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onlookerofmayhem

Ask an Atheist.

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eight bits
1 hour ago, XenoFish said:

Atheism: No god/s

Theism: Is a god/s

Agnosticism: I don't know if there is/n't a god.

A nice illustration of Huxley's problem: nobody knows whether or not there is a god, so atheists and theists would both be agnostics. So defined, it's not a useful term.

The brilliance of Huxley was to focus on the character of the problem more than the personality of the would-be problem-solver. The Question of God is different in kind from other problems where evidence can influence belief. There is no evidence that bears on QoG. You might still have some opinion of the kind "it makes sense to me that there is (alternatively is not) a god," and hold that opinion with whatever confidence "makes sense" to you.

BUT there's no necessity that such an opinion would ever form, and contrary to what some have posted here, we don't "choose" beliefs. There is a further case where I might form some inclination one way or the other, but without any definite confidence and with the knowledge that there is no way currently (maybe not ever) that I will be able to refine that nebulous opinion by observation ... unlike everything else I call a belief.

It is entirely reasonable for Huxley to have distinguished those who are in one of these non-belief-like states regarding QoG from those who have formed a definite confident opinion one way or the other.

That, then, is the creed and confession of my religious faith, and it is neither atheism nor theism.

Edited by eight bits
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psyche101
1 hour ago, Orphalesion said:

My question was stirred mostly by things like Dante using parts of the Devine Comedy to justify/defend faith and dispense copious amounts of Apologetics (especially during part of his conversations in the Empyrean iirc), Medieval Bestiaries latching onto the Salamander as "proof" that souls could stay intact forever in the fire of damnation,  or that there were punishments for turning from the gods in Ancient Greece. It seems to me those things would have been unnecessary if there hadn't always been critics of religion. 

Well, as long as there's been religion, there's also been "religions" which is instant critsism. 

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Orphalesion
5 hours ago, and then said:

Couldn't have expressed it better myself.  EVERYONE should have the freedom to choose and to not be vilified or punished for their choice.  Same for Atheists as for people of faith.

That is true. But what people do not have the right to do is trying to make faith law or persecute,ostracize or threaten others because they don't fit their interpretation of a religion's tenets.
I know not all religious people do that, but those that do are unfortunately loud about it and cause a lot of suffering in many places in the world.  

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Horta
13 minutes ago, joc said:

Actually that is not true.  The default position of humanity is to believe in Deities.  This can be rather simply illustrated by the high number of humans who believe in Deities in every place on Earth where Humans are found.  From the Congo to the shores of the Gitche Gumee...in every single civilization humans through out the span of our entire existence have defaulted to a belief in Deities. 

Think he means that no one is born with a belief in god. This is obviously true. No matter how widespread, it is passed on culturally. In a similar way that all cultures have language, but it still has to be learned.

Quote

No doubt because the evolutionary neocortex created questions beyond the experience of the earliest humans.  The answers to these questions by practically all was...Deity!  

I think the Jaynes Idea is the most plausible. That the brain hemispheres were not as integrated at one time as language and the speech areas were developing, giving rise to various hallucinations (mostly auditory) in novel or important situations especially, that people accepted as hearing god, the ancestors or whatever communicating with them.

This is still seen in vestigial ways in some stone age tribes, who have no religious institutions as such or doctrine, shaman, hierarchy, afterlife beliefs etc. No need, they communicate directly. Some oddities in language have also been claimed for these tribes (though it's controversial). Schizophrenia, hypnosis and trance states would all be vestigial of this process.

When speech and the relevant brain processes developed enough it largely stopped (thus religions were necessary) and left us with more of an inner dialogue. Hasn't stopped completely though, lots of people still hallucinate religious experiences.

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Mr Walker
3 hours ago, Horta said:

I consider myself an atheist. Yet I would never claim a belief that there are no gods. Thats logically absurd IMO.

Though there are some versions of god which appear obviously human made myths. It's worth noting that believers (such as christians) who worship their own "one true god" do the very same thing to countless versions of god themselves.

So I would think that your version of atheism might be true for some atheists. But it doesn't define the word, and I imagine it would be rare. I view that as anti-theism.

There are many possible versions of god. Someone running a simulation, some form of advanced intelligence...who knows? So I can't and certainly don't discount the possibility that something that could be described as a "god" exists. I see no reason as yet to believe it does though.

 

Going by almost every definition  you are not an atheist unless you profess a belief that gods do not exist That means every and all types of gods 

Its a belief structure Therefore it is not logically absurd  unless you KNOW  the truth and believe something else.

