Atheism 3.0

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by KnightWriter, Jul 2, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    After two somewhat rocky but also sometimes enlightening editions, I'd like to start off a new discussion of atheism.

    I'd like to start us off by asking people what their initial impressions of atheism are, and what they think of when they see or talk about it. In my case, I think of someone who actively believes there is no God. Everything else is secondary to that. I don't necessarily see someone who is anti-theist. Some people are anti-theist, but plenty of atheists merely believe than there is no God.

    Some quick guidelines:

    1. Please be respectful to all members, regardless of beliefs or non-beliefs.
    2. Atheism is the belief that there is no God. It does not necessarily mean that the atheist has a problem with every religion, or any religion, or even the belief in God in general as believed by another person.
    3. Different people have different concepts of what atheism and God mean. Your concept may not coincide with someone else's, and that's okay. Use the differences to bring illumination to each other, not anger.
    4. If you have a problem with someone, please contact the Senate moderators.

    For background, please see the previous thread.

    Locking for a fresh start
  2. JMJacenSolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2006
    star 4

    This is essentially my problem with Richard Dawkins; as the figurehead of atheism, he's conflating the two in the public's collective conciousness. He's a poor ambassador for atheism. I was reading about the MLK assassination two days ago and I stumbled across a speech given by RFK shortly afterward. He talked about blacks and whites having to make a decision between moving towards further polarization or making a genuine effort to understand each other. I was struck by the parallel between the current relations of many atheists and religious people in America. The speech really made an impression on me. I wish atheism had an RFK.
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I've stated my position many times, but I'm happy to do it again. I'm not an atheist, really. I'm an a-supernaturalist. The term "atheism" unnecessarily privileges the idea of God or no God as a binary option, when the judeo-Christian mythos is only one of an infinite number of possible supernatural beliefs, all of which I disbelieve in equally.
  4. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Conflating race with religion is a mistake, as race cannot be changed. You conflate the BELIEFS or IDEAS a person holds with the person THEMSELVES.

    You're basically arguing the equivalent of: we should stop trying to cure cancer, because cancer patients are people too.

    Racists have a problem with black (or Asian, or Mexican, or whatever) people. Dawkins does not have a problem with religious people, it is religion itself that he opposes, and for the same reason that a doctor would "oppose" cancer. It is, in his estimation, harmful, it is a disease, and it is something without which humanity would be much better off.

    Dawkins has no interest in living peacefully with religion, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to live peacefully with those who are religious. He just wants them to think better of it -- which, ultimately, he believes will result in people living more peacefully altogether.
  5. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Yes, and Fred Phelps never had a problem ith homosexual people, it is homosexuality itself that he opposes, and for the same reason that a doctor would "oppose" cancer.

    [face_plain]

    In both cases, they effectively fail to walk whatever tightrope they're trying for, and their rhetoric comes off as hateful towards the targeted parties, whom they also, as a matter of observation, tend to treat rather awfully and disrespectfully.

    I don't think anyone would argue you aren't free to advocate for atheism. But it's a bit of a stretch to claim that there are no inappropriate ways of doing so.
  6. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    That would be a good point if it were true. But he specifically singles out the PEOPLE, and not the act. Also, I can't think of a single religious event that Dawkins has attended, picketed, or spewed hate-speech at uninvited. Can you?

    What have you observed? Because honestly, everything I've seen of Dawkins, he is perfectly respectful to those who approach him with respect. Those who do not afford him that luxury perhaps do not, in his estimation, deserve it in return, but even still I don't think Richard Dawkins has said or done half the things that people seem to think he has. Given that most people wildly misrepresent the arguments that he puts forth quite clearly in his numerous books, I'm guessing that the people who have a problem with Richard Dawkins only know what other people have told them.

    I suppose it is, but I don't recall making that claim.
  7. JMJacenSolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2006
    star 4
  8. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    I'm in the "atheist as believing that there is no God" camp. There seems to be a wide range of beliefs possible - from an absolute belief that there is a God to one where the idea of God as reality isn't viable. While I am an atheist, I will admit that I'm also a scientist and I have a problem with absolutes; therefore, I'm 99.9 % sure there is no God. [face_blush] That might make others think that I'm agnostic because of that 0.1% doubt but that's not the case.


    As for atheism in general, I have so little contact with other atheists that it rarely comes up. Mostly, we just say we are and move on to other topics. I would prefer that a more rational and less emotional spokesperson was in the forefront (at least Dawkins is better than O'hare) but I can certainly see why it isn't really possible. I think that no matter who was defending atheists' rights to hold onto the reality that there is no God, the vast majority of people in the States would make it impossible for the spokesperson to remain calm at times. And then the media would jump on it and make things worse.
  9. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    That's true, I can't argue with that.

    You mean this one?

    I don't see any hatred. Disgust maybe, but not hatred.

    And I don't see a blanket statement about "those who practice it." But he does clearly take issue with "those who force others to abide by the rules of their private club." And that's only right at the beginning of the interview. Please don't tell me you're quote-mining or that you didn't watch the whole thing before using it as an example. After that point he doesn't really talk about the believers themselves, although he does indicate that he doesn't have much respect for people who believe in the fairy tale. (Would you respect a grown adult who believed fervently in and worshipped the tooth fairy?)

    Really, if anything Bill Maher himself was far worse there, but I still don't see what's wrong with calling something ridiculous when it is clearly, in fact, ridiculous. It's a bad sign of the times when speaking straightforwardly is taboo.

