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Author Topic: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement  (Read 12880 times)

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Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« on: January 22, 2017, 02:52:19 PM »


I was recently talking to an acquaintance of mine who happens to be, like me, very much to the left politically.  When I revealed, however, that I was an atheist, she made no comment on it, but acted standoffish after the fact.  I didn't want this opportunity to pass, though, and asked her if she was uncomfortable with my revelation.  She said she was, and didn't want to go further for fear of insulting me.  I let her know that I wanted her to ask me anything she wanted to know because, as she knew from her own experience as an African-American woman, assumptions about other people and their experiences usually lead to mistakes and misunderstandings.  I found from our conversation that followed that she had very little factual evidence about atheists in general.

I've recognized I was an atheist since I was 28 or so, but I had the same concepts and understandings long before that, as far back as my childhood.  It isn't something that's easily explained in a short session, but, like any personality, takes time to explain.  I don't speak for all atheists, because atheism is simply a lack of belief in a deity, but I find there are a lot of misconceptions and erroneous beliefs about me and my fellow atheists.

I believe in engagement before argument.  Discussing and explaining work better than confrontation in most instances.  There are times when confrontation is necessary, but there are a lot of people who have emotional attachments to their beliefs, and when someone speaks up who doesn't hold those beliefs, they can get angry or hurt.  This thread is meant as a place for explanation, understanding, and discussion, not argument.  Other threads can be made for those, and others already exist.

Some basics about atheism:

--As I mentioned above, atheism is a lack of belief in a deity.  That's it.  It is not believing there is no god, it is no belief in a god.  There is a critical difference in those two statements.  Most atheists tend to be rationalists, and often apistevists like me, which is someone who only accepts things on evidence.  Most Christians can easily be called nonbelievers when it comes to other religions.  They have no belief in them.  As Richard Dawkins once said, "Atheists just go one god further."

--We don't worship the devil.  Lack of a belief in the Christian Yahweh also means lack of a belief in the Christian Satan.  No religion is accepted, nor any of their deities, demons, or other supernatural creatures.  There are atheists who believe in things I don't agree on, such as alien visitations, bigfoot, and so on.  The only thing that connects atheists to one another is their lack of belief.

--Most atheists accept that the burden of proof of any claim is on the one making a claim.  Therefore, when we state, 'you have no proof there is a god', responding with, 'there is no proof there isn't a god' is not a sufficient response to make us believe.  The burden of proof is on the person making a claim--the person saying there is a <particular> god.  Claiming leprechauns exist, or fairies, or a teapot in orbit around Saturn, all need evidence to make an atheist accept them as true.  God-claims fit in the same category.  After all, there are thousands of religions, and every one of them makes claims of existence of their deity.  Until one of them brings forth evidence for the existence of said deity, we atheists suspend judgement.

--I said we atheists suspend judgement, but there are varieties of atheism.  Strong atheism claims there is no god.  Most atheists are weak atheists, like me, who claim that we don't know there is a god.  We think, sure, there is a possibility there might be a god, however small, but...if someone can't provide evidence of that god, then why bother believing in it?  Like I mentioned before, there are thousands of deities that have been worshiped in the world throughout history...why believe any of them with no evidence of their existence?

--Atheism and agnosticism are not on the same spectrum.  A-theism is lack of belief in a deity.  A-gnosticism is lack of knowledge.  it works like this:

Theist/atheist=====>believer/non-believer
Gnostic/agnostic====>someone who knows/someone who doesn't know

There are gnostic theists--people who believe in a god and claim to know that god exists.  There are agnostic theists--people who believe in a god, but say they have no knowledge (proof) that god exists.  There are gnostic atheists--people who have no belief in a god, and claim to know no gods exist.  There are agnostic atheists--people who have no belief in a god, and claim to have no knowledge whether gods exist or not.  I fit in the final category.  For all intents and purposes, I don't think there are any gods, but I remain open to any evidence that would prove they do.


And so, I hope to remove some of the mystery and confusion that surrounds atheism.  I hope for a friendly and fruitful discussion!
« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 02:19:11 PM by HannibalBarca »

Offline elone

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2017, 11:01:05 PM »
I am surprised by the lack of comment here.

