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Why atheism?
Sort of scratched my head when I came across this topic. After agitating what few brains cells are still active up there I came to the conclusion.

Atheism is whats left once you have removed all the bull shit.

End of thought.
Bob of QF
Or, to put it another way:

Reality is that which remains, whether you believe in it or not.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
This is something that's always kinda bugged me. Agnostic vs atheist.

I choose atheism because I don't see any evidence whatsoever for the existence of any type of deity. An agnostic doesn't see evidence either, but thinks it may be possible that some type of deity may exist.

From my point of view, that doesn't make sense. If I can't see any evidence, and there hasn't been any solid, verifiable proof of any god(s) throughout all of history, it's a safe bet there isn't one. That's not to say, if out of the blue, evidence arose, that I wouldn't believe it.

If this non-belief were some new idea, I would probably ride the agnostic fence, but with centuries upon centuries of history showing no god(s), I can only come to the logical conclusion that there isn't any and I don't think it is even remotely possible for there to be one. This is why I choose atheism. Any thing else would be hypocritical to my self.

"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
Once you rule out the impossible, what is lleft is the truth -- Sherlock Holmes.

Best. Neil
I think George H Smith in his great book Atheism: The Case Against God sorted it out beautifully. Atheism/Theism is lack of belief or belief in a god or gods. Agnosticism/Gnosticism is the viewpoint that one cannot know or can know whther there are or not. Thus, they measure two different thing; i.e., it is possible to be an agnostic-atheist, which to me is the most logical standpoint. I have decided that there is no way to know for certain whether there is a god or not, and that being the case, it makes more sense to be an atheist than to be a theist who thinks there is no way to know. However, as time goes by, I'm closer and closer to being a gnostic atheist, so unlikely does it seem that there is a god/gods.
Edited by catman on 08/06/2008 02:03
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Wonder if I really am the first in these new forums to mention agnosticism and the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the same sentence.

I quite honestly see no reasonable case for indecision based on the inability to 'know for sure' that some potty idea is wrong.

Agnosticism is maybe only one step away from atheism, but it's also only one step away from theism. It's an uncomfortable way to stand.

That is my feeling on it as well, Neil. Agnostics have a hint of belief, in my mind, so are essentially theist.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
Big Blue
I was brought up catholic, first comunion, confirmation, the full htree act Greek tragedy. My first serious doubts occurred during religious instruction at school. I remember thinking in a discussion about the supposed resurrection of Jesus, that I could think of a simpler explanation, one that did not require any supernatural component. This was if we accept the existance (as a man) of Jesus as true and that he did get executed by the Romans, then consider what this might have meant for his disciples. They were on the gravy train then their leader inconveniently got himself killed. Perhaps they got together and decided that they could say that Jesus had arisen from the dead and appeared only to them and that he had now gone to heaven leaving them in charge of his cult. This does not require anything except acceptence that some men acted in exactly the same way many men have acted in the past when they felt themeselves threatened - they lied. I did not know it at the time but I had just re-inevented Occam's Razor.

Then some time later (I do not recall how long) when I was 14, I was sitting up in a jacarandah tree in my grandparent's front garden, thinking about things when I came to the sudden realisation that I just simply dod not believe in any god. I found that all the internal conflict resolved itself if I simply took a rational approach and chose to rely on evidence rather than accepting anything just because someone esle says it is so.

Over the years (I was 14 a long time ago) I have developed much more sophisticated ways of thinking about things. But I will not bore you with the details now. Grin Suffice it to say I don't trust anyone who knows he or she is right.
I take it, Blue, that you mean you lean more toward agnosticism than the strongly atheistic.

If so, how is it that you can keep an open mind as to the existence of a god but would, no doubt, fall out of he jacarandah tree in fits of laughter at the very idea of the celestial invisible blue wombat theory?

Not being snide, honestly, mate. I'm just truly puzzled by the agnostic stance. Almost as puzzled as I am by deism.

