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Author Topic:   Problems with being an Atheist (or Evolutionist)
Stile
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Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


(2)
Message 1 of 276 (490771)
12-08-2008 10:37 AM


I saw this post from Buzsaw in another thread, and it inspired me to make a new topic about it.

Basically, I would like this to be a thread where people can voice whatever it is they think is the weirdest or hardest part to being an atheist. I would like to answer those questions and explain why (for me, at least) being an atheist makes the most logical sense.

Disclaimer: The following thoughts should not be taken as a rule-book for "all atheists". Atheists are all very different people who's only common trait is to not have religious convictions. The following are my personal thoughts as an atheist.

I will start with a response to Buzsaw's remarks from here:
Message 5

Buzsaw writes:

1. If I were an evolutionist, logic would call for some explanation for the wide gap of intelligence between humans and other living things (abe: relative to life and death).

I do not understand why such an explanation is logically required. There are certainly many people that show me everday that this gap isn't all that wide anyway.

3. If I were an evolutionist I might be bothered by the fact that humans have the power over all other living things to manage their lives in whatever way man determines to do. The reason this would bother me is that the Biblical record declares in Genesis that that would be the case.

This doesn't bother me in any way. The fact that the Bible is correct about a great many things leads me to believe that it was written by some very intelligent people. I do not see a requirement to add divinity.

2. If I were an evolutionist I would seriously pursue the phenomena of religion in that throughout the recorded history of humans all cultures have been religious. As an evolutionist this would be a puzzling thing in that this propensity has evolved exclusively into the human brain. This along with the phenomenon of good and evil would lead me to investigate the legitimacy of religions relative to life and death questions.

4. If I were an evolutionist the mystery of how evolvement of good and evil has affected humanity socially, morally and other ways would raise the pursuit of an explanation for this phenomenon relative to life and death of the intelligent human species.

I continue to seriously pursue the reasons behind religious motivations and thoughts every day. In fact, that's one of the reasons I've started this topic. I do not find the desire to have an easy-to-comprehend explanation for mysteries "puzzling", it seems to be our curious nature. I also find the phenomenon of good and evil to be described in a more pure sense when God and religion are left out. Appeals to authority do not strike me as very moral.

The legitimacy of religion relative to life and death questions seems to be the same as everyone's: no one really knows, and some people are very afraid of such unknowns. Belief in an answer can help calm those fears for many people, regardless of the actual ability to validate that belief. Myself, I do not find any comfort in unvalidated "answers".

These are a few concerns that would motivate me to search out the claims of major religions to determine whether this intelligence unique to humans equates into the likelihood of an immortal soulish aspect of humanity which has been designed in the image of a designer creator as the Bible states and thus what happens to the soul when the body dies.

A very good point. And these concerns certainly did motivate me to search out the claims of major religions. I simply found those claims... wanting. When I am faced with important decisions, I like to validate my information before jumping to a conclusion. Religious information seems to be very shy of being validated, to put it lightly.

Perhaps some or all of the above might serve to question, in the evolutionist mind, the ToE naturalistic PoV. Perhaps also this would be cause to worry about the (abe: life and death) consequences of insulting a supreme creator by crediting nature for what the creator designer expects and/or requires praise for.

I do question a naturalistic PoV. I am still waiting for anything to contradict that question, though.

I do not worry about the consequences of insulting a supreme creator. First there is the question of whether or not a creator even exists, supreme or otherwise. But even assuming existance, a supreme creator will be capable of understanding that I am simply being as honest and curious and true-to-reality as I can be, or that creator isn't really all that "supreme" anyway, and therefore doesn't deserve such praise and devotion.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 5 by dwise1, posted 12-08-2008 11:08 PM Stile has responded
 Message 12 by Dr Jack, posted 12-09-2008 6:04 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply
 Message 27 by Briterican, posted 12-03-2009 2:03 PM Stile has responded
 Message 28 by Straggler, posted 12-03-2009 2:51 PM Stile has responded
 Message 34 by Dr Adequate, posted 12-05-2009 6:05 AM Stile has responded
 Message 45 by hooah212002, posted 12-07-2009 6:29 AM Stile has responded
 Message 50 by Aware Wolf, posted 12-07-2009 12:34 PM Stile has responded
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AdminNosy
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From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Message 2 of 276 (490778)
12-08-2008 11:42 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
bluescat48
Member (Idle past 2448 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


(1)
Message 3 of 276 (490815)
12-08-2008 7:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
12-08-2008 10:37 AM


In my case it would not be Problems with being an Atheist (or Evolutionist) but rather problems with being a theist (or creationist).
I have no problems being an Atheist & Evolutionist whereas I had many when I was a theist/creationist, its called evidence.