My personal belief is that there is no god or any other divine person/thing/entity. All notions of such are human made to:

1. In ancient times to explain that which science had yet to determine as truth.

2. To provide a continuation of life, ie. reincarnation, heaven, hell, whatever. Mankind's inability to accept death as the end.

3. To enforce that ones own beliefs are better than others, thus creating a feeling of superiority over others.

I am not a student of religion, these are my own beliefs. I am mostly in agreement with HannibalBarca. I also realize that faith for many supersedes the rational and scientific. That is fine.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2017, 11:03:27 PM by elone »

Offline midnightblack

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2017, 03:32:06 AM »
I've been an atheist since some time around primary school. At a class of religious education, the teacher once explained that people have children in order to redeem themselves in the eyes of god. Not having children for any reason equates to not fulfilling your duty as a human being and condemns you to everlasting flames. No matter what. That and series of other allegations worthy of the darkest corners of the mind made me tell myself I can't take these things seriously, and I've disregarded them ever since.

That aside, I'm fine with any kind of belief as long as its practice does not bring harm to the people around you. I don't think there's much room for explanations or rational discussions on this topic. It's something you need to sort out inside, just with yourself. Regardless of your conclusions, remember to keep in stock a good dose of respect and tolerance for the world around you. To each his own, I guess.

Offline Vergil Tanner

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2017, 04:12:13 AM »
Same here, for the most part; I don't believe in God or gods or anything of the kind, but I have no inherent issue with those that do. I only have an issue with you if you use those beliefs as an excuse to oppress, isolate, victimise or otherwise harm other people. I will discuss and debate any religious person who decides that they want that conversation with me, but I will not go out actively seeking those conversations even if I do find them interesting.

I do what I consider right and wrong because of a personal moral code that basically sums up as "do unto others as they would have done unto them." I understand that  am a living, thinking human being on Planet Earth, and that to survive, we all need to get along at least on some basic level. Our lives are short and I do not believe that there is anything afterwards...so we might as well make them as comfortable and productive as we possibly can.

Past that...I don't care what you believe, so long as you're treating other people with the respect and dignity that they deserve. :-)

Offline Silk

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2017, 12:11:48 PM »
Pretty much as the above, although I'll admit there is an additional caviat that often annoys me in regards to religion.

It's the simple notion of giving thanks to god for something happening that either you or someone else made happen, Thank the surgeon for that successful surgery! Don't put yourself down and say it's God that allowed you to do X thing, you did X thing, regardless of ethos, your the one that made it happen. Give credit to the good that people do too ya know?


Offline Oniya

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2017, 12:27:26 PM »
Thanks for the description of atheism and agnosticism as different spectra - I've heard many people conflate the two (both as claiming someone else is [y] or that they themselves are [y].)  It makes more sense to separate them.

No questions at the moment, but I'm always interested to read these sorts of threads.

Online Blythe

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2017, 01:09:44 PM »
There are agnostic atheists--people who have no belief in a god, and claim to have no knowledge whether gods exist or not.  I fit in the final category.  For all intents and purposes, I don't think there are any gods, but I remain open to any evidence that would prove they do.

I, too, fall in this category--it's always nice to see other agnostic atheists out there. :)

Neat thread, thanks for making it. Going to bookmark this one!

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2017, 01:23:59 PM »
I've known quite a few theists and atheists, believers, un-believers and non-believers, those who feel they know and those who claim to not know and find a kind of commonality among them.  Not all people share this trait but most of them do and it isn't limited to any one group.  When any of these people speak up about their faith, belief or knowledge they do so with an air of challenge in their conversation, as though it is necessary for them to convince their audience of the rightness of their position. 

Over time I've adjusted to a firm resolve of not discussing my own stand on any of this, mostly because it is a personal choice and not the business of anyone else, and the belief that discussing it in any way is akin to preaching.  I use the word challenge as that is how I feel I'm being treated most of the time, rather than preaching, to describe the behavior of others.  One of the most forceful of these challengers is a self-described atheist who does seek to convert others and gets very frustrated because all I do is let him talk when I have the time.  I don't interact or respond in any way because like so many I've heard from, here on E and in other places, no one likes anyone who tells us what to believe or not believe.

