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Anti-theists are against theism, which is a belief

July 31, 2009

I have seen…too many times…a sort of argument from certain theists that will go a little something like:

Why do any atheists ever speak out against God if they don’t believe he exists? Obviously, they must be in denial, because no one would argue so forcefully against something they don’t believe exists!

And then, I’ve heard this in several different permutations (e.g., “people who deconvert from a religion…like say, ex-Mormons or ex-Catholics or whatever…must argue against God because they “know” God exists and they are “mad” at God.”)

Now, I know that people sometimes don’t think through what they say…but it’s amazed me how long this “argument” (if it can even be called such) has circulated around with few people realizing what’s wrong with it.

Anti-theists of whatever stripe aren’t arguing against God. They are arguing against *at best* the actions of those who believe in God or *at worst* the belief in or the idea of God itself.

Obviously, it would be silly if some atheist anti-theist were speaking out against God. And I’m not saying there aren’t “angstheists”…people who really are theistic, but are undergoing some angsty trial where they are angry with the belief system they proscribe to.

But of course, anti-theists are not speaking out against God. God really is irrelevant in all of this.

Rather, anti-theists are speaking out against theism…and theism isn’t God…but the collection of belief systems that feature gods.

The fact of the matter is something like this: regardless of whether there are deities or not, some people believe in deities. And some form comprehensive packages of “belief systems” around these beliefs — I think we could safely classify “religion” as this. These “belief systems,” regardless of whether there are deities or not, are human things. So regardless of if Jesus is the Christ or if he isn’t, Christianity is a human institution that lives and changes as humans change.

So, if someone notes a distasteful concept behind Christianity (or any such religion), one can freely speak out against this because…clearly…this concept exists. It exists because there is some human around to propagate this concept.

The same with theism in general. Because there are humans around who propagate the idea of believing in deities (and it’s actually a rather popular idea), then this concept exists and can be analyzed, scrutinized, whatever. The idea of God exists, so this can be analyzed, scrutinized, whatever (particularly, by weighing the justification for the idea of God against, perhaps, evidence in a supposed character of God.) So, it doesn’t matter if atheists do not believe a true, real character of deity exists…they can still weigh the IDEA, which most certainly exists.

I have heard another argument too.

Atheists shouldn’t argue against something they don’t believe exists…after all, no one argues against unicorns or labels themselves based on nonbelief in a unicorn.

Hmm…Why might the hypothetical “a-unicornism” not be popular or prevalent? Well, let’s see…maybe it’s because we don’t have huge amounts of PEOPLE believing in unicornism. So again, the opposition is not against the character (in this case, of unicorns), which are not presumed to exist…but the opposition would be against the propagated idea. And since we are fortunate to live in a world where no one propagates unicorns (except children and novelists, but who listens to those guys anyway?), it makes sense why no one is taken up to oppose it.

So…let’s do an experiment, if we must. How about theists not propagate or discuss or believe in gods and deities for…let’s say…a generation or two? How about we strip references to the very idea from the periphery — so no need for churches or faith groups or whatnot? Don’t worry…this is just an experiment. We’re just seeing if a society that does not discuss this particular issue would ever warrant opposition.

Hmm…I guess you don’t want to conduct this experiment. So, how about instead of popular gods of today, we instead look at Inanna. Are you familiar with her? No? Excellent!

It seems Inanna the idea has been abandoned for quite some time (except with anthropologists, but who listens to those guys anyway?) And look! Hark! There are no a-Inannaists who publicly speak out against Inanna, even though if you asked most people, they would probably admit they don’t believe in her.

Now, if you would like to believe that speaking about Inanna means you and I believe she exists, go ahead and reify a heathen goddess. Your god might not like that.

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22 Comments
  1. notfatima42 permalink

    Great post! I might have to borrow your Inanna example the next time a relative berates me for being a non-believer.

  2. John Hamilton permalink

    Good post, Andrew. I don’t disagree with the argument at all, but atheism is simply another religion–it’s belief system replaces or fills in the space religion usually holds in the mind. After all, you can’t prove atheism any more than traditional religion (we still don’t know what caused or holds the universe together, though we have many scientific theories). Inanna was replaced by some other belief system, either actively or by mere attrition, but probably quite actively if we know anything of human nature.
    Likewise with atheism. Why are many atheist (maybe including yourself) so obsessed with proclaiming their beliefs (still beliefs–they haven’t been proven)? They are doing exactly what was probably done to the Inanna belief system–trying to replace it.
    In other words, Christianity or Islam or whatever made better sense to, or was compelled upon, the followers of Inanna. Someday the beloved Atheism will be replaced once “evidence” is found that there really is a Mother Goddess.
    All of it, and I mean ALL of it–atheism included–still requires FAITH!

  3. John, I disagree.

    Atheism isn’t a religion. (But, by the same token, theism isn’t a religion.)

    As I wrote, theism is simply a belief (or rather, a set of all beliefs) that include deities. And atheism is simply the lack of beliefs in gods (or, better stated, the set of all systems that lack such beliefs). From theism or from atheism, you do not find out anything specific that would form what we would call “religion” — for that, you instead need a more formal and comprehensive packaging of belief.

    For example, let’s look at a definition for religion:

    a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    Well, atheism (and theism, for that matter) doesn’t fit this. Neither are “sets” of belief, neither espouse devotional and ritual observances, and neither espouse moral codes governing the conduct of human affairs.

    Now, WITHIN atheism or WITHIN theism, you can begin to find more specific things that may include these things. These “belief systems” could more formally be called religions. (For ex: theism -> Monotheism -> Christianity -> evangelical Christianity)

    So, continuing back to your comment…instead of addressing pure atheism, it seems that you try to make a patch work of beliefs that many (but not all) atheists seem to have and then you assign it to atheism. For example, I would note that while many atheists are scientific thinkers, 1) science isn’t atheism and science isn’t required for atheism, and 2) science isn’t a religion and does not try to answer religious questions [at least, ugh, it shouldn’t]…and 3) science is not required to have all the answers at this particularly point in time. Pointing out that it doesn’t is not an indictment of science. It’s a given. So, this doesn’t make atheism (or science, for that matter) religions.

