their lives.

    Perhaps you could call them areligious rather than atheist. But I still think active atheism is a philosophical position, rather than a religion. The latter usually involves a ritual element and/or some sort of creed: aspects which are conspicuously absent from the former.

    * Yeah, yeah, for all I know you could be a mad crazy lacrosse fan. I just didn’t think that example was a long shot. :-)

  • Simple Simon

    The problem I see with established religion, and even this article, is ambiguity. EVERYTHING has multiple meanings and interpretations.

    For instance, “Common disbelief in god” can be seen as “Common belief that there is no God”. Keep that in mind most when you deal with Religion and Women.

    There are Athiest “scriptures”, they just aren’t widely accepted by Athiests. The Athiest Manifesto.

    “God is Dead Day” is suggestive that there was a god, I don’t get that from any Athiests I talk to.

  • Alexis Hollingshead

    The very beginning of this post makes me not want to read any further because of how obviously your ignorance shows. The quote you choose shows your willingness to believe something that’s not true.

    Physicists do NOT define black as the absence of COLOR, they define it as the absence of LIGHT — relatively. Technically, black is the absence of a REFLECTION of light. That’s what color is — how light is interpreted by our eyes. Dictionary.com tells us that a color is “the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; saturation or chroma; hue.”

    Black is located at the bottom of the color scale which is put together based on how much light something reflects. It absorbs the majority of the light it receives. That’s how we can measure black and why we count it as a color. You can’t apply color theory to religion.

  • Prototype

    The fallacy of the undistributed middle is a logical fallacy that is committed when the middle term in a categorical syllogism is not distributed. It is thus a syllogistic fallacy. More specifically it is also a form of non sequitur.

    The fallacy of the undistributed middle takes the following form:

    1. All Zs are Bs.
    2. Y is a B.
    3. Therefore, Y is a Z.

    It may or may not be the case that “all Zs are Bs,” but in either case it is irrelevant to the conclusion. What is relevant to the conclusion is whether it is true that “all Bs are Zs,” which is ignored in the argument.

    Note that if the terms were swapped around in the first co-premise or if the first premise was rewritten to “All Zs can only be Bs” then it would no longer be a fallacy, although it could still be unsound. This also holds for the following two logical fallacies which are similar in nature to the fallacy of the undistributed middle and also non sequiturs.

    An example can be given as follows:

    1. Men are human.
    2. Mary is human.
    3. Therefore, Mary is a man.

    Fun Time:

    Simply insert the proper vaiables from the article and we see how this excercise in critical thinking has failed the author.

    -unless u need me to do that for you also…

  • enochsauthor

    calling atheism ‘religion’ is like calling an empty highway traffic.