Two things I have learned as I get closer to my own demise have helped me adjust my own philosophy about faith or non-faith as one atheist friend calls it.

First, any organized group, some would call it religion, has nothing to do with our own personal and core belief or non-belief.  It is a tool and like any tool, a hammer, a screw driver, or a drill, it can be used to create or destroy.  We choose, individually, what we want to create and how much we want to destroy.  The other thing is that there is a common thread that unites all of us and no matter what we hold close to us there is no way to know, no way to prove, what is or isn't beyond this physical life until we get there or as another atheist friend says, we don't get there.  Challenging others or justifying and defending what we think we know isn't necessary.  Living the best life we can, no matter what, without the expectation or desire for reward is the only thing that matters.

When others aren't able to follow this, I say ignore them and move on because talking about it and complaining about the challenging others do is hypocritical.

Offline Nachtmahr

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2017, 04:56:44 PM »
Thanks for the description of atheism and agnosticism as different spectra - I've heard many people conflate the two (both as claiming someone else is [y] or that they themselves are [y].)  It makes more sense to separate them.

No questions at the moment, but I'm always interested to read these sorts of threads.

There's nothing more frustrating than when a religious person tries to set up a "Gotcha!"-moment, by claiming that it's somehow impossible to be atheist, because they don't understand what it means to be agnostic.

I am an atheist myself. I think religion is fascinating, and studying it is something I have dedicated a lot of time to. I think it's very important to be able to see the world through the eyes of someone who isn't like you, and understand why they feel and think the way they do.

I don't really have any questions either, but I wanted to show my support for this thread! :)

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2017, 06:48:56 PM »
Even as a child I had an inkling that what my parents and others told me about God was not true.  To me, most people are religious because they were raised that way.  If religious teaching of any kind was withheld until the age of reason, I think that most people would react to their parents' religion much how they react to other religions--with skepticism and disbelief.

I was raised Catholic.  My parents weren't the most strict Catholics, either, though they were mostly conservative in outlook.  My mother used birth control, and they also believed women should be able to be priests and the priesthood should be able to marry.  We all left the church as a family when I was 19-20, but they and my two younger brothers ended up becoming evangelical Christians.  I'm the only non-believer in my family.

I was taught as a teen, in Sunday school, that atheists were evil people who sought to tear down the American way of life and Christianity, and were tools of the devil.  Even at that point, I was doubtful of what I was told.  I never had the utter faith of so many other people as far as God.  I always had a core of doubt and skepticism, even if I paid it all lip service.  My logic couldn't reconcile the many contradictions in the Bible, as well as the contradictions in Catholicism itself.  I didn't just accept what I was told without question.  My parents had taught me this way, even if it was in conflict with the religion they believed and raised me in.  The cognitive dissonance, as I know it now, was thick and heavy.

When I was in my mid-20s, I read the Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis, mostly as a way to try to get my doubts to quiet down.  It didn't work.  My love of science fiction led me to reading Isaac Asimov, but the thing is that Asimov wrote much more than science fiction.  I happened to read many of his essays on science and other topics, including religion.  I discovered he was an atheist, and that I also agreed with him on many issues.  I didn't consider myself an atheist, however.  I had studied many religions, and was more of the mind that there was some god out there, and all the religions in the world worshiped it in different ways.  I was no longer Christian, however.

It was when I bought The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan, though, that my last vestiges of theism were scoured away.  He argued so eloquently and so clearly against the belief in a deity that when I finished the book, I was convinced it was all a waste of time and energy.  It wasn't until I later read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, that I became an anti-theist.

Just what is an anti-theist?  Basically, it means I'm against religion in general, because I believe that throughout history, religion has brought great harm to humanity in general.  As long as people keep their religion to themselves, I don't have a problem.  But it isn't kept to themselves.  Missionaries are not the worst of getting into other people's lives.  Pushing a religious agenda into our government is the worst part--forcing other people to adhere to your religious beliefs in some way through legislation.  My reading of Sagan and Dawkins and Hitchens provided evidence of how much woe has been caused by religion.  Some good things have been done, true.  But mostly it has served to create discord between people of different cultures and societies.