A belief doesn't   even have  to be evidenced  

Its really very simple, using classical/traditional definitions 

Theism is a belief that gods exist Atheism is a belief that gods do not exist

Agnosticism is a refusal to take/construct  either position, usually because the person wants to know rather  than believe, or has trouble with either outright belief or disbelief 

Some modern people seem to want to redefine the terms for their own purposes eg to say atheism is having no belief (ie never even having considered the position) rather than disbelief 

Given your description of yourself you are clearly an agnostic  You don't know and don't want to commit to either outright belief or disbelief 

You can, of course, define yourself in any way you choose, but it will confuse others who use the classic terminologies, if you say you are an atheist  yet allow for the possibility that some form of gods exist 

anti theism is more complex and basically is a position which  does not just deny the existence of gods but is opposed to the idea itself 

Its come to mean in modern terms a sort of hard atheism as opposed to soft atheism But soft atheism doesn't truly exist  and   is actually  a form of agnosticism.

Again it is a way for ,modern people to sit on the fence and hedge their bets  eg " I dont really believe in gods but anything is possible"  (that's agnosticism not atheism)   

Humans almost never have a lack of belief in gods. It is basically impossible given how  we think A dog can have a lack of interest in gods and thus never form a belief position on their existence,   but a human can't ie the y will have considered the question a t sometime in their life (probably while quite young )   

atheism is a combination of  a (without) and theos) god

antitheism is a combination of   anti ( opposed to) and theos god)  

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Eon

I was quoted so many times. I know what atheism and agnosticism mean at a basic level and I will stand by my opinion that newborns are not atheists, it would require them knowing the concept of God and then deny it, they can't think that far.

In the end everyone has their own opinions, it's a topic that people will keep on agreeing and disagreeing because there's no concrete answer. If you thing I'm wrong that's fine I'm not trying to prove anything here, I'm saying what I think.

Edited by Eon
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Horta
2 minutes ago, Mr Walker said:

Going by almost every definition  you are not an atheist unless you profess a belief that gods do not exist That means every and all types of gods 

Well, I still consider myself an atheist. I don't think there are many atheists going by that.

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Mr Walker
44 minutes ago, eight bits said:

A nice illustration of Huxley's problem: nobody knows whether or not there is a god, so atheists and theists would both be agnostics. So defined, it's not a useful term.

The brilliance of Huxley was to focus on the character of the problem more than the personality of the would-be problem-solver. The Question of God is different in kind from other problems where evidence can influence belief. There is no evidence that bears on QoG. You might still have some opinion of the kind "it makes sense to me that there is (alternatively is not) a god," and hold that opinion with whatever confidence "makes sense" to you.

BUT there's no necessity that such an opinion would ever form, and contrary to what some have posted here, we don't "choose" beliefs. There is a further case where I might form some inclination one way or the other, but without any definite confidence and with the knowledge that there is no way currently (maybe not ever) that I will be able to refine that nebulous opinion by observation ... unlike everything else I call a belief.

It is entirely reasonable for Huxley to have distinguished those who are in one of these non-belief-like states regarding QoG from those who have formed a definite confident opinion one way or the other.

That, then, is the creed and confession of my religious faith, and it is neither atheism nor theism.

agnosticism is more than admitting to not knowing.

Both atheists and theists can admit to not knowing but still  choose different beliefs.  The agnostic also says, " I don't know. ",but goes on to add,  "and i choose not to construct either a belief position or a disbelief position on the question" 

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Mr Walker
Just now, Horta said:

Well, I still consider myself an atheist. I don't think there are many atheists going by that.

As i said you are free to think of yourself as you wish 

You are correct about the number of atheists  

less than10% of the worlds population outright claim they  disbelieve  in gods of any type.

The y are the only "true atheists"

Today, i suspect from survey   statistics, that maybe 50% of people are theists, and about 40% are agnostics   The figures don't vary a great deal from country to country around the world although there is some variation 

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Mr Walker
1 hour ago, eight bits said:

A nice illustration of Huxley's problem: nobody knows whether or not there is a god, so atheists and theists would both be agnostics. So defined, it's not a useful term.

The brilliance of Huxley was to focus on the character of the problem more than the personality of the would-be problem-solver. The Question of God is different in kind from other problems where evidence can influence belief. There is no evidence that bears on QoG. You might still have some opinion of the kind "it makes sense to me that there is (alternatively is not) a god," and hold that opinion with whatever confidence "makes sense" to you.

