August 17, 2006

People Wonder Why An Atheist Is An Atheist

I get emails all the time. Some people tell me I'm doing a good job or that they like my blog. I get religious people telling me I'm wrong about God, but I usually argue with them to the point that they stop emailing me.
Someone just emailed me a few days ago and asked how I can be an Atheist instead of being an Agnostic, in other words, how do I know for sure there isn't a God?.....it is unanswerable as to whether God exists or not, so why not just be Agnostic?

My reply:
I think the term atheist is just a term for strong agnostic. As you say, I can't disprove that God exists, just like I can't disprove that there aren't 50 Gods. In fact, I can't disprove that my dog isn't
God.
However, from everything I see, there is absolutely no proof that God ever existed or needed to exist. Science explains almost everything, and in the near future I am confidant that it will explain everything
about abiogenesis to the beginning of the universe. The concept of God is created by man's need to give genuine purpose to
our existence, and to give us hope of eternal life in many cases.


Coincidentally, another reader, Mark, sent me a link to this short video narrated by Richard Dawkins. Enjoy The Teapot Atheist. This compliments my reply to my other reader:


It is only when believers actually give God characteristics (or a personality) or give God credit for doing specific things, that one can disprove God's characteristics or personality, or actions.

For example, if a believer says that God created man less than 10,000 years ago, science has proved that wrong. The same goes with the Ark story.

And of course there are many contradictions when it comes to God's personality. Loving and vengeful tend to conflict a tad, for example.

Generally speaking, believers are very vague about God. And lets not forget there are over 3000 Gods out there, each are either very different or slightly different from the next. Remember what Dawkins says, every believer is an Atheist when it comes to all the other Gods and teapots that exist or existed in the minds of others.

35 comments:

  1. There is a difference between faith in God and belief in God. Faith is something that we voluntarily accept despite the fact that there is no hard evidence. For example, I have faith that my wife has not cheated on me, or I have faith that you haven't molested a child even though I don't know you personally.

    Belief is much more concrete.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Like with Atheism and Agnosticism, the definition of faith and belief are in the eyes of the beholder.

    From dictionary.com:

    faith Audio pronunciation of "faith" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fth)
    n.

    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief. See Synonyms at trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.

    be·lief Audio pronunciation of "belief" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (b-lf)
    n.

    1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.
    2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief.
    3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.
    ************************
    Faith is a belief without proof.
    Belief can be based on facts and/or based on faith.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you make good points on this topic. I think the concepts of God as a being, heaven, and hell are basically descriptions of ideals put in a language that only human beings can understand- spatial languages. It's difficult for people to grasp the concepts and the mysteries of the universe without making it akin to the way we see the words- in terms of people, places, and things. Therefore, we have heaven and hell as places and God as this actual "being" who can wield "punishments" and "rewards" like any regular parent.

    Who knows what's out there. Ultimately, it doesn't matter to me. Whatever "force" there is that created this universe, I do not think we would owe it any kind of undying fealty, and I do not believe that it cares what I do wrong. These are human concepts, invented purely of our imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bacon,

    I think you missed the point I was trying to make, and maybe that's my fault. You can have faith in something you don't believe in and vice virsa. For example, I believe that you are an atheist, but I haven't got faith in it. If you were to ask me if I would bet my life on the fact that you are an atheist and nothing could change your mind, I would decline. Not because I don't believe you when you say you are an atheist, just that I don't have faith enough in that to stick out my neck for it. Conversely, I would stick my neck out by letting my pregnant wife fly on a plane because I have faith in the pilot to do the job.

    You only stick out your neck for what you have faith in.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice video and very rationally presented BEAJ- but I think there is lots of evidence that supports the Jewish notion of G-d. More than just some legends- have you ever been to Israel? It made my belief system so much more tangible and concrete. Being there really made a huge difference to me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have faith in a trained pilot to fly a plane that I am in. I wouldn't have faith nor would I choose to fly in a planed with an untrained pilot.

    I have faith in the scientific processs too.

    I would bet my life that evolution and an ancient earth are facts.

    And if I had a gun to my head and the shooter asked me if I believed in God or had faith in God, and he told me he was pulling the trigger, and if I'm right the gun will shoot a blank but if I'm wrong I would die....I would say that I don't believe in God and I have no faith in God either.

    ReplyDelete
  7. No Amishav, I've never been to Israel. And if you have evidence the Jewish God exists, why not share it? But I'll give you a warning...I'll be nice, but some of the other commenters here may not be.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Mad Zionist, I just read over my reply and your post again. I just want to make it clear, I don't have faith in anything that I don't believe. Random acts all have probabilities associated with them. For example, I have faith I won't win a lottery jackpot.....but that faith is strictly based the odds and nothing supernatural.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bacon, I think we are splitting hairs on terminology, so let me go in a slightly different direction to avoid getting bogged down in minutia.

