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What it takes to be an Atheist
Posted: 08 November 2011 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Greeting.
New User here.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am an Atheist gradually over the last few years. (Which IMHO is exactly how most people should come to that conclusion since I firmly believe that a lot of people who claim faith actually are Atheists but simply define belief differently.)
But that’s another topic.

My Question/Comment is how much responsibility do we suppose is required of the non believer in understanding religions?
I mean can I, as a former Roman Catholic (although admittedly an “arm chair” catholic) say that I no longer believe without a fairly comprehensive understanding of the bible and catholic dogma?

I am often annoyed at the staggering ignorance of many “believers” when pressed on the matter. I’ve yet to find anyone in casual circles that in debate can’t be defeated by simply asking them to specifically define what it is exactly that they believe. Usually this ends up in their frustration and admission something like “I’m not really religious but I just believe in God”
And pressing them further usually ends up in further frustration and eventually they end up angry. I’m sure we’ve all seen it but I admit that I never get tired of it. LOL. Sorry I really didn’t enjoy flipping turtles as a child.
But back on point.  I can’t help feeling a bit of a hypocrite because I can’t really claim intimate knowledge of any religion.

Is it enough to be skeptical? Can I simply put the burden of proof upon the “believer”?

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Posted: 09 November 2011 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Yes, atheism (which isn’t really an ‘ism’) is the answer to a single question: ‘Do you believe in a god?’. If the answer is anything other than yes, then you’re an atheist. You’re under no more responsibility to understand different religions than you are to know the capitals of all the states by heart. Now, I think I can say that most atheists who come to atheism by way of gradual deconversion by investigation of the claims of religion are in general inquiring people, and so the questions of what people believe and why they believe it are genuinely fascinating to many of us (atheists). So that leads many atheists to continue to investigate the whats and whys of belief even after they have decided that they don’t believe those same things. It’s especially interesting that indeed such a large percentage of the population believes things for which the evidence is lacking, or even downright contrary. That’s my take on it.

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Posted: 09 November 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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The important thing to grasp is an understanding of human nature in scientific terms (not mystical) and observe that we seem to crave an explanation for all things.  Religion served its purpose in the pre-scientific age and was either designed or perverted to serve political/sociological/economical agendas.  Now we have the scientific method (and proof that it works remarkably well!) and it should be the standard for rational thinking with the goal to optimum human existence on the planet earth.

[ Edited: 09 November 2011 01:34 PM by mormovies]
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Posted: 13 November 2011 12:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I think that most theists accept atheism as the position of the ‘innocent’ - where line goes between innocent and willful, that is probably highly variant.

As for ‘responsibility’ - there shouldn’t be any except to yourself, in any case. I don’t agree that if you answer anything but ‘yes’ to the question of belief in a (given) god that you are then de facto an atheist in the context of that religion - there are an array of other positions, such as agnosticism or theological noncognitivism.

As mormovies points out, we crave an explanation for all things - I would go further and say that the majority of us crave the conviction of ‘knowing’ the explanation, and crucially, as contrasted by some other population - and some agnostics, such as myself, consider some atheists to commit the same class of error as theists.

[ Edited: 13 November 2011 03:22 AM by Rambler]
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“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
—Bertrand Russell, “Skeptical Essays”, 1928

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Posted: 13 November 2011 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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The Bertrand Russell quote is awesome and says it all in a few words.

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Posted: 15 November 2011 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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The only thing that gives me pause is the fact that I’m always critical of people for not really knowing what it is that the say that they believe in.
That is to say that a lot of people who call themselves Christians have very limited knowledge of Christianity.
I’m given pause by the fact the I criticize people for not understanding what they suppose to believe in while I admit my knowledge is limited in what I suppose to NOT believe in. It almost feels as phony.
Sure on the basic premise of the existence of God I’m fine but I generally this leads to other questions of faith like the virgin birth and miracles and what have you.