Stephen Weinberg said, “in the ordinary moral universe, the good will do the best they can, the worst will do the worst they can, but if you want to make good people do wicked things, you’ll need religion”.


« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 09:07:53 PM by HannibalBarca »

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2017, 09:43:50 PM »

Just what is an anti-theist?  Basically, it means I'm against religion in general, because I believe that throughout history, religion has brought great harm to humanity in general.  As long as people keep their religion to themselves, I don't have a problem.  But it isn't kept to themselves.  Missionaries are not the worst of getting into other people's lives.  Pushing a religious agenda into our government is the worst part--forcing other people to adhere to your religious beliefs in some way through legislation.  My reading of Sagan and Dawkins and Hitchens provided evidence of how much woe has been caused by religion.  Some good things have been done, true.  But mostly it has served to create discord between people of different cultures and societies.


This does remind me of something - how common do you find anti-theism to be among atheists, as opposed to the more passive sort of live-and-let-live attitude that people like Virgil and midnight have mentioned? I was raised in an almost completely irreligious household (baptized as a baby, but never went to church past when i aged out of sunday school/daycare), so I came to college with a fairly blank slate on the issue. There, the handful of atheists I knew were otherwise friendly people and great to be around (as were the theists, admittedly, both of the mono- and poly- varieties) except when the topic of religion appeared. They turned into a weird mirror-image of the stereotypical fundamentalist bible-thumper, using phrases like 'brainwashed sheeple' who 'hallucinated bearded men in the sky' and generally coming across as every bit as hateful as the religions they opposed. I spent a long time wondering what the point of caring was when it seemed being passionate in either direction just turned you mean, it wasn't until (ironically) I joined E that I learned someone could be atheistic without despising all theists and theism utterly.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2017, 09:45:14 PM by TheGlyphstone »

Offline Vergil Tanner

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2017, 09:46:40 PM »
Well, I'm a weird one; I dislike most religion on principle for various reasons, but I don't dislike the religious. It's the difference between disliking the organisation, and the people in that organisation as a whole, y'know? "Don't hate the player, hate the game," or something like that. XD

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2017, 10:00:52 PM »
Well, I'm a weird one; I dislike most religion on principle for various reasons, but I don't dislike the religious. It's the difference between disliking the organisation, and the people in that organisation as a whole, y'know? "Don't hate the player, hate the game," or something like that. XD

Yeah, I get you. Still a good example though, since despite lacking the sillier misconceptions about atheists like devil-worship or whatever, I still had a strongly negative initial impression of them until I came here and realized how skewed my initial sample pool had been.

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2017, 10:11:32 PM »
Most of the atheists I've known personally have been pretty mild.  I'm not a torch-bearing rabble-rouser of an atheist, though.  I'm a historian, and all the horrific acts throughout history in the name of one god or another do rankle me.  A lot of these mindsets do continue due to religion...in fact, most of the reasons why outdated concepts continue is because of some religious connection.  Atheists, on average, are much more accepting than the average religious person on topics like racism, sexism, and homophobia.

There are those that are fire-spitting anti-theists, too.  I tend to watch out for people who get too emotional on issues, or use blanket statements.  We're supposed to be getting away from that kind of mentality, not continuing it.

Offline Vergil Tanner

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2017, 10:14:34 PM »
Oh, I getcha. There are militant, extremist and intolerant assholes on both sides. That's a human thing, not a religious thing, haha. Most important thing to realise is that in most cases, the intolerant assholes usually represent the minority. Argue against the person you're talking to, not some nebulous "Evil" version of them. :P

It's the horseshoe theory in full effect; the opposite ends of any spectrum are going to be far more similar than they would like to acknowledge. XD

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2017, 10:22:44 PM »
Speaking of blanket statements, how often do you find people who distinguish between religions versus those who include both the monotheistic/Abrahamic faiths alongside paganist faiths like Wicca or Asatru? The former are obviously dominant, and skew things like averages overwhelmingly in their favor, but several pagans I've known took up their current faiths because they wanted to believe but needed a religion that would accept them as LGBT instead of condemning them.