    So, really, when you ask why atheists (like myself) are promoting our beliefs, consider really what we’re promoting. I’m not promoting any one scientific theory here. Rather, I’m promoting a justification for not believing in deities without being seen as “irrational” or “weird” (oddly enough, trying to make atheism “just another religion” is usually an attempt to make it less “rational” — if atheism is a religion, then no need to worry about it since it’s just a religion). Namely, I try to prove my case by pointing out that people should realize mine isn’t the one that needs proving, because nonbelief is the reasonable state when we don’t know and the options provided do not even conform well to reality. So, it doesn’t require faith — when you *don’t* have faith, you *don’t* believe. And even things you may think require faith (for example, I’m guessing you think science runs on faith) don’t use the kind of faith that is required for theism — you would have to think of a definition of faith that would be vastly different (and not conducive to theism). For example, the faith of science is a simply trust that the universe has observable qualities through which we can formulate hypotheses and theories (if the universe isn’t observable or if these qualities are not rational, then any hypothesis or theory could be turned upside down and we’d be living in Wonderland). This “faith” is not meant to last without proof and evidence — rather, it INSISTS that we gather more and more proof, more and more evidence, and we revise our hypotheses and theories as more and more evidence expands our fields of vision.

    So, I mean, this is where you kinda misunderstand science. When we have a scientific theory, that isn’t just something based off of nothing. That is something based on observed phenomena which we are now trying to classify and describe. To be sure, our classification and description can be incomplete or miss the mark (and so, theories change, are added upon, etc.,)…but the fact is that it is based on observed phenomena.

    This is different from theism. With theism (and many religions), faith does not denote something that is a holding place for evidence and proof. Rather, faith is taken as a way of knowing in spite of these things, or in lieu of these things. So, we see that many religions are very rigid to change, and their hypotheses may not be based on reality at all.

    sorry for the length. This is actually probably good for a new article!

  4. John Hamilton permalink

    Quite the epistle, Andrew. Someday these posts of yours should be canonized. Your definitions, as always, are well thought out. I see your point between theism and atheism, however, have you considered that simple “non-belief” could in itself be a belief. Many people are theists without being religious. It just so happens that many atheists don’t take their atheism to the level of becoming religious about it. Those that do, tend to overly worship at the alter of science. If science can’t explain something, they simply set it on the shelf until further information can be obtained. They never consider the “irrational” methods of obtaining knowledge, such as through meditation, psychoactive drugs or environments, etc. I don’t blame them, and I don’t blame you. Like a Vulcan, logic is supreme in their world and is honorable. But it still does not provide all the answers (yet), and neither does theism (yet). Of the two, you have chosen the atheistic approach, an approach that still requires faith–faith that all the questions will someday be answered. Reminds me of the computer in Isaac Asimov’s tale that was asked, “What is the meaning of existence?” and then it spent unimaginable eons computing it and then, just as the universe collapsed back in on itself, it finally got it and stated the answer: “Let there be light!”

    Stephen Hawking has stated that we may never get to the one overriding theory that explains *why* the universe exists. It simply may be outside our capabilities, or if it is conceivable, it is probably completely on a different reality or existence than where we are now. But don’t you find it fascinating that we are aware of the possibility? Many scientists are still theists precisely for this reason.

    My point is that atheism becomes religious when it is taken out of the scientific realm and applied to how we conduct our daily lives. Atheists of this sort see the value of some theist practices such as being kind to others and so forth, but they sometimes seem to miss the deeper consciences of the “unexplainable” attributes of life such as the feelings evoked by great music or the depth of color in a sunrise, etc. Not saying they don’t appreciate these, but in such matters the theists have just as much of a valid claim to the “right” perceptions as the atheists. Therefore the confusion when I stated that atheism is “just another religion.” I should have explained that it *can* become another religion. When you don’t have the final answer, you either have faith that it can be found, it is in the possession of some possible deity, or that it cannot be answered. Of the three options I chose some mixture of the first two. The third one is somehow not “complete” in my view. But, they all take faith–an acceptance of the unknown.

  5. re John:

    (sorry; here comes another wall of text — this one’s longer than the last, so feel free to take this in parts). I understand too that there are some atheists who make it more than non-belief. That is, instead of simply saying, “I do not believe there is a god,” they say, “I believe there is not a god.” (I hope you recognize the difference in these two statements).

    However, regardless of the possibility of the belief, this doesn’t make a religion. As you note, many people are theists without being religious as well…so why would you say that atheism is another religion when atheism is comparable to theism, not to religion?

    You want to say that “scientism” is what some atheists resort to. But I would say that 1) scientism isn’t necessary for atheism and it isn’t equivalent to it, so if you want to make a claim against scientistic people, make THAT claim instead of making a claim against atheists. 2) Scientism isn’t the same thing as science. So if someone is trying to be scientific, this isn’t the same as being scientistic.

    I think it is good to put things on the shelf. Doubtlessly, even you do it. Because while you may believe in certain things (e.g., Jesus Christ is the savior, prayer has value, etc.,) you don’t believe in many other things (e.g., 71 virgin women in heaven for suicidal death, a pantheon of deities, magic, etc.,) Your worldview doesn’t explain those things, so you either put them on the shelf or you outright reject those things.

    Putting things on the shelf is usually done because of a recognition of two different factors at play…yes, there are the objective factors, but there are also subjective factors. It’s not quite a division between “rational” and “irrational”, because subjective factors are included (with caveats) into a rational discernment of things. So, for example, if one has a spiritual experience of something, this is subjectively felt, even if we do not have any objective evidence of it.

    What’s the difference between subjective and objective experience? Objective experience exists beyond and outside of us. It is external. Gravity affects you regardless of if you believe in it or not, and it is something outside of us, consistent, reliable for its relevant range. On the other hand, subjective experience can differ by person, is not necessarily reliable, and can lead to contradictory conclusions. The same spiritual experience that leads you to feel the church is right, for example, may lead another to believe Hinduism is right. And the spiritual experience may not come to some at all.

    So, for people who have these kinds of experiences, it seems reasonable for them to recognize that even though these experiences are true and great for them, perhaps they should be willing to accept that these experiences may not be universal.

    I’m not saying “Don’t consider irrational methods of obtaining knowledge” or whatever. What I’m saying is that the classification of subjective knowledge should be kept separate from the classification of objective knowledge. I would say we shouldn’t presume our subjective experiences stand beside objective experiences (even if they may be powerful and useful tools for ourselves), and if we want them to, then we should seek for natural, objective explanations. FINALLY, we should not look at those who do not share our subjective experiences in pity or contempt. I think most atheists, in particular, just want to live where they aren’t marginalized and seen as weird for not subscribing to the same subjective prejudices as others, especially when these prejudices are *subjective* and not *objective*.