BUT there's no necessity that such an opinion would ever form, and contrary to what some have posted here, we don't "choose" beliefs. There is a further case where I might form some inclination one way or the other, but without any definite confidence and with the knowledge that there is no way currently (maybe not ever) that I will be able to refine that nebulous opinion by observation ... unlike everything else I call a belief.

It is entirely reasonable for Huxley to have distinguished those who are in one of these non-belief-like states regarding QoG from those who have formed a definite confident opinion one way or the other.

That, then, is the creed and confession of my religious faith, and it is neither atheism nor theism.

Modern studies by interdisciplinary experts show that, indeed, every child forms a belief in "gods" (Powerful forces or beings which act with intent to make changes in the child's world)    to explain otherwise inexplicable observations when they are very young 

Only the precise shape and form of those beliefs is shaped by culture.

A child raised without mention of gods or religions will inevitably develop its own individual/ unique form of belief. This  is just how our minds work.

As we get more information and experience, we can choose NOT to believe, but 90% of  modern adult  humans maintain some form of belief, with about 50% retaining  a belief in some form of god 

and science again demonstrates, not only that we choose our beliefs, (to serve a variety of purposes and needs )  but that the y require conscious construction  and maintenance or the y will weaken, and /or change  .Hence our beliefs can alter quite radically over time, as we age,, and our circumstances, knowledge, and needs, change. 

its quite simple.

If humans did not choose their beliefs, then those beliefs would never change, but remain those first  taught/indoctrinated into us   OR would remain the nebulous but powerful beliefs of early infancy

Every time we alter a belief, or abandon one,  we illustrate our abilty to chose our beliefs  

Edited by Mr Walker

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XenoFish
1 hour ago, eight bits said:

A nice illustration of Huxley's problem: nobody knows whether or not there is a god, so atheists and theists would both be agnostics. So defined, it's not a useful term.

Both atheism and theism are assumptions in my eyes. Yet some are very adamant on the rightness of their position. 

I do know that god/s definitely exist within the idea space of human culture. That much is true. As for an actual god like thing, I have no idea. So I find it very difficult to assume in either direction. 

Sorry, OP. I'm not intending to hijack your thread. I'll be off now.

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onlookerofmayhem
7 hours ago, eight bits said:

Do you personally believe there is no god, and if so with what level of confidence?

While I would definitely not make the claim, "No god exists," I don't believe one does as I've seen no reason or argument to make me think one does.

As far as confidence, I'd say I'm fairly confident. 

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eight bits
1 hour ago, Mr Walker said:

agnosticism is more than admitting to not knowing.

I don't think it's helpful to go to what are sometimes called "second-order beliefs" (beliefs about beliefs).

First-order (subject matter only) belief: There is no god

Second-order belief: I think I know that there is no god.

We're having enough trouble with first-order beliefs. In any case, while I am often interested in what somebody else believes about QoG (I have a question about that pending right now with the OP for when he gets back to the thread), I rarely care whether or not anybody thinks they "know" the correct answer. They are two different questions, and the correct answer to the second-order one is that nobody knows in any strong sense of knowing. (I'm fine with knowing in the sense "it is not seriously possible that there're any gods." which is pretty strong but not at all like knowing that 2 + 2 = 4).

Agosticism, then, is different from "admitting to not knowing" (odd use of admitting, no? "I have something in common with every human being who has ever lived - and just maybe every human being who will ever live." That's an admission?)

All the boilerplate objections to the false claim that beliefs are chosen are renewed, without offer of discussion beyond the decade plus of time served and wasted back and forth with you without resolution. Spare me the science-says, too.

1 hour ago, Mr Walker said:

Every time we alter a belief, or abandon one,  we illustrate our abilty to chose our beliefs 

The English language really is a great mystery to you, isn't it? No wonder you can't wrap your head around what a pond is.

Idiomatically, I might truthtfully say

I changed my mind.

That's a fine thing to say; everybody will know what I mean. But what happened was that my mind changed. "I" didn't do it, rather it is something that happened to me and to my mind. My phrasing it as personal-subject + action-verb + direct-object is just the conventional tinker-toy sentence-building method of my mother tongue. It is not a commitment to the precise facts of the matter.

@onlookerofmayhem: sincere thanks for the clear and direct answers to my questions.

 

Edited by eight bits
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onlookerofmayhem
7 hours ago, danydandan said:

Do you have a background in science or have you had any critical thinking training?

