Belief does not create two religions

Early in the morning, before anyone else is awake, before the birds are even stirring, I walk down to the edge of the stream behind my house. I kneel down and call to my water nymph. She answers.

Not everyone can see her. Not everyone believes I see her. But I worship her. I promise her that I will love and revere her above all others, above my parents, my spouse, my children, myself. I request her help, ask her to carry out acts of mischief on others. Find money and treasure for me. Help me attain my goals. She bends to my will. She exists through me, for me.

Those who don’t believe in my water nymph are a-nymphs. (Not to be confused with nymphos.) Their a-nymphism is a belief system, too, which, through contrast, helps validate my conviction.

This idea of belief and unbelief in nymphs is a little ridiculous, yes? Yet you and I often hear that atheism is a belief system or a religion.

No. It. Is. Not. Refusing to accept an outrageous story or idea as truth or true does not make our skepticism or doubt a “belief.”

No matter our religious affiliation or lack of, we all sift through and oftentimes reject what others believe. Here are some examples, which many of our grandparents believed and we now simply reject (we don’t become a-believers):

1. It’s bad luck to open an umbrella inside.
2. If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years of bad luck.
3. Rubbing a wart with a bean pod, and then burying the pod, will get rid of a wart.
4. High heart rates mean that your fetus is female.
5. Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker.
6. If you swallow chewing gum, it remains in your stomach for 7 years.
7. If you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold.

There was a time when it made sense to believe in these things. For example, before people understood that colds came from viruses, not from being “cold.” Now that we know better, we reject this belief our grandparents held, or we just consider it an “old wives tale.”

Many Christian apologists will insist that atheism is a “belief system” or a religion, too. This is simply an attempt to equalize the two, to bring unbelief on the opposite side of the equation from religion, which is a belief system. If, believers postulate, both sides are “beliefs” and if one is free to choose from two separate–but seemingly equal–systems, then it standardizes religion. Religion is now logical like math and science. Science and math now require a leap of faith. Belief and unbelief are simply one of two choices that any reasonable person can make.

No. No. No.

It is not logical to believe that breaking a mirror will bring you bad luck. It is not logical to believe in my water nymph, even if I tell you that your unbelief is a belief, too.

But what if all my neighbors and relatives say that they believe my story? What if I show you a book that I found, telling of the nymph’s fantastical journey from Planet Ooh? What if I tell you that everything I’ve asked my water nymph for has materialized?

Correlation, we know, does not imply causation. An observation of two variables does not mean that one causes the other or that they’re related.

There’s one more thing we need to address to put the nail in the coffin of atheism as religion or belief system.

Belief.

Yeah. I believe in science. But that is different from saying, “I believe in god.”

“I believe in science” means that I put faith in the people and institutions that are doing the work, that I have confidence in their methods. I could do the math or science my damn self, if I had the time. But you and I cannot specialize in everything. We cannot do all things. So we must trust that others are doing their jobs, the same jobs that we could do, using the same methods that we were all taught and have agreed are worthy of our trust and confidence. These things are provable and repeatable and verifiable across the scientific community.

“I believe in god,” as many philosophers have noted, is an existential claim that is made when the thing believed is unrealistic, unproven or highly unlikely. I believe that eating more burgers before conceiving will produce a boy baby. I believe that kissing a frog will produce a prince. I believe in the tooth fairy. Vampires. Leprechauns. Water nymphs. God.

So, no. Atheism and science are not beliefs or religions. And, yes. Belief in a deity or deities requires a leap of faith and is therefore not based in logic. If it were logical, we could all plug god into the equation and prove his or her existence. If it were logical, we could confirm the existence of god and heaven. We would not hear people say, “I know it doesn’t make sense, but I just believe. I just feel in my heart that god is real.” This is neither evidence nor grounds for a sound argument.

If believers are being intellectually honest, this is something they already know. Unfortunately, the idea of atheism as religion has been repeated so often that I now hear other unbelievers accept this as true. Don’t get pulled into accepting this mistaken notion that atheism is just another belief, another card in the deck of theism.

One person’s belief cannot create two religions.

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127 responses to “Belief does not create two religions

  1. Well put. I have had this basic conversation with people, trying to make the points you made, but I always stumble over it and have a hard time making my point clear. This helps!

  2. I believe in that which proves itself to me sufficiently. Thus I believe in most science (but less so when done by big pharmaceutical companies at times), I believe breaking a mirror means I’ve a helluva mess to clean up. I believe if those beings I sometimes seem to apprehend in some sensual fashion exist and are not phantoms of my mind — they do not answer to us in prayer or deed and may observe or inspire us -possibly for entertainment. (I believe if I was one of them, I’d want to change channels!)

    I certainly don’t believe in ‘gods’ who like to determine dietary habits, sexual mores or ask me to send money to televangelists. I don’t believe atheism is a religion and I wish religious sorts would knock that crap OFF — they are so uncomfortable without the idea of someone/thing to blame they can’t bear that anyone could say “Hey, its just us crickets down here.”

  3. Re: “Correlation, we know, does not imply causation”… If you don’t know this blog, it’s awesome… Spurious Correlations:

    http://www.tylervigen.com/view_correlation?id=1476

  4. In an argument with a Christian, we ‘lose’ because most of us cannot explain the Big Bang, carbon dating, evolution, and a myriad of other concepts at an expert level, whereas their arguments are air tight – ‘because god’. Maybe that’s why Pastafarianism has gained popularity – dumbs down the argument to their level.

  5. lancethruster

    May the Almighty Water Nymph have mercy on your soul for your blasphemy as it drowns for all eternity in the bottomless depths – PBUH

  6. Recently I have heard a lot of atheists upset about this subject. Perhaps I’m missing the point, but I don’t understand why it matters whether or not religious people have one more false belief and operate under the assumption that atheism is a religion. For me, I’ve already discounted their powers of rational thinking and am undisturbed by this topic.

  7. Reblogged this on The Atheist Me and commented:
    Awesome! I now accept the water nymph as my true deity ;)

  8. Being heard is one thing, while being “Found” as thought believable at the end of it all is believing in a said “God”.

    The word “Religion” in it’s truest sense depicts or frames a practice. Faith as though the evidence of an unseen substance is where hope then speaks the loudest.

    There’s faith, there’s blind notions of a God or deity, there’s religions, yet how does that square with the one “thing” we all have to look forward to? Meaning death?

    Believing one way or the other will never answer the ONE question all mankind has been given to ponder.

    For some it’s simply “lights out” and for others who hope to postpone the inevitable, it remains the big “Question” which interprets as if their only hope that is real to them.

    All the above might seem believable in it’s time, yet when does a mind know that it’s also been deceived? is it before, during or after all that it’s gone through?

    Herein resides the “Void” that only the “Truth” can fill.