    So, again, you raise that atheism requires faith: faith that the questions will someday be answered. Yet, I don’t think this is a necessary faith of atheism. Again, I think you’re making assumptions that don’t necessarily follow (and most certainly don’t come from “atheism”.) Atheism doesn’t presume that anything “has all the answers” or “can get all the answers.” If there are or are not answers to be found, atheism doesn’t care. Atheism is simply non-belief in gods. If there are answers and we don’t find them, atheism doesn’t care. Atheism is simply non-belief in gods. Perhaps you might want to say that scientists have faith that answers can be found, but again, this is different than religious faith. The scientist faith is proven every day as he does find answers. And if his faith is falsified, he looks elsewhere.

    I remember the Asimov story…but the question actually was: “How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?” Or, in other terms, how can we avoid the inevitability of everything in the universe becoming cold, dead and still? And the answer was the (unexplained, but still literally fantastic) reboot of the universe.

    Still, I don’t see how this requires any faith.

    I agree with Stephen Hawking. But the possibility doesn’t justify theism. Rather, it justifies asking the question, “Can we get to a different reality or existence than we are now?” In other words, questions like these imply that we should seek to progress to the level where we might have such awesome understanding of the universe that our past selves might consider us gods…it doesn’t imply that there actually is a god or that we should believe there is. We don’t necessarily seek with faith that we will succeed. We seek because it’s the best thing we can do and we learn so much that is truly valuable in the process.

    My point is that atheism becomes religious when it is taken out of the scientific realm and applied to how we conduct our daily lives.

    Again, “scientism”? I think that is what you’re trying to get at, and I reassert — scientism isn’t necessary for atheism nor is it equivalent. So, to make criticisms against scientism simply doesn’t apply to most atheists.

    Really, I think what atheists are trying to argue is that “being kind to others” is not a “theistic practice.” There is nothing from the claim, “I believe God exists” that implies or necessitates or even encourages “be kind to others.” Furthermore, I think atheists HOPE that even theists do not believe this. I HOPE theists do not REALLY believe that they are only kind to others because they believe in God.

    Similarly, there is nothing “theistic” about “great music” or “the depth of color in a sunrise.” You can hear, see, and appreciate great music or sunrises without believing in God, and I TRULY hope you recognize that too. Because if you cannot appreciate these things without believing in God, then you basically admit a kind of handicap: you cannot experience things for themselves. You can only experience them through the lens of an idea that isn’t necessary for them.

    So if anything, atheists are trying to point out that we don’t need theism for a lot of things. Belief in a god or nonbelief in a god, in the vast majority of things in our lives, has absolutely no effect. Rather, other things are more important. If I believe there is subjective benefit from being nice to others, that has impact. If I believe in a god, that doesn’t have impact.

    I do not think “acceptance of the unknown” is anywhere close to a traditional idea of faith; again, you’re presenting an alternative definition of faith that doesn’t justify theism or even match up with most people’s standard definitions of faith.

    • FireTag permalink

      I want to be sure we do not confuse what comes out of our cortext as rational and objective and what comes out of the rest of our brain as irrational or subjective.

      The computers in our heads do a great deal of unconscious calculation that can be better than we do with our conscious minds (Try catching a fly ball using only your cerebral cortex; I’ll even give you a scientific calculator!)

      So the rest of our brains have exactly the same evolutionary standing in perceiving reality and interpreting it as our “rationality”. In fact, we could even say that rationality is still in the “beta” test version, and our gut reactions often mean more.

      • This could get rather solipsistic quickly.

        Yet, even if it gets solipsistic, I’d say that our “rationality” “lies” more predictably and reliably than our gut reactions. So, even if our senses or our rationality or whatever we will call it are not seeking after truth (or objectivity), whatever they do seek out, they seek out reliably and consistently. This is a distinction.

  6. John Hamilton permalink

    Andrew,

    I guess I’m somewhat hampered by language or at least my ability to convert into words what I really mean. I have no disagreements with anything you just said, atheism is not synonymous with science, neither does science prove or disprove atheism. Atheists should not me marginalized (I’m sorry if you feel this way), but neither should their views necessarily become the default or “lowest common denominator” when considering all policy or regulation of human interaction. Because we all may not share identical beliefs or suppositions doesn’t mean we should automatically defer to no belief at all–which we aren’t really since a belief in no deity or god(s) is, of course, still a belief. Belief, in my definition, is adherence to anything that cannot be proved (at least not in a way as to be accepted by most people). Atheists cannot “prove” there is no god any more than a theist can “prove” there is. Atheists simply accept that since neither can be proven, there is no need for a belief in god. Fine and dandy.

    This leads me to your definitions of objectivity vs. subjectivity. For all we know gravity may be subjective. It’s laws break down outside of certain parameters, such is in quantum mechanics. The “higher plane” Stephen Hawking was talking about would be where these irreconcilable disparities no longer exit–or something like that. Some theists, like the great Buddha himself, answer these apparent disparities my stating that ALL is merely an illusion. They may be right. Einstein proved that time is an illusion (at least as it pertains to the traditional way we had perceived it), why can’t everything else also be an “illusion”? Einstein “proved” it in terms that our objective reasoning could accept whereas the great Buddha had the misfortune of not being able to convey his realization in scientific terms (something to do with sniffing too many lotus blossoms, no doubt). In other words, what is so readily “apparent” may not actually be so! Stephen Hawking and Einstein realized this and their “question everything–even existence,” attitude led them to greater discoveries. I don’t mean to equate science with religion in this. Science stands apart–it was merely the tool used by these men to explore. It is stating that the scientific method is the only acceptable method of enlightenment that I have some reservations about, since, in a way, science has shown that the Buddha was right and everything could be relative (meaning “real” or “not real” depending upon where you stand).

    You are right about the Asimov story. My 40-year-old mind doesn’t remember things as well as it used to (enjoy yours while you can). It was entropy and not the meaning of existence that he was writing about. Still interesting that he could not explain the answer though. I’m not saying we should perform rain dances simply because we don’t know how Earth’s water cycle works, but I am saying there is value in the motivations behind the dance, hence the value of theism. Sociology can explain why we are inclined to be kind to one another, but that does not negate its value. Likewise there may be psychiatric reasons why we are inclined to imagine deity–we could be merely filling in a blank or we may be aware of a reality not yet proved.

