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"God is an imaginary friend"


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#1    eight bits

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 10:59 AM

The Boulder Atheists, a Colorado religious advocacy group,

http://www.boulderatheists.org/

has purchased space in three locations for a billboard placard which reads

God is an imaginary friend. Choose reality. It will be better for all of us.

with contact information and a QR block.

One of the great canards of internet atheism is that atheism is utterly unlike religions, in that atheism does not traffic in beliefs about any affirmative proposition about the divine.

Evidently, some atheists feel differently about their own atheism. God is an imaginary friend is an affirmative proposition about the divine. It is also strictly stronger than "God doesn't really exist," since it proposes a specific psychological mechanism to account for God.

I do not deny that it is possible to be an atheist and not believe anything specific about the Divine. So, too, a theist might be a Unitarian Universalist,  

http://www.uua.org/b...les/index.shtml

and believe nothing specific about the Divine, either.

We seem to have arrived at a solution of at least one major mystery of the web. Atheism and theism are, indeed, completely parallel. They are both umbrella terms for a variety of specific belief-systems, under which there is room for a diffuse approach to the question of God.

So, it is false to call atheism "a religion" only insofar it is false to call theism "a religion." Whether or not it is false depends on the context. Theism is not a religion in the same sense as Roman Catholicism and Scientology are each a religion. Theism is a religion, however, as opposed to a philosophy or a political sentiment.

Atheism is religious, then, exactly to the same extent and in the same senses, as theism is religious.

Thank you, Boulder Atheists, for finally clearing that up for us.

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#2    aquatus1

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:25 PM

View Posteight bits, on 24 January 2012 - 10:59 AM, said:

One of the great canards of internet atheism is that atheism is utterly unlike religions, in that atheism does not traffic in beliefs about any affirmative proposition about the divine.

One of the thing about internet canards (or, for that matter, any type of canard) is that they are, by definition, unfounded, unsupported, or outright false.

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Evidently, some atheists feel differently about their own atheism. God is an imaginary friend is an affirmative proposition about the divine. It is also strictly stronger than "God doesn't really exist," since it proposes a specific psychological mechanism to account for God.

I am afraid that your discovery that douchbaggery exists in all sorts of societal groups is somewhat late.

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I do not deny that it is possible to be an atheist and not believe anything specific about the Divine. So, too, a theist might be a Unitarian Universalist,  

http://www.uua.org/b...les/index.shtml

and believe nothing specific about the Divine, either.

You seem to be under the impression that atheism is a belief system.  It is not.  It is a state of being.  It is the default state of not being a theist (Get it?  "A" "Theist"?  The construction of the word is the tip-off).

Atheism is no more a belief system than baldness is a hair color.

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We seem to have arrived at a solution of at least one major mystery of  the web. Atheism and theism are, indeed, completely parallel. They are  both umbrella terms for a variety of specific belief-systems, under  which there is room for a diffuse approach to the question of God.

Instead of trying so hard to shoe-horn a given conclusion into an argument (instead of, y'know, letting the argument lead to the conclusion), wouldn't it just be easier to say that everything has its militants, and militants in general can be considered a belief system?

That way, you don't have to force a new definition unto atheism, you recognize that one individual group out of the globe does not represent the entire community, and indeed, that there isn't really a community of belief to begin with, no more than there is a community of belief regarding the vaguely spheroid shape of the planet?

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So, it is false to call atheism "a religion" only insofar it is false to call theism "a religion." Whether or not it is false depends on the context. Theism is not a religion in the same sense as Roman Catholicism and Scientology are each a religion. Theism is a religion, however, as opposed to a philosophy or a political sentiment.

I can't see how.  Theism, by its definition and use, refers to belief in a deity.  Atheism refers to not having a belief in any deity.  Belief in a deity brings along with it certain formalized rituals and behaviour universally understood as being devoted and supportive of their deity.  Indeed, one could accurately state that these rituals and behaviours are what is used to categorize the different deity-based beliefs..  Atheism has no formalized rituals, no universal behaviour.  How could it?  Atheism is devoted to nothing.  Atheism supports nothing.  All atheism does is say there are no deities.

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Atheism is religious, then, exactly to the same extent and in the same senses, as theism is religious.
Thank you, Boulder Atheists, for finally clearing that up for us.

Actually, your argument suffers from two fundamental flaws at its outset.