    Faith in a lack of God is as unscientific as faith in God. Proof for no God is no more verifiable than proof there is a God. You have chosen to have blind faith in the fact that there is no God despite the fact that you admit you can never prove that you are right. I admittedly have faith that God exists for equally unquantifiable reasons, so as it turns out we are more alike than you think.

    ReplyDelete
  10. PS, as the video says, the belief in God has gone through countless different interpretations over the millenia, yet, despite all these twists, more people still believe in God than don't. Humans in general are apparantly very uncomfortable with the idea that all has come to pass by chance and without a purpose. Many stupid people deny God and many brilliant people are God fearing, and vice versa, so intelligence really doesn't play a role in this.

    So much remains scientifically unanswered and unfathonable about the universe and the world we live in it statistically requires a greater leap of faith to say there is no God than the other way around. Simple math tells us so.

    Also, people doubt the invincibility of science because so often science proves itself wrong. Remember when the dinausors became extinct because they became too big and stupid that they just died off? I was taught that theory in high school, but now they would consider you a lunatic to believe such a ridiculous idea.

    Also on the topic of dinausors, I was always taught that they were lizards. Tyranosaurus Rex is the "Lizard King". Well, now we are told they were actually birds. Perhaps they should rename T-Rex the "Bird King"?

    Anyway, my point is that we are constantly seeing our once proven scientific facts become laughable fables. To trust the conclusions of science with such absolute faith that you outright reject the existence of God because of it requires a bigger, blinder leap than most people are comfortable taking.

    ReplyDelete
  11. BEAJ--

    Agnostics would prefer us to withhold judgment that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don't exist.

    The problem is that some assume that all epistemic relations must be deductive, when clearly, we can gain warrant for our beliefs inductively. And if we find the same conclusion from many inductions each from different methods, we arrive at a consilence of inductions where a conclusion is proved conclusively. An example of this kind of argument would be Perrin's proof of the reality of atoms (I believe he compiled something like 17 different arguments.)

    With most religious conceptions of God, the same applies. The sacred texts may be incoherent; there are thousands of existing traditions making competiting claims that undermine each other; the properties of the postulated deity are contradictory; history explains a lot about how religions arise and spread; science refutes much of what is written in scared texts-- at some point it becomes rational to believe with certainty that Poseidon is simply not in the ocean causing hurricanes.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ahem, above I meant to write 'consilience', not "consilence'.

    Zionist--

    Despite the doctrines of Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend, and other dissonant 20th century philosophies, science has built-in rationality. Around 1600, western science discovered something Marxism, Islamism, and many other doctrines have yet to find-- how to learn using the Baconian method. As Einstein mentioned, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sensation was once regarded as the lowest part of the soul, but something like spectroscopy can tell you a huge amount of information about objects millions of light years away. Revelation, well, tells different people different things.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Science is not the opposite of God. Quite to the contrary. If one believes in God one can still be a brilliant scientist, just as one who believes in science can also be a brilliant Rabbi.

    See: Maimonades

    ReplyDelete
  14. Mad Zionist,

    I would argue that science is opposite to faith and that stating otherwise has been entirely due to either the clouds of a personal faith held by an otherwise scientific person, a spin intended to reduce conflict, a misconception of science or a simple desire to ignore the conflict for whatever reason.

    It is also not valid to suggest that belief in god is equivalent intellectually to no belief in god. If you accept the two as equivalent then it is also equivalent to propose the theory that the universe was created by kangaroos. You might argue that the universe was certainly not created by kangaroos and then I would request you to prove that. The fact that you cannot prove it does not suggest that it is a valid avenue of investigation. God is exactly like the kangaroos in this respect.

    It is very obvious to atheists that the god theory is the product of men that had an extremely basic understanding of the world they live on and the universe around them. In fact, it is more accurate to say it was the product of men who had a profound misunderstanding of the world they live on and the universe around them. The fact that this theory was adopted and highly integrated into our social behaviour and education for a great deal of our history has led to us being born and educated in societies that largely accept that theory just as ancient Egyptians accepted the theory that a family must remove absolutely all of their hair, including body hair, when their cat died. For the ancient Egyptians this was a social norm, with its validity supported not by one single fact or any evidence but simply by the wide spread adoption of the practice and underlying belief that it was a rational action to undertake as part of their religious belief – their theory of the operation of the universe.

