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Atheism as simply another belief system

  1. Jul 28, 2004 #1
    I've heard many people refer to atheism as simply another belief system, as if it requires faith of some sort. Has anyone else experienced this?
    This is difficult for me to understand. I view atheism as a place you end up when all else fails.

    As for myself, since I have experienced nothing that leads me to believe in (have faith in) anything other than the physical, I feel that atheism is not necessarily a choice, but the only option (that must be how everyone feels?).

    My position would be that I accept (not believe in) atheism, given everything I have experienced. Let me know what you think.
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  3. Jul 28, 2004 #2


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    An atheist is somone who believes that there is no god. In my experience, this belief is invariably the result of faith.

    The position that you describe may be closer to agnosticism. Practically speaking agnosticism eventually leads the postion that all this god talk is stupid, and there are better things to do than debating the existance of god.
  4. Jul 28, 2004 #3
    The problem with that is I don't believe the discussion of God is stupid, I try to be open to others opinions and I like to think that under the right conditions my position could change.

    I think my problem is semantics. When I think of a 'belief' I think of "blind faith" in an absolute. Whenever something claims an absolute, that is when it loses credibility (for me). This is just another reason I would be an atheist. When something is beyond questioning I don't buy it. Atheism is not beyond questioning, is it? If it is I guess I am something else...
  5. Jul 28, 2004 #4
    i am not trying to be funny, but is your thinking process 'physical'? if not, then there is 'something' other than the physical.

    who care what god is or isn't; it is all a matter of belief. the important thing is to keep an open mind to all possibilities and work with the ones that seem most useful at a given time.

    whatever the full answer is will be known in due time.

    olde drunk
  6. Jul 28, 2004 #5
    What is not physical about my thinking process?

    I can agree with that.

    That sounds great but who says so? Based on what? That's the kind of absolutism I speak of, as in you 'know' the answer will be known.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2004
  7. Jul 28, 2004 #6
    atheism: a-theism...w/o god. Atheism, to sum atheists is a belief system. Atheism to other folks may be the 'absence' of one.

    As an extreme example consider a child raised in isolation to religion. This child could very grow into an adult with no belief in any god(s), he/she would be an atheist and this would not be a result any belief/disbelief but rather an absence of belief.

    Likewise, as a less extreme example, I consider my own atheism as simply a lack of belief. I simply lack any belief in religious systems/etc. This lack of a belief is best characterized by a-theism, i.e. without belief in god.

  8. Jul 28, 2004 #7


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  9. Jul 28, 2004 #8


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    Depends on who you're talking to, I guess. Stupid english.

    From the same page:

  10. Jul 28, 2004 #9
    i guess i'm agnostic...
    although i have never heard one single rational argument for the existance of a god, i am open to the idea.. i could never make myself join a religion before i heard a rational argument that convinced me...
    i'm likewise open to the bhuddist belief system, which i think in all matters is much more wise than the monotheistic religions such as islam or christianity and the heap of nature religions and old religions that i know of...
    that doesn't mean i could become a bhuddist either without some sort of reason...

    if there was one god and only one, then i think that this should be indicated by the existance of only one religion, but since this is not the case, who am i to choose when none of them offer anything but blind followship?
  11. Jul 28, 2004 #10

    Just my thoughts?
  12. Jul 28, 2004 #11


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    I was listening to Christian radio this morning, and I heard the claim made that atheism requires more faith than a belief in God does. There wasn't really any real followup to that claim, so I don't know exactly what the thinking there is. If I hear more on the topic some other time, I will try to repeat it here.

    For me the belief that there fails to exist a deity who desires a personal relationship with me is really not a matter of faith at all. If such a deity existed, it could speak to me with a literal voice inside my head in such a way as to make it absolutely clear to me that it could only be the voice of God, not something my own limited mind was coming up with and then falsely attributing to a God. But I have been on this Earth for decades, allowing lots of opportunity for such an event to occur, and it simply has not come to pass.
  13. Jul 28, 2004 #12
    We all have "faith" that things (at least most things) will work out as we expect.
    Just what we pin that faith on differs.
  14. Jul 28, 2004 #13
    Maybe because God's perimeter or stomping grounds or different that your perimerter and stomping grounds.

    Stomp enough in a lion cage and you'll meet a lion. It seems that you haven't stomped enough in God's perimeter to meet God.You expect him to make your perimeter his and talk to you there.
  15. Jul 28, 2004 #14


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    Stomp for 3 seconds in a lion's cage and you'll meet a lion.
  16. Jul 29, 2004 #15
    I would say that we, in this thread, also have different definitions of faith. I would say that faith is unsubstatiated belief. That is why the unshaking faith of an individual is somewhat impressive. There is no 'reason' to believe in what they do however, they are convinced of it.

    I would claim that I have no faith. The strength of any belief of mine is proportional to likelihood that it will occur. For example I do not have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, however I expect that it will, based on the previous thousands of sunrises (and some knowledge of physics :biggrin: ).

    In summary, in this thread, we must be careful to distinguish faith, which is unsubstatiated belief, and justified belief (whether through much empirical evidence, induction or deduction in the case of formal systems.)