You take as fact that the atheism is defined by what it does not do.  Frankly, that is a bit silly, when you think about it.

Second, you assume that atheism is some thing that people actively do, like singing or running.  Atheism is not.  Atheism is simply describing the opposite of Theism.  Theism is the belief in deities.  Anything else that you wish to tack on, any rituals, and behaviours, does not change that basic definition.  Atheism is the non-belief of deities.  Nothing else you tag on changes that basic definition either.


#3    J. K.

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:44 PM

Aquatus, a thought occurred to me while reading your post.  What is your definition for "belief system" or "believe"?

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#4    Paranoid Android

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:44 PM

View Postaquatus1, on 24 January 2012 - 12:25 PM, said:

Atheism is no more a belief system than baldness is a hair color.
It is true that baldness is not a hair "colour", but it is also true that baldness is a hair STYLE. I think that would be an appropriate analogy to the theism-atheism diverge.


View Postaquatus1, on 24 January 2012 - 12:25 PM, said:

Instead of trying so hard to shoe-horn a given conclusion into an argument (instead of, y'know, letting the argument lead to the conclusion), wouldn't it just be easier to say that everything has its militants, and militants in general can be considered a belief system?
Now that view does have merit :) Whenever I think if atheists who "believe" in atheism, it's always the zealots who are trying to actively convert me to non-belief in deity. I'd have to think about this in greater detail before taking this view, but you have brought up some very salient points.

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#5    Habitat

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:47 PM

Seems to me atheists have an imaginary God also. That would be whatever they imagine a God might conceivably  be, before deciding it doesn't exist. Me, I'm satisfied anyone's imagination is all out of chips for this game.


#6    Leonardo

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:50 PM

View Postaquatus1, on 24 January 2012 - 12:25 PM, said:

You seem to be under the impression that atheism is a belief system.

Of course atheism is a 'belief system'. Unless you (whether you are atheist or not), or any atheist, has evidence that no deity can possibly exist then atheism can only be a belief system.

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Theism, by its definition and use, refers to belief in a deity.  Atheism refers to not having a belief in any deity.

Sounds reasonable, but it isn't. The phrase "does not have belief in any deity" (while grammatically unsound) is meaningfully synonymous with "has belief no deity exists". Thus both theism and atheism refer to the adherent's belief with respect divinity, they are simply polar opposites in that regard.

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Actually, your argument suffers from two fundamental flaws at its outset.

You take as fact that the atheism is defined by what it does not do.  Frankly, that is a bit silly, when you think about it.

It would be silly, if that was the argument, but eb (like many rational people) seems to take as fact that atheism is partly defined by what it does do, and that is it does affirm to the adherent's belief there are no deities.

Edited by Leonardo, 24 January 2012 - 12:50 PM.

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#7    aquatus1

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 01:07 PM

View PostJ. K., on 24 January 2012 - 12:44 PM, said:

Aquatus, a thought occurred to me while reading your post.  What is your definition for "belief system" or "believe"?

Well, to "believe" is to accept that something is true or exiting.  A belief system is the various behaviours that are based around a given set of beliefs.

View PostParanoid Android, on 24 January 2012 - 12:44 PM, said:

It is true that baldness is not a hair "colour", but it is also true that baldness is a hair STYLE. I think that would be an appropriate analogy to the theism-atheism diverge.


It do not see it as a divergence.  After all, baldness is not having hair.  What your reason is for being bald, is largely irrelevant.  It doesn't matter if it's genetics or preference, being bald simply means you have no hair.  Nothing is going to change that basic definition.

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Now that view does have merit :) Whenever I think if atheists who "believe" in atheism, it's always the zealots who are trying to actively convert me to non-belief in deity. I'd have to think about this in greater detail before taking this view, but you have brought up some very salient points.

Militant anythings, in general, tend to incorporate into their universal behaviour the quality of annoyance.

View PostLeonardo, on 24 January 2012 - 12:50 PM, said:

Of course atheism is a 'belief system'. Unless you (whether you are atheist or not), or any atheist, has evidence that no deity can possibly exist then atheism can only be a belief system.

No.  Lack of belief in deities is simply that: a lack of belief in deities.  There is no belief of deities there.  If you wish for a belief to be there, there has to be a reason to believe it.  If there is no reason to believe it, the default is the lack of belief.