    The absence of disproof does not a theory make and neither does it suggest a reason for belief. However, the many contradictions in the Old Testament, including contradictions in the definition of god, do certainly disprove the god of that book. So not only is belief in any god merely as valid as a belief in the creator kangaroos but belief in that specific god is even less valid since it has already disproved itself.

    Yes, one can believe in god and be a brilliant scientist in a specific field. One however cannot believe in god and be considered a realist. There is absolutely not one reason to even begin to think of the existence of a god except for the suggestions of ancient peoples who were entirely ignorant as to the universe in which they lived and virtually every aspect of its internal interactions.

    For this reason despite the fact that it maybe logically more “correct” to be a strong agnostic, I am instead an absolute atheist. Just as I am 100% certain that the kangaroos are not the creators, despite the fact I cannot disprove it, I am 100% certain that there is no god for the reason that with an infinite number of possible and baseless hypothesis the probability of any one of them being correct is zero. God is one amongst this infinity. I will wait instead, and attempt to discover, a theory that is not baseless and can be tested before I have any belief but until that time it is certainly valid to have an absolute disbelief in god, creator kangaroos or any other random nonsense that people now or profoundly more ignorant people from the past come up with.

    I’ll not just bet my life on that. I am already betting an eternity spent suffering in hell on that, for me and for my children (because of how I have educated them) and to me that is absolutely no bet at all. It is a certainty.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mad Zionist, the fact that dinosaurs died was all that was known before scientists discovered the reason it, so interpretations as to why they died off may have been wrong and even the time they died off may have been guessed to be wrong too (because of lack of the proper dating methods that are available today). The fact remained that when scientists discovered dinosaur bones they knew the bones were ancient and knew that dinosaurs had to have died off. From there hypothesis are tested, and many failed, yet many hypothesis succeeded, and methods for testing got better in the meantime, to the point that we know dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago because of a major atmospheric event, most likely a meteorite hit.
    Maimonades was brilliant and many brilliant people throughout history believed in God and still do today. However, up until the discovery of dinosaur fossils, Darwin's evolution theory, and the discovery of the earth being ancient, intellegent people were lacking data that completely refuted a literal bible.
    Brilliant people still believe in God today, like Kenneth Miller, the scientist who was the main dude who helped defeat ID in Dover. But he does know evolution and an ancient earth are fact, and he knows his belief in God is strictly based on faith,not fact or science.
    Belief in God can be mutually exclusive from science, but it aint science. Science is the observation and explanation of reality. There is very little today that science cannot explain. And in the future, because of my "faith" in science and the scientific method, everything will be explained.
    Quoting porn star/Atheist/member of Mensa, Asia Carrera, "I've always been an atheist," says Asia."Science explains everything. Religion is silly."

    ReplyDelete
  16. Choosedoubt: It is also not valid to suggest that belief in god is equivalent intellectually to no belief in god.

    This is simply a statement of pure arrogance. Look, atheism is a faith in no God. I would suggest that abjectly ruling out the possibility that a God exists is not science at all but a religion unto itself; a negative one devoid of facts, logic and reason, just a pure denouncement. Take the Ten Commandments and reverse the first one which reads: "You shall have no other God before me", and instead have it read "You shall have no God at all". To 100% believe that either statement is fact requires a mind capable of leaping past reason into the realm of faith. Legally, to say "No God exists" is a presumption of guilt, while to say there "is a God" is just the opposite.

    As far as science and the Jewish understanding of God not being compatible, I'd like to hear some examples as to why you think that is so, because according to Maimonades himself God created science for us so rejecting it would be a rejection of God and Torah.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Bacon, love the Asia Carrera reference. Forget ID for the moment, Bacon, but think about how in Judaism there is absolutely no contradiction between science and God. God created science for man, therefore it is our obligation to study it with absolute purity. There is nothing, not one tiny thing in Torah that can be contradicted by science.

    According to Maimonades, Torah is to be understood literally unless science can prove without even the tiniest doubt that it is false. If so, then the Torah text which science contradicted is to be understood figuratively. This is why the existence of life hundreds of millions of years ago does not counteract Torah, because Torah is alternately literal and figurative throughout the text, and our job is to study it so that we understand how this works.

    ReplyDelete
  18. MZ, you keep quoting Maimonades as if he was the only genius out there. Many brilliant people do not believe God created science. Maimonades was not equipped with evolution theory, Big Bang theory, dinosaur fossil theory, light year measurements, etc. Perhaps he would have been an Atheist if he had this knowledge in front of him.