    The only God that is also “Real” is the God of truth, yet in order for that God to also be OUR own God (the only one we completely trust), only then does our own interpretation of the truth then define who God is?

    “I believed therefor I am” does not make anyone a God OR possessor of the truth. That is unless all the above also revolves around the core of what has been determined as acceptable within their own small world.

    Without Truth, who are any of us who also want the history of our existence to one day also be found as believable?

    Life proves much, yet only to those who agree. Does that “Alone’ leave any room for the “Truth”?

    At minimum we should all try to live vicariously through the one we say we “believe” to be true.

    Someone once got close in their assessment made, To thine own self be true”…they too just missed the mark in their own fallible nature that still requires “True” forgiveness…Just sayin

  9. Science is self-correcting, which is why it often seems contradictory and unreliable. In sum, it changes with new information. Religion is self-affirming. So, while it also is contradictory and unreliable, it does not change with new information. Religion changes with human need. When humans relied on the earth to spontaneously produce food and for women to spontaneously to produce children, the deity was a fertility goddess. When humans needed to win battles, the deity was a warrior god. When humans needed a friend, the deity was a chill dude named Jesus. There is a great blog called godlessindixie in which a former pastor writes about the kind of Christian confirmation bias that ‘confirms’ belief as Deb writes about in this post. Check it out here: http://godlessindixie.com/2014/05/22/games-christians-play-three-common-examples-of-confirmation-bias/

    • Patricia Thanks for the link. Yes, I’ve read him. Great blog!

      I totally agree with you and wrote something like that recently. (Science is not always right, but it admits to its errors and its uncertainties, and makes adjustments. It can be updated, recalculated and rewritten. Religion doesn’t have that same sort of flexibility because, if religion says it’s wrong, it may no longer exists.)

      Love this, “Religion changes with human need.” Religion does evolve, too, but as you said, as long as it continues to be self-affirming.

  10. Awesome, awesome post, Debbie. You have such a gift for putting into rational, concise, and eloquent words so many of the things that swirl around in my brain.

  11. Reading over this, I am finally beginning to understand your point of view on this topic. So. Fine, atheism in itself is not a religion, a belief, a worldview. You’re a denier, and that is perfectly logical to you.

    So you’re saying that belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is existential because that event is unprovable and unrepeatable and unverifiable not only now, but across all of human existence. The only evidence is eye-witness testimony. Any evidence can be faked. Relics often are fake. Stories can be fabricated. It happens all the time in court. People want their lies to be accepted as the truth.

    But of course that historical event is also existential in nature because of what it implies, uh, religiously. Namely that someone claiming to be God proved it by rising from the dead.

    I went to the National Museum of American History in DC when they had the special exhibition on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. There was presented all kinds of evidence and testimony. This was his tuxedo. This was his top hat. This is a manuscript describing the events that day at the theater. This was the last tea cup he drank from (saved from off the desk in the oval office — *creepy* by the way!!).

    People come to the museum and view this evidence, and I bet most people would never even consider that it could all be a lie, a conspiracy. They were taught by their parents and schools to believe the story. They trust that the Smithsonian employees are doing their jobs, the same jobs that we could do, using the same methods of museum conservation and preservation that we would all be taught and have agreed are worthy of our trust and confidence.

    If for some reason the physical evidence and original manuscripts describing Lincoln’s assassination were to be destroyed through war or other calamity, would the historical event be any less true? It is conceivable that someone with a weird agenda, to deny that the event happened, could plot and carry out this sort of scrubbing of history.

    Let’s go a bit darker, because I also visited the Holocaust Museum while in DC. Those events were exceptional, seemingly impossible. As time increases, eye-witnesses die, and deniers try to destroy the evidence, the holocaust will also seem more and more surreal, more outside of the capability of human beings, more existential.

    Why are there deniers? Because they can’t handle the truth. They want to believe the lie. No amount of preserved or newly discovered evidence, testimony, non-believer documentation, photography, or time travel will ever convince them otherwise.

    • Could you clarify who you refer to as deniers? Atheists or Christians? Also, would you give examples of newly discovered evidence that the deniers ignore?

      • Hello bigecart; I labelled atheists as resurrection-deniers. Oh, there are all kinds of “apologetic” publications and websites that have newly-discovered “evidence” to bolster Christian faith.

        Remember that Carl Sagan book/movie “Contact”? Even if a person traveled back in time to witness the death and resurrection of Jesus, how could that person gather enough compelling evidence to convince everyone?

        The evidence is so not my point, so I will reiterate: if everyone destroys all the evidence of Lincoln’s assassination, will it have never happened?

        • zyll9 It is a collection of evidence. We know that Lincoln existed. We have many documents. We know his thoughts and his actions. He is also human, and he fits the profile of what is “normal.” We may not be able to agree on the exact details of his assassination, but we know he lived and died as a mortal. A man who can heal the blind or turn water to wine, a man who can live in the belly of a whale and a woman who becomes pregnant without sexual intercourse, are examples of things that do not make logical sense based on what we know. At one time, humans believed all sorts of stories about deities that did unbelievable things. Some cultures still do–and Christians find them unbelievable.

        • I truly was a little confused by your post – thank you for clarifying. I am probably still missing the point(s), but why should I believe in the holocaust but not in Elvis lives or Arthur and the Knights of the round table? I guess I make the determination based on my perceived quality of the sources.

          I also don’t like the word ‘denier’ in the context that you used it. My understanding of Christianity is that faith without proof is a fundamental part. Denying implies ignoring a truth. As an atheist, I see logical explanations instead of God’s hand. With no proof/evidence, I find that I cannot make that leap of faith. I am not denying a truth – I don’t have the faith required to be religious. I am probably being picky over what is just a word, but denier bugs me for some reason.

          • Great bigecart, that you make your determination based on the quality of the sources! However, you say: “My understanding of Christianity is that faith without proof is a fundamental part.” I have heard this so many times, but it is based on a misunderstanding. It is exactly because we believe that 500 people all testifying that they saw Jesus alive after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-7), at least 11 spending significant time with Him over a period of 40 days and not a single one of them ever going back on their testimony, even when persecuted, tortured and killed, does say something about the quality of these sources! Added to that, there are the agreement of facts for those facts which can be tested against external archaeological evidence (i.e. it is not simply a made-up story about people who never existed). And then for any “born-again” Christian, the additional experiential evidence from the change it made in their own lives (and the lives of others). This is light-years removed from any blind “leap of faith”. Yes, there is a leap of faith involved, but that entails that once you are convinced by the evidence, you cannot just ignore it or just intellectually agree to it, but need to entrust your life to this Person… and _that_ still requires a leap of faith, even if you are convinced by the evidence.