Belief in deities is not a positive/negative calculation.  You do not start at the x-axis and either gain more or lose more.  Belief starts at zero.  It grows depending on the reasons.  If there is no belief, you are at zero.  You are not required to prove a negative in order to be at zero.

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Sounds reasonable, but it isn't. The phrase "does not have belief in any deity" (while grammatically unsound) is meaningfully synonymous with "has belief no deity exists". Thus both theism and atheism refer to the adherent's belief with respect divinity, they are simply polar opposites in that regard.

That is incorrect.  A "belief" is a unit of support for a given system of beliefs.  If you do not have any beliefs for a deity, you are at zero beliefs.  There is no measurement for "no deity".  No deity is the zero point on the chart where you begin.  It is not a chart by itself.

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It would be silly, if that was the argument, but eb (like many rational people) seems to take as fact that atheism is partly defined by what it does do, and that is it does affirm to the adherent's belief there are no deities.

That's not what he said.  He said:  "...atheism is utterly unlike religions, in that atheism does not traffic in  beliefs about any affirmative proposition about the divine."

Leonardo, you can't just go flipping around people's statements and expect them to mean the exact same thing.  Yin and yang are not always opposites.


#8    Leonardo

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 01:27 PM

View Postaquatus1, on 24 January 2012 - 01:07 PM, said:

No.  Lack of belief in deities is simply that: a lack of belief in deities.

This, like the previous "does not have any belief in any deity" is grammatical nonsense.

Compare "I have no belief in any deity" and "I have no belief in any government minister". Both are grammtically identical (except for the subject of the belief) and highlight how unsound expressing atheism in such a way really is.

You are effectively saying that deities exist, you just don't believe their motives/the effectiveness of their policies/etc.

Atheism is the belief there are no deities. That is both what it means, and syntactically correct.

Edited by Leonardo, 24 January 2012 - 01:27 PM.

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#9    randym23

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 01:30 PM

Atheism is not a religion no matter how many times you block yours ears, stomp your feet and scream that it is.
deal with it.

and visit my site:
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#10    J. K.

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 01:37 PM

From the American Heritage Dictionary:

belief

1.  The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.
2.  Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief.
3.  Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.

religion

1.
a. The belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers, regarded as creating and governing the universe
b. A particular variety of such belief, especially when organized into a system of doctrine and practice
c. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order
3. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion

Based on these definitions, I would think that atheism is a belief system, but not a religion.

Edited by J. K., 24 January 2012 - 01:37 PM.

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#11    Alienated Being

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 01:37 PM

The Biblical, Christian portrayal of God is absolute bunk; an omniscient, monotheistic being that created the world in seven days sounds quite silly to me. You're going to need more than a book to convince me.

I do, however, believe that something beyond our level of understanding exists. :-) Whatever it is, I don't know - but I believe that something does exist, something beyond the explanation of science.

Edited by Alienated Being, 24 January 2012 - 01:41 PM.


#12    Rlyeh

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 02:06 PM

View PostLeonardo, on 24 January 2012 - 01:27 PM, said:

Compare "I have no belief in any deity" and "I have no belief in any government minister". Both are grammtically identical (except for the subject of the belief) and highlight how unsound expressing atheism in such a way really is.

You are effectively saying that deities exist, you just don't believe their motives/the effectiveness of their policies/etc.
So let me get this straight, if someone claims a deity exists and an atheist rejects the idea. The atheist is really saying the deity exists?

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Atheism is the belief there are no deities. That is both what it means, and syntactically correct.
In the same sense the "rejection of the idea of leprechauns" is a belief.


#13    eight bits

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 02:08 PM

a1

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One of the thing about internet canards (or, for that matter, any type of canard) is that they are, by definition, unfounded, unsupported, or outright false.
Couldn't agree more. The idea that a belief about a religious question isn't a religious belief is, on its face "unfounded, unsupported," and "outright false."

I'm happy to say I never believed it for an instant, and happier still now to be able to report that the Boulder group, at least, has decided to come clean.

Obviously, you and I disagree on many other things, but since, like the question of God, they are entirely matters of personal opinion, there isn't much else for you and me to say about them.

The point made in the OP is, in any case, modest. Even if there are few people inside, atheism is a big tent, just as theism is a big tent. Nobody is suggesting that the Boulderites speak for all atheists, just that they show the thorough parallelism between the two tents' social structures.