    Science has proved that there was no worldwide flood in the last 10,000 years. And lack of scientific and archaeological findings, and historical writings, raise tremendous doubts about the Exodus story.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Bacon, you missed my point entirely. If science proves there was no Noah flood, which is a reach to say they could factually disprove something like that, but let's say they do. Torah, in that case, is to be understood to read that the flood was not literal in that case but was instead figurative, or perhaps a part of it was literal and a part of it was figurative. Don't you see? God has nothing to do with the science, pro or con.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great video BEAJ, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Zionist--

    I agree with you completely that one can be a brilliant scientist and have religious beliefs. I also agree with you, pace choosedoubt, that there is no direct contradiction between the propositions of science and propositions believed about god. I can believe that the Grand Canyon was created over a period of 5.3 million years and believe Paul Konerko is the President of the United States. There is no contradiction in believing so, and there is no contradiction between the beliefs themselves, despite the fact that one of the beliefs is false.

    I disagree with the idea that atheism is a faith, given most atheists give reasons for their belief. You can argue that the warrant atheists give for their beliefs is inadequate, but it is perverse to argue they don't provide warrant when they in fact do.

    One of the things you're missing is the difference between positive and negative epistemic dependence. Positive epistemic dependence describes beliefs that derive justification from a source of knowledge, like perception, reason, memory, or introspection. Negative epistemic dependence is a form a defeasibility-- if you discover that your beliefs are incoherent, it becomes rational and necessary to drop at least one of them.

    I did not argue that science disproves religion. I stated that there are rational arguments, that when taken collectively, that conclusively prove that the gods of man are not real. Science, I mentioned, doesn't disprove god in itself, but reflects poorly upon many sacred texts-- virgins don't give birth, men don't walk on water, people don't fly up into the sky on winged horses, burning bushes don't talk to people-- you get the idea. Combine this with our knowledge of history, moral intuitions, human nature, textual inconstistencies, and we end up peeling everything off the onion to the point where there is no core.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Actually, whether or not you believe in biblical miracles does not have anything to do with proving or disproving the existence of God. God is a faith, and faith is not based on science, so using science to disprove faith is as foolish as using faith to disprove science.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Jason, your vocabulary is off the charts. I have no idea what half of what you said means - and I'm no dummy.

    Let me ask all of the atheists who are reading: Do you feel hateful or hostile towards people who do believe in God and are religious? Just curious. I have sensed that atheists are usually very angry about God belief and tend to really dislike those who are religious.

    Personally, I am religious and believe in God, but if you are atheist it doesn't make me angry or hateful in the least. I actually find it fascinating that in a world so complex and so challenging and so dangerous that people out there are capable of ruling out the existence of God. It's an oddity to me, but nothing I feel disrespectful or angry towards in the least.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh, and I love seein the "Aish.com" advertisement up on the "Bacon Eating Atheist Jew" website. Classic.

    ReplyDelete
  25. MZ, some of my best friends believe in God. I just don't like it when science classes are questioned or made to teach non science.
    God should be left in places of worship and the homes. But it shouldn't be put in my face. And I'm talking anyone's God.
    Again, Ken Miller is a God believing Catholic, and he is extremely well versed in science. I respect him immensely....I realize everyone has flaws. Even me.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Mad Zionist said “I would suggest that abjectly ruling out the possibility that a God exists is not science at all but a religion unto itself”

    On the contrary, God is a hypothesis without any factual basis. As such it must be considered on par with all other possible baseless hypothesis for the same event (creation) and that number is infinite. It is not a matter of faith to not accept the god hypothesis as being correct. It is a matter of mathematics and logic – a matter of reality.

    I don’t rule out the idea of a God. I never saw any reason to rule it in. Neither did you. There is absolutely no suggestive evidence whatsoever and as such it seems rather stupid to consider a single option and thus to consider an infinite number of equally baseless options. This is the fallacy of deism; the idea that it is a black or white, positive or negative question. It is not. There are an infinite number of possible baseless theories yet theists can only think in terms of their theory being in some way special and thus certain. This method of thinking is somewhat stunted and indefensible.

    Regarding a 100% belief, what would you suggest? Should I perhaps have a 50% belief in god and a 50% belief in kangaroos? It’s ridiculous. You either believe or you don’t. If you’re not sure then really you just fluctuate between moments when you do and moments when you don’t but whichever side you have temporarily chosen is still polluted by the fact you remember how you felt just before. So even that can’t really be called belief and so it’s disbelief. But do I fluctuate between belief and disbelief that there is a god? Well, about as much as I fluctuate between belief that penguins designed the space shuttle and that they didn’t. In other words - not at all. There is absolutely no reason to consider the hypothesis that penguins did not design the space shuttle. I have thousand of reasons due to experience in life, observations of penguins, education of demonstrable fact, and evidence of historical precedence that do not need to disprove the penguin designer hypothesis as it never warranted such analysis.

