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Atheists vs Believers

In another entry in this blog I am debating a religious person regarding the problem of evil, that is: why does god allow bad things to happen to good people. At least, that’s what I thought we were debating because he seems to consistently divert the thread into other issues.

A point he has tried to make a lot in various discussions is that my opinion is just as biased as his because he has the perspective that god is involved where I deny that possibility. He thinks that I offer non-religious explanations for things because I am an atheist therefore I must reject any possibility of the supernatural being an explanation.

Not really…

1. Being an atheist rarely means that you have decided for sure that god doesn’t exist (maybe some atheists think this but I’ve never met one). It usually means that you think the evidence for god (and other aspects of the supernatural) are insufficient at this time. If there was real evidence a god did exist it would be great. Just imagine how fascinating that would be as a subject of study!

On the other hand I often hear religious people say they are absolutely certain that god does exist (and not just any god, it’s always their particular god) and that nothing would convince them they are wrong. Clearly they are the ones who are close-minded on the subject. And yes, I know there are some believers who at least claim to leave room for doubt but I think most of them are being a bit dishonest about this (including to themselves).

2. The most prized attributes for an atheist are skepticism and a scientific approach to looking at questions. These have been used by science and philosophy to tackle the big questions for many years. They may not have answered every question but at least they show us honestly where no answer yet exists.

But if there is one word which I see associated with religion most it is “faith”. This is highly valued by many religions an it’s obvious why. Without faith people could not accept the religion’s doctrines. But faith can’t be used to discover anything new or to confirm or reject any idea of truth. With faith the conclusion has already been reached before the process is even applied. It’s a deeply dishonest approach to truth.

3. Is atheism just another belief system with all the built-in biases that the others have? And if it is does that mean it is no better at discovering the truth than anything else? Does it mean that atheist are prevented from examining perfectly reasonable supernatural explanations for phenomena?

Well no. As I said above, atheists don’t generally reject the supernatural completely. If some sort of intelligence was shown to be guiding evolution, for example, that would be something worthy of study, even if it might lead to a conclusion which might be labelled as “supernatural”.

So atheism is the rejection of built-in belief systems. It doesn’t reject religious explanations because it is too narrow-minded, it rejects them because they should be rejected. It is the believers who accept the religious explanation too easily. Just remember that there are hundreds of mutually contradictory religious explanations for many phenomena. This is a clear indication that religions accept ideas which fit what they want to believe far too easily.

4. Atheism has very little emotional and social content. It’s unusual for atheists to meet and reinforce each other’s beliefs. It’s unusual for atheist to get all emotional about how great their worldview is.

Religious people commonly meet and tell each other how great their god, or saviour, or whatever other character they might happen to believe in, is. They sing, pray, recite pledges, and read old books over and over. It’s almost like they need that constant reinforcement to maintain their beliefs because they are so weak.

5. In fact atheism doesn’t really exist. Someone who doesn’t believe in a god doesn’t do that because he has a doctrine which forces him to. He doesn’t do it because that’s just what his group does. He just doesn’t belong to any of the groups with those (mutually contradictory and incompatible) beliefs.

As the well-known quote goes: everyone is an atheist about most religions, atheists just take it one step further. So the Pope, for example, is an atheist towards about 30,000 types of Christianity alone, but for some bizarre reason he doesn’t include Catholicism in that list of rejected doctrines – no doubt primarily because of faith! But if he had been born in India instead of a country with a Catholic heritage he would probably be atheistic towards every form of Christianity, including Catholicism, and accept Hinduism.

I’m not saying religion is all bad, because many people enjoy the social, emotional, traditional, and narrative aspects of it. But I am saying it isn’t true… at least that’s what current evidence strongly indicates!

  1. January 27, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Faith is the belief in something that can’t be proven.

    Since atheism cannot be proven, it is a 100% faith-based belief.

    The existence of God, however, can be proven. So belief in God is a matter of reason, not faith.

    Atheism is also a total reason fail simply because it means everything happened all by itself.

    And that of course is ridiculous.

  2. OJB
    January 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Wow. Did you read this blog entry at all?

    No atheist I know makes a claim that anything regarding god is proved. We just say the interim conclusion, based on current evidence, is that there is no god. There is no way to make a 100% truth claim about anything outside of math and logic.

    The existence of God can be proved? Really? I’d like to see that proof!

    Atheism doesn’t claim everything happened by itself. There are many scientific ideas – most of them quite speculative – about the origin of the universe. But even if we don’t know the answer, saying God did it is just another “god of the gaps” argument.

  3. OJB
    January 27, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    And faith is *not* belief in something that can’t be proved. According to the dictionary faith (in the religious sense) is defined as: “strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.”

    It seems unlikely that atheists have “spiritual conviction” since they reject the idea of supernatural (as an interim conclusion, based on current evidence, of course).

    And the more generic definition: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something” doesn’t really fit either since the scientific worldview (which is what leads most people to atheism) specifically accepts that all conclusions about the real world are open to question and revision.

    A definition: “atheism (n): disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” I would say the second type “lack of belief” is the dominant one. It’s just that: a lack of belief in god. There’s no faith, no certainty, no strong emotional, doctrinal, or philosophical attachment. Just a lack of belief.

    If you continue to use the straw man argument that atheists have absolute confidence that there is no god then it is easy to disprove atheism, but that is not what we say.

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