    • @zyll9, Do you see where the Abraham Lincoln analogy fails? We aren’t being asked to believe Abraham Lincoln lived, did miracles, died, was raised from the dead and will someday judge our immortal souls based on whether or not we confess our sins and believe in him. If a god is going to determine my eternal fate based on belief in some guy for who was supposedly the Savior of all mankind, I would like much more evidence than stories written decades after the events in question. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

      • Well the entire analogy is predicated on the claim that, like the Lincoln assassination, the execution and resurrection of Jesus was an actual historical event. If we conclude that Jesus actually died and was literally raised from the dead, then it also proves that what he claimed about his deity is also true. Sorry if I didn’t make that clearer originally. Again, evidence will never be enough if your mind is already made up.

        • @zyll9, Thanks for the reply. Perhaps you’re missing my point. Whether or not I believe Lincoln was real doesn’t matter all that much. Depending on your soteriology, believing that Jesus was not only real but the Son of God matters a great deal. That being the case, the evidence is disproportionately lacking by a very large margin.

          Also, it’s a bit presumptuous to say that someone doesn’t believe simply because his mind is already made up or he’s looking for reasons to deny the evidence. As a former, longtime, sincere believer, I am not alone in saying it was precisely because I honestly did investigate the claims of the resurrection and divinity of Jesus that I am no longer a Xian. Over the course of a few years, in an effort to solidify my beliefs, I diligently researched all available evidence. When I was finally honest with myself, I had to admit there wasn’t enough to keep believing. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

          I do agree with you that evidence will never be enough if your mind is made up. That’s precisely what made my deconversion so difficult. I had to not have my mind made up anymore before I could honestly assess whether or not I had good reasons for believing.

          • I see. That is a very sad account and I’m sorry to hear what happened. Thanks for helping me state what you had; “evidence will never be enough if your mind is made up.”

            • @zyll9, I appreciate the sympathy, but what do you think of my point?

              • Do you mean the point about the discrepancy between believing in Abe’s assassination and believing that Jesus was not only real but the Son of God? If that’s what you meant, then all I can say is that you have much in common with Doubting Thomas and Saul of Tarsus. One could say that Paul had his mind made up to the contrary until, while on the road to Damascus, *sufficient* evidence was thrust upon him.

                • @zyll9, I’d be happy to see Jesus in person or have a Road to Damascus experience. In those stories, God knew what it would take and met them there. Yet, despite sincere, desperate, earnest searching on my part (and the part of many others), no such acquiescence was made. You see, you are exactly wrong about me. My mind is *far* from made up. I’m very open to new evidence yet none has been forthcoming. God, if he exists and is all-knowing, would know what it would take to convince me but for some reason has chosen not to. What would convince you that Jesus wasn’t God and/or God isn’t real?

                  • Interesting! Well that’s cool; I pray that you would find and be found by Him. I don’t know why He has chosen not to reveal himself to you yet. Definitely you’ve done much sincere soul searching and I admire that. Most people don’t even bother.

                    What would convince me that Jesus wasn’t God, etc.? He’s already done so much proving the substance of my faith that it’s not really even an issue anymore. He’s shown up so many times in my life and in those I care about around me, that coincidence was long ago ruled out. Love and grace and holiness; financial, medical, addictions, physical harm… God has done mighty works for my good.

                    I suppose if an angel came to me and gave me a vision, showing me all these works I’ve attributed to His glory and handiwork, and showing me other details of my life that no one knows but me; and then the angel proceeded to show me how they were not God or Jesus, then that would certainly call my faith into question. I guess that would be an experience on the order and magnitude of a mighty conversion.

                    • @zyll9, I’m trying to make a point here but maybe I’m being too subtle. Your initial claim was that atheists deny the resurrection, among other things, because they can’t handle the truth. I’m telling you that’s exactly opposite of reality for me and most atheists I have met, especially former believers. We are truth seekers, even to the point where we end up letting go of things we don’t want to because there is no evidence to support it. This included things such as our longtime faith and “relationship” with Jesus. I was a devout follower. I *did* experience his presence, but I eventually came to realize it was all in my mind, just like it is for every other believer. I, too, used to think that God had his reasons for not revealing himself to certain people until I realized by reading countless stories of non-believers sincerely seeking after him. that either he was asleep on the job or not there at all.

                      The other thing I’m confused by is that your OP in this thread gave an example of tangible evidence being proof for Lincoln, yet your evidence for a belief in God seems entirely subjective based on your latest comment. Many people in many other religions also “know” their god is real because he has revealed himself to them and done good works. How would you prove to them that their experiences are not genuine but yours are?

                      I’m not saying this is true of you, but most believers I know — and I was one of them — tend to engage in some form of confirmation bias, letting God off the hook for bad things and giving him credit for good. Heck, everyone does that in some form or another, even if it’s just attributing poor decisions to bad luck while crediting themselves for good decisions.

                      Look, you seem like a nice person. I’m happy that your faith seems to be working for you. I truly am. Some of my best friends are devout Xians. It’s just that personal experience is notoriously unreliable and I, along with many others, need more than that to convince us God is real. We are sincere seekers of truth and tend to proportion our beliefs to the evidence. That’s not the same as seeking to deny any evidence that comes our way.

                    • I see what you mean. I admit I wasn’t tracking well so thanks for laying it all out. When will the subjective experiences of faith confirm or deny the objective facts? Well Jesus said what the signs of his coming will be, and I see many of them currently being fulfilled. So perhaps we shall have our answer soon. Until then, post-mortem is the absolute epiphany.

                    • @zyll9 Well, for the last 2000 years, many various groups of people have been absolutely sure they were living in the end times and “saw the signs” of Christ’s return, so I don’t take much stock in that. Can you give me an example of a sign that is unique to right now and has never been seen before that would point to his coming?

                      As to your question, the subjective experiences of faith will always confirm objective facts when one is only willing to look at the evidence that confirm the belief and ignore that which does not. This is how you wind up with so many different religious groups of religious followers all believing they have the Truth. If it is all subjective, how do you know who is right?

  12. I know too many reasonable atheists to believe that it’s a belief system or a religion. Atheism as a belief system or religion is argued out of emotion, not logic. We do see (and talk about) some prominent atheists who try to turn atheism into a religion whilst professing it is not. I think that, like Christians, there are the particularly militant who put a bad face on an otherwise reasonable assertion and make it so polemic that they are setting themselves up as proselytizers. Those atheists are the aberration, not the norm.

    I humbly disagree with comparing superstition to Christianity, though. One objective look around shows some pretty rigorous intellectual (and logical) defense of the faith. These are not people taking it at face value and ignoring questions; they are being honest and forthright with the hard questions. I find myself glazing over when trying to read a physicist’s arguments for God from quantum mechanics.

    I recently read an article by an “apologist” who decided to compare an atheist to someone who decided they did not believe in Sweden. It was written well and on the surface logical, but I found the example silly and demeaning because it reduced a belief I respect for its intellectual honesty to absurdity. That’s pretty much doable for any belief anywhere at anytime, you just need to have wordsmithing ability.