    Since we don’t know, neither atheism or theism should be superior. That is basically what I am getting at. I am stating that atheism CAN have many of the attributes of religion. I am bringing it down (or up) to the same level as theism in this sense. Atheism does not “stand outside” of all else–it is a product of personal observation and conclusion using the tools at hand. Likewise theism. You can argue to the end of the universe as to which conclusions are accurate or the most relevant to our existence, but until Allah comes down with a gift of 70 virgins (can always hope, right?) we may never know for sure.

  7. Concerning your definitions of subjectivity and objectivity, I still do not think you quite get what I’m understanding.

    It’s not that gravity is subjective…it’s not that it even breaks down. Rather, it’s that one theory (it’s best to think of theories in science as being “explanations” and laws as being “descriptions”) is inapplicable outside of a certain range (e.g., classical or Newtonian mechanics do not work well for very small or very fast occurences, as you pointed out). Does this mean that gravity or mechanics are subjective? No. Rather, that means that outside of a certain range, one simply uses a different explanation that accounts for the differences in the range. As you yourself bring up quantum mechanics, you should be aware that this is not saying “Gravity is subjective,” but rather saying, “In the range of really small things, we use a different description and explanation.” Or, when you bring up Einsteinian relativity, this also is not saying “Mechanics are subjective,” but it is rather saying, “In the range of really fast thing [approaching the speed of light], we use a different description and explanation.” And too, just because we have more finetuned descriptions and explanations doesn’t make the old worthless…conventional mechanics are still rather accurate within the relevant range, so people still learn about them.

    The goal is to seek for a “theory of everything,” so to speak, but of course, we don’t pretend to be close to one of those yet.

    So when Hawking and others talk about ‘higher planes’ where so-called ‘irreconcilable disparities’ no longer exist, these guys are seeking theories of everything — the ultimate achievement of the natural science, you see. These theories may appear to those who don’t understand to be utterly miraculous and, in a word, supernatural, but this does not make them so, and doesn’t give us reason to call them such. We do ourselves a disservice when we label the unknown supernatural, because the supernatural is something we can’t explore. But the natural is something we can explore, question, describe, and explain.

    I too am not denying the value in the “motivations behind the dance” (and in association, the value behind theism.) I simply assert that many people get confused about what these motivations and values should mean. Theism should not be about a real, literal god or about real, literal supernatural (in the same way a rain dance shouldn’t be able literally bringing rain). It should be allegorical, metaphorical, a primer, a fable. It should be a guide post to spark curiosity to desire a better life (which should include, not be afraid of science) and pursue understanding.

    The problem is that much of theism isn’t like this, and much of religion isn’t like this. Instead, many times people have misinterpreted religion and tried to make it literal. In the misunderstanding, people have tried to pose a literal rain dance (when it wasn’t meant to be literal) against the science that doesn’t require a rain dance. Regrettably, religious faith is more a virtue than curiosity in seeking the workings of the natural universe.

    What I’m getting at is that as long as theism and religion are tainted, then I can certainly understand why there are anti-theists (note: all atheists aren’t even anti-theists). Yet, instead of theists trying to listen and reform and restore, they instead point at others. But until theists do reform or restore, then it will stand that what has become of it isn’t necessary.

    You’re right — we may never know for sure until Allah comes down with a gift of 70 virgins, but you are avoiding the critical question: why believe in such an idea when we don’t have to? When not believing in ideas like this can help us better understand the world?

    There is a difference between positing “We don’t know,” (because you’re talking to an agnostic — I already recognize we don’t know) and saying, “Because we don’t know, it is permissible to believe,” which still you have not warranted. It’s because this is something you can perhaps warrant for yourself (subjectively), but you don’t have the tools to warrant it for everyone (objectively).

  8. John Hamilton permalink

    So, in your utopian world of all things Andrew, it will no longer be “permissible” to believe? Scary. Belief, even if it is in error, can be beneficial. It can act as a holding pattern for people’s psyche until more information is available. Your problem, as I see it, is that you BELIEVE you have the answers and therefore can jump over the silly beliefs of us lesser mortals. You are bitter because some people, being human, use the holding pattern to stifle investigation, which is sad. Genuine irrational belief expresses itself in nearly all aspects of life, religion is just one of those, a big one, of course, that tries to tie all the others together into coherence, but is still irrational on some level. The way I love my wife is almost completely irrational if I stop to think about it, but it is still real, just as real as the sky in blue. She is appealing to me on a level that transcends her weaknesses, failings and imperfections. I don’t know how to make you understand this, it probably can’t be conveyed in words, but this “emotion” (not an adequate word for it) is a facet of what I call faith. Faith is a very, very simple word for things that are unexplainable but still very real.

    If you’re familiar with the deeper Mormon theology, you know that there really is no such thing as “supernatural” or miraculous. Joseph Smith (coming after the dawn of the Age of Reason) recognized this and explained that we are fully capable of understanding the “things of God.” By this he meant, God (or what we think of as God, maybe) is the ultimate scientist. Smith continually told his leaders that if they knew everything he did they would leave the Church because they were not ready for it. J.S. got these ideas through “revelations.” In a similar way, the Buddha got enlightenment, through “irrational” meditation. Einstein got the “irrational” idea of relativity and THEN set out to prove it. Faith is the irrational attribute that leads to greater discovery, sometimes it must act as a holding pattern, sometimes it is the impetus to strive ahead. (See how “faith” is really and inadequate word?)

    Einstein still believed in deity (not necessarily God, per se). You may be more enlightened than he (honestly) in this matter, but you shouldn’t think of theists as deluded or less inquisitive. This will probably lead to a dissatisfaction and arrogance that may cause you to miss out on some of life.

    Anyway, don’t get the idea I’m trying to say you’re wrong on anything, I’m just sharing my thoughts. If I’m just a dunder-head that doesn’t get it, I apologize, but I hope I’ve helped you clarify things anyway.

  9. John,

    haha, another wall of text.

    John, don’t be confused. I’m not proposing a utopian world. I’m proposing a rather accessible world: I’m proposing today’s world: with the only change (which people already are trying to do) of people trying to be more reasonable. It’s not that “in my utopian world,” it “would” be “no longer” permissible to believe. It’s that now, based on how many people currently believe, it is currently not permissible to believe and many theists aren’t realizing this or caring why. Note that I am addressing the corruption of theism and religion, the fundamentalism of these things, so don’t be confused or feel threatened.