There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002

Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stile, posted 12-08-2008 10:37 AM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
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roxrkool
Member (Idle past 1155 days)
Posts: 1493
From: Nevada
Joined: 03-23-2003


Message 4 of 276 (490827)
12-08-2008 10:23 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
12-08-2008 10:37 AM


I hold basically the same views as you.

My only 'problem' at the moment is trying to understand why strong atheism is such an irrational position.

Edited by roxrkool, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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dwise1
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Posts: 3712
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.6


(2)
Message 5 of 276 (490831)
12-08-2008 11:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
12-08-2008 10:37 AM


The only problem I can think of is not being able to damn someone to rot in Hell for eternity. No matter how they deserve it, like my ex.

Another problem might be being unable to do whatever I'd want, no matter how immoral, just so long as I could rationalize that I was serving God. But why would I want to be able to live like that, with no moral responsibility? With no concept of morality?


This message is a reply to:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 6 of 276 (490871)
12-09-2008 9:23 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by roxrkool
12-08-2008 10:23 PM


Irrational Atheism
roxrkool writes:

My only 'problem' at the moment is trying to understand why strong atheism is such an irrational position.

Is it "strong atheism" to believe and assert that God does not exist until there's at least some bit of evidence to the contrary?

I don't think so. Not unless society is going to start calling everyone "strong doubters" of all other imaginary creations.

To me, the only irrational position that can be called "strong atheism" would be someone refusing to believe God could exist after evidence of God's existance has been presented and validated.

Until there is some sort of validated evidence, a strong disbelief in God is extremely rational and (as far as I'm concerned) should be the baseline.

Now, I wouldn't state that a strong disbelief should be the baseline for anything without validated evidence. Unsubstantiated information about a phenomenon is an indication to start looking into the existance of something. However, once you've gone looking for an extended period of time and find nothing (like in the case of God), one should start shifting towards strong disbelief until validated evidence appears. Sort of in a "no need to waste time" on a boy-who-cried-wolf stunt... nothing to worry about until the wolf is actually a part of reality.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 7 of 276 (490876)
12-09-2008 10:29 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by bluescat48
12-08-2008 7:43 PM


Evidence leads to Confidence
bluescat48 writes:

I have no problems being an Atheist & Evolutionist whereas I had many when I was a theist/creationist, its called evidence.

Agreed.

I can't understand people who make important decisions on unvalidated information when they have the time available to do some checking. Or, even worse, when people don't understand the difference between "something interesting that requires further checking" and "something that has been validated".

Such thought processes are certainly not restricted to religious ideas. Nor does anyone (myself included) seem to be immune to falling into this trap.

Understanding an answer to "how am I sure about this?" that falls on the following scale is helpful in grasping the concept of "evidence":

Very Confident-Many, many people have verified the same result many, many times
Confident-Multiple people have verified the same result multiple times
Kinda Confident-Someone else has verified the same result
Almost Confident-I have verfied the same result multiple times
Shaky-Others cannot duplicate the result
Very Shaky-I cannot duplicate the result

Along with a healthy ability to accept that we can be mistaken, evidence helps keep us from being fooled.
(When someone feels like they can't be wrong, they tend to skip over the part about checking their answers)

It took me a long time to understand my rational reasoning behind a lot of ideas (morality, feelings, desires...). But I find that having a well understood answer to such things is very comforting. Even if that answer's foundation comes down to something that is subjective, I find that knowledge comforting. To understand why no one seems to have a perfectly firm grasp of some very important ideas gives me the confidence I require to accept my own conclusions about such ideas.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 8 of 276 (490877)
12-09-2008 10:40 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by dwise1
12-08-2008 11:08 PM


Not thinking about stuff gets boring quick
dwise1 writes:

The only problem I can think of is not being able to damn someone to rot in Hell for eternity. No matter how they deserve it, like my ex.

Yeah, atheism does lack a certain over-the-top drama, it's not very flashy. That's probably why "non-belief in Gods" is the only thing atheists tend to have in common, they're all out searching for more interesting things to contemplate :)

Another problem might be being unable to do whatever I'd want, no matter how immoral, just so long as I could rationalize that I was serving God. But why would I want to be able to live like that, with no moral responsibility? With no concept of morality?

Those who take the time to scrutinize how morality works also tend to be the ones who worry about its consequences.


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Zucadragon
Member (Idle past 1815 days)
Posts: 61
From: Netherlands
Joined: 06-28-2006


Message 9 of 276 (490894)
12-09-2008 2:27 PM


I'm undecided myself, though I don't believe in god, I'm basically open to the idea, and usually in discussions on evolution and creationism, I support the notion that evolution could have been the way god "evolved" everything, as though god was the one doing the pushing.

