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Why atheism?
Bob of QF
Skeeve wrote:
Maybe it all boils down to some who dislike saying, "I don't know". Being atheist is a statement. Being agnostic is a position. I've thought about this more since reading that article I linked to.

And I think I'm in agreement with Eva:

Eva Lution wrote:
I consider the difference between atheism and agnosticism to be merely demonsrative of the individuals personality traits.



An agnostic is an atheist who lacks conviction. Almost all agnostics I've met in my 45 years did not believe in a god or gods, but always qualified it with, "But I'm not saying that the possibility isn't there, we just don't know." Which I think is the basic agnostic position. An atheist just states, "I don't believe, there is no proof."

An atheist doesn't feel the need to qualify his statement. But an agnostic needs to justify his.

It's a brain thing, I think.


Could very well be.

I cannot make myself make absolute statements---it is very difficult for me to not qualify a statement that seems absolutist.

This is true regardless if I'm speaking of reality or superstition. Grin

I once typified this, as lacking the ability to make a leap-of-faith, into an absolute position.

Too much scientific methodology growing up, I suppose... Wink
Edited by Bob of QF on 08/16/2008 12:58
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
neilmarr
Procrastinate now, Bob. Don't put it off.

I honestly can't understand agnosticism. Evangelical Christianity, Insane Islam, potty Judaism, kinky Hinduism, mystic Buhdaism -- I can see where they're coming from because every planet has to have its nuts. Atheism? No problem.

Agnosticism ... wazzat? Neither the devil nor the deep blue sea.

Neil
 
catman
I think the idea behind agnosticism is that if one can't know anything for sure about the supernatural, how can one make a decision? It's a respectable viewpoint. I was agnostic for decades. I had a 'who knows and who cares?' attitude.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
Big Blue
I think there is a significant difference between being agnostic - taking the position that you cannot know whether or not a god exists - and taking the position that Bob has that you cannot make absolute statements,

I have long held the position that you cannot know anythiong with absolute certainty (excluding some areas of mathematics and formal logic), however this is not the same thing as the agnostic position. I believe the the liklihood of a god existing is vanishingly small, of the same order as the liklihood that the universe does NOT actually exist. So although I hold the athiest position which IMO is a lack of belief in god (for the simple reason that there is no evidence) and which is distinct from a belief in the non existance of god, I cannot state that I am absolutely certain of god's non-existance. This does not make me an agnostic - I apply the same standard to everything, including my own existance. As far as I am concerned it is the logical application of the a scientific view of the world.
 
catman
That is exactly how I see it. The inability to prove that an indefinable supernatural being does not exist is not sufficient reason to think there is any real likelihood that it does, and certainly not enough to be a theist of any sort. My own agnosticism was born of apathy, but becoming more aware of the harm that religion does in the world, I felt compelled to plant my flag in atheism.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
derF
The Churches have made multiple furtunes over the centuries selling something to the masses that cannnot be seen, heard, felt, or proven. As any good con man will tell you it is the finest, longest running scam ever perpetrated on mankind. You may be able to paint the various religions with the brush of immorality but you can't fault their success. Religion is more about the gullibility of human beings than it is about some invisible, undetectable el supremo.
 
kjbluez
I had a prof here that told the class an interesting possibility of how theism began in the first place. I do not know if his was his own, though I have never ran across it anywhere else, so it might be.

Go back a million years or so, maybe even farther if you wish, though effective communication would have to already have been developed. In very olden times, life was hard for the tribes that existed. Members of the clan that had some sort of abnormality, probably physical, were, to put it bluntly, a detriment to the other members. The rest of the members of the clan had to expend extra energy and time to take care of those who were more likely to be killed off due to natural selection. So, it sucked to be that person.

Now.

Pretend I am that person for a minute. I come up with an idea. "There is a monster, unseen, maybe even invisible, that lives beyond the horizon or in the clouds. This monster is more ferocious than any animals you have ever come in contact with, and it wants to eat ALL of you. It gets mad every once in a while, as well, what do you think causes the skies to roar with scary sounds or the ground to shake for no reason? But, I am special, I can actually speak with this monster, but you cannot because only I can. I can appease this beast, keep it somewhat less pissed off, to where it will not come and eat the rest of you. So, you had better keep me safe, protect me, because if you don't then terrible things might happen because nobody else will be able to talk with this monster and keep it at bay. The sky will not just roar when massive amounts of water falls, the sky might swallow you all. The ground might not just shake every now and then, it might open up and engulf you all. So, you had better keep me safe and remember to give out sacrifices every now and then."

As you can see, this person just created a place in society that, instead of being a detriment to the clan and more likely to be killed off, the opposite occurs; that person is now of utmost importance for the safety of everyone else.

What is not explained is how this behavioral characteristic spreads throughout an entire group of clans, but with humans starting out with only being concentrated in a small portion of the world it could be possible. This monster, over time, could become gods, each with their own elemental focus - some being for water, some for earth, some for air, etc. Given a million years, or even several hundred thousand years or maybe even tens of thousands, the idea of "hidden monsters" or "gods" could potentially evolve into a very intricate set of mythological tales and stories.