    And as far as "constructive for atheism", I don't think that's the goal. I think the goal is to be destructive to theism, and atheism is what you're left with.
  10. DarthPoojaNaberrie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 21, 2005
    star 5
    my initial impression is generally that i just don't get atheists. i understand what motivates people to agnosticism. i understand what motivates people to be theists. those both make sense to me. but i don't understand the motivation behind atheism. i find it odd.
  11. JMJacenSolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2006
    star 4
    My objection to the interview is centered entirely on the discussion of Francis Collins. Bill Maher himself is trying to discuss the dichotomy of intelligent people harboring religious beliefs, and Dawkins works himself into a frenzy over a semantic distinction, then dodges the question by saying that Francis Collins probably believes in a nebulous type of God, and when corrected by Maher that Collins is a literalist concludes that Francis Collins is actually dumb. Outstanding.

    Theism isn't some self-propagating phenomena. It exists solely because people practice it. Now, If you're trying to sell the world's population of believers on the benefits of atheism, from a pragmatic perspective, and not a John Lennon "Imagine No Religion" fantasy world, is it a good idea to go on a talk show and conclude in the most condescending tone imaginable that a respected, accomplished scientist is "not a bright guy" because he harbors religious beliefs?
  12. SWBob Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2003
    star 4
    What do you mean darth pooja? What dont you get? I dont mean this mockingly, I really am curious.

    I personally dont believe in any "God", but I wouldnt be adverse to believing if something in my life dirasticly changes that can with out doubt be conected to a God. (ie. miricle, impossible thing hapening).

    To me there are just to many things that I dont like about religion. One of the big things is how almost all religions have that if you dont believe in our god you dont go to heaven. And since most people join religions due to geography, that just seems evil to punish someone because they live in some backwoods area of china or the amazon.

    But there are other things.
  13. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    That's very interesting.

    Actually, I'm not motivated to become an atheist. I just am. It's sort of like not believing in Zeus. It's really an absense of belief. I certainly don't miss believing in a God or feel that there is a hole in my life because of the lack of it.

    Does that make it any clearer?
  14. JMJacenSolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2006
    star 4
    From our perspective, it is theism, being a position of an affirmative ("God Exists") that needs motivation behind it. I see nothing compelling to indicate the existence of a deity.
  15. DarthPoojaNaberrie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 21, 2005
    star 5
    maybe it's the connotative meaning that comes with the labels. the idea i get from theists is that the deity is important to them in their lives because of their faith, etc. agnostics give the impression that we'll never know either way and that's ok. many atheists give the impression that they know and it is very important to find ways to prove to the ignorant people that there is no higher power. it just seems like alot of atheists talk and speculate and focus on god and god-topics more than anyone else, more than theists. i don't understand why it is so important to them.
  16. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    Well, I don't know what sort of atheists you've come across. But is it possible that the only reason you knew they were atheist was that you or someone else around you got into a religious discussion with them, and otherwise you... well, pretty much assume that everyone else would be a theist, even if unconsciously? Because you probably wouldn't hear atheists talking about atheism unless they were trying to convince someone else or they were talking with other atheists about it. Just a thought and probably a generalization, but I hope you get the idea.
  17. DarthPoojaNaberrie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 21, 2005
    star 5
    maybe a better way of putting it, is i just wonder when it comes down to it, why someone would choose atheism over agnosticism.
  18. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    A few thoughts on that, then.

    i. They generally think that some of the ideas expressed by any/all mainstream religions are destructive, and wish to disassociate themselves with religion

    and/or

    ii. They think from what they've seen that there's such a low chance of there being a God that it's much more honest to call it atheism than agnosticism. They don't just think it's impossible to know, they just don't believe in a God at all at this point.
  19. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    Probably not too early to put this out there:

    You don't need to choose one over the other, as they are asking different questions. Agnosticism/gnosticism is a question of knowledge (whether one can know details about or whether there is something transcending human experience), while theism/atheism is a question of metaphysics (whether something exists transcending human experience). Thus, there are four basic possibilities (with rough characterizations of their positions):

    1. Agnostic atheist - We can't know, but I don't think there is something transcendent
    2. Agnostic theist - We can't know, but I think there is something transcendent
    3. Gnostic atheist - We can know, and I think there isn't something transcendent
    4. Gnostic theist - We can know, and I think there is something transcendent
  20. JMJacenSolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2006
    star 4
    Quix, I know you yourself count yourself among the second category, but I find it somewhat confusing. If you think that there is something transcendant, isn't there an inherent possibility in the most philosophical sense that we might be able to discover what it is? Your position seems contradictory to me, because saying the transcendant element is forever undetectable is itself a detail of it.
  21. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    many atheists give the impression that they know and it is very important to find ways to prove to the ignorant people that there is no higher power

    I'm not sure that I'm completely atheist, but I do know that I don't set myself upon the task of proving to anyone the existence or the non-existence of God (at least to anyone but myself).
  22. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    maybe a better way of putting it, is i just wonder when it comes down to it, why someone would choose atheism over agnosticism.

    As an a-supernaturalist, agnosticism isn't a very practical option. Am I required to be open to the idea that anything is possible? Well, I know that to be false. Some things are not possible. I know for example that I can't will myself to sprout wings and fly, no matter how much Red Bull I drink. Do I need to be agnostic vis a vis any idea, no matter how silly? The judeo-christian mythos is just as unlikely to be true as every other supernatural belief.
  23. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    Ah, to me it's not a choice. If I had a choice, I'd probably choose to believe in a God because it's a lot easier to do so in the States - less trouble, less hassles, more of a social community plus there's that heaven thing. But I have to be honest with myself and I just can't believe it, not even enough to call myself agnostic.
  24. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That certainly gets to the heart of the matter: the extent to which beliefs like this are voluntary. Could I choose to believe that the world was flat if I really wanted to? Probably not. If I'm able to talk myself into a false belief, it would tend to be about how good looking I am...damn I'm hot.
  25. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Well, the cognitive dissonance certainly gets in the way after a time, if not right from the start.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.