    If you have the humility to admit that your belief isn’t reasonable — but is subjective — and you admit that others don’t have to share your belief (and if they don’t, it shouldn’t be held against them in any way) because your belief is subjective, then it doesn’t really matter what you believe or if it is permissible or not. But this requires a breaking of fundamentalism, a breaking of literalism, a breaking of evangelism, a breaking of all the things we currently see.

    You have misunderstand my position, unfortunately. I do not believe we have all the answers. Again, I am not bitter. I try to point out, simply, repeatedly, that because we don’t have all the answers, we shouldn’t be so arrogant to presume that we do. This is the corruption of religion but also of conventional theism. Note that I am not arguing that everyone should become atheist. Rather, I am arguing that people accept that atheism is valid and reasonable. I am not arguing that my way is right and everyone else’s way is wrong. I am explaining that because of the way religions have progressed, it is easy to see (if you have eyes to see) and easy to hear (if you have ears to hear) why people may become disaffected, and that these people who are disaffected are not flawed and faulted — they are entirely justified in such a reasonable reaction.

    For example, let’s take what you call “genuine irrational belief.” I am not arguing for elimination of “genuine irrational belief.” Oh no! I am simply arguing that we recognize that the things that make irrational beliefs appeal to any person are subjective, because the irrational defies and shrinks from the objective. And what if it is subjective? Then that means that we have to be extremely humble, because others have different subjective experiences. Everyone doesn’t see goodness in the Book of Mormon, but just the same, everyone doesn’t see goodness in the Quran, and so on, and so on. So, if you want to believe in these things, then fine, but recognize that your character and nature of belief, if you want to bring a positive impact to the world, has to be different than it has traditionally cultivated.

    The way you love your wife may be irrational, but it’s ok. You know why? Because you recognize that love of your wife is subjective! It is not objective, and you do not even attempt to claim that it should be. You do not claim that your wife is the “one true love” that everyone should love, and that if they don’t fall in love with her (or see what you see in her), then they are possibly “bitter” because you “being human, use the holding pattern to stifle investigation.” (The claim you have previously claimed against me regarding religion).

    This highlights very well the difference in things. Love is something that people fortunately have a SEMBLANCE of recognizing the subjective. And even better, through love, they realize that the subjective things don’t have to be cheaper than the objective things! Is your love cheaper because it is not a universal law? Is your love cheaper because the guy next to you doesn’t share it for your wife? No!

    But if you began to claim that everyone should love your wife, and they must be attracted to your wife and agree with you about what you say is attractive about her, and IF you presumed to believe that no one would really be life unless they loved your wife…this is where the arrogance would begin. And this is what people would talk against. I don’t care if you love your wife. But this gives you utterly no right to press this on others, who have different subjective experiences.

    If you understand religion and theism in this light, then great! But think that this would make religion (and even theism) much different from how they are currently accepted. Most tellingly, if you accepted things in this light, you’d be outside of “orthodoxy.”

    I agree that Mormonism does better than most religions relating to the supernatural, but at the same time, it still doesn’t translate well. We still have people who are hostile, instead of harmonious, to the sciences, and the general authorities avoid forcefully addressing the issue (as they have in other places). This is why the GAs also are known more for their playing down or playing against science. A quote from Thomas S. Monson remarks, “Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it” — which seems rather exemplar of LDS thinking. LDS thinking is, “My faith, right or wrong,” rather than one that bravely accepts and encourages investigation.

    When you redefine faith as “the irrational attribute that leads to greater discovery,” you equivocate. You are not describing religious faith, or a standard faith in any sense. But if you will insist upon using it, I will simply ask: how does that point to God? How does that permit God? Etc., To create such a self-serving definition actually cuts against you, because it allows people, reasonable people, to come to the conclusion that God isn’t necessary to it all. (if you want to accept that conclusion, then great!)

    Remember Einstein. You like to bring him up, but I’m not certain you’ve ever read Einstein’s words carefully. If you have time, read these four essays from Einstein that feature what he envisioned of God, science, and religion. In short, Einstein agrees with my position that religion and theism must become radically different — as they currently are, they are unfortunate and lamentable. Einstein’s deity was nature and the universe — it was not Jehovah or Elohim, so it’s curious that so many people who believe in a personal deity want to use Einstein’s words for them, when he indicts them.

    Based on your last comment, I probably have lost you. Despite all my writing, I apparently have not properly communicated what I am trying to say, and so what you think I’m saying is quite far and away from what I am actually saying. Despite all the walls of text, I still have done nothing to express the reasonableness of my position — which really is not an ambitious position or a “utopian” position or a “bitter” position.

  10. Guest Writer 800+ permalink

    I hate to cut in on this conversation, but I keep getting stuck on John’s definitions:

    “Because we all may not share identical beliefs or suppositions doesn’t mean we should automatically defer to no belief at all.”

    I agree that it may not mean that we “should,” but that is what atheists have done in this regard.

    “which we aren’t really since a belief in no deity or god(s) is, of course, still a belief.”

    I agree that a belief in no deity is still a belief. But a lack of a belief in a deity is not a belief. A lack of belief is simply that: a lack of belief. An absence of belief is not a belief of absence. I do not BELIEVE there are no gods, that is going beyond the evidence, but I do lack a belief in gods.

    “Atheists cannot “prove” there is no god any more than a theist can “prove” there is. Atheists simply accept that since neither can be proven, there is no need for a belief in god.”

    Why would an atheist need to prove there is no God? Saying that neither atheism or theism can be proven is makes it seem like you are implying that the default position is somewhere in between. That is only true if you define atheism as a belief, but again, that is not the general stance of atheism. While there may be some atheists that believe there is no God, atheism is not the belief that there is no God. Again, it happens to be the lack of belief in God. I think you are going beyond the mark here. Say someone has never heard of a whale before. Another person comes up and tells the first person about whales and then says:
    -“Do you believe in whales?”
    -“No.”
    -“You don’t believe in whales?!? Prove there are no whales.”
    -“What? That makes no sense. First off, I didn’t say that whales do not exist, all I said was that I do not believe in whales. There is a difference. At this current time, I just lack any reason to believe. My default position is not believing. I had never heard of whales before now and thus, did not believe in them. Now you have mentioned what you say you know about these things you call whales, but I still have little to no information on them, but as I get more information I may have reasons for believing. I do not NEED a reason to not believe in whales, because that is my default position. If you have a way of convincing me that whales exist, then I would be happy to hear it.”