But, just a thought.
 
catman
I think that's quite likely, although the originators of supernaturalism may not have been disabled, but just clever people out for a special place on society. Early people must have felt completely at the mercy of the then-mysterious workings of the natural world, so they would have been eager to latch onto some sort of explanation for it. (Many primitive humans still are.Wink)
Edited by catman on 08/21/2008 16:24
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
Bob of QF
I wrote the following, back in April of 2006, on a couple of different forums. After digging around, I located the following version.

It may amuse you to read and it's a hypothesis of how religion began...

------------

How Religion Began.

A Fable.

Once long ago, there was a Very Lazy caveman. His name was Oog. He detested needing to go out and hunt for food every day, as it was both Hard Work and Dangerous.

However, Oog had a very good imagination. He was also a pretty persuasive speaker.

Thus, Oog discovered that he had a Talent for Explaining Why Things Happened. Oog was just imagining things out of his head, but the others in his tribe began to come to Oog to Explain Why. Why This? and Why That? and so on.

Oog quickly discovered that he could ask for a favor in return for these explanations ... and people began bringing Oog food, and he would Explain.

Oog liked this new arrangement. All he had to do was lie around all day long thinking up new Explanations for Stuff, and people would give him food!

Oog had invented the Worlds First Profession: Professional Liar. (Or Shaman/Priest/Clergy, if you prefer the vernacular.)

Thus Oog became fat and even more lazy.

This went on for many years.

Then, one day, the son of the Chief was killed, as a direct result of an Explanation of Oog's. The Chief grew quite peeved about it, and immediately had Oog killed.

But, it was Too Late: Oog's "God Virus" idea had taken hold in the tribe. Soon, Oog's son was Explaining Things ...

...

And So, the Present Day: We still have fat and lazy folk that will, for a price, Explain Things with a Convincing Voice.

And THAT is how the God Virus infected the Human Race.

Edited by Bob of QF on 08/21/2008 17:19
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
derF
Not bad, Bob of QF. I would appear that we see pretty much eye to eye on the subject.
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
 
kjbluez
Hello, Bob of QF! Nice to meet ya, I don't think we've ran into each other before. I like the story, by the way. I especially like the term "God Virus," it is so very appropriate.

Smile
 
General-Pryce
Hmmm, first off: Re: Skeeve's link, I took a bit of offense at the line ANYONE WHO LEAVES THE DEFAULT POSITION HAS THE BURDEN OF PROOF. I don't agree. The statement has already been made about being unable to proove a negative. It seems that the article was written by an agnostic.

As to why I'm an atheist. I quite liked this quote from neil:

Once you rule out the impossible, what is lleft is the truth -- Sherlock Holmes.

A god is impossible, there are so many pointless things in this world that a creator would have no inclination to create and can only have come around through evolution and development of different species. If you where a God, you created the Earth and man in your image. man is the most important of your creations. Why have you then gone and created 10 billion other species, most of which we never came across until the right technology existed, and many more we won't discover for decades or centuries.

The question of "Why would God do that" can be applied to so many things in the world. Why would God create man in his own image, make such a resilient machine, but then make it have numerous flaws. I'm not talking loosing limbs or deformities, I'm on about simple things like the common cold. What is the point of creating this wonderful species but spend millenia killing him off with the sniffles?

Getting kicked in the balls is very unpleasent. So why have them on the outside? Biologically they are suited to being outside, but you're a God, just put them in the body.

Why do we evolve. even some Christians accept this and micro evolustion has been proven. But what's the point from a religious point of view?

Why? Why? Why? There are so many things that are pointless if you're a creator. Adam and Eve's story is full of these Whys?

Why put a forbidden tree in the middle of Eden, why give a snake the ability to talk (why can snakes no longer talk), why, if you are omniscient didn't you know what Eve was doing with the fruit?

WHY? WHY? WHY?

Always ask this question, and if the answer is that there is no reason, then God and creation must therefore be bullshit.

i think it is very arrogant to believe that we are special enough to warrant eternity- and how bored would you get. Any heaven would be hell.



 
Skeeve
Ramen!
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
 
Photon
This is a great thread, so I decided to resurrect it.

I just wanted to make a comment that the phrase "absence of evidence is evidence of absence" isn't true unless it has an addendum "if the evidence of the existence of said thing can be reasonably expected".

This correlates with the idea that a person can be nominally agnostic (not posessing knowledge) about deities in general, but atheistic (lacking belief) in deities that have been purported to exist, entirely on the premise that certain religious claims can be tested, and they fail.

For example, I can imagine an interdimensional being that exists yet chooses not to manifest itself in our current 4-dimensional existence. I think the likelihood of such a being is vanishingly small, and the possibility of existence is remote, but it isn't impossible.

So, I can imagine such an entity for which they might not be any currently detectable evidence for its existence, therefore I cannot proclaim that the absence of evidence for its existence equates to evidence of its absence.

Nor could I use the statement if I could not construct a test for which a reasonable expectation of evidence that would establish the existence of the entity could be obtained.


But, if you consider an entity purported to exist, like YHWH, or even the unholy marriage of YHWH-Jesus-Holy Spirit, there's a plethora of claims that have been made, and tested, and turn out to be false.