    • Thank you Dave, well said. I think I get seduced into responding here because I read these insulting correlations comparing God to gnomes, unicorns, santa claus, &c. I think I just compared atheists to holocaust deniers, which wasn’t very respectful in hindsight. Sorry Deb and everyone.

      • @zyll9 No apologies necessary. I understand this is a touchy subject.
        It is a little ironic that your avatar is a wizard.
        I don’t find much difference in the belief of god and the belief in other things, like unicorns, that cannot be proven. God can hear us all speak at once; he can bring us to a magical place after we die. What is the difference between the myth of god and any other myth?

        • Thanks Deb, I hope you know there’s understanding here too. The avatar is artwork from an old computer game called Zyll. It’s my pseudonym, that’s all. I liked playing the game when it was new.

          I don’t know why I use a pseudonym. In the past when I’ve posted on atheist blogs, they’ve gone searching my IP address and “expose” my identity. A total breach of their admin privileges, but whatever. It gives me a small, delusional sense of privacy because I know from experience that many who have lost their religion are very angry at Jesus and look for ways to persecute Christians.

          • zyll9 I do appreciate your perspective (and your respect), even though we don’t agree. I haven’t lost my way. I’m not angry. And I’m definitely not out to persecute Christians. Live and let live.

            • You are wrong, Deb. If you are told a thousand times that you are denying God and/or angry with him then that must be the case.
              It is nothing short of amazing what kinda intellectual somersaults the believers have to make in order to stay even relatively coherent or true to themselves.

              You have shown once again a remarkable amount of patience in replying – something I do not have in me. I´d be willing to concede that faith equals delusion and believers are actually mentally challenged – of course I wouldn´t say that…oops :)

              • @saab93f You live in a culture where religion does not have a stronghold so people understand you. Here, people get defensive if you examine or criticize god and religion. The best way to move past the stereotypes that atheists are evil, immoral, angry and without hope is just to prove that with words and actions. :)

                • Of course I understand you, Deb. You American unbelievers have to bend over backwards just be tolerated let alone respected.
                  You´re right in saying that we (all the unbelievers) must show the theists that we are decent people by just being that, decent. I guess it is not the default position for the pious…

                  • In many cases, I’ve found that atheists and people of tolerant faiths are thought of as being significantly less ethical or moral the higher up the chain of piousness you go. I live in NY, and while I have a number of customers who admit to being atheists or Pagans, most of them and all my friends/coworkers are some type of Christian. However, the majority of them are good Christians in that they are tolerant and accepting of different beliefs. (Then again, I work in a gaming/comic store, so the clientele is fairly laid back.)

                    Compare this to random encounters I’ve had with strangers in restaurants, schools, bookstores, malls, and in my old neighborhood who either;

                    A) saw my pentacle necklace and called me names/said I was a baby killer/pushed their children away from me/revoked invitations to neighborhood parties, or
                    B) didn’t see my necklace but eavesdropped on cell phone conversations where I mentioned I didn’t actually celebrate Christmas/Easter so had a free day…and they took it upon themselves to interrupt and tell me I “shouldn’t speak like that in public, you godless atheist”. I find it amusing that they automatically assume “atheist” rather than say, Wiccan…or even Jewish. Unless these fundies are so arrogant to believe that *every* religion celebrates their holidays?

                    The sad thing is that here in the US, for every one Christian who isn’t “like that” there’s three or more who most assuredly are. :/

    • Oops, Dave. Sorry about the confusion with the comments. Just saw that your comment got in twice. I understand there is a wide variety of belief within Christianity. No offense was meant was meant to any individual. I’m just writing from where I stand. I’ve read a good many of the logical defenses of faith, and for someone who still has an inclination to believe, they can be persuasive. I don’t find them convincing, though. You have to admit, though, that the superstitions passed down from the Catholic church are still seen in many Christian churches today.

    • Dave, I just tried to read that article by the Scandinavian Skeptic and agree with you. I couldn’t get past the first section. Because the writer was not intellectually honest, I won’t read the rest of it. It’s absurd to suggest that denial of a fact (Sweden exists) is the same as denial of someone’s belief (clearly, not facts). The article is here for anyone who wants to read it, but I wouldn’t waste my time: http://www.rzim.eu/the-scandanavian-sceptic-or-why-atheism-is-a-belief-system

  13. Great post. Here’s how i dealt with just this yesterday:

    “Robin, precisely which part of the “A” in A-Theism, don’t you understand? It means “Without.” Without-theism. It is not a position of belief, rather the default position. As theism is the positive claim (new information superimposed over the default) the burden of proof falls, always, to the claimant. Consider Velcro. It was invented in 1948 by George de Mestral. Now pay attention here, Robin, for this is where it gets complicated. Is it logically possible to ask someone in 1947 to prove or disprove Velcro? What would you call the entire human population in 1947? Avelcros, perhaps? Is that meaningful in any way? Does the human population in 1947 have a negative belief in Velcro, or is the absence of belief the default position?

    • If atheism is not a claim of any kind, then it is simply meaningless. On the other hand, if the atheist wishes to claim that his atheism is true, then that must mean that atheism is a claim, and claims need to be defended, evidence provided and reasons given.

      • zyll9 Do you need to defend why you don’t believe in water nymphs? Do you need to give evidence and reason?

        _____

        • You were careful in how you framed your question by using the wording “why you don’t believe in water nymphs” when the only question I know how to logically answer is “why you believe water nymphs aren’t real.” We’re back to our lovely impasse. :-) I don’t know if water nymphs exist, so I won’t make any arrogant judgments against their existence.
          —–
          Atheism is a religion like a bald person wouldn’t know what color hair they would have if they did have hair.
          —–
          Atheism is a religion like a TV turned off doesn’t have the required electricity to know what channel would display when you turn it on.

          • zyll9 Your assumption would not be “arrogant.” It would be logical. It also would not be a judgment. You are basing your conclusions on the knowledge you have and that you’ve learned through our collective society.

            This is a blog for about unbelief, so everyone is free to let their hair down and joke around. I’ve been writing with these people for a long time, and they are friends. We are not intentionally mean or rude. You just entered our living room. We’re not going out on the street, trying to offend. It’s just a touchy subject for you.

            _____

            • Thanks. Yup, it’s touchy because it’s very personal to my, uh, “testimony.” *cringe* I believe in humanity too. I guess that’s why I’m here; I see some very thoughtful, heartfelt people here.

          • It is truly impressive how obstinately you cling to your position. If it’s a comfort to you, then good for you, but I doubt you’re swaying anyone here.

      • I truly don’t understand why it’s so difficult to grasp and accept that atheism is an ABSENCE of belief. It’s not a claim, it’s the denial or non-acceptance of a claim. Insisting that atheism is a claim or a belief system is akin to trying to conjure up something where nothing exists.