Bestest. Neil
For me the compelling thing is the behavior of religion's followers. The more immersed a person is in Christianity (or Islam) the less tolerant they are and the more rude they tend to be.
Big Blue
neilmarr wrote:
I take it, Blue, that you mean you lean more toward agnosticism than the strongly atheistic.

If so, how is it that you can keep an open mind as to the existence of a god but would, no doubt, fall out of he jacarandah tree in fits of laughter at the very idea of the celestial invisible blue wombat theory?

Not being snide, honestly, mate. I'm just truly puzzled by the agnostic stance. Almost as puzzled as I am by deism.

Bestest. Neil

Neil, I consider myself to be atheist - I have no belief in any god or gods. It is not that I believe there are no gods (sometimes called strong atheism) or that one cannot know either way (agnostic). I follow the evidence.

Perhaps I should elaborate a little on my world view. I do not believe that it is possible to "know" anything with absolute certainty, with the exception of some areas of mathematics and in formal logic. Although for day to day use I act as if some things are definitely true or untrue, for example, the sun will come up tomorrow (yes I know the Earth rotates) or that my computer will not suddenly disappear. These assumptions may be considered first order approximations. However, when I am getting all deep and meangingful I work on probability. Some things I consider to be highly probable to point almost of certainty, some are so improbably as to be almost certainly untrue, many other things fall somewhere in between.

So, on the question of god, I ask myself a couple of questions.

First, what is my basic premise about the universe - does it have a cause? I see no evidence for a cause. Some people say that if the universe has no cause then their life is meaningless, but that is just the slippery slope logical fallacy and in any case, we can assign our own purpose to our lives, which is enough for me.

Secondly, I ask what evidence is there for god? It seems to me that the only evidence claimed for a divine being is of the form "believe it and you will see". This seems to be begging the question to me. Science is doing a good job of working out how the universe came into being without the need for any outside influence. Sure it has not yet got all the answers, but so what? At least science is prepared to change when new evidence is found, in other words reality is the arbiter.

I learnt a valuable lesson in the sixth grade. Up until then I believed that the teacher knew everything, perhaps a lot like many children. One day our teacher was talking geometry and she drew a square on the blackboard and then explained that bisecting the square gave a diagonal at 45 degrees. So far so good. Then she went on to say that the same was true of any rectangle. I put my hand up and said that this was not so. I then drew a long rectangle on the blackboard and bisected it and showed with a protractor that the angles were not 45 degrees. BTW, I got on very well with this teacher and she did not take offence. Anyway, my take away lesson from this was that from then on, I have never accepted new information solely on the authority of the person presenting it. I always filter it through my previous understanding and when I come across something new, I ask is it genuinely new, how does it relate to other information I know of or that I may need to seek out, is it logical, does is satisfy Occam's Razor and so on.

I am not sure that this is an approach that would have mass appeal, but I feel I can not operate any other way. So, given that I have never seen any evidence for a god, and because I have never heard anyone present any evidence for a god , indeed faith it seems to me to requires belief without evidence, then I most certainly do not have any belief in one, even though I allow the diminishingly small probability that a god may exist. As I put to a fundamentalist friend of my sister once, if I die and find out I was wrong about god and life after death I will be disappointed that the universe fails Occam's Razor, that it is more complex than it needs to be.
Bob of QF
Skeeve wrote:
This is something that's always kinda bugged me. Agnostic vs atheist.

For many years, I tried my best to overcome my basically skeptical nature-- I always had doubts about things.

Especially the religion I was pretty much raised up in.

As I grew older, I began to doubt more, and have faith less-- you could say, I embraced my basic doubting nature, and rejected Statements From Authority, Just Because it self-professes to BE an Authority.

As Robert Heinlein said in the voice of Lazarus Long, "Who is He? What qualifies Him to make such a Statement?" with regards to any statements we are expected to "Just Take It As A Given". (Obviously, in the modern language, it would be "He/She"...)


Where does that leave the whole question of God/god/gods?

I conclude that the rational answer is: you cannot make a conclusion at all!

Anything in the realm of the supernatural, is by definition outside the basic scope of our 5 senses or mechanical extensions of those (microscope, telescope, giant supercollider, etc).