No on both counts.

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onlookerofmayhem
3 hours ago, RAyMO said:

as an atheist do you believe in an afterlife?

If you don't, do you believe this short life is it?

No.

Yes.

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onlookerofmayhem
3 hours ago, RAyMO said:

If you don't believe in a god - where do you believe we should take our moral direction from, if anywhere. 

From the societal evolution of what is best for the individual and the group. Both taken into consideration when possible.

The whole do unto others... idea works pretty well.

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Liquid Gardens
3 hours ago, eight bits said:

A nice illustration of Huxley's problem: nobody knows whether or not there is a god, so atheists and theists would both be agnostics. So defined, it's not a useful term.

Just curious, what's Huxley's definition of 'know'?  Did he claim to know anything at all?  

 

1 hour ago, onlookerofmayhem said:

While I would definitely not make the claim, "No god exists,"

For the gods that I've heard defined to me and that I think meet the admittedly vague definition of one, I think I would make that claim, for the exact same reason I'd say fairies and Nessie don't exist.  "But fairies seem to have origins in purposely fictional stories and myths or were proposed to exist by people living in a pre-scientific era" - great, that has a lot to do with why I say gods don't exist too, I haven't really heard any compelling differences between the two propositions that makes god a stronger case.

As far as the semantics of 'atheism', the reason I think it's okay for that to mean any non-believer has to do with why I think we have that word in the first place.  As is often pointed out, we don't call people a-astrologists, and the big reason the word atheist merits it's own word is because of theists, their numbers and how they've used their power historically.  Since it's an English word it's then largely been defined by the predominant religion of the English-speaking world, Christianity, and that religion and it's primary text don't seem to make much distinction between the flavors nor reasoning behind someone's non-belief; 'do infants go to heaven?' will come back with a decent number of google results so for some reason is still even a question.

Which is not to say that's the only definition of atheism, just a permissible one, nor that you shouldn't identify people how they'd like to be identified if their definition falls in those acceptable usages.

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RAyMO
1 hour ago, onlookerofmayhem said:

From the societal evolution of what is best for the individual and the group. Both taken into consideration when possible.

The whole do unto others... idea works pretty well.

absolutely 

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spartan max2

With the humans born default position as believer or atheist question, I would actually say humans default position is believing as a way to understand the world.

 

Google stuff like the "cargo cults" sometime. When things happen humans can't explain we switch to a supernatural explanation. I think that's our default. 

 

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danydandan
2 hours ago, onlookerofmayhem said:

No on both counts.

Have you tried reaching a conclusion using solely logical reasoning, something similar to the Epicurean Dilemma?

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onlookerofmayhem
13 minutes ago, danydandan said:

Have you tried reaching a conclusion using solely logical reasoning, something similar to the Epicurean Dilemma?

Yes. As far as I am capable of.

I do like the Epicurean Dilemma. 

It highlights one of the reasons I find the biblical god and other defined gods to be illogical.

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danydandan
1 hour ago, onlookerofmayhem said:

Yes. As far as I am capable of.

I do like the Epicurean Dilemma. 

It highlights one of the reasons I find the biblical god and other defined gods to be illogical.

Can we explore your reasoning? (Purely as a intellectual exercise. As I think it would be pretty interesting?)

We can assume the same logic yes/no tree as The Epicurean Dilemma?

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RAyMO
1 hour ago, danydandan said:

Have you tried reaching a conclusion using solely logical reasoning, something similar to the Epicurean Dilemma?

This is a somewhat interesting question. The Terminology "Have you tried" has an underlying tone (not intentional no doubt) that the person must be ailing and thus be in search of some remedy to correct matters.

If one is content / happy with the conclusion they have arrived at through life experiences et al. - is there a need  "to try" to clarify that conclusion. 

Though I am pretty sure that is not what you are getting at. 

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Mr Walker
5 hours ago, eight bits said:

I don't think it's helpful to go to what are sometimes called "second-order beliefs" (beliefs about beliefs).

First-order (subject matter only) belief: There is no god

Second-order belief: I think I know that there is no god.

We're having enough trouble with first-order beliefs. In any case, while I am often interested in what somebody else believes about QoG (I have a question about that pending right now with the OP for when he gets back to the thread), I rarely care whether or not anybody thinks they "know" the correct answer. They are two different questions, and the correct answer to the second-order one is that nobody knows in any strong sense of knowing. (I'm fine with knowing in the sense "it is not seriously possible that there're any gods." which is pretty strong but not at all like knowing that 2 + 2 = 4).