        “If you don’t believe in God, then what do you believe in?” I’ve been asked. I answer, “I believe in humanity. I believe in science.” That doesnt mean that humanity and science are my “religion.”

        • There are people who actually make the claim that “”there is no God.” While that may be true it’s impossible to prove that there isn’t a God. Most atheists I know simply lack a belief in deities and I include myself in this category. There may be some confusion regarding that subtlety.

      • Nonsense. There is no claim made in atheism. It is simply without-belief in your Woo, his Woo, and her Woo. It is also the default position, the natural state of a human being at rest.

      • lancethruster

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

        …Stephen F Roberts

    • @john zande – Good example. You get a lot of traffic on your blog from all types, so I can only imagine the debates you have!

  14. lancethruster

    Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color.

  15. Pingback: The Lost Ark | Zyll

  16. @LT & Lisa – Ha! Good ones! Maybe we should dedicate a page to that…”Saying atheism is a religion is like…..”

  17. atheism is a religion as not bird-watching is a hobby

  18. lancethruster

    Don’t be a bad atheist – NSFW

    xD

  19. lancethruster

    This thread could also be expanded by discussing the differences between “non-belief,” “unbelief,” and “disbelief.”

  20. @xyll9, we are all born atheists (even you). We’re atheists by default. We have no knowledge, no beliefs, no thoughts, no ethics, nothing at the moment we are born. Everything is learned. Along the way we are exposed to religion and we may or may not believe what we are told. If the proselytizers and preachers, parents, and community fail to convince us, we remain atheists.

    I did not lose my religion. I never had a religion to lose. I tried to believe. I wanted to believe like everyone else. But I can no more make myself believe there’s a god than I can make myself believe I’m a porcupine. Could you convince yourself you’re a porcupine?

    • Okay, I’ll accept that the human soul is a blank slate at birth that very quickly dies without the loving inculcation of beliefs about the “religion” called “mother”. A baby is continually taught by mom about delayed gratification and to have hopeful expectations about the future.

      You could say that the baby is learning to have faith in their mother/father/nanny, such that the baby’s must have faith that their needs will be provided for by the parent. When a mother says to the child that they will always be loved no matter what, I suppose she is a proselytizer convincing her child to blindly believe in her care and provision.

      Every child has a mother, but if they were not raised under the “mother” faith, then yes, I suppose they never had that religion to lose because they were never a believer. Does that mean the mother never provided a fertile ovum? No. An actual, real mother exists for every child, whether the child believes in her or not.

      • @zyll9 I dunno. I think the “faith” you refer to is not faith but trust. I learned to trust my mother and the adults in my life. I think you conflate the two meanings of belief. I have faith/trust that my mother will take care of me. I have faith/belief in something that I have no proof exists.

      • Okay, say I did believe the religion I was taught as a child. I believed it initially because adults told me it was true. They also told me that Santa and the Easter Bunny exist. In each case as I grew older and started to learn and think for myself, I realized these things were not real, could not be real.

        As for comparing belief in a living biological mother to an invisible guy in the sky … science tells me how I came to be and it is proven every day by the birth of children all over the world. There is no compelling evidence anywhere that an invisible man in the sky exists or had anything to do with it.

  21. To all the commenters: what a great discussion. I have jumped in at the end and have greatly enjoyed the conversation passively. Love all the atheism analogies – thank you to the collective brains that gave me a great mid-day chuckle! Just to put the cat among the pigeons – a few people have commented that atheism or non-belief is a human’s default setting. Given that every known civilization has created gods/spirits etc., I would argue that, while the exact nature of human belief is shaped by the community into which a human is born, a human is hard-wired to create answers to the unanswerable questions in the form of religious mythology. Our default setting is to want answers, and our ability to imagine has led to the universal creation of religions in every culture. So just maybe, our default leans more towards belief than not. That’s why it’s possible to be educated and intelligent and still have strong religious beliefs. If, the impulse to “believe” is very strong in religious people, then sure, they are going to find it difficult to think that someone can just simply not have a belief and will assume that atheism is a belief substitute.

    • Great points, Anne Wallman! We definitely seem predisposed to find answers for things we don’t understand, even if our answers are pretty creative. Maybe we do lean towards the belief in the supernatural, but perhaps that is also a function of our evolutionary development. We could be evolving as a species, and out-growing the meme of religion. When we were in our infancy, that’s all we could imagine. (Thunder must be a god walking overhead.) Now, that we are aware of how so many things work, we as a culture–and maybe our brains–seem to be evolving away from religion and superstition. Maybe.

      But, yes, I can see how some would see atheism as a “belief substitute.”

      • Sounds to me like the “god of the gaps.” As our knowledge grows, there are fewer and fewer things for which we need god as an explanation.

      • Deb, you say We definitely seem predisposed to find answers for things we don’t understand, even if our answers are pretty creative.

        There’s an important difference between finding answers and inserting/imposing explanations. And this difference matters.

        The notion that because every human community seems to create religions is not evidence for revealing some need for finding answers as Anne suggests; it’s evidence that we practice substituting explanations for stuff we don’t know anything about. (That seems to me to be religion in a nutshell.)

        We do this constantly, everyday… insert possible explanations (models) for unexplained or unknown stuff we encounter daily but we don’t just blithely accept our inserted/imposed explanations as if they were automatically true and reliable just because we compose them: we test them and reshape the models as reality arbitrates their usefulness to us (most of us, anyway). After all, we have to work with something when we encounter the unknown – including answering ‘why’ questions – so of course we substitute what we think fits. That’s not evidence for religious ‘hard-wiring'; that’s evidence that we’re not very good at first admitting the default “I don’t know” before fully appreciating that our ‘answers’ to these often unknowable questions are really very much a reflection of us… and not of some form of interventionist divine creative agency eerily similar to a human parental figure.

    • I dig the comment, Anne. One of the foundations of Christian proselytizing is that everyone is pining/longing/looking for the deeper meaning. The idea that someone is NOT wired that way is totally foreign; if someone says that they must be concealing it, lying about it, or just unaware of it.

      The premise has always been that if the desire exists, there must be a fulfillment of that desire that exists, otherwise why would we have the desire? I find that argument falling short in a few obvious ways.

  22. I understand the idea of “god of the gaps” Deb and PT, but I was trying to get at a need for something spiritual to give us meaning in life. I think Dave sums it up quite well. A lot of people I know find that spirituality in nature, science and philosophy, therefore, no need to look for it in religion. That quest for spirituality in the human realm is important to the Ethical Culture movement, of which I am a member. It is one of the reasons that many EC members consider it a “religion” – in the broadest terms of course. One of the important benefits I get from EC is the “community” aspect of membership. Ultimately, I think the benefits of community is what keeps a lot of people in more traditional religious organizations. Personally, I do feel a need to look for that “deeper meaning”.