Now of course there is no scientific evidence for this, there are no tests you can do on god (or any god) that will give the same result every single time.. Meaning its basically unscientific to say its god.

So scientifically its useless to try and say if theres a god or not.. The best you can do is explain how naturalistic means account for the world and the origin of todays species.

And god remains in faith.

But I'm a bit curious, seeing as as any test about god or on god isn't repeatable (atleast not to the point where you have the same results) does that actually mean any test done is useless ?.

This is diverting from the subject a bit now, but I hope I'm making a point, and if not, learning why its not a good point.. But smoking can increase your chance to have cancer. That is well known, but smoking doesn't give you cancer, or doesn't activate the dormant cancer cells in your body. So wouldn't it be technically true that smoking as cause for cancer isn't scientific, seeing as any test done doesn't always give the same result ?

Though I figured that in this case statistics comes in play, where instead of a single test subject, or a few hundred.. You need hundreds of thousands of test subjects and see what happens, and with enough numbers you can give a percentage... Or am I totally off track here ?

So if we were ever going to test any of gods effects, wouldn't we need to do that with mass numbers, so as not to provide a test that will always give the same result, but a percentage result.. 30% of smokers have increased risk of cancer.

Putting this back on topic:

Atheism starts with a naturalistic point of view under the assumption that any god or gods don't exist, or atleast have given no evidence that can be tested in a coherent way.

But does that mean the tests are right and there is no god or gods.. Or the way we're testing something like "the possibility of god existing" is wrong ?

Thats about it.


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CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 306
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 10 of 276 (490898)
12-09-2008 2:53 PM


I'm having a bit of a problem with atheism in two ways. First of all I am an atheist and do not believe that a God exists or that anything supernatural occurs or has ever occurred. I do however, still believe in what the Church is accomplishing. I think spiritualism and various other factors associated with religion have a place in society. So my first problem is, "How am I supposed to reckon my position with religious members of my social circle?" I could lie, and just play along keeping my mouth shut at critical times, all for the sake of supporting the delusion in the minds of my associates. This tact seems to be my current answer. The second problem I have is a branch of the first. If I have children I would instinctively want to raise them Catholic, so that they too could experience the sheer cultural beauty of it all, but I at the same time cannot delude myself with a belief in the supernatural. Again I am forced to play along and keep quiet for a better good. A good I still believe in.

Thinking about it now, I realize there is also a third problem, I would condemn religions not offering the kind of cultural beauty I spoke of before. But it all fits into my concept of religion as beautiful cultural expression.


Replies to this message:
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PaulK
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Posts: 15391
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.4


Message 11 of 276 (490899)
12-09-2008 3:12 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Stile
12-09-2008 9:23 AM


Re: Irrational Atheism
Many people misrepresent Strong Atheism or even Atheism as being an absolutely certain belief that there is no God, although I have never seen any reputable source use such a definition.

Under the standard definition of Strong Atheism it includes any belief that there is no God, however tentative. My own position, that there are strong a priori reasons to consider a God unlikely to exist and no good evidence that one does exist and that therefore I take the tentative and revisable view that there is no God would seem to be both rational and a form of Strong Atheism.


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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 363 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 12 of 276 (490917)
12-09-2008 6:04 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
12-08-2008 10:37 AM


I've never understood why Theists think that a history of Theism should pose such a problem for Atheists. The fact is that throughout history people have, for the most part, been wrong about everything. You don't find ancient theories of Quantum Dynamics, nor tribal traditions of Conservation of Energy. Thousands of years went by before people twigged that the Sun was just another Star but a great deal nearer. That a whole bunch of folk who've believed in the supernatural are wrong is not exactly a surprise.

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Replies to this message:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 13 of 276 (490956)
12-10-2008 8:33 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Zucadragon
12-09-2008 2:27 PM


No test is useless
Zucadragon writes:

But I'm a bit curious, seeing as as any test about god or on god isn't repeatable (atleast not to the point where you have the same results) does that actually mean any test done is useless?.

Useless? No, I wouldn't say that. In fact, I'd say that no test is ever useless. Each and every test is going to result in one of three things:

1 - Add confidence in the positive direction
2 - Add confidence in the negative direction
3 - Show us something that we did not think of before, and show us that more testing (likely modified) is required

I don't find any of those 3 things useless.

So if we were ever going to test any of gods effects, wouldn't we need to do that with mass numbers, so as not to provide a test that will always give the same result, but a percentage result.. 30% of smokers have increased risk of cancer.

I'd say you're totally on track here. But these studies have been done as well. The mass-numbers-testing done on smoking always results in 30% or so (I'm just using your number, I don't really know) of smokers having an increased risk of cancer. Multiple supernatural studies on mass-numbers never seem to agree to any significant degree.