PA

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It is true that baldness is not a hair "colour", but it is also true that baldness is a hair STYLE. I think that would be an appropriate analogy to the theism-atheism diverge.
No, it's just a false analogy, and an especially tired one at that. Perhaps they are thinking that black is not a color, and so it's not a hair color.

Although black is a hair color, isn't it?

Funny how noun phrases' meanings often differ, in both denotation and connotation, from the meanings of their component words. Something can be a hair color without being a color, and someone can profess a religious belief without being religious or a believer.

In any case, it seems our atheist friends in Boulder have decided to wear a wig :D.



A point arising

I stayed away from calling atheism categorically a religion, except insofar as theism might also be called a religion. Both refer to a variety of specific views. So does "Christian." Is Christianity a religion? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends on what the conversation is about.

If you're talking about the Schisms, Reformation and Counter-reformation, then no, that conversation is about how Chrsitianity is not a religion, but a collection of related religious views. If you're talking about believing that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish nation, then Christianity is a religion, one religious belief system in the sense relevant to that conversation.

The incident in the OP is the typical overt act of a religious denomination or congregation. The Boulder Atheists have joined together in a persistent social organization, where membership is based principally on the similarity of religious beliefs. They have deicded, as a group, and at their own expense, to present some of their religious opinions to others, along with contact information.

There are other atheists besides Boulder Atheists. There are other theists besides those who belong to any religious denomination or congregattion. Whatever theism is, then atheism is that, too. That's the point of the OP.


Howdy to all who've replied.
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Edited by eight bits, 24 January 2012 - 02:16 PM.

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#14    Paranormalcy

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 02:32 PM

Although I hate it when it gets pulled out, the "belief that there are no leprechauns" example is unfortunately a fairly functional illustration of this issue. Much like "evidence" in the case of paranormal or unusual claims, the burden of proof is on the one claiming the extraordinary. There is no demonstrable, blatant, causal evidence of an intelligent creator or other invisible entity, without abstract justification and interpretation by the human mind, therefore the default position is no particular belief in any deity.

This is not a belief - it is a position of thinking based on empirical observation, like "apples do not walk around by themselves". I do not BELIEVE fruit doesn't perambulate on its own; it is not a question of belief, it is a question of analytical logic.

As noted, there ARE people that claim atheism as a "belief", where they outright, aggressively reject religious entities, while effectively admitting their existence - in effect, defying and refusing to honor them from a position of rejecting or shunning, rather than simply lacking a belief in them. This topic, as it always does, has devolved far too much into semantics, but though I am not quite atheist myself, I do not consider "zealous atheists" to be true atheists, from what I understand of the definition.

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#15    Leonardo

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 03:22 PM

View PostRlyeh, on 24 January 2012 - 02:06 PM, said:

So let me get this straight, if someone claims a deity exists and an atheist rejects the idea. The atheist is really saying the deity exists?

No, that's not what I said. The specific example is of an athiest claiming athiesm is a 'non-belief' (alternatively, not a belief system) by way of claiming "I have no belief in a/any deity".

I accept that the use of phrases such as "I don't believe in Santa Claus/fairies/etc" is common parlance for the claimant expressing his/her belief that such entities do not exist, and it should also be that way when athiests claim "I don't believe in a/any deity." But the athiest seems to want to distance their claim from any semblance of a belief, so they exercise linguistic gymnastics to make it appear they are devoid of belief.

View PostParanormalcy, on 24 January 2012 - 02:32 PM, said:

Although I hate it when it gets pulled out, the "belief that there are no leprechauns" example is unfortunately a fairly functional illustration of this issue. Much like "evidence" in the case of paranormal or unusual claims, the burden of proof is on the one claiming the extraordinary. There is no demonstrable, blatant, causal evidence of an intelligent creator or other invisible entity, without abstract justification and interpretation by the human mind, therefore the default position is no particular belief in any deity.

If there was demonstrable evidence for how the universe came to be (and no, BBT does not constitute that), or for why there is life, or for why this universe allows life to be, then you might have a case. In light of the lack of such evidence, then it is equally false (and extraordinary) to make an absolute claim as to the non-divine origin for things we have no explanation of cause for.

This is not to say I consider the addition of a deity into the possible answers of those questions is probable - Occam's razor suggests it is not - but improbable is not impossible, which atheism does claim is the likelihood of the existence of a deity.

Edited by Leonardo, 24 January 2012 - 03:27 PM.

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