Oh, I getcha. There are militant, extremist and intolerant assholes on both sides. That's a human thing, not a religious thing, haha. Most important thing to realise is that in most cases, the intolerant assholes usually represent the minority. Argue against the person you're talking to, not some nebulous "Evil" version of them. :P

It's the horseshoe theory in full effect; the opposite ends of any spectrum are going to be far more similar than they would like to acknowledge. XD

Indeed.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2017, 06:55:28 AM »
Atheists, on average, are much more accepting than the average religious person on topics like racism, sexism, and homophobia.

To the extent this may be true (I have no idea) this is probably a US thing and can't really be generalised in the way you are doing.  Across non-Scandinavian Europe the trend is (weakly) the opposite direction.  There's an interesting report done by Demos you might enjoy reading.  It excludes Scandinavia (hence my earlier caveat - I have no data for that) for pretty good reasons and also Italy for disturbingly vague reasons.  The takeaway, and the reason I brought it up, is that 41% of religious people favour equality while only 36% of non-religious do - well outside the margin of error.

Offline Vergil Tanner

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2017, 09:11:53 AM »
To the extent this may be true (I have no idea) this is probably a US thing and can't really be generalised in the way you are doing.  Across non-Scandinavian Europe the trend is (weakly) the opposite direction.  There's an interesting report done by Demos you might enjoy reading.  It excludes Scandinavia (hence my earlier caveat - I have no data for that) for pretty good reasons and also Italy for disturbingly vague reasons.  The takeaway, and the reason I brought it up, is that 41% of religious people favour equality while only 36% of non-religious do - well outside the margin of error.

Well, I think it important to note that "Non-Religious" =/= Atheist...and there are plenty of "Religious" people who are technically atheistic (EG, many brands of Buddhism would consider themselves a religion, but don't believe in God). Atheist and Religious aren't antonyms; Atheist and Theist is. So...the study itself is a little flawed in that those kinds of statistics can't REALLY be measured all that accurately.

I can't speak to the study itself, since I haven't had the time to look over it, but I have an issue with their terminology straight away. Plus, I can't find where they distributed the survey, which areas responded the most, or anything like that that might also explain it just as well as religion (EG, which Social Class they were, what their income was, which area they live in, etc etc). It didn't explore any other factor so far as I can see, so drawing causation...well. There are numerous studies that suggest that the more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be atheist. Are we to conclude that atheists are therefore more intelligent? Of course not. XD

Besides. There are numerous conflicting studies; a study by the USC suggested that, in their area at least, those that identify specifically as atheists are less racist than those that identified as religious. Almost as if there are other, more important factors to consider....
;) :P

Online Lustful Bride

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2017, 10:45:15 AM »
Before I came to E I had met mostly Atheists and Anti Theists who went out of their way to mess with me. Mostly the highschool and college variety that try to be edgy by literally tossing jabs to get a rise out of me. "Well in a decade or so its not like there will be anymore believers.' and other little things that don't hurt but are like constantly being poked in the side repeatedly. Or would automatically treat me as if I was against certain things just because of my faith. Which is probably why I get so defensive when I see it now, its become a trained reaction in me.

Not to mention the Youtube variety. But the less said about them the better. Aside from my boyfriend and like two others in my circle of friends I had a pretty negative view of atheists and anti theists as a bunch of elitists who believed they were superior just because they didn't have a god or didn't like the concept of gods and went out of their way to piss off others or rub the fact in others faces.

But after coming to E I have met many better ones and found I just had a run of bad luck running into a lot of assholes. Which in turn made me a worse person. Through my interactions here on E I have learned to keep some of my own more crazy dogma in check. I've learned to be more moderate interacting with both atheists and theists here on E and have a much more relaxed attitudes. People can do as they like so long as no one is hurt and they aren't doing things out of malice. Life is short and so fleeting there isn't time to waste on petty rivalries and such.

As was once said. "Life is shit, life is hard, and pretty soon it will be over. So be happy and try to make others happy."