You can look at the mundane, like the incompatible accounts of Joshua's conquests compared with the archaeological record or textual inconsistencies that do not correlate with dates of purported authorship or small things like the complete and utter ignorance of a realistic cosmology, or you can look at the more abstract concepts like the claim that "anything is possible via prayer in earnest" or claims about the imminent return of the saviour or even whether Jeebus meets the criteria for a messiah.

Rejection of the existence of something based on lack of evidence should only be used in situations where evidence can be expected. Otherwise, agnosticism on the issue seems warranted.

I am an agnostic atheist. I don't think the categories are mutually exclusive at all.

I don't think wild-ass unevidenced claims should be given any deferment from criticism either. Of course, the default position should be to withhold belief in claims until positive evidence is presented. Burden of proof lies with the positive claimant, as always.
Edited by Photon on 09/11/2008 14:54
 
seeker
I think you could go one step further though. Its possible to imagine all manner of things that could possibly exist undetected by us yet have a low probability of existance. I think it is reasonable that one either must exclude such imaginary constructs or include them from a belief system on some systematic basis.

What basis do we have for making the assumption that one undetectable, low probability being exists over any other? Absent one then what rational argument is ther for believing in one over the other.
 
catman
Photon wrote:I am an agnostic atheist. I don't think the categories are mutually exclusive at all.

They aren't. If there is no evidence for a supernatural being, and you have no way to know whether there is one or not, it only makes sense to be an atheist. The alternative, agnostic theism, is irrational wishful thinking.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
 
Photon
seeker wrote:
I think you could go one step further though. Its possible to imagine all manner of things that could possibly exist undetected by us yet have a low probability of existance. I think it is reasonable that one either must exclude such imaginary constructs or include them from a belief system on some systematic basis.

What basis do we have for making the assumption that one undetectable, low probability being exists over any other? Absent one then what rational argument is ther for believing in one over the other.


I agree with you. I'm just saying that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", by itself.

Also, I think "agnostic theism" is the only kind there is. There are people who claim to "know" god, or even "know" that god exists, but when it comes to demonstrating this "knowledge" it comes down to an expression of unevidenced faith (or in some cases delusion or confusion of reality).

What people firmly believe ain't necessarily what they know, no matter how much they might protest.
 
seeker
I'd go with that Photon. In the sense that absolute knowledge isn't possible one couldn't know that God doesn't exist. The problem I see is that people tend to think the open question of possibility assigns the same probability.
 
Bob of QF
Photon wrote:
This is a great thread, so I decided to resurrect it.

I just wanted to make a comment that the phrase "absence of evidence is evidence of absence" isn't true unless it has an addendum "if the evidence of the existence of said thing can be reasonably expected".

This correlates with the idea that a person can be nominally agnostic (not posessing knowledge) about deities in general, but atheistic (lacking belief) in deities that have been purported to exist, entirely on the premise that certain religious claims can be tested, and they fail.

For example, I can imagine an interdimensional being that exists yet chooses not to manifest itself in our current 4-dimensional existence. I think the likelihood of such a being is vanishingly small, and the possibility of existence is remote, but it isn't impossible.

So, I can imagine such an entity for which they might not be any currently detectable evidence for its existence, therefore I cannot proclaim that the absence of evidence for its existence equates to evidence of its absence.

Nor could I use the statement if I could not construct a test for which a reasonable expectation of evidence that would establish the existence of the entity could be obtained.


But, if you consider an entity purported to exist, like YHWH, or even the unholy marriage of YHWH-Jesus-Holy Spirit, there's a plethora of claims that have been made, and tested, and turn out to be false.

You can look at the mundane, like the incompatible accounts of Joshua's conquests compared with the archaeological record or textual inconsistencies that do not correlate with dates of purported authorship or small things like the complete and utter ignorance of a realistic cosmology, or you can look at the more abstract concepts like the claim that "anything is possible via prayer in earnest" or claims about the imminent return of the saviour or even whether Jeebus meets the criteria for a messiah.

Rejection of the existence of something based on lack of evidence should only be used in situations where evidence can be expected. Otherwise, agnosticism on the issue seems warranted.

I am an agnostic atheist. I don't think the categories are mutually exclusive at all.

I don't think wild-ass unevidenced claims should be given any deferment from criticism either. Of course, the default position should be to withhold belief in claims until positive evidence is presented. Burden of proof lies with the positive claimant, as always.


Well said!

I agree exactly with the way you put it.

As I sometimes say on Topix, "I'm an agnostic to the very nebulous concept of god. But, with regards to [your]* god, I'm an atheist."


* this us usually a posted reply to some uber-theist or other.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
derF
I agree with you. I'm just saying that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", by itself.


You are correct Photon to a certain degree. Over the years literally millions of things have been discovered that we had no evidence of previously. Microscopic organisms, black holes, distant galaxies and on and on. But as already covered by others' posts there are many things that we believe don't exist because we have no evidence of them. Lack of evidence is at least an indicator of absence.



Edited as knee jerk reaction.
Edited by derF on 09/11/2008 22:38
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
 
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