    • FireTag permalink

      I think this “whale” thing is actually a very useful illustration. What if you are a kid and your Dad tells you about whales? Your default position is to believe him.

      You may acquire a different default position later in life. That process may be well justified. But why is one position less subjective than the other? They both come from a “search algorithm” that learns about reality the best way possible at the time. And the change comes from experiences of success or failure ultimately (over generations) in survival.

      • This provides interesting things though. Let’s say your dad doesn’t tell you about whales. For some, they would devise a whale (or something similar). So, many children often think in anthropomorphic terms, formulizing things like that.

        Of course, this doesn’t follow for all. Other children don’t devise whales. Or, even when they do, they drop their whales with time.

        (I do believe this is an example of subjective experiences and the differences therein, so I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you). For some, the subjective inclination is to believe, and for others, it is not to believe. Note that neither says anything about the objective existence (or nonexistence) of whales (or, in our case, gods)…just about the belief therein.

    • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

      But believing in your dad is not a default position, because it is an active belief system. I suppose it would not even be the most fundamental belief system at the time. You would believe in your parents because of something else. Perhaps because they have appeared to always lead you in a direction that helps your survival. Once you have a belief in your parents, you build other beliefs on top of that.

      My example of changing belief systems would be with Santa. I believed in Santa because I believed in my parents because I believed in the results of believing them (or perhaps because it is evolutionarily programmed in)…
      Anyway, I realized at some point that either God was real or Santa was real, but both could not be real. I asked my parents and they told me Santa was not real. So I no longer believed in Santa, but at the same time, my belief in my parents diminished as well. The situation had altered, but it was my belief systems that altered, that are subjective. I am trying to figure out if there is something subjective about a lack of belief. I am thinking no.

      • I think there’s something subjective about lack of belief, in the sense that it doesn’t tell us or derive anything from the objective world.

        You just barely missed my message, but i think it’s interesting to look at how children will develop regardless of upbringing. Some do have a nascent theism, while others do not. It doesn’t suggest objectively that gods exist, but rather it points out that different people have differing inclinations — e.g., some are inclined to believe in deities, and some are not.

      • FireTag permalink

        GW800+:

        I referred to it as a default position because trust in your parents is programmed in before you’re old enough to consciously form or modify belief systems. That’s in our evolutionary line way back somewhere into the primates.

        There is, as I recall some evidence for similar wiring for theism (not as strong obviously) that seems to suggest that such beliefs (whether objective or subjective is irrelevant here) are not about to wither away. It seems to relate to the mental ability to pick out patterns (even if it produces a lot of false positives) that might represent threats, and the ability to infer the presence of other minds. Very useful evolutionary traits even if, as I said, it is biased toward false positives.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        Interesting. You’ve both given me things to think about. Thanks.

  11. John Hamilton permalink

    All right everybody. I DO see your points. However, I’m not sure you see mine. Everybody wonders, everybody not in a coma asks what is the purpose, what happens when we die, why are things the way they are and so on. Everyone sees, hears or observes in some way a splash in the ocean. Some say it was a whale that caused it, some say it was the wind, others say it was a random fluctuation of the space-time continuum, etc. But, all ask the same question: What of that splash?

    Atheists don’t live in a vacuum. Their “absence of belief” really does not exist. By choosing not to take any stance on the “big question” they are merely saying that “taking a stance” is dangerous or unwise and that is THEIR STANCE! Their position is therefore a belief since it is based on the presupposition that since we don’t know we must not assign any subjective theory. This is in itself subjective! There is really no other way to examine that splash unless we form theories and test them. Theism is one of those theories. We are asked to test that theory. Some don’t care for the baseline upon which that test is taken, and that is okay; however, others think the atheist’s belief in a complete lack of a baseline is itself baseless and should not be used to test any theory.

    Andrew, I think you’re confusing me with Pat Robertson. I don’t demand others believe the way I do except when their beliefs impinge upon my freedom to believe. The persecution complex some atheists seem to have only belies that their system, even to them, is still ultimately a belief system. They believe they posses an absence of belief, and their belief may be right–for them. Others have the freedom to believe they are deluded. Anyone can quote statements from a fellow wanderer (Thomas S. Monson) to prove that another system is flawed in their eyes. But, what if Monson really saw the whale? If he did and you KNOW he did (because you saw it also or something) wouldn’t that put a whole new twist on the quote you gave?

    I know Einstein’s position on deity, that is why I said “not necessarily God, per se.” He still had an unproven belief system concerning the “big question.” He was not an atheist. There was some sort of theism rattling around in his head. It was vastly different than the theism of religion. His baseline was still subjective. There is no objective baseline to build upon. Until we find such, it is presumptuous to say an absence of belief is the ONLY logical place to start–we can start anywhere, it’s all flawed.

    It is not the “do you believe in whales” question but do you wish to accept a belief in whales. Instead of asking “Do you believe?,” it should be asked, “Do you wish to pursue this line of reasoning to explain the universal ‘splash’ we all know about or do you wish to explain it another way?” No matter what explanation you choose or pursue it will be subjective, even the choice to not choose since the knowledge of your ignorance is still there.

    The irrational exists only in this sphere, according to how I read Joseph Smith. The love I feel in this life will be fully comprehended once I’ve obtained the level of understanding that “God” has. The “beauty” in music, the “affection” I have for my wife, etc. will be understood in all its finite parts on some other plane. Atheists accept that these things are currently unexplained, but their idea that they either can never be explained or that we can reach them through another avenue than theism is just that: another idea. What we all cannot seem to get a handle around is that even if science could ultimately explain love, it will continually need to explain what is behind the love–much like trying to explain what is below the atom, the electron, the quark, and on and on and on. Atheism, like theism, is a finite concept that does not encompass the infinite. That is why it must still be labeled a belief.

  12. John, I see your point. I just fear that your point misunderstands my point (even as you write, you misconstrue and misunderstand things).

    But here the conversation evolves (in a good way). For now we get to the question of what kinds of things are necessary for answering “what is the purpose, what happens when we die,” etc.,

    I would answer that theism doesn’t answer this. Atheism also doesn’t answer this. Why? Because theism and atheism are minimalist. Theism just says, “Whatever someone believes, there is some formulation of deity in the mix.” And atheism just says, “Whatever someone believes, there is not some formulation of deity in the mix.”