I am not 100% sure what I wanted to say with this, but I guess just take it as a 'Thank You' all for giving me a look at the better side of your community and for helping me improve as a person myself.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 10:50:51 AM by Lustful Bride »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2017, 11:21:22 AM »
Well, I think it important to note that "Non-Religious" =/= Atheist...and there are plenty of "Religious" people who are technically atheistic (EG, many brands of Buddhism would consider themselves a religion, but don't believe in God). Atheist and Religious aren't antonyms; Atheist and Theist is. So...the study itself is a little flawed in that those kinds of statistics can't REALLY be measured all that accurately.

I can't speak to the study itself, since I haven't had the time to look over it, but I have an issue with their terminology straight away. Plus, I can't find where they distributed the survey, which areas responded the most, or anything like that that might also explain it just as well as religion (EG, which Social Class they were, what their income was, which area they live in, etc etc). It didn't explore any other factor so far as I can see, so drawing causation...well. There are numerous studies that suggest that the more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be atheist. Are we to conclude that atheists are therefore more intelligent? Of course not. XD

Besides. There are numerous conflicting studies; a study by the USC suggested that, in their area at least, those that identify specifically as atheists are less racist than those that identified as religious. Almost as if there are other, more important factors to consider....
;) :P

In fairness, its actually my terminology you have an issue with not the study's, which defined three separate classes quite tightly.  I was simply summarising.  And yes, we seem to agree - making blanket statements of the type "atheists are more/less <adjective> than a-atheists" is likely to be incorrect and certainly can't be easily or unambiguously generalised.

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2017, 11:48:00 AM »
I have a slightly different take on the whole knowledge/belief spectrum bit. My brother has relatively recently become an extremely devout "born again" Christian, and he emphatically equates belief and knowledge, claiming that the strength of his belief is in fact akin to knowledge because, to him, the existence of Christ is an obvious and knowable thing.

This has led me to question the lines between atheism and agnosticism... my brother would say that there is no such thing as an agnostic- he would say you either believe or you don't. Of course only such a devout believer would deal in such absolutes, but it still got me thinking. If he turns out to be right, then is his faith actually knowledge?

I still consider myself to be agnostic- I'm almost certain 'something' is out there, I just have no idea what it is because I have seen no evidence of it. To which he would argue that is a lack of belief which makes me an atheist, and reaffirm his view regarding belief and knowledge, taking us into a circular argument that can be extremely exhausting. I have largely given up trying to explain my position, but it still puzzles me how someone can believe such lofty claims as those made in the New Testament without a shred of physical evidence that any of it is true.

Offline Oniya

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2017, 11:56:33 AM »
I have a slightly different take on the whole knowledge/belief spectrum bit. My brother has relatively recently become an extremely devout "born again" Christian, and he emphatically equates belief and knowledge, claiming that the strength of his belief is in fact akin to knowledge because, to him, the existence of Christ is an obvious and knowable thing.

This has led me to question the lines between atheism and agnosticism... my brother would say that there is no such thing as an agnostic- he would say you either believe or you don't. Of course only such a devout believer would deal in such absolutes, but it still got me thinking. If he turns out to be right, then is his faith actually knowledge?

I still consider myself to be agnostic- I'm almost certain 'something' is out there, I just have no idea what it is because I have seen no evidence of it. To which he would argue that is a lack of belief which makes me an atheist, and reaffirm his view regarding belief and knowledge, taking us into a circular argument that can be extremely exhausting. I have largely given up trying to explain my position, but it still puzzles me how someone can believe such lofty claims as those made in the New Testament without a shred of physical evidence that any of it is true.

Faith is what one accepts without proof.  Knowledge is that which has been proven.  I can have faith that my husband is going to stop at the store for milk in the morning on his way home, but I don't have knowledge that he has until I see the milk in the fridge.  Once I see the milk, then my faith is justified and I have knowledge, but until that moment, I don't have knowledge.

It's a little harder to collapse the probability wave where theology is concerned.

Sorry - I watch quantum physics lectures for entertainment.