  23. Reblogged this on myatheistlife and commented:
    Here is something that shouldn’t be argued with though I know that there will be those that do. sigh.

  24. Planet Ooh really does exist! I visit there just about every time I read one of your masterful posts of logic, reason and honesty.

    The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster makes your point as well – if some people are going to embrace one arbitrary belief system, then others are free to embrace any other equally arbitrary (albeit silly) belief system. To deny one system as absurd is to deny them all, because they all have the same attributes and are equally arbitrary and illogical.

  25. Great post. You’re right that even some atheists buy into this claptrap.

  26. I love examples like these! They do tend to upset Christians though…Many of the ones in my area tend to believe atheism is a “negative belief system”, despite actual atheists telling them otherwise. Then again, these same Christians believe I worship “the devil”, so yeah.

    One thing that’s always bothered me about most religions is actually spoken of in paragraph 2; the idea that you can ask the Gods for material goods, and that They’d be so jealous as to necessarily demand you to love Them more than your family/friends. This concept has always seemed strange to me.

    When I want to get over an illness, I don’t just pray for the comfort it provides…I take medicine and get extra sleep. When I find myself short of funds, I don’t expect the Gods to miraculously shower me with money…I either pick up more hours or cut back on frivolous spending. Prayer is not an opportunity to ask for wealth, power, love, or fame. It’s a time to meditate and thank the Gods (who may very well not exist, though I believe they do) for the world They created (through scientifically sound means). If one wants to see change, one must put time and energy into it.

    Anyway, thanks for covering this topic, though you honestly shouldn’t have to.

    • Hi Tarnished,

      You mentioned that some Christians think you worship “the devil” and also mentioned thanking the Gods. May I ask if you’re a wiccan, perchance, if it’s not too personal? I’m just curious, I promise I won’t tell people to see if you float like a duck. ;) Wicca is seriously misunderstood by a lot of Christians; nevermind that they’re, y’know, not acting like Christians at all with that attitude.

      • Hello Dave. Love the Monty Python reference…Holy Grail is my favorite after Life of Brian.

        Yes, I’m an eclectic solitary Wiccan. I decided to become one 17 years ago, when I was 13 and haven’t looked back. :)

        Religion, for me, has never been about “I’m right, everyone else is wrong”, so when I found a path that said different faiths (or lack thereof) are still good, I jumped on learning everything I could about it. I truly don’t care what others believe (or don’t) so long as they refuse to harm anyone and keep their religion out of the public sector. Of course, the Christian majority of the US do not always think this way, and we still have parents denying their children medicine in favor of prayer and schools that teach Christian myths alongside the actual science in Biology and Earth Science classes…Ugh.

        I don’t understand why people constantly have to turn to a supernatural origin for everything. If the Gods exist, why the heck wouldn’t They create everything in a natural way that we could find evidence for as we grew technologically? I see the Lady and Her Consort as less of big magical unknowable sky-parents and more as incredibly subtle driving forces behind everything that has happened since the Big Bang.

        Is this still somewhat illogical? Yup. It is. But at least I’m not ramming it down people’s throats claiming it’s how *everyone* should think.

  27. I would have to disagree. While not believing in a religion is certainly not a religion itself, not believing in someone’s belief is still a belief (a belief about their belief). A belief is an acceptance of the truth of something, a default opinion that you fall back on when you are tired, intellectually overwhelmed, or just plain stubborn. It is the way your intuition leans.

    As such, being without belief when presented with a new concept is just silly. You either have a reason to endorse this new concept, be it trust, respect for their authority, or threat of violence, or you don’t, and then believe the concept to be false. It is for this reason that I submit that atheism is the belief that there is no god. It is supported for all the usual reasons that people are without belief, but instead of a lack of belief, it is the idea that those who promote the positive claim are wrong.

    To paraphrase a conversation from yesterday (on agnosticism, with myatheistlife), when presented with a violent lightning storm, the proto-human suggests to his friend that there is a man in the sky who is angry. His friend has two possible agnostic responses: either, “Why do you say that?” or, “Really? Where?” The first is the response of an atheist, and the second that of a theist, and it serves to show how subtle the difference can be between the two.

    • Ding! Thank you for this intellectual honesty! “Being without belief when presented with a new concept is just silly.” I agree wholeheartedly. “Atheism is the belief that there is no god.” Finally that describes what I have been trying to say about this cognitive nonsense about “non-belief” being something other than “a belief that theists are wrong.”

      • The common objection theists make to this is, “Ok, that’s a positive claim, so prove that there is no god,” overlooking the basis for the claim, which is that I have no reason to believe your assertion (agnostic) – I think you’re wrong (atheist). The claim that I think you are wrong is defended by explaining why your evidence is insufficient. Depending on the claim, it may include positive, more plausible counterexamples, or simply point out logical errors or insufficiencies made in the claim. In other words, the defense proposed for no belief is the same given for belief in none.

  28. Reblogged this on We do recover! A recoverd meth addict's blog and commented:
    I don’t normally reblog, but this is stated so well. I too, am sick and tired of being told that my disbelief in religion is a religion itself. Here are some words of a fellow atheist… Enjoy.

  29. lancethruster

    Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

    ~ Douglas Adams

  30. Logical and Independent, and completely closed minded and intolerant of Christianity. In the Age of Obama.

    • lancethruster

      Religious apologists complain bitterly that atheists and secularists are aggressive and hostile in their criticism of them. I always say: look, when you guys were in charge, you didn’t argue with us, you just burnt us at the stake. Now what we’re doing is, we’re presenting you with some arguments and some challenging questions, and you complain.

      – A.C. Grayling

    • My opinion is that atheists are, as a whole, not “intolerant of Christianity” per se. We are intolerant of irrationality and theistic belief systems based upon fairy tales, myths and wishful thinking. We are especially intolerant of these belief systems being shoved down everyone’s throats, and of being ostracized and discriminated against by people because we question and reject these theistic religions.

      • lancethruster

        It seems the new Christian complaint is “Quit being intolerant of our intolerance!”

      • @Bill
        I find it amusing when Christians get upset about “intolerance” of their beliefs, but profess that it is their duty to be intolerant of all others. In the 17 years I’ve been a Wiccan, I have had the pleasure of being told (both IRL and online) that it’s acceptable for Christians to speak out against my faith since I pray to “demons and false Gods”. However, I’m being deliberately wicked and cruel when I simply point out my reasons for giving up Christianity. Why is intolerance only bad when directed at your faith, but praised when directed at other faiths or lack of faiths?