    So, theism and atheism are broad supersets, remember. You don’t answer the question, “What is the purpose?” or “What happens after death?” with the answer, “I believe in God” or “I don’t believe in God.” (This is also why atheism and theism are *not* religions.)

    Really, you need a belief system — a specialized, complex belief system — to begin answering these questions. So, how do these come up?

    All theism says is that — whatever the belief system — it will have a formulation of deity somewhere in there. But from theism, you can’t tell anything about that deity or tell anything about purpose, etc., You can’t guess a Christian from a Hindu, and so on, if you just know that someone is a “theist.” Theism doesn’t give enough information. And I’m saying that the same is true of atheism — you can’t guess the belief system of an atheist from knowing his atheism because atheism just tells you one very minimal thing: regardless of what the atheist believes, s/he doesn’t believe in deities. But of course, just as there are a VARIETY of ways to be theistic (lots of religions, and lots of nonreligions), there are similarly lots of subsets to atheism.

    So, why did I go through that? Well, it’s because you’ve still missed a distinction. When atheists say we don’t believe, it is simply pointing out one thing: they don’t believe in deities. So, it is not the same as saying, “we don’t have any answers toward “big questions.”” What we are saying is that whatever our answers are (again, you do not find our answers from atheism in the same way you do not find a theist’s answers from theism), they do not require a deity.”

    So, again, you misunderstand atheism. You say atheists “do not take a stance” because to do so is “dangerous.” It’s as if you believe that the big questions cannot be answered without deities. If I could do anything, I’d like to disavow you of this. You include a persecution complex as part of the “atheist belief system” when you should recognize that 1) it is not necessary for atheism and 2) it is not atheism itself. Basically, what you are trying to do is the equivalent of looking at Muslims and say, “This is what theists believe!” But every non-Muslim theist would say, “Hold on now…Islam isn’t necessary for theism and Islam isn’t the same as theism! Islam is a subset within theism.”

    So, I’m not saying atheists do not have beliefs about ethics, about the purpose of life, and so on. Don’t be confused; I’m just saying atheists don’t believe in gods.

    Additionally, I am *not* saying (and never have) that “Their position is therefore a belief since it is based on the presupposition that since we don’t know we must not assign any subjective theory.

    It’s kinda tricky, because you’ve kinda filtered some of *my* beliefs (misunderstanding them in the process) and you’ve assumed they are atheism, when atheism is simply lacking a belief in gods, but my beliefs are my own. but let me try to filter out.

    The “atheist” position doesn’t cover this question. Atheism just is the superset of all answers that don’t require gods. So, “their position” isn’t one position. I will say that what *I* have been trying to say, as an existentialist or as an absurdist (note: these are just two belief systems that can be subsetted that “mesh” with atheism) is that: In the case that we don’t understand objective purpose (for example, let’s say it doesn’t exist or let’s say it is inaccessible to us), then we MUST rely on subjective purpose and hypothesis. HOWEVER, we must also realize that subjective hypotheses are not the same strength as objective hypotheses and recognize that subjective hypotheses can differ by person.

    I have NEVER said, “We must not assign any subjective theory.” This is the grossest misunderstanding of my position. I have consistently said that we WILL assign subjective theory, but as a result, we need to examine the distinction between subjective and objective. I did not say, “You should not love your wife.” I said, “The fact that you love your wife is great, but everyone else may not love her in the same way, and this is 100% ok. So, subjective experiences can differ, so we should recognize this.”

    Now, if you ask certain others, they might not have this belief system. After all, not all atheists are existentialists. As you know, not all theists are Hindus. So we can *expect* differences in beliefs. It’s not a problem. Regardless of the differences, we recognize that theists are united in the belief in a deity (or deities), and we know that atheists are united only in the lack of belief thereof.

    Theism is one of those theories.

    Here, I’ll nitpick, but I’ll just go and say that you aren’t seeing the scope of things. Theism isn’t one of those hypotheses. Rather, theism is a set of many hypotheses. Sunni Islam is one of those hypotheses, and Shiite Islam is another. Mormon Christianity is another. And so on and so on. If you want to group them in common, the only thing you get is some formulation of deity. Which actually isn’t so informative.

    What I am asking is that you either 1) seek objective evidence for your religion or for the overarcing superset of theism or 2) recognize that your evidence is subjective, and as such, may apply to you, but not necessarily to me or others. That is how you test your hypothesis. The LDS church is GREAT at the 2nd (it is great at having people test the hypothesis of Mormonism through subjective experiences like spiritual experiences, Moroni’s challenge, etc.,) but it doesn’t do a good job at dealing with those whose subjective experiences are different (if Moroni’s challenge doesn’t answer positively for you, you are assumed to have not done it right or not had enough faith or whatever) and it’s rather abysmal at the objective experiences. (and this is what the apologists’ jobs are.)

    So, again, you say atheist’s “lack of a baseline” and you confuse the issue. What baseline do you think atheists lack? If you think the “baseline” is God, then I guess atheists lack that. But if you make this the baseline, you’ll find the diverse groups of atheists swarming together quickly, for they can argue — despite their diversity of positions — that it is unfair to make the “baseline” be God or the supernatural.

    I do not confuse you with Pat Robertson. I simply confuse you (and perhaps I confuse wrong) with the average orthodox Mormon. I confuse you with the words of the General Authorities, who, by nature of your membership in the church and your sustaining of them by the right hand, by your tithing (oops, I assume you pay tithes), by your attendance, by your activity, by your belief, represent you. That’s the good thing about a specific religion: it creates an orthodoxy by which members can be represented. We couldn’t say that so much of theism or atheism. Who “represents” a theist? A Muslim? A Christian? A Hindu? No, theism doesn’t have representatives and neither does atheism. But secular humanism…ah that has a representative. Mormonism? Ah…a representative. And so on.

    So you answer me, not as an atheist, but as someone who also once sustained the same leaders and believed the same orthodoxies as you, is the Mormon church a missionary church or not? Is the Mormon church one that presents itself as the one true church with all the priesthood powers on the face of the earth? Or are these exaggerations? Will you flee before the Lord your God?