Offline Formless

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2017, 12:21:42 PM »
This is an interesting thread. I think it'll be useful for me as a reference from time to time. ;D

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2017, 06:22:32 PM »
Quote
To the extent this may be true (I have no idea) this is probably a US thing and can't really be generalised in the way you are doing.  Across non-Scandinavian Europe the trend is (weakly) the opposite direction.  There's an interesting report done by Demos you might enjoy reading.  It excludes Scandinavia (hence my earlier caveat - I have no data for that) for pretty good reasons and also Italy for disturbingly vague reasons.  The takeaway, and the reason I brought it up, is that 41% of religious people favour equality while only 36% of non-religious do - well outside the margin of error.

That is a sad comment on the effect being in the majority has on a population, I think.  Being in a minority tends to give someone more of a chance to develop empathy.  Atheists who are in the majority in a country and do not promote equality are a sad reminder that any majority can come under the influence of poor judgement.


As far as my opinion on faith...I think there are different definitions of it people use, just like feminism.  To me, faith is the acceptance of things without any evidence or justification.  To that extent, I not only think it isn't a virtue, but a detrimental behavior.  I'm an apistevist--I only accept things on evidence.  I have no faith.  I can have trust, which is based on evidence, but I don't accept anything on faith.  If I don't have reasonable evidence to trust something, I don't trust it.  I think the problem is--and I lived this myself--is that for many who are religious, they were taught to believe in it as children, when they were trusting and unable to make an informed decision on their own.  For me, I never had any faith, nor much trust, though I paid it lip service, as it was expected of me, through family, social, and peer pressure.  Once I was old enough not only to make my own decisions, but stand up for myself and refute what I was taught from my youth, I was able to see outside the box and objectively decide for myself what I believed in.

There are a lot of youtube channels devoted to atheism, and they have their fair share of decent people and assholes.  I'm not only an atheist, but a liberal and a feminist as well.  Some people would likely call me a leftist, but there are a lot of definitions of that as well.  I'm most of all an individual, and I don't believe in accepting only labels for other people, either.  Getting to know them is the best way to build bridges.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 08:16:29 PM by HannibalBarca »

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2017, 09:22:02 PM »
Quote
I have a slightly different take on the whole knowledge/belief spectrum bit. My brother has relatively recently become an extremely devout "born again" Christian, and he emphatically equates belief and knowledge, claiming that the strength of his belief is in fact akin to knowledge because, to him, the existence of Christ is an obvious and knowable thing.

This has led me to question the lines between atheism and agnosticism... my brother would say that there is no such thing as an agnostic- he would say you either believe or you don't. Of course only such a devout believer would deal in such absolutes, but it still got me thinking. If he turns out to be right, then is his faith actually knowledge?

I still consider myself to be agnostic- I'm almost certain 'something' is out there, I just have no idea what it is because I have seen no evidence of it. To which he would argue that is a lack of belief which makes me an atheist, and reaffirm his view regarding belief and knowledge, taking us into a circular argument that can be extremely exhausting. I have largely given up trying to explain my position, but it still puzzles me how someone can believe such lofty claims as those made in the New Testament without a shred of physical evidence that any of it is true.

Agnosticism was coined by Huxley--can't remember now which one, but he used it as a term because he didn't want to come out hard on atheism's side.  Agnosticism and atheism deal with different things, though--they aren't on a spectrum, with belief in a god on one end, atheism on the other, and agnosticism in the middle.

The prefix a- means 'without'.  Gnosticism means knowledge.  A-gnosticism means without knowledge.  Theism is belief in a deity.  A-theism means without a belief in a deity.  So, Agnosticism deals with a knowledge claim, while atheism deals with a belief claim.  Knowledge is a subset of belief, so they can be nested, and that means you can be both at the same time.  I'm an agnostic atheist...this means I claim no knowledge of a deity, and with no such knowledge, I have no belief in one, either.

I spend a lot of time watching various atheist channels on youtube.  For those who are not familiar with him, Christopher Hitchens was a journalist, author, and one of the greatest debaters the world has ever known.  He was a strident atheist and anti-theist, and faced off against many believers of various stripes.  One of his greatest refutations was of the Catholic Church, which I will post a segment of his section of the debate here.  He teamed with Stephen Fry at this debate, who was a close personal friend of his.  He makes a solid case for why this particular religion is not a benefit to humanity as a whole.