Since the supernatural includes god (of course) then it is outside our basic tools for examining the world.

As such-- nothing rational can be concluded about it/them.

Loads of conjecture, sure. But that and a buck-fifty can get you a bad cup of coffee.

So, with regards to anything commonly classes as super-natural, I try my best to have "no opinion". How can I? I cannot prove such things do not exist. But, neither can I prove such things do exist, either.

It is an unknown, an unknowable.

Which is, I think, the very heart of agnosticism: refusal to form an opinion about something for which there can be no verifiable information.

Which brings up a very interesting point: can there be any conclusions about the Traditional Gods, as described by Traditional Sources? (Bible, koran, etc).

Certainly! Using the literature itself, one can see what it claims is true-- and test those statements to see if they are, in fact, true.

I have only a little knowledge of the koran, but I literally grew up reading the bible.

And I have lately concluded that it can be concluded with regards to the god as described in the bible: does not exist.

If the bible is literally true-- then certain things can be tested for, using the bible itself.

The tests are pretty simple-- and easily shown to be false. Thus, the statements in the bible that were tested must be false as well.

Extrapolation lets us conclude that if many specific statements are false by testing/verification, what about the rest?

Thus: the literal bible-god does not exist.
Edited by Bob of QF on 08/07/2008 00:34
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
I agree with Richard Dawkins. He stated that no, he can't prove that there is no god, but that the likelihood of one existing is so vanishingly small that it makes no sense to believe that there is. After all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there is none.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Excellent, Blue and Bob. Many thanks. Your reasoning is unquestionably sound. Also thanks to Comrade Cat, who's a stubborn old cuss like me.

Perhaps I'm pedantic and my Occam's shaves a little close at times, but I can't get it through my skull that possibility is infinite -- at least to the extent that when probability approaches my own vanishing point, I tend to accept impossibility rather than mere improbability.

That's a personal flaw, perhaps (though I've never been accused of a lack of imagination), and I fully understand your argument that underlines this. But I'm stuck with it. I must go further than to say I hold no belief in a divinity of any kind. I will not accept the possible existence of a divinity of any kind without at least a shred of evidence -- extraordinary or otherwise.

This pig-headedness also leaves me confounded by the beliefs of deists in a 'first cause'.

On the other hand, I have no beef with agnostics and deists. I could happily share a long train ride with them. I'd encourage my sister to marry one.

In an active way, my atheism -- like agnosticism and deism -- is directed against all forms of evangelism, scripture and organised belief systems. So we're on the same side. What a guy holds as a personal truth only becomes my business if he tries to ram it down my throat or browbeat anyone who matters to me (which means pretty well everyone in the world).

Very best and thanks for the food for thought. I'll now crack the first breakfast beer of the day and raise it in your direction -- well west and well south, I think.

Cheers. Neil

PS: sorry that so many of my posts seem to be edited. It's just to fill in missing letters. I was badly brought up on old sit-up-and-beg typewriters and tend to hammer hell out of these delicate wee computer keyboards. Time for yet another new one, methinks. N
Edited by neilmarr on 08/07/2008 02:10
Bob of QF wrote:
...But that and a buck-fifty can get you a bad cup of coffee.

But a buck-eighty will get you a good one!


Same as the rest of you, I see pretty much no evidence proving that a/any god(s) exist. Perhaps I'm just repeating the same thing you all are, in simpler terms, but being the simple sort, I simply leave open the possibility I'm wrong. Perhaps some crazy sky daddy will make an appearance and inform me that I am indeed wrong, but until then, I tend to think that there isn't a god at all.
Well I have enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts on the subject. I, personally, am most definitely atheist. I guess I was lucky. I was raised Mormon so I could soon see through that religion as easily as through my own prescription glasses. After that I knew that all religions are nothing but cons, hype and lies and no self respecting god would allow that in his name if such a god existed. We had an expression that was used regularly at our old site that said, "Absence of evidence is evidence of absence."
Bob of QF
With regards to the (supposed) evidence.

I once read a SciFi short story many years ago.