    So, if you want to talk about persecution complexes, I will say they don’t arise from “atheism.” Atheism just says, “does not believe in deities.” I will say that persecution complexes arise from the peculiarities of things like, “Ex-Mormon living around Mormons who think the worst of Mormons” Call THAT the belief system that raises the persecution complex. Or how about, “Nontheists living around certain theists who think the worst of nontheists.” Call THAT the belief system that raises the persecution complex. But the persecution complex is not necessary or a part of not believing in God. As such, the persecution complex doesn’t go away whether one believes in god or not…but rather, it goes away when people stop persecuting. Spme Mormons don’t have a persecution complex because it is necessary for Mormonism. Rather, it is because they have lived around those who persecuted them, and that stuck.

    Again, I have always said that everyone has the right and privilege to believe. All I have pointed out is, recognize your belief isn’t right for everyone in the same way I recognize my nonbelief isn’t right for everyone (note that I have NEVER said: “everyone must become atheist!” I have said, “Theists should reform their theism.” and I have said, “Here is why atheists are justified in not believing.”) I have pointed out that the person who represents you and who represents Mormonism (please don’t blaspheme Thomas S. Monson so soon! He hasn’t even been in the office for that long!) has said certain things, and in fact, these aren’t just what he says…these are things pervasive through the Mormon belief system. It isn’t just “a fellow wanderer,” it is someone who the wanderers have sustained to represent them and to lead them in orthodoxy. (This is very different, again, from theism, where you don’t have a specific orthodoxy. Same for atheism. You don’t have a specific orthodoxy. But with Mormonism, a specific institution, belief system, religion, you do have an orthodoxy.)

    If Monson saw the whale, we are asking, “Show everyone the whale.” He and the church show others the whale through subjective experiences (read the BoM, get a confirmation of the spirit, ???, Profit!) And yet, 1) the subjective experiences aren’t the same for everyone, so I guess that means the whale isn’t the same for everyone and 2) he hasn’t shown us that the whale is objectively there. If I saw the whale, I’d be in a different position of course. Because through subjective experience, I’d have reason to believe. But still, I’d have to be wary and humble of the second point, for I’d have no objective experience of the whale. The whale could be persuasive to me, but it might not REALLY exist.

    So, again, do not confuse the issues. I’m not saying atheists don’t answer the big questions. I’m saying that the big questions are separate from the god question. So, to say, “Einstein answered the big questions and his answers were unproven,” is no big deal. After all, Einstein did not assert he had the “one true answer” and then look down upon those who answered differently. And in his other endeavors, he sought for objective evidence to back up his position.

    If you want to claim Einstein’s pantheism (remember: pantheism is the idea that God is synonymous with the natural universe…and that is Einstein’s position) with theism, then fine. I’ve got no problems with that. But realize that his pantheism is a revolutionizing of theism. It is a vast reformation of it. How amazing it is to drop the idea of a personal deity and instead focus on the natural universe? Again, the fact that his pantheism is subjective doesn’t bother me (perhaps it bothers the strawman and confusion you put up, but I assure you that’s not what I believe and I can guess that most atheists wouldn’t believe that either). Rather, what I am trying to point out is, “Look at that example of subjectivism and perpsectivism? And look how his belief was humble and not puffed up?” It would be great if all had that.

    Again, if you want to claim Einstein’s pantheism (remember: the idea that God is synonymous with the natural universe) to be theism, then I will certainly say, “I believe in the natural universe!” No problem there!

    Regarding your “Whales” vs. “splash” question. Again, you equivocate. The Big Questions are not the same as the God question. So, do we want to pursue the splash, most certainly! Do we believe a whale? No. Why not? No persuasive evidence for us (this includes both subjective and objective). And so we have diverse explanations for the splash that do not require a whale. The questions about the whale are very different than the questions about the splash, and we are trying to assert this, even though when a believer in the whale discusses it, he believes that splashes must include whales.

    Again, the subjective doesn’t bother me. I’m an existentialist. Perhaps it should bother you, if you want to state that God objectively exists (in the sense that gravity objectively affects us here), but it doesn’t bother me.

    Again, don’t confuse the issue. “Music” and “love” and all kinds of emotional reactions ARE subjective. And this should be proof enough that atheists recognize the subjective. But as you note, they remain atheist. Why is this? AHHH~ Because these subjective experiences have NOTHING to do with belief in God! You don’t need to believe in God to recognize the beauties of music, love, art. They are different questions. Perhaps this is so difficult to understand because you already wrap the two together, but they are separate.

    But atheism doesn’t address these things, in the same way theism doesn’t. Rather, you have to add beliefs to atheism or to theism to address these things. And those beliefs — of course those are beliefs. But the “lack of belief in god?” The “belief in god?” That tells me nothing about love, about music, about anything but god. That is why atheism is not a belief.

  13. Guest Writer 800+ permalink

    Quote from John: “Atheism, like theism, is a finite concept that does not encompass the infinite. That is why it must still be labeled a belief.”

    What? No. Atheism is a word invented by man to describe those people who do not believe in a God. Atheism – “In the broadest sense, it is the absence of belief in the existence of deities.”

    I wonder if there is still confusion with my whale example. This will further illustrate some points Andrew has made.

    The lack of belief in whales is the default position, because how can you have any belief in something that you have never heard of or know nothing about? Now, not believing in whales requires nothing of the individual. There is nothing active about it, it is the default position. However, a person came along and told the non-believer about whales. The non-believer remained a non-believer, why? I don’t know, but it does not make atheism a belief system. Perhaps their reasons for disregarding the information that one person gave them trying to prove or explain the existence of whales was in fact subjective and based on a belief system that the whale-atheist held. In which case, it is that OTHER system that caused the person to disregard that evidence, not atheism. It is not the atheism itself that causes the person to disregard the existence of whales. It is some belief system that that person holds that tells them when they think evidence is good and when they think it is bad or not enough.

    I do not disregard arguments for god(s) BECAUSE I am an atheist, I am an atheist because I disregard the arguments for god(s). The atheism is the inactive part. The active part would have to include beliefs I hold, one being my belief that feelings are incorrect ways of determining truth, but instead a good way of knowing how we currently view something. (When something goes against what we have been taught all our life, whether in religion, politics, or whatever, it can make us uncomfortable, although that doesn’t mean the new information is wrong. Similarly, when something makes us feel good, it may just be because it is what we want to believe- not that it is necessarily right or true.) Those belief systems that I hold are the reasons why I don’t find the argument for God compelling enough. Atheism is a RESULT of those belief systems.

  14. Well put, as always

    (in the future, I’ll try to make shorter comments!)

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