Yeah I know. The answer is to bone up. Basically that feels about as interesting as watching snot dry.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Attila - 15 November 2011 08:54 PM

The only thing that gives me pause is the fact that I’m always critical of people for not really knowing what it is that the say that they believe in.
That is to say that a lot of people who call themselves Christians have very limited knowledge of Christianity.
I’m given pause by the fact the I criticize people for not understanding what they suppose to believe in while I admit my knowledge is limited in what I suppose to NOT believe in.

(Andrew):  Atheism is not about knowledge, it’s about absence of belief.  If you lack belief that God exists, you’re an atheist.  You don’t need to know about things like virgin births or miracles…if you don’t believe, you don’t believe.  It’s really that simple.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Andrew - 16 November 2011 07:32 AM

Atheism is not about knowledge, it’s about absence of belief.  If you lack belief that God exists, you’re an atheist.  You don’t need to know about things like virgin births or miracles…if you don’t believe, you don’t believe.  It’s really that simple.

That is simply not correct - the redefining of ‘Atheism’ to denote a simple absence of belief is a recent endeavor - You need only refer to Theodor Drange: Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism (1998) to see that.

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“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
—Bertrand Russell, “Skeptical Essays”, 1928

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Posted: 16 November 2011 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Rambler - 16 November 2011 10:17 AM
Andrew - 16 November 2011 07:32 AM

Atheism is not about knowledge, it’s about absence of belief.  If you lack belief that God exists, you’re an atheist.  You don’t need to know about things like virgin births or miracles…if you don’t believe, you don’t believe.  It’s really that simple.

That is simply not correct - the redefining of ‘Atheism’ to denote a simple absence of belief is a recent endeavor - You need only refer to Theodor Drange: Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism (1998) to see that.

—from your source—In Greek a’ means without’ or not’ and theos’ means god.’ From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view, characterized by the absence of belief in God.[4]

This argument is rather unsatisfactory for at least two reasons. First, it is not completely clear that the correct translation of the Greek prefix “a” is “without.” It might also mean “no,” in which case “a-the-ism” could be translated as “no-god-ism,” or “the view that there is no god.” Note that there is no “ism” in Greek. Second, even if the etymology of the word “atheism” did indicate that it once meant “without belief in God,” that is still not a good guide to current usage. It is quite common for words to acquire new meanings over time. It seems far more important what people mean by a word today than what it once meant long ago.

(Andrew):  grin  This is an old argument.  I find the above from Mr Drange rather unsatisfactory, to tell the truth.  A “theist” is someone who believes in the existence of God.  The prefix “a” can mean either “without” or “no”, but either way, an atheist would be someone without (or with “no”) belief in God.  That’s all there is to atheism.  It doesn’t require any deep thinking or long research or certain intellectual values…just no belief in God.
It’s true that the word has changed meaning over the years so as to include the positive assertion that there is no God (some people get around this by calling themselves “hard atheists” to differentiate between the two), but that raises the problem of substantiation.  To my mind, the person who says there is no God has the same burden of proof as the person who says that there is.  A God.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Andrew - 16 November 2011 12:56 PM
Rambler - 16 November 2011 10:17 AM
Andrew - 16 November 2011 07:32 AM

Atheism is not about knowledge, it’s about absence of belief.  If you lack belief that God exists, you’re an atheist.  You don’t need to know about things like virgin births or miracles…if you don’t believe, you don’t believe.  It’s really that simple.

That is simply not correct - the redefining of ‘Atheism’ to denote a simple absence of belief is a recent endeavor - You need only refer to Theodor Drange: Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism (1998) to see that.

—from your source—In Greek a’ means without’ or not’ and theos’ means god.’ From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view, characterized by the absence of belief in God.[4]

This argument is rather unsatisfactory for at least two reasons. First, it is not completely clear that the correct translation of the Greek prefix “a” is “without.” It might also mean “no,” in which case “a-the-ism” could be translated as “no-god-ism,” or “the view that there is no god.” Note that there is no “ism” in Greek. Second, even if the etymology of the word “atheism” did indicate that it once meant “without belief in God,” that is still not a good guide to current usage. It is quite common for words to acquire new meanings over time. It seems far more important what people mean by a word today than what it once meant long ago.