Atheism starts with a naturalistic point of view under the assumption that any god or gods don't exist, or atleast have given no evidence that can be tested in a coherent way.

I don't think so. At least, not so specifically. I'd say that Atheism starts with a point of view under the assumption that nothing exists unless we have at least some sort of evidence that points us in that direction. Then as questions come up tests begin. Then as results of those tests come in, atheists lean in the direction of those results.

Or the way we're testing something like "the possibility of god existing" is wrong?

This is quite possible, and an extremely good point.

Perhaps we do not have the required knowledge/technology to test for God's existance.
Perhaps we're just going about it in all the wrong way.

This is exactly why further testing is always encouraged for those so inclined to do so.

But it's hard to ignore that most of the world has been "testing" for God in any way they can think of for pretty much the history of humanity. With zero resulting evidence for God existing.

This would be exactly what we would expect if God did not exist.

This is exactly why I do not think God exists until someone can show otherwise.

Some people are fine with having double standards, that since no one has any evidence of imaginary creatures like pixies, then it's okay to not believe in them.
However, there is also no evidence of God, yet there is a large popular opinion that He exists. This seems to be the only difference. For some people that's enough. For me, what other people think isn't enough to lend support for a double standard. I've known too many people (including myself) to be wrong about too many things they "know for sure" to be so naive as to think that a large popular opinion (even throughout history) actually has any sway to make reality a certain way.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


(1)
Message 14 of 276 (490958)
12-10-2008 8:55 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by CosmicChimp
12-09-2008 2:53 PM


What is unique about the Catholic Church?
CosmicChimp writes:

I do however, still believe in what the Church is accomplishing. I think spiritualism and various other factors associated with religion have a place in society.

I agree... mostly.

I have to ask, what is it you think is so special about the Church that cannot be easily duplicated by non-Church entities?

I think spiritualism and "other factors associated with religion" (say... helping the poor, providing a place for community bonding...) have a huge place in society. I just think they are more easily obtainable without a whole bunch of extraneous, unverifiable stories added.

What's wrong with a community centre that does not carry the unproductive additives of religion? Without spending time keeping up the religous stories and traditions, more time and resources can be spent developing community spirit or helping the poor.

So my first problem is, "How am I supposed to reckon my position with religious members of my social circle?" I could lie, and just play along keeping my mouth shut at critical times, all for the sake of supporting the delusion in the minds of my associates. This tact seems to be my current answer.

Most people have the same issue, and the common polite response is the exact one you've provided. As you say, it's called tact. There is a time and a place to argue/discuss such ideas that some people hold extremely close to their hearts. This is one of those places. The family Christmas dinner table generally is not. Basically.. if something is making other's happy, what right do we have to take that away? Regardless of whether or not it's actually a part of reality. For me, that's not enough, I need to know that it's actually a part of reality. But not everyone is like me, many people do not have this restriction. It is not my place to "convert" anyone, as long as people are happy and not hurting others, they should be allowed to believe or think whatever they'ed like. If they ask me directly, I'll generally start quietly defending my position. But for the most part I only talk about these sorts of things here or in private discussions with those people I respect and admire (like my wife or close friends). I have no desire to make anyone else feel awkward.

If I have children I would instinctively want to raise them Catholic, so that they too could experience the sheer cultural beauty of it all, but I at the same time cannot delude myself with a belief in the supernatural. Again I am forced to play along and keep quiet for a better good. A good I still believe in.

I do not understand.

Again, what virtues do you think the Catholic Church possesses that cannot be easily duplicated by non-religious activities? What cultural beauty does the Catholic Church have that is not surpassed by the cultural beauty of a local natural landmark? What community spirit does a Catholic Church have that is not surpassed by the community spirit of the local highschool football game, or subdivision BBQ?

These are not rhetorical questions, I'd really like to know. I've been told over and over again that I'm "missing" something from religion. But no one has ever been able to tell me something that I do not already have. In fact, I tend to have "better" things then what I'm told I'm "missing" from religion. But I am always interested in hearing about something I could be missing. If I actually am missing out on something good and important, I'd like to be a part of it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by CosmicChimp, posted 12-09-2008 2:53 PM CosmicChimp has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 3846
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 15 of 276 (490960)
12-10-2008 9:04 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by PaulK
12-09-2008 3:12 PM


Re: Irrational Atheism
PaulK writes:

Under the standard definition of Strong Atheism it includes any belief that there is no God, however tentative.

Yes, sort of how some theists get called atheists for simply not believing in a 100% literal bible. This is the same over-the-top drama that get some regular atheists marked as strong atheists as if it's some from of insult.


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