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Atheism and Denial

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I grew up in a family that had/has many atheists of varying conviction. As they grew older that changed. Once anyone reached about 65 years old they were full fledged believers. Doubts started arising throughout their 50's. Late 50's, early 60's they would have developed beliefs but not necessarily aligned with Religious institutions. By 65 or older they were in Church, reading bibles, praying, etc.

First question for atheists here is whether they think that once they face their own mortality, they'll turn to religion. Like they say, there are no atheists in a foxhole.

The other thing I'm wondering about is whether atheism could be a form of denial. When you are young and healthy and you have your life ahead of you, you can afford to turn your back on spirituality and revel in narcissistic intellectualism. Once you're confronted with your own mortality and you can't be in denial about your own death, you are forced to look deep within you and find your sense of spirituality.

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well given at least two high profile Atheists I can think of - Carl Sagan and Christopher Hitchens - died as Atheists happy in the thought tha death was an end, I think that like every other group on the planet Atheists come in all stripes and varieties.

They are, after all, human (except Richard Dawkins, eho is a robot death machine sent from the future).

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I grew up in a family that had/has many atheists of varying conviction. As they grew older that changed. Once anyone reached about 65 years old they were full fledged believers. Doubts started arising throughout their 50's. Late 50's, early 60's they would have developed beliefs but not necessarily aligned with Religious institutions. By 65 or older they were in Church, reading bibles, praying, etc.

First question for atheists here is whether they think that once they face their own mortality, they'll turn to religion. Like they say, there are no atheists in a foxhole.

The other thing I'm wondering about is whether atheism could be a form of denial. When you are young and healthy and you have your life ahead of you, you can afford to turn your back on spirituality and revel in narcissistic intellectualism. Once you're confronted with your own mortality and you can't be in denial about your own death, you are forced to look deep within you and find your sense of spirituality.

I was fanatically atheist in my 20s, then pro pagan in my 30s. Now at age 44, I've mellowed and am a devout believer in science and spirituality.

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I believe in spirituality to an extent, I don't think the universe is as cold and hard as we think, heck I don't even think time exists outside the human brain but I'm damn certain there is no god.

Religion is a form of control, indoctrination to control the masses, there is nothing spiritual to be had there.

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Posted (edited)

So those who accept their mortality believe in an afterlife (survival after death, immortality), and yet the Atheists are the ones in denial?

Sorry am I reading this reading this right?

Edited by Rlyeh

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Although SunGod has appropriated the quote for his crusade, but I do like Einstein's "science without faith is blind..." quote. ironic really, given that Einstein was also an Athiest ( or at least agnostic).

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This idea boils my blood. The fact is that some of us just don't need this crutch you call god. Death is just death. Some of us do not fear it. That is what makes us different.

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To reassure yourself death isn't really death speaks so much more about denial.

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Posted (edited)

This idea boils my blood. The fact is that some of us just don't need this crutch you call god. Death is just death. Some of us do not fear it. That is what makes us different.

Oh, I don't think you'd need to look too hard to find things much, much, much more grievous to get irate about than other people's religious beliefs, unless of course you are on a crusade to save the world from what you see as wrongheadedness. I'd say it is pretty well wall-to-wall out there in all sorts of stuff other than religion, but for some mysterious reason the atheists zero in on religious belief like a heat-seeking missile. How to explain that, other than just maybe they are faux atheists bravely fighting against a side of themselves that is nagging and niggling from within.

Edited by Habitat
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Posted (edited)

I grew up in a family that had/has many atheists of varying conviction. As they grew older that changed. Once anyone reached about 65 years old they were full fledged believers. Doubts started arising throughout their 50's. Late 50's, early 60's they would have developed beliefs but not necessarily aligned with Religious institutions. By 65 or older they were in Church, reading bibles, praying, etc.

First question for atheists here is whether they think that once they face their own mortality, they'll turn to religion. Like they say, there are no atheists in a foxhole.

The other thing I'm wondering about is whether atheism could be a form of denial. When you are young and healthy and you have your life ahead of you, you can afford to turn your back on spirituality and revel in narcissistic intellectualism. Once you're confronted with your own mortality and you can't be in denial about your own death, you are forced to look deep within you and find your sense of spirituality.

Firstly of course there are atheists in foxholes. The reason there are fewer of them than the religious crowd is simply due to the fact that there are more religious people than atheistic ones.

Anyway, to get to the point. I have observed similar patterns myself; this does not seem to be based entirely on a view of mortality however: it is likely that a large part of it is due to the fact that those of us who are older are more likely to have grown up in more overtly religious societies, whereas today, with the rise of secularism and the perpetual advancement of science and human knowledge, atheism and general areligion have experienced a drastic increase.

Atheism certainly isn't about denial: it's simply a reaction to the claims made by religion and supernaturalism. Really, most of atheism is simply pointing out to theists that their claims are evidence-less.