(Andrew):  grin  This is an old argument.  I find the above from Mr Drange rather unsatisfactory, to tell the truth.  A “theist” is someone who believes in the existence of God.  The prefix “a” can mean either “without” or “no”, but either way, an atheist would be someone without (or with “no”) belief in God.  That’s all there is to atheism.  It doesn’t require any deep thinking or long research or certain intellectual values…just no belief in God.
It’s true that the word has changed meaning over the years so as to include the positive assertion that there is no God (some people get around this by calling themselves “hard atheists” to differentiate between the two), but that raises the problem of substantiation.  To my mind, the person who says there is no God has the same burden of proof as the person who says that there is.  A God.

A “theist” is someone who believes in the existence of God.  The prefix “a” can mean either “without” or “no”, but either way, an atheist would be someone without (or with “no”) belief in God.  That’s all there is to atheism.  It doesn’t require any deep thinking or long research or certain intellectual values…just no belief in God.

Only by eschewing thought or research or intellectual values could you possibly say that.


You offer an “appeal to etymology” that is even more flawed than Martin’s - and I can tell you from personal correspondence with Martin that the etymology line no longer holds currency in circles that approach the issue in a serious manner.


I think that the issue of substantiation is exactly the reason that the word has been sought to be redefined - blunting one edge of the sword.

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“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
—Bertrand Russell, “Skeptical Essays”, 1928

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Posted: 16 November 2011 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Rambler - 16 November 2011 01:28 PM

Only by eschewing thought or research or intellectual values could you possibly say that.

(Andrew):  I see.  Well…fuck you, too.

Rambler - 16 November 2011 01:28 PM

You offer an “appeal to etymology” that is even more flawed than Martin’s…

(Andrew):  Actually, it’s the same…Martin is hardly the first person to advance it…and Drange’s refutation is flawed as well for the reasons stated.

Rambler - 16 November 2011 01:28 PM

...I can tell you from personal correspondence with Martin that the etymology line no longer holds currency in circles that approach the issue in a serious manner.

(Andrew):  Intellectual snobbery.  The etymological argument holds up very well in my circles.

Rambler - 16 November 2011 01:28 PM

I think that the issue of substantiation is exactly the reason that the word has been sought to be redefined - blunting one edge of the sword.

(Andrew):  The word has been re-defined (by some) so as to include a statement that begs substantiation.  What’s with that? 
And how do you back up the claim that God doesn’t exist?  What’s your evidence?

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Posted: 16 November 2011 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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I am hostile to the very idea that we need a negative term to label a person who doesn’t believe in god.  Like Sam says, we don’t have a label for people who don’t believe in the tooth fairy or Zeus.  We should have a label for someone who believes in made up or make-believe things, persons or concepts.  I don’t even call myself an atheist and I don’t like to be grouped with them because most non-theists usually have other equally supernatural beliefs that disturb me.

There needs to be a REASON to believe something, anything.  Not a REASON to not believe if there is no evidence such a thing exists.  Any acceptance of a myth, religion or invisible being is not even a belief!  It’s just second-handedly borrowing a previous belief and accepting it, lock stock and barrel, without evidence, without rational thought.  The very idea of still believing, really believing this nonsense in 2011should be identified as a mild form of insanity.  Thank god most so-called religious folk I know really only pay lip service to the idea of god.

[ Edited: 16 November 2011 10:34 AM by mormovies]
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Posted: 16 November 2011 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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mormovies - 16 November 2011 03:30 PM

I am hostile to the very idea that we need a negative term to label a person who doesn’t believe in god.

(Andrew):  I’ve never considered “atheist” to be a negative term.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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I mean negative in the sense that it’s a term for NOT believing in something as opposed to a positive connotation for believing in something.  ‘Skeptic’ would be a better term.  It’s not that I just need evidence to believe in a supernatural god, I require evidence in order to believe in anything and don’t accept beliefs just because someone says I should or because it’s a tradition to be nuts.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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That’s fair.  I agree.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Yeah, the term ‘Atheist’ is so limited and implies I only have a high standard of rationality with regard to god, otherwise, I’m irrational as all hell in all my other beliefs and anything goes.

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