  17. Jul 29, 2004 #16
    That’s an interesting thought, because while believing in God requires one to blindly accept the existence of God without any evidence, having no belief in God requires we erase the belief we’ve been programmed with.

    IMO, we’ve all been programmed to believe in God in some manner or another, and the example used of a child growing up isolated from religion is essentially a child isolated from all current knowledge. Of course you could bring up a child teaching them God doesn’t exist, but how would you deal with a world in which the majority believe in God? Isn’t that an overwhelming position? If the majority believes in God, and suddenly you come along and say you don’t believe in God, you’re immediately considered a lost soul or something.

    I wouldn’t say atheism requires more faith, because although you could be considered an atheist, it’s only because of a category we’ve been put in for those that have disbelief in the concept of God.

    I can tell you from personal experience it’s been very hard to erase the belief in God.
  18. Jul 29, 2004 #17
    I'm not sure that this is true. A christian child learn all about the many different religions of the world and reject everyone of them except his/her own flavor of christianity. We are all aware of Zeus and Hera but I don't think any of us ever really believed in them. A child could be raised in this fashion, aware that people have and do believe in a myriad of traditions. All of those traditions could be taught on the level of greek mythology, i.e. interesting stories but little more.

    The majority (at least in US) believes in god, and I've certainly been identified as a 'lost soul', but so be it.

    For me it just took some time. However, my religious upbringing was not terribly strong, a catholic family that had fallen out of habit. It took me a couple of years to really scrub my brain clean. But I can honestly say that I can only think of god(s) or goddess(es) as stories or traditions now. However, I understand that this process will be different for everyone.

    I think this thread is going along pretty well given the topic!

  19. Jul 29, 2004 #18
    Bertrand Russell wrote a piece comparing and contrasting freethinkers who emerged from protestant christianity and freethinkers who emerged from catholic christianity. He noted that the ex-protestants tended to retain little nostalgia for their church and ,while they might personally indicate their starting point, they tended to operate subsequently as complete individuals.

    On the other hand, he noted that ex-catholics tend to miss their community and culture, emulating aspects of the church and readily joining and functioning within substitute organizations (for example, the freemasons).
  20. Jul 29, 2004 #19
    I think this stems from the fact that the religious believe atheist are "risking" an eternity in hell by living the way they do. They think that atheists have a lot more to lose by not believing in god. The fact of the matter is that a true atheist sees this as pretty ridiculous; Just as a christian would scoff at the notion that we are all going to hell for not being muslim, an atheist finds the threat of hell baseless and without substance.
  21. Jul 29, 2004 #20
    I think there is a difference between faith + fear. Not faith + belief.

    Faith in the justice system is not filled with fear. It can inspire pride.
    Faith in the unlawful inspires fear.

    For instance. Here's a proof to test.
    The unlawful is, a action the law controls.
    Now, since this is reasoned, I'll use the triangle inequality theorem to base the above statements I made on faith + fear.

    1.) Unlawful < Unlawful + Law = Triangle inequality theorem.
    2.) Triangle inequality theorem = Triangle inequality theorem
    3.) # 1.) = # 1.)

    Given the fact that if you have faith in the unlawful, you feel unconfident. Your scared, afraid of the consequences, etc...

    Now if you have faith in the Law. You feel inspired, Unafraid, happy, and peaceful.

    Belief in the law is the same as faith in the law. You believe the full story, not a fragment of it.

  22. Jul 29, 2004 #21
  23. Jul 29, 2004 #22
    I think your asking me to give you understanding for the wisdom of the text you quoted me.

    I also think that the wisdom of said text is understandable, or else it wouldn't be wise, and couldn't be understood.

    Maybe I can only say wise words, and nothing to make you understand them.

    I was pointing out that faith + belief is in the law. Which when you follow the diagram of the Triangle inequality theorem, makes beautiful sense.

    Obviously you didn't take the time to reason the provided math.


  24. Jul 29, 2004 #23
    Define god

    IMHO, god is 'all that is'. a panteist view that the sum is greater than the sum of it's parts.

    if you individually redefine the term you are not stuck with the traditional understanding. after all, an all just and all merciful, etc god is a counterdiction.

    to me, most people accept the norm out of fear (fear of losing heaven or going to hell); atheists, on the other hand, want to prove that they aren't affraid and prove it by denying any form of higher power. I suspect that the answer is somewhere in between.

    my god doesn't care if i believe or not. he doesn't care if i obey some esoteric rules. s/he/it wants me to be me and to enjoy the consequences of my thoughts and actions. oops, i just found hell, lol.

    olde drunk
  25. Jul 29, 2004 #24


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    This isn't math. Even if there is the ghost of an idea, you would have to justify applying the triangle inequality to abstract iseas like faith and law. And you have misstated the triangle inequality, for metric distances |a| and |b| we have [tex] |a+b| \le |a| + |b| [/tex]. If we restore the less than or equal you left out, the relation between fear and law becomes trivial.
  26. Jul 29, 2004 #25


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    dead right.
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