        @Chris

        I wholeheartedly agree that society would benefit from more secularism and ethics being in the public sphere. Religious beliefs are supposed to be private, not forced on every Tom, Dick, and Jane who happen to live in the same country/town/neighborhood as you. What many people conveniently forget is that the US is not, and never has been, a “Christian nation”. True, the majority are Christian now, but that was hardly the case before the Europeans arrived…and even so, our government is set up to prevent a majority religion from turning into a theocracy.

        I know I’m speaking out here as a theist, but I support what most atheists are trying to do in the US. I don’t want laws created that reflect a faith I don’t believe in, “morals” being taken from a 2000 year old book and held as the highest standard, or Judeo-Christian mythology being allowed in science class. So long as I can worship privately and in the confines of my own home/yard, I say remove religion from the government and schools.

  31. It’s not about being upset, it’s about acknowledging the universal nature of Man. That from belief can come intolerance, even among atheists, and particularly evangelical atheists.

    • lancethruster

      You make people miserable and there’s nothing they can do about it, just like god.

      ~ Homer Simpson

    • Amen to Chris A and Tarnished.

      Bill- What is the “universal nature of man”?

      Yes, atheists can be intolerant, too. We’re all people. But we should not be tolerant of Christian intolerance towards others who don’t believe as they do. (The tolerance paradox.) It also seems that you came looking for trouble here on a blog where we, as nonbelievers or believers on the fringe (there are a couple of Wiccans), discuss the problems we see with religion in our lives. Are you here to understand the views of others or to look for evidence of “Christian persecution”? You won’t find that here, and you certainly won’t find that in the US.

  32. Bill, you say that from belief can come intolerance, even among atheists, and particularly evangelical atheists.

    But atheism doesn’t come from belief; as John says, non belief is the starting point all of us share (and we do not arrive as blank slates but as biological critters with neural pathways already formed for particular kinds of behaviours – including morality). All of us have some reason for believing what we do. The question atheists ask of believers in gods or a god is how can the reasons for belief – and effects acting on them – be justified? When critical of the very poor reasons then offered, atheists are then vilified… as if criticizing acting on poor reasons to great negative effect is an effrontery!

    Get over it, ’cause we’re not going to stop.

    You lay the same charge here, claiming atheists – like believers – exercise intolerance from their belief in non belief (sort of like going for a walk to exercise ones legs and being accused of riding a non bicycle bicycle). Your reasoning is broken.

    Atheists can be intolerant… but not from their non belief as you (and Dave above) assume incorrectly (Dave actually suggests in the May 28, 7:36 comment that to passionately criticize the religious for implementing poorly justified beliefs that cause real harm to real people in real life is militancy, of all the ludicrous assertions). We can be highly critical of beliefs that are poorly justified because acting on them can be demonstrated to cause tremendous and pervasive and pernicious negative effect in the real world. That’s neither intolerant nor ‘militant’ but a reasonable response to an unreasonable activity based on unreasonable beliefs.

    But rather than address why these poorly justified reasons for belief are insufficient to justify these negative effects, you vilify us (as does Dave) as evangelical atheists. This is an avoidance technique by believers (and an example of misguided faitheist accommodationism all too popular in atheists of little principled moral fiber trying desperately to appear more tolerant than those nasty New Atheists) as tedious and tiresome as it is grossly misleading yet par for the course for believers to dismiss legitimate criticism of their poorly justified beliefs (like non belief is another kind of religious belief) and faitheists – including misguided atheists – to excuse the religious for this constant imposition of their unreasonable beliefs on others.

    • You’ve taken both my comments and my sentiments out of context. I have not, nor will I, “vilify” non-believers. Nor have I engaged in any avoidance or dismissed legitimate criticism; you may have gone back, but you surely did not peruse my posting history. You have, however, supported my statements that there are militant atheists out there who will take every opportunity to insult, belittle, and criticize an individual simply because they fall into the theist camp. Luckily, I avoid tarring large groups of people with the same generalizations. There are plenty of reasonable, articulate, and respectful atheists on this blog. I suggest you learn from them.

      • Dave,

        Sorry for my tardiness in replying. Life, donchaknow.

        Anyway, you say

        We do see (and talk about) some prominent atheists who try to turn atheism into a religion whilst professing it is not. I think that, like Christians, there are the particularly militant who put a bad face on an otherwise reasonable assertion and make it so polemic that they are setting themselves up as proselytizers. Those atheists are the aberration, not the norm.

        Some prominent atheists, plural? Oh no, no, no. You don’t get to make such empty assertions and then claim innocence. Sure, Alain de Botton fits the religious bit, but he’s neither prominent nor ‘militant… just another misguided atheist who has been heavily criticized by those ‘prominent’ atheists like Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Myers, Stenger, and many other popular atheists.

        No one of any atheist prominence suggests turning atheism into a religion. If I’m wrong, please inform me with good source material that I must have missed entirely. But because I am well read in what is called ‘New Atheism, I don’t for a moment think I have misrepresented you in my criticism of the claims you make above. Those claims you make are a gross misrepresentation that there really are ‘these’ atheists (presumably the mysterious prominent ones – not Alain – who want to turn atheism into a religion) who are also particularly ‘militant’… you know, the kind of ‘militancy’ reserved solely for atheists who passionately speak out against the harm done by religious exercise and identify the methodology of any faith-based belief as the root problem. But they’re not advocating that atheism be treated like a religion; that’s absolutely and factually wrong. They’re not advocating for a militant response as in reducing the rights of others or bludgeoning religion with legal sanctions; they’re advocating to get religion out of the public domain. These folk you think exist exist entirely in your imagination, as does the ‘militancy’ you attribute to them. That’s why it’s an intentional and vilifying misrepresentation I criticize you for… for exercising a special kind of vilification for New Atheists that, when pointed out, is met with the kind of claims you make in your response, that such pointed criticism based on compelling evidence is really a militancy to belittle and insult those who practice this kind of special misrepresentation.

        Again, get over it. As long as you try to misrepresent New Atheists as ‘militants’ who ‘proselytize’, you will be called on it and earn this kind of tonal response from people like me.

        • I read both your comments, only responding to this one.

          You’re still missing the meaning of what I wrote. I’m sorry you went to this much trouble to explain (sincerely), but you’re reacting to meaning that you’re assuming, not what I said.

          Line by line, I guess:

          >>We do see (and talk about) some prominent atheists who try to turn atheism into a religion whilst professing it is not.

          The latter part is the most important. “Whilst professing it is not”. Of course they do not claim it is a religion; they just treat it like it is, down to asking other atheists to go out and spread the word, mock religion, not to tolerate other folks’ religious beliefs, and to proselytize that religion has no place in the world. Hitchens especially was guilty of this in many talks. Dawkins is guilty of this regularly. You named them, not I.

          >>I think that, like Christians, there are the particularly militant who put a bad face on an otherwise reasonable assertion and make it so polemic that they are setting themselves up as proselytizers.