According to the story, aliens were closely observing the civilizations of earth, to determine if earthlings were mature enough to admit to galactic culture.

The chief test of this, was did the majority of earthlings draw the proper conclusions with regards to alien visitations?

That is, the aliens had carefully visited just enough, that no one could definitively claim that absolutely no aliens had visited ever, but never any conclusive evidence that they had, either.

According to the story, the "passing grade" would be if the majority of humans concluded that there was insufficient evidence to form an opinion.


With regards to "evidence" and god/gods/deities, I've yet to see any real evidence, to be sure.

On the other hand, I have experienced some rather odd coincidences in my lifetime that appeared to be inexplicable. One of the weirdest was a dream my father had of his [then still living] father late in the middle of the night, regarding grandpop's health. My dad's dream was so vivid, that he got out of bed, and went to the door, certain someone was there... obviously, at the wee hours of the morning, no one actually was, and feeling foolish, he returned to bed.

The next day, the phone call with bad news with regards to my grandad (no, he did not die). Grandad did take quite ill-- pretty severe cancer, if my memory serves. And it was bad enough to require a visit to the emergency hospital, pretty much coinciding with my dad's bad dream. They did not call until later, because they didn't wish to bother anyone.... <eyeroll>.

Weird story. Why did my dad's vivid dream coincide with my grandad's emergency visit? I do not know. The most obvious and rational explanation is simple coincidence--except that my dad is not one to even remember his dreams, let alone be awakened by them.

Who knows?

However, even if there is something to communication between human brains that exceeds the basic 5, this does not automatically translate into proof of anything supernatural--- something theists are apt to do, I've found.

Most annoying: if they see a tiny flaw in something, they immediately leap to the opposite-extreme "conclusion". I.e. "evolution has some areas that are hotly debated. Therefore, all evolution is wrong, and goddidit".... *sigh*


I must agree, though, the severe lack of evidence-- especially _rational_ evidence, is certainly indicative of a severe lack of deity. Grin
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
The problem with paying attention to stuff that is extremely unlikely (yet cannot be definitively proven to be false) is that one's brain has a finite capacity, one's lifetime is likewise finite, and there is just too much stuff like that to waste one's thinking and time upon. One needs to prioritize and expend mental effort on matters which are more likely to bear fruit.

Besides, religion deals in easy cop-out answers.Cool
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
***Why did my dad's vivid dream coincide with my grandad's emergency visit?***

Maybe on the same law of averages, Bob, that a million forgotten dreams didn't coincide with anything at all. Think prayers being answered and miracle cures at Lourdes.

The problem is that people tend only to remember aparently precognitive dreams, as answered prayers and alleged cures are the only ones publicised. In the overwhelming number of cases where there is absolutely no result, meaningless dreams and failed prayers are never given a second thought.

Also, with the best will in the world, dreams are very difficult to remember with any real accuracy and we can adjust our 'memories', quite innocently, to fit subsequent facts.

Back in the 70s, I became involved with an experiment run by a guy some of the Brits here might remember; Peter Farley, Space Science Correspondent for ITN. It was set up to try to establish whether there was anything to precognitive dreams.

The idea was that folks would write in over the course of a year about vivid dreams and we would try to match those to subsequent events.

A couple wrote of a fire at a railway station somewhere, sometime, a month and also a week before there was, indeed, a lethal fire at (I think) Aldgate subway station in London.

Not at all an impressive result. The dreamers had been vague on all detail. And thousands of other letters predicted nothing.

Best. Neil

PS: A guy called Prof John Taylor, who held the Regis Seat of Mathematics then at London University, dabbled in parapsychology. He told me that it was just as likely that these dreamers had caused the subway fire as to have predicted it. He apparently believed in forms of telekinetics. Neil
Edited by neilmarr on 08/08/2008 01:34
neilmarr, I actually took a college course in parapsychology. I remember absolutely nothing about it, but I was majoring in psychology at the time and wanted to check it out. All I can remember in connection with it is that it made me want to become a parapsychiatrist.Wink
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
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