Agosticism, then, is different from "admitting to not knowing" (odd use of admitting, no? "I have something in common with every human being who has ever lived - and just maybe every human being who will ever live." That's an admission?)

All the boilerplate objections to the false claim that beliefs are chosen are renewed, without offer of discussion beyond the decade plus of time served and wasted back and forth with you without resolution. Spare me the science-says, too.

The English language really is a great mystery to you, isn't it? No wonder you can't wrap your head around what a pond is.

Idiomatically, I might truthtfully say

I changed my mind.

That's a fine thing to say; everybody will know what I mean. But what happened was that my mind changed. "I" didn't do it, rather it is something that happened to me and to my mind. My phrasing it as personal-subject + action-verb + direct-object is just the conventional tinker-toy sentence-building method of my mother tongue. It is not a commitment to the precise facts of the matter.

@onlookerofmayhem: sincere thanks for the clear and direct answers to my questions.

 

You are overthinking things

Atheism and theism go to the  conscious construction of belief (disbelief is a form of belief) 

Agnosticism is the conscious decision not to choose,  or build, a belief construct 

To determine which of the three you (or anyone)  is, just ask what you/they BELIEVE.

  Both your first statements are beliefs that there is no form of  god.  (Thinking you know, as opposed to actually knowing, is a belief construct )

Knowledge is NOT a belief construct.

  Unless you argue tha t no one can  truly know anything, then you have to accept tha t peole can know that gods exist (assuming the y actually do)  ie if you can know a dog exists then you can know a god exists. 

Your indifference  to this probably goes to,  either a disbelief tha t gods can exist and people know them,  or an aversion to  seriously considering the  possibility  (your justification may simply be that the order of god(s) is too ill defined   for a  person  to b able to identify a god/non god, but that s a bit of a cop out  :) 

you said 

A nice illustration of Huxley's problem: nobody knows whether or not there is a god, so atheists and theists would both be agnostics To be an  agnostic is more than admitting to or recognising  that one does not know 

Neither believers nor non believers know, either.  (ie all 3 forms  admit to not  knowing )

However believers and nonbelievers  both construct a belief form .

An agnostic refuses to do this, and waits for knowledge.  (more complex and varied than this, in reality, but basically so) 

KNOWLEDGE is another beast altogether.

Once one knows anything, one cannot believe in it,  disbelieve in it, nor be agnostic towards it  ie one cannot logically or rationally be a believer, disbeliever, or agnostic about the existence of dogs, unless one has never encountered one. 

Hence Descartes's conclusion, "I think therefore I am."  Not I believe I am, but I know I am 

and of course " the i inside you" changed your mind 

Given the nature of a human mind there is no other way for a mind to change than for you to do it (or at least allow it to be changed ) You really believe that some thing "NOT you"  constructs your mind and makes decisions for you ? 

If you don't  let it, then nothing can change your mind, and if you want to then nothing can stop you changing your mind ie constructing new, different and even radical new ideas beliefs and concepts  We usually need some new data or stimulus to cause us to do this but this can also come form new conscious realisations in our mind including our imagination   Eg" i am not happy. I want to be happy . I will be happy"

Decide that 

Discipline your mind, and learn to control it.

  Work on/practice being happy ,

and you WILL be happy, because happiness is nothing but a belief construct or state of mind 

Edited by Mr Walker

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eight bits
4 hours ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Just curious, what's Huxley's definition of 'know'?  Did he claim to know anything at all?  

Things like the results of successful scientific inquiry would qualify as knowledge, plus mathematics of course. Huxley was a scientist in a family of scholars; I think he would accept "producing knowledge" as a short description of the family business.

Ironically, that earlier term agnostic which he didin't know about when he coined his his word would refer to a philosopher who claimed that humans couldn't know anything. (I have no idea how that worked, not least because all the philosophers I've ever heard of thought they knew something.)

 

1 hour ago, Mr Walker said:

Agnosticism is the conscious decision not to choose,  or build, a belief construct 

Not in my case, Mr W. I know more about my beliefs than you do.

 

3 hours ago, onlookerofmayhem said:

It highlights one of the reasons I find the biblical god and other defined gods to be illogical.

Two questions, hopefully complementary to @danydandan's line of questioning.

(1) You mentioned you were Christian early on. What denomination(s)?

(2) By other defined gods, do you mean (supposedly) known by revelation, like the biblical God is? Or do you mean some other way to be "defined"?

 

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