          See above. There are obnoxious Christians and there are obnoxious atheists. Some of them are obnoxious because they feel justified. Obnoxiousness is obnoxiousness; I don’t care where it comes from, I don’t think it’s a reasonable way to communicate, share ideas, or interact with other people.

          >>These folk you think exist exist entirely in your imagination, as does the ‘militancy’ you attribute to them.

          I’ve seen Dawkins’ speech at the Reason Rally, several times. Denying that Dawkins is not militant in speech, writing, and general conduct is like saying that Pat Robertson isn’t a fundamental.

          As a sidenote, I think you are using the word vilify and vilification wrongly. Those are strong words. Abusively disparaging? That’s in your head, not mine. You’re taking offense at the labels and demanding that I stop using them; moreover, you’re raking me over the (lengthy, condescending, sarcastic) coals for daring to use easily grasped concepts to, ironically, present ideas concisely and efficiently.

          Finally, you’re welcome to disagree. I expressed my opinion. I still have that opinion after reading your book, which is to say most of the most “prominent” and “popular” atheists (with the exception of Harris) want others to publicly mock, ridicule, and drive religion underground. Militant Christianity hasn’t done that to atheists for a long, long time? Same thing.

          I have a very busy work week, unfortunately, so I will not be returning to these comments. You can hit me up at hare(dot)office(at)gmail if you a.) want to follow up and b.) want to have a conversation and not just rant at me. Hey, I’ll still read it if you rant, but I get enough of the obnoxious and hateful attitude from other purported Christians. Don’t see how it’s healthy to add even more.

          Cheers.

      • Here is an example of a ‘militant’ atheist – Jerry Coyne – with a sizable readership accused of doing what you describe: shouldering the burden (what you presume is an ‘opportunity’ to criticize theists) to uphold the First Amendment in response to a school principal who used a graduation ceremony to promote his religious beliefs. The criticism leveled against the principal by this ‘militant’ atheist is fully warranted by principled good reasons and not – as you suggest – a means “to insult, belittle, and criticize an individual simply because they fall into the theist camp.”

        My point is that you do a disservice to what’s true to paint these active and vocal atheists as both militant and proselytizers when they are neither. This painting you commit to the canvas of reality – by your intentional vilification of vocal New Atheists – does not serve to improve tolerance and respect of individuals but to excuse the religious for their imposition of their religious beliefs on others and tolerate its constant insertion as if such ‘liberal’ allowances would somehow reflect well on atheists!

        It doesn’t. It undermines the very principles of the secular Enlightenment values in the name of tolerance and respect.

        I think being this kind of lap dog (you’re the one applying the term ‘militant’ and you’re the one applying the term ‘proselytizing’, both of which simply aren’t true) is a guaranteed way to being treated as a dog… and New Atheists tend to offer us lessons in the importance of standing up for secular enlightenment principles over and above faux-tolerance and pseudo-respect accommodationists and faitheists urge us to show. You demonstrate these in this comment thread and you should take that criticism to heart before daring to suggest that the fault for this kind of intentional yet misguided misrepresentation and vilification is actually a reasonable, articulate, and respectful way to be an atheist… on this blog or anywhere. It isn’t. And you should know better.

  33. There is so much debate going on these days between Christians and atheists about whether or not god is real and can be proved. While I find some of these debates interesting, I don’t see any real purpose to them. For my part, I don’t care what theists believe. My sister believes in ghosts. I find her talk of them irritating, but that’s all. She doesn’t try to force me to acknowledge them and she doesn’t threaten me with eternal violence because I don’t share her belief. Her belief in ghosts doesn’t restrict who I can marry. It doesn’t try to regulate my body or shame me into behaving in a particular way. Her ghosts are not not jealous ghosts who deny the existence of other ghosts. They are not threatened by science or human rights. If theists were more like my sister and their gods more like her ghosts, we’d all get along just fine.

  34. lancethruster

    “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”

    — Isaac Asimov

  35. Some things eventually change, but it can take generations to get focused. In the 1800’s, when the science of paleontology was evolving, most Christians rejected both the idea of animals we now call of “dinosaurs”, and also the concept of “extinction”. It was believed by the Christians of the day, that God had created the world & every living thing in it. Therefore, since God was perfect, everything he created was “perfect”. This made the idea of extinction “impossible”. Nothing God created could fail & go extinct, because that would mean God had done something imperfect. The giant bones being found & classified at the time were just animals that we had not discovered yet. Now fast-forward to the present day. Try to find an Evangelist that does not believe that dinosaurs existed and are now extinct. The most fervent of them will at least acknowledge this fact. I think that I am beginning to see the next step in the “de-evolution” of the Christian Fundamentalist society. I am a biologist and have given many interpretive field trips to kids from a variety of backgrounds. When the parents try to speak of a 5000 year old earth to their children, with all the evidence of a 5 billion year old earth around us, the children of such families are scratching their heads & wondering just what it is that mom & dad are not seeing. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

  36. lancethruster

    A piece on the approach to life us godless face —

    Why Bother – Sam Smith

    http://prorev.com/pocket.htm#why

    Why bother?

    Let’s turn off the television, step into the sunlight, and count the bodies. As we were watching inside, the non-virtual continued at its own pace and on its own path, indifferent to our indifference, unamused by our ironic detachment, unsympathetic to our political impotence, unmoved by our carefully selected apparel, unfrightened by our nihilism, unimpressed by our braggadocio, unaware of our pain. Evolution and entropy remained outside the cocoon of complacent images, refusing to be hurried or delayed, declining to cut to the chase, unwilling to reveal either ending or meaning.

    We shade our eyes and scan the decay. We know that this place, this country, this planet, is not the same as the last time we looked. There are more bodies. And fewer other things: choices, unlocked doors, democracy, satisfying jobs, reality, unplanned moments, clean water, a species of frog whose name we forget, community, and the trusting, trustworthy smile of a stranger.

    Someone has been careless, cruel, greedy, stupid. But it wasn’t us, was it? We were inside, just watching. It all happened without us — by the hand of forces we can’t see, understand, or control. We can always go in again and zap ourselves back to a place where the riots and tornadoes and wars are never larger than 27 inches on the diagonal. We can do nothing out here. Why bother?

    Why bother? Only to be alive. Only to be real, to be made not just of what we acquire or our adherence to instruction, but of what we think and do of our own free will. Only, Winston Churchill said, to fight while there is still a small chance so we don’t have to fight when there is none. Only to climb the rock face of risk and doubt in order to engage in the most extreme sport of all — that of being a free and conscious human. Free and conscious even in a society that seems determined to reduce our lives to a barren pair of mandatory functions: compliance and consumption.

    Life is a endless pick-up game between hope and despair, understanding and doubt, crisis and resolution.

  37. I hope all is well with you I have missed you thought provoking and insightful blogs.

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