Edited by Arbitran
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I grew up in a family that had/has many atheists of varying conviction. As they grew older that changed. Once anyone reached about 65 years old they were full fledged believers. Doubts started arising throughout their 50's. Late 50's, early 60's they would have developed beliefs but not necessarily aligned with Religious institutions. By 65 or older they were in Church, reading bibles, praying, etc.

First question for atheists here is whether they think that once they face their own mortality, they'll turn to religion. Like they say, there are no atheists in a foxhole.

The other thing I'm wondering about is whether atheism could be a form of denial. When you are young and healthy and you have your life ahead of you, you can afford to turn your back on spirituality and revel in narcissistic intellectualism. Once you're confronted with your own mortality and you can't be in denial about your own death, you are forced to look deep within you and find your sense of spirituality.

There is really no definitive answer one way or the other. Yes, some people who are atheists while they are young because they do not wish to be religious (or may even be rebelling against religion) probably are not as much convinced that there is no god but WANT there to be no god. In their cases, they do not fully give up the belief in god and return to it at an older age when they are ready to "reconcile" with the religion that has always been in the back of their mind.

In those cases, it would be a form of denial. I've known a few people like that but they are the exception rather than the rule for atheists. Most atheists base their atheism on lack of evidence rather than an emotional rebellion against god or their parents.

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This idea boils my blood. The fact is that some of us just don't need this crutch you call god. Death is just death. Some of us do not fear it. That is what makes us different.

mate, if my belief in what you call an invisible sky faerie drives you to such anger, you need a new hobby.
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My Dad was an athiest until the day he died. I know, I was there. He was also a WW II vet, so he was the athiest in the foxhole. I ask if he ever prayed while he was in the army, he said he was too busy saving his life for that. I never heard him question his conviction. He was also a very moral man. I think he really valued life, because to him this was it, so make the best of it.

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I find it fascinating that rather than talk about things like actual evidence that would prove either side right or wrong.. the OP offers an unsupported anecdote about his/her interpretation of their own sphere of 'experience', and is all about how people s/he knows get afraid of death as they age...

Yes, belief in God does seem to increase with age, statistically, but in what way does that make the whole idea of a God more likely?

Could it be that the older you are, the more dated was your science education and the more out of touch you are with current beliefs and knowledge?

I'm not trying to insult anyone - after all, I'm in that 'older' category (certainly well over half way..) and am an atheist. I find it rather insulting to have that associated with the OP's claimed "narcissistic intellectualism". I'd just call it plain intellectualism... :P

Personally (if we are allowed to have insulting opinions on why..) - I think it is because these folks haven't achieved all they wanted in life.. so they need to reassure themselves that there will be 'something more'. (I'm only partly joking..)

Perhaps we should have a UM poll, that'll settle it one way or t'uther..

Q. for Habitat -was it an atheist who posted this thread?

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mate, if my belief in what you call an invisible sky faerie drives you to such anger, you need a new hobby.

It is not your beliefs that make me angry. It is being told that I am just "in denial" about my own beliefs.

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To reassure yourself death isn't really death speaks so much more about denial.

You're arguing the converse case. The topic is denial about your own mortality affording you the luxury not to look at spirituality other than intellectually. Do you think when you're in your 70's or facing your own mortality, that you won't take a deep hard look inside to see if you find some spiritual truth?

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Relgion of any form is truth,all 5 of the major relgions believe in essessentially in good and evil and that there is a divine presence,call it god or nirvana. Relgion is truth,athiesim is the denial of the truth

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Relgion of any form is truth,all 5 of the major relgions believe in essessentially in good and evil and that there is a divine presence,call it god or nirvana. Relgion is truth,athiesim is the denial of the truth

Odd statement.

  1. Nirvana is not a "divine presence".
  2. What qualifies your statement that "religion is truth" as true?
  3. What qualifies your statement that "atheism is the denial of the truth" as true?
  4. Oh, and Hinduism (the 3rd-largest religion; of which I am a member, incidentally) doesn't so much believe in the good/evil dichotomy. Actions are not intrinsically good or evil; their results are what indicate their ethical value.

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I find it fascinating that rather than talk about things like actual evidence that would prove either side right or wrong.. the OP offers an unsupported anecdote about his/her interpretation of their own sphere of 'experience', and is all about how people s/he knows get afraid of death as they age...

Yes, belief in God does seem to increase with age, statistically, but in what way does that make the whole idea of a God more likely?

Could it be that the older you are, the more dated was your science education and the more out of touch you are with current beliefs and knowledge?

I'm not trying to insult anyone - after all, I'm in that 'older' category (certainly well over half way..) and am an atheist. I find it rather insulting to have that associated with the OP's claimed "narcissistic intellectualism". I'd just call it plain intellectualism... :P

Personally (if we are allowed to have insulting opinions on why..) - I think it is because these folks haven't achieved all they wanted in life.. so they need to reassure themselves that there will be 'something more'. (I'm only partly joking..)