    Despite this I have analysed religions quite deeply. This began by force due to the society I was in. And despite the study of the madness I have not found one single basic reason why I should promote it above any other specific example of the infinite madness that could be proposed in its place.

    So quite frankly you are talking bollocks if you think that atheism is a faith. Atheism is the default state from which there must be cause to deviate and wonder. Provide some cause?

    No one has yet.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Mad Zionist asked, "Do you feel hateful or hostile towards people who do believe in God and are religious? [...] I have sensed that atheists are usually very angry about God belief and tend to really dislike those who are religious."

    I'm hostile when I feel someone is trying to stuff their religion down my throat, or has the audacity to tell me what I believe based on the teachings of their own religion. This can range from the misguided attempts at getting prayer reintroduced into schools (including the "moment of silence") to telling me that I'm immoral because I do not believe in any Gods. If I can avoid it, I generally don't talk about religion at all. Frankly, it's no one's business but mine and I find there is little point anyway, as it doesn't generally affect my day-to-day life.

    Let me just say this, you're probably basing your opinion of Atheists on a very self-selecting group of people. It'd be roughly the same as basing your opinion of Christians entirely on Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps and door-to-door proselytizers. Given the social stigma attached to being an atheist in American culture (Communist, devil-worshiper, immorality, etc), it's probable that you may even know some people who are atheists who choose not to reveal this fact to anyone. There are others still, like me, who simply do not reveal this because it was not asked (When was the last time you walked up to someone and asked what their religion was?) and is of little or no concern to anyone else.

    I will mention one other thing. One thing that is somewhat different from atheists versus most religious believers is there is no real belief that ties atheists to each other in any meaningful way. There are plenty of belief systems that are perfectly compatible with atheism, such as Secular Humanism, Objectivism, Buddhism, Naturalism, Unitarianism and so on. Just as applying everything you know about Christians to Hindus won't work well, applying everything you know about Humanists to Objectivists won't work.

    Anyway, keep asking questions. It's the only way to understand.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "Do you feel hateful or hostile towards people who do believe in God and are religious?"

    Not at all. Two of the best thinkers I have encountered online are god believers-- an evangelical in Texas and a Catholic in Puerto Rico. I've also encountered a *lot* of atheists who behave in a childish manner, like the socialist reprobates at God is For Suckers.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Jason H. Bowden: An "evangelical in Texas and a Catholic in Puerto Rico"; could you share their links, as well?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Bacon wrote: "there is absolutely no proof that God ever existed or needed to exist" Since god itself does not exist it never "needed to exist" except in the minds of humans.

    IMHO god was invented to explain things early humans didn't understand such as a flood that killed half the people in the tribe. It was God's will and happened for reasons that lowly humans could not understand. God also "needed to exist" in the minds of humans so a few could use the rath of the Almighty as a means to control the population.

    One more thought: "Loving and vengeful tend to conflict a tad" So true. Have you ever noticed that God acts like an abusive parent or spouse?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sweettp, imagine a sky without light pollution, all the "falling stars," it must have made early man ponder the universe but man had no way to explain it. From there, it is all evolution. We have evolved the need to believe in God or at least the susceptibility to believe in God. It is in our genes.

    That is why Santa Claus and flying reindeers is such an easy sell to children.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The term "atheist" is not just a strong word for "agnostic". An atheist is someone who believes there is no god. An agnostic is someone who believes there is no way to know whether there is a god or not. A theist believes there is a god.

    Obviously, either the atheists or the theists are right. But that's beside the point. The terminology is used to describe what these people believe, not whether their belief is correct.

    ReplyDelete
  33. PJB, all Atheists are Agnostic, but not all Agnostics are Atheists. Again though, just like with morality, the definition of Atheist, Agnostic is relative to the person who is using the term.
    To me an Atheist is does not have to represent a belief. To me, why should I even consider God, it is like considering that the sun is revolving around the earth. There is absolutely no evidence in a God.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Ethics and morals can only go as far as our desires allow them to. Once desires overcome our morals and ethics, only a fear of something greater can curb our actions.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Ethics and morals curb are actions pretty good. Do you ever wonder why prisons are full of believers and not Atheists?

    I don't need to believe in God to curb any desires I have that you and I might deem immoral. The thought of prison stops us.

    But generally, ethics and morals prevent us from doing anything too unacceptable.

    Prior to belief in God, man evolved without God, and if these men stole, raped and murdered mindlessly, we wouldn't be here today.

    ReplyDelete