Perhaps we should have a UM poll, that'll settle it one way or t'uther..

Q. for Habitat -was it an atheist who posted this thread?

You're trying to expand the topic to likeliness/evidence/proof of God. Focus on the personal. You, for example, do you think at one point when you are even older and death is more imminent, that you will look deep-down inside and see if you find a spiritual truth? Not knowing you, perhaps you're healthy enough that you can sit in an ivory tower intellectualizing everything, casting your judgment on all you see with impunity, and not give your own mortality a second thought. A lot of people don't even bother to give spirituality an honest look all their lives, until the situation calls for it. Had they cared to look at an earlier age, maybe they would've found the same thing.

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Odd statement.

  1. Nirvana is not a "divine presence".
  2. What qualifies your statement that "religion is truth" as true?
  3. What qualifies your statement that "atheism is the denial of the truth" as true?
  4. Oh, and Hinduism (the 3rd-largest religion; of which I am a member, incidentally) doesn't so much believe in the good/evil dichotomy. Actions are not intrinsically good or evil; their results are what indicate their ethical value.

Not to speak for him, but his statement wasn't odd. He defined Faith. Faith is mutually exclusive from reason, and you won't find evidence of it in a lab.

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Posted (edited)

First question for atheists here is whether they think that once they face their own mortality, they'll turn to religion. Like they say, there are no atheists in a foxhole.

It may surprise you, but actually there are a good number of atheists in foxholes.

http://www.militaryatheists.org/expaif.html/]Atheists in Foxholes

Two of my personal heroes, Carl Sagan and Christopher Hitchens went to their death beds without turning to a religious belief out of fear. They, and many others died knowing that their afterlife would be through the many works they left behind and the lives they touched.

As for myself, I have also faced death. Not that I've been in the military, just the consequence of being absent minded. The furthest thought from my mind was god or prayer, and instead to stay alive.

My father is in his 60's, and just recently became an atheist himself. Further, an atheist group here in Pensacola meets up about once a month or so, and sometimes I attend. The group consists of a group of people with mixed backgrounds, yet most of them are old, with most of them being in their late fifties.

(With apologies to those in that venerable age group, but yes. 50 is edging on old. :P)

In fact, my membership to the group hardly drops the average age to 40.

As for it being a denial...

I don't think that turning to something out of fear is really proof that any one position is true or false. People rarely view their actions taken in fear as respectable once the fear has passed. If religion is inspired by fear, then it's driven by the same forces that drive mobs.

To that end, it seems to me that turning to religion out of fear of death drives one to a sort of delusion. If it helps them with their final days then so be it. However, I deeply hope that instead of placing their faith entirely on religion, they've taken care of their families and lived a life worth remembering and sharing.

Edited by ShadowSot

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You know what always has amazed about people who say they except death, it is that none of them are dying, so they really can not say that they do not fear death. And as far as god being a cruch for those who believe in him,well it is true,that is why most of us believe. An athiest does not believe in god or heaven and hell not because they don't exsist. Most athiests don't believe cause the do not want to worship god but worship themselves,they do not want to believe that there are consquences for there actions, so it is easier to say there is no god, i have no soul. I knew a guy who never believed in god till he was dignosed with a diease. Near his death he said one thing to me, i wish i had not wasted my life, i am not afraid of actually dying,just afraid of dying eternally for the life i lived. Well his mortalitly caught up with him and in the final year he started reading the bible and he turned around completly, never was someone so happy to leave this world. Carl Sagan may have died a happy athiests, he is in a minority if there is a hell,i can not imagine he is to happy now.

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You're arguing the converse case. The topic is denial about your own mortality affording you the luxury not to look at spirituality other than intellectually. Do you think when you're in your 70's or facing your own mortality, that you won't take a deep hard look inside to see if you find some spiritual truth?

What is a deep hard look when you've just excluded intellect?

I think you're describing a belief from convenience or comfort.

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It is not your beliefs that make me angry. It is being told that I am just "in denial" about my own beliefs.

ahh that makes sense.

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You're arguing the converse case. The topic is denial about your own mortality affording you the luxury not to look at spirituality other than intellectually. Do you think when you're in your 70's or facing your own mortality, that you won't take a deep hard look inside to see if you find some spiritual truth?

Ideally people should constantly questioning their views, because how else are you going to strengthen them or correct them if they're wrong? I am fully aware that I am going to die and the fact has little bearing on my lack of religious views, except that I refuse to believe that this life is just a dress rehearsal for eternity.

I also think intellect and 'spirit' are both products of the brain. Our understanding of it is limited at the moment, but in 50 years when I am in my 70s we will probably have a much greater understanding of its functions so my position might be even stronger than before.

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